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.
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.
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:
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.
I recently came across a good article on "Why the Missional Movement Will Fail." It is good in that it focuses the real intent of the church's mission. The church was commissioned to "make disciples" and the missional movement, while very zealous & full of "missional" hullabaloo fails without real cultivation of Bible study.
I admit that I am rather adverse from calling myself "Misisonal" and refrain from using the word missional at all. Part of that is my personality (I don't jump on bandwagons very easily and am something of a fad curmudgeon).
Another reason is because I think the word is rather postmodern. It was coined not too many years ago and many people seem to make it mean whatever they want. Some are just using it because it sounds so cool ("I'm missional" sounds so much better than "I like to do evangelism.") But some seem to use it in almost completely contradictory ways! For instance, you have your die hard evangelical using it as well as your flaked out emergent church guys throwing around the term.
But part of the reason I don't use it is because I fail to see a lot of those who call themselves missional doing any really having to do with the mission of the church. It often appears to be just a nice title for a guy who is planting a church or writing a blog somewhere.
[If that is the case, I guess I am missional! (Although, playing Twitter seems to be a real missional thing too. Us fuddy duddies seem to prefer Facebook.)]
What I mean is this: I don't see a lot of the old school forms of evangelism being promoted or implemented by missional guys. It doesn't seem to be hip to pass out tracts or preach in the open air. I do not want to presume to say that this does not happen at all. But it seems that sitting in a coffee shop or having a home group is the focus of most missional guys.
For instance, the article that I mentioned at the very beginning of this post offered a free ebook on practical ways to be missional. Here are a few of the practical suggestions they gave for getting the gospel out:
Um, okay. I get it. You are trying to be available and friendly. But this is not as practical as, "Pass out tracts at a fair booth. Make CD's of your pastor's best evangelistic sermon and distribute them after a college football game."
Not downplaying walking the dog, by any means. But my wife and I have been walking the dog for 15 years now, and there hasn't been any missional activity occur (or, maybe I was being missional and didn't know it because I really don't know what it means to be missional--see discussion above). The only godly thing that happened as a result of the 2-5 miles a day we put in is that we've gotten one happy dog and kept that snickers bar from catching up with us.
I understand that we want to develop relationships and seek to facilitate gospel conversations in our communities. I also have the goal of getting people into my home for dinner and discipleship. But it seems that the old school means of accomplishing the church's mission (dare I use an outdated word like "evangelism"?) have fallen by the wayside.
If this is the case, then I am happy to say that I am not missional. I'm just a guy who believes in preaching, old school evangelism, and doing some old fashioned Bible study.
The people over at American Vision have written a little piece criitcing some of the "transformational" hype that is common in Reformed circles. I didn't appreciate the amillennial slap or the post-mill jibber-jabber. Nevertheless, it was a good article overall.
I've often found that being "transformational" means being artsy and all gung-ho about engaging the beat nick scene. But it doesn't ever seem to go much farther--as if the arts were the whole extent of culture.
I'm all for taking a Francis Schaeffer attitude towards the arts. Let's engage it, but let's also have a balanced view. I mean, what kind of impact are we going to have on culture if all we do is stare at some paintings, pretty up our churches with nicer decorations, and say, "Dude, Jesus would have Bob Dylan on his iPod."
True transformation means attacking the gods of the age, and the biggest god of our era. That means that the most necessary place of cultural transformation today is the life sucking monster we call the state.
But most don't go there. To do so would violate some "spiritual" duty of the church and would be to "forget the real calling of the church."
This overlaps a lot with the erroneous view of "preaching the gospel." I find that many want to talk about "the gospel" but neglect the rest of God's word (i.e. law). Or, they will say things like, "We need to bring the gospel to bear on the arts." That would be ok if they would also seek to bring the gospel to bear on the realm of economics or civil magistrate.
I recently gave a series of lectures on apologetics, particularly in regards to Islam. I have debated whether or not I should post them because much of the material has been borrowed (and is lacking a great deal of the necessary citations). I have decided though, to make the material available as it has been in some demand.
Please note though that much of what is here is simply a conglomeration of other people's thoughts.
Lecture 1: The Dilemma of Islam
Lecture 2: Allah: Uncovered and Exposed
Lecture 3: More Examples of How Isalm Impales Itself
Lecture 4: The Sure Way of Salvation
Here is the corresponding study guide.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.