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]
"If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart." Mal 2:2 ESV
Blasphemy is one of the worst possible sins in the Bible. Another passage in the Bible tells us that cursing God was a capital offense. It was punishable by death.
As we see from this verse, failure to honor God’s name results in a direct curse from God. It even says that the blessings God gives will be turned into a curse. We may think of the quail that the Lord gave to the Israelites in the wilderness. The Israelites were failing to give honor to God as the one who had just saved them out of Egypt and they did not recognize his power to sustain. So he gave them quail. But the quail, thought it was a blessing, it was also a curse—it turned into a plague.
So it behooves us to recognize how circumspect we should be when it comes to honoring God’s name and giving him the reverence he is due.
When we think of blasphemy, we typically think of taking God’s name in vain. This is the most direct form. Using God’s name as an expletive not only empties it of its infinite value, but it also uses that which is holy for profane purposes. This is also true of the diminished forms of God’s name, such as “omg” or “gosh” (God) or “geez” (Jesus).
But we must also recognize that God’s name stands for anything which is associated with God himself. So it is not just his names, but his word, worship, attributes, & works.
For instance, when a child draws a picture, you do not criticize the work and say it looks nothing like what he/she was trying to depict. Why? Because you know that you might make that child cry. The criticism of the art is an insult to the artist himself.
The same is true when it comes to God's name. When we disparage anything connected to God (like the weather or some providence He brings our way), it is a criticism of God himself.
So we must be careful to recognize the depths of the third commandment. Did you grumble at the weather this morning? The Lord produced the ice and it is one of his marvelous works. Are you not engaged in the songs you sing or giving attention to the word? That is God's worship & God's word and that flippancy is a form of blasphemy.
I remember one time in Seminary we had a break between classes. A few of us headed to the men’s room. Just as we opened the door, three guys were heading out. We were all chatting in our respective groups, and we almost collided when the door opened. I cried out, “Holy cow!” It just popped out of my mouth as a natural reaction to the close encounter. A terribly awkward silence immediately followed. It was then awkwardly broken by one student saying, “Yes, you have to watch out for those sacred bovine.”
My irreverent use of God’s most grand attribute was certainly brought home.
As we come to our time of confession this morning, let us take to heart the ways we have blasphemed God. Whether it be in the profanities we have uttered, disrespect we have shown, or irreverent attitudes we my have had towards God’s person and work, let us confess them and ask that God hold back the curses he has threatened for it.
You have pledged that you will not hold him guiltless who takes your name in vain. Lord, we confess that we have been a blasphemous people in that we have failed to honor you and uphold your majesty. We admit that have not treated the reading & preaching of your word with the highest esteem.
We acknowledge that we have not been as engaged as we should be. We have let our minds wander in prayer, we have been flippant when approaching the Communion Table, we have spent little time glorifying you and meditating on the wonder of your being.
Our Lord our God, we admit that we have not reverenced you as we ought and we beg your pardon.
Forgive us for having the heart of Esau, who would profane his birthright by selling it for a pot of porridge. Give us grace to overcome the sacrilege of the Israelites who treated the sacred Ark of the Covenant as a superstitious toy. Let us be freed from the attitude of Paul, who kicked against the goads and ignored the testimony of the saints.
This past Sunday evening we at Hopewell enjoyed a special time of singing and worship. We did something that, I would assume, is virtually unheard of in most churches today: we sang all our songs a capella.
And it was fantastic!
We committed to singing a capella once a month in order to give our worship musicians some time off and just another chance to enjoy worship themselves. I'm happy that we did. It was great to hear everyone's voices joining together to life the Name of God on high.
Are you looking for a Reformed church in Ashland, Ohio? I invite you to check out Hopewell Church.
Hopewell is a new work that has just started up in Ashland. Currently, nine families compose the founding families, and this past Lord's Day they issued me a formal call to be the organizing pastor. I'm excited to be a part of this church as they are dedicated to being Reformed and family integrated.
We started evening services two weeks ago. The first service had almost 100 people in attendance. Some families couldn't make it to the second service, but we still had 70 people come out.
It has been a life long dream to start a Reformed church in Ashland. I initially came back to the area to plant a Reformed church. I had come into Reformed theology in college after having grown up in this area. From that point on I began to pray that a Reformed church be started here. By the end of seminary I began to think that perhaps I should give it a go.
That church eventually had to close because we didn't have enough interest. Our highest attendance over the course of the 6 years was a total of 40 people. Typically we had around 15-20 though. Needless to say, it never got much momentum.
Hopewell looks much more promising. That's part of the reason for the name. We even have prospects for adding a few more families in the near future.
But there's more to the name than mere well wishes. Hopewell was the first church in Ashland 200 years ago. Interestingly enough, it was a Reformed church. An Old School Presbyterian minister came to town and served as the organizing pastor of a bunch of Scotch-Irish Calvinists.
It is funny to think that Ashland had such a staunchly Reformed beginning, being that there is such a significant Anabaptist influence here today. But that is the main reason why we took the name Hopewell. We wanted to continue the vision our forefather's in the faith had for solid teaching and biblically grounded worship.
Hopewell already has a solid crew of guys who are ready to be leaders. So it shouldn't be long until we are ready to ordain and install men as elders. Right now these men are serving as a steering committee for the plant. We've already started some leadership training too in preparation for becoming a particular church.
By all means, contact me or sign up for our email list if you'd like to be a part. We want you to join us in worship and help us propagate the great doctrines of the Reformation throughout the area.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.