It’s a touchy subject.

Ok. I’m about to wade into the fray. I don’t want to offend anyone, but, I’ve just got to talk about this for a minute. If you’re a follower of Jesus, I hope you won’t shut me down. I hope you’ll read to the end.

As a follower of Jesus, I am very uncomfortable with Halloween. I told you it was touchy.

Forget the history and origin of this event. I’m not sure what I can and can’t believe about this anymore. I just want to look at Halloween today. What does Halloween look like today?

Everywhere I look, I see skeletons, zombies, corpses, headless beings, mummies and ghosts – images of death. Haunted houses – houses inhabited by spirits of the dead. Rotting flesh. Dripping, smeared blood. Gory. Morbid. Macabre. The more gruesome, the better.

I also see characters of darkness in Halloween. Witches, warlocks, sorcerers, voodoo doctors and dolls, demons/fallen angels, fortune-tellers and mediums, vampires, grim reapers, satan, lucifer and devil are the roles we like to play at Halloween. We have costumes of these for both adults and children. (I won’t even get into the sexualized nature of Halloween or adult costumes. And, dare I say, even some children’s costumes have hints of sexuality.)

You also see the tools of Halloween. Knives. Meat cleavers. Machetes. Axes. Chainsaws. Rope. Scythes. Through the skull. In the heart. From the back. Sticking out of an eye. Around the neck. Carried in costume as one who uses these items as instruments of torture and death. All used to invoke terror.

And, speaking of terror, it’s the emotion of Halloween. How scary can we make it? How gross can it be? We want to frighten children and adults alike. We want to horrify, shock and terrify.

We dress our bodies in it. Paint and cover our faces with it. Decorate our homes with it. Cover our yards in it. Wrap the walls of our schools with it. Decorate our businesses in it. And – I’m heartbroken to say – we even garnish our churches with it. (yes, spider webs, ghosts and the like decorate children’s areas.)

What has happened to us as Believers, followers of Jesus, children of God? How have we come to the place that we are comfortable with this in our homes? Churches? With the whole idea?

If you are not in relationship with Abba through Jesus, I totally get why this would be normal. What’s not to like about dressing up, having a party and eating candy. It seems fun. Seems harmless. A nice diversion from everyday life.

But, as Believers, our perspective should be different. First Thessalonians 5:5 (NLT) says as followers of Jesus, we…are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. We are children of Light because Jesus is the Light of the World. (John 8:12) And, Ephesians 5:11 (NLT) tells us to Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.

I don’t know about you, but I just don’t see any “Light” in Halloween. I can’t see the fingerprints of God in this. I can’t see Jesus, the Light of the world, anywhere in all that.

What I do see is the glorification of death, the enemy of humanity, the one Jesus gave His life to conquer (1Corinthians 15:55-57). And, once our enemy was defeated, Colossians 1:13 (NLT) tells us that Abba rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son,…. So, if death had to be defeated for us, and we had to be rescued from darkness, why do we want to go back there, and play with our enemy in his kingdom, even if for just a few hours?

I don’t see any Light in the characters of Halloween either. I listed some of them above; witches, warlocks, fortune-tellers, mediums, sorcerers, demons, etc. Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV) says that The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

As followers of Jesus, this passage tells us to avoid witchcraft and sorcery. So, why would we want to pretend we are those things – even for just a day? Why would we want to identify with/as something the Bible tells us to leave alone?

And, just think about it for a moment: as followers of Jesus, would we celebrate a day to promote sexual immorality and impurity? Would we condone a day for debauchery – extreme indulgence in sensual pleasures, usually involving sex, and/or mind altering substances? Would we approve a day that promotes hatred? Or fits of rage? Drunkenness? Certainly not. So, why are we ok with a day that features and encourages witchcraft and all its accessories?

Now, I can hear many of you say: “But, that stuff is not real. There aren’t real witches or warlocks. Or voodoo doctors. There’s not a real devil. he’s just symbolic or mythological creature created by religion to intimidate Christians. (yes, there are professing Christians who believe this) And, as for fortune-tellers, horoscopes and mediums, they are just entertainment. Gimmicks to amuse us. That stuff is make-believe. Fantasy. Imaginary.”

Really? Then, why would the Bible tell us to avoid it? If it’s not real, doesn’t affect us, harm us or create issues in our lives, why would the Bible tell us to stay away from it. Why would the Bible say that involvement in something imaginary will keep us from the Kingdom of God? It must be real if the Bible is addressing it. It must be real if it will keep us from the Kingdom.

The action of Halloween is murder. That sounds so harsh, doesn’t it? But, that’s what all the knives, hatchets and chainsaws are for. No one is trimming trees or cutting meat. They are used as instruments of death. How could we as followers of Jesus ever be comfortable with that idea? At the risk of sounding prudish, there’s no humor or fun in the idea of murder. Murder is horrible, devastating and heart-breaking. Ask anyone who’s had a loved one stolen from them. It’s amazing how hysterical society can be with violent video games, guns and bullying, but turns a blind eye to cleavers lodged in a chest or knife in the skull.

And, the goal of Halloween is fear – evoking fear. But, the problem here is fear is not an emotion. Terror, horror, anxiety, fright, distress – those are emotions. But, fear – that’s a spirit. (2Timothy 1:7) I do believe in spirits and I don’t think they are the remains of those who have died. Spirits are demonic forces with an agenda to steal, kill and destroy us. (John 10:10) And, the way fear steals from us is through terror. It paralyzes peace. Robs us of sleep through nightmares. It steals joy and produces the emotions of terror, horror, anxiety, freight and distress in us.

Fear does not come from God. First John 4:16 tells us that God is love and vs 18 says love has no fear.…. The word fear in the original Greek is phobos and it means terror, alarm, panic. God does not have or cause terror, alarm or panic. In fact, the rest of vs18 says ….perfect love expels all fear. Fear cannot co-exist with Him.

Jesus is not in the center of fear-based activity. He isn’t even on the fringes.  So, if Jesus isn’t in the center of something, as followers of Jesus, why would we want to be involved?

And, as we participate in fear based events, could it be possible that we open the door for fear to operate in our life? For other demonic forces to harass us as well? Could participation in this darkness open the door for witchcraft to operate in our life, creating chaos? It’s something to think about.

I’m not suggesting that dressing up as Robin Hood, a cow or a clown is evil. (though, some would disagree with the clown part). I’m not saying that having a costume party is wrong. I’m not insinuating that a costume party on October 31st will send you to hell. I’m not even saying that carved pumpkins are from the devil.

What I am saying is this: any activity, event or “day” that glorifies death, contains characters of darkness, makes light of murder and promotes fear can NOT be good for the spiritual health of a follower of Jesus. It is the opposite of everything Jesus is.

While I don’t think it is the intention of any follower of Jesus to do something that will damage their relationship with Him or damage their spiritual health, could it be that we’ve been negligent to investigate what we’re participating in? Have we taken society’s perspective and assumed it was ok for us as children of Light? Have we just followed the crowd?

I know this is a touchy subject for so many followers of Jesus. We are easily offended by the idea that Halloween is wrong. That witches exist and satan is real. But, if you are a follower of Jesus and have been participating in Halloween, can I challenge you to set aside our opinions and experiences and ask Jesus what He thinks about Halloween? Ask Him how He feels about our participation in it? Ask Him if it’s healthy for us? Our families? Our children?

And then, listen. Honestly listen.

By now, you obviously know my position of this subject. But, I’ll share what I discovered when I asked Him the question: 1Thessalonians 5:22(NLT) Stay away from every kind of evil. And when I look at Halloween, I saw (and still see) evil – dark, wicked, malicious, foul, nefarious, sinful.

 

NOTE: When I write, I always use lower case letters for the enemy’s name and the pronouns that refer to him – even if it’s the beginning of a sentence. I can’t bring myself to dignify his existence with a capital letter.

Hippies, Hipsters and Hypocrites

Yesterday, my husband Bill shared our friend Mike Coleman’s Facebook post. Oh my word. I wanted to stand up and cheer. Here’s what he had to say:

“I fondly recall that during the Jesus People Movement, my favorite venue of worship was Melodyland in Southern California. It was edgy and revolutionary. A gathering of the long-haired counter-culture. The music was loud and worship was “different.” Over time, the former long-hairs have become “no hairs” and are echoing to the hipsters the kind of condemnation that they themselves received as hippies. Today’s young spiritual leaders are simply doing what the leaders of every previous generation have done… inviting their “tribe” and culture to a personal relationship and meaningful worship experience. “Dear Hipsters – please take your place in the Body of Christ”.!”Mikey’s Brain Dribble (Mike Coleman)

I was excited to hear someone from that generation say this. To admit that once-upon-a-time they too had been ridiculed for their exuberant, loud, unusual worship. To reflect on how it felt to be opposed for enjoying music they connected with as they simultaneously worshiped Jesus. To remember that they were criticized for doing something different than the establishment. And to confess that this same generation now opposes exuberant, loud, unusual worship. Admitting they ridicule the music the current generation enjoys and connects with as they simultaneously worshiped Jesus.

Kudos Mikey. Kudos.

But – even better – he ended his dribblings with the invitation for Hipsters to take their place in the Body of Christ. That’s where the cheering started. I’m no Hipster, but I could not agree with him more.

And here’s why. I believe it’s crucial – NECESSARY – for new music to be written and sung.

I believe this because I believe it’s Abba’s plan. I believe that when He formed us in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13), He hardwired every human with specific gifts and talents. He placed a specific calling – a way to use the gifts and talents – on each person in order to glorify Him. The perfect example of this is the prophet Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 1:5, we see that God hardwired him in his mother’s womb to be a prophet and appointed Him to prophesy to the nations for His glory – before God formed him, God had a plan for him. And Jeremiah was not special or unique. God does this for every human. Acts 10:34 and Roman 2:11 tells us that God does not show favoritism or partiality. So, if Jeremiah got gifts and a plan, then we all got gifts and a plan.

So, Abba intentionally creates specific people to write music. People whose calling is to pen melodies and lyrics that point to Him. He hardwires people to melodically tell stories of the beauty of His unfailing love. His plan is for them to sing of His holiness and grace so the nations will know of His splendor and majesty. In every generation God gives musical creativity so that these people will connect that generation to Him. So that in that generation, they would have a peer who understand who they are, where they are coming from – someone who “gets” them. Someone in that generation that God will use as His voice to sing over them. Yes, other generations may connect with their music and lyrics as well. But God uses them as a voice for and to their generation.

The message never changes. It always points to God, exalts Jesus and welcomes Holy Spirit. It always extols His worth and adores Him. It’s always about Him. (I question “worship” music that is more about “me” than “Him”…..oh, but I digress….maybe another time in another blog) And it’s always written through His Spirit under His anointing. But the style varies from generation to generation. And, it can also vary from person to person within the same generation based upon their individual hardwiring – the way Abba specifically designed them to create music. The sound He gave them, the personal preferences He gave them and the influences He surrounded them with.

The sound every generation makes will be different and unique because Abba is creative. He is not into cookie-cutter molds. We are not produced on an assembly line. While we may have many similarities, we are not cut from a mold. We are individually hand-made by God with unique hardwiring and a specific plan for us.

And if we as the Body of Christ don’t give the composers of each generation an outlet for their God given ability – a place to do what they were created to do, how they were created to do it – and celebrate their giftedness by using the tools for worship that Abba is providing through them, they will use their talents outside the church. If they experience rejection through our ridicule and criticism, they will remain silent in our presence. If they are told their creations must sound like generations before, then they will stop creating for us, because they cannot create differently than how they were hardwired. If they are not welcomed in the church to explore and express their creativity, they will take their gift and use it where they are welcome. And I can assure you, the enemy WILL welcome them with arms wide open. The enemy WILL celebrate their gifts and affirm their talents. he will gladly allow them to use their gifts in his venues as he works to influence them. (and he won’t complain about their skinny jeans and lumberjack beards)

And that is true for any gifting from God.

But, interestingly enough, we don’t seem to say this about authors. It’s unusual to hear someone say they don’t want to read new books that testifies of God’s greatness because they’re committed to older books on the same subject; that these new writings don’t inspire like the old writings do. While we do compare the differences between writing styles and the changes of language usage from one generation to the next – we never reject the new and cling to the old. We find a place for both.

We seldom say this about artists either. It’s not common for someone to say they can’t admire new paintings or pieces of art that display His glory because the old masterpieces are the only ones worth viewing. We somehow manage to see the beauty in both.

When building new churches, we don’t continue to use the same blueprints over and over again. You can easily look at any church and determine what decade it was built in. Every time a new one is built – which is always for the purpose of glorifying and exalting God – we build it in the current style being designed by the current generation of architects. And we admire the architecture of every era.

As I think through the things that the church does – all of which is supposed to be all about God – the only thing we desperately cling to and violently resist is the style of worship. (and pews vs chairs…but again, I digress…)

Reading the Bible regarding worship, I find nothing about the requirements of the swing of 3/4 time with a country twang. Or the demands of orchestration for “high church” hymns. Or a squelching guitar with a driving beat. It just said praise Him with song. With singing and with instruments. The style is left up to us. He gave us the freedom to express our heart in worship to Him, the way He hardwired us to.

So, why are we trying to place limits, restrictions and requirements on musical worship?

Who are we to think we get to define this?

Why can’t we make room for every style? Every sound? Every voice?

Why are we so critical, ridiculing the simplicity of their music as we compare it to past composers?

Why can’t we move forward and support how the current generation is worshipping [celebrate the fact that they ARE worshipping!!] and the music they are writing as we also appreciate the melodies of the past?

And dare I say it…….. if we can’t do this, maybe it’s because we have a serious heart issue. Maybe it’s because we don’t know the God we are attempting to worship. Maybe it’s because we haven’t connected to the heart of the God we profess to know.

If God hardwired them to make music, let’s welcome them to make music. Let’s support their efforts as they attempt to find their voice. Let’s celebrate them as God uses them to provide us with tools to worship Him. Let’s sing the songs He’s writing through them. Let’s allow them to do it the way they hear it and join them in admiring the magnificence of God.

And let’s not get stuck where we are, because a new sound is coming. Always. While God never changes – He’s always doing something new in us. (Isaiah 43:19)

So I’m with Mike: Hipsters, Millennials, Xers, Boomers, Gen Z, and every other generation and sub-culture Jesus-loving group – I welcome to you to take your place in the Body of Christ. I ask you to worship with us and teach us how to sing the song you are singing now.

Hallelujah!
Praise God in His holy house of worship,
    praise Him under the open skies;
Praise Him for His acts of power,
    praise Him for His magnificent greatness;
Praise with a blast on the trumpet,
    praise by strumming soft strings;
Praise Him with castanets and dance,
    praise Him with banjo and flute;
Praise Him with cymbals and a big bass drum,
    praise Him with fiddles and mandolin.
Let every living, breathing creature praise God!
    Hallelujah!

Psalm 150 (Msg)

 

Note: Thanks Mike Coleman for sharing your authentic thought.  I loved your transparency and honesty.

Another Note: When I write, I always use lower case letters for the enemy’s name and the pronouns that refer to him.  I can’t bring myself to dignify his existence with a capital letter.

You can’t eat an elephant in one bite.

Or at least you shouldn’t. And you shouldn’t read your Bible through in a year either. Cause that’s a lot like eating an elephant in one bite.

Why?

Too much to chew. Too much to digest.

Think about it. The volume of content you must consume daily to stay on schedule is sizeable. Some days could require 3 or 4 chapters. And some chapters could have as many as 50+ verses. That’s a LOT of material to read and digest in one day.

Now, I can hear what you’re saying. People read lots of things every day. And many read several chapters from a novel or informational book daily. Or they read chapters from multiple books as they study for classes and exams or do research for their jobs. If they can read multiple chapters from a “fun” book or, material they “want” to read or are required to read – then surely they can do the same for Jesus. Surely reading 3 or 4 chapters of the Bible is not too much to ask.

But I think maybe it is.

You see, those books, newspapers, blogs, educational texts and paperbacks were written by men and women with limited knowledge and understanding about the subject they are expertly writing about. All were penned by people with intelligence similar to yours. From the most difficult and complicated work to the easy-read, all were written by mere mortals.

On the other hand, the Bible was written by God. 2Timothy 3:16 (Amp) tells us that All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration]…..” It is Divine. Every, single word was breathed from the mouth of God into the hearts of more than 40 different men. God used these men as pens to compose a letter to humanity. Words from the mind of God spilled onto the pages, as He poured Truth into their hearts. The One who knows all things; the One who created all things; the One who lives outside of time and space put His plans, purposes and intents on paper for every person to read. The Alpha and Omega put Himself on every page for all to see.

Think about that for a moment.

The One whose ways and thoughts are higher than ours wrote the Bible. (Isaiah 55:9) The One whose thoughts are deep – profound – in a way that transcends our depth, authored every chapter and verse. (Psalm 92:5). The One whose understanding is beyond comprehension, penned every single word. (Psalm 147:5) The One who created the intricacies of the human body (Genesis 1:27), the wonders of the heavens (Isaiah 40:6) the complexities of advance calculus and liner algebra, and the perplexities of quantum physics (Colossians 1:16) wrote all 66 books contained in the Bible without any research, help, resources, or support. There are no credits in footnotes and no recognition in a bibliography. Romans 11:33-34 (GNT) says: How great are God’s riches! How deep are His wisdom and knowledge! Who can explain His decisions? Who can understand His ways? As the scripture says, “Who knows the mind of the Lord? Who is able to give Him advice? Who has ever given Him anything, so that He had to pay it back?”

And we think we can speed read through it? That it can be skimmed? We think we can actually digest 3 to 4 chapters of Divine writing as we are winding down from the day, with brains that are tired and eyes that are fuzzy? We really think we can absorb the depth and complexities of the writings of God as we cram in bulk?

I don’t think so. I think David nailed it in Psalm 139:6 when he said, “Your knowledge is amazing to me; it is more than I can understand.

Because it is a collection of Divine writings, you must have time to digest the Bible. You need time for contemplation. You need time to discuss with Holy Spirit. You need time to dig into the magnitude of the text, understand the setting, context, and inspect surroundings. You need time to discover the people and culture of the particular passage you are reading. You need time to grasp what God is saying to you. To savor every morsel.

That will never happen if you are (speed) reading 3 to 4 chapters a day.

So how do I think we should read the Bible?

Slowly. Thoughtfully. Repeatedly. Daily.

I think we should ask Holy Spirit where to start and let Him direct us. He knows what we need to read.

[But, if you need a pointer: I encourage new Bible readers to start with the Gospel of John. If you have not read the entire New Testament, stay there until you have. If you are ready to branch into the Old Testament, read Psalm and Proverbs. Then, read Ruth and Esther. Then move to Genesis and work your way through the Old Testament.]

Once you’ve determined where to start, read each day until He tells you to stop. And then re-read. Pray through what you’ve read. Meditate on what you read. Journal about what you hear. While you will gain information as you read, the purpose is to receive revelation. Unlike anything else we read, we are not looking to be entertained or educated; we are looking to be transformed. And this takes time.

You see, revelation comes as we allow His word to have its home [in your hearts and minds] and dwell in you in [all its] richness,……. (Colossians 3:16), hiding it in our heart, so that (we) might not sin against (Him). (Psalm 119:11), so that His instructions are written on [our] heart and becomes part of [our] very being. (Psalm 40:8) We want our heart to pump God’s Word like blood through (our) veins;……so we must take our time and chew on wisdom like a dog on a bone, [and] roll virtue around on (our) tongue. (Psalm 37:30-31). And as we do, we are transformed – changed from the inside out.

Then, pick up where you left off the next day. Don’t jump around, reading in a different place each day. If you do this, you’ll miss the connections between sections and chapters.

And if it takes you three years – five years – to make it through the entire Bible, then so be it.

But, if we rush through, we’ll find the Bible disappointing, frustrating and boring. We’ll think God’s word is a burdensome chore. His writings will seem disjointed. (be honest – you’ve thought that) And we’ll dread reading. (you know it’s true) And we’ll miss the wealth of treasures stored within.

Rushing through, we miss the depth and profound message in that passage, section or account. Skipping sections to “catch-up” will cause us to miss the connections. In the hurry to stay on schedule, we fail to discover what God is saying to us personally in those verses.

I think this is why we often think the Bible is slow moving, boring, irrelevant, and insignificant. I think it’s often why we think the Bible is confusing. And, I think this is why we haven’t fallen in love with reading the greatest literary work of all times. Why we are not captivated by the Author. We’re going too fast to see the depth, wonders and magnificence.

So, read your Bible this year. Read it every day. Be intentional. Be systematic. Be aggressive. But move at His pace, taking it one bite at a time. And let His words wash over your heart and fill you with revelation so that you experience transformation. Then at the end of the year – regardless of how much territory you cover – you’ll find that you are full and satisfied. And yet……..you want more.

I have more to say on this subject. You can see more of my thoughts on this in my Soapbox post.

ps ~ If you need a plan to follow, here is a 3 year planYou’ll read one chapter per day as you toggle between books of the Old and New Testaments. Or, this plan takes you through the New Testament in a year and gives you the weekends off to review and reflect. Both can be printed from the links. 

It’s going to be a great year 🙂