Noonday Light: Reflections on Halloween

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
– Colossians 3:2 –

pumpkin

Halloween is America’s  second largest consumer holiday, one that is too easily rejected or embraced, without careful thought or biblical reflection. Therefore, on the eve of this dark night, take time to consider how a Christian should think about Halloween’s casual promotion of evil, death, and the grave.

Where Did the ‘-een’ come from in Halloween? Let the wordsmiths at Dictionary.com give you a brief etymology of the word Halloween. (Dictionary.com)

Christianity and Dark Side–What about Halloween? Albert Mohler points to a number of the concerns Christians should have with Halloween. (Albert Mohler)

Halloween and Evangelical Identities. Russell Moore provides a humorous and accurate ‘Rorschach test‘ to discern what various approaches to Halloween say about our evangelical identity. I guess I’m a conservative evangelical.

The Body of Jesus and Halloween. Patrick Schreiner helps us think about the ‘horrors’ of this life and how Christ’s death and resurrection are incompatible with Halloween’s glorification of evil (Ad Fontes)

Halloween: Mocking the Darkness. You can thank Tony Reinke for pointing to this excellent ‘spoken word’ video from “10 of those,” a Christian resources ministry from across the pond.  Watch it. And then watch it again. (Spurgeon.com)

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

For Your Edification (10.25.13): Veggie Tales, Women Teaching Women, Halloween Evangelism, and more

For your edification, take time to see how the creator of Veggie Tales has become more biblical, how women are needed as teachers in the church, and how you can use Halloween as means of evangelism.

From Larry and Bob to Moses and the Prophets. When I first became a Christian, I loved Veggie Tales. As embarrassing as it is to say, at age 17, when I came to Christ, Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato helped inform my young faith. Fast forward a decade and Biblical Theology had replaced cartoon Christianity in my life. So long Veggie Tales.

Surprisingly, the creator of Veggie Tales himself had a similar ‘conversion.’ And now Phil Vischer, the brilliant creator of the original series, has moved from veggie-mation to biblical theology, as well. Listen to Matt Smethurst’s conversation with him and you will hear Vischer say things like this:

I launched Bob and Larry back in 1993, and personally oversaw each video release and product until 2003, when a lawsuit forced the company into bankruptcy and out of my hands. God turned what seemed like a tremendous loss into a huge blessing, as I was given time and space to get off the VeggieTales “treadmill” and just focus on him. As my relationship with God grew deeper and my love of the Bible increased, a profound thought hit me: Had I just spent 10 years trying to get kids to behave “Christianly” without actually teaching them Christianity?

 You can read the whole thing here: Veggie Tales Creator Brings Gospel-Centered, Biblical Theology to Kids. What a joy it is to see Vischer’s moralistic talking vegetables overtaken by the story of the Bible itself.

Women Teaching Women. Jen Wilkin makes a compelling case addressed to pastors for enlisting and encouraging women to teach other women in the church. In the model of Titus 2, Jen gives four reasons why pastors needs women teachers, and three ways women teachers need thoughtful pastors. Here’s her outline.

  1. She is an example you cannot be.
  2. She brings a perspective you cannot bring.
  3. She holds an authority you cannot hold.
  4. She sees needs you do not see (and that your wife probably doesn’t see, either).
  1. She needs you to affirm her.
  2. She needs you to sharpen her.
  3. She needs you to cover her.

Now, pastors, lets pray for God to raise up godly women to teach in our churches.

Halloween Is An Easy Way to Witness. While many Christians pull back on this dark holiday, it actually is a great way to make connections with unchurched neighbors. This Halloween our church will be hosting a Trunk or Treat event, but for Christians ‘trick or treating’ can be great evangelistic event.  Consider these five tips from Brian McCormack and the Verge Network

  1. Check Your Conscience
  2. When People Knock, Answer.
  3. Visit Every House On Your Block.
  4. Be Creative.
  5. Pray A Lot.

Read the rest here.

Reading a Genealogy. Adam Embry, pastor and author of a few books on practical theology (Help! I Can’t Get Motivated and An Honest and Well-Experienced Heart : The Piety of John Flavel ), has a helpful piece on how to read a geneaology. If Genesis 5, Matthew 1, or 1 Chronicles 1-9 stumps you, take a look at reflections.

 

A Bag of Treats or a River of Delights: A Halloween Parable

In a few weeks children, teenagers, and some adults will adorn super-hero suits, clown wigs, and other silly costumes all for the purpose of having some seasonal fun and gathering a bag full of candy.  Good Christians differ on what to do with this holiday, and without stepping into that firing line, I simply want to take note of the way that Halloween is a dramatic parable of the fleeting pleasures of sin handed out by the houses of this world.

In Hebrews 11, Moses is described as a man of faith because “he considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt” (v. 26).  Because he was looking to the reward, he chose to be “mistreated with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (v. 25).  With heaven in view, he sought God’s reward, instead of the treats of this age.

The same was true of Abraham.  Earlier in Hebrews 11, the father of faith is depicted as a man whose hope is set on the city whose architect and builder is God (v. 10).  Scripture says of him and his offspring, “If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (v. 15-16).

In these statements, we see that hope in God’s rewards defines the life of the Christian (Heb 11:6). While we do not yet see our treasure, we believe in the promises of God that Christ has gone away to prepare a place for us (John 14:2; Heb 11:16).  We live in this reality. We say no to the world’s offerings because our hearts are in love with the world to come.

Here is where Halloween provides such a fitting parable.  As trick-or-treaters dress up in search of candy, they hope to collect a sack full of Hershey miniatures and Starburst packets.  On that night, the collection is sweet.  Serious trick-or-treaters know where the best candy is, and they get there early to pull in the full-sized Snickers or Silver Dollar.  Yet, all that is gained on that single night is soon eaten and the costume outdated or outgrown.

The joy of Halloween is as light as cotton candy and as long-lasting as cheap gum.  Contrast this with the joy that comes from the Lord.  Psalm 16:11 says, “In God’s presence is fullness of joy and at your right hand are pleasures evermore.” So too, Psalm 46 describes his dwelling place as possessing “a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.  God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns” (v. 4-5).

In terms of our parable, God’s house is the one who doesn’t stop you at the door.  He doesn’t demand a trick.  He doesn’t leave you hungry by giving you an itty-bitty bag of candy-coated chocolate.  Rather, his guests are invited to come and dine with him.  His food is satisfying and cost of admission is free.

But here is the rub.  In order to arrive at his home, the Christian must pass by all the other doors.  He must say “no” to constant offers of SweetTarts, Smarties, and Milk Duds.  Even when hunger sets in, he must keep plodding towards the mansion on the hill, whose invitation to dine with the king is sweeter than the houses in the valley of death.

So how will the Christian make it?  Like Moses and Abraham, he must keep before him the promises of God and the reward at the end.  Christian faith is not meant to be a stoic battle of the will, that says “I will do right, even when I don’t feel like it.”  No.  The Christian faith is much more like a long journey that says I will say “no” to the hospitality of this world, because I have the promise of an outstanding feast with the king ahead (See Isaiah 25:5-9).

To the world, this kind of reasoning sounds unappetizing.  They will say, “Just Trick or Treat!”  But to the Christian who takes God at his word, he becomes like the child who forsakes the city block to travel into the country to find the home he has never seen, but who has promised a Christmas dinner that is more than he could ask or imagine.

This fall, as you see children dressed in costume and pursuing an abundance of sugary treats, whether you partake or not, remember that such is the feasting of the world.  It comes through personal effort; it lasts for only a night; and its fruits fade away within days.  Contrast this with the city of God and the house of our Lord, whose gifts are never so small, never so fleeting, and never so empty… they only take time for them to come to us!

May we like Moses reject the fleeting treats of this world, because we remember that filling our bags with them is the devil’s trick.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss