Monday, October 31, 2005

Why I think Jesus would participate in Halloween

I grew up -trick or treating-, in Ohio, and Michigan. My father who is a pastor would map out the best way to collect the best and most about of candy. Halloween was a big game to him. His enthusiasm for the sport of collecting free candy, really sparked in me the whole idea of Halloween.
Halloween is a kids dream come true. Everyone in your neighborhood for miles around gave away free candy. And all you have to do is dress up in a cheesy homemade costume. It is so much fun to dress up and get real creative on what you will be that year. Every year it seemed I was the super hero from TV I was currently in awe of. However, every four years, I was always the current president. I have been Ronald Regan, George Bush and one year my brothers and I were Ross Perot, Bill Clinton, and Bob Dole. We got a lot of laughs that year, and that was what we were looking for.
In my growing up years I was only allowed to -Trick or Treat- until I reached the 6th grade. Then after the 6th grade I only could help my brothers go door to door. We never decorated our home in orange and black, and we were allowed to carve pumpkins, but only with smiles or Christian symbols. One year, my mother actually won a pumpkin-carving contest sponsored by the local hospital. We were very proud of that pumpkin. Also, in my family we were never allowed to dress up like witches, wizards, ghosts, or anything scary. Halloween was a time to laugh, smile, and of course free candy. My father who was a strong Christian man laid out for my brothers and I the reasons we don’t celebrate Halloween and the reason we participate in Halloween. These truths have stuck with me.

One house, and the only house I ever remember going to for candy, was a Christian man on the corner of a long street. Don’t ask me the name of the street, as a little boy on a bike, you only know streets by the length you have to peddle. This man on the corner of the long street I knew was a Christian because and only because of Halloween. He always decorated his house real bright, with many crosses, manger scene, which I always thought was neat, and beautiful scene of Jesus with little children. Scripture was placed around his yard on signs for people to read as they approached his house. This was a house everyone wanted to be at on -trick or treat- night…not because of the d├ęcor…but because of the candy. This Christian man always gave HUGE full size candy bars away. Not those cheap, nasty, -Sweettarts- or -candy corns- that everyone else gave out, and you always were disappointed to see. This Christian man gave out the good stuff, and always wrapped around the candy bar was the entire salvation message. On the back of the wrapping the gospel was written in children’s terms, and on the front a more in depth, more adult focused message of salvation. Everyone respected that Christian man’s message. Everyone felt loved, and not judged. Everyone one knew that the Christian man loved kids, because he always had a Huge sign in his front yard that read, -Jesus loves the little Children-.

I Find Christians are on different sides when it comes to Halloween. For example in some church families, people don’t participate or celebrate Halloween. Many even speak out against it. some even throw a Halloween Alternative at the same time as the town’s scheduled -trick or treat- time. So that there children don’t feel the pressure to participate in the -Trick or treat- time.
Other church families celebrate Halloween by doing different activities during the season as a Christian response to the pagan holiday. For example the church I was a little boy in, always through a Harvest party after -trick or treating- so children could come show their candy they had collected and enjoy fresh donuts, and cider. Then my father would share the Gospel of Jesus and how He is the great provider, and Lord of the harvest in our life.

So here is what I think…I think you can either MAKE or MADE HALLOWEEN…and you say what??? Let me explain

Some Christians MAKE something out of Nothing:
Halloween to the world is a fun holiday where children dress up and -trick or treat- door-to-door. People who do not know Christ, and maybe do, decorate their home with silly cheap decorations they buy from Wal-mart [which begins promoting Halloween right after school starts]. Most times the decorations deal with scary, dark supernatural symbols. To the world, it’s cute and silly. However, to Christians, who are used to thinking in the supernatural, these things are very dangerous feeling. Christians understand the horror of sin and the slavery and bondage it puts people in.
However, most times Christians make something out of nothing. While the world would not care if Halloween disappeared we as Christian make something an issue that is not even an issue to the world.

Here is what I see happens when you MAKE something out of nothing:

Christians look scared::::::::::::::::::::
When we make Halloween an issue, and have “Halloween Alternative” we make something out of nothing. The world wonders why Christians get so scared and defensive around Halloween. IT makes us look like we are not confident in the supernatural power we claim to worship, and claim has all the answers.
I talk with many new believers, and many non-believers in my week. I really seek them out about topics like this. Search their heart, and really find out what they are thinking. They are very confused why we make something out of nothing, like Halloween. Personally I have to agree brothers and sisters. I have never once met someone, who did not come to Christ because of Halloween. But I have met many who will not give Christians an open heart to the Gospel, because of our response to Halloween.
The Truth is church, we worship a God that is stronger and more powerful then a small American holiday like Halloween. Our response to Halloween by making it an issue comes across as fearful, judgmental, and with out power. We do not worship a weak Lord, but one that is ALIVE and moving. How have you expressed that to your neighbors this year? They all wanted to bring their children to your front door, you had the opportunity to share with them your goodness through a simple piece of candy. That could have been an open door to their lives. Instead, Christians will lock their doors, turn off their lights, and not answer, or worse, leave the neighborhood to huddle up in their churches. Connecting with only people who think and act like them.
Where is the powerful God you worship, the one who eats with sinners? Where is the Jesus you worship that came for the sick? The hurting? The lost? Is He only at the church?
As for this Pastor, I will give out BIG Candy Bars with the Gospel message lighted on my front lawn, and wrapped around the great treats I have for the children.

1 Corinthians 1:21-25 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.

Christians Give Halloween Value:::::::::::::::
Often times, when you give nothing attention, time, and energy, you give it value. For example, I have always felt BEANIE BABIES were the dumbest things ever. They were worthless, small, bean bags in the exact same bear shape. However, companies like McDonalds new they could sell them, as collectors items. Why? Because people gave them attentions thinking they were cute and meaningful, time, searching for them. I worked at McDonalds when I was fifteen and Beanie Babies were hot items. People would call around, and search for specific collector Beanie Babies. Great amount of energy went into these stupid things, thus giving them value. Since then, many attics, mine includes, have a box tucked away holding these stupid Beanie Babies, thinking someday they will be worth something.
Christians give value to Halloween and it’s meaningless decorations, and hype by making it an issue. If Christians spent more time responding with Love, it would give more credibility to our message then our position for or against Halloween. Don’t cast your pearls church among swine! The money, energy, and attention your going to give a Halloween Alternative, turn around and put that into spreading the Gospel and making disciples. The great commission never said to defend your Christian position.
As Christians we often allow the worlds supernatural thinking to come on the same playing field as our own Holiness pursuits. Halloween is childish, but the idea of salvation, justification, and regenerations is heavenly. The theology of Holiness is not comparable to the cheap theology of Halloween. Halloween will be stuffed in boxes and stored in the garage for most of the year, but our talks of holiness with our children should be around the dinner table every night. When you compare the supernatural thoughts of this world, with the Holiness pursuits of your brothers and sisters, it cheapens the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is like comparing the Green Bay Packers with your local Junior Varsity football team at your local high school. They are not even on the same page.

1 Corinthians 3:19-24 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: He catches the wise in their craftiness; and again, The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile." So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephs or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

Choose to Make LOVE not Divisiveness:
A dark empty house says something to a community on Halloween. It is not saying love that is for sure. It is being closed off from society, and worse neighbors. It is judgmental, and divisive. It is not the Gospel of Love it read about in the scripture. It is not the Jesus followers I read about in Acts. The Bible commands us to be a LIGHT to our neighbors, not a judge, a City on a hill, not a court.

Brothers and Sisters I urge you to be LOVE. Open, inviting, trusted, friendly, honest, patient, kind, and respectful. Be love, so that people will be open to your message.

1 John 4:17-21 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, I love God, yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

How A Christian Made Halloween Something out of nothing::::::::::::

1. Point To LIFE!
Show that LIFE with Christ is stronger then death with the world. We live with out life when we are separated from the creator of Life. I heard Mike MacNeil say it this summer and it has stuck with me ever since, WE WORSHIP THE GET UP GOD. Death no longer has a sting. We are more then conquers through HIM! At Halloween point people not to death like the rest of the world, but use your life, your home, your costumes to point to a NEW Life in Christ. Be joyful and announce that the Prince of Peace is alive and ready to give NEW LIFE. Brothers and Sister do not be fearful of this world, but teach your children that the world is a place fallen from God. Thay is why there is death, but we worship a living God. A God of hope, peace, and Love!

Luke 7:36-50 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.

Jesus answered him, Simon, I have something to tell you.
Tell me, teacher, he said.
Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[a] and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?
Simon replied, I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.
You have judged correctly, Jesus said.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.
Then Jesus said to her, Your sins are forgiven.
The other guests began to say among themselves, Who is this who even forgives sins?
Jesus said to the woman, Your faith has saved you; go in peace.

2. Advance the Gospel
Speak the Word of God courageously and fearlessly. Use Halloween to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. The man on the corner when I was a child, told hundred and hundreds of Children about Jesus. Just by investing His time, money, and energy into the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is an example of us all of using the negative things of this world, as a positive platform to share the Gospel. I really believe that we have a problem in the American Church. We have believers who will make more of a fuss about abortion, Halloween, politics, democrats, and Supreme Court decisions, than they will for spreading the Gospel. This shows me a church with pride problems.

4 Ways to Use Halloween to Advance the Gospel:

Trunk or Treat: If you live in a rural community, open up the church as the community center for “trick or treat” invite families to the church, where member so the congregation decorate their trunks with BIBLE Themes. Some great trunk themes have been, Christmas, David and Goliath, Calvary, Acts Church, Noah, Creation, and Lazarus raised from the Dead. At each trunk a child has to say, Jesus Love Me and when he or she does, they will receive a piece of Candy, or course wrapped in the Trunks, story from the Bible. When the Child returns home, or inside the church for donuts and apple cider, they have 30-40 Bible stories, and 30-40 great pieces of candy.
My favorite was an older gentlemen, who did not feel he was very creative. He merely showed up and opened his trunk. He passed out big candy bars, but his trunk was not decorated like the others. When the Children asked why his trunk was empty, He would smile, and explain that His trunk was decorated to show the story of his LIFE before he asked Jesus to come inside; boring, and plain. He then would tell how he accepted Christ, and why they should too. I believe even an empty trunk can speak more of love, then a dark home, on Halloween.

Gospel Tracks with BIG Candy Bars: Make kids want to come to your home. Give away big candy bars, with a big message of LOVE! They will read those messages, I always did! Also, parents will be curious of the message your giving their child, and read the message also.

Christian Symbols: Symbols are a big part of Halloween; for example, black cats, witches, ghosts, black kettles, or dark scary things. Now one wants to really live in a world like this. So give them another option. Decorate your home with beautiful Christian symbols that speak of new life, and fresh starts. Decorate your home that speaks a nonverbal message of a great God!

Throw a Halloween Costume Party!: This is my favorite, because I always love a good party; especially a costume party. As adults, we still love to be childish and creative. Invite adults to your home for a costume party. Invite not only believers, but also non-believers from your work, or neighborhood. Invite them with a great invitation that really sets the mood for the evening. Have a costume party, with a prize that’s worth being creative for. Then at the end of the night, tell the group you want to share with them the GOOD NEWS that changed your life. Share your personal testimony and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Give them an invitation to talk to you more about your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Tools to Teach your Children about Halloween:
Often times, Children reap the most from Halloween. So use Halloween to spark conversations around your home….here are a few of my suggestions.

1. Teach of Supernatural things, such as demon possession, death, SIN, and how God is larger then all these things. Teach that the world is curious of supernatural things, because they don’t understand, but the Bible is very clear on these topics. [1Corinthians 7:29-31; 1John 2:16-17]
2. Teach God is greater then Death. The world does not understand death, because they do not have HOPE in Christ. Explain the Good news of Jesus raising from the dead, so that we may go to heaven.
3. Halloween is a great time to talk with your children about sin, and hell. Explaining to them that a relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way to escape hell.

Let’s not Make Halloween an issue church, let’s say we made Halloween worth something…

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