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Are You Afraid of Halloween?

Written By Tyler Edwards, USA

Tyler Edwards is a pastor, author, and husband. He has served in full-time ministry since 2006. He currently works as the Discipleship Pastor of Carolina Forest Community Church in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He is passionate about introducing people to and helping them grow in the Gospel. He is also the author of Zombie Church: Breathing Life Back Into the Body of Christ.

God has made us all in His image. And since all of us are His marvelously unique designs, we often see a difference in opinions—even among Christians. That can be a challenge, since the Bible does not clearly express how we should act in every situation. Instead, the Bible is focused on presenting the gospel. It gives us principles for how to live, but how we apply some of those principles may vary. Things get tricky when Christians come to different, often passionate, conclusions. Take for example, Halloween.

Halloween is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in America. People dress up in costumes, go to parties, and talk to neighbors they’d otherwise ignore. Kids run up to houses chanting “trick or treat,” expecting to receive plenty of candy.

But Halloween is often controversial in Christian circles because of its pagan origins. Should we embrace it or boycott it?

The truth is, many Christians come to totally different conclusions, and that’s why Halloween can actually be an opportunity for Christians—it challenges us to learn how to deal with disagreements.

Let’s turn to Romans 14:13-19 as a guide:

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

Some Christians want to celebrate the holiday and use it as a time to witness, share, connect, and build relationships with other people to create opportunity for sharing the gospel. That’s great. Others feel a strong conviction that they should not participate because they don’t feel right doing so. That’s great too. Hear this: neither choice is wrong.

What we get wrong is how we respond to the person who makes a different choice from us. Those of us who celebrate Halloween are wrong when we accuse those who abstain of being mindlessly legalistic, and those of us abstaining are in the wrong if we criticize those who celebrate without bothering to understand their intent.

Too often, we are quick to judge and slow to seek understanding. Jesus was the opposite. He calls us to be the opposite. If we don’t agree with what another Christian is doing, we have help. These five checks have helped me navigate, not just through the Halloween debate, but other disagreements with Christians also:

1. Examine Scripture. Before anything else, I should make sure my reason is supported by God’s Word and not just some tradition I grew up with.

2. Examine Scripture again. This time, I’m not looking at it from my angle, but from the other person’s. Does their behavior go against Scripture, or are there verses that support what they are doing, too?

3. Approach people gently, humbly, and in love. I don’t, as a Christian, have the right to make judgments in my mind about another person if I’m not willing to talk with them. If I don’t like or agree with what someone is doing, I need to talk to the person about it. Ask questions. Try to understand it from their point of view.

4. Examine Scripture again. Now that I know the other person’s perspective, I re-examine God’s Word to see if there was something I previously missed or didn’t understand.

5. Go to them again, in love. At this point, I might gently and humbly share with them my view, the Scripture that I’ve found which gives direction, and why I think they should consider changing their behavior.

Notice that sharing my opinion is the last step. Until I’ve really gone through the first four steps, I have no right to do step five. If I skip to it, I’m likely handling things with a judgmental attitude.

What’s important is that we shouldn’t become so wrapped up in debates that we fail to see the gospel opportunities in front of us. Halloween can be one such opportunity, both for ministering to strangers, as well as in how we, as Christians, treat one another.

If we do choose to celebrate Halloween, let us use this opportunity to focus on building relationships and connecting with other people. We can reach those whom Jesus loves, but who are currently outside of His Kingdom, and initiate conversations with people we normally wouldn’t.

Every day we have opportunities to do what God has called us to do. As the people of God, let’s be open to see every part of our lives as an opportunity to glorify God by sharing His gospel with the world. Isn’t that the summation of our mission? To draw all men to the kingdom of God?

But even as we plan our celebrations, we should also be sensitive to the convictions of other Christians who might not feel comfortable with the idea, and be careful not to judge people for their choice (Romans 14). Ultimately, whether or not we participate in Halloween is a personal decision, and whichever side you are on concerning Halloween (or any other issue), let’s prioritize unity in the body of Christ, and be open to engaging with each other and learning more about how we can love each other.

To the Friend I Tried to Evangelize

“Evangelize.” It even sounds like a dirty word, doesn’t it? An act of pushing one’s religion on another. A prideful way to tell someone they’ve got it totally wrong. That their worldview is wrong. That their beliefs are wrong. That they’ve got everything wrong, and I’ve got it right.

That’s what evangelism sounds like to you, I think. And it’s hard to respond with anything that doesn’t sound like worn sentiment. “Oh, but my God is the real one.” “I don’t haughtily push my faith on others—I share it so they can know truth.” You think everyone says that about what they believe.

But my God is different. My God is real, and is worth knowing. Though recently, I’ve learned something valuable about sharing that with you.

You won’t ever take my word for it. And maybe that’s a good thing.

As we talk about faith, you ask if I think it’s just good luck that I was born into a country where the “right” religion is the dominant one.

You ask if I’ve considered the reality that if there truly wasn’t a god, humankind would probably construct one anyway. . . just to feel better about all of the big things we can’t understand. How do I know that’s not what has happened?

You ask hard questions. And I’ve tried to give thoughtful answers. I’ve prayed for wisdom to speak, for God to lead me to answers that will sway you.

But you won’t ever take my word for it, and I’ve finally realized why.

I’ve been thinking about it totally wrong. Words aren’t what you need.

Because I don’t think reasoning and unanswered questions are what’s actually holding you back.

You need to know a God who heals.

You need a reason for all of the pain you’ve been through.

. . . a purpose worth living another day for.

You need to know the all-reaching forgiveness that you’re offered—to believe that nothing you’ve done has made you unworthy of it.

Most of all, you need to be loved—to know true love that is whole, unwavering, and given freely by grace, not based on merit.

My efforts to evangelize by providing you with logical answers can’t do that for you.

So, I’ve got to re-shape my perspective on evangelism. I have to realize that my words won’t win you over. In fact, I have to accept that, until you come to the end of yourself and turn to God, you won’t be able to see my faith as anything but foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18).

I pray that the day would come soon, friend. I often ask God to work in your life in whatever way is necessary for you to realize that Christ fulfills the deep longing you’ve been wrestling with all your life.

But I can’t will that day into coming any sooner. So, in the meantime, I’ll keep praying, and I’ll start letting my life, instead of my well-intentioned wisdom, be a testimony to you.

You can watch how I work. I hope you see someone who works tirelessly to do a job well, even in a place that doesn’t treat us how it should (Colossians 3:23).

You can watch how I speak. I hope you see someone who considers the impact of her words before she releases them, and carefully avoids ones that give space to envy, spite, anger, or self-righteousness (Matthew 12:36).

You can witness how I treat others—especially the people you know I don’t get along well with. I hope you see a person who speaks to build others up and not tear them down, who chooses unity over words that cause division (Ephesians 4:29).

You can see how I spend my time, and I hope that you see someone who cherishes it as a gift and chooses to use it to serve others in my workplace, community, and social circles (1 Peter 4:10).

But most likely, you won’t always see these things. In fact, you’ll often be the first to see my shortcomings—how I fail to do each of the things above.

But in that, I hope that you notice where I turn when I fall short. I hope that you see I am quick to acknowledge when I’m wrong, and that you’ll witness me struggling against my sinful nature, longing to act and love in a more Christlike manner. Oh, you will certainly see how I am broken, and sinful, but I hope you see just as clearly, that I turn to God to help me be someone better.

I hope you’re able to see me, and know that anything good you see is grace from the perfect God I serve.

Now, my friend, as I seek to evangelize, I won’t focus on convincing you. Instead, I’ll try to live in a way that shows you that life with God is rich and purposeful. And when I speak, I’ll share stories about a life beyond the cynicism and despair so many are focused on. I will continue to share time and conversations and meals, and I will keep praying desperately that you find the hope which will anchor your soul (Hebrews 6:19).

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

When I Was Offended By My Church

Written By Crystal Brockington, USA

I couldn’t believe that they actually mailed me a letter.

When I had completed the Small Group Leadership Training several weeks earlier, our Campus Pastor had informed the class that at the end of the training, some of us would, unfortunately, be receiving a letter stating that we were not currently fit to be small group leaders. I brushed off the possibility.

After all, I was already on the worship team and part of the young adult leadership team. I had done exceedingly well on the biblical knowledge exam that all potential leaders had to take. I also had one of the church pastors as a character reference. Several of the people involved in the decision-making process had even prematurely congratulated me on my new small group!

So, imagine my surprise when I read the letter thanking me for my time and interest, wishing me the best, and noting that I did not meet their criteria.

I was devastated to hear that I wasn’t leadership material—so devastated that this rejection was a major contributing factor in my decision to leave that congregation several months later.

I had been rejected before. We all have. Rejection is a part of life, but it was hard to move past the offense I felt.

Here are four things that helped me to grow through the pain of rejection, instead of simply feeling bad about it.

 

1. Grieve the loss

Being considered for a promotion, whether at our job or in the church, can be exciting. The evaluation process often stirs up thoughts and conversations of what we wish to accomplish. This can cause us to become emotionally invested in the possibilities.

In my case, I had prayed quite intensely for the local college students that I had hoped would be discipled through my small group. When I wasn’t permitted to lead the group, I needed to grieve the loss of the possibility.

While it is true that missing out on an opportunity, going through a break-up, or even making life transitions may feel different from grieving the loss of a loved one, these are still moments in our lives that warrant grief.

Our feelings of sadness or disappointment are valid. We can acknowledge them as we release them to the Lord.

 

2. Let go of offense

It hurt that my church hadn’t chosen me, and I was offended that they mailed me a letter to inform me.  I perceived the mailing of the letter to be a disregard for my value—surely there was a more considerate way to handle the situation?

Since I felt devalued, it started to color how I processed my relationships with leaders in my church. One relationship in particular, was highly affected. In hindsight, this person hadn’t actually done anything to wrong me, but through the lens of offense, I had allowed him to become an enemy within my heart. Offense had blinded me to this leader’s good intentions, commitment to my growth in the Lord, and genuine biblical love for me.

Several months after leaving my church, I was able to reconcile with this leader, but it was only possible because I released the offense. I had to forgive him and the church at large, for the ways that their actions had wounded me, even though they hadn’t apologized, and even though they never intended to hurt me in the first place.

Christ commands us in Scripture to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:39). When we walk around with offense, we are holding something against our neighbor, and this is contrary to love. Offense keeps a record and creates a debt. But love, according to Scripture, does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, and keeps no record of wrong-doings (1 Corinthians 13:5).

In Christ, our offenses against the Father are covered, and the debt they create is canceled. Therefore, we should follow His instruction and gracious example when dealing with those who have created the debt of offense within our hearts (Matthew 18:32-33).

 

3. Surrender to the process

Sometimes we don’t receive a position or promotion because we simply aren’t the best candidate or right for the position. Other times there is no logical explanation. In my case, I was not ready to lead. While I was “qualified” on paper and had met the written requirements, Scripture told a different story.

God takes leadership seriously, and so did my church. This congregation held small group leaders to the same standard as other church officers. Leaders, by nature, set an example of living biblical Christianity and also come alongside members of the congregation to do the same. For example, among other things, Scripture dictates that deacons are to be respectable, sincere, honest in their pursuits, and deeply rooted in their faith (1 Timothy 3:8-12).

If I am honest, in that season of my life, I didn’t measure up to God’s standard of leadership. I was frequently late, I was easily offended, and I lacked peace and joy. This didn’t negate the things that I did well, and it didn’t mean that I should have been disqualified from other areas of leadership and service that I was already active in. However, it did indicate that there was still space for me to grow.

If we are able to let go of the offense of being shown our shortcomings, we can partner with the Lord and the people around us to intentionally grow in these areas until we are the leaders that Christ has called us to be.

 

4. Remember that it is God who exalts

No matter how qualified, gifted, or charismatic we are, God is ultimately the one who exalts us to positions of leadership. He is much more concerned with our character and development than He is with our resume or reputation.

Even in seasons of denial or rejection, we should honor God by stewarding well the influence that He has already entrusted to us. Consider Joseph (Genesis 39-45) and King David (1 Samuel 24:1-7), who both navigated a process as they experienced incremental promotion. Scripture is full of emerging leaders who are going through a process, working through offense, and growing in humility as they walked in God’s plan for them. We are in good company, as we do the same.

 

Simple Ways to Love God With Your Mind

Written By Sarah Tso, Singapore

It was a beautiful autumn Saturday when I unpacked my last box. I had just moved to UK from Singapore, and was thrilled to start my postgraduate studies and to continue campus ministry as I had done as an undergraduate.

However, as I settled into my new home and met my housemates, I quickly realized that as a committed evangelical Christian, I was in the minority. While I believed God was my source for everything, most of my housemates did not see the need for God as they deemed themselves “self-made successes”.

This made me question—why did I believe what I believed? Was I going to church because it was the “right” thing to do, for a cathartic worship experience, and for encouragement to get me through the week? I realized that beyond loving God with my heart (my passion), soul (my life) and strength (my service), I also had to love God with my mind—to know my faith and why I believed.

This got me started on a quest to love God with my mind. Along the way, I came up with four ways which have proved helpful:

 

M—Make Time to Know God

I arrived in the UK feeling confident as a witness for Christ. But as I tried to stand up to any Jesus-related questions thrown my way, I humbly realized I had accepted God and the Bible based on others’ faiths. Seeing the importance of knowing God for myself, I created a scared space in my life to read His Word and ask honest questions about it.

Through such times with the Lord, I began to know His redemptive father heart for all and to trust that—more than I ever could—He loved my housemates and wanted them to receive Him. I was reminded that only He could bring about the growth of the seed of the gospel sown into their lives (1 Corinthians 3:6), which came in His perfect timing and ways higher than my own (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Having this sacred space greatly benefited me as I began to know God for myself–to know Him whom I have believed (2 Timothy 1:12) so that when questioned about Him, I would be prepared to answer.

This sacred space can look different for each of us. For me, as an audiovisual learner, I prefer to listen to the audio Bible on my daily morning commute, and pray between appointments. What is your sacred space with God? Consider marking it in your calendar so you won’t miss out moments to meet with God regularly.

 

I—Investigate Truth Claims

As I interacted more with my non-Christian friends, I realized how ill-prepared I was to answer some important questions. Why would someone believe in God when life looks good? Why was living a homosexual lifestyle sinful, and is it possible to surrender such desires?

Loving God with my mind meant I could not dismiss these questions. Such topics needed clarity, but before I dove into them, I needed to understand truth in order to detect what was false. Through a journey of reading, attending talks, and conversing on such topics, I learned a term called “post-truth,” where one accepts or rejects truth according to one’s own preference.

I learned that making truth subjective—as so many are tempted to do when faced with tough questions—emptied truth of its very definition.

During my quest to learn truth, I began to understand Paul’s prayer in Philippians: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best” (Philippians 1:9-10, emphasis added).

Knowledge. Insight. Discernment. Knowing Biblical truth became even more important when opportunities arose to share it—notably when America legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, and during a terrorist attack in 2016 that shook the UK.

Love compels us to share the truth, so let’s be encouraged to learn the truth.

 

N—Never Walk Alone

I am thankful for my prayer partner in the UK—a Canadian-Cantonese girl with a beautiful smile and love for the Lord. Our conversations brought clarity for me on tough issues. And though we did not have all the answers, we encouraged each other to learn God’s perspective on issues, and to communicate such truths coherently and lovingly.

For these reasons, I would encourage every Christian to approach and walk with someone like-minded in a desire to grow in Christ. As “two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10), such accountability and journeying together in the faith can encourage us toward loving God with our minds.

It was an arduous and lonely journey praying for my non-Christian friends and learning how to address their questions. However, this journey became so much more bearable when I shared my burdens with my Christian friends and they prayed for us.

 

D—Dig into Credible Resources

Evangelist John Sung was known to read only the Bible and newspaper every day. He knew the dual importance of knowing Scripture and its relevance in his cultural and spiritual climate.

Similarly, I encourage us to be well-informed, critical-thinking Christians who know our Bibles and how it relates to current issues. We can do so by wisely selecting resources that: (a) clarify Scripture with Scripture, (b) are in-line with Scripture and (c) reliably inform us of our times today—with truth, objectivity, and credibility (see the list below for some examples). Personally, I found it helpful to install reliable news apps on my phone and ensure I only read books and articles from credible authors, including those from varying perspectives.

This has humbled me to adopt a more teachable attitude. Once, a friend asked why Christians were advised to marry only other Christians. Instead of attempting to “win” the argument, I chose to ask for her thoughts on it. As it turns out, she had a personal story and feelings of resentment which led to her believing the Bible was “narrow-minded” on the issue. And after acknowledging her feelings of hurt and confusion, I was able to eventually win the right to share with her the Bible’s perspective on the issue, which brought her clarity.

Keeping abreast of what is credible and current for a number of issues has helped me to be better informed and equipped to participate meaningfully in faith and cultural dialogues—to listen to the questioner behind the question, and to seek common ground instead of “winning” an argument. From there, I can build bridges and eventually win the right to speak into another’s life.

 

I am thankful to God for bringing me on this journey of growth and helping me to come to know my faith, the person I put my faith in, and how my faith fits in with the times. Though we live in uncertain times, we can take heart that the truths in Scripture are unchanging. Because of that, we can put our hope in these truths, for: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8).

Loving God with our minds is a lifelong journey involving focus, discipline, ownership, and accountability. Above all, it is a meaningful journey with the eternal benefits of knowing God more and more—a joyous journey indeed!

 

Recommended Resources for Loving the Lord with all our Minds:

  • The Bible—our foremost resource with no substitute for it!
  • For understanding the entire Bible:
    • Unlocking the Bible, by David Pawson.
    • God’s Big Picture, by Vaughan Roberts.
    • “The Bible Project,” Bible themes and Bible book overview infographic videos, co-founded by Tim Mackie.
    • Quest Study Bible: The Question and Answer Bible, a Bible published by Zondervan and Christianity Today featuring questions and answers as you read through the Bible.
  • On the reliability of the Bible:
    • More Than a Carpenter, by Josh McDowell.
    • Evidence that Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell.
    • The Case for Christ book series, by Lee Strobel.
  • For knowing the times and culture of today:
    • On truth and morality: The Reason for God, a book by Timothy Keller. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, a book by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek.
    • On suffering: Why Suffering?, a book by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale. What Good is God?, by Philip Yancey.
    • On post-truth: Saving Truth: Finding Meaning and Clarity in a Post-Truth World, by Abdu Murray. True for You but Not for Me, by Paul Copan.
    • On sexuality: Can You Be Gay and Christian?: Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality, by Michael L. Brown.
    • On the sanctity of life: The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture, by Scott Klusendorf.
    • On science and religion: Can Science Explain Everything?, by John Lennox.
    • On the prosperity gospel: “Six Keys to Detecting the Prosperity Gospel,” podcast by John Piper (Desiring God Ministries).
    • On hyper-grace: Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message, by Michael L. Brown
  • On doubts within the Christian faith:
    • Why People Stop Believing, by Paul Chamberlain
    • Disappointment with God, by Philip Yancey