CTT | Abominable Practices Still…

CTTSo, last Friday’s post was a departure from my usual anti-halloween posting. With most of what I post here on Faithful Stewardship, there is a battle of sorts, a grappling with the text and with my opinions and biases that rarely makes it into a post. The episode of IssuesETC shared last Friday was good for those seeking to refute the notion that October 31st somehow belonged to pagans and that the Church tried to baptize the date to make it holy. The post points out that the Church already had a holiday on that date (well, the eve of OCT 31 and the day of NOV 01). So, if the goal is to rightly understand the history of the observances of men, then I recommend treating the Church’s observances as separate from whatever pagan/occult customs happen to be at play. However, once we step out of our academic bubble, we have to deal with a real and fallen world that HATES Christ.

Halloween in American Culture

The historicity of All Saint’s Day (or Feast of the Martyrs) is completely foreign to the majority of American Evangelicals. I was clueless, and by evangelical standards, I grew up in the church. We don’t go to Church on Halloween, we go to haunted houses, costume parties, or door-to-door asking for treats (for our kids, naturally). Sadly, our culture is one that doesn’t go door-to-door for anything other than halloween and/or fundraisers. Despite the sizable representation of American adherents to the Roman Catholic Church, very few venerate the saints of old, much less of recent times past. Airborne troops may wear a medallion of the patron saint of Paratroopers, but for the most part we in the US are completely removed from a Christian observance of Oct 31/Nov 1. I think there is plenty of room to discuss the merits of observing All Saint’s Day or Reformation Day as a holiday, that is a conversation that must take place completely separate from Halloween as it is observed in American Culture.

Things that don’t matter. Seriously.

The day. Whatever day is showing on the calendar is irrelevant in the big picture. God is still in charge, Christ still died for our sins, the Holy Spirit still draws us to Him, and Enemy is still defeated. There is no point on any calendar that is any more or less holy than the next. Demons and unclean spirits are no more or less troublesome on any day of any calendar. What matters is whether or not we walk according to the flesh or according to the Spirit by Faith.

Romans 14:5-9 (ESV)

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

The Food. Again, from the same chapter in Romans, whatever we eat on whichever day is irrelevant in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether candy, pumpkin-spice whatever, or cookies, apples, bacon… chocolate, or bacon (worth mentioning twice), what we eat or abstain from isn’t nearly as important as how we eat or abstain from it.

Romans 14:17 (ESV)

17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

The Party. As Christians, we don’t mourn like the world does, nor do we “party” like the world does. That doesn’t mean we do nothing. We observe funerals and memorial services and we enjoy a wedding reception and feasts. I know it must seem odd that I include funerals in this, but I wanted to cover the whole experience… having a party is fine. NOT having a party is fine. In this sense, the issue of having a party or not having a party is irrelevant as far as the Faith is concerned. Bridal showers, baby showers, bachelor parties, funerals, wakes, birthday’s, harvest, planting, mortgage burning,… if there is a cause for celebration, then have the party… or don’t… totally up to you. Now, having said that, how the party is conducted is still a matter of Law and Gospel. A bachelor party done in celebration of lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, sexual immorality, and debauchery is an abomination.

Costumes. I love a good costume party. I love seeing my kids play “make believe” around the house… but there’s something really cool that happens when you give them a costume that sparks their imagination. That’s why we give them toy weapons, tea party kits, play kitchens, and jungle gyms. Watch and listen to them play… you think that’s a slide? No, it’s a mountain. Costumes are also a great way for adults to set aside the anxieties and frustrations of “everyday life” and just enjoy some good fun. We  wear uniforms when we engage in team sports, some fans go a bit crazy with costumes to cheer on their favorite teams. Even at home sometimes we have set “work clothes” for disconnecting and just doing some gardening/lawn care to forget the weekly 9-to-5. Or maybe it’s our favorite bath robe and fuzzy bunny slippers to let everyone else know “I’m chillin’ for a bit today”. It can be good fun, it can be great for breaking the ice between professionals so they can just be themselves for a bit. But, these can be abused, and generally are abused during Mardi Gras and Halloween. It should come as no surprise that the spirit of Halloween (and Mardi Gras) in America is Lust of the flesh. Recently there was a story on a mom who was upset by the sexualized costumes at Party City… for her 3 year old (NBC’s Today Show). We’ll address this more in a bit. As a fan of costumes and costume parties, I’d like to see more costume parties throughout the year so that it can be further divorced from halloween. My kids don’t need halloween to look forward to a costume party.

What Really Matters… Seriously.

The god of Halloween in America is Self-Gratification. Lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. Our culture seeks to pleasure itself in whichever way it wills in the moment, and demands that everyone not only allow it, but celebrate it with them. Everything is about sex and pleasure. Halloween (and Mardi Gras) are the pinnacle of the self-indulgence when it comes to the spirit of Lust. Gluttony has largely been normalized in our culture, so the diabetic nightmare that is Halloween is generally limited to children and their parents. Once the kids are tweens, they are encouraged to explore every imaginable sexual immorality and blood lust imaginable in the name of “harmless fun”. I’ve known many who look to Halloween to play out their cross-dressing fantasies long before “coming out” as homosexual, or suffering from gender dysphoria. Vampires and even zombies have become sexualized in our culture. Mysticism has taken on a very sensual and even sexual nature in stuff we sell year-round in so-called Christian book stores (Theological Erotica).

Even if we manage to strip away the eroticism and sexual immorality, there is the issue of practices that were Abominable to God in the Old Testament… and remain so today (yes, even in 2015).

Deuteronomy 18:9-12 (ESV) | Abominable Practices

“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you.

Acts 19:11-20 (ESV) | The Sons of Sceva

11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. 18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

I decided to include the reference to the Sons of Sceva to indicate that the practice of magic arts is something to be repented from and gotten rid of. What these believers turned in and burned was valued at 50,000 pieces of silver. If the reference to “piece of silver” is a denarius, we know from the New Testament that a denarius was a day’s wage for laborers. That should help approximate the monetary value of what was collected, repented of, and burned. My point here is that whatever Scripture declares to be an abomination, doesn’t stop being an abomination simply because we are under a New Covenant. Throughout the Scriptures sexual immorality and idolatry are tied together. So, when we have modern-day evangelicals participating in a unholiday that is rife with both idolatry (witchcraft, spiritism, sorcery, divination, etc.) and sexual immorality intertwined there is much cause for concern and a need for repentance. I don’t care about what day any of this activity falls on a calendar (whether Halloween, Mardi Gras, or April 25th), where there is sin it must be rebuked and the sinner called to repentance.

Conclusion

If you choose to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve, or Reformation Day, or even American Halloween, be very careful about what it is you are honoring and for what reasons. The concern isn’t a day on the calendar, nor is it some over-realized sense of “spiritual warfare”; rather, it is about how we are living out our lives as Christians. We are encouraged to walk according to the Spirit, no matter the day, or the hour, or the social environment.

Galatians 5:13-26 (ESV) | Keep in Step with the Spirit

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

I highlighted those works of the flesh that reign over American observances of Halloween. In the Spiritual, these things are no more or less destructive on Halloween or Mardi Gras , but in the natural, they tend to take more Christian casualties because the worldly society actively seeks out the pure and innocent to engage in these activities on these days.

Therefore, let us encourage one another in Christ to walk in a manner worthy of Him and His Gospel. Let us build each other up in the faith and inspire one another to keep step with the Spirit.

Jude 24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Friday Sermon | Christians and Halloween with Pr. Mark Buetow

flyerI’ve made my personal position on Halloween very clear in the past. It will be the topic of Monday’s CTT post, too. Today, we will be playing an archived segment of Issues Etc, and interview with Pastor Mark Buetow (10/31/2011). In an attempt to temper my anger at the unholiday, I decided to share this viewpoint that actually cuts across my grain. It is not comforting to me, personally, but Pr Mark Buetow does make some solid points here, and I will have to consider these defenses of the Church’s “we were here first” claim to the date. For most, I believe, this interview will be of comfort and blessing.

There is no Biblical argument for “All Hallows Eve”… nor is there one against picking a date to remember those who have died in the Faith. I’m resigned to accept that the choosing of dates to have a party, even trying to make them holy observations, falls under Christian Liberty. How one goes about celebrating it though should still be tested Biblically. Each practice and participation needs to be above reproach.

Romans 14 (ESV) | Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another

14 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall confess to God.”

12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Do Not Cause Another to Stumble

13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God.Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Whatever you choose to do for the last weekend in October, take care and walk in a manner that honors Christ. Pray for me, that my anger regarding the pagan “halloween culture” be properly tempered by Grace.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | A Thought on Christian Liberty

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet’s take a look at a systematic approach to proselytizing, and see if you can identify what is being presented as good news here:

  1. You’re sick. You aren’t nearly as healthy as you think you are. Somewhere, deep down inside, you know you’re not complete. There’s something missing in your life and you’ve filled your life full of empty or even poisonous things that are killing you. Don’t you feel like life could be better?
  2. Have you settled for surviving, when you should be thriving and living prosperously and in great health? Whether it’s pride, rebellion, or fear of failure, you need to humble yourself and accept that how you’ve been living life all this time has been wrong, self-indulgent, and self-destructive.
  3. There is a way out. There are a lot of counterfeits out there, lots of empty promises, lots of people claiming that their truth is THE truth only for their systems to crumble into falsehood and despair. I have good news for you, and I stand here before you as a witness to its power and meaning. I’m not selling anything, I’m sharing what I believe to be the Truth.
  4. But it won’t be easy. While some might issue challenges to “give it a try”, I’m here to tell you that this isn’t about experimenting with something incrementally. If you’re ready for real change, meaningful change, your entire life will have to change. You must turn away from the way you’ve been doing life, and follow the narrow path to new life that I’m presenting to you today.
  5. You’ll need to throw out the old, don’t hold onto the things of the past, they will only hold you down and tempt you to fall away. They might even cause you pain. Your friends won’t understand why you no longer live life the way they do. But once they see how much more happy and healthy and powerful you’ve become, they’ll ask you what is different in your life, and then they’ll be ready to listen. Then they’ll taste and see. And perhaps, they, too, will come out of the dead-end, fruitless life, they’ve grown up in.

The list I’ve just provided probably looks a lot like a jab at western evangelical “give your life to Jesus” pitch. It actually wasn’t. What I presented above is what I’ve witnessed from the gospel of Atkins, Gluten-free, Vegan, and Paleo diets. Definitely a works-based religion. Are any of them inherently evil? Not at all. In fact, if you are celiac, I’ll recommend a gluten-free diet right along with the medical community. If you struggle with self-control in the area of junk foods, I might recommend a more Paleo-like diet. If you simply (for whatever reason) find meat and dairy un-palatable, I’d recommend researching vegan-best-practices. Some of these diets serve a purpose for some people who for various reasons need help making basic food decisions. None of these things is a panacea, and none of them save. Yet, I see far more aggressive food-evangelism than I do Christian.

America is Sick

However, more important than the pervasive general obesity in America, is the rampant unbelief and false doctrine that is filling society. Society is rejecting the Authority of the Bible. That’s a problem that needs constant attention. That is the role of the church, and our charge as Christians, stewards of the Gospel of God’s Grace. We are to be witness of the Truth of God’s Word.  Yes, America is overweight and generally unhealthy. Yes, we should be better stewards of the life we live by God’s grace.  As Christians, we need to keep the message clear… and sometimes proselytizing a diet (or vehemently opposing one) distracts from the Gospel. It did in the early church, with the Judeaizers. Paul dealt with it explicitly in his letter to the Romans, and he did so in a way that still find applicability today.

Romans 14 (ESV)

Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall confess to God.”

12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building.

20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

As long as we are living our lives in humility and Worship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our diet (fad or real) is a matter of Christian Liberty. Only when your diet becomes an idol for you or a stumbling block for you or a brother/sister who is weak in the Faith, does Scripture have a hard say. For the mature, the prohibition from drunkenness doesn’t mandate a rejection of all things alcoholic. For the immature, such abstinence may be necessary as a guardian until maturity in self control is achieved.

Conclusion

I truly do not care how a brother or sister in the faith has chosen to eat or drink. Vegan, Paleo, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, Omnivore, Kosher, doesn’t matter. Your diet isn’t a Gospel matter; your tastes in food or drink, your food allergies, or your personal distrust of processed food products are not Gospel matters. Crash diets are a concern, and the motive for such diets are generally what need to be addressed, Biblically. Faith, and the object of our Faith, is the concern, not diet. As an ominvore, I will poke fun at trendy diets and fad diets. I won’t make fun of anyone’d diet that is forced by allergies/ailments/injuries, though, that’s no fad or trend. What does draw my ire, and what has led to this post, is when Christians lose sight of the line between nutrition and Gospel. The Scriptures are quite clear that God has declared all food clean. So there is no Scriptural basis for insisting on any particular diet, or even suggesting that one diet is morally superior to another. I fell victim to this before, where I noticed I was proselytizing a diet more naturally and aggressively than I was the Gospel. That was a problem for me, and I am now hyper sensitive to it.

Dear Christians, in your desire to live a more healthy lifestyle, guard your hearts. It is far too easy for our sinful hearts to slip into idolatry, where our faith gets misplaced in our health, our beauty, our fitness, our diet, our uniqueness, etc. And while we will not agree on the best flavor of ice-cream… or on whether or not one should even eat ice-cream, we will live in unity of the Faith, the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Romans 15:1-7 (ESV) | The Example of Christ

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Amen. In Christ Jesus,
Jorge