Friday, November 12, 2010

The Struggle . . . . . .

I was thinking today about a couple that I knew from college, the Pittmans. I didn't know them well, but I know who they are. The wife, Jessica is undergoing major brain surgery today. Click here if you want to know more about that. I have been checking the updates and tearfully praying for them. I can't imagine what they are going through, the fear, pain, and uncertainty.

Whenever I hear of someone I know having a major struggle like this, my first emotion is shock, and then certain thoughts always fill my mind. How can this be happening? How are they dealing with this? Why did this happen to them? How can someone get through something like this? What an incredibly difficult, and scary situation. And I pray.

The older I get, the more I see my friends, family, acquaintances, and friends of friends dealing with the hardest parts of life, and it seems like I hear a new tragic story everyday. It made me realize one thing. Everyone has "a thing." I don't really know what to call it, a struggle maybe. It's that thing that changes your life forever and really, shapes who you are from then on.
My college roommate lost her brother to cancer before she was 30.
My best friend from college now has Lupus.
Another acquaintance from college lost her husband in a car accident about a year after graduation.
A high school friend of mine recently lost his newborn daughter.
A couple I know is dealing with devastating marital issues.

A divorce, an illness, a child born disabled, a rebellious child, families that don't get along, the devastating loss of a loved one. All of these things make us secretly think to ourselves, "I'm so glad it's not me." But most of us have our own struggle even if it's one that no one sees like addiction or chronic depression, and we deal with it in our own way, with God's help.  Everyone has a struggle.  Well, I suppose there are a few that sail through life unscathed, but not many.  As difficult and devastating as these things are, the sun will still rise tomorrow, and God leads us through.  God is faithful.  Unfortunately, having one such struggle doesn't exempt us of another one. It reminds me of the song "Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen."  Remember this song?  Although I don't agree with all of the "wisdom" here, there is one part that always comes to my mind when struggle has found someone I know.

Don't worry about the future.
Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.

Many of you know how true that statement is. Painfully true. There is no point in worrying.  The Bible makes that same point time and time again.  

I guess I don't have much of a point today.  I just had Jessica Pittman on my mind and it turned into a blog.  Please pray for her.  What ever struggle you have been handed in life, trust the Lord.

Matthew Chapter 625 "That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life...........27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?.............30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
31 "So don't worry about these things,....................32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.33 Seek the Kingdom of God* above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.  34 "So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today.


Monday, November 1, 2010

How I Really Feel about Halloween (You Might be Surprised).....

Well, Halloween is over, and as much as I wanted to blog about this before Halloween, honestly I just didn't have the guts.  I know this post is going to open a can of worms, and cause debate.  I hate debate.  I'm not one who likes to argue.  I also know that in posting this, there will people that I love and respect that will be disappointed me, for having this view.  That being said, I feel I must make my feelings known, and share how I really feel about Halloween.  The truth is................... I don't hate it.  GASP!  Fellow Christians and Pastors, please, hear  me out. 

Point #1- You can take part in Halloween, without taking part in evil.

Don't get me wrong, I fully understand the roots of Halloween, and what it meant to most people hundreds of years ago, and a few people today as far as satanism and paganism etc.  And I fully understand the scriptures people use to support their stance against Halloween.  I understand that scripture says to flee even the appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:22). 
But here are a few things I would like you to know about some common "acceptable" practices.
1.  The dates that we celebrate Christmas and Easter have pagan roots.  Do I care?  No.  I don't care what calender day we set aside to celebrate the birth and resurrection of Jesus.  What's important is that we DO celebrate those things.
2.  The wedding ring you are wearing is a pagan symbol.  (Google it for it's many ancient meanings.)  And the fact that we have bridesmaids and groomsmen in a wedding is an ancient pagan practice.  The belief was that on the day of the wedding, evil spirits would try to overtake the bride and the groom.  The extra people by their sides, who would at that time be dressed identically to the bride and groom, were meant to confuse the spirits as to who the actual bride and groom were.  Are these the same reasons we practice these traditions today?  Of course not.  These things mean something different to us now. 
3.  Saying "bless you" when someone sneezes is a pagan practice.  The belief was the when you sneeze, evil spirits would enter your body through your nose.  People said "bless you" to keep that from happening.  We don't believe that today, it is just good manners.

Just as the meaning of language changes over time, so does the meaning of our common practices.  The origin of these traditions, does not make them evil today.  I do realize that Halloween is a little different in that we still see people dabbling in evil with haunted houses, creepy costumes, and scary decorations.  But friends, we as Christians do not have to, and definitely should NOT be a part of those things.  The Bible says to flee even the appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:22).   I really don't see that my two kids, dressed as Spongebob, and a butterfly, visiting our neighbors and eating candy, as any kind of evil.  But, many will say in contrast that if we take part in Halloween at all, that we celebrate all of it, evil included.  With that logic, we should never shop in grocery store that sells alcohol, and we should never see a movie in a place where R movies are also shown.  I don't know about you, but I saw Toy Story, and liked it! And I can't find a grocery that doesn't sell several things that I would NEVER buy. 
Also, (stepping on my soapbox) adults, if you are in the habit of watching TV shows like CSI, and a number of others, that glorify murder and violent crime, and you are now standing up against Halloween, you are being a hypocrite.  (stepping down)

Now, you may see all I have said as nothing but as excuse to take my kids trick-or-treating, but here is what I really want you to understand. 

Point #2  As Christians we should not "hide out" on Halloween.

Halloween is a social event.  It is the one day that your neighbors will come to your house and ask for a small treat.  It is also the one day that it is acceptable to knock on their doors asking for a treat.  Your neighbors will also be out on the street with their kids, having a good time, and talking to people.  How much time do we spend in meetings trying to figure out new ways to connect with our community, only to turn off our lights and pretend not be home on the one night when people want to interact with us?   This is our chance to open our doors, be friendly, get to know our neighbors, and meet new ones.  If your are not handing out candy, you are missing a ministry opportunity.  And really, really, is there any harm in handing out candy?  We have often printed out cute invitations to children's church and given those out with candy too. 
Some churches are having harvest parties as an alternative to Halloween.  What?  Having kids dress up, and come to your church to play games and get candy is not "doing Halloween"?  And can we be so foolish as to think that they will not trick or treat before they come, or after?  The event is a good idea actually.  I think we should hold fun events for kids, where we can share Jesus with them.  But lets pass on the condemnation and guilt that comes with it, for those families who will still let their kids participate in other Halloween activities as well.   Having a harvest party is at least better than hiding out in our homes.  But friends, why are we all congregating in one place, on the one night when everyone else is out on the street.  We are truely putting our lamp under a bowl (Mat 5:15) We are hiding our light.

Here's my point.  Do I hate devil worship?  Yes.  Do I hate costumes and candy?  No.  In my opinoin, I think the best approach for Christians on Halloween is:
1.  Let your children dress up in cute costumes, not devils, witches, gouls, vampires, murderers etc. 
2.  Turn your light on and show yourself friendly and hospitable to your neighbors when they come by for candy.  If you don't do anything else, at least do that.  Maybe handout tracts, or invitations to church too!
3.  Get out on the street with your kids, meet some new people, and build better relationships with those you already know. 
4.  If you like to decorate, use things that are fall-ish like pumpkins, fall leaves, and scarecrows etc.  Skip the tombstones, skeletons, and witches etc.
5.  If you want to hold an event to share Jesus, do it.  But, don't intend on people being there the whole evening.  And, make sure that you don't need, or expect your whole church to be there.  Otherwise we've taken all the light, and put in one place.

Friends, the world see us as stuck-up, hypocritical, and no fun.  Let's show them otherwise, and show them the love of Jesus while we're at it. 

Your comments are welcome.  Love to you all!