Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween - A Heart Issue

Every year, as October comes up on the calendar, the whole world seems to focus on Halloween and the festivities associated with this holiday.  There is quite a bit of history known and published about  this day. Most directly, the traditional activities of Halloween can be traced the ancient Druids.
Hundreds of years before Jesus Christ walked this earth, a people in what is now called Ireland celebrated their end of summer with a festival to their gods thanking them for the previous harvest season. 
This was the end of their growing season, and they reasoned the seasonal death of plants and corresponding change in temperature on the arrival of a "god of death" that was overpowering their "sun god".  Their beliefs told them that this "god of death" forced the spirits of those that had died that year, and had done evil, to take possession in the nearby animals for a time, and then he allowed them to revisit their homes and family one last time, on Halloween. 
Therefore, the priests of this religion, the Druids, would hold ceremonies where the people were encouraged to gather up all kinds of animals, from horses and oxen to cats and sheep, cage them or tie them up, and then burn them as a warning to the those wandering spirits to not harm a living person.  
OK, so why the history lesson?  Because it's important to know from where the Druids got their beliefs.  It turns out that it's more relevant than most Christians understand.  It goes all the way back to Nimrod, who built Babel or Babylon (Genesis 10:8-10) - yeah... it's in the Bible.

You see, Nimrod conceived a one world government model in rebellion against God and went about to establishing this one world government in the land of Shinar (today is Iraq) and instituted a pagan worship system that rejected the Lord God. The primary false god worshiped was called Baal, at least in Syria & Phoenicia.  He had other name in other places:  he was called Bel in Assyria, Moloch or Molech to the Ammonites, and even Ra or Re in Egypt.

Here is why that is important.  The American Book of Days by George Douglas (H. W. Wilson Co., 1937, p 541) says, "Many of Halloween's customs are derived from the ancient Baal Festivals."

Alexander Hislop in The Two Babylons (NuVision Publications, LLC, 2006, p. 83) wrote, "The worship of Bel (Moloch) and Astarte was very early introduced into Britain along with the Druids, the priests of the groves. From Bel, the 1st of May is still called Beltane in the Almanac; and we have customs still lingering at this day among us, which prove how exactly the worship of Bel or Moloch had been observed."

The references to "lingering customs" refers to Halloween.

Let's look back at Nimrod for a moment.  It is important that you know that Nimrod incorporated into his worship system the grisly practice of human sacrifice and cannibalism.  Hislop [page 171] says, "the priests of Nimrod or Baal were necessarily required to eat of the human sacrifices; and thus it has come to pass that Cahna-Bal (cahna meaning priest & Bal referring to Baal), the Priest of Baal is the established word (cannibal) in our own tongue for a devourer of human flesh."  Here's why that is important.  "The god whom the Druids worshipped was Baal, as the blazing Baal-fires show and children were offered in sacrifice to Baal."

That's what Baal (Moloch) worshippers did. We know that because of what we read in the Bible in Jeremiah 19:5:
[They] have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind.
There is absolutely no doubt that Halloween, was a wicked pagan worship day. It is little wonder that even today Halloweens focus is still on horror, mutilation, death, evil and the occult seeing that it is rooted in Baal worship!

Undoubtedly, we come in contact with people who regularly protest, "That may have been true in the past, but that is not true today."

And I was one such person before my conversion.

For years and years throughout my childhood this was always a time of fun and late nights playing with my cousins and siblings, but especially about getting lots of candy.  I cannot remember ever seeing anything wrong with my family's professing Christian beliefs and celebrating this holiday.  No one was sacrificing anything, except some hours of sleep and maybe their teeth to cavities.

That pattern continued until a few years ago when God called me to Himself,  saving me out of a life that was on a road straight to Hell, a life of selfish focus and total absence of any reverence to His Name, to His Glory, or what He did for me at the Cross.  It was at that time that I began to reassess everything in my life, testing it against what God tells us about Himself in His Word, the Bible.  Most of all, I learned that it wasn't so much about what I did, but the motives I had for doing those things (or conversely, not doing something).

Halloween was one such activity/observance that I took a look at, as it seemed to be one of the more obvious events that had nothing to do with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Why had I never looked at this before?  It seemed so obvious now.  God's Word shed light on that:
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4 - emphasis mine)
Simply enough, I was blind to the truth, until the Light (John 1:4) made me see.  What was it that I saw then?  I did not discover that dressing up in a costume was a sin, or that getting candy from others was a sin, or that hanging out around a bon-fire on a chilly night with family and friends was a sin... no, not at all.

Most importantly, when the Light shone on my heart, I didn't see anything but MY heart and the many, many ways in which I had for so many years focused my heart on anything other than Jesus Christ and the Glory of God.

It was then that I understood that is what makes Halloween a heart issue.  Where is my heart on this day?  On EVERY day for that matter?!

So, now that I'm a husband and father, my heart condition is relevant not only for my walk with the Lord, but directly affects my wife and son and their walk.  Where am I leading them?  What do my actions, thoughts, and motives mean for their walk?  Spend enough time in study of God's Word looking for an answer this question, and you'll undoubtedly get to Romans 14.  
Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.  One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.  
The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.  So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. 
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.  I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.  
For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.  (Romans 14:4-6, 12-15)
There's a lot that could be unpacked in there, and the implications are much more far reaching than application to observance of holidays.  The most common interpretation is that if that person celebrates that day to the glory of God, then your problem with it should not hinder their worship and praise to God.  This is often used in the "first person" point of view, encouraged by our very self-centered cultural mindset - to look out for your rights primarily.

Might I suggest that instead, we look at this from a New Testament "one another", others first point of view?  Does my observance of the holiday "put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother"?  Perhaps more to the point, "if your brother is grieved by what you eat (say, or do), you are no longer walking in love."   I think that the lesson in this passage can be translated to any heart motive, not just eating.
  • In other words, am I approaching my observance (or lack-thereof) of Halloween from an "others first" point of view?  
  • Do my beliefs cause another to stumble?  
  • More so, is my heart seeking to please man (family, church members, co-workers, etc) or God?  
  • Am I just seeking a compromise that will make my life easier and cause me less friction with those around me?
  • Does my testimony to the lost/unsaved say that I place ultimate allegiance and preeminence on the Lord of the universe, the Lord of my life?  
  • Or does my testimony to my neighbors say that I don't want to cause waves and I'm just seeking a comfortable existence where I can live side-by-side with a pagan, God-hating culture and not be sickened and disturbed by my proximity to ungodliness so as to maintain the peace with everyone?
  • Does Romans 12:18, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all", mean that we cover over our love for Christ so as not to cause our friends and family to "look at us weird"?  
Am I suggesting that we just lock the doors, turn off the lights, and hide our families inside the house on October 31?  Not at all.  But perhaps taking advantage of the time to do some God-honoring activities such as spending time with family and friends in a manner that pays no homage to an ancient pagan holiday.

When God brought His people into the promised land of Israel, he told them to have nothing to do with the gods and pagan practices of the people that resided in that land.  He did not tell them to have no festivals and celebrations at all.  He gave them a culture with festivities and celebrations, but ones that were meant to honor Him and what He had done for His people.

[And speaking of the wonderful things God does for His people, He gave us our son on October 31, 2009.  Just over one year after He took our twin boys home to be with Him, He gave us a little something to celebrate on that day.]

I pray that God would give me grace to seek to live peaceably with all but not at the expense of giving Him the glory in all that I say, do, or think.  I pray that as I lead my family, that I would seek not my own agenda or will, but that I would strive to make my heart motives pure and that I would lead in such a way that those that follow in my footsteps do so because they see that Jesus stepped there first.