Monthly Archives: October 2013

Halloween

 The trends and fads of the day seem to catch my attention more as I age. Have you noticed the interest in zombies, vampires, Dracula and the like lately? Pretty scary! [Pun intended] And, of course, people are more enthralled at this time of the year than any other.

I was watching the TV Guide channel, just to see what was on, and got a large dose of the macabre in the process. It seems they’re playing horror movies at the top of the screen while the channel fodder is scrolling along at the bottom. I don’t know about you but I have no interest in viewing “Children of the Corn” or any other horror flick.

I also noted that new shows about to be aired are following along this same theme. Oh well, I needed to cut back on my TV viewing anyway.

Well, today is Halloween. That’s good news in a way, because by tomorrow we won’t be inundated with TV shows and movies attempting to scare the living daylights out of people. But we still must deal with today. As my wife and I picked up our morning hot beverages at the drive-thru window this morning, the costumed attendant greeted us with, “Happy Halloween!” How does a follower of Christ respond to that? We just rudely drove away, saying nothing.

I took a stroll online and saw a quote that 6.9 billion dollars is projected to be spent on Halloween 2013! (that’s billion – with a “b”) I believe I read somewhere also that Halloween is now second only to Christmas in money spent. If all this isn’t a sign of the times, I don’t know what is. As the apostle Paul told Timothy, the last days will be perilous times!

People without Christ are going to do what they’re going to do. I think it would be a mistake to attempt to indoctrinate a non-Christian in the problems that grow out of being preoccupied with devilish enticements. It just wouldn’t make sense to them. But followers of Christ should be a different story.

I found this quote on line pertaining to Halloween:

Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity, life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a secular, community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating. In a number of countries around the world, as the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, people continue to usher in the winter season with gatherings, costumes and sweet treats.

Is Halloween merely an innocent time of fun, candy, costumes and parties? I wonder! On one side, it’s unwise to spend too much time and energy spouting on about what we, as Christians, are against. On the other side, the old saying goes, “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything!”

I’m just kind of thinking out loud here, but things come to mind like our instruction to come out from among them and be separate; friendship with the world is enmity with God; light and darkness can’t coexist together; etc, etc. Jesus taught His bunch that they were to be in the world but not of it.

Another thing that comes to mind is the effect that celebrating Halloween might have on our children. So much of this holiday is aimed at kids and based in fright and fear. The Bible repeats the phrase “fear not” more than 300 times! The only fear we’re supposed to display is a reverential fear of God. I believe it is a truism that the devil uses fear for two purposes: to torment us and to prevent us from doing God’s will.

Anyway, I guess my point here is merely to get Christians thinking. I’ve learned that one of the most powerfully influential catalysts for growth in Christ is taking scripture and contemplating what it means to me. So, don’t take my word for it. Get your Bible out and see for yourselves. The Word of God, rightly divided, will never steer you wrong!

What Is Your Outlook On Life?

What is your outlook on life?

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. II Corinthians 4:16-18 [The Message]

I used to think that some people could focus on a multitude of things all at one time. I had seen teenagers who were chatting on the phone, listening to music and doing their homework, with the TV on in the background. I thought they had somehow discovered a way to glean useable information from all these sources simultaneously. As I sit here today I’m not so convinced. Merely an awareness of different stimuli doesn’t mean information has been received. I could be wrong, but I’m of the opinion that we only truly focus on one thing at a time. We can be aware of other things, but if we were tested on our comprehension level, I think we would fail miserably.

Focus is a very important commodity. I’ve noticed as a pastor that our congregant’s ability to receive spiritual assistance in our services depends as much on their focus as anything. Jesus said that true worshippers must worship in spirit and truth. [John 4:23, 24] Simply put, worshipping in spirit and truth is truly worshipping. It takes focus to truly worship God. One must put away the interference that tries to invade our mind sets. Your mind wants to ponder on things like: what you’ll do when the service ends, why sister so-in-so isn’t here today, did the guitar player just play the wrong chord, I hope the pastor isn’t long-winded today, is it warm in here or is it just me, or even – wow, my socks don’t match! This kind of interference allowed in insures that true worship isn’t going to happen.

Maybe even more important than the various things we may focus on is the basic outlook we bring to our every day life. We will all face challenges. No one gets a free ride as far as that is concerned. Just like back in our school days, it’s a given principle – there will be tests! Passing or failing is more about outlook than anything else. God has built into all of us an ability to succeed, but that ability rarely manifests in those with a “poor ole me” attitude.

When my wife and I came to upstate New York over thirty years ago we came with a message on our hearts and a deep trust in the God of that message. God poured a pure faith inside us and we ran with it. We wouldn’t even entertain the thought that we would fail. As far as we were concerned, for us to fail God would have to fail. A mighty church was built out of that outlook. Not only did the congregation grow here, but excited people went out from here and continued the work in places across the country and nations throughout the world. It was never that we were so smart or slick or even charismatic. It was that God was in it and we trusted Him completely.

I have to remind myself of these things often today. Physically I’m not able to do what I could do in the 80’s and 90’s. The nation – the world – is different now. The apostle Paul prophesied that these “last days” would be perilous. Our adversary knows his time is short. But, as we sang last week, “Our God reigns!” He is still on the throne. Faith in God still overcomes the world. The “Greater One” still resides in every child of God. As we used to say, “I read the back of the Book, and we win!”

I found this quote online: “Never let the thoughts of self-unworthiness re-arrange your prepared passion for failure. You can do it even if others say you can’t. But you cannot do it if you tell yourself you can’t.” ― Israelmore Ayivor

Embrace the outlook that you can.

 “I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].” Philippians 4:13 [Amplified]

Are You Growing Spiritually?

Ephesians 4:14-16 [New Living Translation] Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Someone once said that anything living continues to grow. Dead things have ceased from growth. This is true both naturally and spiritually. But there also is a glaring difference: natural growth happens spontaneously while spiritual growth requires attention.

Recently I read some statistics acquired from a national survey of churches. With over 250,000 respondents, this survey carries a lot of weight. It seems that, in measuring spiritual growth, some of the indicators were quite surprising. In the churches surveyed, one out of every four regular attendees was not growing spiritually or even interested in growth. Apparently they just enjoyed fellowship with Christians. Also it was discovered that, for those who are relatively young in the Lord, involvement in lots of church activities helped the growth process. Conversely, for those older in the Lord, these activities didn’t carry the same punch. [I guess it’s not just about how busy we are!]

There was one true indicator of spiritual growth according the book I’ve been reading. Let me give you their words:

If all churches could do only one thing to help people at all levels of spiritual maturity grow in their relationship with Christ, their choice is clear. They would inspire, encourage, and equip their people to read the Bible – specifically, to reflect on Scripture for meaning in their lives. The numbers say most churches are missing the mark – because only one out of five congregants reflects on scripture every day. [Move by Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson]

When considering all the different aspects of spiritual growth it’s interesting that reflecting on scripture proves to be the most potent. I can’t say that I’m really surprised though. In rebuking Satan Jesus declared, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” [Matthew 4:4] Clearly this means that it is the Word that sustains life. In Mark chapter four we find the parable of the sower, a parable that Jesus says is a key to understanding all parables. In explaining this parable, Jesus clearly states the value of the scriptures: “The sower sows the Word.” [4:14] The word of God, the Bible, the holy scriptures – by whatever title we refer to it, is the seed. It is the catalyst for growth.

The apostle Peter spoke of the Bible in this manner: “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” [I Peter 2:1-3] It is the Word that provides inner strength and growth.

The apostle Paul declares: “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” [Romans 10:17] Faith is a vital necessity to us as Christians. Add to that the quote from the writer of Hebrews: “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” [11:6] In fact, I would say that any growth we might attain without the Word of God may turn out to be growth that is detrimental to our spiritual health.

No, readers, spiritual growth is not automatic. If you’re not interested in this growth it’s not going to overtake you anyway. As a pastor I can’t pray spiritual growth on my church people in spite of themselves. Intercessory prayer makes God available, but we are each individually responsible for our own lives.

We should be asking ourselves, “Am I growing in Christ as I should? Is my relationship with Him deeper and richer now than last year? …last month? …last week? …yesterday? No one is spiritually more mature just because they’ve been saved for a long time. Spiritual growth doesn’t just happen. As has been said in the past, Christians have to make some effort just to stay even. We’re going uphill – against the stream. We have to keep peddling the bike or paddling the canoe if we don’t want to fall back. [See Hebrews 10:35-39]

How important is growth to you? You’re the only one who can answer that question.