Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Halloween Scare

Halloween Scare
The party was about to begin, and the scariest of all the Halloween decorated houses appeared to be the one with a lifelike zombie crawling out from the ground with arms stretched out, ready to grab any passerby. The zombie, dressed in military uniform with a skull for his face, seemed like one that came out from the movie, World War Z. Among the many other houses in the area, there were also those decorated with pumpkin faces and heads, screaming ghost masks, cheese cloth ghosts, and cobwebs sprayed on gates.

I sometimes wonder how many of us really know the origin of Halloween, and whether we should be involved in such a celebration. Here's taking a look at an extract from the article 'Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?' by Elliott Watson at CBN.com.
The origins of Halloween are Celtic in tradition and have to do with observing the end of summer sacrifices to gods in Druidic tradition. In what is now Britain and France, it was the beginning of the Celtic year, and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves. The waning of the sun and the approach of dark winter made the evil spirits rejoice and play nasty tricks. Believe it or not, most of our Halloween practices can be traced back to these old pagan rites and superstitions.
But what about today? Perhaps we can still learn from history. In the fourth century, Christians attempted to co-opt the holiday by celebrating the lives of faithful Christian saints the day before Halloween. This was a conscious attempt to provide an alternative and re-focus the day away from ghouls, goblins, ghosts, witches and other “haunted” experiences. Since that time many Christians have decided to allow their children to dress in more “innocent” costumes of pumpkins, princesses, Superman or as a cowboy. Part of this is due to the simple reality that in today’s Western culture it is nearly impossible to “avoid” Halloween.
As Christians you and I are placed in this world to be a light in a world of darkness. There is no lasting benefit to ignore a holiday that exists around us, but it also does harm to celebrate Halloween as it has originated and grown over the centuries.
My suggestion? Christians should be teaching their children (age appropriately) that:
  • there is a spiritual world filled with goodness from God and evil from Satan (Ephesians 2:1-10);
  • life with Christ has power over darkness (I John 4:4); and
  • those who celebrate Halloween either are unaware of its roots, or are intentionally promoting a world where evil is lauded and viewed as an ultimate power.

To counter the evil influence of Halloween, we need to join together and celebrate the reality of the heroic efforts of Christian saints over the evil in their day. Many leaders in the past—and present—have fulfilled the mandate of destroying the works of the devil through their sacrificial commitment to Christ and His Kingdom.
Too, rather than “hide” in the face of evil, we should unabashedly and boldly create an alternative that is positive and uplifting; that celebrates good over evil and the triumph of God over Satan. We need to provide an environment that also makes room for heaps of fun while using the day as a “teachable moment” to celebrate God’s protection, provision and purpose for our lives.

Halloween came from the word Hallowe'en which is a contraction of "All Hallows' Eve" or the day before All Saints Day. All Saints Day is the day dedicated to the remembrance of the saints (hallows) and martyrs of the faith. So what is our family doing this Halloween?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Curiosity

I said to myself, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself." And behold, it too was futility. (Ecclesiastes 2:1 NAS)

Curiosity
When I was a young Christian in my teens, I set upon myself an unusual quest to know, understand, and discover what it was like to face the problems other people were facing. I wanted to experience what they were experiencing so as to be in a position to help them spiritually. While the idea sounded noble, I made the mistake of placing myself at risk of testing God’s patience. I mingled with people who led a life of wanton pleasure for a little while to experience the ‘thrills’ of this world, only to realize the emptiness within me and the futility of such pursuit.

The author of the Book of Ecclesiastes described his discovery of living a life of pleasure that it was vanity and striving after wind (Ecclesiastes 2:1, 10-11). James in his epistle warned us of the danger of worldly pursuit living luxuriously on the earth and leading a life of wanton pleasure. He cautioned that such a lifestyle is equivalent to fattening our own hearts for the day of slaughter (James 5:5).

No doubt, curiosity is not something we can avoid, and to want to find out more about something is nothing wrong. When the apostle Paul spoke to the people of Athens about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject” (Acts 17:32). It was curiosity that led to the opportunity for Paul to share the gospel. Yet we must be cautious not to be nosy or inquisitive in wanting to know or try out things, otherwise we might get our fingers burned.

Are we curious to find or try out things? If we are, let us do so with caution. Not all mysteries in life are likely to be understandable while we are still here on earth. For who can discover the depths of God and the limits of the Almighty? Such mysteries are high as the heavens and deeper than the depths below (Job 11:7-8). To the world and to those who are perishing, the word of the cross is foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). This then is how we ought to regard ourselves—as servants of Christ entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed through the understanding of His word and the gospel  (1 Corinthians 4:1). 

As stewards of God’s mysteries, are we revealing Christ in us to the world? Are our actions and behavior creating curiosity among the unsaved to want to know more about our faith?

Guide us dear Lord as we seek to know more of You and Your mysteries. Keep our paths straight Lord that we may not get sidetracked to become nosy or inquisitive. Mold us to become more and more like You Lord that others who see us may desire to know You and the message of the cross.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Black Sheep for the Faith

For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. (1 Peter 2:20 NAS)

Black Sheep for the Faith
I was deemed by my parents as the black sheep of the family when I turned from idolatry to the Christian faith years ago as a teenager. To them, I was like one who had broken a trust, a lost soul who had deviated from following the family’s faith—Taoism. Initially, my parents tried to bring me back to their fold by punishing me through starvation and locking me up at times, but before long they gave up on me after I repeatedly refused to participate in their religious practices.

Like the difficult situations that befell me after I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior, the disciples in the first century faced even greater persecution when they turned from Judaism to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. Christianity was born during that time and many died for the faith, martyred for confessing Christ. To the religious practitioners of those days—the Pharisees, the Sadducees, among others—the Christians or the followers of Christ were renegades, the black sheep of the family. Persecution ensued and many believers were stoned to death or died by the sword, on the cross, or burned at the stake for refusing to deny the faith.

As Christians, we may sometimes face difficult situations or certain disadvantages. At work, for example, we may be given a miss to a promotion because we refuse to tell a lie or be segregated from a circle of colleagues or associates for being honest. Perhaps we are facing difficult situations because of our belief or because of following Christian principles. Are we crestfallen because our friends, colleagues or associates think of us as a black sheep or because our livelihood is being threatened as a consequence of choosing to do the right thing or tell the truth? 

If we are feeling distraught because of persecution or because of the difficult situations we face for doing the right thing, we ought not to. For we have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example to follow in His steps. If for the sake of conscience toward God we bear up under sorrows when suffering unjustly, it is commendable. If we do what is right and suffer for it and endure it patiently, this finds favor with God (1 Peter 2:19-21). It is better, if God should will it so, that we suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong (1 Peter 3:17). Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial, for once having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).

Dear Lord, though the world may despise us because of our faith, we will not deny You because You are our rock and our salvation, our fortress in whom we will never be shaken. You O Lord have called us for Your purpose and if You should will it so, we are willing to go through trials or be disadvantaged to do what is right to honor You. Bless us Lord as we persevere under difficult situations and trials. Help us not be crestfallen or distraught Lord even if our friends, colleagues, associates or other people stay away from us or disallow us into their circle because of our faith. Grant us Your favor Lord in all we do that we will stand strong and stay unshaken.

Friday, October 11, 2013

What are you doing for Him?

What are you doing for Him?
Has anyone ever done something for you that you have remembered it your entire life?

Recently my Mom told me she had added a new friend to her Facebook list, Rodney, a guy she’d known since elementary school. He emailed her and told her he remembered her and their time in school together. He also shared a memory he had of her. He said in an email (which he gave me permission to use), “I remember I had a Birthday party when I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade. I remember inviting the entire class, but only you and Clenard from school came. I was so devastated. That I cried like a baby. It was my first birthday party as a kid. I remember you gave me a book of life savers candies. That is a very special memory that I will never forget. Thanks!!!!”

I remember when I was growing up my Mom told me about Rodney. Whenever we looked at pictures she would point him out and tell me about going to his birthday party. She remembered that she was the only white person there and she didn’t know why others from her class hadn’t come. She remembered Rodney’s mother walking to the car and hugging her mother, thanking her for letting Mom come to the party. It was something from her childhood that stuck out in her mind, but she never knew that it had been a special memory in Rodney’s mind as well.

As I think of this story and my Mom finding out years later that Rodney remembers her coming to his birthday party, I’m reminded that each day we never know the lives we are touching. Something we do may help someone else, and they will remember it for the rest of their life.

In Matthew 25:34-40 we read:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

What you do or say may feel insignificant in your mind at the time. Maybe it’s just something you do naturally. Maybe you think no one notices what you do. It doesn’t matter who it’s for … whether a classmate, your sister, the homeless man at the corner, the cashier at the grocery store, your co-worker, the president of your company … Jesus is watching and is pleased when we give to others and show His love. We’re really doing it for Him. Bethany P.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Each Day’s Requirements

David left Asaph and his associates before the ark of the covenant of the LORD to minister there regularly, according to each day’s requirements. (1 Chronicles 16:37 NIV)

Each Day's Requirements
Asaph and his co-workers ministered and worked in the temple each day. The tasks they performed varied day to day, depending on what was needed. I’ve been thinking about what it means to minister to others. Too often I look back on my day and realize I’ve ignored the Holy Spirit’s urging and a chance to serve someone else.

God doesn’t expect some spectacular, glorious deed performed on a stage or in the limelight. Some of the best ministering I’ve received involved listening, hugging, an encouraging note or email, or a helping hand. Ministering like Asaph means looking for occasions throughout the day to comfort a child, help a co-worker or call a friend. I love that Asaph and his helpers watched for what the day would bring. They didn’t set such a rigid schedule that they ignored opportunity, instead they watched for the chance to minister. This week let’s minister according to the day’s requirements. Penny Mcginnis

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