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.
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]
It is easy to witness to a Mormon when he comes knocking at your door. You can show him the folly of his religion and extend the invitation to the true gospel in just a few simple steps. Here's how:
1. Ask the Mormon, "Where is your god?"
The Mormons believe that their god, whom they call Heavenly Father, has a body. He is not a Spirit and not omnipresent. Therefore the Mormon god is limited to a single locale.
Your Mormon friend will likely answer the question in one of two ways. I have found that they typically admit that they don't know. If this is his answer, you have already backed him into a corner: If you don't know where your god is, then he is a rather unreliable god.
The Mormon may say that his god is in heaven. This is basically a way of avoiding the question. He will not likely give you the right answer (Mormons believe that their god lives on the planet Kolob. They know that this is ridiculous and will probably not want to "go there.")
Whatever his answer may be to this first question, the point is that his god is not here.
2. Now ask the Mormon, "Did your god promise to never to leave us nor forsake us?"
The Mormon will respond with and enthusiastic "yes." When he does, point out his inconsistency: The Mormon's god promised he would never to leave us nor forsake us, but he is not here.
Your Mormon friend will try to dodge this dilemma by referring to the Holy Spirit. Don't let this scare you or throw you off track. Simply point out that we are not talking about the Holy Spirit. In Mormon belief the Holy Spirit is a different god; distinct from the one we are supposed to worship. Remind him that we are talking about Heavenly Father, the god they say we are to worship.
Reinforce the folly of their religion: Heavenly Father supposedly made a promise to never leave us nor forsake us, but he is not here. Either Heavenly Father is a liar, or he is a false god that doesn't truly exist. Either way, Heavenly Father is not worthy of our devotion.
3. After pressing the inconsistency of their religion, be sure to explain how the Christian God fulfills is superior.
Our God exists in all places. He fills the universe and is even outside of it because He is the creator of time and space. Most of all, He is right here with us at all times, fulfilling His promise never to leave us nor forsake us.
4. Call your Mormon friend to repent of his idolatry and turn to the only true and living God.
If you would like, you can use these same steps to talk about Jesus. Colossians 1:17 says, "In him (i.e. Jesus) all things hold together." This is a reference to Jesus' divinity, which also has the attribute of omnipresence. All things throughout the universe retain their natural form because Jesus himself holds them together. If Christ would remove his presence, everything would completely fall apart like marbles without a container. Because Jesus is both God and man, he can fulfill his promise: Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
The Mormon religion, just like any other false religion, contradicts itself and shows itself to be false. It impales itself and reduces to absolute absurdity.
But this gaping hole in their religion is also a perfect door for the presentation of the gospel. Where their god falls on his face, ours shows Himself to be true.
We asked Jake* if he had ever lied, stolen, or taken God's name in vain. He began to accuse us of condemning him. He didn't understand that it was God's law that condemned him, not us.
We were there to help him. We wanted him to know that Christ was condemned on our behalf on the cross.
"There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1
*Not his real name.
I was asked to introduce this part of the service by offering a brief explanation of the doctrine of ordination. And I’d like to do so by beginning with a little illustration that I hope will give you a sense of what is happening here today.
Let’s say you and I are driving down the road. You look over and see that I’m going too fast. So you say to me, “You know, you are speeding. You better slow down.” That would be a very true thing (and a very good thing) to say. And I should listen to you because what you just said is very important. However, it is quite a different thing to have a police officer pull you over and tell you that you were going too fast.
Now, what I want you to see is that both you and the officer said virtually the same thing. But at the same time they were vastly different, weren’t they? Your words might have been true, but they did not have the same weight as the Police officer’s. Why is that? It is because he is a police officer. He has authority that you do not. As a result, his words have a greater gravity to them.
Let me give you another illustration. If I go to Iran and I start talking about some new policies that America is going to be enacting, what I say may be true. It might be good if the Iranian people and the Iranian government to listen to me. But it is a whole different thing if the US ambassador to Iran gets on the Aljazeera TV network and makes a speech. Even though we might say the same thing, there is a huge difference in what is said because the US ambassador has a power and authority that I do not have because he is specifically sent by the United States.
What I want you to see is that these illustrations portray well the meaning and significance of the doctrine of ordination. Up until now, Joe has been going around doing his evangelism, and he has been doing a great job of it. He’s been calling people to repentance and faith, and he has had many opportunities to share the gospel.
But today things are going to change. Even though Joe is probably not going to be doing anything really different when he goes out to do his evangelism. He’s probably going to be saying virtually the same things he has done before. There is going to be a significant change because his words are going to carry a greater weight and power due to his being set apart by God to be an evangelist in this church.
The wonderful thing about this service is that we all have opportunity to participate in this tremendous event. In just a few moments we as elders will be laying our hands on Joe. This little act is a way of publicly testifying to the fact that God has called and equipped Joe for this work. In our doing this we are as a church body confirming to Joe, each other, and all the world that God has set Joe apart for the work of evangelism, and that he joins us in leadership for this purpose.
But this ceremony is certainly not limited to Joe and those of us who lay our hands on him. All of you who are members of this church have an active role to play. Each of you participates to some degree. As we lay our hands on Joe, you personally must agree to what is being done here today, and you must personally affirm Joe & his new role. As you sit here today, you must in your own heart pledge both your support of him and your submission to his authority as a minister of the gospel.
So as we enter into this part of the service, let us all remember the depth of what happens here today and praise God for it. The kingdom of Satan today shudders because God has raise up a gospel evangelist. May we be equally grateful as they are fearful, and may we all unite together in one heart to join God in the sending forth of Joe.
I remember an incident in which a person received a tract and then threw it away on the street. Another person, who had a nail stuck in his shoe, was looking for something to cushion his foot. He picked up the tract and stuffed it in his shoe. He returned home and began to mend his shoe. Then he saw the tract and was saved. There are numerous similar cases of people being saved by tracts. Some of these cases are actually quite marvelous.
-Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 3) Vol. 49: Messages for Building Up New Believers (2), Chapter 2, Section 7
Today I started my first book. I've often been stimulated by the line in 2 Timothy 4 where Paul says, "Do the work of an evangelist." I'd like to unpack that statement and give a sound exposition on an evangelist's office, powers, and duties.
I don't want it to be a bunch of esoteric stuff (like debating whether or not the office of evangelist was to be perpetual or not). My intent is to provide something practical, perhaps aiming at the college age guy who might be interested in evangelistic work.
This is by no means something that will be hitting bookstores in the near future. I'm sure it will be a life work. The prospects are fun, nonetheless.
Oh, why do I say, "My first book"? Because I've had other topics tickle my fancy. For instance, I've always wanted to write a study guide for women on Proverbs 31. I might start on that one when my wife finally lets me lead the women's study.
As part of our outreach effort, I'm starting to send out letters to people in our community. I have been going through the phonebook and addressing personal, hand written letters to each household.
In these letters I introduce myself as a local pastor and say that I would like to offer them any pastoral services I can, such as prayer and/or pastoral counsel.
I got the idea from our prayer stand. We've had such success with it that I thought I would try offering it on a broader scale.
I tell them that I will keep everything in the strictest confidence and that they can contact me whenever they would like.
Along with it I include a gospel tract and our church's contact information.
If anything, this might be a cheap form of advertising. I pray though, that it might truly be effective for showing our concern for the souls of Ashland.
My friend Joe and I have been doing some street evangelism through the summer here in Ashland and over in Mansfield. We've had so many opportunities to share the gospel and are praying that fruit may come of it. Here are a few pics of some of our outings:
All this is to say that Providence Church, unlike many other churches today, won't be dying out anytime soon.
What I also like is that this picture displays something of our church's unity. These families came forward on Sunday for a child dedication. They took vows to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and I had the great opportunity to close this part of the service by praying for them.
Sure, I would have prefered that they baptize the children too. I believe that paedo-communion is Scriptural. As a matter of fact, I think it is quite a serious thing to "neglect or contemn" this rite. They don't though. So we have to deal with it. In the midst of our diversity, we seek to love each other. We accept each other in the Lord despite our quibble over water's application.
These two dynamics of our church home here in Ashland is just some of what makes it such a great place to worship.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.