En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Archive for October, 2007

Evidence for God from Science!

Posted by Scott on October 31, 2007

Evidence for God from Science
God And Science.org

Is God real or just an outdated concept? Do we need God or can we get along fine without Him? These were some of my questions about God before I came to faith. This site provides answers to questions about God, evidence for God’s existence, His care and love for mankind, and His provision for joyful living both now and into eternity through His Son, Jesus Christ. New to this site? Start Here or choose a department left.

Go to Evidence for God from Science.

-Scott Bailey 2007

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Q n A: Reformation Day!

Posted by Scott on October 31, 2007

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT REFORMATION DAY!

 

Steve Green singing “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”



WHAT IS REFORMATION DAY? Reformation Day is an important liturgical festival that is celebrated by Lutherans and Christians of many Protestant denominations.  It commemorates Dr. Martin Luther’s posting of his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31st, 1517.  This act triggered the movement in world history known as the Reformation.  While the historical date for the observance of Reformation is October 31st, most churches celebrate it on the last Sunday in October.  


WHAT WAS THE REFORMATION? While it had profound and lasting impacts on the political, economic, social, literary, and artistic aspects of modern society, the Reformation was at its heart a religious movement.  The Reformation was the great rediscovery of the good news of salvation by grace through faith for Christ’s sake.


WHY WAS THE CHURCH IN NEED OF REFORM? For centuries, the Roman Catholic Church had been plagued by false doctrines, superstition, ignorance, and corruption.  Since most ordinary Christians were illiterate and had little knowledge of the Bible, they relied on their clergy for religious instruction and guidance.  Tragically however, monks, priests, bishops, and even the popes in Rome taught unbiblical doctrines like purgatory and salvation through good works.  Spiritually earnest people tried to justify themselves by charitable works, pilgrimages, and all kinds of religious performances and devotions, but they were left wondering if they had done enough to escape God’s anger and punishment.  The truth of the gospel — the good news that God is loving and merciful, that He offers each and every one of us forgiveness and salvation not because of what we do, but because of what Christ has already done for us — was largely forgotten by both clergy and laity.  The Holy Spirit used an Augustinian monk and university professor named Martin Luther to restore the gospel to its rightful place as the cornerstone doctrine of Christianity.


WHO WAS MARTIN LUTHER AND WHAT WAS HIS ROLE IN THE REFORMATION?  Martin Luther was born in 1483 in the town of Eisleben in the area of Germany called Thuringia.  His parents brought him up in the strict religious environment of the Roman Catholic Church.  They provided for his education by enrolling him in the Latin schools of Thuringia.  The young Luther was a promising student, so his father sent him to the University of Erfurt in 1501 to study law.  He did very well at his studies and graduated with a Master of Arts degree in 1505.  But Luther was a troubled and morbidly unhappy man.  Like many others of his time, Luther was distressed by his sins and lived in terrible and constant fear of God’s angry judgment.  After being caught in a ferocious thunderstorm that seemed to threaten his very life, Luther abandoned his plans to practice law and entered an Augustinian monastery.  He hoped that the rigorous life of a monk would allow him opportunities to do enough good works to please God and escape eternal punishment.  Luther threw himself into monastic life and was ordained in 1507.  He meticulously followed all the strict rules of his abbey, impressing his fellow monks with his seriousness and outward piety.  Dr. Johann von Staupitz, the vicar-general of the Augustinian order, took notice of Luther’s potential for leadership and assigned him important administrative duties, including a mission to Rome.  But although Luther did everything a devout and conscientious monk should do, he did not find the peace of mind he was seeking.In 1508, Father Staupitz sent Luther to Wittenberg, a town in the part of Germany called Saxony, to pursue a doctoral degree and to teach at the newly established university there.  Luther also became assistant pastor at the Castle Church, a post he held for the rest of his life.  In the course of his preaching and studying (especially his careful reading of Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Romans), the Holy Spirit revealed to Luther the love of God in Jesus Christ.  In what is often called his “Tower Experience,” Luther came to understand the true nature of the gospel, namely that God has already accomplished our salvation by the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, and that this salvation is ours through faith alone, not on account of our good works.  Luther was astounded by this doctrine and found tremendous comfort in it.  He began to lecture about it in his classes and preach about it in his parish.In 1517, Luther (now a Doctor of Theology and a respected professor) was drawn into a controversy over the sale of indulgences.  Indulgences were certificates sold by the Roman Catholic Church that promised people release from works of penance for absolved sins, both in life and in purgatory.  Although Luther would in a few years repudiate the entire Roman Catholic system of works righteousness, he was not ready at this early stage in his ministry to completely reject the prevailing teachings on purgatory and indulgences.  But even prior to 1517 he realized that corrupt practices connected to the sale of indulgences were a blasphemy against Christ and a cruel deception on penitent Christians seeking God’s grace and forgiveness.It was the sale of a particular indulgence that spurred Luther to action.  Pope Leo X had authorized the sale of special jubilee indulgences in the cities and principalities of Germany.  Half of the money raised was to help finance the building of Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Rome; the other half was to go to Albrecht, the new archbishop of Mainz (who needed the cash to pay off a loan he had taken to buy his archbishopric).  These indulgences were plenary, meaning that all sin and eternal and temporal punishment would be forgiven to those who purchased them.  Elector Frederick the Wise, prince of Saxony and patron of the University of Wittenberg, had prohibited the traffic of these indulgences in his territory, but they were sold in towns and villages just across the Saxon border.  When some members of his parish purchased indulgences and brought them to Luther for his assessment of their validity, he felt compelled to take the initiative.Luther drafted a series of ninety-five statements in Latin discussing indulgences, good works, repentance, and other topics, and invited interested scholars to debate with him.  According to Dr. Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s university colleague and author of the Augsburg Confession, Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the Castle Church on October 31st, 1517.  (This was not an act of defiance or provocation as is sometimes thought.  Since the Castle Church faced Wittenberg’s main thoroughfare, the church door functioned as a public bulletin board and was therefore the logical place for posting important notices.  Today, a professor might publish an article in a journal or post it on a web site.)  By posting his document on October 31st, the eve of the All Saints’ Day mass, Luther ensured that his Theses would come to the attention of the throngs of literate Wittenberg residents and educated visitors who filed into the Castle Church for worship the next day.Luther intended the Ninety-five Theses to initiate an academic discussion, not serve as the agenda for a major reform of the Catholic Church.  However, events soon overtook him.  Within weeks, the Theses were translated into German, reproduced using the new moveable-type printing press, and circulated throughout Germany.  It wasn’t long before they were the talk of Europe.  The publication of the Ninety-five Theses brought Luther to international attention and into direct conflict with the Roman Catholic hierarchy and the Holy Roman Emperor.  A little over three years later, he was excommunicated by the pope and declared a heretic and outlaw.  This was the beginning of the Reformation, the culmination of which was the writing of the Augsburg Confession of 1530, the first official Lutheran statement of faith.


WHAT IS THE LITURGICAL COLOR FOR REFORMATION DAY?Red is the liturgical color for this day.  Red reminds us of the Holy Spirit who descended on Christ’s followers in tongues of fire on Pentecost.  It was by the power of the Holy Spirit that Martin Luther came to learn the gospel.  The same Spirit moved him to post his Ninety-five Theses and inspired him and his colleagues to work toward the Reformation of the Christian church.


WHY IS REFORMATION DAY SUCH AN IMPORTANT CHRISTIAN FESTIVAL?Martin Luther and his colleagues came to understand that if we sinners had to earn salvation by our own merits and good works, we would be lost and completely without hope.  But through the working of the Holy Spirit, the reformers rediscovered the gospel — the wonderful news that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again to redeem and justify us.  As Luther wrote in his explanation of the Second Article of the Apostles’ CreedI believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.  This is most certainly true.On Reformation Day, we glorify God for what he accomplished in 16th century Germany through His servant, Dr. Martin Luther — the recovery of the gospel of salvation by grace through faith for Christ’s sake.  We also earnestly pray that God would keep all of us faithful to the true gospel and help us to joyfully declare it to the world.  This lovely hymn verse encapsulates the theme of our Reformation celebration:

By grace God’s Son, our only Savior,
Came down to earth to bear our sin.
Was it because of your own merit
That Jesus died your soul to win?
No, it was grace, and grace alone,
That brought Him from His heav’nly throne.

-Scott Bailey 2007

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Hearken to His Voice by Ray Stedman!

Posted by Scott on October 31, 2007

The Power of His Presence

Daily Devotions

From the Writings of Ray Stedman

Hearken To His Voice!

READ: Psalm 95:6-11

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts . . . (Psalm 95:7b-8a).

God speaks to us in this Psalm to tell us what it is that He essentially wants in worship, what makes worship true worship. It is that today we would listen to His voice! That is what He wants. He wants us to heed his voice–not just come together.

It is commendable for people to come to a church service, but the value of it soon vanishes if all we do is sit while our thoughts are elsewhere. The central fact of worship is to listen to the Word of God, the voice of God. That is why the exposition of Scripture must be the central thing in public worship. Those churches that have departed from this are making a travesty of worship. Worship must include listening to the voice of God, hearing what He has to say, and letting His Word correct our attitudes and our reactions. I wish it were possible for each of you to watch people during the hour of worship. Externally it looks as though you are all paying attention. You sit there quietly, with rapt, turned-up faces, your eyes open and staring straight ahead, apparently attracted by what the Word of God is saying. But having sat there myself, I know it is not always true. Some of you are playing golf. Others of you are rehearsing a business deal. Some of you are planning a trip. Some are going over a conversation you had two days ago. It would be fascinating at the end of a service to know where everybody has been! But God is desirous that whatever else you may do in a service, when His Word is speaking, listen! And not only listen, hearken! Hearken means to heed the Word, to do something about it, to let it really change you.

Hardening the heart is the exact opposite of hearkening to His voice. If you hearken to His voice, you are not hardening your heart. If you harden your hearts you are not hearkening to His voice. The two are mutually exclusive. He gives us an example of what He means by “hardening the heart.” It occurred shortly after the Israelites had come through the Red Sea and had journeyed only a week or two into the wilderness beyond. They came to a place where there was no water, and they all became thirsty. They had hardly had time to become very thirsty when the leaders of the people came to Moses and began to complain. “What are you doing? Leading us out into this wilderness to perish? Where is this God that is supposed to be taking care of us? Why hasn’t He provided water for us?” They demanded that God prove Himself again.

That, says God, is what it means to harden your heart. This is the problem God has with us. It disturbs God that people can come week after week and hear stirring and glowing reports of what He is doing in many lives and see the evident change that has come to many and experience the release and freedom He is bringing about in many hearts, and still, the minute anything goes wrong with them, they are ready to fall apart.

Lord, we pray that You will help us to hearken, to not be like the fathers of old who resisted You, vexed you, and grieved you for forty years

-Scott Bailey 2007

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-From A Dad: Clay in a Potters Hand!

Posted by Scott on October 31, 2007

potterpicinframe.gif

As the potter’s wheel turns slowly round and round he forms a magnificent vase that he will beautifully display his most precious flowers in as people enter his shop.  He carefully presses his fingers into the clay to create just the right indention’s and artwork within that clay vase.  Once finished with his most precious work he places that vase on the shelf in the front of his shop and picks some of the most beautiful wild flowers he had ever gazed upon to place in that vase.  Everyone that comes into his shop are in utter amazement at the beauty he has created, so much so it simply takes their breath away.  It draws them to want to see more of his magnificent creations.  People from all over come to see his handy work and desire him to make a beautiful vessel for them. 

Over in the corner of the shop is another vase that does not look very good.  It is cracked and chipped, but big enough for trash and ashes to be placed in on a daily basis.  When asked about that one, he simply replies that he used old dirty clay to make that large vessel as a trash can.  He stated it had little worth to him accept that it was for the purpose of trash.  Nothing more was said about that eye sore of a trash bin in the corner of the potter’s shop.

Many would ask how a creative potter could create that ugly trash vessel in the corner and also make such a beautiful piece of artistic wonder in the front shelf of the shop.  The potter simply  replied that he is the potter and can do with the clay as he wishes.  He said some of the vases are made to be instruments to attract more people to his shop.  He created them to be vessels with tremendous worth, but still to be used as he wished.  The other vessel he made just to be used around the shop for uses of his choosing and really to make the others look more wonderful.  Anyone that is not a potter need not question the potter about his creations and purposes…that is for the potter to know.

In Romans 9:16-21 we see such a story unveiled by Paul.  As he describes this example of a lump of clay in the hands of the potter it unveils a great theological truth.  Just as the potter chooses what he wishes to create and the outcome, so God chooses to whom He will have mercy on and those He wishes not to.  That lump of clay cannot and will not decide on its own what it shall become.  The potter will not set the clay on the wheel and wait for it to accept his design for it on its own.  The clay must be molded and shaped by the potter in order for it to become anything useful.  In this example the potter has complete control of what the cold lump of clay will become.  Will it be transformed into a beautiful vase so that world can see with their own eyes the magnificent work of the creative potter?  Will it become something that is simply to be destroyed?  This is for the potter to know and understand for he has predetermined for each vessel what it will become.

potters_hands_19.gif

16So then [God’s gift] is not a question of human will and human effort, but of God’s mercy. [It depends not on one’s own willingness nor on his strenuous exertion as in running a race, but on God’s having mercy on him.]

    17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, I have raised you up for this very purpose of displaying My power in [dealing with] you, so that My name may be proclaimed the whole world over.

    18So then He has mercy on whomever He wills (chooses) and He hardens (makes stubborn and unyielding the heart of) whomever He wills.

    19You will say to me, Why then does He still find fault and blame us [for sinning]? For who can resist and withstand His will?

    20But who are you, a mere man, to criticize and contradict and answer back to God? Will what is formed say to him that formed it, Why have you made me thus?(A)

    21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same mass (lump) one vessel for beauty and distinction and honorable use, and another for menial or ignoble and dishonorable use?

Romans 9:16-21  AMP

In Exodus 9:16 we witness another fabulous truth emerge.  God tells Pharaoh that He has kept him alive so that the entire world could see the mighty power and magnificent work of a sovereign and awesome God.  God cemented Pharaoh’s heart shut so that he would pursue the Israelites to the Red Sea and have no compassion towards them.  It was God’s intention all along to use Pharaoh to be at the exact place to show how mighty He really is.  Pharaoh was simply an ugly vase to be used to be destroyed in the end to show the more magnificent vase of His creation in His chosen people.  His honor and glory is what this is all about.  This is what our life is all about…His honor and glory.  This is very hard for many people to accept, but it is the facts, the truth of God’s word. 

 “But I have raised you up  for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”  -Exodus 9:16 NIV

The way in which God chooses to use His creation is not to be questioned.  Who are we to question our creator and His purposes?  For His chosen ones it is such an awesome and powerful event in our life to be called and drawn to the sovereign Lord.  What a tremendous feeling it is when we finally accept our salvation by the graciousness and mercifulness of God.  To be redeemed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is a moving reality for each us adopted into His family.  No greater love has ever been shown by anyone than this one act of sacrifice.  I found that I love Him because He first loved me.  Let me state that again…..I love Him because He first loved me.  He loved me first and so I can love Him.  I would never have loved Him or sought Him out because of my sinful nature from birth without Him choosing me first.

potterhands1.jpg

This is an amazing poetic truth that appears right in front of us in the pages of the scripture directly into our minds as we visualize a potter making his ware carefully and methodically for a purpose only he knows.  Time as we know it will tell the full story as to the eternity of our created vessel.  If you are reading this and find your heart beating fast and drawn to know God I encourage you to accept His son Jesus Christ as savior and Lord and began a life filled with pure joy of knowing our providential God personally. 

-Scott Bailey (c) 2007

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A Mighty Fortress is Our God” Hymns As Poetry!

Posted by Scott on October 31, 2007


“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”: Hymns As Poetry



by Martin Luther
Compiled by Tom Stewart


Part 1: The Poetry of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

1A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe —
His craft and pow’r are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
2

Did we in our own strength confide
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He —
Lord Sabaoth His name,
From age to age the same —
And He must win the battle.
3

And tho this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph thru us.
The prince of darkness grim —
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure —
One little word shall fell him.
4

That word above all earthly pow’rs —
No thanks to them abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Thru Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still —
His kingdom is forever.



Part 2: The Background of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”
Both the words and music of the hymn are by the Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther (1483-1546). Of the many translations of Luther’s hymn from the German language, the translation by Frederick H. Hedge (1805-1890) is used above. Martin Luther, the former Augustinian monk, led the Reformation away from the Church of Rome based upon the battle cry, “The just shall live by Faith” (Romans 1:17), in opposition to the human only, ex cathedra decrees of the Papacy. Luther’s confidence in the Power of Faith that comes from the Scriptures, i.e., “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17), was followed closely by his belief that the singing of hymns was most significant in motivating the Believer. He said, “With all my heart I would extol the precious gift of God in the noble art of music… Music is to be praised as second only to the Word of God because by her all the emotions are swayed.” It is said that Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” was sung by many an oppressed Christian as they were forced into exile or brought to their martyrdom. “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His Saints” (Psalm 116:15). Luther played the lute and paid his school fees through the money he earned singing in the streets of Eisenach. He later said, “The one who sings, prays double.”“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” (Ein’ fest Burg ist unser Gott) quickly became the Battle Hymn of the Reformation. Turning away from a music form dominated by the clergy of the Catholic Church, Luther placed the emphasis upon congregational singing. Hymn books were soon published from the newly introduced printing presses

(1450) of Johann Gutenberg (1400-1468). Luther’s first hymnal was introduced in 1524 with a total of eight hymns– half by Luther. Early congregational singing of the Reformation was in unison without accompaniment, but organ music was later added as an accompaniment to the chorale. Christian hymns, like the Scriptures, in the language of the people instead of Rome’s liturgical language of Latin, were published in tract form and distributed far and wide as a powerful tool of evangelizing the lost. “The LORD gave the Word: great was the company of those that published it” (Psalm 68:11). By 1529, the growing popularity of congregational singing necessitated Luther to update his hymn book in the form of Joseph Klug’s Geistliche Lieder auff neue gehessert, which included the first hymnal publication of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” He wrote at least 35 hymns. After Martin Luther’s famous appearance at the Diet of Worms (1521), i.e., “Here I stand, I can do no other,” he followed with a stay at Wartburg Castle under the protection of Frederick III of Saxony, where he completed the translation of the Greek New Testament manuscripts into German, giving birth to the New High German written language, as well. [See our article, “Babylon the Great (Part 2): The Reformation and the Church of RomeNew Window for an account of Martin Luther’s pivotal role in the Protestant Reformation.] Since Luther’s New Testament was published in 1522, it is most interesting that his hymnal appeared only two years later, and “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” saw its first hymnal publication only five years after that. “What hath God wrought!” (Numbers 23:23).When the cause of the Reformation seemed lost, it is said that Luther would turn to his close friend and colleague, Philipp Melancthon (1497-1560)— author of the Augsburg Confession– and say, “Let’s sing the Forty-sixth Psalm.” “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” is a paraphrase based upon Psalm 46. 1 God is our Refuge and Strength, a Very Present Help in Trouble. 2 Therefore will not we fear, though the Earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. 4 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the City of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. 6 The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: He uttered His voice, the Earth melted. 7 The LORD of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. 8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations He hath made in the Earth. 9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the Earth; He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; He burneth the chariot in the fire. 10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the Earth. 11 The LORD of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our Refuge. Selah” (Psalm 46:1-11).Part 3: The Scripture of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

FIRST STANZA

A mighty fortress is our God,

“God is our Refuge and Strength, a Very Present Help in Trouble” (Psalm 46:1).“The LORD is My Rock, and My Fortress, and My Deliverer; My God, My Strength, in Whom I will trust; My Buckler, and the Horn of My Salvation, and My High Tower” (Psalm 18:2).

A bulwark never failing;

“In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks (Isaiah 26:1).

Our helper He amid the flood

“So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and His Glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:19).

Of mortal ills prevailing.

“He will keep the feet of His Saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail (1Samuel 2:9).

For still our ancient foe

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1Peter 5:8).

Doth seek to work us woe

9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? 10 Hast not Thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. 11 But put forth Thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse Thee to Thy face” (Job 1:9-11).“And I heard a loud voice saying in Heaven, Now is come Salvation, and Strength, and the Kingdom of our God, and the Power of His Christ: for the accuser of our Brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10).

His craft and pow’r are great,

5 And the Devil, taking Him up into an high mountain, shewed unto Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the Devil said unto Him, All this power will I give Thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. 7 If Thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be Thine” (Luke 4:5-7).“Put on the Whole Armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil” (Ephesians 6:11).

And armed with cruel hate,

“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18).

On earth is not his equal.

“In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the Glorious Gospel of Christ, Who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2Corinthians 4:4). “Ye are of God, Little Children, and have overcome them: because greater is He [Christ] that is in you, than he [Satan] that is in the world (1John 4:4).SECOND STANZA

Did we in our own strength confide

“By strength shall no man prevail” (1Samuel 2:9).

Our striving would be losing,

1 Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of Me; and that cover with a covering, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin: 2 That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at My Mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt! 3 Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion (Isaiah 30:1-3).

Were not the right Man on our side,

11 For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of One: for which cause He [Christ] is not ashamed to call them Brethren, 12 Saying, I will declare Thy [the Father’s] Name unto My Brethren, in the midst of the Church will I sing praise unto Thee” (Hebrews 2:11-12).

The Man of God’s own choosing.

“Behold My Servant [Christ], Whom I have chosen; My Beloved, in Whom My Soul is well pleased: I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He shall shew judgment to the Gentiles” (Matthew 12:18).

Dost ask who that may be?

Who art thou, Lord?” (Acts 9:5).

Christ Jesus, it is He —

“And the LORD said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5).

Lord Sabaoth His name,

“And as Esaias said before, Except the LORD of Sabaoth [LORD of the armies] had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha” (Romans 9:29).

From age to age the same

“For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6).“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).

And He must win the battle.

13 And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His Name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which were in Heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 And out of His Mouth goeth a Sharp Sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And He hath on His Vesture and on His Thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:13-16).
THIRD STANZA

And tho this world, with devils filled,

2 And he opened the Bottomless Pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. 3 And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the Earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the Earth have power. 4 And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the Earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads” (Revelation 9:2-4).

Should threaten to undo us,

“Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me” (Micah 7:8).

We will not fear, for God hath willed

Fear not, Abram: I am Thy Shield, and Thy Exceeding Great Reward” (Genesis 15:1).

His truth to triumph thru us.

“He shall send from Heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth His Mercy and His Truth (Psalm 57:3).4 Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of the Truth. Selah. 5 That Thy beloved may be delivered; save with Thy Right Hand, and hear me” (Psalm 60:4-5).

The prince of darkness grim —

“Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the Prince of the Power of the Air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2).

We tremble not for him;

3 And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; 4 For the LORD your God is He that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (Deuteronomy 20:3-4).

His rage we can endure,

“No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their Righteousness is of Me, saith the LORD” (Isaiah 54:17).

For lo! his doom is sure —

“And the Devil that deceived them was cast into the Lake of Fire and Brimstone, where the Beast and the False Prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).

One little word shall fell him.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).FOURTH STANZA

That word above all earthly pow’rs —

13 And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His Name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which were in Heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 And out of His Mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And He hath on His Vesture and on His Thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:13-16).

No thanks to them abideth;

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1John 2:15).

The Spirit and the gifts are ours

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).

Thru Him who with us sideth.

“The LORD is with you, while ye be with Him; and if ye seek Him, He will be found of you” (2Chronicles 15:2).

Let goods and kindred go,

26 If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple. 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26-27, 33).

This mortal life also;

“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my LORD: for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

The body they may kill:

7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the Beast that ascendeth out of the Bottomless Pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. 11 And after three days and an half the Spirit of Life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them” (Revelation 11:7, 11).

God’s truth abideth still —

“For the Truth‘s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever (2John 2).

His kingdom is forever.

“Thine, O LORD is the Greatness, and the Power, and the Glory, and the Victory, and the Majesty: for all that is in the Heaven and in the Earth is Thine; Thine is the Kingdom, O LORD, and Thou art exalted as Head above all” (1Chronicles 29:11).“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:13).

“Now unto the King Eternal, Immortal, Invisible, the Only Wise God, be Honour and Glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1Timothy 1:17). 15 Which in His times He shall shew, Who is the Blessed and Only Potentate, the KING of Kings, and LORD of Lords; 16 Who only hath Immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; Whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to Whom be Honour and Power Everlasting. Amen.” (1Timothy 6:15-16).Amen, and Amen.

-Scott Bailey 2007

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The Birth of the Emerging Church & One World Religion!

Posted by Scott on October 30, 2007

Faith Undone -“The Birth of the Emerging Church”

“Contrary to what many believe, the current emerging church movement was not initiated by a group of disillusioned young people who people were tired of organized religion and could only afford to meet in old coffee houses and run-down basements.”

1950’s: The emerging church was conceived by successful business guru, Peter Drucker. Drucker was greatly influenced by existential philosopher and Soren Kiekegaard and a student of philosopher, Martin Buber.

1957: Drucker wrote a book called, “Landmarks of Tomorrow”, speaking about the postmodern society that is on the horizon. Words like “purpose,” “emergent”, “new frontiers” and “disciplines” filled the pages.

Late 1960’s: Two new youth workers under Youth For Christ , Mike Yaconelli and Wayne Rice, wanted to change the way youth ministry was viewed and approached. They published a small book called “Ideas” and held their first conference in the 1970’s. They called the company Youth Specialties.

To read more on this article go to Faith Undone to read more.

-Scott Bailey 2007

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-From A Dad: Teach n Preach the Word!

Posted by Scott on October 30, 2007

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I heard a great quote the other day…”We spend more time and effort trying to achieve  behavioral modification than preaching the true gospel.”  I think this unknown persons quote is dead center to most church programs today.  Our kids programs, youth programs and adult programs are mostly geared toward changing a persons behavior rather than letting God’s word make the changes in that persons life as He wants.  Remember He is the potter not us. 

“Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same mass (lump) one vessel for beauty and distinction and honorable use, and another for menial or ignoble and dishonorable use?”   -Romans 9:21 AMP

An observation from the sidelines on different children and youth ministries I have witnessed over the years in different churches is they are trying to feminize the boys by attempting to change their God given behaviors into that of a more feminine behavior, encourage the girls independence to be liberated with no real need for a man in their lives, and focusing on behavioral issues with less focus on the God’s words and direction.  God can instruct any age if we will simply teach it and preach it.  God wants His people to use the authority of His scripture to teach/preach rather than philosophies of the world dressed up like it is from God. 

” And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day.”  So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them.”  –Nehemiah 8:11-13 NLT

Can we truly expect kids, youth or unchurched adults to change their behavior without giving them the foundations God’s word provides?  The Israelites weeped and celebrated when they heard the word of God spoken to them.  It is not up to the church to change the behavior of anyone….this is the work of the Holy Spirit alone.  I believe many of the problems the church has today stems from this prospective.  I would challenge any children’s, youth or adult program that is not deeply entrenched in teaching God’s word in its entirety to move in that direction.  Give it 6 months to a year to see how the lives of those taught in this manner are changed.  You will have some that feel it boring and not effective….those are simply not interested in knowing God more divinely.  However, as the Holy Spirit is able to take the word of God deep into the craniums of His people you will see dramatic changes as that moves into their hearts.  The devotion to Christ will not remain on the surface, but will be intentional and fervent in their desire for a closer relationship with God.  God’s tells us that His word will not return void.  Who can resist the grace and mercy of a sovereign God…not one that He calls out personally can resist.

The plight of the Christian church today has moved dramatically in a heresy direction.  The music no longer draws people to Christ, but actually drives people deeper into an emotional roller coaster in their spiritual lives with little to no theology in the words of the music at all.  The preaching is no longer from the entire word of God, but only the positive parts that give you the warm fuzzies and preach that we are all to be prosperous.  Scripture is quoted minimally throughout these messages if at all or as it fits the speakers need.  The feel good messages with no substance will drive those seeking a deep relationship with God to continue their search…these churches will be filled with those that want to be spiritual, but must come back each week to get their constantly empty tanks filled with the toxic milky oratations spewed by preachers and teachers that call themselves an authority in God’s word without speaking God’s word.  They will not find it in most mega-churches today.  I say most, because I cannot put them all into that catagory.  I attend a large church that is firmly based a on the word of God and the music is glorifying to God full of the theology of God’s word.  This brings us to the children and youth programs that have been hijacked by behavioral modification programs with little to no bible time at all.  These kids and youth will be the ones to lead the church in the future.  This will be an absolute train wreck in about 10 years unless there is a shift in our churches lack of theology and doctrine belief.  God’s truth found in His word is the sole foundation for any church to teach and preach upon…love, positiveness, war, death, sin, martyrs, heaven, and hell are all a part of the Bible.

In conclusion, I can see a tremendous shift back to the Calvinistic way of believing God’s word which is the uninhibited truth of God’s word.  We must take all things pertaining to the work of the authentic church out of mans hands and place it back into the awesome hand of our sovereign God. 

Fact:  God does not need us, but He chooses to use us for His greater purposes. 

Fact:  God wills to save whom He chooses. 

Fact:  God is a providential God.

Fact:  God will grow His church His way not according to mans dreams, programs, and thinking. 

Fact:  God has a divine plan for all of His chosen people. 

Fact:  That plan of God is our predestination. 

Fact:  No one can resist the sovereign will of God.

Fact:  God sets Kings, Presidents, and Rulers in their places for His purposes…politics has absolutely no baring upon God’s great plan.

God tells Pharoah, “But for this very purpose I have let you live, that I might show you My power and that My name may be declared throughout all the earth.”  -Exodus 9:16

He placed Pharoah on the throne and allowed him to live long enough to fulfill God’s purpose of might and power in the salvation of His people.

Folks, bring the church back to the truth of God’s word.  Preach it in its entirety.  Don’t pick through the Bible those sections which you think people need to hear and skip over the sections which you think might affend.  His word will be offensive if preached in it entirety, however, the Holy Spirit can use that offense to draw His people into the family of God.

-Scott Bailey (c) 2007

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American Heritage on Halloween!

Posted by Scott on October 29, 2007

HALLOWEEN

From its birth in pagan transactions with the dead to the current marketing push to make it a “seasonal experience,” America’s fastest-growing holiday has a history far older (and far stranger) than does Christmas itself

by Ellen Feldman

In 1517 Martin Luther took a stand on it. In 1926 Houdini made his final exit on it. In 1938 Orson Welles perpetrated a national hoax on it. Today 70 percent of American households open their doors to strangers on it, 50 percent take photographs on it, and the nation drops more than six billion dollars celebrating it. The night is Halloween, of course, and the history of its rise is as unlikely as any ghost story. Halloween has become the darling of American holidays. Only Christmas outearns it. Only New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl Sunday outparty it.

The festival was not always so lighthearted. For the Celts of ancient Britain, Scotland, Ireland, and northern France, November 1 marked the end of harvest, the return of herds from the pasture, the time of what was known in folk wisdom as “the light that loses, the night that wins,” and the start of the new year. It was also the festival of Samhain, who may or may not, depending on the source, have been the god of the dead but who remains a favorite of modern witches, neo-pagans, and fans of Walt Disney’s 1940 film Fantasia. On October 31, the last night of the old year, spirits of the deceased were thought to roam the land, visiting their loved ones, looking for eternal rest, or raising hell. They particularly liked to wreak havoc on crops. They were also capable of revealing future marriages and windfalls, and illnesses and deaths. It was incumbent upon the living, therefore, to welcome them home with food and drink, to propitiate the grudges they might still be carrying, or to light bonfires and carry lanterns made from hollowed-out turnips carved into frightening faces to keep them away. The bonfires also came in handy for immolating vegetable, animal, and human sacrifices to Samhain. In other words, anything might happen on this hallowed night, or, given the sketchy state of modern scholarship about ancient Druid practices, we can easily imagine anything happening. Most accounts of the Celtic origins of Halloween, including this one, should be taken with a pumpkin seed of skepticism. About all we can be certain of is that some festival marked the onset of the long, cold northern winter when living conditions grew raw, food was scarce, and many died.

THE NEW IRISH SLIPPED INTO COSTUMES AND WENT HOUSE TO HOUSE SOLICITING HANDOUTS.

By the first century A.D., Rome had conquered Celtic lands, Romans and Celts were living cheek by jowl in small villages, and Pomona, the Roman goddess of orchards and the harvest, whose festival was celebrated on November 1, was cohabiting happily with Samhain. But if the Romans, who associated Pomona with the apple and therefore with love and fertility, lent the macabre Celtic festival sex appeal, the church gave it an air of respectability and a new name. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III, acting on the theory that if you can’t beat paganism, which was still rife throughout Christendom, you’d better join it, moved All Saints’ Day (which had been consecrated the century before when the number of saints outstripped the days of the year), from May 13 to November 1. The night before became Allhallows Eve, or Hallowe’en, and the old Celtic practices became Christian pieties. Instead of appeasing spirits with food and wine, villagers gave “soul cakes” to poor people who promised to pray for departed relatives. Instead of dressing up as animals or spirits to frighten away the dead, parishioners of churches that couldn’t afford genuine relics dressed up as saints. As the church militant marched around the globe, its hybrid Celtic-Roman-Christian celebration chased after it like a faintly disreputable but fun-loving camp follower. It was one of the many church practices that incited Martin Luther to action. Whether Luther chose October 31 to nail his theses to the church door to protest the practice of purchasing indulgences or to take advantage of the crowds that would be out on a festival eve—or whether, in fact, he ever actually nailed anything anywhere (and modern scholarship is beginning to doubt that he did)—tradition has him hammering on Halloween.

The Reformation’s abolition of saints’ days should have put an end to the celebration of Allhallows Eve in Protestant countries, but the festival that had survived Roman invasion and Christian conquest had gained too firm a hold on popular imagination and practice. In 1606, when the British Parliament declared November 6 a day of national thanksgiving for the foiling of the plot by the Catholic revolutionary Guy Fawkes to blow up the Protestant House of Lords the year before, the new holiday, coming just five days after the old, took on many of Halloween’s trappings while assuming an anti-Catholic and anti-Popish flavor. Bonfires lit the autumn evening, revelers carried lanterns of hollowed-out turnips carved into grotesque faces, and no one worried too much about the rationale for celebrating the quickening of a crisp new season.

But what was acceptable in the Old World was anathema in the New. The colonies were, of course, a patchwork of customs. From its earliest days, Catholic Maryland celebrated All-hallows Eve, and Anglican Virginia, by allowing the celebration of saints’ days, simply put the stamp of approval on what its subjects were already doing. But New England soil was notoriously hostile to holidays. Early Northern settlers did not even celebrate Christmas; indeed, only three occasions—muster day, election day, and the Harvard commencement—merited official recognition until a new holiday, Thanksgiving, began to find its way onto the New England calendar during the 16705. Despite the best efforts of Puritan church officials, however, New England settlers refused to relinquish Guy Fawkes Day. In 1685 Judge Samuel Sewall noted in his diary, “Friday night being fair, about two hundred hallowed about a fire on the Comon.” Almost a century later, costumed young men and boys paraded with “Guys” or “popes” of straw for the bonfire, and John Adams wrote, “Punch, wine, bread and cheese, apples, pipes, tobacco and Popes and bonfires this evening at Salem, and a swarm of tumultuous people attending.” Soon Britain’s day of thanksgiving was getting mixed up with the colonies’ drive for independence, as New Englanders burned effigies of the Stamp Man along with those of the Pope and the devil.

The New England celebration of Guy Fawkes Day rather than Allhallows Eve had to do with more than Puritan hatred of Catholic habits. Halloween still retained many of its pagan associations with the spirit world, and nothing struck fear in the Puritan heart so forcefully as witchcraft. New England led the way in persecuting witches, but every colony prescribed a punishment for the use of magic, and there was a reason for, if not a rationality to, the laws. In the colonies, astrological almanacs outsold Bibles.

As the new nation grew and sprawled, its far-flung citizens sought occasions for community celebrations. In the fall, families came together to husk corn, pare apples, and make sugar and sorghum. Soon these task-oriented gatherings gave way to “play parties,” which promised nothing more than a good time. Revelers told stories, traded gossip, and—though many churches forbade dancing and that instrument of the devil, the fiddle—shouted, sang, and clapped while they swung their partners round in the first American square dances. Perhaps most important to farm families living at great distances from one another, these gatherings brought together men and women of marriageable age. Play parties were not a direct descendant of Halloween; they did not occur on any particular night, had no religious affiliation, and were more concerned with producing future generations than with honoring or placating past ones. But they did keep alive certain Halloween traditions, such as telling ghost tales and divining future romance with apples and nuts, so that when a new wave of immigrants arrived, the old holiday customs they brought with them didn’t seem quite so alien. In the wake of the famine of 1820 and the even harsher devastation beginning in 1846, more than a million Irish Catholics arrived in the urban areas of North America. Starved and penniless, they brought little with them beyond their traditions. Though they celebrated All Saints’ Day, they gave over its eve to more pagan practices. Irish girls peeled apples, roasted nuts, unraveled yarn, stared into mirrors, dipped their hands into a series of bowls while blindfolded, cooked dinners in silence, and played with fire to find out whether and whom they would marry. In place of the turnips they had used at home, revelers carved out indigenous pumpkins to light the way as they went from house to house. Instead of dressing up as saints in church parades and begging for soul cakes in return for prayer, these new urban Irish slipped into secular costumes and went from house to house, soliciting handouts.

Where there were Irish on Halloween, there were often “little people” who had a tendency toward vandalism, and although most Irish immigrants had settled in the cities, the tradition of Mischief Night spread quickly through rural areas. On October 31, young men roamed the countryside looking for fun, and on November 1, farmers would arise to find wagons on barn roofs, front gates hanging from trees, and cows in neighbors’ pastures. Any prank having to do with an outhouse was especially hilarious, and some students of Halloween maintain that the spirit went out of the holiday when plumbing moved indoors.

Despite a strong Irish influence, in the years after the Civil War Halloween practices still varied widely throughout the country. Witches roamed among the Scottish and German settlers of Appalachia, and Halloween was their special night. In the South, voodoo customs associated the holiday with witchcraft, charms, and deceased ancestors. Southwesterners celebrated a joyous Day of the Dead by taking food, drink, flowers, and candles to the graves of loved ones at midnight on November 1 and staying till the sun rose the next morning.

But America was becoming a more uniform nation. Railroads, the telegraph, and magazines were blurring sectional differences. In 1871 women in every part of the country, at least women of the middle class, opened their issues of Godey’s Lady’s Book and read one of the first articles published about Halloween. Other magazines and newspapers followed with stories, poems, illustrations, and suggestions for celebrations. But a funny thing happened to Halloween on its way to national prominence. It severed its ties with restless spirits, destructive pranks, and, perhaps most important, working-class Irish Catholic traditions and became a proper Victorian lady—safe, sinless, and romantically inclined. By the end of the century, it was so intimately associated with polite social gatherings and innocent amorous pursuits that celebrants were hanging mistletoe on October 31.

IT IS A PLASTIC HOLIDAY, MOLDED AND MAULED TO SERVE EACH GENERATION.

Halloween entered the twentieth century stripped of occult associations and religious significance. Populist city fathers with boosterish hearts, alert for ways to promote community spirit and Americanize a motley immigrant population, recognized its potential. Allentown, Pennsylvania, sponsored the first annual Halloween parade, and in 1921 Anoka, Minnesota, held the first citywide party. Halloween had left the parlor, taken to the streets, and discovered its nationality. Shortly after World War I, a young Ernest Hemingway wrote a sketch in which the hero, lying wounded in an Italian hospital, hears the sound of the armistice celebration and remembers neither the Fourth of July nor, despite the November date, Thanksgiving, but Halloween at home.

Now that the holiday had got another whiff of fresh air, the scene was set for the practice that more than any other symbolizes contemporary Halloween. Medieval villagers had begged soul cakes and Irish immigrants had extorted handouts, but not until the 1920s did costumed children begin going from door to door to trick-or-treat. One of the first mentions of the practice appears in a 1920 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal, and by the 1950s it was an established ritual, although one Depression-bred student of the subject insists that in North Dakota in 1935 no one had ever heard of it and chides later generations for having “sold their rights to rebellion for some sugar in expensive wrappings.”

Not all the young made such a craven deal, however. If the Victorian age had denatured the more raffish aspects of the holiday, it had not wholly obliterated them. While some youths had lingered under the mistletoe in the parlor, others had continued to roam the countryside on the lookout for unguarded livestock or remaining outhouses, and even today many law-abiding males of a certain age remember that dressing up and going from house to house was fine for girls, but boys were looking for trouble. Many of them found it. As families moved to the city, the old purportedly innocent high jinks gave way to more serious vandalism. Youths slashed tires, stole gas caps, and rang false fire alarms, all in the spirit of good fun. In Queens, New York, in 1939, a thousand windows were broken.

Just as city officials were trying to find ways to channel all this youthful energy into constructive civic action, like raking lawns and mending fences, America entered World War II, and pranks and vandalism became sabotage and treason. The Chicago City Council abolished Halloween and called on the mayor to make October 31 Conservation Day. “Letting air out of tires isn’t fun anymore,” wrote the superintendent of the Rochester, New York, schools. “It’s sabotage. Soaping windows isn’t fun this year. Your government needs soaps and greases for the war…. Even ringing doorbells has lost its appeal because it may mean disturbing the sleep of a tired war worker who needs his rest.”

After V-J Day, children went back to trick-or-treating, youths to making trouble, and civic leaders to trying to head it off with community celebrations. Then, in 1950, a group of students from a Philadelphia-area Sunday school sent the $17 they had collected trick-or-treating to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and another holiday tradition was born. A newly rich and powerful America celebrated Halloween by lending a helping hand to less fortunate peoples around the world. But as the certainties of the fifties gave way to the rebellions of the sixties, which many Americans didn’t experience until the seventies, an innocent holiday became an opportunity for tragic accidents. In 1970 a five-year-old boy died from eating heroin, supposedly laced through his Halloween candy but actually filched from his uncle’s stash; a number of other scares, most of them unfounded, followed; and trick-or-treating began to decline. In the late 1980S, however, as President Reagan’s “morning in America” headed toward high noon, costumed children began venturing back onto the streets, and by 1999, 92 percent of America’s children were trick-or-treating. In fact, the spirit and intentions of the old pagan holiday of darkness had finally become so sunny that an affluent Indiana suburb began busing in less well-to-do children to share the goodies. Unfortunately, a glut of less affluent trick-or-treaters roaming the well-kept lawns soon led residents to move Halloween to another night, advertised only in the community association’s newsletter.) On a more entrepreneurial note, in 1987 a Canadian good neighbor began handing out stocks to the first 100 trick-or-treaters who showed up, some of whom, once the word was out, traveled more than 200 miles to beef up their portfolios. When the shares took a downturn as the rest of the market soared, the financial Good Samaritan began questioning the values he was fostering and put an end to the practice.

Halloween is a plastic holiday. Lacking the religious foundations of Christmas, Easter, and their cousins from other cultures, or the patriotic underpinnings of Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, or even the single-minded sentimentality of the synthetic Mother’s Day (hatched by Anna Jarvis, an unmarried childless woman who never got over having abandoned her mother for a career, and subsequently seized upon by the flower, telegraph, and greeting-card industries), Halloween could be mauled and molded to fit the needs of each generation. Puritans, intent on survival in a new world and salvation in the next, ignored it. A hard-pressed immigrant population let off steam in its honor. A Victorian society tamed it. World Wars I and II and even Vietnam undermined it. And a newly powerful postwar nation gave it a social conscience. Even the masquerades chosen commented on the era in which they were worn. In 1973 Time magazine reported that first prize for the most frightening costume at a Halloween party went to a child wearing a Richard Nixon mask, and, in 1986, 49 schoolteachers marched as Imelda Marcos’s shoes. But perhaps the most significant sign of the times is contemporary Halloween’s strenuous consumerism.

The process, though recently accelerated, began almost a century and a half ago. In the decades following the Civil War, the American business community stopped viewing holidays as impediments to production and began recognizing their potential as incentives to consumption. In 1897 one of the leading trade papers of the time, the Dry Goods Economist, bemoaned those out-of-date entrepreneurs who still regarded “holidays as an unavoidable nuisance” resulting in “the loss of trade.” Three years later, the Dry Goods Chronicle urged its readers: “Never let a holiday… escape your attention, provided it is capable of making your store better known or increasing the value of its merchandise.” Advertisers took up the cry by promoting seasonal campaigns.

Though Halloween, compared with some of the more traditional holidays, was a slow starter in the race to commercial prominence, its fixed time slot, unlike the wandering Easter and Thanksgiving, and its established icons, such as jack-o’-lanterns, witches, and black cats, ultimately made it a marketer’s dream. Of the six billion dollars raked in on the holiday today, almost two go for sweets. Costumes account for between a billion and a billion and a half. The remaining sum buys decorations and food and drink for friends, but if you think that means some apples for bobbing, a pumpkin from your nearby road stand, and a cardboard skeleton with crepe-paper limbs, you’re hopelessly out-of-date.

Americans buy enough Coors beer for their Halloween parties to increase seasonal sales 10 percent. A Syncromotion Skeletal Grim Reaper, which talks and sings, sells for $199.95; a Fog Master to give lawns that haunted look, $99.95. In addition to the products, there are the promotions. In the mid-nineties, companies decided to make Halloween not just a “candy occasion” but a “seasonal experience.” The results of this process include orange and black Rice Krispies, a drinking straw twisted around a plastic eyeball at Taco Bell, and a free trip to Alcatraz for the lucky winner who has purchased a Barq’s root beer. When Nabisco began filling Oreos with orange rather than white cream, demand for the garish result increased cookie production by 50 percent. The movie industry has long mined the potential of the holiday, but recently studio competition has become fiercer as Universal and Disney theme parks duel for the Halloween dollar, with Universal selling beer, blood, and gore and Disney sticking to its clean-cut image and offering discounts to entice the youngest Halloween revelers.

One cultural critic argues commercialization of the holiday has gone so far that when he made an informal study by asking his local trick-or-treaters what they would do if he said “trick,” 83.3 percent of the admittedly small and unscientific sample that rang his doorbell answered, “I don’t know.” The rite was simply “a rehearsal for consumership without a rationale. Beyond the stuffing of their pudgy stomachs, they didn’t know why they were filling their shopping bags.”

Even community festivities have become big business. What started in 1973 in New York City’s Greenwich Village as a small parade organized by a puppeteer and theater director and grew into a riotous celebration of gay life has become a commercial enterprise that attracts tens of thousands of participants, more than a million spectators, and scores of international film and television crews, and pumps $60 million into the local economy.

The popularity of the parade as well as similar, if less splashy, parties in San Francisco, Georgetown, and Key West, to name only a few places, points up another contemporary change in Halloween. Although children still claim the night, adults are once again taking it over. The Victorians dedicated the holiday to decorous romance; our less restrained age makes it an occasion for wild parties, heavy drinking, and, often, sexual exhibitionism. The beer and liquor industries blitz the media with ads. Men and women spend small fortunes and long hours dressing or undressing as their favorite fantasies. While juvenile celebrations become more controlled, with parents vigilant against excessive sugar consumption shepherding their children from house to house, adult festivities grow more licentious.

They also grow more violent. In San Francisco in 1994, when gay bashers invaded the annual Castro Street revel, police officers donned riot gear, dodged bottles, detained nearly a hundred people, and confiscated several loaded guns. In Detroit between 1990 and 1996, 485 properties went up in flames on Halloween Eve, which is known there as Devil’s Night. In New York a decade ago, a group of costumed teenagers descended on a homeless camp with knives, bats, and a meat cleaver, shouting, “Trick or treat,” and leaving one dead and nine injured. One of Halloween’s chief attractions—slipping into a mask to slip out of constraints—has turned deadly. Sometimes the violence isn’t intentional. Last year in Los Angeles, a policeman summoned to a noisy party shot and killed an actor brandishing a fake weapon.

AS JUVENILE CELEBRATIONS BECOME MORE CONTROLLED, ADULT ONES GROW MORE LICENTIOUS.

A more subtle sort of violence is the damage done to young psyches. In 1911 Sears advertised wigs, masks, and makeup to enable children to play at being “Negro”—“the funniest and most laughable outfit ever sold.” Feathered headdresses were always a favorite of small boys, and in my own youth I remember being wildly envious of a friend’s harem costume. My mother, whose political consciousness was insufficiently raised but whose sartorial sense was finely honed, may have put her foot down for the wrong reason, but as current critics have pointed out, there is something offensive about pampered American children playing at being members of oppressed minorities and natives of Third World countries.

The greatest opposition to Halloween today, however, comes not from fearful parents, politically correct posses, or the foes of consumerism but from the religious right. Christian conservatives see the holiday as nothing less than the celebration of Satan and have set out to exorcise it. Some churches stage “trunk or treat” parties: Parishioners in the parking lot hand out candy from the trunks of their cars and invite children to step into the church for a party. A less benign custom is the dramatized glimpse of hell. Congregations stage “mortality plays” featuring teenage girls undergoing bloody abortions, AIDS victims dying agonizing and unredeemed deaths, and businessmen who didn’t have time for Jesus burning in hell. In 1996 The Wall Street Journal reported that some 300 variations of these lurid portrayals of the wages of sin were intimidating more than 700,000 potentially savable souls, and the number was still growing.

But if the religious right would like to do away with Halloween, mainstream America wants to expand it. One method is the mailing of the holiday. Merchants dress up their stores and salespeople and invite children into the mall to celebrate. Parents, fearing sabotaged treats and possible violence elsewhere, gladly deliver their progeny to temperature control and security patrols. The message is clear: You may not be able to trust your neighbor but you can put your faith in your local Starbucks.

Over the years Halloween has shown an enduring malleability and a terrierlike tenacity to survive religious persecution, class prejudice, Victorian politesse, and consumerist inflation. Still, all the adaptability and advertising and marketing in the world couldn’t keep Halloween alive if Americans weren’t yearning for what it has to offer. Candy Day, energetically touted in the early part of the twentieth century, never sent the nation out to buy boxes of sweets for loved ones on the second Saturday in October. Why have Americans, so admirably skeptical and adamantly opposed to adopting other holidays, taken to their hearts this originally scary, often silly festival? Many say it reminds them of their childhood, which baby boomers are notoriously reluctant to relinquish. And maybe it reminds some others of the childhood they wish they’d had. Since people don’t go home for Halloween as they do for Thanksgiving and Christmas, there is less likelihood of parental disappointment, sibling squabbles, free-floating depression, and the other symptoms of the disquiet we are told afflicts America’s families. Moreover, though recently cornered by adults, Halloween is still identified with children, and while our society may quarrel over the expensive realities of raising children, like health care and education, it cherishes the idea of childhood. But perhaps the greatest attraction of the holiday is that it no longer has any reason for being. It is not a night to worship the God of our choice, honor the dead, celebrate the nation’s past, take stock for the future, or woo a loved one. It is simply an occasion for fun. Organized activities permit safe and sanitized rebellion. Costumes camouflage identity, blur status, and change gender. Masks provide a moral holiday.

For one night a year, we can act out whims and realize fantasies. Men can be women, children adults, milquetoasts heroes, good girls bad, devils saints, and vice versa. For a single night we all can star in the roles of our choice. The secret of Halloween’s success is that it is more than a holiday. It is a brief and titillating vacation from our lives and ourselves.

Ellen Feldman’s study of divorce in America appeared in the November 2000 issue.

-Scott Bailey 2007

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What do Celtic Festivals, All Saint’s Day and Halloween have in common?

Posted by Scott on October 29, 2007

Festival of Fears
What do Celtic festivals, All Saint’s Days, and Halloween celebrations have in common?
by Elesha Coffman

According to New York Newsday columnist Ellis Henican, just about everybody is protesting Halloween this year: “Interest groups left and right—Christian, Muslim and Wiccan—are finding new reasons to be outraged about Halloween. Fundamentalist Christians warn the celebration promotes devil worship. Prudes and feminists say the costumes have gotten too risque. Civil-rights groups complain that too many Halloween ghosts resemble lynching victims. Even the witches feel aggrieved …”

Protests are nothing new, but if history teaches us anything, we shouldn’t expect them to stick. As Ellen Feldman once noted in American Heritage magazine, “Halloween is a plastic holiday … mauled and molded to fit the needs of each generation.”

Halloween has its roots in Samhain, an ancient Celtic festival. Despite claims by modern Wiccans and Druids to have recreated lost rites, no one really knows what happened during Samhain. It’s likely that Celts repelled the foreboding caused by lengthening nights, falling temperatures, and withering plants, plus serious belief in supernatural evil, with bonfires, human and/or vegetable sacrifices, and scary costumes.

The grisly aspects of Celtic fall festivities were tempered somewhat by the arrival of the Romans, whose harvest-time celebrations of the goddess Pomona emphasized fertility and love. The Catholic church, however, was hardly impressed with this “improvement.”

Taking the “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” position that had worked reasonably well with formerly pagan Christmas, eighth-century Pope Gregory III decided to baptize Samhain, retaining some customs but radically redefining their focus. Gregory moved All Saints’, or Hallows’, Day from May 13 to November 1 (which made October 31 All Hallows’ Eve, i.e. Hallowe’en) and instructed revelers to dress as saints instead of evil spirits. Goodies that once had been offered to propitiate wandering devils were instead offered to poor people, who in turn vowed to pray for the souls of departed relatives.

Protestants, wary of both saints and praying for the dead, have never been too sanguine about Halloween. New England Puritans banned the celebration altogether, along with Easter and Christmas. Though the Catholic Maryland and Anglican Virginia colonies retained some Halloween customs, most of the holiday’s traditional Celtic elements (including nighttime pranks and asking for food handouts) didn’t come to this side of the Atlantic until massive Irish immigration in the nineteenth century.

Mainstream Halloween celebrations in the Victorian era were generally tame and devoid of occult overtones. Instead of pulling pranks or haunting neighborhoods, young people chatted and flirted in festooned parlors. By the beginning of the twentieth century, some towns had gone so far as to make Halloween primarily a civic affair, complete with parades and block parties. When trick-or-treating became widely popular, in the 1950s, most participants knew of neither the Celtic nor the Catholic rationales behind the practice.

Halloween’s multiple identities may stem from its role as a screen for projected anxieties. Samhain gave ancient agrarians a way to address fears about death and darkness, while medieval Halloween played on fears about the state of loved ones’ souls. Candy handouts in twentieth-century America grew out of genuine concern to avert harmful high-jinks.

Costume choices provide a particularly interesting peek at cultural concerns. Sue Ellen Thompson’s 1998 book Holiday Symbols points out that during the Great Depression, “children often disguised themselves as hobos, burglars, pirates, and Indians—in other words, as economic and social outcasts, symbolic of the troubles from which their parents were struggling to escape.” Time magazine’s pick for the scariest costume of 1973 was a Nixon mask. In the 1980s, kids often emulated characters from TV, movies, and even ads in an attempt to be “cool” by consumer standards. After 9/11 popular costumes covered fresh wounds, as children and adults opted for representations of order (firemen, policemen, and soldiers) and patriotism (Uncle Sam, the Statue of Liberty, Abraham Lincoln).

I’m not going to get into the debate about whether Christians should go with the Halloween flow or propose wholesome alternatives. The holiday (and the surrounding protests) marks a useful moment to take stock of the anxieties in our culture, which will still weigh upon us after the pumpkins give way to turkeys and wreaths.

The American Heritage Halloween article is online here.

Elesha Coffman is former managing editor of Christian History & Biography.

-Scott Bailey 2007

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-From A Dad: God Has a Predestination For Your Life!

Posted by Scott on October 26, 2007

God has always had a plan for your life…Predestination is in simple terms a God ordained plan for our lives.   In His providential power he predestined you to do and be something.  That plan is at work at this very moment.  No matter what situation you are in at this very moment, He is working His plan perfectly.  Do not take the word perfectly to mean your life is perfect or should be perfect.  It simply means that everything is going according to His plan.  We do not say or do anything that causes God to second guess His plan nor are we shocking to Him.  We can rest assured that each moment of every day is in His plan.

*God has a path or trail for you to go down.  He has already been down this trail or pathway, because He created the path.  The Bible reveals God as being intimately commanding the direct happenings of this world, both in matters of prosperity and calamity as Isaiah 45:7 tells us.  People are often quick to give credit to God when circumstances are favorable, but when events turn for the worse suddenly God is forgotten as though He has no control over the crisis of life. Is not the giving of prosperity just as much the prerogative of God as the giving of catastrophe…He is the one that controls both? One thing is clear, God is still intimately involved with his creation and directs even the minimal happenings…commanding the elements, creatures, and any other created thing to do His will. Every great event and every crisis is directly from the hand of God.

“You will show me the path of life…” -Psalm 16:11

Psalm is full of the mention of moving us down paths or trails.  David was lead down different paths in his long track running from Saul.  Paths are what God created to assure us that we may be in human terms “new territory”, but as for God He charted the paths long before us.  Knowing this we can rest in our faith that He is sovereign over the affairs of His saints.

Part of this path is in the calling to accept Christ as savior.  God has a providential plan of redemption that is revealed with the scriptures.  We find that God’s forgiveness, acceptance, and adoption are obtained through repentance and faith as stated in Psalm 119:105.  Throughout the remainder of the path is the life beyond our salvation that is the real adventure.  It can be our experience of His commanding care upon our lives as we strive to live in holy obedience to His will.   God commanded the Ravens to feed Elijah….then god instructed a widow to feed and care for Elijah when the brook of Kerith dried up.  If He was commanding the care of Elijah He will command our care on a daily basis.  How big is the God you worship and serve?  Big enough to command anything or anyone to care for you and me.  It is down this path we will discover our God is far bigger than any box we may attempt to put Him in.

*God is always present with you even if you feel like you are all alone.   We can experience His complete and full joy as we encounter various trials and crisis on the path God has led us down.  His Holy Spirit will always abide with us as John 14:16 tells us.    God’s presence with us is evident in our constant and steady joy.  Even though we go through different  problems and even happy events we still have that underlying joy that is ever present.  This joy stems from a people that have meaning and purpose in their lives.  As one of God’s elect, I cannot ever get over the daily bubbling of joy that swells within me as I see the hand of God at work.  I use the word “bubbling” not as someone running around all giggly, but of one that has a confident joy that people can see even though they may know you are going through a straineous trial that should be crushing you.  God’s presence makes this all possibly.  Without His presence in your life that confidence turns to turmoil as life’s worst problems creep up on you. 

“In Your presence is fullness of joy….”  Psalm 16:11

The evidence in a Christians life is the Spirit filled life.  They are empowered to do a tremendous work for God.  They have a contageous fire within them to do the work of God without fail.  The Spirit-filled person accomplishes amazing things for God as only God’s power can accomplish such works through them.  It is not from us, but the Holy Spirit within us to accomplish the task at hand.  As the Holy Spirit guides and directs the paths we travel we are at peace that He is in full control working His plan every step of the way.   As His presence rest in our hearts and minds we can place all our cares upon Him.  This life is not about us or any of our accomplishments, but is completely and unabashedly about the glory of Jesus Christ and the furtherment of His kingdom.  The fullness of His presence produces great joy for all of us as we bask in His joyous communion.

*God has pleasures galore for you.  In the life of an authentic Christian the winds of sorrow will blow over us.  The darkness of crisis will seem to envelope us, but the mighty right hand of God is there to lift us out of the pit of dispond.  The predestined plan of God has in the end a glorious eternity where sorrow, sadness, tears, and darkness will never be seen again.  It is in our eternity that we will experience and embrace the true pleasures God for evermore.  Take this to heart and let it sink into your minds that we may never find pleasures as the world would describe while we roam this earth serving our Lord.  It is not for these pleasures that God created the human race.  It is not the pleasures of this world that God has predestined us.  His real pleasures are the reward of our election and hearty response to that call of Christ.  Those rewards are found in His eternity in heaven.  As Jesus said before He left this earth to be with His heavenly Father, He is going to prepare a place for us where we will live with Him for eternity.  God never intended for us to get so comfortable with the things of this life that we would not want to embrace heaven.  The money, cars, houses, vacations, fine food, fine clothes, and so on war at each of us internally and war against our desire to live for Christ.  It wars with our inner desire for heaven.  This is not a death wish, but a life long yearnig for that which is greater and eternal.  This unending pleasure in heaven is for all that accept the call of Christ in their life.  Say that to yourself right now….”Unending pleasure in heaven”.  Have you ever thought about “forever”?  Can you imagine in your mind right now the pleasures that await us in heaven and they will never end?  I get goose-bumps thinking about that.  With all the pleasures of this world it will not pell in comparison to the pleasures that God has created for us in eternity for eternity. 

“At Your right hand there are plasures for evermore.”  -Psalm 16:11

God’s predetermined plan or predestination is that we follow His path of life as to further His kingdom and bring Him greater glory.  He wants us to understand His presence with us always in dark times as well as very good times and that we learn how to live in both.  God’s pleasures are designed for us with an eternity in heaven as the final result of our acceptance of Jesus Christ and a hard serving life in Christ.  We can believe what God’s word tells us in Psalm 16:11.  Trust in Him.

-Scott Bailey (c) 2007

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