Things Aren’t Always What They Seem
Autumn in Florida: things aren't always what they seem.

Autumn is here. Splashes of red, orange, and gold punctuating a green canopy. Falling leaves blanketing lawns. A nip in the air and hot apple cider on the stove (or in the microwave!). Sweaters and scarves become go-to accessories.

Or not.

Here in south Florida, the only red and orange we see is found in flaming sunsets across blue skies. There might be the occasional falling leaf, but for the most part, the only thing blanketing our lawns are grass clippings from the last mowing. And we’re not quite ready for hot apple cider. Cold water and iced lattes are still the beverages of choice. Sweaters and scarves? Not for another few months, when a “cold front” slips through and the temperature dips into the 50s and 60s.

Things aren’t always what they seem, are they? Autumn in south Florida is less like a different season and more like a cooler version of summer. Yet, if you’ve lived here long enough, you can sense the subtle change in the air. A bit of a breeze. A lessening of the humidity. Of course, there are man-made indications, as well. Children back in school. Halloween displays in the stores and Christmas decorations lurking in the aisles that used to contain patio chairs and barbecue supplies.

People are not always what they seem, either. We make judgments based on assumptions and past experience, often arriving at the wrong conclusion.

The bully in school may be compensating for an alcoholic father. The neighbor who keeps to herself may be afraid for anyone to see her bruises. The coworker who eats lunch alone because he doesn’t want anyone to know that he can’t afford to join his colleagues at the local restaurant.

But God sees what we can’t see, and knows what we don’t know. “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).

The problem isn’t just that we make wrong judgments. It’s also that wrong judgments are made of us. I’ve been misheard, misconstrued, misinterpreted, misunderstood, and misjudged countless times. Still, I have a choice. I can lash out in my hurt, dishing out payback, which I’m sorry to say I’ve done more often than I’d care to admit. Or I can remember I don’t have all the facts and ask God for the ability to view that other person with His perspective.

Autumn in south Florida:

  • Sunscreen at the beach
  • An iced latte at the Starbuck’s drive-through
  • Flip-flops or bare feet.

Yup. Things aren’t always what they seem.


Christians and Halloween
Christians and Halloween

Ghosts and witches. Jack-o’-lanterns and black cats. Scary masks and things that go bump in the night. Typical frightening Halloween fare. But the day is not called Scary-ween.

So what is the “hallow” in Halloween?

Hallow is not a frequently used word these days. When something is hallowed, it is sacred or holy, set apart from common use. We think of the phrase, “Hallowed be your name” from the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9. When we pray this, we are asking God to set apart His name in a special way. To hallow God’s name is to treat it reverently, approaching it as most precious.

Yet a holiday that has the word hallow in its name is celebrated with representations of goblins, witches, and vampires. Children—and adults—dress up and beg for candy, threatening “tricks” if they don’t receive what they want. These threats are usually harmless. However mischief and vandalism have long been associated with Halloween and the night before Halloween, often called “Mischief Night” or Devil’s Night.”  While these activities can include pranks such as toilet papering houses and trees, they can escalate to egging and ultimately to vandalism and arson.

Halloween has its roots in an ancient Celtic Feast called Samhaim. It began as a druid celebration of the beginning of winter and was believed to be the one night each year when spirits of the dead walked the earth. Spirits of family members were welcomed and honored, while other spirits were warded off with the use of costumes and masks to impersonate an evil spirit and avoid harm.

Christians and Halloween

In an effort to stem these activities, the early Christian church chose November 1st as All Saints’ Day and renamed October 31st All Hallows’ Eve. Christians taught that costumes and masks could not protect them from evil spirits. Protection is found only in Jesus Christ because of His victory on the cross over sin and death and the devil.

Yet as the centuries have passed, we find our culture celebrating Halloween with all the verve of the ancient druids. Debates rage in churches as to whether it’s appropriate for Christian families to allow their children to trick-or-treat. Are costumes okay as long as they’re not scary? Are alternatives such as Harvest Festival costume parties the answer?

Maybe we’re asking the wrong questions. Perhaps we should focus once more on the Hallow of Halloween. The world sets apart one day to glorify evil spirits, mischief, and vandalism. We can rationalize these activities, or we can choose to set apart the day to hallow the name of our glorious God. We can use this day to remember that Christ alone is our protection from evil. Where we have the opportunity, we can share the truth of God’s Word. People still need to know that not only is God holy and set apart, but He sets apart His children to represent His light in a dark world.

What are your plans for Halloween?


Allow Children to Be Children
Children

It seems children’s entertainment is becoming darker. Movies and video games seem to be pushing children to embrace adult situations. And it’s all in the name of being resourceful—of not needing adults (especially parents) to help them solve their problems.

On the other hand, maybe kids today don’t really have a choice. After all, we’ve done a poor job of protecting them. Molestation and child trafficking abound. Laws supposedly meant to protect children have the opposite effect. For example, in the name of progress, California revised its sex education guidance for public school teachers, giving kindergarten children the burden of determining if they’re identifying as the correct gender. Yes, in kindergarten!

The news this week makes the California policy look tame by comparison. A Dallas jury ruled a mother is free to transition her seven-year-old son into a girl via hormone treatments. The mother confirmed she is acting on her son’s desires and choice.*

Yet, at the same time, even though the boy’s first choice for his new name was Starfire (a cartoon character), his mother encouraged him to choose a different name. Did you catch that? He’s supposedly capable of choosing his gender, but not capable of choosing his name.

Is it any wonder childhood depression and suicide rates are increasing at an alarming rate?

Or that children are being told they shouldn’t be required to have parental involvement in their abortion decisions?

Children and teenagers are dressing like adults, behaving like adults, and sinning at adult levels. Alcohol and substance abuse, as well as promiscuity, are as much in the domain of children as their parents.

Culture’s ruling philosophy is to cast off all restraint. The Bible is no longer our plumb line. Standards of right and wrong spring from preferences rather than biblical convictions. Everything else flows from this corrupt foundation.

And so our culture is hastening children out of childhood in the name of freedom from biblical morality. The result is that we are rushing children into a distorted adulthood.

Oh, that we would return to the Father who created us. To His Son, Jesus, who died for us. And to the Holy Spirit who brings conviction and comfort.

Could it be the enemy of our souls is determined to damage our children so we lose the example of faith Jesus told us to follow? “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3 NIV).

If this breaks our hearts, how it must grieve the heart of the One who longs for us to choose the redemption and reconciliation He offers. The One who longs for us to come…as little children.

What are your thoughts?

*Addendum: The judge in the gender transition case ruled the parents will have joint conservatorship over their seven-year-old son, giving the father a say in joint medical decisions.


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