“You’re either on one side of the fence or the other,” Pastor Chip said. “No straddling the fence. Think about it. It will hurt!” he said as he lifted one of his legs over an imaginary fence, raised to his tippy toes, and grimaced as he placed the leg down. “You need to pick a side.”
He was speaking about having one foot in the world and the other in Christ — a less than all-in Christian posture.
But, I’ve come across many (what I call) gray areas in Christianity that cause me to straddle the fence (i.e. pagan origins of Easter celebration, how theologians differ on “the end times” [eschatology], and the many divisive Christian denominations … to name a few). And regarding Halloween, I’ve got to admit — I’ve become a fence-straddler.
I spent my childhood loving Halloween, going trick-or-treat, dressing up as whatever I wanted. It was fun! I knew nothing about its origins.
Fast forward 20 years — I was a newly-rededicated Christian mom — a freshly squeezed-out Jesus sponge, soaking up all I could to understand and honor God. I was careful what I let into my home and into my life as I became aware of godless influences around us in TV, movies, and friends. I was naïve about so many spiritual dangers. One October day, our babysitter handed me a print-out when I picked the children up from her house — “The Truth about Halloween.”
We were shocked to learn how deeply rooted it is in evil. It is truly a dark and pagan ritualistic event for witchcraft and satanism. My husband and I felt we had been naive all these years, leaving all of us vulnerable to demonic attacks. It wasn’t innocent fun. We decided our family would no longer celebrate Halloween.
Needless to say, our children who had already celebrated Halloween for several years, were floored by our decision. We explained our heartfelt reasons and that we were protecting them from evil and taking a holy stance that would show which side of the fence we stood on — God’s side! We didn’t want to offend God. We would honor God.
Our four children went along with us, reluctantly. We got them lots of candy and took them out to dinner each year. But that didn’t matter. They missed dressing up in costumes and going trick-or-treating together. Their friends probably did a lot of eye-rolling too.
Fast forward another 20 years. Our grown children dress up in costumes and go to parties. Our grandchildren are superheroes who go door to door on Halloween night. The ban on Halloween ended with us.
Although I believe we were acting on our best understanding and pure hearts, I’m not sure we handled this the best. We didn’t participate. We lost an opportunity to be light in our dark world. And that is why I consider myself a fence-straddler. I still don’t like what Halloween stands for but I think we can honor God on the one night of the year that our neighbors come out to our homes. I do see the positive results of kind neighbors, candy-givers, and children excited about the event.
We don’t get do-overs with parenting. We were so focused on protecting our family and avoiding evil, that we failed to recognize the power of the Holy Spirit residing in us to overcome the darkness. As my grandmother used to say, “we choked on a gnat but swallowed a camel” (Matthew 23:24).
Maybe we’re not fence straddlers – maybe it’s time for our fence to be removed.
So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen. 2 Timothy 2:10 NLT
Father, help us all to focus on what’s most important about each day you allow us to have here on earth. Your Word says to love you with all our hearts, minds, and soul, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Help each of us to know what that looks like on October 31. And help us to refrain from judging others about their Halloween decisions.
The Need of Perfect Solitude – Streams in the Desert – October 26
- 202126 Oct
He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when evening was come, he was there alone (Matthew 14:23).
The man Christ Jesus felt the need of perfect solitude–Himself alone, entirely by Himself, alone with Himself. We know how much intercourse with men draws us away from ourselves and exhausts our powers. The man Christ Jesus knew this, too, and felt the need of being by Himself again, of gathering all His powers, of realizing fully His high destiny, His human weakness, His entire dependence on the Father.
How much more does the child of God need this–himself alone with spiritual realities, himself alone with God the Father. If ever there were one who could dispense with special seasons for solitude and fellowship, it was our Lord. But He could not do His work or maintain His fellowship in full power, without His quiet time. Would God that every servant of His understood and practiced this blessed art, and that the Church knew how to train its children into some sense of this high and holy privilege, that every believer may and must have his time when he is indeed himself alone with God.
Oh, the thought to have God all alone to myself, and to know that God has me all alone to Himself!
Lamertine speaks in one of his books of a secluded walk in his garden where his mother always spent a certain hour of the day, upon which nobody ever dreamed for a moment of intruding. It was the holy garden of the Lord to her.
Poor souls that have no such Beulah land! Seek thy private chamber, Jesus says. It is in the solitude that we catch the mystic notes that issue from the soul of things.
My soul, practice being alone with Christ! It is written that when they were alone He expounded all things to His disciples. Do not wonder at the saying; it is true to thine experience. If thou wouldst understand thyself send the multitude away. Let them go out one by one till thou art left alone with Jesus… Has thou ever pictured thyself the one remaining creature in the earth, the one remaining creature in all the starry worlds?
In such a universe thine every thought would be “God and I! God and I!” And yet He is as near to thee as that – as near as if in the boundless spaces there throbbed no heart but His and thine.
Practice that solitude, O my soul! Practice the expulsion of the crowd! Practice the stillness of thine own heart! Practice the solemn refrain “God and I! God and I!” Let none interpose between thee and thy wrestling angel! Thou shalt be both condemned and pardoned when thou shalt meet Jesus alone!
By: Charles Spurgeon
‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.’ Proverbs 18:10
Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 20:1–9
It is useless for me to attempt to describe the various ways in which your trials come; but I am sure they that know Jehovah’s name will put their trust in him. Perhaps your trial has been want, and then you have said, ‘His name is Jehovah-jireh, the Lord will provide;’ or else you have been banished from friends, but you have said, ‘His name is Jehovah-shammah, the Lord is there;’ or else you have had a disturbance in your family; there has been war within, and war without, but you have run into your strong tower, for you have said, ‘His name is Jehovah-shalom, the Lord send peace;’ or else the world has slandered you, and you yourself have been conscious of sin, but you have said, ‘His name is Jehovah-tsidkenu, the Lord our righteousness,’ and so you have gone there, and been safe; or else many have been your enemies; then his name has been ‘Jehovah-nissi, the Lord my banner;’ and so he has been a strong tower to you. Defy, then brethren, in God’s strength, tribulations of every sort and size. Say with the poet,
|‘There is a safe and secret place||The least and feeblest here may hide|
|Beneath the wings divine||Uninjured and unawed.|
|Reserved for all the heirs of grace;||While thousands fall on every side,|
|That refuge now is mine.||I rest secure in God.’|
But, beloved, besides the trials of this life, we have the sins of the flesh, and what a tribulation these are; but the name of our God is our strong tower then. At certain seasons we are more than ordinarily conscious of our guilt; and I would give little for your piety, if you do not sometimes creep into a corner with the poor publican and say, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’
For meditation: The name of the Lord Jesus Christ is a strong tower: the unrighteous run into it, and are saved (Matthew 1:21; Acts 4:12; 10:43; 1 John 5:13). Have you ‘fled for refuge’ (Hebrews 6:18)? Are you ‘in Christ’?