WANTED: MENTORS LIKE PAUL

 

“I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so I may be cheered by news of you. I have no one like him, who will be genuinely anxious for your welfare. They all look after their own interest, not those of Jesus Christ. But Timothy’s worth you know, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me” (Phil. 2:19-23).

 

Paul not only loved God—he loved people. He looked for those he could invest in. When he saw the character of a young Timothy on his first missionary journey, he made arrangements for Timothy to travel with him. Bingo! Partners for life.

 

At the end of Paul’s journey on earth, in a dark and damp prison accompanied only by Luke, he wrote Timothy his last letter and clearly his most emotional one. He knew death was close: “I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come” (2 Tim. 4:6). He said to Timothy, “Do your best to come to me soon” (9), adding a few verses later to “come before winter” (21).

 

The veteran apostle did not fade out after his retirement dinner. He was relational to the max. At the end of his letter to the Christians in Rome, he referenced no less that twenty-nine people, including ten women, who had meant a great deal to this outstanding apostle who never took solo flights. He died pouring himself out for God and into people. We don’t know if Timothy arrived in time to see the man who made him what he was. It must have moved him that Paul’s final words were penned for him. He owed his life, mission, and destiny to this great missionary, and Timothy responded by living selflessly, giving himself away to others as his mentor had done for him.

 

Timothy learned life-changing truths from Paul:

  • We are servants and we live for others. We resist a victim mentality.
  • When we suffer, we do it joyfully. It is not about us, even in pain.

 

I thank God for those who believed in me and taught me the value of investing in others, especially my parents and Larry Christenson. Karen and I have had the joy for the last ten years of investing in young adults. We are grateful that our children are hearing the same message: “You are not here for yourself. Go low and pour out your life for others.” If we are going to be anxious, let’s be anxious for others as Timothy was (Phil. 2:20). Why waste anxiety on ourselves?

 

The relationships of Paul the father were personal, not professional. He dug into the lives of friends with probing questions, in-your-face admonitions, and shocking vulnerability. That is how a mentor lives. Seniors: consider doing like the apostle, and if God gives you strength, hit the tape running. The final great awakening, which I believe we are entering into now, will feature the hearts of fathers being connected to young ones like Timothy. What could be more rewarding?!

GRATITUDE INVENTORY

(Suggestion: use for your Thanksgiving time together. Happy Thanksgiving!)

 

  1. Have I expressed thanks to my mother and father and thanks to God for them?
  2. Have I thanked teachers who made a positive contribution to my life?
  3. Have I thanked coaches, pastors, siblings, people who serve me, like mail carriers?
  4. Do I give thanks in the midst of difficult circumstances?
  5. Do I resist the temptation to complain because my situation is not better?
  6. Have I chosen to give thanks rather than hold onto a wound?
  7. Do I show gratitude instead of expecting others to wait on me?
  8. Am I content with what I have or do I think I deserve more?
  9. Do I have a distorted picture of God that keeps me from thanking Him? (The elder brother was angry and could not receive from his kind father).
  10. Have I chosen as an act of the will to be thankful rather than waiting for proof?
  11. Do I need to receive more before I will develop a heart of gratitude?
  12. Would people close to me say that I have an attitude of gratitude?
  13. Has gratitude turned to skepticism because things turned out differently than expected?
  14. Am I generous with money? Generous people are thankful (2 Cor.9:10); ungrateful people are stingy.
  15. Am I happy? Grateful people usually are (Ps. 92:5).
  16. Do I live in the peace of God? Gratitude keeps me there (Phil. 4:6,7).
  17. Do I recognize that God is in charge? If so, I will be thankful (Ps. 97:1).
  18. Is life for me a matter of giving? “Thanks—giving” means both thanks and giving.
  19. Will I fit well with the atmosphere of heaven? It is full of thank-you’s (Rev. 7:12).
  20. Do I struggle with lust? Thanksgiving is a guard against sin that takes from others.
  21. Do I live close to Jesus who has a thankful heart (Matt. 15:26, Jn 11:41,Lk 10:21f)?
  22. Do I express gratitude every day? (David appointed the Levites to give thanks twice daily: I Chr. 16:4, I Chr. 23:30).
  23. Do I thank God in hard times, knowing that He will bring good out of bad?
  24. Am I able to thank God even when my personal security is threatened? (Dan. 6:10).
  25. Am I thankful for people God has connected me to? Paul gave thanks for people he wrote to.
  26. Have I thanked God for healing and health? (“Where are the nine?” Luke 17:17).
  27. Have I grown self-indulgent? (They are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money.. ungrateful, unholy…” 2 Tim. 3:2).
  28. Am I thankful for God’s truth? (“At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws.” Ps. 119:62).
  29. Am I thankful for food ? (Acts 27:35; Ro. 14:6; I Tim. 4:3).
  30. Am I thankful that God is gracious? (I Cor. 1:4).
  31. Am I thankful for deliverance from death, even though I wasn’t aware that it was happening? (Angels attend to us and keep us from harm).
  32. Am I thankful for government leaders (I Tim. 2:1,2), or do I complain more often?
  33. Am I aware that ingratitude can harden my heart? (Rom. 1:21).
  34. Am I humble? Thankful people are humble people. Proud people are ungrateful.
  35. Am I modeling a thankful heart for my children and for others that I serve? (Col.3:15,17).
  36. Do my prayers often include thanksgiving? (Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2; I Tim. 2:1).
  37. Do I enjoy singing? (Is. 51:3; Jer. 30:19).
  38. Is my thanksgiving contagious? (Paul’s gratitude caused “thanksgiving to overflow” 2 Co.4:15).

 

THE ROYAL CALL TO OBEY

 

Peter gives a stirring salutation in his first letter to the exiles of the dispersion. He says they are “chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood. May grace and peace be multiplied to you” (1:1,2).

 

Not the standard greeting we are accustomed to from Paul. Peter calls the Trinity into the action. We have been picked out of the world by God’s sovereign choice for a special destiny. We have been set apart by the Holy Spirit for what? Two things—obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling with his blood.

 

Obedience is never postured in the Scriptures as optional or as the mark of the spiritually elite. It is God’s purpose for us ALL. No good father would put obedience low on his wish list. Obedience is what brings us into the purposes of God. It lines us up with our destiny, in time and in eternity. Before we were placed in Christ, we were called “sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2), without hope and without a destiny. What are you made for? Obedience.

 

And Peter graciously gives us an escape hatch: “…and for sprinkling with his blood. Peter’s good friend John likewise says, “I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (I John 2:1). The goal—not sinning. The provision when we do—the redemptive advocacy of the Righteous One.

 

Our identity before we came to Christ, our label, was ‘sinner.” Now in Christ we are called “saints,” “holy ones.” That is who we are and therefore how we act. We have the desire to please God, not to do as we please. We are not given the forgiveness card so we can play it at will. We cooperate fully with God’s holy purpose for us to make us like His Son Jesus, who pleased the Father fully, who only thought and did what the Father desired for Him. His goal was never freedom; it was always obedience.

 

What pleases me as a father much more than the joy of forgiving my children is the joy of their obedience. It still sticks in my memory as if it happened yesterday. Karis is sitting in my study on the floor playing her six-year old games. Mom calls from the kitchen. She jumps up immediately, and as she runs she yells, “Coming.” Call it instant obedience.

 

Or Andrew at age eleven helping me set up breakfast for our extended family celebration. Seeing that we are going to be short on orange juice, he remarks, “I’ll take the smallest glass.” Not what a parent might expect from a whiny, self-centered child. Andrew was not that. He was kind rather than self-serving. He was thinking of others—as a pre-teen!

 

Can you picture then what your immediate and joyful obedience does to the Father who has chosen and destined you for glory? Is it possible that God may even brag about you to the angels as He did about Daniel? Three times in the Scriptures Daniel is called “greatly beloved” by angelic messengers. How did the angels know he was so beloved? God the Father must have told them. Maybe He says things like that about you!

KNOWING the UNKNOWABLE

 

Mom has no idea why their high school daughter is in love with a creep. His black robe plus orange and black hair make him look like he’s from Jupiter. He never completes a sentence and hardly makes sense. Mom does not realize that her anxiety disorder trumped her daughter’s needs. Meanwhile, Dad was having an affair (his accounting job) and weekends on the golf course with two rounds of beer. Sharon found love in a weirdo who gave her time and attention.

 

None of them had grasped what St. Paul wrote was possible, “to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:19). That is what we’re created for. The longing in our heart for worth is fulfilled by the Creator-Lover. Not able to apprehend that truth, we settle for counterfeits, anyone willing to value our strange clothes or obsession for timesheets.

 

Good news. Sharon was invited to Young Life and heard about “True Love.” She was afraid at first but drawn back. She received Christ after a month—and cried all night. Her parents could not believe the change. She even redecorated her bedroom and made it more—normal. Her mom was so impressed that she went with her to a meeting just for kids—and discovered truth. They are working on Dad, still consumed with his perceived destiny and golf handicap.

 

Paul’s apostolic prayer was for their family—and yours. Pray it: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (14-19).

 

When Sharon was gripped by divine love and invited Christ to live in her very body, she didn’t fall apart when her friend dropped her. Now she prays for him to know the same profound compassion. Instead of dark and distant, she is now present at mealtime, thankful for what her parents have done for her, rather than ranting about what they don’t do. She actually loves her distant dad and hopes he comes to understands that he is valued in heaven, so he doesn’t have to work twelve hours a day to prove it.

 

She and her mom, now almost cured of her disorder, love praying Ephesians 3 over the alien and the man who lives at work. For the first time in her life, Mom really loves Dad and realizes that he doesn’t know how to return it. His dad farmed. Period. He has no clue because he never experienced love. That’s coming!

WE PROPHESY IN PART

 

Hey, that lets me off the hook, sort of. My daughter emailed me about a prophecy I had given to her. Didn’t look accurate seven months after it was shared. The ones I had given to her siblings on our family retreat did. I gave her three possibilities: 1) I was wrong. Been there before. 2) I was partially right, which is sometimes true of contemporary prophecies. We prophesy “in proportion to our faith” (Rom. 12:6), so as faith grows, so does the gift. 3) I was right, and it will be fulfilled. I told her that we hold prophecies lightly. Most are given “for encouragement, edification, and comfort” (I Cor. 14:3) rather than for direction or correction.

 

We don’t stone faulty prophets in the New Covenant like was expected in the Old, but we always weigh prophecies. We have truckloads of prophets around since Pentecost opened the door and “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” That means much more encouragement—and much more testing. It calls for prophetic accountability.

 

So who is holding today’s prophets accountable? Many who are giving dramatic predictions do not appear to be connected to a local church or under apostolic authority, at least not one that is reining them in. In our house church we weigh both prophecy and prophet. When was the last time you heard a prophet go public and acknowledge that he was wrong? Sadly, I can only remember one—Dutch Sheets. Way to go, Dutch!

 

Come on, seers! We won’t condemn you if you acknowledge that your record is not perfect. But we may quit listening if you don’t come straight when you clearly missed.

 

What about the earthquake that was going to lace Southern California (really easy to predict), the race was going to be won and wasn’t, the tsunami that was going to hit New York, or the massive economic collapse that was sure to happen. Where is the accountability? How about Elijah’s List keeping track of prophecies and help us produce some retractions. Journalism has its watchdogs. Politicians are subject to the truthometer. The Church is not looking good in this regard.

 

Exercising some vulnerability would help the prophetic movement. We want to see some character. We are not demanding infallibility; we are expecting integrity. Where are the church fathers? Where are the watchdogs?

 

Are we supposed to trust prophets when they did not come clean after a major glitch? The church was “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” I would not want my church built on the example of some modern-day prophets. I do thank God for the gift of prophecy and the benefit it brings especially to the local church. Trans-local prophecy is sometimes a fuzzier matter. The Word of God does not stutter when it speaks of natural disasters and large-scale catastrophes. If we do, let’s acknowledge it.

 

Revelation includes sixteen chapters of judgment. But let’s listen closely before we say that God is about to wipe out LA or San Francisco for her sin. If you do proclaim it, you had better be weeping and not hoping like Jonah that judgment comes quickly. I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I am hearing the Lord say that revival, not judgment, is imminent. Think Malachi 4:5,6! Halleluia!

 

HOW TO RECEIVE THE GIFT OF TONGUES

God didn’t give us a manual on the gifts of the Spirit. He gave us history—the experiences of people, and theology—the explanation of those experiences. So we look both at peoples’ experiences and the Bible’s explanations.

We demystify the gifts to make them more accessible. We train people to prophesy, so they don’t say, “I could never do that.” The gifts are for the elect, not the elite!

Jesus is the divine-human Savior. He isn’t half of one and half of the other. In like manner, the Bible is a divine book, the message of God to humanity. But it is also human, revealing the personalities of its authors.

In the same way, the gifts of the Spirit are divine. Paul says that “to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given…” (I Corinthians 12:6). But the Holy Spirit does not speak in tongues—people do: “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4). Paul tells us that “if a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith” (Romans 12:6), suggesting that the gift matures as faith grows. We have a part to play. There’s a divine and a human element in receiving and using gifts. Guess which part you have?

Our very desire has something to do with what we receive; otherwise Paul would not tell us twice to “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts” (I Cor. 12:31; 14:1). A beautiful dance takes place between heaven and earth, and our desires are not incompatible with divine will.

The Spirit gives the gifts as He determines (I Corinthians 12:11), but our pursuit is factored into the divine plan. Rather than saying, “I’m open,” a more appropriate response would be, “I am eager. I desire to speak in tongues.”

So I encourage people to take steps of faith in receiving the gift of tongues, not to sit passively. My experience is that when people open their mouths and begin to speak words while at the same time shutting down their native language, God takes those sounds and turns them into a language. It is not uncommon for God to ask us to make the first move. He told the priests to step into the water when they were carrying the ark, and when they did, the waters parted (Joshua 3). Phew!

We are not blaspheming the Spirit by trying. When a child attempts to walk and fails, the family standing by cheering on the struggling infant. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17), and dead faith is no faith. Our part in receiving tongues is to begin speaking unintelligible words, trusting the Gift-giver to turn it into a language of praise. And millions could testify that He does just that! Every time you use it, you’re being built up! Radical! Use it often!

HOW to be FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT

Isn’t it enough to be saved? Do I need more than Jesus? No, but you need the same Spirit that empowered the Man Jesus to empower you. John the Baptist tied the work of the cross to the pouring out of the Spirit. When he saw Jesus, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” Later he said, “He on whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining, he it is who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” Passion and Pentecost form one inseparable whole; we need to be saved and sent. Salvation is not a matter of just getting us rescued from hell and going to heaven. We have a job to do! Jesus was the Father’s rep on earth. He left. Now we are. Ask the Spirit to enable you.

Why do we need to be filled? Because we cannot live the Christian life or carry out that assignment in our strength. It is not difficult, just impossible. God’s plan is for you is to look like Jesus and do what Jesus did. That’s not going to happen by grit but by the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit (meaning only the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, etc.) is the character of Jesus. The gifts are the ministry of Jesus. And you get them! Really cool.

How are we filled with the Spirit?

We remove obstacles. Clogged pipes keep the water of the Spirit from flowing through us. That includes wounds not healed, like father wounds, and strongholds we have not dismantled, like unforgiveness, anxiety, or immorality. It also includes fears: of emotions, of failure, of people. A wrong picture of God (angry, passive, distant—like Dad?) can also hinder us. We acknowledge our brokenness and ask for healing. It works!

We confess our sins. The Spirit fills empty vessels. Get empty to get full. Confess sins of the heart as well as sins of commission and omission—pride, insensitivity, indifference. Be specific.

 

We ask in faith to be filled. And we keep on asking until we are confident that God did what He promised. Jesus said to ask…seek…knock! There is an initial filling and ongoing fillings. It is a good idea to ask someone to pray for you. We all need the Spirit—today!

The disciples did not look like world-changers in the Upper Room. All that changed when the Spirit came. They turned their world on its head. Jesus said, “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Luke 11:13). So we ask.

 

Some questions.

Should we expect feelings? You would if you stuck you finger in an electric socket. But sometimes love comes gently, like the Father affirming His Son when He was filled.

 

What results can we expect? In Peter’s Pentecost sermon, he quoted from Joel: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17). Gifts of the Spirit, especially tongues and prophecy, often accompany the Spirit’s filling.

 

Is speaking in tongues included? When people ask me if they need to speak in tongues, I respond, “No, but you may.” Open your mouth in faith and begin to speak, but not in your native tongue. A language of praise will be there. How cool is that! Keep using it and it opens you up to other gifts.

JUDGMENT AND MERCY

 

Following the dreadful Supreme Court decision, many spoke about judgment coming upon America. While I shudder at the massive change in our social landscape and grieve that our grandchildren will grow up in a vastly different culture, I wonder if such a response is appropriate. Cause and effect will bring about judgment. When moral laws written into the fabric of our lives are violated, people suffer consequences.

Does calling for judgment represent the heart of God? Jonah wanted God to wipe out the brutal Assyrians. He probably had relatives butchered by the savage pagans. Something within him cried for justice. He was wrong! And Jesus admonished James and John for their knee-jerk reaction of calling down fire from heaven on resisters.

Does God judge? Yes, even in a season of grace. Is that His heart? No. Mercy is central to the redemptive plan of God. Judgment is not God’s first choice. He is delaying the return of His Son because He would rather save than condemn (2 Peter 3 and John 3:17). Judgment is not the first thing that comes to mind when God looks at San Francisco or New York. Is it ours? Judgment is a consequence; mercy is a solution. Judgment is the alternative to unrepentant rebels. Love LA and now LOVE NY, where thousands are being offered the mercy system over the merit system, reflects the heart of God. New York, like every city in the country, deserves judgment. Thank God that mercy triumphs over judgment. Even the name “Jesus” speaks of God’s passion to save rather than judge. God takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked.

Justice was served at the cross, where God was just and the justifier. He poured out on Jesus the wrath we deserved to forgive guilty sinners and declare them righteous.

If you call for judgment, then do it as Dwight L. Moody said with tears. God is looking for people who will rightly reflect His heart. Jonah, James and John did not. Is anyone disappointed that LA didn’t slide into the sea or that a tsumani did not hit the coast of NY? Did these prophetic words represent the Father?

Nehemiah was rehearsing Israel’s prolonged rebellion. Each time their pitiful situation was reversed when God stepped in: “But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God” (Nehemiah 9:19, 27, 31). “Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath” (Psalm 78:38). “Their hearts were not loyal to him…Yet he was merciful, he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them” (v. 37). Mercy triumphed over judgment!

Nazi leaders were offered mercy by an American military chaplain, Henry T. Gerecke, serving in the German prison, when most in the world could only see judgment. The first to open up to the gospel was Fritz Sauckel. As German Reichsstatthalter (governor), he was responsible for the deportation of more than five million people. He prayed in his cell, “Gott, sei mir Sunder gnadig?” (God, have mercy on me, a sinner!), and mercy triumphed over judgment. Others followed, like von Ribbentrop, secretary of the exterior, first to go to the gallows. He said, “I trust the blood of the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world.” Some resisted, like Robert Ley, who in his youth was a member of the YMCA but said of Christ, “I don’t need him,” and went to judgment. May mercy triumph over judgment in our lives and on our lips!

SHORT-TERM PAIN, LONG-TERM GAIN!

“For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). How long is “momentary”? “In this [future salvation] you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials” (I Peter 1:6). Even a lifetime is short when compared to forever.

Most people reverse the process, and that is also true: short-term gain, long-term pain. The gain of a secret affair and the loss of respect from children who once almost worshiped Dad. An exciting high followed by a five-year addiction. The ease of two hours of nightly TV, and a marriage that goes flat. The joy of video games for ten years and a job at Wendy’s with the inability to get married and support a family. And they question what went wrong.

Try to avoid pain, and you just increased it. Accept it as part of the process, and you are preparing for exalted joy. Take the easy path, and your engine will stall out when you need it running.

Take your cue from Jesus, who “for the joy set before him, endured the cross despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). He didn’t enjoy the cross—He endured it for the long-term gain behind it.

Or read I Peter, that often puts suffering and glory in the same sentence. Peter didn’t like the thought of suffering when he first heard it from Jesus. When he got it, he really got it!

Even the gateway to life tells the story: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. The gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:13,14). Did you hear the word “easy”? Going to hell is easy. Is hell itself easy? Talk about long-term pain…

Any pain you have been avoiding that you may need to embrace? Perhaps…

The pain of confrontation. Jesus brought this gift at awkward times, like dinner parties, when people compromised truth. Integrity will get you in trouble, but you will hear the applause of heaven and sleep well at night.

The pain of going without. People who fast say it turns to a feast, because it increases revelation, not immediately but eventually.

The pain of exercise. Go ahead—apply artificial pain to your body. Do it now, and when you’re eighty you will be thankful. Paul told Timothy that “physical training is of some value” (I Tim. 4:8). Hey, we’ll take “some.”

The pain of accepting insults. Paul received them with gratitude, knowing that what humbled him brought grace, which meant great gain. Learn to live above offense and walk into a sea of joyfulness. A friend once said to me, “Just so you know, Paul, it’s almost impossible to offend me.” Sounds like wisdom.

The pain of saying no. Moses “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” He “regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward” (Heb. 11:25,26). The exchange rate in eternity for suffering now is out of this world. Cash in your trials and resistance to sin for great payback in the new earth. We dare not tire. Victory is near at hand. Your no to sin is accompanied by a strong yes to divine pleasure!

ALL SAINTS’ DAY OR HALLOWEEN?

Take your pick. Three holidays converged last weekend. Protestants celebrate October 31st as the birthday of the Reformation, the day Luther nailed it! 95 statements of dispute on the Wittenberg Church door invited debate. If he only knew! On that night trick-or-treaters masquerade and collect candy. Halloween, short for All Hallows (read “Saints”) Eve, comes the night before All Saints’ Day, when the Church honors saints of history and remembers loved ones who died.

Why celebrate? Because the Church down through centuries found alternatives to the world’s festivals. The empty tomb receives more attention than the Easter bunny or Eastre, goddess of fertility (connected to the spring equinox?). We’ve taken a pagan name and baptized it. I can handle that. Some can’t.

At Christmas we focus on the Gift in the manger, the reason for gifts around the tree, rather than knocking pagans. And on All Saints’ Day we celebrate Christ’s victory over death rather than paying tribute to spooks and spirits.

The roots of Halloween antedate Christ’s birth. Ancient Druids in Europe believed that at the end of their year, October 31, Samhain, Lord of the dead, released the spirits of those who had died the previous year to return home and be entertained by the living. Those not treated well had tricks for the hosts. Sounds sinister to me. Halloween honored the spirits of the dead and ultimately Lucifer himself. No wonder Satanists enjoy Halloween. Ask the police! What better time to declare the victory of the Lamb rather than denouncing a holiday that flirts with demons, death and the devil!

All Saints’ Day reminds us that we are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.” How that looks remains a mystery this side of death. Angels are aware of life here, so maybe friends on the other side could be as well. We know for sure they are passionately aware of the victim who is Victor. We take our stand with the saints in the faith Hall of Fame (Hebrews 11). We praise the victory of the cross with Daniel and Deborah, St. Augustine and St. Teresa, and with family and friends who have gone through death to endless life whom we will meet again. Halleluia!

The irony of Halloween is that evil spirits do influence the living. Life is not easy, death is not friendly, and we don’t sentimentalize it. Halloween makes light of darkness and the grave with pictures of cemeteries and dead people. How foolish and naive! Death is an uneasy subject for folks in any age. It is to our day what sex was to former generations. Bill Graham called it “the twentieth century pornography.” Rather than face it, we place it in a make-believe context. Christians confront it squarely on All Saints’ Day, weeping with those who have lost children in the womb, at birth, or in life, and rejoicing with all who have preceded us and won their reward. “O death where is your victory?” “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”