This past weekend I attended the gay pride events in Mansfield with around 15 other Christian friends to share the gospel. One thing that was profoundly evident during our time out was that the "feastivities" was a complete flop.
If it was a testimony to anything, it was that Mansfield does not truly support the deviant practice of homosexuality. The crowd was embarrassingly small. One may not even want to call it a crowd. The handful of us who went to pass out tracts and witness were able to canvass pretty much the entire group in less than an hour. To be sure, people came and went, but the number of people did not swell much at all--testifying to the fact that few stayed long or had much interest in showing their support. A friend of mine drove by in the evening and said that things were shutting down quite early and venders were tearing down by 8 pm.
All in all, it seemed that most of Mansfield stayed away from the square.
Even the media involvement was pretty pitiful. The Richland Source, which was perhaps the friendliest of the news sources, seemed to focus more on covering our little group that was out to call to repentance. The Mansfield News Journal's article was so short that it was almost laughable. It looked like someone just tweaked a poorly written press release. To be sure, it was clear that they didn't send a reporter or photographer down to cover it. WMFD ran a good sized clip, but makes you chuckle because there is virtually no one in the background. It looked pretty much deserted. Those who were in the camera gave the impression that it was more of a freak show than a feastival.
It certainly wasn't because of the weather either. The rain may have put a squash on the parade, but the rest of the day was quite nice. The truth is simply that the majority of Mansfield showed they did not support a lifestyle that goes against God's design.
The afternoon was not a complete loss though. Those of us who came out to share the gospel had splendid opportunities to engage with the unbelieving. I personally spent almost a full two hours talking with various homosexuals and homosexual supporters about the things of the Lord.
Each conversation was cordial. We were able to laugh together as we thought through the issues of eternity. Many of those who I spoke to admitted that they did not have an absolute standard for morality. Almost all admitted that the will be judged if they were to stand before Christ on the last day. They understood the gospel when I explained it, but openly refused it. The only exception was one man who said he didn't believe in hell. But when I pressed him, he admitted he didn't know what his god thought about justice at all and he wasn't interested in trying to find out.
When we pray, "Thy kingdom come; thy will be done," we ask that justice be maintained, righteous laws be enacted, evil doers be prosecuted, God be openly acknowledged and duly honored, and the nations be pointed to the One who is the King of kings and only source of freedom;
that the gospel be preached, ministers be sent, and all other officers and ordinances be active and pure;
that the Spirit expressly revive, renew, and purge the hearts of men throughout the globe;
and that Christ would hasten the day of His coming.
The Ashland City Counsel gave their initial approval to rob Americans this past week. The Ashland Source reported that the town is receiving $150,000 from the DEPARTMENT OF Housing and Urban Development, a federal program which gains its funds through unbiblical taxation. The stolen goods will be mainly used to pay for blacktop.
Recieving stolen goods is, we should remember, essentially the same as stealing the goods ourselves. It shows that we approve of the theft and are glad to have someone else's money without having worked for it or received the victims consent. The act of receiving it may be a worse crime, biblically speaking, because we use it for our own benefit and use a mediator to do the oppressing for us.
We Maust recognize that God outlines a specific role for civil magistrates. They are to "bear the sword" and be the avenger of God upon the evildoer (Rom.13:1-4). In sum, this role is one of justice, specifically the power to execute criminals who commit capital crimes.
The role of the sword does not permit governing officials to take money from its citizenry and redistribute it for pet projects. Thus, to use such funds for paving roads or renovating our neighborhoods is akin to robbing our next door neighbor to put in new flooring in our house. Worse yet, it is having Vinnie the Greek go rob our neighbor on our behalf.
Interestingly, the DHUD says the money is collected for "preventing blight." But the Bible says that blight is caused by unrighteousness and injustice. In Deuteronomy 28 we read of God's curses,
""But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you...The LORD will strike you with wasting disease and with fever, inflammation and fiery heat, and with drought and with blight and with mildew. They shall pursue you until you perish." Deuteronomy 28:15, 22
If Ashland officials wish to improve the living conditions in our area, they should do as God says and reject the stolen money. God promises blessings to those who fear Him and obey. He says that obedience will produce the following,
"And the LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give you. The LORD will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow." - Deuteronomy 28:11-12
Edification is the native tongue of heaven. Every angel and soul in that place speaks only that which will reinforce positive spiritual life in others. Every Christian this side of heaven ought to have a similar accent in his speech.
While our native tongue is earthly--being filled with words that tear down, we ought to be striving to speak the holy language of Christ's country. How can we develop this kind of speech? Consider these five pointers...
1. Fortify your vocabulary w/ good study - You can only take out of a cash register what has been put in. It is the same way with our lips. It is only out of the overflow of our heart that our mouth speaks. So if we want to reduce harsh, cutting words, we need to bulk up on sound spiritual doctrine. Remember that grace begets grace.
2. Keep a sense of our present misery - Nurses speak with extra tenderness when at the bedside of the sick. They are sensitive to the pains that person is experiencing and seek to offer nurturing tones. This is they way we should operate. We should remember that everyone around us is sick with sin and laden with miseries of every kind. If you remember that life is a string of miseries, you can be more readied to be light in the darkness.
3. Speak well with God - We are called to "rejoice in God," "extol His name" and "be thankful in every circumstance." If we are busy lifting up praise and celebrating God's goodness, its likely we'll reflect that on the streets. However, if our prayers are full of complaints, sighs, and bellyaching, we shouldn't be surprised if we speak to our fellow man in derogatory ways.
4. Glory in the smallest blossom of goodness & beauty - Encouragement is the art of commending that which is good, reinforcing the beautiful, and highlighting the virtuous--no matter how hidden or small it may be. Discouragement is usually easy because there is a lot of woeful things in the world to harp on. When a diamond sparkles in the rough, we should make every effort to embrace it and revel in it.
5. Keep the trap shut - Your mother said, "If you don't have anything good to say, don't say it." She was wise. Before a dog can learn to roll over or jump through a hoop, it needs to learn how to sit and stay. Our speech is not much different. Before we can do spiritual tricks with our tongues, we likely need to learn the discipline of silence.
Heroin and drug use are the number one problems facing our area today. Reports of their destruction come out daily and drug related deaths are skyrocketing.
But users and their families should know that deliverance is possible. There is a way to escape the cult of addiction and religion of substance abuse. It is by turning to Jesus Christ, and beginning to worship the true and living God.
We’ve been conditioned to think that the answer to addiction is found in a twelve step program, a stint at a recovery facility, or better law enforcement tactics. But the ultimate solution is not in behavioral modification, educational programs, or conditioning. The only real and lasting remedy is wholesale religious conversion.
While we can be thankful for the existence of such programs we must recognize that something deeper is at stake. Addiction, at its most fundamental level, is a cult. It is primarily a religious issue having to do with servitude and worship.
The Bible says that we are either slaves to God or to something else. A slave of God will serve the Lord and have Him as the supreme object of his delight. An idolater will serve some other object (such as drugs, drink, sex, etc.) and will find his primary delight in it.
This is the nature of addiction. The drink or drug becomes your master. It once served you; it relieved your pain or gave you a little pleasure. But now it rules you. You have come to feel that you cannot live without it. You crave it, throw your money at it, and give it an absurd amount of attention.
It has become your religion.
It is deeper than mere appetite. It is a matter of faith. For the drug has become the object of trust: It is relied upon for happiness. It promises to save, fulfill, and relieve your pains. You believe in it and rely upon it as the only hope of satisfaction.
The worship is further seen in that the addict can’t bring himself to stop. Addicts will try to stop, but they can’t. The drug has become an idol to whom they are religiously devoted. It is the dominant force in their life.
If an addict is to be helped, he must acknowledge that he does not have a drug problem per se. He must admit that he has a faith problem. It is not so much about what is injected, smoked, or swallowed as much as it is about what is worshiped, adored, and served.
Thus, the road to recovery (i.e. redemption) lies in religious conversion. It is by repentance and turning to the one who is the one and only living God. The one who offers true life and eternal salvation.
All in all, the cleansing of the veins and clearing of the mind begins with a cleansing of the heart and clarity on the issue of idolatry.
In future articles we will explore more of the religious nature of addiction and how the Christian faith provides a means of escape. In the meantime, addicts (and affected loved ones) can explore the recovery helps that Hopewell offers at hopewellashland.com.
Matt Timmons, Pastor
[The above article was submitted to the newspapers in Ashland as a means of combating the rising heroin problem in our area. For help with addiction recovery please contact Matt or visit hopewellashland.com]
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.