Friday, October 29, 2010

Why I Don’t Do Halloween

Here I go again – possibly raining on people’s parade. But as before, I feel compelled to stand for something in which I believe strongly – and for something to which God has opened my eyes.

I was out with my son at a fast-food restaurant earlier this week. The place was decorated with leering pumpkins, spider webs, and ghoulish faces. After a few minutes of sitting amongst all of this, Noah looked at me and said, “I can’t wait until Halloween is over.”

Remember, this comes from a thirteen-year old. But he, like me, is genuinely fearful of this season. It wasn’t always this way for us. I grew up enjoying Halloween, thinking it was about the candy and not much else. Early on, my kids enjoyed it as well. But about four years ago, our eyes were suddenly opened in a remarkable way to the evil associated with this holiday (see a previous post). I don’t care what others may think – it is not harmless, and it is not all in good fun. It’s a dabbling in evil.

Our society makes fun of death at this time of year – but God tells us, “All who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:36), and that God’s real desire is that “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Death was not God’s plan, and it should not be toyed with or taken lightly. Rather, death is the result of sin (Romans 5:12).

We see people dressed as witches and demons. Does it bother us? It bothers me greatly. From Ephesians 6:12 – “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Is it harmless? Consider this – King Saul was put to death by God because he dabbled in spiritual hypocrisy by visiting the witch of Endor (1 Chronicles 10:13-14). Of all the wrong things that Saul did in his life, it was this event that was mentioned on his “tombstone” in Chronicles. Do we think that playing at witchcraft or related topics are just good fun? We should think again. God has made his position on this clear.

I know – it may seem crazy that some of us see this holiday as evil. It would be easy to view it as simply dressing up in a fun costume, or to say that it invokes a spirit of generosity when neighbors hand out candy to kids. But I think there is a deeper theme running on this subject. Is this world completely separated from the spirit world – where we can play with “spiritual” activities in isolation? Again, consult the verse above from Ephesians 6:12. If our struggle – in this life – is against the powers of the dark world, then that means it is here and now. The spiritual world crosses over into our existence today. A big part of the spirit world is evil and belongs to Satan. Is it such a stretch to think that Satan might be using this holiday as a tool to tempt parents and children into believing that we can make light of death and witchcraft and demons? I beg others to consider this.

“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15)

As always, I write these things not to offend or point a finger of blame. During my college years, I did some things at Halloween that those who know me would not believe. I’m not proud of that. But God, in His infinite grace and wisdom, has led me to this point. Consider carefully your ways.


In the same vein, here’s a good post I was led to – “While you are trick or treating, a child will be sacrificed”

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Communion Meditation – The Simple Gospel Story

When preparing the communion meditation, I often go through a thought process that says, “How can I tell an interesting and unique story that will grab people’s attention and make them focus on Jesus’ death?” Today, I decided not to go down that path.

Instead, I resolved to simply remind us of the gospel story, and to recall God’s desire for what to do at this time in our worship service. This story is all we need to grasp the basics of God’s plan for mankind. This story would be enough to tell a neighbor about God’s good news. Simply put, the story goes like this:

About 6000 years ago, that is, around 4000 B.C., God created everything that we see around us in only six days. Most importantly, he created man, and he created him to be special – because he was made in God’s image. Man was destined to have a unique relationship with God, unlike any other element of His creation. The special bond between God and man exists even today.

The ultimate purpose for man is simple – it is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. To that end, God gave man some rules to live by, and the free will to choose his own path. It didn’t take long for man to violate God’s direction – and through Adam, the first man, mankind fell from a position of a guaranteed eternity with God. Man sinned, and God’s promise of death and punishment had to be carried out.

For 4000 years, man lived under a system of laws that gave him some relief from sin’s punishment, but these laws were imperfect. God had said that sin could only be forgiven through a blood atonement, so man labored under a legalistic system of rules and animal sacrifices. This was not the system under which God wanted man to live.

And so, 2000 years ago, God sent his only Son to earth. His ultimate purpose was for His Son to die – and shed his blood to be the blood sacrifice that God demanded. Jesus Christ became the one blood sacrifice to cover the sin of all men who would accept him and proclaim him as their Lord. Jesus’ blood has the power to cover the sins of men in the past, present, and future. Through it, we have the ability to undo the damage done by Adam and by our own sin.

God had promised that sin must be punished by death. And He knew that all men would sin. We were under a curse, and it seemed that there was no way out – we were doomed to die apart from God. But thanks to God’s infinite wisdom, and His new and perfect plan, He provided a way for His words to be true and for us to be saved. The death that had to occur as a penalty for our sin was taken on by Jesus himself. Romans 6:23 tells us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Simply put, because of Jesus and that moment on the cross, we can look forward to eternal life. The story gets even better, because Jesus Christ, after dying a horrible death on the cross, was raised back to life after three days - to show that God is stronger than even death itself.

Finally, God asked us to remember this story - the sacrifice and death of His Son – each week, so that we would never forget what He did for us.

It’s that simple.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

“How Could Anyone Desecrate My Lord?”

Our county is famous for some odd things lately. Last year, it was “Balloon Boy”. This year, it is upheaval over a controversial work of art.

The Loveland Museum/Gallery, which I have frequented in the past, made national news last month when they opened the display of a lithograph featuring Jesus Christ performing a homosexual sex act. Naturally, there was a great deal of uproar over the display, from both sides of the issue. City council members demanded its removal, while others called for tolerance of differing views. A lot of print ink was used to discuss the issue – which is precisely what the “artist” was hoping for.

Yesterday, a 56-year old woman from Montana entered the gallery with a crowbar. When the area around the work was clear she removed the crowbar, broke the Plexiglas surrounding it, and then tore up the lithograph. Afterward, she waited calmly for the police to arrive. While ripping up the artwork, she was heard to say, “How could anyone desecrate my Lord?” She is currently under arrest, facing charges of criminal mischief.

So – two questions. First, should Christians feel compelled to argue against artwork and Christian desecrations of this nature? And, second, should our argument turn to acts of vandalism when we are offended as deeply as some of us were over the display in Loveland?

Our society continually talks of tolerance. Often, the standard is inequitable. While this art depicting Jesus Christ was allowed to stand, there have been instances in our country where similar characterizations of Allah are removed, because they are deeply offensive to other religions. That may not seem fair – but I think I know why. While we are not typically portrayed as such, Christians tend to be more tolerant of religious desecration than the people of some other religions, such as Islam. Of course, there are extreme examples – in both directions - where this has not been true. But let me point this out – only last month, President Barack Obama made a public statement against a Florida minister who planned to burn the Koran on his church property. I heard no such plea from our president over the Loveland art exhibit and its visual portrayal of our Lord. Why not? Christians – by now, we should expect this inequality of response. Christianity has always been the underdog in arguments such as this. It’s okay, though – truth is on our side.

Should we argue? Should we commit acts of “vandalism”? Jesus himself provides a whole spectrum of answers. When the crowd was demanding the stoning of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), he pretended not to hear them, and finally gave a gentle answer – “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Yet when he caught moneychangers conducting business in the temple, he overturned their tables, obstructed people from carrying merchandise into the temple, and drove out the moneychangers (Mark 11:15-19). If he had done that in my county this week, Jesus would have gone to jail, just as the lady from Montana did.

So what is right? And what goes too far? How far should I defend my faith? Should I “tolerate” the despicable depiction of my Lord committing a sin? I’m thinking about it. What do you think?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

There Is a Boy…

There is a boy who nearly died in the womb. This was a situation entirely unknown to his parents, and it caused them to think more about the preciousness of life. But the boy held on to that life, because God knew there was something special about to happen.

If that was not trial enough, that boy was born having been starved of oxygen during the birth. His face and fingers were blue, and he was rushed to a table by doctor and nurses for revival methods. His mother and father were overwhelmed with doubt about what to do, and could only watch helplessly from the corner and pray. And again, God stepped in and made sure that there were no ill-effects.

There is a boy who smiled and laughed through his infant childhood. As a baby, he was truly inseparable from his mother, and he could tell when she was not physically near. He was even able to sense when his father tried to kiss his mother in the next room, and would immediately begin crying, because for that moment he was not the object of her primary attention. Mother and father marveled at his sensitivity.

As he grew, this boy once gave nearly all the money he possessed to a church missions effort, because he was deeply moved by the plight of others and because, as he said, they needed it more than he did. He never told anyone that he did this, but it was observed from across the room. His mother and father watched in wonder at his selfless heart.

There is a boy who gives unselfishly of his time to others. While the temptation of self-centered youth is great, this boy spends hours doing precious and meaningful things for a neighbor, with absolutely no thought for compensation. And when that neighbor insists on a generous reward, this remarkable boy refuses over and over. When he finally loses the argument, he is truly overcome, because he gave those hours for the simple purpose of blessing another person with his gifts. One of his first thoughts is of the tithe he will give to the church.

This boy’s mother and father watch these things and they store them up in their hearts. His father, who is not known as an emotional person, is brought to tears one night when he observes the unselfish actions of the young boy. He knows that the boy is a far better person than he was at this young age. This realization makes him sad for his own selfish youth, and yet exceedingly grateful that the next generation will serve God in deeper and more wonderful way. The father realizes that his own life is but a stepping stone to something more eternal and consequential than he ever dreamed. It breaks the father’s heart to see that it took him so long to understand this purpose. But it gives him satisfaction to see God’s work being carried out with increasing desire and humility. Both mother and father are forever changed because of what they see in their own offspring.

Now, there is a young man. What will he do next?