Rainbows, Grace & Promises

What do you see when you see a rainbow?

When I see a rainbow, I’m amazed each time. How could something so beautiful come from reflecting light through rain drops? Basic science collides with breath-taking wonder. In recent years, the rainbow has been connected with the LGBTQ community. It is certainly the symbol of gay pride and celebration. The rainbow, however, has deep roots and we can’t forget where it all started.

Rainbows, Grace and Promises

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How to Show God’s Love on Halloween

10 Practical Ways to Show God’s Love

As a follow up to my last post (Should Christians Participate in Halloween), I’d like to share some practical ways we can show God’s love on Halloween.  I know, some Christians still aren’t too sure on the idea of participating in Halloween.  That said, we should all be desiring to show God’s love, no matter what day or event.

halloween-gods-love

Here are 10 practical ways we can show God’s love on Halloween:

1. Put some love in your treats.

Whether you simply give out a small bag of chips to each child, pack small baggies of treats, or are planning for a big party, you can put “love” into your treats.  I don’t want to over spiritualize this, but why not pray over the treats you give out.  Make it a family event and instill the importance of God’s love on whoever will eventually receive the candy.  You’re view of Halloween may actually change when you ask God to be a part of it.

At Bethel, we make a night of it. Several volunteers help pack the treat bags.  And yes, we take the time to pray over the whole process.

2. Include an encouraging verse.

There’s no need to preach at people or “scare” them into the Kingdom.  An encouraging verse, however, can provide some powerful hope on a potentially scary and dark night.  That verse might be the only positive and spiritual guidance they receive all night!  Make it count! An encouraging verse can provide some powerful hope on a potentially scary night. #ReclaimOct31 Click To Tweet

In that past, we’ve used verses like:

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1, NIV)

3. Decorate with joy, not horror.

No matter the era, fear has always been a major part of Halloween.  Don’t let your house or ministry location build on fear.  Instead, decorate with joy!  Remove the skull and add a fun pumpkin.

My wife loves to have the entrance decorated in some fun way.  She doesn’t spend a lot of money, but the kids that know us love to come in a see the “fun pastor’s house.”

4. Play some fun music, not “pee you pants” scary music.

I remember, as a kid, not wanting to go to certain homes.  I’m convinced it had to do with the creepy music.  Just like music has the ability to warmly welcome people into worship on Sunday morning, the right Christian music playing on Halloween can invite people to participate in a God-centered Halloween.

5. Pray.

It can’t get much simpler than that.  Pray for the safety of the children, teens and parents that are outside.  Pray for each kid that knocks on your door.  Pray for each parent that has to console a child who was legitimately scared because of a Halloween display that night.  Prayer works, so do it!

6. Smile.

Kids know when you’re grumpy.  Christians have the fruit of the spirit growing in them – “grumpy” isn’t a fruit.  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control are – in case you didn’t know (Galatians 5:22).  When you encounter someone this Halloween, give them a smile.  It could go a long way!

7. Make kids feel special.

Make kids feel special and you'll make a positive impact on their parents as well! #ReclaimOct31 Click To TweetNothing makes me happier than watching an adult make my little girl feel special.  How do they do that?  They squat down on their level and point out something special or ask them questions.  They might say, “I like your hat,” or “You have pretty eyes.”  Or they may ask, “What’s your name,” or “What are you dressed up as?”  If you make kids feel special, you’ll make a positive impact on their parents as well!

8. Offer something for the family – like FREE Hot Chocolate!

It’s about the kids, I know, but what about stepping outside the box?  In our area, it can be quite cold on October 31, so we offer free Hot Chocolate to the kids and parents.  I think the parents might enjoy it more than the kids.  Either way, it creates community and often some great conversation.

9. Dress up.

Yes, that’s right – put on a costume.  There’s nothing wrong with dressing up.  I grew up watching Mr. Dressup and loved every minute of it!  Dress up as something silly and fun (avoid clowns) and kids will remember you every year!  We often pick a theme as a family and dress up together.  Ok, that might be driven by my wife.  Either way, at the end of the day, it’s worth it!

10. Reclaim October 31 for Jesus!

Let’s reclaim October 31 for Jesus!  I’m going to put out the challenge – post on social media how you are showing God’s love and reclaiming Halloween for Jesus. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #ReclaimOct31!Let's reclaim Oct 31 for Jesus! Post how you're showing God's love on Halloween by using #ReclaimOct31 Click To Tweet

The enemy isn’t going to like this, so we’ll need to work together!

Feel free to comment on this post as well and share your ideas!  I would love to see what you’re doing and celebrate the positive impact with you!

Your turn…

How have you shown God’s love on Halloween?

I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, on social media, or by email (andrewholm@gmail.com).  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

Halloween: Be a Light!

Every year the kids of our streets, neighborhoods, and cities go door to door asking the famous phrase: “trick or treat?”  If you live in North America, no matter what background you come from, you’ve at least witnessed the evening of October 31.  I grew up in a Christian home and we were always allowed to dress up and take part in this somewhat silly tradition.  That said, there was always a sense of the “unknown.”  What kind of costumes can we wear?  Do we take part in the “church Halloween party” or go door-to-door?  My brother and I definitely dressed up and had fun doing so, but let’s just say we were “seriously” encouraged to be a clown before a vampire.

halloween

Depending on your background, you may be reading this and think we were deprived children.  After all, Halloween is only a silly little tradition of dressing up and getting candy.  It’s true, the evil origins of Halloween are long forgotten, and the occasion is no different from any other retail-boosting, consumeristic date on the calendar. As I got older, however, I noticed something about Halloween – it’s still built on fear.

Fear is hardly a good thing.  A healthy fear (also known as “respect”) certainly has its benefits, but genuine fear leads to unhealthy discomfort, distrust, anxiety and worry.  As a Christian, I’m called to give those feelings over to God and He’ll take care of me (Psalm 55:22).  Why then, would I want to play on the fears of others?

The answer may be confusing, but here’s just a brief background to the Halloween we know today:

“All Hallows Eve”, “All Saints Day” and “All Souls Day”

Traditionally, October 31 has been known as “All Hallows Eve.” Hallow means “to make holy.”  The day points towards “All Saint’s Day” on November 1 – a day with feasts and celebrations in honour of all the saints.  November 2 follows as “All Souls Day” – a day specifically for those who believe in purgatory by where prayers are raised for every soul.  These three days have been traditionally a three-day celebration of those who have gone before us.i

Celtics and the Druids

Before converting to Christianity in Europe, the Druids had their New Year’s celebrations on the same dates.  It was believed that the souls of the dead could return home for a night, only to be kept away by sacrifices, feasts, dressing like them to appear to be one of them, or by using a jack-o-lantern (which would scare away evil spirits and provide a light).ii

Transition to Today…

In the centuries of development and transition, October 31 has become something very different.  We now call the evening “Halloween,” which literally means: “the evening of becoming holy (saints)”; and yet, socially means: “dress up in scary and/or fun costumes and hope to get as much candy as possible.”  While there are many evil traditions that have brought fear into October 31, the desire to have a protecting light’ seems to have always been present.

Salt and Light (Matthew 5)

Jesus refers to his followers as the “salt” and “light” of the earth.iii  In a night that is still heavily based on fear, Jesus calls His followers to be the “salt” and the “light.”  Jesus expects his followers to live out the life they have received and shine a light on the ultimate protecting light – Jesus Christ.

How can we be the “salt” and the “light” on Halloween?

Our church pondered this a couple of years ago, and came to this conclusion – “be light in a dark night!”  Here are some of the ways our church has taken action:

  1. Welcome kids

On the night when nearly every child in the community will come knocking on your door, I can’t imagine Jesus advising us not share His love and compassion.  After all, Jesus did say, “let the little children come to me…”iv  So don’t turn off your lights and lock your doors on Halloween.  Instead, meet every child with simile.  Be a light in a dark night.

  1. Share God’s love

You don’t have to literally witness to every child that asks, “trick or treat?”  But you can share God’s love by being warm and not fearful, by complementing their costume, or by squatting down to meet them in the eye and say, “have a fun and safe night!”  You can be a light in a dark night.

  1. Go Trick-or-Treating

What better way to show others how God has impacted your life, than by having fun and potentially diffusing the “fear” that’s normally visible.  Dress up as your favorite cartoon character, super hero, or maybe a household object like a lamp.  Have fun and be a light in a dark night.

  1. Meet a Need

Some towns have a Pumpkin Patrol by where adults volunteer to supervise the streets and to make sure kids stay safe.  Every year, our church gives out bags of candy, pop, chips and bars and offers free hot chocolate to all the parents.  It’s amazing how many chilly parents appreciate a warm beverage as their kids try to fill their pillow cases with candy!

Yes, some will still participate in devilish activities; yes, some will dress up in evil characters; and, yes, some will even play on the fears of others.  But it’s because of all of those things that make Halloween such a great opportunity to be a light.  Jesus is waiting for His followers to be the salt (something worth following) and to be a light (shining towards Jesus).  By welcoming kids, sharing God’s love, participating as a light, and meeting some simple needs on Halloween, we can be a light in a dark night.

Your turn:

How will you be a light on Halloween?


[i] “Celebrating Halloween, All Saints”, AmericanCatholic.org, accessed October 28, 2015, http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/Halloween/halloween08.asp.
[ii] “Halloween: It’s Origins and Celebration.” EWTN, accessed October 28, 2015, http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/hallween.htm.
[iii] Mathew 5:13-16.
[iv] Matthew 19:14.

How He Loves Us – “sloppy wet” versus “unforeseen”

Thinking through the lyrics

If you’re into modern worship music, you’d know John McMillan’s song “How He Loves Us” very well. Since writing the song in 2005, many artists have included the song in their repertoire.  Kim Walker from Jesus Culture and David Crowder are among those who have done so.[i]   It’s clear, the amazing truth behind the song is powerful – God loves us! While this is so true, it’s also very important to understand how he loves us.  God loves us with unconditional love known as agape love, and we should express ourselves in a way which allows us to mature and grow deeper in our relationship with God.

How He Loves Us

Before I continue, if you haven’t heard both artists sing this song, take a few minutes to listen to them.  Notice the difference between verse 2 in each version and enjoy the powerful song!

Kim Walker

David Crowder

In case you missed it, here are the lyrics of verse 2…

We are His portion and He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If grace is an ocean we’re all sinking
So Heaven meets earth
Like a [sloppy wet OR unforeseen] kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way that…[ii]

Both artists sang different similes in verse 2.  Walker sang, “So heaven meets earth like sloppy wet kiss,” while Crowder sang, “So heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss.”

At first glance, we might think Crowder is simply using a phrase that is less controversial; trying to appeal to a wider audience.  While this may be true to some degree, there are also theological issues at play.

Unfortunately, the English language doesn’t explain certain words very well.  The English word “love” is certainly one of those words.  The Greek language, however, has a number of words for “love”; each conveying a different meaning.  In this particular case, I suggest we use Greek definitions to make sure we are consistently describing the correct kind of love.  This is really important when discussing the kind of love God has for us. (Click here to see a brief overview of the Greek words for “love”)

God loves us with unconditional love.  We love because he loved us first.[iii]  God’s love doesn’t require reciprocation in order for Him to love us.  When we speak of relational love, however, we think of two people having feelings for each other.  The key there, is “each other”.  Love is reciprocated. Love goes two-ways.  When we speak of God’s love, the love starts with Him, and if reciprocated, ends with Him.  The only response we, as humans, have is obedience and worship. The Greek language refers to this unwarranted love as agape.

In the song, Walker sang the phrase “sloppy wet kiss.”  It’s a simile used to describe the love connection between heaven and earth – the Father sending the Son to earth as an action of love.  The problem, however, is this simile doesn’t really describe God’s love (agape), rather the love between a man and a woman (eros).  This causes confusion, as we’re saying we understand God’s love in the same way we are attracted to another person in passionate love.  God’s love is more about affection than about attraction.  A “sloppy wet kiss” has more to do with our attraction to someone than it does are affection towards someone.

Our affection often results in our action outside of attraction, and is usually seen in mature relationships.  For example, even within passionate love (eros), affection is shown when a husband cleans the dishes before his wife returns home, or a wife letting her husband pick out the movie they want to go see.  It’s a selfless action, out of love.  This would be the closest eros is to agape.  So, if we changed the lyric to, “so heaven meets earth like a husband washing the dishes,” it would make more sense than “sloppy wet kiss.”  🙂

When Crowder sang this verse, he sang the phrase, “unforeseen kiss.” This seems to work better. This simile is actually using an agape kind of love to describe God’s love.  Just like we don’t deserve God’s love, we’ll never understand or comprehend why God would love us so much.  In the same way, it’s like someone out-of-the-blue kissing us – it’s totally unexpected, undeserved, unwarranted.

Which one should we use?
It depends on how you view God’s love.  I believe God’s love is far deeper than passionate and sexual love (eros), and therefore, I wouldn’t explain God’s love in that way.  The term “sloppy wet kiss,” also conveys a sort of shallow relationship.  I’d like to believe God desires us to develop into a mature and deep relationship with him as time progresses.  Singing the phrase, “unforeseen kiss,” allows for that sort of relationship to grow.

What do you think?  Feel free to comment and share.


[i] Kim Walker sang it on Jesus Culture’s album called “We Cry Out” (released in 2008); David Crowder sang it on his album called “Church Music” (released in 2009).

[ii] Verse 2 of “How He Loves Us” written by John Mark McMillan, 2005 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music.

[iii] 1 John 4:19