It’s that time of year once again – Halloween

Should Christian celebrate Halloween?
After all isn’t it a pagan holiday?
What about Christmas – isn’t that a pagan holiday?
The same goes for Easter.
We’ll talk more about all that in a moment….

As for Halloween, retailers rejoice. They receive an average of $80.00 per household in sale of decorations, costumes, and candy. Halloween will bring in approximately $8 billion in sales this year.

Back to the question, how should Christians respond to Halloween?
Is it irresponsible for parents to let their children trick-or-treat?
What about Christians who refuse any kind of celebration during the season – are they overreacting?

On one side you can have a very legalistic view.
On the other end you can have a very liberal view.
Is one view more right than the other?

First of all let’s talk about the origin of Halloween.
The name “Halloween” comes from the All Saints Day.
All Saints Day is a day of celebration which the early Christian church set aside for the remembrance of martyrs, those who died because of their faith, in the last year.
All Saints Day was recognized on November 1st. The celebration began the night before and was referred to as All Hallows Eve, hallow meaning holy.
“All Hallows Eve” ended up becoming a secular celebration and was shortened and became “Halloween.”

The root of this is European.
As Christianity moved through Europe it collided with the pagan cultures and confronted certain customs.
Pagan holidays and festivals were so entrenched in the culture that new believers found them to be a stumbling block to their faith.

So the church responded with a direct challenge to each pagan holiday.
The intent was to counter pagan influences and provide a Christian alternative.
But in reality all the church did was “Christianize” a pagan ritual – which was still pagan, but now mixed with Christian symbolism.

For example, November 1st was the Celtic New Year.
It was also known as the day of the dead.
People believed that on November 1st souls who had died the previous year roamed the earth looking for a place to settle.

The church responded by turning November 1st into All-Saints Day, a day to remember those who were martyred for their Christian beliefs.

Major celebrations were commonly marked by the seasons.
At the end of the year in Europe, people made preparations for the cold winter by harvesting the crops and bringing in the animals from the fields. Animals that wouldn’t make it through winter were slaughtered. Often skulls from these slaughtered animals were left out in the elements. Over a course of time these skulls became the backdrop to celebrating the day of the dead.

With the end of harvest, life slowed down as winter brought darkness (shortened days and longer nights). The imagery of death was symbolized by skulls, and the color black. These still remain prominent in today’s Halloween celebrations.

Some embraced the season by engaging in occult practices such as communicating with the dead.  They sought “demonic” spirits regarding weather forecasts for the coming year, crop expectations, and even romantic prospects (a practice strictly condemned by Deuteronomy 18).

As for the spirits of those who died in the previous year it was believed and celebrated that these spirits were earthbound until they received a proper sendoff with treats, food, and drink. Spirits who were not suitably “treated” would “trick” those who had neglected them. Thus the beginning of our modern day trick-or-treating. Trick-bent spirits were believed to be gruesome in appearance.

Some believed that wearing a costume to look like a spirit would fool the wandering spirits. If they weren’t fooled, costumes made from animal heads and wild beasts may scare off any evil spirit.

What about the idea of jack-o-lanterns?  Before pumpkins there were turnips. The tradition of setting a light on your porch started with the carving out of turnips. It was believed that in the morning, in daylight, the roaming spirit would still be in the turnip or pumpkin and could then be disposed of. The jack-o-lantern became a resting place for a lost or damned soul. As believers our desire should not be to dispose of lost souls but to win lost souls!

Fast forwarding to today, Halloween is really an American secular celebration.
Hollywood has added to the “fun” by promoting characters such as demons, monsters, mummies, vampires, and werewolves.

That’s not promoting the love of Christ – but it sure is making someone a lot of money.

Back to the issue at hand…

How should a Christian respond to this?

Is it innocent?
Is it harmless?
Is it evil?

In Acts 13. Paul is confronted with a sorcerer. He responds this way…
Vs 10You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right!”
And in Acts 16 Paul confronts a fortune teller and casts the evil spirit out of her.
This causes trouble because  Vs 16 said “She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling”.

To me Halloween is not an issue of is it innocent or is it evil.

It becomes an issue of does it honor God?
If something is innocent but does not honor God should a believer participate in it?

Joshua 24:15 says  “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord”

As for your house, does celebrating Halloween help your kids draw closer to God or does it add an element of confusion?
Why is it okay to dress up on this day but not others?
Why is it okay to celebrate with those around me who will be dressed as werewolves and vampires and witches?

1 John 2:15-16

Do not love the world or anything in the world.  16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 

Well if we aren’t going to celebrate Halloween what about Christmas?
Do Christmas and Easter have pagan roots?
Yes.

However, Christmas is a time I can display the nativity and I can tell the Christmas story, the birth of Christ. I can explain how Joseph and Mary traveled from Nazareth down to Bethlehem and fulfilled the prophecy of Micah 5:2. I can explain how the visitors from the east came and bowed down and worshipped the new born king.

I realize that Christmas is extremely commercialized. I saw some stores have Christmas items for sale in AUGUST.  However it’s a time I can still share the hope and love of Christ.

Easter is a time I can tell of the death and resurrection of Jesus. I can explain the betrayal in the Garden and the illegal trial at night. I can tell of the beating and the nailing to the Cross. Most importantly I can explain the empty tomb!

With Halloween I can’t do any of that. It’s based around darkness and fear. People who attend haunted houses want to be scared. They are scared with images of blood and violence. Just the idea of “haunting” goes against the truth of Scripture. 

Matthew 18:6

6 If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble!”

 “…one of these little ones…” this is someone who is young either physically or spiritually.

I saw someone with a catalog of Halloween costumes. I asked if I could have it and I now keep it in my file. As a parent I was bothered by the message these costumes were sending, especially to teenage girls and younger.

Here’s an example of what you could purchase:
Gothic fairytale princess – who says a fairy princess always has to be good?
Little Miss Red – Big bad wolves turn into harmless pups when you appear in this costume
Can Can girl be a show stopper in this sassy (sexy) outfit
Red Minnie – you can always be in a playful mood
Scary Mary- scare your friends in a sweet way
Devil Ready– give her devil-may-care attitude an outlet

For young girls (ages 6-9) there is:
Rockin out witch
Kandy korn witch
Twinkle witch

Do we want our little girls imitating witches?
Is it just harmless and fun?
Where is the boundary drawn?

What about churches and harvest festivals? As believers we are called to be “salt and light to the world”. A good question for churches to ask after a harvest festival is “How many did we reach?”

Can you reach the world by mimicking the world’s culture and events?
While in Ephesus – did Paul witness at the temple of Artimus ?

OK, let’s come back to the question we began with…

What should Christians do about Halloween?

  • The legalistic view is you can’t do anything at all
  • The liberal view is it’s a harmless event

What is the goal? What is the purpose?

  • To have a good time?
  • To let kids have candy?

Are there other ways to accomplish those goals and honor God at the same time?

What is the goal?

  1. To honor Christ
  2. To not be a stumbling block to believers especially young believers
  3. NOT to open a door for things commonly associated with Halloween (violence, darkness, fear)  that will hinder one’s spiritual growth (Movies, video games, clothes, attitudes that parallel the elements of Halloween)

 As for me and my house we will serve the Lord

We no longer have plans to bomb Syria.
For the first time since 1979, our president has welcomed conversations with Iran.
What we were concerned about a few weeks ago has seemed to pass by and now we have new concerns. Our government has shut down. What does this mean to our near future?

Here’s a warning… Don’t let the current situation within our government cause you to take your eyes off the Middle East and especially Syria.

Let’s not forget that from this civil war there are over 100,000 dead in Syria.
There are over 2.5 million refugees (mostly women and children).
Another 5 million have been displaced from their homes but haven’t left the country.
Syria’s population before all this was only 22 million.

As for Damascus, the capital has a population of 1.6 million.
Along with Jericho, it is considered the oldest continuously inhabited city and it is the oldest capitol city.

The headlines may not be saying much about Syria but Scripture does.

WHAT does the Bible say about the future of Damascus?

First of all let’s make sure we see Scripture in context.

Isaiah chapters 11-24 (in context) explain about end times, something that is still future, still yet to come. These chapters deal with topics such as…

  • The coming of the Messiah
  • Judging of Gentile nations  (enemies of Israel)
  • The millennial reign of Jesus 

Isaiah 11:6-8 is a picture of the Millennium

“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat,
7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest
.”

 Isaiah 13-24
The prophet speaks directly to the future of Gentile nations.
It deals in detail with the coming judgment and destruction of these nations…
Bible names and MODERN day names

  1. Babylon  (IRAQ)
  2. The Philistines  (Gaza) (Hamas)
  3. Moab (Jordon)
  4. Cush (Ethiopia) (North Africa)
  5. Egypt
  6. Edom (Jordan)
  7. Arabia
  8. Tyre (Lebanon) (Hezbollah)

In the middle of chapters 13 -24 is chapter 17 and God’s dealing with Damascus.

Isaiah 17: 1

A prophecy against Damascus: “See, Damascus will no longer be a city
but will become a heap of ruins
.”

Vs  2 –  explains that the city will be unlivable

Some critics say:

  • This was fulfilled when the Assyrians conquered that area in 732 B.C.
  • They went on to conquer Israel and the Northern part of Israel fell in 722 B.C.
  • The 10 tribes of Israel were lost and mixed in with the Assyrians

Damascus was NOT completely destroyed the way Isaiah 17:1 describes.
Obviously the city is still lived in today.

So what is the proper response to those who say Isaiah 17 has already been fulfilled and is NOT yet future?

Again remember, Isaiah 11-24 – IN CONTEXT – explains the Day of the Lord.

Isaiah himself provides the answer to the question whether his prophecy is past or yet to come.

In chapter 14 the prophet tells us WHEN he received this prophecy about Damascus…

Isaiah 14:28

This prophecy came in the year King Ahaz died:”

  • King Ahaz died in 715 B.C.
  • Remember – The Assyrians went through Damascus in 732 B.C  (2 Kings 16) 17 years earlier!  So Isaiah 17 COULD NOT be talking about the events of 732 B.C.

What happened in 732 B.C. is in Scripture but it is found in Isaiah 7 & 8. These chapters explain that  Assyria was the Lord’s instrument.

Isaiah 8:4the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria.”

 THAT did happen in 732 & 722 B.C.!!!!

Isaiah 17 is still future!

A parallel passage is Jeremiah 48-51 – Jeremiah writes about:

  1. Moab – Ammon – Edom  (Jordan)
  2. Damascus
  3. Kedar and Hazor which is modern day Arabia
  4. Elam modern day IRAN
  5. Babylon Modern Day IRAQ

Timing: Jeremiah’s ministry was between 626 & 586 B.C.

This is 150 years AFTER the Assyrians went through Damascus and Israel.

Jeremiah 49:24

Damascus has become feeble, she has turned to flee
and panic has gripped her; anguish and pain have seized her,
pain like that of a woman in labor
.”

Labor pains is what Jesus spoke of… 

Matthew 24:6-8

7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

 Here is a future picture …

Jeremiah 49:26

26 Surely, her young men will fall in the streets; all her soldiers will be silenced in that day,” declares the Lord Almighty.
27 “I will set fire to the walls of Damascus; it will consume the fortresses of Ben-Hadad
.”

  1. Damascus will be destroyed with fire
  2. Her soldiers will be silenced
  3. Her young men will fall in the streets
  4. Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins.”

Isaiah 17:4

In that day the glory of Jacob will fade; the fat of his body will waste away.”

the glory of Jacob” is Israel.

Isaiah 17 …

This is a picture of war and destruction.

What could happen?
Israel  “the glory of Jacob” is attacked.
They fire back (with nukes?) fulfilling Isaiah 17?

We are watching prophecy right before our eyes.

Are you prepared?


Do you enjoy going to movies?
How do you decide which movie to see?
Is because a certain actor or actress is in the film?
Is it because it’s a certain genre such as a comedy or action film?
Have you ever thought about the material you’re going to see in the movie BEFOREHAND?

In the book of Acts the disciples were brought before the courts and the leaders “Commanded them not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). They were brought before the courts a second time and accused of “filling Jerusalem with your teaching” (Acts 5:28) What a wonderful accusation!

In Acts 5:40 they were once again warned and then beaten “They had them flogged…ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus”.

Your Jerusalem is your immediate surroundings, the people you work with, the people in your neighborhood, the people where your shop, your family. Here’s this week’s question – what is it that you are “filling” your family, friends and co-workers with?

Let me take you back to the 1920’s and 1930’s. Silent movies were being replaced by “Talking Pictures”. The studios were concerned because they felt a natural transition would be to take some of the plays from New York City and turn them into movies. However, the plays in New York were to risqué (both in material and language). The studios knew what would be acceptable in New York would not be acceptable in places like Kansas.

The studios hired a Presbyterian elder named Will Hays to come up with a code of conduct. This would be the code that would decide what would be acceptable for the movie screen and what would not be deemed acceptable. The code was adopted in 1930, enforced in 1934 and abandoned in 1968.

What was its purpose? To define what is acceptable & what is NOT acceptable for public audiences? Films had to receive a certificate of approval before being released.

Here are some general principles of the code:

  • No picture shall be produced which will lower the moral standards of those who see it
  • No picture shall create sympathy for any violation of law, whether it be natural law or human law

Crimes against the law:

  • Revenge shall not be justified
  • Criminals shall never seem heroic or justified
  • Theft & robbery should not be detailed in method
  • The use of firearms should be restricted to essentials
  • Illegal drug traffic must never be presented (1930-1956)
  • Mercy killing shall never be made to seem right or permissible
  • There must be no scenes, at any times, showing law-enforcement officers dying at the hands of criminals. This includes private detectives, bank guards and motor truck guards.

Sex:

  • The sanctity of marriage and the home shall be upheld
  • Adultery: sometimes necessary plot material, must not be treated or justified or presented attractively

Prostitution:

  • The method and techniques of prostitution shall never be presented in detail nor shall subjects be presented unless shown in contrast to right standard of behavior

Obscenity:

  • Obscenity in word, gesture, reference, song, joke or by suggestion (even when likely to be understood only by part of the audience) is forbidden
  • Dances which emphasize indecent movements are to be regarded as obscene

Religion:

  • No film or episode may mock religious faith
  • Ministers should not be used as comic characters or villains

National Feelings:

  • The use of the flag shall be consistently respectful

Costume:

  • Complete nudity is never permitted
  • Nudity or semi-nudity used to simply put a “punch” into a picture comes under the head of immoral actions

Reasons for supporting the Code:

  • Theatrical motion pictures are to be regarded as entertainment
  • Mankind has always recognized the importance of entertainment and its value in rebuilding the bodies and souls of human beings

But it has always recognized that entertainment can be of a character either HELPFUL or HARMFUL to the human race.

Entertainment can either improve human beings or degrade human beings by lowering their life and living conditions.

Wrong entertainment lowers the whole living condition and moral ideas of a race.

Motion pictures reproduce the morality of the men who use the pictures as a medium for the expression of their ideas.

Motion pictures affect the moral standards of those who, through the screen, take in these ideas.

*** Motion pictures, because of their importance as entertainment & because of the trust placed in it by the peoples of the world, have special moral obligations ***

Motion pictures have 2 fundamental appeals, the looking at a picture and the telling of a story, and these 2 appeals reach every class of society.

Because of the mobility of a film and the ease of distribution and the possibility of duplicating in large qualities, this form of art breaches places unpenetrated by other forms of art.

A book reaches the mind through words; a film reaches the eyes and ears through the reproduction of events.

Because of these facts, it is difficult to produce films intended for only a certain class of people (ie. Age)

Because of this an audience is more ready to confuse actor & actress & the character they portray AND it is more receptive of the emotions and ideals presented by their favorite stars.

Reasons for the General Conditions:

No motion picture shall lower the moral standards of those who see it.

This is done when:

  1. Evil is made to appear attractive and good is made to appear unattractive
  2. When the sympathy of the audience is thrown on the side of crime, wrong-doing, evil, and sin
  3. The same is true of a film that would throw sympathy against goodness, honor, innocence, purity or honesty

Evil must not be allowed to appear so attractive that the audience’s emotions are drawn to desire or approve.

If motion pictures consistently hold up admiration for characters of high value and present stories that will affect lives for the better, they can become the most powerful natural force for the improvement of mankind. Sin and evil enter into the story of human beings and hence in themselves are valid dramatic material.

In the use of this material it must be distinguished between sin which repels by its very nature (murder, theft, lying) and sins that attract (organized crime, revenge).

It is important to avoid the hardening of the audience, especially of those who are young and impressionable

*** People can become accustomed – even to murder, brutality, and crime if these are too frequently repeated. ***

Here’s this week’s challenge:

WHAT IF you as a family implemented the Motion Picture Production Code of 1934 and decided you will not see a movie unless it meets the standards of the 1934 production code?

May YOU fill YOUR Jerusalem with the teaching of Jesus!


Towards the end of Paul’s ministry and towards the end of his life, he passed the baton of leadership on to Timothy.

Timothy writes in 2 Timothy 3:1-2:

“…in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, ungrateful, unholy…”

Vs 5 says people will be “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”

Who is Paul warning about here?

  • It’s not mankind in general
  • It’s not the unsaved
  • He is talking about the church

Those who have a form of godliness” but deny its power.

What is it going to look like when the church is slanderous, prideful, lovers of self and lovers of money?

Whenever love of self is raised, love for God and the things of God is lowered.

Recently the NY Times wrote an article interviewing David Stockman. Stockman was a member of the House from the state of Michigan. He was the Budget Director under President Reagan. After Washington he got into Wall Street. There he eventually had criminal and civil charges against him.  However he was still an insider. He understands what is currently going on in our government and the state of our nation.

Stockman points out that the median family income has dropped 8 %. The number of middle-class jobs has dropped 6 %. The number of food stamp recipients has more than doubled. He says Washington is printing money at the rate of $600 million dollars per hour.

Obviously this cannot continue, eventually it will collapse and what happens when it does? Stockman says when it all bursts – there will be no new round of bailouts.

Why do David Stockman’s words catch my eye? The title of the article is “The United States is Broke – Fiscally, Morally & Intellectually”.

He says we are broke morally (remember 2 Timothy 3) and intellectually meaning we don’t even understand what is happening!

Stockman points out that typically the private and public sector would borrow $1.50 to $1.60 every year for every $1.00 of GDP growth.

GDP = Gross Domestic Product
It is the market value of goods and services.

In 2006/ 2007 we created $6 of new debt for every $1 of GDP. People were taking $25,000 or $50,000 out of refinancing their homes and spending it (not necessarily on “needs”). This wasn’t real consumption or real income; it was just debt. Again remember 2 Timothy when people become lovers of self and lovers of money.

Paul said to the church in Rome:    Romans 1:21-30

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…  24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts

The evil of Psalm 64 warns us …

4 They shoot from ambush at the innocent;
they shoot suddenly, without fear.
5 They encourage each other in evil plans,
they talk about hiding their snares; they say, “Who will see it?”
6 They plot injustice and say, “We have devised a perfect plan!”

Have you ever heard of the Export-Import Bank of the United States?
They just had their annual conference in April in D.C. Vice President Joe Biden spoke at the conference.  These are some of the things he said…

  • Global order is changing
  • We have to “update global rule” rules of the road
  • “We have to level the playing field”

What does that mean?
Remember the warning of Psalm 64:6.
Remember the warning of 2 Timothy 3.


Happy July 4th week. This is typically a time to reflect upon America’s roots & history. I would like to look at our history through a different perspective, our laws.  In order to do so I need to take you back to England to 1766 (back 247 years).

William Blackstone died in 1780 at the age of 56. In those 56 years, William Blackstone wrote Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Law of England.

His commentaries are still widely used today. For over two hundred years Blackstone’s rules were the final word in court. Many of the laws of our land today come from Blackstone and Blackstone’s laws come from Scripture!

Obedience to the law of God was a standard understanding of Americans until the mid-1800’s when “positivist law” began to take over. It was in the mid 1800’s that the start of denying the reality of God became acceptable.  Arguments such as “did God write the Bible or did man?” This type of “argument” was non-existent 150 years ago.

Charles Finney is known as being a great preacher and evangelist but before he was in ministry he was an attorney. In studying the law and in studying Blackstone’s commentary, Finney saw so many Scripture references that he bought a Bible. That began Finney’s process of studying Scripture. In studying Blackstone, he read so much of the Bible that he became a Christian and received his call to the ministry and became the great preacher, evangelist & leader of America’s Second Great Awakening of the 1800s.

What Blackstone laws are still active and in our books today?

Three branches of government:  Isaiah 33:22

For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver,
the Lord is our king; it is he who will save us.

 The logic for the separation of powers:  Jeremiah 17:9

“The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

The basis of tax exemptions for churches can be found in Ezra 7:24:

“You are also to know that you have no authority to impose taxes, tribute or duty on any of the priests, Levites, musicians, gatekeepers, temple servants or other workers at this house of God.

Happy July 4th week. Many of the laws of our land are based on Scripture; shouldn’t the people who obey those laws also be impacted by Scripture!