My thoughts on Halloween

This is one of my staunchly Christian articles. I really do appreciate some of my friends who read this who do not share my faith, but have been reading my stuff and commenting on it. If you have any questions, I’d be glad to answer. This is more of a “defense” article (I haven’t been attacked, but I’m feeling ornery).

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I don’t mean to start a controversy or a fight, but I’d like to briefly explain my thoughts on Halloween.

There are 2 camps within Christian movements.

#1 – Use it as an opportunity to reach the community, get ’em in the doors, etc. Nothing wrong with it, if observed in the right spirit.

#2 – Avoid it at all costs. Those who do not are in the wrong.

 

I grew up trick or treating. I have fond memories of putting a blanket on my head and running into various objects up and down my street. Of course, it was a different world. Kids weren’t worried about eating razor blades as much in 1983. I actually remember the first year the hospital began x-raying the candy. We did it just for the novelty of it. We didn’t have the concerns about it like we do today, but I digress.

I was at another church tonight with my kids decked out in costumes. It was **packed out** to the point of being nearly unpleasant to be there, because of the huge crowd. But I had to admire the fact that they had the “gumption” to have what has obviously become a huge success numbers wise.

I have to wonder how many people through the years have been reached by that church, even ultimately to the point of being brought in as part of the body.

Do I have any basis for supporting this, biblically?

Why yes, I believe I do.

Acts 17:

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.

17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.

18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.

19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?

20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.”

21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.

23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.

25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.

26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.

27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone–an image made by man’s design and skill.

30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.”

 

The way I read this passage, Paul is in a city full of pagans, heathens, whatever label you want to call them. As he is reasoning with them, he uses a bit of imagery that they are familiar with – the statue to an unknown god.

I’ve not done alot of mythological studies in my life (though I have some), but the way I understand it is that some of the city-states in ancient Greece wanted to appease all of their gods. So much so, that they made this statue in order to appease the gods they were unaware of or didn’t know about. Sort of a “just in case we left anyone out” statue, yes?

By christian beliefs then and now, this is idol worship. One of the big no-no’s, and in a very obvious manner. Isn’t there a “10 commandment” about graven images?

The thing I can’t understand and reconcile in my own head is this. Paul, one of the greatest writers, teachers, and general all-around awesome guys in the Bible used something that wasn’t Christian in order to reach those who weren’t Christian. He used an idol as a demonstration in order to tell people about who Christ was. Many Christians today, in the same opportunity, would’ve taken the opportunity to grab an axe, chop the idol’s head off, end up thrown in jail, reaching no one, as long as their conscience was clear and they stood up for their personal belief system. Paul showed us that we should consider closely before dying on hills that weren’t meant to be fought over.

Please do not read me as supporting or endorsing the obviously paganistic roots of Halloween. That’s not the point here. Paul didn’t worship the idol, after all.

I cannot possibly reconcile a legalistic approach to Halloween when the opportunity is out there to engage our community, reaching people, and many of us are flat out completely missing a huge opportunity to smile at the kids, to make a connection with the parents, and maybe, just maybe, even reach a family and see their lives changed. Does legalism trump evangelism?

How can legalism trump evangelism?

It seems that if one was to have a true approach to Halloween that was sound and consistent year round, they would also be against other holidays rituals that may contain pagan roots – and boy, I found plenty – the Christmas Ham, Yule Logs, Anything with the word “Yule”Mistletoe, Easter Eggs, Easter Bunnies (both symbols of fertility in many ancient religons)…the list can and does go on. I don’t have time to write the book that it would take to do a full set of research on this.

Note, as I was researching this list, I hit a huge number of reference sites that point out the controversies involved by ultra-conservative groups that oppose having Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, etc. as part of a Christian celebration, claiming that these holidays are not Christian, but rather pagan in origin, and were simply absorbed or adapted into the Christian calendar.

If I’m going to live by a legalistic interpretation of the things around me, I must apply that interpretation to every facet of my life. To do less is to have a wildly varying outlook, dependant solely on my whims and perceptions instead of what the Word of God says is important and is not.

Too many Christians and churches spend so much time, energy, and thoughts avoiding anyone that doesn’t look like them or talk like them, that they forget that those are the people we are supposed to be in the middle of. Christ was.

I cast this rock, knowing a 100 more could be cast back at me for a thousand reasons. But I made no impact tonight for my faith, and I reached no hurting people tonight with hope, and I just don’t like that one bit.

Rant done.

 

 

 

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The Reasons Behind the Actions – a personal testimony

The following is a personal testimony from a time in my life in which my faith in God reached a turning point.

I’ve been thinking alot about emotions. It’s been an emotional month, but most of that stuff I keep buried (yes, I’m admitting it). I’ve had some internal struggles and decisions, and I’m still trying to digest and figure them out.

If you were to take my life and put it on paper and then examine it, you’ll see that I have a history of making decisions based on emotions. You might notice a trend which indicates I don’t do it as much as I used to. However, I am still prone sometimes to making emotionally charged decisions.

Most emotionally charged decisions are the wrong decisions. Emotions are an effect, not a cause. They are a product, not a source. This seems to be universally applicable, but I will address this from the believer’s standpoint. What should be our source? As we consider major decisions in our life, what should be the basis upon which our thoughts build?

When we lived in Tennessee, I served at a large church north of Nashville. It was our first church after Sarah and I were married. We experienced much stress in our life, partly due to the fact that we were a newlywed couple and didn’t have many friends to call our own. Sarah had less friends than I did, and it was very hard on both of us as new married people, moving away from our families and trying to figure out who in the world we had married. I was blessed to work with a godly staff, but because of student loans and other bills, some foolishly incurred, we fell into debt and our income was not matching our spending.

I heard about a company south of us that was looking to hire a piano conservatory director/musical theatre accompanist. It paid almost double what we were making. We lept at it, without giving it much thought or prayer.We assumed that because we were in desperate need of increased income, that God had answered that need in this manner.

Sometimes, we assume that because a door opened, God must’ve been the opener.

While our situation temporarily improved, it ended in complete disaster. The tears, pain, and anguish that visited us in the years to come, simply because we went through a door we shouldn’t have gone through, served as a “trial by fire” for our beliefs, our careers, our outlook in life, and our family. I will tell you – if we didn’t have that genuine faith in God and a love for each other, I’m not sure we would’ve made it through that time. It wasn’t that we didn’t love each other. It would’ve been so easy to just run. Run away from each other, from the job, from our faith. We could’ve blamed God for a decision we made (and I’m pretty sure I DID blame him for a while).

One day, after finding out my job would be ending by such a date, I packed Sarah and our new baby daughter in the car, and we drove south 9 hours until we reached my hometown. I made a nice resume up and the next morning, I began passing it out. The first place I walked into ended up being the place that offered me a full-time position. It paid far less than our combined income in Tennessee had been, but it would help us get through the hard time (I had this personal conviction that I would refuse to live off the government).

So there I was, an assistant and later store manager of a shoe store. Boy, it would’ve been easy to run, based on the emotions I was feeling. I felt like my career was over. I was working quite a few hours, some of them with people who detested me (seriously!), and at one point we were living with family because we had no place to live. We made too much to get help from the state with our child’s insurance, but too little to afford it for ourselves. It was a miserable time.

A couple of months after I accepted that position, I heard about a manager opening, and I inquired and was eventually hired and relocated within the same company. I worked long hours, and could never do enough to please my supervisor. I wasn’t very healthy, and my life really seemed doomed to insignificance. Our daughter was beautiful and young, but part of me knew that I would never give her the life I had always dreamed and hoped I would. Same for Sarah at the time – I couldn’t be the provider I wanted to – I couldn’t even spend a day at home without being called in to work because of things only I could handle.

On Thanksgiving day of 2003 (I think), we managed to take a day and made the 3 hour drive to see my parents. I checked my email, and I had a church inquiring as to whether I’d still be interested in taking a worship pastor position. Apparently, they had seen my resume and saved it for over a year. I had posted it after I lost the position in Tennessee – quite a bit of time had passed.

I showed Sarah and felt in my spirit that I should completely disclose our circumstances. She read it, and said it looked like I was trying to talk them out of hiring me. We weren’t currently in the ministry (a big thing for SBC churches), there was a hang-up with my degree at the time, and we were completely scarred from the disastrous year we had lived through.

The church did end up hiring us, and we served there happily for over 5 years before coming to where we are at now. We re-embraced our calling and our faith in God, our ultimate provider.

This is where I’ll end the testimony except to say this – were it not for the rough road we travelled, we would not be where we are at today. I don’t know what would’ve happened.

Throughout the 8 or so years since all of this went down, Sarah and I have come up with some basic tenets of our faith that are very near and dear to us.

1. God is always faithful. Even when we can’t see it. Especially when we can’t see it. Even when we are in the deepest, darkest hole, being hurt and wounded.

2. God’s plans are not our own plans, and His timing is perfect. God is not our co-pilot. He is our only pilot. Taking the reins of our life from God always ends badly, if not in disaster.

3. God’s perfect plan can and does include imperfect people and their flawed decisions. We see this time and time again in the Bible. We look at the disaster that was David’s life, and yet we acknowledge Him as a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22).

4. There are times to stand firm, and there are times to run. Running away from a problem, a grievance, an “issue,” or a person is denying God’s opportunity to display Himself as the great Redeemer, Restorer, Strong Tower, Counselor, Friend, etc. God always desires that restoration and redemption occur. The only time I can see that we need to run is when faced with potential immorality – such as Joseph did in Genesis 39:11-18.

5. When we do mess up, and turn back to God, he will restore. Look at Israel during the time of the Judges. Worship false gods, get punished, turn to God, get delivered, worship false gods, get punished, turn to God, get delivered….etc etc.

1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Anyways, just stuff that has been on my mind. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about this part of our lives – maybe something here can help something you are going through.

-Pastor Harvey