Redeem Halloween: Being Missional on Fright Night

redeem halloween

And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:2

Tonight, we will turn our porch lights on, set out a sign, and be handing out king sized candy bars to hundreds of kids, moms, dads, and teens.  Some will grumble that we receive sinners.  But they said this of Jesus too.

LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Homegroup on HalloweenMany Christians believe that handing out candy on Halloween is not a good idea.  They assume, “if I hand out candy, I am advocating all this day stands for and will therefore compromise my witness as a Christian.”  Yes, Halloween can stand for some really wicked things.  Yes, it is a day that people worship Satan, demons, and spiritual darkness.  Yes, it is an excuse for unrepentant sinning. But we are the light of the world!  Light is intended for darkness.  “Does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket?”

The darker the day, the more the light stands out.  “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  Who needs to see the light of Christ?  Saints? Or sinners?

And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?”And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Mark 2:15-17

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for sinners.  And how did Jesus, the physician, engage those who were sick? He hung out with them, engaged with them, ate with them.  If our Master, Jesus, spent time with sinners in this way, how can we think ourselves too “holy” to do the same?  It was the Pharisees who saw themselves as too holy to engage with sinners on the ground level.  Let us be like Jesus, not like those spiritually arrogant pharisees.

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The Lost Art of Letter Writing

letter writing

When was the last time you put a stamp on something other than a bill? While everyone loves to receive a handwritten card, very few actually take the time to write one. With email, texting, and Facebook, there really isn’t a need to write letters. But a letter can communicate things that an email never could. It is a form of communication that, when used strategically, can change lives and further the Gospel.  Consider that a majority of the New Testament is made up of letters.  Here are some reasons why you should write more letters.

Letters are personal. They contain your effort, your handwriting, and your choice of stationary. Even before the words are read, you have sent something that no one else could send. No one else has your handwriting or taste in cards. In a way, there is something vulnerable about this. You are revealing part of yourself to the recipient. And that immediately softens the heart.

Letters take effort. Sure it may sound silly to say that writing is hard work. But compared to typing or texting, it is significantly more work to find your cards, stamps, and a pen; to physically write the words you could type a lot quicker. This communicates value to the recipient—that they are worth the effort. Continue reading

Humility and Faith

humility and faith

Humility is emptiness of self; having no concern for your rights and your importance.  A humble person doesn’t feel entitled to anything but wrath from God.  In the last post I talked about the link between humility and seeing God clearly.  We looked at Isaiah, Peter, and John the Baptist, three men who had a big view of God and therefore a low view of themselves.

“Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” – Isaiah (Is 6:5)

“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” – Peter (Mt 16:16, Lk 5:8)

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John the Baptist (Jn 3:30)

Cultivating humility begins with an accurate view of our Holy God and understanding that the only thing we deserve is wrath.  But without the element of faith, you will stop short of true humility.  Here’s what I mean: Yes, we need to understand that our God is holy and before Him we stand condemned.  This is crucial.  But we must also believe that He is who He says He is: “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” (Ex 34:6, Ne 9:17, Ps 86, 103, 145, Jl 2:13, Jn 4:2)  Without an understanding of God’s bent toward grace and compassion, we will stop short of humility and end in self-pity.

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Humility: A Clear View of God

humility

Nothing draws the heart of God to His people more than humility.

Thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and the lowly of spirit.” Isaiah 57:15

“My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord. “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” Isaiah 66:2

You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:16-17

For though the Lord is exalted, yet He regards the lowly, but the haughty He knows from afar. Psalm 138:6

What more convincing do we need? We must deal with this truth: God loves humble people.

What does it mean to be humble? It is defined as a modest or low view of one’s own importance. Consider the synonyms of humility in the above verses: lowly, contrite (or crushed), broken.

A Clear View of God
I LOVE the dichotomy in those verses. They begin with a high and exalted God. A holy God. And of all places, where does this God long to be? With the lowly! The broken! The crushed! The contrite! Why is this? I believe there is a simple and clear explanation. Brokenness and humility is the defining characteristic of those who see God clearly.

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Entitlement: The Tip of the Iceberg

entitlement

Imagine a deadly sickness has plagued our country. There are no outward symptoms, and the longer you were infected, the more convinced you were of your health. Yet one simple test could reveal whether or not you were sick. Would you be tested?

The truth is, there is a deadly sickness plaguing our country. It is the cause of many spiritual deaths, yet many refuse to even check for this lethal enemy. What is the sickness? Pride. And the more infected you are, the less likely you are to think you have it, for pride deceives you.

In my last post, I discussed why pride is such a lethal enemy. It is an iceberg. The danger of an iceberg is not its great strength, but that its strength is hidden. Likewise, pride exists in the unseen realm of the heart. Though glimpses of it are seen in the realm of the actions, the staggering and destructive power of pride lies hidden in the shadows of the heart.

Because pride infects the motives, even the most spiritual actions, like praying, giving and serving, can be rooted entirely in arrogance and self-love.  So how can we spot an unseen enemy? Let me offer one litmus test for pride: entitlement. Entitlement is the tip of the iceberg. Every now and then it bobs above the surface, into the realm of conscious thought and actions, giving us a warning to what lies beneath.

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An Unseen Enemy

An unseen enemy

The danger of an iceberg is not its great strength, but that its strength is hidden. Had the ice monstrosity that sunk the Titanic been above the water, it no doubt would have been seen and easily avoided.

Pride—a desire to exalt oneself—is like an iceberg. It exists in the unseen realm of the heart and has many facets.  Unlike the sins of adultery or addiction, pride cannot easily be spotted above the surface through actions.  Because it infects the motives, any action, good or bad, can be contaminated with pride.  We see this showcased in the Pharisees: doing good things with self-exalting motives.

Pride’s Side Effect
To add to its danger, the main side effect of pride is self-deceit.  “The arrogance of your heart deceives you.”(Ob 3, Jer 49:16)  “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing (pride), he deceives himself.” Gal 6:1

Think of it, pride deceives us.  It misleads us to believe something that isn’t true. Unlike outright rebellion where we know we’re wrong, the deception of pride convinces us of our innocence in the midst of our sinning.  This is a dreadful reality.

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Journaling: More Than a Diary

journaling

“Today we went to Hobby Lobby. My mom got 2 new lamps. It took her 30 MINUTES to choose which ones she wanted! I got a little birdcage for my dollhouse. We went to Marco’s for dinner then to Kroger. They now have a checking counter you can do yourself!” ~Me, 12 years old

My first journal is full of entries like this: “dear diary” entries recounting my day and how I felt about it. I recorded everything from how God was answering my prayers, to what my friends and I scored in putt-putt. Ha!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun rereading my pre-teen thoughts.  (Especially now that I have often spent over 30 minutes being indecisive about decor and that self-checkouts are standard in many stores.)  But chronicling your life is not the only function a journal can serve; those blank pages can be used in so many other ways!

In a sermon about how to have a quiet time, our former pastor would include a photocopied page from his journal. It was so helpful to have a tangible example of what it looked like to engage with God. Something that once seemed daunting and unknown became attainable. It is for this same reason that I share some pages from my own journals.  I hope this will get the creative juices flowing as you consider what it could look like for you to engage with God and seek Him with all your heart.  Below are some functions your journal can serve.

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