Celebrating the Ween Christianly

When it comes to Halloween many in the church have adamantly opposed celebrating it. We keep the lights off and settle in as any good curmudgeon would. Or better yet, we rebrand the holiday for our own benefit. Much like Christian music we say “if you like the sugar rush and flavors of Halloween, you will love our Harvest Festival!” It always made me chuckle how we year after year coincidentally celebrate “the harvest season” on the same day that everyone else was doing Halloween!

The opinion of some and lots of experience aside, I think we can celebrate Halloween as those looking to be a redemptive influence in our culture and communities. So if you are going to jump in and hand out high-fructose corn syrup what should you do? Here are a few clues:

  • Meet as many people as you can. Chances are you barely know the people you live next to, let alone those down the street. If you have kids there is no better expected way to meet your neighbors. Go to every house, say hi and introduce yourself as your kids get handfuls of candy. Dare I say invite some people to church! At the least, try to remember their names so next time you see them you can start a conversation.
  • Give out the best candy. Of all the people on the block, the Christians should be the most generous. So if you don’t give out the full bars of king-sized candy then at least be engaging and kind when you give out what you have.
  • Enjoy the day. Just smile more, laugh at costumes, be thankful that your neighborhood is abuzz with joyful activity.
  • Don’t be evil. Leave the ghoulish to the strange neighbor. Reject the evil of Halloween and redeem what’s good. The community, the kids, and oh my goodness, the candy!

There you have it. Go for it. Celebrate Halloween Christianly. And if you aren’t convinced, that’s cool. Follow your conscience but don’t be surprised when others are getting a sugar high. And here is Matt Chandler making the point (if you need a pastor with more cred).

Where You Are

Too often, we view our neighborhoods and cities as simply as necessary piece of life; we have to be close to work, or afford a life in some place and this is where we are. But in reality, you are exactly where God has determined for you to be, and he wants you to do good while you are there.

Our exile is not a political one like Israel’s; but in Christ, we are exiles in the midst of our cultures driven by the ways of the world. The answer is not to close ourselves off and start a commune, but instead work for the flourishing of our cities.

A Rock In The Sock

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Hebrews‬ ‭12:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This morning as I made the way down the street for my morning run I was pestered by something in my shoe. It began as a little itch, something I just ran through trying to take my mind off of it. Then it became more annoying so I adjusted my shoe a bit hoping for relief. Then it was unbearable so I put my finger in my sock to find a small rock, a pebble, working like sandpaper on my heel as I ran the race that was set before me.

Immediately the comparison to sin that lingers and stays so close became abundantly clear and painful even. I suppose I could have continued on with the rock in my sock but it would have ruined the run. It would have dominated the experience and detracted from the purpose. I may have hobbled along, but there would have been no joy, no undistracted exertion.

This friends is us when we live with the little rocks of sin. Those things that have become routine. The behaviors, the thinking, the attitudes. They usually just start as an itch but become something that tries to burrow into the skin and wreak havoc.

These are the things we are to lay aside, give up on, remove from the “socks” of our lives. So that we may run. Live the abundant life we are meant for.

But the encouragement doesn’t stop in Hebrews with just running. It is running while “looking to Jesus” we are encouraged toward. The founder and perfecter of our faith that took on a cross to clear every “rock,” remove every weight of sin that clings so closely. And because he did that, for the joy of claiming you, you are now free to remove those pesky rocks from your socks.

Christian, there is no rock of sin that can condemn you in Christ. You are covered, and made to wear his righteousness. Now in him you are also empowered to lay aside sin. Notice it, own it, repent of it, and turn away from it. Discard the rocks.

This is for me and I think the Lord gave me a pebble to illustrate with frustrating clarity the distraction of those tightly clinging sins I have been trying to run through.

May we live to surrender those lesser things to the finished work of Christ. May we run looking to him.

Mapping the Road Ahead

I am in the midst of a very slow process of drafting a vision document for Reservoir Church, something I have been hesitant to do but something that is increasingly needed for our congregation eager to engage in ministry and the purpose of the church.

As a replant of a twenty-year-old church, the elders and I have been slow to cast “a grand vision” for the future of our church frankly because our key vision was health, something we drastically needed.

Approaching now the four-year mark of replanting we are ready for the long view so that we can “drive in the right direction.” We have a new name, 80% of our members became so within the last four years, and our demographic has shifted slightly younger to new families looking for something to invest in long-term.

This process is much like plotting your course in google maps. You have to know where you are going in order to choose a route.

It can seem daunting in the near term and maybe premature. Certainly, anything we formulate is open to amendment along the way. But if we don’t have a shared destination in mind we will be all over the map and less than fruitful.

How does this truth play out in your life? Like me are you prone to coasting and trusting you will end up on the shore with the wave upon wave of grace in Christ?! This might be a good time to seek direction from the Spirit and go after the goal.