Halloween Lessons

Halloween is a challenge for me. It’s amazing how much the holiday has grown since I was a kid. It’s a big deal today. For Christians, it presents a challenge. There is no doubt that there is a certain darkness to it and that it has roots  in very non-Christian practices.

There are bible verses that seem to counsel against participating in Halloween

  • Philippians 4:8—”think about pure, lovely, noble things”
  • Romans 13:12—“put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22—“Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”
  • 3 John 1:11—“do not imitate what is evil”
  • Deuteronomy 18:9-14—”do not learn to imitate detestable ways, including spiritists, sorcerers and witchcraft”

On the other hand I see my great-grandson dressed up as dinosaur and I have to wonder what can be wrong with that. There have been years where we hosted “harvest” alternative celebrations, where we just turned out the lights and hide in the bedroom, or where we passed out tracts with the candy. I am not sure what’s the best response.  I guess I like Kirk Cameron’s perspective:

Christians have always known since the first century that death was defeated, that the grave was overwhelmed, that ghosts, goblins, devils are foolish has-beens who used to be in power but not anymore. That’s the perspective Christians should have.”

The best approach is to consider Halloween a teachable moment. Here are some truths we should consider passing along.

The Spiritual is very real, both the light and the dark. It’s important for kids to understand there is a spiritual side of things. That some of the dark side of the spiritual isn’t to be messed with. Children should learn that the fight is “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12.

The light has already won. Kids should be taught to be wary of dark forces, but not afraid of them. The essential part of any education on the spiritual is an introduction to Jesus and the victory He represents.

Often, Halloween’s most popular costumes mimic those who are not great role models. This provides an opportunity to teach about role models, the good ones and the bad ones.

Safety. Sadly each year some nuts use the distribution of candy and goodies to harm children. This is a great time of year to teach kids about good common sense in our interactions with others.

Just because Halloween has become so popular I’m not advocating an “if you can’t beat ’em, join em” attitude. I am suggesting that be very open for opportunities to teach our kids really important good things.

 

 

Forgive My Ungratefulness and Inaction

There has been a lot happening in my life that I could complain about, until I look around. The sad truth is that I have been complaining, and worrying and generally being ungrateful. I found out today a friend has pancreatic cancer. I know someone who has lost a child and a spouse in the same year. Then there are those pictures taken in far away and not so far away places of children in hunger and pain. Then I take a close look in the mirror and tell myself, “Just shut up.” Just shutting up isn’t enough.

The thing about being too mirror focused is that it keeps me from looking around at a world filled with folks with much bigger problems than I have or have ever had. You can’t do much looking in the mirror. Once you have shaved, brushed and combed, you have pretty much run out of useful activities.

I need to spend more time looking out the window, checking out a world full of suffering souls. Even that should not occupy too much of my time. I need to do a lot more doing than looking at myself or at the world. Jesus told us to “go” not to “look” or “cry” or even “sympathize.” He said “go.”

You can ask what good can I do, but he handled that as well. He said go and make disciples. Discipleship is the answer to pretty much everything bad we see out there. Especially the broader concept of discipleship that Jesus had in mind. Making disciples, doesn’t just mean, or even primarily mean, preaching to. It means loving and holding and feeding and sheltering, just for starters.

Satan loves mirrors and hates windows. He loves back sides and hates feet. He loves mouths and hates hands. Let’s do more stuff that Jesus did, like loving and holding and healing and discipling and less that Satan does like looking in mirrors, worrying, complaining, and criticising. I have done way too of the Satan stuff and not nearly enough of the Jesus stuff. Time for a change.

If Only We Can Just Stand

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13
“Stand Your Ground” isn’t primarily a political, Second Amendment, Self-Defense concept. It’s a biblical principle. It’s about securing the protection of God, which is spiritual preparation and then standing.
Let’s think for a minute what it means to “Stand.”
To stand means we are responsible for a territory. That strikes deep at the heart. Most of us frankly avoid responsibility. If we have to have responsibility we like to “share” it. We don’t witness because that’s the preacher’s responsibility. We don’t teach our children about the Lord, isn’t that the Sunday School teacher’s job? Yet to be told we are to stand means that we are to stand somewhere. For starters, it means standing where we are.
To stand means we stand at home. It is most difficult to stand among our family. We can stand at church; most of those people only see us a couple of hours a week. We can fake it for that long. But if I have to stand at home that means my wife, my kids, my grand and great grands have to see me stand 24/7.  That’s a full-time job. That’s a lot of pressure. Yes, it is.
To stand means we trust. To “just stand” means while we are responsible for our territory, we aren’t the power behind what happens. We are “strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” It’s easy to slip while we are standing. Our trust begins to slip from the Lord to something else. We may begin to trust in ourselves. That’s always a mistake. As the political season begins we may begin to believe the answer is in Washington. How’s that working out for you? We may begin to trust in something beside God as our source: our employer, our bank, our government. Stand means to trust in only Him. It means underSTANDing that the battle is spiritual.
Standing isn’t about movement; it’s about steadfastness. That’s an old-fashioned word. It means unwavering, firm in purpose, fixed in direction. It’s a single-minded focus on Jesus. It’s not the unpreparedness of sitting. In the military it means a cessation of movement; and a preparation to respond to new orders.
Standing is a lost art. We are creatures of perpetual movement, putting one step in front of the other. Plodding along, even when we don’t know where we are headed or why. It takes discipline to freeze in place, ready to move in whatever direction we are commanded to go.
Standing is hard. Even three years after knee surgery and renewed effort at being physically active, the hardest thing I find to do is to stand. I can walk. I can move around. Standing, for example during worship at church, remains tiring and difficult.
To stand means to stand now. Standing isn’t something we did once and that’s it. It doesn’t mean standing some day soon. It means standing now and to keep on standing forever.
Don’t just sit there.
Do the tough thing. Stand and be blessed.
Nick

Totally Out of Touch

I just reviewed yesterday’s election results. No one I voted for won. It seems I am totally out of touch with political reality. I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing. I think I’m going to go with good thing.

I guess there are a lot of good reasons I might be out of touch with the electorate. I’m sixty-six years old and most voters are younger than that. I vote on what I perceive are character traits of honesty and fair dealing. The current voter seems to buy into negative political advertising. I can’t help but notice the dirtier campaigns seem to have generally prevailed. Most of the winners seemed to have promised the same things we are always promised with no plan to pay for or accomplish the promised goodies.

I think the real reason, however, is that my head and heart just aren’t in this place any more. I have long given up on the political system to advance us as a society or to protect us as individuals. I really see all battles as primarily spiritual and beyond the understanding of politicians or the power of government.

The really bad news is that there are lots of run offs so the political ads and mudslinger will continue.

I do encourage followers to vote intelligently and to be involved in government. Just don’t be foolish enough to look to politics or politicians for truth or real solutions. Those are available only from the King of Kings.

Choosing the Door of Dependence

One of the longest running programs on television is  Let’s Make A Deal. I haven’t watched it in years but I remember the big decision contestants faced in choosing one of three doors. There was nothing to rely on but pure intuition. Great prizes awaited behind some doors. Gag gifts were hiding behind others.

There are times in life like that. We face life changing decisions behind multiple doors. Which one should we choose? Sorry to say that this is not one of those posts in which I share a great insight I’ve had into one of life’s mysteries. This is just me staring at multiple doors and having no idea which to choose. I am not even sure which doors are actual viable choices and which are mirages.

It’s pretty obvious when God has a change in store for us. If it isn’t immediately obvious, it eventually becomes so. God often did this to Israel. When they relied too heavily on God’s gifts and not Him, the gifts would start disappearing. Change was on the horizon. Door selection is less about making the richest choice than it is about making the most God dependent one. God’s  best path for us is always the one in which reliance on Him is maximum and reliance on anything else is minimal.

This probably explains why so few of us are on the path God prefers for us. Such path is the scariest, most God dependent, most “irresponsible” least reasonable path available. It’s the door Jesus offered to each called disciple. “Drop everything and follow me.” It’s the door the rich young ruler couldn’t go through. “Stop relying on your riches and rely on me.” It’s what the lilies of the field and the birds of the air do naturally, but what we find so difficult. The Door of Dependence.

The strange fact is that we are all living a life of dependence. It’s just that God is often so generous to some of us that we are so swimming in gifts that we disassociate them from the giver. We should all periodically do a reality check.

Security is not a sign of the right path. A great job, large bank account, an “easy” life isn’t a sign we are faithful followers. In fact, it’s probably evidence we are off course. This is the truth that makes the “prosperity” gospel so damaging.

Peace rises from dependence, not security. Jesus talked about giving His peace. It wasn’t in promises of security but in calls for dependence.  The church is most vital in those places where followers are the least world dependent and in the greatest danger for practicing their faith.

Dependence Door is always open. The good news is that Jesus’ call to the Dependence life is continual. It’s always available. It’s the door that’s never locked.

Nothing Like Face Time

I had a very enjoyable Monday. I got to spend some time with Tyler, my grand daughter’s husband and their child Logan. At suppertime, I got time with Martha, Nicky and Sammie as we celebrated Nicky’s 14th birthday. I get plenty of updates on these family members but there is nothing like a little face time. Getting information about someone, even direct, but not face to face communication just isn’t the same thing. Relationships really need that one-on-one time.

Isn’t that true of God? It amazes me that since all that Jesus’ death accomplished including the renting of the temple veil and the establishment of the right to enter into the holy of holies, we don’t take advantage of the privilege given children of God. Forgiveness and salvation are truly wonderful, but they are just prerequisites to the privilege of one-on-one with the Creator. God didn’t create us to be saved and forgiven. He saves and forgives us so that we can carry out the purpose of our creation, relationship with Him.

Yet I can easily number the times I have truly fully entered into His presence. Each time was life changing and glorious. I suppose our reluctance isn’t really surprising. We certainly are undeserving of the privilege. Though saved and cleansed, we are still far from perfect and deserving. The thought that the Creator loves us so much that He would make such miraculous provision, just so we could be in His presence, is completely overwhelming.

It’s certainly understandable that we feel the need to change before we can stand in His presence. It’s also incomprehensible that such change is possible ONLY in His presence. We are so like a toddler peeking into the door of His father’s study, afraid and unsure. Looking for some sign that He is aware of our presence, but fearful that we will be intruding and unwelcome. If we are brave enough to step forward such encounters always end the same. The child is greeted by a smile and a hug and eventually goes away restored, renewed, refreshed and changed.

How can we pass such an opportunity by?

It’s Great to be a Florida Gator

This is usually one of my favorite weeks of the year. It’s time for Florida versus LSU in football. I enjoy it because I went to law school at Florida and just about everyone I know and love is an LSU fan. It’s just not the same this year. It should be. Both teams are undefeated and ranked high nationally. Normally I would be exchanging silly texts and emails with LSU fans.

This year two idiots from the Florida team have ruined it all. The quarterback got suspended for illegal drug use and one of the best defensive players is off the team after getting in trouble with the law. It’s not the first time a Florida or an LSU player has done something stupid. (Wow is that an understatement.) I always one upped the LSU people because we produced Tim Tebow; they can’t top that one for all round good guys.

Consider the problem. If LSU should win, they are,  after all, at home and two of our best and dumbest players are out, then there will always be the “what if.” You always want to win when your opponent is at their best. If Florida should win that would just be funny.

There are lots of life lessons to be learned from this.

Football players are just kids. Face it they are teenagers or twenty-somethings. Remember the dumb things you did at that age.

It’s just a game. It’s a solemn reminder that for at least a couple of guys, there are bigger problems than winning a game.

Our foul ups have big impact. When we make a mistake or do something stupid, it’s rare that we can limit the damage to ourselves. Our families, friends and even folks we don’t know are impacted.

We don’t have a clue.  I never played sports, not even in high school. I have no clue about the real work involved. The pressures to win. The temptations of perceived fame. Great athletes make it all look easy on game day. We don’t see what goes on behind the scenes. Maybe that’s a blessing.

It’s great to be a Florida Gator. My time at Florida Law School was great. I went on scholarship and met some good people. My family was able to live on campus just two blocks from the school and I think they have good memories. I’m not going to let two dumb football players ruin that. Plus I never had to live in Baton Rouge or smell tiger poo. Life is still good. Go gators.

 

 

Peace is Not About Control

I keep making the mistake of thinking that peace means being in control. That’s just not right. In fact, for most things in life, control is an illusion. We can control very little when you get right down to it. There are things we can influence, but very few we can control.

Exercise and diet can influence our health but don’t completely control it. We can do nothing about heredity and very little about disease process.

We have great influence over our children, especially when they are young. As they age our control dwindles and eventually disappears.

Things like the weather, the economy and politics are completely out of control, ours or, it seems, anyone else’s.

Even things like our calendar and to-do list seem to have either minds of their own or the minds of others.

The great paradox about peace is that it is really only attainable when we let go of control and place everything in hands of the only one who really has any control, God.  That sounds very simple, but it’s really tough to do. It’s both a decision and a process. After years of trying, we have to come to realize that we really can’t control much if anything. We then decide to put it in God’s hands, but we keep wanting to take it back. It’s only through years of experience and learning how much better He is at control than we are, that we can arrive at some semblance of peace.

When Jesus said, “Peace be with you,” He was only in one sense speaking of a state of mind. He was also saying, “Here I am. At last peace is possible.” Peace isn’t the absence of trouble, or the existence of control. It’s the presence of Christ.

Peace.