Rasslin’ with God

Memphis is a wonderful and weird town, a melting pot of Southern charm, African-America heritage and blue collar/redneck ethos.  The city is a cultural petri dish full of interesting, creative, sometimes oddball characters.  Perhaps this explains why professional wrestling somehow took root and became legendary here.El_Santo

Jerry “The King” Lawler, Sputnik Munroe, Superstar Bill Dundee, Handsome Jimmy Valiant… in some local circles these grapplers are more revered than Elvis, Jerry Lee or Al Green.  Pro rasslin’ is woven in the fabric of Memphis as much as Beale Street and the Mississippi River.  Sure, it’s stupid and low brow, but like your crazy Uncle Lou, it’s part of our Memphis family history and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Memphis didn’t invent wrestling.  The ancient Babylonians enjoyed a tussle and so did the Egyptians.  Among the oldest recorded wrestling matches is in the Bible. Genesis 32 relates the story of Jacob and his all-night fight with “a man,” which theologians say was the pre-incarnate Jesus.  In simple language, Jacob was rasslin’ with God.

Why would God choose to wrestle anyone?  Seems an unfair match.  No one is in God’s weight class, so to speak.  But according to Genesis, God and Jacob fought to a draw.  How could God not win?  He’s God!  Perhaps the story is a metaphor.  Nevertheless, at daybreak, God decides to end the match by dislocating Jacob’s hip.  Ouch!  Jacob must have been one tough hombre because refused to capitulate until he received a blessing.  God, impressed with Jacob’s pluck, tells him that from now on he will be known as Israel, which loosely translated means “God-wrestler.”

Lots of Christians wrestle with God.  It happens when God wants us to think or behave in a certain way but we resist.  It may be a sin issue like the soft porn we allow ourselves to watch or the amount of alcohol we consume.  Perhaps we have a bad attitude about specific people.  It could be we are selfish with our time or money.  God wants to shape our character but we insist on resisting.  The struggle may be in the form of the Holy Spirit gently convicting us (which can feel like guilt).  Eventually, He may escalate the conflict and bring pain into our lives.  Our Father wants our full submission and He will fight to get it.

Sometimes a problem or tragedy can lead to a God-battle.  When trouble comes, most believers turn to the Lord for help, but if their problems persist, they may become impatient or angry with God.  “Why have you forsaken me!?!”  In such times, the Lord may be silent to test your faith.  It’s not because He is unsure about your commitment; He already knows how you will respond.  The test is for you.  Do you really believe the promises of God (“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5) or are you just a fair-weather Christian?  It is in the struggle that you discover your level of spiritual maturity.

Perhaps you doubt God.  You may become angry with Him.  You can, for a time, think God does not love you.  You can emerge from these life crises with emotional scars.  That is often how God teaches us full submission.  Deep, abiding faith and genuine obedience can be hard lessons.  Sometimes He must dislocate our hip, metaphorically, to humble us.

I have wrestled with God a few times.  I ask, “Where are You?  Why am I suffering?  Don’t You care?”  Like a good Father, He often allows me to struggle in order to increase my faith and build my character.  What I have learned is this: over time, God always keeps His promises.  Our wrestling matches are strenuous, but they help build spiritual muscles.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Also read and discuss Romans 5:1-5


Wisdom is not a superpower possessed only by great scholars or Oprah Winfrey.  Wisdom can be obtained even by normal people like you and me.  But it’s sort of like learning a foreign language, it comes easier to some than for others.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” – James 1:5

wisdom-green-signWisdom is like that special gadget in the bottom of your tool box.  You may rarely use it, but when you do, it’s invaluable.

Wisdom is to knowledge what great poetry is to the alphabet.

If you Google “wisdom” you get a list of really smart people.  A guy named Nathan Leopold had an estimated IQ of 210 (Einstein’s was said to be 160).  Leopold also was a convicted murderer, so intelligence and wisdom are not always a packaged set.

Wisdom cannot be measured on a scale.  It is more like creativity, a thing that is expressed or displayed in moments of unique clarity.  And like creativity, some have more of it than others.

Japanese proverb: “Knowledge without wisdom is a load of books on the back of an ass.”  (I’m talking to you, Bill Maher.)

Wisdom cuts through the clutter and confusion of competing ideas.  It makes the complex simple and offers a pathway forward.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” – Proverbs 9:10.

Sometimes when I don’t know what to do, I simply bow down and acknowledge that God is Lord of all.  That, in itself, is a wise thing to do.

Supreme Court Justice Potter Steward once said of pornography, “I know it when I see it.” Wisdom is kind of like that.

Wisdom is not always knowing the answer.  Sometimes wisdom is simply trusting God when you don’t know the answer.

Wisdom is like lasagna, delicious layers of intelligence, experience, common sense and good judgement.  Also, patience, introspection and humility.  And throw in character and honesty, too.  Best of all, it’s non-fattening!

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a 19th Century theologian, defined wisdom as “the right use of knowledge.”

The word “philosophy” literally means “love of wisdom.”

Knowledge is knowing a lot of answers.  Wisdom is knowing the right questions.

Jesus was the personification of wisdom.  He displayed wisdom in every aspect of human life – possessions, relationships, devotion to God, subjection to leaders, leadership of others, friendships, enemies, celebrations, prayer and sacrifice. And because of (God) you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God…” 1 Corinthians 1:30

Think of the wisest person you know.  What other characteristics do they have?  My wise guy is soft spoken, funny, unassuming, compassionate and short.  Think Yoda.  In fact, he uses wisdom like a Jedi sword; only when needed and to lay bare the truth.  Cuts me, he does.

Little kids can be profoundly wise without knowing it.  When my middle child was six, she said, “The sky is just heaven’s floor.”  Think about that.

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” – Proverbs 19:20





I gave up church for Lent

Lent is a big deal to some Christians.  They give up chocolate, cola, booze, TV or something else they hold dear in the spirit of repentance, self-denial or as a way to feel closer to God.  A noble and worthy idea, I think.

Me after the octagon of egos

Being raised a country Baptist, Lent has little meaning to me, but in an effort to experience all aspects of the faith, I’m giving up something this year – church.

I don’t recommend this for anyone else unless your circumstances are like mine.  My church has been going through something of a crisis in recent months.  Church politics are confusing and stupid, and there’s no point in going into details here, but the bottom line is that my own spirit has been injured by bickering and bitterness.  I fear my frustration is turning to anger and will eventually become hate, and I can’t let that happen.  So, I’m taking time away from my church.

Please understand that I’m not taking time off from God.  In fact, I plan to use the 40-day Lenten season as a period of personal spiritual reflection and growth.  Jesus spent 40 days alone, fasting and praying, to begin His ministry.  I can’t go 40 days without a cheeseburger, but I will spend more time in the Word and in prayer, seeking God’s forgiveness and His direction.

I asked the smartest person I know, Mr. Google, to explain Lent to me.  It began in the 4th Century as a reminder of self-sacrifice for the cause of Christ.  But, as people tend to do, we have turned Lent into a show of self-righteousness.  Ashes on the forehead and 40 days of (often) meaningless sacrifice prove to the world how much we love God.  Or does it?

Fasting, self-sacrifice and focusing on faith is a good thing, but it’s not restricted to a season.  Jesus wants all of us, every day.  There is a constant battle between flesh and the Holy Spirit for control of our lives.  That doesn’t mean God wants us all to sell our belongings and move to Papua New Guinea as missionaries.  There is a mission field right outside our front door… and often in our own homes.  Jesus calls us to live lives of consistent dedication to Him.  He wants to be Lord of our time, finances and emotions.

Which brings me back to my church, but not literally.  They say churches are hospitals for sinners, not museums for saints.  My church has recently become an octagon for egos.  Too much infighting, too many turf battles, too little sincere humility.  It can be a toxic environment that breeds resentment.  You can’t see Jesus with angry eyes.  And the damage is not just to the church leaders, it extends throughout the congregation and has its most negative impact on the new believers.  “If there is anger and division in the church, why bother?” they say.  Maybe this love-your-neighbor thing is just a scam.

So, I’m giving up church for Lent.  Revival begins in your own heart, right?  Let it begin in me.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35 (ESV)

Unforgettable Joe

As a boy I had a friend named Joe.  I think about him a lot.

I met Joe when I was about 10 but didn’t get to know him well until we were in high school.  He was probably the most popular guy in our school.  Not because he was rich, handsome or a great athlete; it was because he was crazy.

Many of my coming-of-age momentsFullSizeRender involved Joe.  Fun surrounded him like the dust cloud around Pig-Pen.  Wherever he was, something interesting was bound to happen.

The biology teacher stepped out of the classroom for five minutes.  Joe found a small bottle of highly concentrated blue dye in the cabinet and quickly convinced a couple of his buddies to bet him to take a sip (I may or may not have been involved).  He put his tongue on the open bottle and allowed a couple of drops into his mouth.  When the teacher returned, the students were snickering and Joe had his head down on his desk.  The teacher demanded to see Joe’s face.  When Joe raised his head, royal blue saliva was oozing from the corners of his mouth.  As punishment, Joe, his teeth bright blue, was made to sit in the hallway and smile at all who passed by.

As a kid Joe befriended an older boy with severe learning disabilities.  The older boy was harmless but a bit frightening to younger kids and their parents because he was very large and strong and loved to rough house.  He would have been shunned by everyone were it not for Joe, who always knew how to include him and control his rowdy behavior.

Streaking – running naked through a public place – was a big fad for a time the 70s.  Everyone in my school talked about it, but no one had the guts to do it… except Joe.  An indelible memory of my teenage years was seeing Joe’s white butt growing smaller in the distance as he ran down the main street of our town.  I think he earned a hundred bucks for that stunt (I may or may not have been involved).

Joe got married soon after high school and had a couple of kids.  I moved away but we remained in touch.  I saw him infrequently, but when I returned to my hometown we would sometimes get together.  We would reminisce and laugh out loud at the memories we shared.  Joe was the very definition of a good dude.

When he was about 30, Joe took a job with a fuel company.  One day there was an explosion caused by a leaky gas truck and he was severely burned.  Joe lingered several days in the ICU.  The hospital reported that the number of people from our hometown who donated blood on his behalf set some sort of record.  The largest church in town could not hold the number of mourners for his funeral.

I smile whenever I think of Joe and I look forward to seeing him in heaven (he was a Jesus follower). My oldest friends and I still talk about him when we get together.  There are very few people you meet in life who are truly unforgettable.  That was Joe.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  – Proverbs 17:17

Pharisees & tattoos

The word “Pharisee” is an historical relic from first century Israel, but it’s also church shorthand for self-righteous, holier-than-thou, Christian know-it-alls who constantly criticize others.  If you don’t look and act like them, you’re not doing religion right.

Animation character designs by Cedric Hohnstadt of the Pharisees for the video series "What's In The Bible?"
Animation character designs by Cedric Hohnstadt of the Pharisees for the video series “What’s In The Bible?”

Well, I don’t want religion, I want relationship… but I digress.

I once heard some men discussing the impropriety of young men wearing flip-flops and shorts to church.  They likewise were concerned about people drinking coffee in the worship center and guys wearing hats.  And, of course, they were very critical of tattoos and piercings.  I don’t have any tats, but I’ve thought about it.  Maybe something religious yet provocative, like Jesus flexing his biceps.  I’m open to suggestion.

The word Pharisee comes from a Greek word that means “set apart, separated.”  In the First Century, the Pharisees were Torah thumpers whose dress and demeanor were meant to separate them from ordinary Jewish believers.  They were aristocrats and scholars, esteemed for their high positions in the temple.  They had status and considered themselves super saints with a hotline to Yahweh.

The modern church has Pharisees, too, though they are harder to spot.  If only they wore phylacteries on their heads.  (Google “phylacteries” if you don’t get that joke.)  These days they likely wear sport jackets and neckties and frown on folks in t-shirts.  “We should wear our best at God’s house,” they may say.  God deserves our best, so I understand the logic, but I also have read 1 Samuel 16:7: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

The irony is that Scripture cuts both ways.  Does God applaud the old-fashioned notion of wearing your Sunday best?  Does He sneer at kids in hoodies?  I doubt it.  From the Lord’s perspective, a Brooks Brothers suit and a ratty flannel shirt have equal value.  It’s the heart under the garment that matters.  As for tattoos, God forbade the Hebrews from having them in Leviticus.  That command is not binding for modern believers but it may indicate our Father’s feelings about body art.  Do your own Biblical research and reach your own conclusion.  Nevertheless, God is no respecter of fashion.

I am reminded of one of my favorite passages in the Bible, the story sometimes referred to as the “widow’s mite” (Mark 12:41-44).  A poor old lady dropped a couple of pennies in the offering plate while the rich, sanctimonious people were making big donations.  Jesus explained to his disciples that the widow had given more than all the others because she gave all she had.  It was her humble generosity and sacrifice that impressed Jesus.  She likely was wearing rags.  We don’t know the rest of her story, but one day she will be a big deal in heaven because her spirit was in perfect harmony with the Lord.

Every believer must be careful not to have a Pharisee’s attitude.  You cannot know a person’s relationship with Jesus by looking at the clothing, tats or piercings.  Likewise, don’t assume someone is a pious, priggish, hypocrite because they dress like an undertaker.  Let God be the judge.  Meanwhile, love your neighbor as yourself.

“Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” – Matthew 7:1-3



Natural instincts

My natural instinct is to eat cookies and watch TV.  Unless acted upon by an outside force (my wife), this is what I do.  I am motivated by self-gratification.  A glass of milk makes it complete debauchery.

In 1943 Abraham Maslow wrote an academic paper titled, “A Theory of 450px-maslowshierarchyofneeds-svgHuman Motivation.”  Most Psychology 101 students have studied his work.  Maslow identified five levels of human need in hierarchical order: food and shelter, safety, love/belonging, esteem, self-actualization.  I’m no psychologist, but Maslow’s theory makes a lot of sense to me.

Motivation drives behavior, and we are often motivated by selfish needs, and selfishness is not always bad.  If Maslow’s theory is right, we all have a hierarchy of needs, some basic and some aspirational.  The most basic is food and shelter.  Nothing wrong with that; God wired us that way as a survival mechanism.  Humans had all their physical needs provided in Eden, but Adam and Eve messed that up for everyone.

Humans also seek safety.  Again, this is natural and normal.  Even Jesus wanted to avoid pain and suffering (Matt. 26:39).

You could categorize the first two levels of Maslow’s needs pyramid – food/shelter and safety – as basic human requirements.  The others represent a higher level of need, more mental and spiritual.  These are needs of the soul.

Next on Maslow’s list are love and belonging.  We are social beings who need human interaction.  Scientists report finding “feral children” (the very phrase induces heartache) who lack basic language and motor skills.  People in loving, long-term relationships are said to have lower blood pressure, less anxiety and less substance abuse.  Note the key words “loving” and “long term.”  If not loving and long-term, relationships can often produce the opposite effects.

Esteem is the desire to be valued.  This is where things get metaphysical.  Does esteem only come from others or is it something we develop within ourselves?  Maslow said that humans will not build self-esteem until they accept who they are internally.  Who am I internally?  Do I have characteristics that make me estimable?  Those are valid questions that most people ask about themselves.

Self-actualization is achieving your own significant life goals, the goals you set for yourself.  Maybe it’s to become a Super Bowl champion or perhaps be the world’s best mom… your life goals are determined by the things you value most.  What do you value?

Late in his life, Maslow added another need to the list: self-transcendence.  He theorized that people can only be truly actualized when they give themselves to a higher goal.  This would include altruism and matters of the spirit.  Maslow, himself an atheist, realized that man’s greatest achievement and highest goal is in recognizing there is something more important than oneself.

Through Jesus, I can fulfill those tricky higher needs of love, esteem and self-actualization.  As a follower of Christ, I have unconditional love and I belong to a family – the family of God.  Because of this relationship, I am esteemed – God sacrificed something of great value for my soul.  My self-actualization is complete because I have the most important job in the world; I am an ambassador for Jesus Christ.  This is a high and worthy goal.  Being the POTUS pales by comparison.

The Bible tells us about our natural human nature and how to change it.  You can read about it in Ephesians.  First read chapter 2, verses 1-3, then flip to chapter 4, verses 17-24 to see how a person’s nature can be transformed.

I’m still fighting some selfish desires like cookies, TV, lust, bitterness and self-righteousness.  To win the fight I have to change my motivation from self to God.  My highest need is the Lord.  When you think about it, Maslow was right.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you;  I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:5






Mary Extraordinary

“Sorry for calling you a prostitute, Mary.”

A lot of people owe Mary Magdalene an apology.  Bible experts will tell you there is not a shred of evidence that Mary of Magdala was a whore.  Yet, because of some poor scholarship by Pope Gregory in the Sixth Century, her reputation was seriously slandered.  Today she is often portrayed as a shady lady in books and movies.  The Catholic Church admitted Gregory’s mistake 400 years later, but the rep stuck and she became the Belle Watley of the Gospels.

Mary Maligned.

devimandirMary also has often been inaccurately confused with the woman who washed Jesus feet with tears and dried them with her hair.  To further set the record straight, she was never romantically linked to Jesus nor did she become an apostle after the resurrection, as claimed by some Gnostic gospels and the novelist Dee Brown.

Some of the confusion is caused by the fact that “Mary” was the First Century equivalent of “Jessica” in the 1990s.  Depending on where you get your research, there are at least six and perhaps as many as nine different “Mary’s” mentioned in Scripture.  There was Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, Mary the mother of James and Joses, Mary the mother of John Mark, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Ann of Gilligan’s Island.

With the exception of Jesus’s mom, not a great deal is known about any of the Mary’s.  Mary Magdalene is mentioned 14 times in the Gospels, but with little in the way of backstory.  She was from the town of Magdala, on the seaside in Galilee.  Historians say it was a prosperous city with a wild reputation, which may have promulgated the idea of her promiscuity.  There is no mention of a husband.  In Mark 8 she is listed along with two prominent women who were said to provide financial support to Jesus and his disciples.  Perhaps she came from a wealthy family and thus could afford to travel about with the Lord and his followers.

Mary Magnanimous!

One thing we know for certain is Mary was possessed by seven demons whom Jesus cast out (Mark 8).  The reference to demon possession may have indicated mental illness, epilepsy or simply evil satanic spirits.  In any event, Jesus healed her and she became a devoted follower, even to the point of witnessing the crucifixion.

Mary occupies a unique and special place in the story of the Messiah.  All four gospels mention that she was among the first, if not the VERY first person to encounter the risen Jesus, who instructed her to tell the others He was alive.  That fact alone was a significant acknowledgement of her importance; women at that time were not considered credible witnesses.  Jesus thought otherwise.  Mary’s word mattered.

Mary Missionary.

To summarize, Mary was no floozy.  She was a faithful follower of Jesus who stayed with Him to the triumphant end.  She should be remembered for absolute devotion and love, not lust.

She was Mary… Extraordinary!







It’s my birthday. Yay.

On the occasion of my 60th birthday, some random thoughts:

Math is different at 60.  When I was 30, 60 = 80.  Now 60 = 40 except when I look in the mirror, then 60 = 60, sometimes 70 on a bad day.

The AARP has finimagesally stopped bothering me.  When I turned 50 they pursued me like paparazzi after a Kardashian.  I never responded.  Now it’s like I’m 49 all over again!  If you ignore aging, it will go away.

Coffee is life.

I like my kids better these days.  When I was 40 they bothered the liver out of me!  The fact that they were children at the time was a contributing factor, I guess.  When I was 50 they had matured to the point where they were merely annoying.  Now they seem pretty cool.  I think I finally got through to them.

Yes, I realize that I am older than the states of Alaska and Hawaii.

I still daydream that I am a famous rock star except that now, in the documentary movie about my life, most of my bandmates are dead.  These days I only perform at gigantic stadium shows for worthy causes and the occasional Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame induction.  I am mildly bothered by the adoration of millions of fans but tolerate it graciously as the price of fame.  I also own a mansion on a trout river.  I’m a pretty detailed daydreamer.

My wife is aging at a slower rate than I am.  This proves the theory of relativity – if you are relatively happy and nice all the time you have less stress and will live longer.  I should be dead by 62.

These days I consider the obituary page and the sports page equally interesting.

Gravity is a growing menace.  My legs seem heavier, I run slower and I can jump only two inches off the ground.  Furthermore, the Earth’s gravitation force is apparently getting stronger because it is increasingly hard to get up after falling or kneeling.

God gives you grandchildren to create the illusion of youth.  Poopy diapers and screaming tantrums take me back to my 30s!

I thought life would be easier at 60.  It’s still confusing and stressful.  I’m not a millionaire yet and I’m still not famous.  Guess I’m a late bloomer.

You can take money from your IRA without penalty when you reach 59-and-a-half.  Why 59-and-a-half and not 60?  Because the government is in charge.

I spend way more time reading the Bible these days.  There are three reasons: (1) I am wiser and understand that ultimate truth is found only in Scripture, (2) I’m striving for greater holiness, and (3) I remember my 20s and I’m searching for loopholes.

Never look at yourself in one of those lighted, magnifying mirrors when you reach 60… makes your face looks like the surface of the moon.

I don’t like funerals as much as I used to.  I get the sense that the director is sizing me up.

“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them;”  Ecclesiastes 12:1










Vote! Even if it hurts

It is time to elect a new president.   The two major candidates have been scrutinized under the media microscope and both have cooties.  Just about everything important about them has already been discussed, so why waste time dissecting their political positions?  Here are the issues that really matter when considering who to vote for.0412trumpclintonmissouri

Attractiveness – One candidate looks like a pumpkin atop a refrigerator; the other is Christopher Walken in drag.  Advantage: radio.

Likeability – Hillary is warm like Siberia and sincere like Fagin from Oliver Twist.  The Donald is a foul-mouthed braggart who has lived a life of privilege and cheap fame.  Advantage: either VP candidate.

Debating skills – Hillary speaks with the perfect practiced precision of a polished politician.  Trump talks in generalities and platitudes and is often redundant.  They are to great oration what IHOP is to fine cuisine.  Advantage: Hillary.

Fashion – Hillary has the fashion sense of Chairman Mao with a platinum card.  Trump has a lot of expensive suits.  Political fashion is easier for men.  Advantage: Trump.

Age – Youth or experience?  Youth promises vigor but wisdom comes with experience.  Trump just turned 70 and Hillary is 69.  Advantage: nevermind.

Spouse – Former president Bill Clinton is a charming, though aging, womanizer with a bulbous nose and raspy voice.  Melania Trump is a former fashion model with a sexy Eastern European accent.  Advantage: Melania!

Children –  Trump has spawned at least five children with at least three women.  Bill and Hillary produced a single offspring, which is probably enough.  Despite the undeniable negatives of all the parents in this race, their kids seem to genuinely like them.  Advantage: trust funds.

Inspiration – One is a slightly creepy, old curmudgeon who has done nothing in their lifetime to inspire anyone but has amassed great personal wealth without doing any real, honest labor or sacrificing anything.  Which one am I referring to?  Advantage: does it matter?

Sex appeal – What? Gross!

Honor – Well, let’s see…  Trump has said things about women that would embarrass a convict.  He apparently hasn’t paid taxes since he was a teenager and as a businessman has cheated more than a few folks out of their earned wages.  Meanwhile, if lies were French fries Hillary would be the McDonalds of American politics.  She has more whoppers than Burger King!  Whoever said there is honor among thieves never met these two.  Advantage: organized crime.

Is there any good news about this election?  You bet!  I think it is leading millions of people to become Christians.  I know this because I hear so many people saying, “God help us!”



Halloween Christians

Christians sometimes go into a dither about Halloween.  Some denominations see Halloween as a celebration of evil, a veritable devil’s day of satanic rituals and death worship.  Other churches view it as a harmless fall festival of costumes and candy.  So, what is a believer to do on October 31?

I heard about a church that insisted all their kids come to the “fall festival” dressed as their favorite Bible character, less they frighten one another by coming as a troll or Batman.  I envisioned every boy dressed in near identical robes and beards.  “Are you Moses?” asks a smiling youth worker.  “No! I’m Habakkuk!” replies the frustrated adolescent.

As a kid l loved to watch horror movies.  Nimagesot the blood and gore stuff that Hollywood makes today (Saw, The Hills Have Eyes, et al.)  but the classic Universal  films like Frankenstein.  I still watch the original Frankenstein every time I can; I consider it and Bride of Frankenstein to be two of the greatest movies ever made.  Those films still creep me out just a little, but they don’t make me believe in monsters.  I do, however, believe in demons.

Fact:  Jesus himself dealt with demonic forces.  He confronted Lucifer directly when he was tempted in the wilderness; he cast a demon out of a young boy in Matthew 17; he confronted a posse of demons named Legion in Luke 8.  Demons were active in Jesus’s day and they are still around, though we educated 21st Century Christians may not like to admit it.  In 1 Timothy chapter one it states:

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons…”

Yeah, I want to avoid all of that… demons, deceitful spirits and so forth.  Give the devil a foothold and he’ll cripple you.  Those who dabble in psychic readings and the like are inviting Satan into their mind.  You do not want him in there.

It’s important to remember that folks who have genuinely accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior are safe from demonic possession.

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”  (John 10:28)

Jesus is infinitely more powerful than Satan and I totally trust His protection, but in the same way I avoid people with the flu, I avoid interaction with satanic influences. I want far more Scripture in my head than horrific images.  More Jesus, less evil.

I will likely continue to watch scary movies, hand out Halloween treats and carve jack-o-lanterns, but I’ll stay away from the hard stuff.  Think of Halloween like wine; you can enjoy a little of it in moderation.