I’ve decided to do the Friday blog on Thursday….October 31st – Halloween….to be exact. Sometimes, Christians face a dilemma on whether to celebrate Halloween or how to celebrate it. Halloween does in fact have it’s origins in Celtic harvest rituals, and ancient Gaels believed that on October 31st, the world between the living and the dead would open up.
But how many of us celebrate the harvest or worry about the dead coming to life? For myself and my family, Halloween has always been a time of carving pumpkins, eating candy and dressing as a favorite princess, superhero, or cartoon character. What does the Bible say? Check out the attached article.
Whatever is right for you and your family, stay safe and have fun!
Christians and Halloween
Leaders are readers.
I believe this to be true. Therefore I read. It is important to stay in a constant learning mode; to challenge my thinking, to be aware of current thinking on various topics, to be aware of best practices, and to be encouraged in my faith. And so I read.
I will be honest with you: generally speaking, I do not enjoy reading. Many people read as a form of relaxation or entertainment (my wife!), But not me. Yet I read because I want to be constantly learning and growing. I do not read as much as I should, but I do make an effort to read regularly. As a result, you will always find books on my desk. Books that I intend to read, but haven’t gotten to yet. Books that I am currently reading or have just completed. And those books which are old favorites; I go back to them over and over again – a few I have read dozens of times.
A few books that I intend to read within the next 6 months:
- Pursuing God’s Will Together by Ruth Haley Barton
- Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley
- Becoming Orthodox by Peter Gillquist
- The Bible and Homosexual Practice by Robert Gagnon
A few books that I’ve recently completed or currently reading:
- Saving Eutychus by Gary Millar and Phil Campbell
- Resisting Grace by Jon Ido Warden
- Accidental Pharisees by Larry Osborne
- The Bible by God!
A few books that are my old favorites that I go back to over and over (I keep them close at hand!):
- The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
- My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers
- The Celtic Way of Evangelism by George Hunter
- Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne
These are the books I read in my office. At home I enjoy a few novels, a few classics – an occasional Stephen King, John Grisham, or Patricia Cornwell. A year never goes by that I haven’t read To Kill A Mockingbird, My Side of the Mountain or A Walk In The Woods.
How about you? What have you been reading lately?
Of all the books ever written, I hope and pray you take time on a regular basis to read your Bible! The all-time bestseller and the inspired word of God!
I’m taking a staycation next week. Here are a few things I’m looking forward to…
- More time at home with my family.
- Time to tackle some home improvement projects I’ve been putting off.
- Time to catch up on some reading.
- Taking my kids trick or treating on Halloween…we’ll make the rounds to visit some of the grandparents and show off their costumes. Josiah is going to be Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Rachel is going to be Rapunzel – Disney princess. Abigail will be a little lamb. I will be the official candy tester – no costume necessary.
- I’ll be heading to Indianapolis on Friday afternoon for a Saturday morning Marathon. Wish me luck. (You know you’re crazy when your vacation plans include a race
- Saturday evening my extended family is getting together to celebrate my grandparents 60th wedding anniversary. 60 years! So thankful for them and their legacy of faith, love, and family.
- Sunday morning Lisa will be running in a 5k downtown. So proud of her. Our roles will be reversed as I watch her race this time and wrangle our 3 kids! Excited to cheer her on.
In this photo that I keep on my desk, my son Micah and I are on the Appalachian Trail – just outside of Hot Springs, North Carolina.
Each summer for the last few years I’ve tried to schedule time – anywhere from 4 to 7 days – backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. The A.T. is a 2,100+ mile footpath that begins in Georgia and ends in Maine, all the while meandering through 14 different states. So far I have hiked approximately 315 miles; at my current pace I should reach the end of the trail when I am about 110 years old!
I keep this photo on my desk as it reminds me of great times. I love being on the trail. I feel very close to God out in nature. The A.T. is nicknamed “the long green tunnel” because the vast majority of the time while on the trail you are walking underneath a thick canopy of trees. In the remote forests there is such tranquility and beauty. While backpacking life becomes so simple; life is reduced to the most basic things – shelter, food (fuel!), and water. No appointments, no schedule, no TV, no phone – only the wonder of God’s creation each day and a lot of strenuous exercise. Everything you need you are carrying on your back. You always meet all kinds of interesting people; surprisingly, people from all over the world fly into the States in order to backpack on the A.T. I eagerly anticipate my time on the trail each summer.
The whole experience became 10 times better a few years ago when my son decided to join me, and we’ve done it together for the last few years. It is so great to spend this time together. He is a much stronger and faster hiker than me, but he patiently waits for me to catch up numerous times throughout the day! The conversations and experiences we share our priceless.
The Scripture I draw strength from as I hike:
“The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights” Habakkuk 3:19
“For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
I was reminded of this verse recently. It’s a verse that meant a lot to me during a challenging time in college. As I read the verse again, I was flooded with memories and feelings of that time. I remembered how God showed himself faithful and how much I’ve grown since then. This verse helped me through that difficult time and will always have a special place in my life. Do you have verses like that? I’d love for you to leave a comment with a verse that’s special to you. Romans 15:4 tell us that the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement. Your verse just might give someone else the hope and encouragement they need.
This has sat on my desk for about 25 years now; a little pencil holder, made out of a can and covered with vintage bible stickers, was made for me by my oldest daughter Becky in Sunday school class when she was in kindergarten.
If there was ever a fire in my office and I had only seconds to rescue a few of my possessions – this would be one of the first things I’d grab!
It reminds me of fun and exhausting days when Becky and her 3 siblings were all under foot in our house and our home was filled with noise, messes, and toys. Not so much anymore.
It reminds me of the commitment my wife Karen and I had to raise our children in the context of the Christian faith – their being actively involved in Sunday school and Awana and our seeking to pass on our faith in Christ to our kids. We really tried to prioritize that in our family’s schedule.
It reminds me to pray for my children. Though they are all adults now – they will always be my kids! I love them and, more than anything, want God’s best for them.
And I always know where to find my pens and pencils!
Good news from far away is like cold water to the thirsty.
We all love hearing good news. I wanted to share with you some good news from our youth ministry. Both of our youth groups (pit stop middle school ministry & oasis high school ministry) are off to a great start this year. This past Tuesday was an especially exciting night of Oasis. It was our first of several Bring a Friend outreach nights. We’ve strategically placed these nights throughout the school year in order to continually keep the idea of outreach in front of our students. Over the past month, we’ve been casting a vision of how God wants to use us to reach our friends and family who have yet to cross the line of faith. Tuesday night, our students respond to that call big time! We nearly doubled our normal youth group attendance and had the opportunity to meet many new students and connect with students we hadn’t seen in a long time. The energy was through the rough as students laughed, played games, and developed new friendships. Our adult ministry team was awesome! They were actively engaged with our students and did a great job facilitating their small groups. We closed the night with short testimonies from 2 of our high school students encouraging our visitors to come back. Please join us in praying that the students who visited this week would make the jump from visitor to regular attender and that their heart would be open to the Gospel.
For years I’ve always had some sort of candle on my desk. I typically light it when I am reading my Bible, praying, or preparing a sermon. Occasionally even during a counseling appointment.
I do it as a visual reminder. Fire is a symbol of the Holy Spirit in the Bible – as I pray or study I want the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Scriptures for me, to guide me into truth, to be my teacher. I want my prayers to be empowered by him; I want my listening and my speaking to be filled with his gentleness and wisdom.
I am not going to lie – a nice pumpkin spice candle also makes my office smell better! But trust me, that’s not the primary reason it is burning. I am inviting the Holy Spirit to do his work in my office, on my desk, in my heart.
You may have heard that our leadership team is currently reading through the book Accidental Pharisees by Larry Osbourne. Click here for a book review from guest blogger Allison Bies. The following passage caught my attention this week.
The Bible is supposed to be used like a mirror. It’s meant to show us who God is, what he wants, and how we measure up. When I gaze intently into it and make the changes it calls for, it produces righteousness and blessing…(but) It’s always tempting to use the Bible as binoculars. It’s kind of cool to see everyone else’s faults in granular detail. It’s far less threatening than having to deal with some of the ugly things I might see in the mirror. p 57-58
What a powerful analogy! How easy it is to see the faults in other people and ignore or explain away what we see in ourselves. It’s much more comfortable to tell other people to change than to take responsibility for our own issues. The Bible is meant to be more like a mirror than a set of binoculars. Osbourne points out that using the Bible as binoculars breeds pride and moves us along the path to becoming a modern day Pharisee.
I want to encourage you to join us in reading Accidental Pharisees (we have some for sale at the welcome center). I believe you’ll be blessed by the experience.