Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Christian and Halloween

Does Halloween have Christian roots? 

The answer is, “No,” but it does have Christianity “grafted into it.” What we know as Halloween was originally celebrated before Christ was even born!  It goes back to the Celtic calendar in which the Celtic Tribes divided the year into the Dark Half (winter) and the Light Half (summer).  November 1st was recognized as the beginning of the New Year.  The celebration culminated the night before (October 31st) with a Druid feast called Samhain.  They would build and light a bonfire that they kept lit all winter in an effort to bring back the summer.  They also offer up sacrifices which even escalated into human sacrifices.

It was during Samhain that it was believed that the veil between this world and the world beyond was breached resulting in widespread fear and chaos. It was believed that demons, witches, hobgoblins, and elves were released in mass to reap havoc on the living. To avoid them, Druids would dress up as witches, devils, and ghouls, and would even involve themselves in demonic activities to make themselves immune from attack.  They also believed that it was possible for them to accidentally step into and get lost in the afterworld.

The Christian “Makeover”

Halloween as we know it, probably wouldn’t be around today if the Church had not tried to “Christianize” it.  As Christianity spread across Europe it re-imagined pagan folkways rather than trying to stomp them out. This made it easier to convert pagans.

The Church under Pope Gregory the Great issued an edict to all his missionaries in 601 A.D. that instead of changing pagan worship, they were to “transform” it into Christian worship.  (i.e. rather than telling pagans not to worship a tree, tell them to worship the tree as a “Christian” tree.)

This resulted in moving the Holy Day of, “All Hallows Day,” or, “All Saints Day,” from May 13th to November 1st in an effort to offer the people an alternative as well as an opportunity to celebrate and pray for the saints who have gone on before them.  The Protestants have since used the day to celebrate anyone who has died in the faith.

The old vestiges of Samhain never really went away and the night before All Hallows Day people still observed a lot of the same practices.   What a lot of people don’t realize is that the word, Halloween or Hallowe’en is a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve.

Should the Christian Celebrate Halloween?

Halloween has since developed a life of it’s own. It is constantly evolving.  I believe Halloween is one of those “Grey Areas,” for the Christian.

I am often deeply offended by the dark nature of Halloween.  There is no denying that Halloween has become a high day for the occult and it is a dangerous thing to dabble in such things.  As a result, I try to distance myself from the holiday.

My position…I don’t celebrate it.  Yet, at the same time, I don’t push strongly against it.

A lot of churches offer Christian Alternatives to Halloween such as Fall Festivals which can be a great alternative.  Some choose to observe October 31st as Reformation Day celebrating Martin Luther nailing his 95 Thesis against the Catholic Church on the Wittenberg door on October 31, 1517.

In his article, “Is Halloween Really Satan’s Birthday,” Greg Stier gives some great advice on dealing with Halloween:

1.  Don’t be a Legalist

2.  Use it as an opportunity to engage others for the Gospel

3.  Give lots of Candy to Neighborhood Kids.

 

There are literally TONS of material on the subject.  Some other Resources with a wide variety of views:

Halloween For Christians: Oppression or Opportunity by Hank Hanegraaff
http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/halloween.html
Chuck Thomas’ Reformation Day

 

 

“Can’t We All Just Get Along”

Medina United Methodist Church
Bill Stegemueller

Philippians 4:2-5

“Oh How He Loves Us”

Medina United Methodist Church
Bill Stegemueller

Luke 15:11-32

My HOPE is in the LORD.

The drought in Texas is pretty serious and I’ve heard people jokingly talking about doing a rain dance.  Oh COME ON, really?!  I’d much rather go to God’s Word.  I’m currently reading in the book of Jeremiah and came across these Scriptures in chapter 14.

Jeremiah 14
“This is the word of the LORD to Jeremiah concerning the DROUGHT:” (verse 1) “The ground is cracked because there is no rain in the land; the farmers are dismayed and cover their heads.” (verse 4) “Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? Do the skies themselves send down showers? No, it is you, O LORD our God. Therefore our hope is in you, for you are the one who does all this.” (verse 22)

When I hear that meterologist are saying the Texas Drought might last another 10 years, I think, “What in the world do THEY know!”  Some people put more faith in them than the Lord.  I am SO grateful that we have a Heavenly Father who is completey in control.  Let’s continue to HOPE and PRAY in the Lord.

“Thriving At College”

Thriving at CollegeI just got through reading, Thriving at College,”  by Alex Chediak with the subtitle, “Make great friends, keep your faith, and get ready for the real world!”   I WISH I had such a book when I went to college!  It would’ve saved me a lot of  grief.   I read this book because I have a daughter who is graduating from High School this year and I want to do my best to prepare her for her college experience.  Too many teenagers drift from High School to College without any real thought or plan.

I love the way Chediak described college as, “glorifying God with every aspect of your week, loving Him with all your mind, and training hard for the good works that He has prepared for you (Ephesians 2:10), while developing relationships that will reinforce your convictions and propel you in a Godward direction.”  (HUGE run on sentence… but GOOD)

The book is solidly grounded in Scripture and yet doesn’t come out as “preachy.”  It is also loaded with practical and relevant examples from some of the students that Chediak teaches.   In each chapter there are (1) Factoids (2) Q & A and (3) Discussion Questions.

The book is organized around ten common mistakes often made in college.

  1. Chunking Your Faith
  2. Treating College as if it Were High School.
  3. Not Being Intentional
  4. Distorting Dating and Romance.
  5. Refusing to Grow Up.
  6. Being a Flake.
  7. Living out of Balance.
  8. Being too Passive or too Cocky.
  9. Living for Grades.
  10. Wasting Opportunities.

The book did a remarkable job helping the reader see a good healthy balance between work and recreation.  Since college is the Launchpad into the real world, I wish more college students would take the truths behind this book seriously.  College is all about finding your place in this world and this book is a great resource to discover God’s best in your life.

Some of the major topics that the book addresses:

  • Taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
  • How to not only keep your faith, but GROW it.
  • Choosing your friends wisely.
  • Good study habits.
  • How to choose not only a Major, but a Vocation.
  • Staying in control of your finances. (EVERYONE ought to read!)
  • Extracurricular Activities

The book also explodes a lot of myths of College.  One that got my attention was the Myth of Multitasking.  A group of researchers at Stanford University investigating multitasking discovered that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory, or switch from one mob to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.

I would classify it as an “easy read,” with larger print and fewer words on each page.  This would account for it’s 327 pages and a Must Read for anyone in College!

I received this book free of charge in exchange of a unbiased review.

“Living for Eternity”

Medina United Methodist Church
Bill Stegemueller

“Living for Eternity”
Philippians 3:20-21

The Grace of God by Andy Stanley

The Grace of God coverAndy Stanley’s, “The GRACE of GOD,” was probably one of the best books I read this year.  I’ve been a pastor for 20 years and thought I understood all about grace, but Andy truly showed me how amazing grace is by taking me through the entire Bible showing me God’s grace in places I least expected it.

The book was masterfully put together and organized in a clear concise way.  I enjoyed the trip Andy took me on as he went through the Old Testament and into the New Testament to help me discover some aspects of grace that I would normally miss.  In his acknowledgment, Andy credits Thomas Nelson with encouraging him to write the book and providing him with someone (Mark Gaither) to help organize his thoughts on the matter.

There were plenty of write me downs:

  • Grace is never just enough, but more than enough.
  • Grace plus anything is anything but grace.
  • Grace is not reserved for good people; grace underscores the goodness of God.
  • God initiated a relationship with his people before he even told them what the rules were.
  • The Law is an expression of God’s grace. (Chapter 4… Great Chapter!)
  • God’s Law reminds us of our need for grace.
  • The purpose of the Law was not to make us good, but to keep us free.
  • Grace is slow to judge and quick to deliver.
  • The Grace of God has no load limits.
  • Grace is predictably unpredictable.
  • Receiving grace is often easier than dispensing it.
  • Grace is inviting to the unrighteous and threatening to the self-righteous.
  • Grace is not earned; it is offered.

My favorite chapter wasn’t even listed as a chapter, but was a prologue that dealt with all the “what-abouts” of grace.   What about obedience?  What about disobedience? What about repeated misbehavior? What about bad habits?  What about justice?  What about repentance?   I LOVED the way Andy tied in all these “what-abouts” to the story of the Prodigal Son!  The book would be worth the price just for those 6 pages of insight I learned from that story.  It made me read through the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) and count the number of “what-abouts” implied in the story.

I would give Andy’s book a SOLID 5 stars and would recommend it for both the new as well as the seasoned believer.

**I received, “The Grace of God,” free of charge in exchange for a non-biased review.