Monday, October 24, 2011

Christians and Halloween

Halloween - possible origin.
Under the Roman Empire, the early church had many martyrs, and later some of these were recognized as "saints". Around AD610 the church dedicated May 13th. as "All Saints' Day" or "All Hallows Day" or "All Hallowmas".
The point was to recognize, remember those 'saints' who had died for their faith.

As Christianity spread into Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, the church found the Celts celebrating an ancient pagan holiday called Samhain/Sôw ên' - which literally meant 'Summer's End'. This was held on Nov. 1st - the end of summer and harvest and the beginning of dark winter. It was celebrated with bonfires, sacrifices, etc. They believed that disembodied spirits walked about that night looking for a body to occupy.

Around 741 AD, the church changed "All Hallows Day' to Nov. 1st. to combat the pagan holiday of Samhain/Sôw ên' Therefore, October 31st. came to be called "all Hallowed Eve" --> 'Hallow 'een' or "all Hallows Eve".

As often happens, the customs blended..... Similarly to Christmas -- (the time, tree, mistletoe, yule log all had origins in the pagan celebration of winter solstice) The date for Christmas was selected to combat the pagan celebrations. Also, with Easter and fertility goddess, eggs, bunnies, etc.

Origin of Halloween traditions?? Hard to be sure....

#1. Spooks - various pagan cultures' notion of evil spirits and disembodied spirits being especially active on the eve before "Sôw ên' ".

#2. Costumes - Celts & costumes? Possibly dressed to fool the spooks or throw them off. Christians dressed as 'saints' of old - called "guising" During the Middle Ages, went door to door asking for food in exchange for prayers for the deceased - called "souling".
Example: Shakespeare's comedy "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" (1593) "puling (whimpering, whining) like a beggar on Hallowmas".
"Guising" (disguised in costume, going door to door) goes way back in Scotland (recorded in 1895). Kids visited homes in costume seeking treats and carrying lanterns made of hollowed out turnips with an ember in it for light.

#3. pumpkins/Jack o' Lanterns - comes from an old Irish fable about a man called Stingy Jack who, when the devil came for him one night, conned him into climbing a tree to get him one last apple. Jack then quickly put crosses around the tree so the devil could not come back down. He then made an agreement with the devil, first of all to let him live longer, and when he did die, not to take him to hell. The devil agreed so Jack let him back down out of the tree.
When Jack died, he went to heaven but he was so bad that he couldn't be let into heaven so he went to hell, but, the devil remembering his agreement, wouldn't let him in there either, so there was no place for Jack to spend eternity. So, he was destined to wander between heaven and hell for the rest of his life. When he complained that he needed some kind of lantern to give him some light, he was given a hollowed out turnip with an ember in it.
When the Irish immigrated to the United States they found a much better vegetable to use for these lanterns - the pumpkin. So they became known as "Jack o' lanterns".

Trick or treat???
Tricking goes way back - mostly harmless pranks, mischief done by kids to 'blame' the Halloween spirits.

#4. Trick or treat seems to be an American or North American original - ie: show up in costume with the threat of "treat us or get tricked". In the U.S. it became common by the 1930's and was known originally as "Beggar's Night".

How should Christians react to Halloween? Deal with? Obviously, it's not directly addressed in the scripture.

Opinions vary from "this is pagan, honors Satan, is very bad" to "this is common fun, mocks Satan, no harm in it".

Christians and Halloween.

#1. Evil spirits exist. Satan is mentioned from Genesis to Revelation (and is a key figure in each)
Demons are especially evident during Christ's earthly ministry, and again in Revelation.

#2. The unholy spirits are actively opposed to Christ and Christians. - Satan vs. the Jews, Satan vs. God's people. Rev. 12:17 Eph. 6:12 - ultimately our enemy is not our neighbor, spouse, child, etc. It is Satan.

#3. We are to have no unnecessary involvement with unholy spirits. Deut. 18:9-13
Lev. 19:31, 20:27 Isa. 8:19-20
A. We are to seek no power, authority spiritual benefactor but God. (including Holy angels which are sent as directed by God. We are not to seek them!!)
B. All powers, authority, spirits outside His realm are evil.... therefore harmful and detrimental.

#4. most people observing Halloween are just having fun...NOT seeking, involved with, honoring, worshiping Satan, demons, the dead, ghosts, etc. They are having fun with and making fun of the realm of witches, ghouls, goblins, ghosts.
Make the distinction: ghosts, ghouls, zombies, witches, etc. don't exist!! They are make believe!!
There are demons and spirits, etc. but there are only two powers - holy and unholy.

Contrast trick or treat with playing with an Ouija board, seances, tarot cards, etc. With the latter, you are requesting spirits speak to you and are opening yourself to the spirit world. Very dangerous.

Also note:
#5. how little attention Satan and the demons get in post resurrection scriptures!!! Why??? Because he's been defeated at the resurrection of Christ!!
Example: Rom 1 - 8 deals extensively with sin, wickedness, evil... BUT with no mention of Satan or demons! Ex. Rom. 1:29-32

WHY??? Satan and his minions are defeated!!! He still is to be taken seriously, but not to be feared. Just stand firm.

So, again..... Christians & Halloween? Should we observe? ignore? oppose? The decision is really yours. But, another option is Redeem (customize, hijack - to make a pagan holiday ours...)

Whatever you do, 2 passages are relevant........
1. 1 Cor. 8 - 10 - regarding meat offered to idols. Summary verse: 1 Cor. 10:31

2. Rom. 14 & 15 - observation of days, diets - summary vs. Rom. 14:1, 12-13 (a)

The important question is NOT which day? eat or abstain? observe or ignore?
The important question is Who IS your Lord? How will you SERVE HIM???

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Task of Transformation

Definition: Transformation means change.
Christian transformation is change (a) for the better as prescribed in God's Word, (b) beyond the surface to a change of mind and a change of heart, and (c) is attributed to Christ; His person, teaching, Holy Spirit, etc.

Three areas of Transformation Christians should be concerned with...
A. Personal transformation - change toward what you should be and were created to be.
B. Individual transformation - the attempt to setter or assist other toward what they should be and were created to be.
C. Social transformation - attempt to change or steer society toward what it should be.

Focus today - Personal and Individual transformation.
Application - 1. those attempting to grow
2. those attempting to steer others toward growth.


#1. Christian transformation begins with Christ.
It may begin before salvation, BUT doesn't take place apart from Christ.
Point: do you want to be an agent of transformation? PRAY for Christ's involvement. We cannot affect change in an individual's life without Him, but He may use me to do that.

#2. People need to hear the gospel. Note: the bridge illustration.

(animation by

Rom. 10:14 Efforts at transformation are incomplete without the gospel message.

#3. Your actions are also important. (or people are more apt to accept the love of God if they see the love of God). This is NOT essential to believing, but it makes believing easier, more likely.

#4. People need more than the (simple) gospel to experience Christian transformation.
(This doesn't mean to be saved but it means to be transformed.)
Before you can do/become what you ought, you must know what to do/what to become.
(sincerity/zeal is NOT enough - Rom. 10:2)

#5. Salvation plus knowledge does not guarantee transformation. Because, transformation also requires cooperation! Must have heart and mind to obey and respond to what you know.

#6. Even those who experience transformation are not fully transformed. Because of sin nature/tendency to sin.

So, when someone says "I can't believe he would do that!" The answer is "I can't believe you can't believe it!" Why are we amazed when people sin? Why are we aghast, when we are sinners as well and prone to the same tendencies.
Nobody is so transformed that he is not subject to sin in his life.
This is not making excuses for sinful behavior, but just being honest - this is the way it is!

#7. We won't always see the positive results of our efforts - within self, within others.

Examples: Noah, Moses, Jeremiah, Jesus and the disciples, Paul and the Galatians.

#8. Not seeing positive results does not mean there are no positive results.

The process of transformation has always been:
slow, difficult to measure, and sporadic, and therefore, frustrating (concerning self and concerning others), often discouraging, sometimes exhausting!! (emotionally/psychologically)
Most (if not all) serious transformers struggle with "results".

1. the longer in the battle, the more time and energy you invest into it, the more likely you are to experience frustration, discouragement, fatigue.
2. the more likely Satan is to use this to tempt you out of the fray!

#9. If the promise of transformation was ever valid, it remains valid today. The ETERNAL gospel. To this we are called! Personal, individual, social transformation!!

#10. When we pursue this in spite of apparent results, it is called FAITH. Heb. 11:1-2, 39 Without faith, it is impossible to please God.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Shoebox Ministry

Why a shoebox? It blends good words with good works!
As Christians, we are called to both verbal evangelism and good works!

1. Evangelism is the proclamation of the gospel. Purpose - to win souls, disciple saints. Matt. 28:18-20 - Christ's authority sealed by the resurrection!

2. Good works = good works!! (deeds) - Eph. 2:10
Good works don't merit us a spot in heaven, BUT we are to be about good deeds. So.... Matt. 25:34-40

The Call is NOT either/or - it is BOTH!!
Might better be called verbal evangelism and works evangelism.


#1. A verbal declaration is empty without good works. James 2:14-17

#2. Works evangelism is insufficient without words. (without the message) Rom. 10:14

#3. Words and works are intended to complement one another. The mission of Christ - Matt. 11:2-5 Now of us ...... John 20:21 Go and do as Christ did.

#4. To this you are called. not just we (church) but you (individual)
A corporate call does not eliminate individual responsibility.

#5. For this you are equipped.
On the one hand you may not have all you need to fulfill the call.
Therefore, you have all you need to answer the call, so you can move forward and fulfill the call.
Matt. 4:18-19

On one hand, good words and good works will not get you into heaven. Eph. 2:8-9
But, it might result in someone else getting into heaven!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Christian Rest Ethic

Gen. 2:2-3

If the Christian work ethic is a moral view of work based on scripture,
then, what about a "Christian REST ethic?""
Gen. 2:2-3 - AGAIN..... with focus on "rest". "God rested from all His work". These are complimentary ideas, not opposing ideas.
Add: Ex. 20:8-11 (plus, additional sabbaths, feasts, festivals... etc.)
Sabbath literally means to cease or to stop.

So, can we conclude that:
1. As God intended His people to work (effort to produce)
2. He also intended them to take time to rest from work.
3. His intention for me is also His Will for me.
4. to ignore His known will is SIN!!

NOTE: this is not about Sabbath observance. It is about resting from labor(s).

Some of what we know.....
1. God established the concept of a day of rest. Gen. 2:2-3

2. God modeled that concept!! Gen. 2:2-3 - "God rested"

3. God commanded a day of rest.
A. wrote it into the Mosaic Law
B. May have written it into the Natural Law. - as 8 hour sleep, so 6 day work week and one day off. Most nations have a 7 day week - ancient and modern.

4. Jesus practiced the day of rest.
A. Sabbath observance though not as prescribed by the Pharisees.
B. Additional incidents - Mark 6:30-31 (promoted rest)
So.... early church adopted "day of rest" in conjunction with the Lord's day.

AGAIN: This is NOT about Sabbath observance.

It is considering the Biblical view of time off/shut down/take a break ---
As God intended
As we often fail to do!!

A 'day of rest' served (serves) several purposes:
#1. A day to rest. (sabboth literally means to cease/desist)
Obvious meaning: physical rest - Deut. 5:12-14, Ex. 34:21
Probable meaning: mental and emotional as well. Ex. 23:12 - "refreshed"

#2. A Day to remember the Lord - set aside time to focus on Him, worship Him. - Lev. 23:3, Psm. 46:10

#3. A day to identity as one of His people - non-believers know what the meeting together is about.
Ex. 31:16-17 - sign of lasting covenant. Ezek. 20:12

So.... a day of rest serves us physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually - Mark 2:27

On one hand, much has changed (not Jewish, not agrarian - don't have the physical labors that they did)
But, much is the same! (ie: needs of man, moral applications of the Law)

In addition: Scripture speaks of ....
#1. Rest in the Lord - Psalm 62:1, 5 (contrast: Job 3:26)
Point being: confidence, trust leads to inner stillness/quietude/calm/tranquil/peace
Matt. 11:28-30 - rest of the soul by trusting in Him.
Note: A. This rest comes from trusting Him ... Actively/Intentionally
B. more apt to find this rest if set aside time to focus on Him.

#2. Final Rest. 2 Sam. 7:12 (a) - "fathers" Rev. 14:13 - death of a believer - "rest"

I'm not suggesting violating "rest ethic" is as evil as thievery, idolatry, adultery, etc., or that we should reinstate legalistic observance.

I AM saying: we should give serious consideration to the Biblical Rest Ethic.....
A. the value of it. personal - corporate - kingdom
B. the right/wrong of it....

AND above all .... submit to Christ - Mark 2:27-28