Archive for October, 2007
October 31st is the holiday known to many as Halloween. A day that draws mixed feelings from all who witness it. Some people embrace the opportunity to dress up in scary costumes and play pranks on friends, while others see it as a children’s holiday with no meaning other than free candy and cute costumes. It’s the dark origination and history of Halloween that draws such mixed feelings from Christians. There are many verses of scripture that speak to a Christian’s association with darkness.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible.”
“Do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.”
3 John 1:11
Many Christians and churches have attempted to find ways of embracing this holiday without actually embracing its dark roots. These attempts include everything from Christian haunted houses that depict a non-believer’s journey to hell, to family oriented Fall Festivals that play host to a variety of games and food.
God’s Holy Spirit is the only spirit worth celebrating
I can not make the decision for every Christian in reference to their observation of Halloween. That is a decision that each believer must reach on their own through prayer and study of scripture. As believers we are faced with the dilemma of living in this world but not of this world. Though scriptures teach this world is influenced by spirits of good and evil, we can stand boldly for God has revealed to us that…
“The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
1 John 4:4
No matter what evil spirits are present in this life, we know that God has given us a spirit that is stronger than all others. The message of God to this world is that God’s Holy Spirit is the only spirit worth celebrating, even on Halloween.
If you would like to learn more about the Holy Sprit of God please contact me personally at email@example.com.
You have been invited to become a member of God’s family. I know that sounds strange: ordinary humans entering into a relationship with the God that created them. Yet that’s exactly what God has offered us. You’ll hear this referred to in different ways: salvation, being born again, coming to Jesus, becoming a Christian. While many other terms are appropriate, I can best relate to the idea of coming into God’s family.
You see, God is a God of relationships. It was He that came looking for man, not vice versa. The Bible tells us that it was love that motivated God to reach out to man. It was God who first made the gesture of trying to fix our broken relationship.
But what happened to our relationship with God? Why did it need fixing? If He created us, why can’t we all just be with Him? The way I understand it, it all comes down to God’s nature. For example, God is light, so darkness cannot be where He is. God is truth, so all untruth is away from Him. God is life, so death is banished from His presence. And God is holy, God is pure, God is untouched by evil. Therefore everyone who has sinned cannot live with God. And because we all have sinned, we are disqualified from being in God’s family.
The stains that sin leaves last a lifetime… and beyond. Only someone who has never sinned can possibly take them away. That’s why God sent His son Jesus. Jesus came to earth and lived a life without sin. His unjust death opened the way for us to receive the forgiveness of our sins. We can let His death be the payment for our sins. His innocent blood is able to wash away the stains of sin, allowing us to be holy like God, allowing us to be adopted into God’s family. This is the good news that God has for mankind: through Jesus Christ and His death, God has provided the way in which we can have a complete relationship with Him.
Humans, imperfect as we are, can come to be included in God’s family. The apostle John wrote about Jesus: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13)
What does it mean to you that we’ve been invited into the family? How does that make you feel? How can we help others see this blessing?
I’d like to hear from you.
“Don’t worry. I made sure your rental has cruise control. After all, it’s a really boring drive.” That’s what the clerk at the desk told me. The strange thing about it was this was a drive to a preaching appointment in central Florida. I thought the ride was beautiful. There were gorgeous trees everywhere. For a preacher from West Texas, I was in sensory overload. How could anyone think it would have been a boring drive? Boy, if I lived in that part of the world I would never, ever take that scenery for granted.
Now where I live is a different matter. It is flat and there aren’t many trees at all. Oh sure, some people rant and rave that they have never seen sunsets as beautiful as those in West Texas, and…
I was doing the same thing as the clerk in Florida: taking for granted the beauty around me. I wonder if we do that in other areas of our lives. Is the grass really greener on the other side of the fence? And do my neighbors think that when they look at my yard? The truth is that most of life seems the same. Unless you are willing to move to a different part of the world every two or three years you will have the same scenery. Do I really have to have new scenery, new clothes, a new house, a new job, a new mate, a new “look”, and a new dog to make life fun and exciting?
It would be so wonderful to be content with what I have, no matter what the circumstances. How happy would I be if I learned to treasure and appreciate the things I have every day?
[i]I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…”[/i]
A man named Paul said that almost 2000 years ago, and I learned the secret from men and women just like him. The secret is that it is not about me. It is about finding hope, joy, peace, and purpose in something bigger than me. The key is a new me…with a new identity in Jesus.
What do you think?
I’ll admit to a moment of panic. I was in Brazil, traveling with two other people, one of them Brazilian. It was comforting to travel with someone who knew the language and knew exactly where we were going. We were taking a flight from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro. Instead of walking through a jetway, we rode out to the plane on buses. As it turned out, my colleagues were placed on the first bus, while I had to wait for the second one. I wasn’t too concerned, since I knew that we’d still end up in the same place. I calmly watched their bus depart, then boarded mine and left to join them.
But, when I got on the plane and found the row where our seats were, my friends weren’t there! That’s when I felt a twinge of panic. I knew they had to be on the plane, yet I couldn’t find them anywhere. I had no idea how to get to where I was going, and I had no idea how to find the people that did know. I quickly turned to one of the stewardesses and asked her, in Spanish, if this was the plane to Rio de Janeiro. Speaking Spanish in a Portuguese-speaking country is a desperate ploy, but she understood my question and assured me that I was on the correct flight. She continued to give me further information in Portuguese, but I was no longer trying to understand her, as I saw my colleagues coming through the door of the plane. For some reason, their bus had taken a long time in getting from the terminal to the plane. I was in the right place after all.
On the night that Jesus was arrested, He told His disciples that He was going somewhere to prepare a place for them. He told them that they knew the way to where He was going. Thomas replied, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” And that’s when Jesus spoke these famous words: “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:3-6)
Not knowing the way is an unpleasant feeling. It’s all right when we can depend on someone else, but when we’re all alone, feeling lost is pretty scary. Fortunately, when it comes to our spiritual lives, we can always know the way. Jesus is the way. We can put our trust in Him, knowing that He will always take us where we need to be. To get past our feelings of being lost in this world, all we really need to know is Jesus.
If you feel unsure of your way, maybe I can help you find Him. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll tell you about He who is the way. You’ll never have to feel lost again.
Grace and peace,
If I say that I have faith in my doctor, what image does that bring to your mind? Am I saying that I believe that his diploma is real, that he really is certified to practice medicine? Or am I saying something more? Suppose that one day I come to you with a terrible cough. I tell you that my doctor says that I have strep throat and has prescribed a certain medication. I proclaim the praises of this doctor, repeating again what faith I have in him. But when you ask me if I’m going to take the prescribed medicine, I reply, “What for? That stuff won’t do me any good.” What would you think of my “faith” at that point?
True faith is more than an intellectual exercise. Faith affects not only beliefs, but actions. A faith that is not acted on is no faith at all. Or as the Bible says, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17). If we truly believe in God, if we truly have faith in Him, we will do what He has told us to do. If our lives are not lives of obedience, they are not lives of faith.
To me, the story of Noah and the ark illustrates this point. God spoke to Noah and told him to build a large boat, an ark, to save himself and his family from a great flood that was coming. Noah believed God. How do we know? Because he built the ark that God told him to build. What if Noah had stood on a hilltop, proclaiming his faith in God instead of building that ark? I believe that Noah would have perished. Faith that is not lived out is not faith at all.
Jesus once asked those that followed Him: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). Simply believing in God is not enough. If that belief does not lead us to want to do what He wants us to do, it is nothing more than an intellectual exercise. And it’s not faith.
We need faith put in practice, faith that expresses itself in actions. Christianity isn’t about the opinions we hold, it’s about the life that we live. In the apostle Paul’s writings, he speaks of the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5). If you’ve come to believe in Jesus, that’s a great first step. Now it’s time to turn belief into faith by learning what He wants of you and doing your best to do it. If you have questions about that, I’d love to discuss it with you. Write to me at [email@example.com]firstname.lastname@example.org[/mail]. Together, we can learn to live the life of faith.