Not So Terrible Teens

Okay, come clean. I know I’m not the only one who has occasionally been annoyed by teens who trick-or-treat on Halloween. Even putting aside their age, all too often they either dress in the goriest costumes or they don’t bother with a costume at all. (I know – there’s just no pleasing me! 🙂 )

But that was before Halloween 2015.

I had an interesting – and unique – experience this past Saturday. It was the evening of Halloween and I was handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters. (Please, no comments about whether we should “encourage” trick-or-treating. That’s a topic for another post.)Halloween - lightstock_156825_medium_user_8104670We have a practice of giving out small goody bags each Halloween. Each baggie contains candy and a Halloween tract – usually a puzzle or quiz that includes the gospel message. This Halloween, fairly early in the flow of trick-or-treaters, four teens rang our doorbell. They were friendly and polite and, as is our practice, I gave each one a goody bag.

So far, nothing out of the ordinary.

But then ordinary exited the scene and extraordinary stepped onstage.

Within a few minutes, the bell chimed again. I opened the door to see the same four teens. Were they there for more candy? Had they been offended by the tract’s gospel message?

Before I could say anything, one of the boys spoke. “We read the tract and liked the gospel message…and we were wondering if we could pray for you as you give these out tonight.”

And so, there on my front porch, one of the teens led us in prayer as we all bowed our heads. He prayed that the children who received the tracts that evening would come to know Christ.

Of course, I asked where they attended church. For those local to Stuart, consider this a shout-out to Covenant Fellowship Church. For them – and for everyone working with children and teens – know that your work is not in vain. The efforts you invest in our youth are paying eternal dividends.

And for the rest of us? It’s much too easy to dismiss an entire generation with the same attitude expressed in this centuries-old quote about terrible teens:

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders…” (attributed to Socrates by Plato).

So glad that on Halloween night, four special teenagers proved otherwise.


What Do You Do With Halloween?

As the weather changes and temperatures cool, our thoughts turn to the upcoming holidays. November brings thoughts of gratitude and Thanksgiving celebrations. December ushers in our rejoicing at the birth of our Savior.

But before we reach those days, we have to pass Halloween.

Should Christians celebrate Halloween?
Is it an all-in-good-fun day of costumes and candy? Or is it a demonic celebration, opening the door to occultic influences?

This holiday is complicated by the Christian origins of Halloween. All Hallows’ Eve was the evening before All Saints Day, a medieval holiday created to commemorate Christian saints.

But the Halloween of 2015 bears little or no resemblance to All Saint’s Day. No longer do we honor Christians who had been martyred for their faith in Christ. Now the day is filled with celebrations of dark images of horrific creatures – vampires, witches, ghosts, ghouls, and zombies.

So what’s a Christian to do?

  • Some view any activities associated with Halloween to be dabbling in the occult.
  • Others distribute Christian tracts along with candy when trick-or-treaters ring their doorbell.
  • Still others hold alternate gatherings, where children’s costumes reflect Bible characters and other heroes of the faith down through the ages.

Whatever you decide, pray about it first. Remember Jesus’ declaration that Christians are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). Ask yourself how the Lord wants you to shine your light!

Here’s one way to teach children to shine their light for Jesus:

Pumpkin Prayer

The Pumpkin Prayer
(Author Unknown)

Dear Jesus, as I carve my pumpkin, help me pray this prayer:

Open my mind so I can learn about you
(Cut the top off the pumpkin).
Take all my sin and forgive the wrong that I do
(Clean out the inside).
Open my eyes so your love I will see
(Cut out eyes shaped like hearts).
I’m sorry for the times I’ve turned up my nose
at what you’ve given me

(Cut a nose in the shape of the cross).
Open my ears so your Word I will hear
(Cut out two ears in the shape of the Bible).
Open my mouth to tell others you’re near
(Cut a mouth in the shape of a fish).
Let your light shine in all I say and do!
(Place a candle inside and light it).
Amen.


Day of the Dead

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is attracting more and more life these days. Historically a Mexican tradition, Day of the Dead celebrations are spreading across the United States.

This year, Dia de los Muertos will occur on November 1 and 2. But it’s more than just remembering those who have died. Those who celebrate it believe the souls of the dead may return to earth for a brief time. Celebrants build altars containing photos, mementos, party decorations, flowers, and favorite foods and beverages. Their hope is to encourage those souls to come and celebrate with them before returning to heaven.

Photo courtesy of Ronnie Partin

Photo courtesy of Ronnie Partin

In comparing it to Halloween, one of the organizers of a large annual celebration in Hollywood Forever Cemetery has said, “Day of the Dead is becoming the cool holiday. Halloween is passé.” Last year, 35,000 people visited 100 altars and attended the activities there.

At the historic Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, California, friars from the mission blessed the altars set up in vintage cars in the church’s courtyard. But this “holiday,” which includes a blend of Aztec and Roman Catholic practices, has expanded beyond the Mexican community and even beyond honoring family members who have died. Altars have been constructed for family pets and celebrities such as Elvis Presley.

Corporate America has taken notice. Nestlé was a sponsor of last year’s event in Hollywood, including support of the largest Day of the Dead altar in the hopes of setting a Guinness World Record. Just this month, an animated movie was released based on the Day of the Dead—ironically titled The Book of Life. Even the science museum in Houston, Texas offered a teachers’ workshop to bring the subject into classrooms.

Why am I highlighting this “holiday”? Because it’s a somber reminder of the dangers that result when the gospel is corrupted by human traditions. A reminder of how far we can fall when we add anything to the Bible’s revelation of truth.

Remember the parable Jesus told about Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31?

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

There will come a time when we shall see our loved ones who have died in Christ. We must wait, however, until the day set by God when:

“The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”
~ I Thessalonians 4:16-17

Let’s “run the race with endurance,” knowing our loved ones are watching (Hebrews 12:1) until the day when God decrees we will be caught up with Him and join them.

A better “Day of the Dead” will be when the dead will rise to be reunited with Christ. Now that’s a day to celebrate!


Masks on Stage

What do comic book superheroes and villains, children on Halloween, and masquerade balls have in common? 

You probably guessed masks. Masks conjure up images of mysterious strangers. Or sinister villains. Or heroic crime fighters. Or maybe just playful children.

theatre_masksWe associate masks with entertainment today, but people were just as familiar with them in ancient Greece and Rome. Stage actors often played multiple roles and wore masks to differentiate their various characters. And who hasn’t heard Shakespeare’s line, “All the world’s a stage…”? 

For thousands of years, masks have enabled us to pretend to be someone we’re not.

The ancient Greeks referred to play-acting as hypokrisis, from which we get our English word, hypocrite. Today, we think of a hypocrite as someone whose behavior is not consistent with what they claim to believe, what they truly think, or who they really are.

When Jesus criticized the spiritual leaders of His day, He called them hypocrites. They taught the people how to be close to God, but their hearts were far from Him. 

I’m not a comic book character or an actor. And I don’t wear a costume for Halloween. But I confess that I, too, have worn masks—not physically, but figuratively. I’ve said one thing while thinking the opposite. I’ve acted kindly, but with the wrong motives. I’ve put on a spiritual front, knowing I harbored unconfessed sin. In short, I’ve also been a hypocrite.

Thankfully, Jesus paid for all sin, including the sin of hypocrisy. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, I am determined to remove my mask and keep it off. 

Despite the fact that this week is associated with masks, will you join me?


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