Friday, October 31, 2008

My thoughts on Halloween.

It's here. Halloween - one of the major holidays that kids really look forward to. It's all about candy, candy, and …well …candy. As you get older, it becomes about candy and cool costumes. By the time you're an adult, it's all about candy, parties, and cool costumes.

Fun? Definitely! Harmless? Honestly, in my opinion - I don't think so. I love fun, but not all fun is innocent. A lot of people have fun drinking or doing drugs, but that is definitely not harmless fun. As a matter of fact, according to Harry Smith in the History Channel's "The Haunted History of Halloween" program, Halloween is "s time to do things we wouldn't dream of doing any other time of the year."

My basic problem with Halloween is that there is nothing good to be found in it. As a matter of fact, it is by definition anti-good and anti-God. It's a weak argument to talk about the roots of Halloween as why we shouldn't celebrate it because if you're gonna go that route, than we shouldn't celebrate Christ-mas either since that was originally a pagan holiday. What matters much more is what Halloween is about today – celebrating death, evil, terror, and everything that God stands against. It's about celebrating everything God sent Jesus Christ to conquer.

There would be no Easter without the story of Christ's death and resurrection. There would be no Christmas without the birth of Christ. There would be no Thanksgiving without the pilgrims being thankful to God for how He had blessed them. Halloween, though? There's certainly no Godliness in Halloween, but I've looked long and hard and I can't even find any good in it. Because of the historical roots and the heritage of Halloween and more importantly, because of what it is today both to Satanists and non-Satanists alike, I just can't call Halloween innocent, harmless fun.

The roots of Halloween reach back to the Celtic Paganism of the 300's B.C. The Celts were a people led by a cult with very strange, demonic practices, called the Druids. The most important day for the Druids was Samhaim (or Saman), October 31st. It was a time when leaves would fall and decay – appropriate timing to worship the "Lord of the Dead." This was the night when the barrier between the spirit and the human world was thinnest, allowing the spirits to enter our world and do as they wished.

If they didn't like the food or shelter that was given them, they would cast spells and wreak havoc on earth, tormenting humans and animals. Thus the "harmless" practice of "trick or treat" began, rooted in demonic evil.

To try to fool the spirits and not have tricks played on them, people would dress up as witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and ghouls; thus out tradition of Halloween costumes – another "harmless" tradition rooted in demonic evil.

The horrible high point of this day was when animal and human sacrifices would take place – as they do even today – as a form of worship to the Lord of the Dead, Samhaim. The Druid would stab their victims and try to tell the future by the way they shook as they died and by how their blood flowed. The remains were placed in a large pile and burned up in a "bone fire" – and so began the traditional Halloween bon fire.

Ghosts, witches, broomsticks, black cats, bobbing for apples, jack o lanterns, skulls …all the things associated with Halloween have their roots and heritage in evil, death, and destruction. But we don't think of what they mean; we think of them as simply harmless fun for the kids. I mean, those roots are not part of most people's Halloween celebrations today.

But even today, this day is still celebrated as the holiest day in the Satanic calendar, and all sorts of terrible animal and even human sacrifices take place.

It's interesting to me that Halloween is seen by so many, even many Christians, as something good when it is inherently and totally bad. The Bible is so true when it says that Satan pretends to be good and makes bad things seem to be good (see 2 Corinthians 11:14). For many people, Satan has succeeded in covering up the true meaning of Halloween just as he has Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter.

As Christ followers, as Christians, we have a clear command from God in 2 Corinthians 6:17 and 1 Thessalonians 5:22 to come out of ungodly things and be separate, not even giving the appearance of being associated with what is evil. In my opinion, believers have a command from God to not associate with anything ungodly, such as the wicked Halloween holiday.

Like I said, there's no good in Halloween. That alone should be enough for us to have nothing to do with it. Personally though, if you choose to celebrate Halloween by dressing up or going trick or treating or to a Halloween party – that's your prerogative. And I will still love you, I will still accept you, I will still be for you, and I will no judge you or think of you as less of a person or less of a Christian or anything like that.

But if you've read this, you can't say you didn't know the truth about Halloween – all you can say is that you chose a night of "harmless fun" over obedience to God's Word. If that seems legalistic of judgmental, well I'm sorry. I don't mean to come across that way – but in John 10:10, Jesus said that He came to give us life. All throughout the Bible we see that God is a good God who loves us, and that His love gives us no reason to fear. God also calls us to stay separate from the appearance of evil.

Because of that, I simply cannot call something "good" that is inherently anti-God. All I can do on this day is remember that according to Psalm 118:24, even this evil, wicked day is the day the Lord has made, so I will rejoice and be glad in it. And someway, somehow, I'll follow Jesus' lead and try to redeem it.

Most of all, today I thank God for His grace and that He still loves and accepts anyone regardless of what they do. I thank God that this day is also the anniversary of when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door at Wittenberg and started the chain of events that led to the Protestant Reformation, where we Christians stood firm in holding that God is a God of grace.

So today, I celebrate that …and I thank God that this Halloween season is almost over for another year! =)

Wow. 5 years.

I remember exactly where I was and what was going on 5 years ago on October 30th - when I heard Mike Yaconelli had passed away.

Thanks for the reminder, Marko.


What a great man. What a great legacy.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Are you sure that's right?

For awhile I've been reading through the 1st and 2nd Samuel. These books are PACKED with wisdom and principles about what to do and what not do do as leaders. Interestingly, pretty much all of the "don'ts" are things Saul did and all of the "do's" are from David's example. As I've been reading through 1st and 2nd Samuel, I've noticed over and over that David was a man of incredible integrity - possibly second only to Jesus Christ when it comes to being a man of integrity.

So a couple of days ago, I was in 2 Samuel 4, reading about the murder of Ish-Bosheth. Saul was king over Israel and was the predecessor to David's reign as king. Saul was also kind of crazy - he kept trying to kill David and David kept showing him mercy and grace. Saul was basically a sworn enemy of David. Ish-Bosheth was one of Saul's sons. In case you didn't already put two and two together, that made Ish-Bosheth one of David's enemies as well.

Long story short, two of David's followers named Recab and his brother Baanah setup a ploy and assassinated Ish-Bosheth. They stabbed him in the stomach, cut off his head and took the head to David.

"Here is the head of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, your enemy, who tried to take your life. This day the LORD has avenged my lord the king against Saul and his offspring." they said to king David (2 Samuel 4:8, NIV).

Get this - they just killed the sworn enemy of king David who had been causing him all sorts of trouble. You'd think David would be grateful, wouldn't you?

Well this is what David said in verses 9-12: David answered Recab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, "As surely as the LORD lives, who has delivered me out of all trouble, when a man told me, 'Saul is dead,' and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!'"So David gave an order to his men, and they killed them. They cut off their hands and feet and hung the bodies by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-Bosheth and buried it in Abner's tomb at Hebron.

In other words, David was not happy and he had Recab and Baanah killed for what they did.

Get this: Recab and Baanah thought what they were doing was right. They were sure of it; so sure that they didn't even think twice about taking Ish-Bosheth's head to David. I bet they thought he would be so grateful that he would do something incredibly extravagant just to thank them. They never thought they would die for doing the "right" thing.

So what I'm thinking is this ...make sure what you think is the right thing actually is the right thing.

I'll write that again because I think this is such an important principle:
make sure what you think is the right thing actually is the right thing.

I can't tell you how many times I was sure that I was doing the right thing or making the right decision, only to discover that it wasn't right. Or if it wasn't right, it wasn't wise (which is just as important as right-ness). It's so easy to be sure we're right when we're not.

So whatever it is you're thinking about, consider Recab and Baanah and
once again - make sure what you think is the right thing actually is the right thing.

I knew it would eventually happen ...

but still, I can't believe I'm a college graduate.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday night recap.

- Monday we took a youth band field trip to Harvest Christian Center on the other side of El Paso. It didn't go exactly as planned because they experienced some techinical difficulties, but all in all I think it was very beneficial for our group - if for nothing else, because it was something fun and different than just playing and practicing week after week after week.

- Staff meeting on Tuesday. I love staff meetings - it's great to be surrounded by the other incredible staff members of Del Sol each week and refocus, problem solve, and pray.

- Wednesday night was our youth leadership GrowGroup. It was ...interesting. Lots of prayer after that night.

- Thursday night was the Mix and a church council meeting. The Mix was kind of a weird night, and I'm very eager to see what happened at the church council meeting. Hopefully I can find out tomorrow or Tuesday.

- After the Mix, Rick, Kristin, and I went to Whataburger for dinner and ended up staying there 'til a little after 2 am. We talked, joked, listened to lots of music on Rick's iPhone, and watched lots of people come in after the bars closed up for the night.

- Friday I forgot to post a Friday Five. Sorry, Rick!

- Also on Friday, I took Stephen and some of the girls to Las Cruces to see Fee, Phil Wickham, and Meredith Andrews. I really debated over whether I should go to the final home game for the Hanks season, and even though I would have loved to have been at that game, I'm really glad I went to the show. What an incredible worship experience!

- Fee puts on a GREAT show!

- Saturday we had a youth leader fellowship and I learned how to make potatoes au gratin. I've never cooked anything more than ramen or canned soup, so I was pretty excited to learn how to do that. This is what it looked like before I baked it:
Everyone seemed to really enjoy them and I even had someone ask for the recipe.

- Today I got to hang out with and teach the junior highers and then go to the 11 am service. It was a pretty cool morning worship experience. After that I went to lunch with the 'rents and stopped by the ATM to deposit a check. There was a fire truck, a couple of ambulances, and 5 or 6 police cars there so I drove over to see why. You have to look close in this pic, but there was a brown car that had crashed into Delicious Mexican Eatery:
I've seen this kind of thing on TV, but never in real life. It was so strange and sad. I just imagined people sitting there, enjoying some great lunch, when a car smashes into the store, food and plates and utensils flying everywhere, knocking people to the ground and maybe even pinning a person or two between the floor and the car. How terrible that must have been - all I could do was just pray for everyone in that place.

- This afternoon I went to check out the membership class at Del Sol. I hadn't been in nearly 5 years and I knew Walter had made some major changes since we adopted our current discipleship process. It was encouraging to see the 16 people there who were so eager to learn about the church, and it was a great, detailed reminder of why we do what we do and who we are at Del Sol Church.

Tomorrow ...a new week begins.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Not a political statement/endorsement ...

but an interesting, kind of funny pic from MySpace today:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's a sign.


Christ-mas is coming soon!!! 64 days left!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

As if fast food wasn't unhealthy enough ...

Macaroni and cheese ...not known as the healthiest food in the world.
So what does Jack in the Box say about it? "Let's deep fry it!"
And the result?


And I hear they're not even all that good, anyway.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Five - Things I Don't Like

It's Friday, and it's time for yet another Friday Five. Today, 5 things I don't like that ordinarily, most people do:

1. Sea food - While I recognize that not everyone likes fish and shrimp and other sea food, in general I find that people do. I don't. I detest sea food, actually.

2. String cheese - Growing up, it seemed like every kid had string cheese in their lunch box, but not Ariel. I've just never been into string cheese.

3. Snapping - For some reason, I don't like when people snap's actually really irritating. It makes me a little mad, actually.
Perhaps it's because I can't snap, but I just get very aggravated when people around me snap.

4. Swimming - I occasionally swim, but very rarely. I can swim once, MAYBE twice a year, and that's enough for me. I'm just not really a swimming kind of guy.

5. Halloween - I absolutely hate Halloween ...I mean, HATE it. I hate everything it's about. I hate that it glorifies and celebrates death and evil and everything that is the opposite of who God is and what He's about and what we Christians are supposed to be about. I hate that girls tend to think it's the one time of year when it's acceptable and encouraged to dress slutty, as a nurse or policewoman or kitty cat or whatever. I hate that it's the holiest day of the year for satanists and that they are really active that night, doing horribly evil things that I'm not even gonna write about in this post (I'll probably write about Halloween later on this month). I simply HATE Halloween and can hardly wait for November 1st, so that I don't have to deal with Halloween again for another year.

(By the way, I didn't intentionally pick the first 4 things that start with the letter "s" just kind of happened like that.)

What are some things you don't like that usually, most people do?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A very tender experience.

So these past few days, I was in Dallas for a youth ministry conference. Since it was such a short trip, I flew of course. As I was boarding the plan on Monday morning to leave El Paso for the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, I had the sweetest encounter.

If you've ever flown, you know that there's a place before you board the plane to put strollers and wheelchairs. Well as I was walking up to the plane, there was a mom with her baby, two big bags of baby paraphernalia, and a big, bulky stroller trying to leave it at that designated place. I saw that she was struggling to fold up the stroller while juggling her daughter and the massive baby bags.

Thankfully, God instantaneously put it in my mind to offer help, so I did. I thought that maybe I could hold her bags or put away the stroller or something, but she told me that what would help her the most would be to hold her daughter for her. She didn't phrase it with such a descriptive question, but simply said "could you hold her for me?"

So I did. And it was the sweetest, most tender moment I think I've ever experienced.

I only held that baby for a few moments, maybe 15 seconds at most, but those few moments were the most heart-warming, tender, affectionate, loving moments I had ever had. I held her close to my chest and with her eyes locked on mine, I could feel her body warmth and could feel every beat of her precious little heart.

Without sounding like a weirdo baby stealer or something, I really loved that baby. I don't even know her name and will never see her again, but in that moment I felt, to the best of my ability, what I think I will feel when I have a child of my own. I wanted to protect her from the evil in this world. I wanted to hold her and snuggle with her and teach her and guide her and comfort her and just love her in the way that God created us to love each other.

Man ...I know I sound like a girl, but I just can't even describe how precious that experience was for me.

And now I can hardly wait until I have a son or daughter of my own. Flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood that I can hold close to my heart and cherish and guide and comfort and love like Jesus loves me.

"How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!"

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday night mind-purge.

- On Tuesday at our weekly staff meeting, God totally interrupted what we had planned and called us to take a risk. On Tuesday, we stopped what we were doing, prayed, and made the decision to move forward on something that we had been planning to do in the next few years, but that God is calling us to take a risky gamble step of faith on THIS year. This year, in this economy, in this stage in the life of Del Sol Church. This is totally a God-risk, and we're gonna see if it sinks or swims. If it succeeds, then it's gonna be AWESOME. If it fails, at least we'll fail spectacularly and go out with a bang! =)

- If things line up, I'll be an instrumental part of that risk.

- I REALLY wish I could talk about all the specifics of this. You have NO idea.

- On Wednesday, I went to Youth for Christ at Montwood High School. I just want to say that Wendell Powers from Cielo Vista Church is an incredible communicator.

- Wednesday night was my Youth Leadership Team GrowGroup. Right as I was about to get in the car to drive to the church building, I started getting a bad migraine. By God's grace I was able to lead the group, and when I got home at about 9 pm I just crashed and slept for like 10 hours.

- Whenever I get a migraine, it's always in the same spot and it's always about a 3 day experience. The first day I get the blinding, terribly painful, sharp migraine. The next day I feel like I was hit by a truck and my brain is in a vise. The third day, the "vise" finally releases, but it still hurts a bit.

- Thursday was my friend/accountability partner Jeremy Kroeker's birthday. 29 ...that's dangeously close to 30. I also had the privilege of preaching at the Mix that night.

- The energy at the Mix was really, really weird. It was a smaller group than usual, lots of people were not feeling well, and several had headaches. I still felt sick, and the negative energy didn't help much. Thank God He took over and spoke through me or else it would've been a disaster.

- Went to Taco Cabana with Rick and Kristin after the Mix. All I can say is "CHIMIS!!!" ...then in a sad, disappointed tone: "chimis ..."

- Friday was my day off, but I just did not feel rested at all. Saturday wasn't all that different because the faucet in the kitchen broke, so I had to learn how to replace it and how to replace some of the piping under the sink.

- Most of the week, I just felt like I was in a big funk and I was praying like crazy for God to restore to me the joy of my salvation.

- I finally felt His joy again this morning. Today was a pretty good day at church. Our numbers were up like crazy! Usually we have about 1,000 people including worship celebrations, youth, and kids but today we had nearly 1,000 people JUST in our worship celebrations!!! Talk about awesome energy!

- What a great message from God through pastor Walter today:
~ You can succeed in every way and fail at relationships.
~ It's not that you don't love your wife and kids's that you love your job more.
~ Why give yourself to those who don't love you at the expense of those who do?
~ Does God know He can trust you when you're all alone?
~ When the men of this church are united for one task, nothing can stop this church!
~ Ministry ALWAYS costs. It's often not comfortable and usually not convenient.
~ We have to become more than just coffee & donut Christians. What are you sacrificing for Jesus?
~ You wanna truly live? Gamble it all and go broke for Jesus.
~ The greatest challenge in life is to live for God. The question is ...are you man enough?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Five - Sports Teams.

It's Friday (for a few more minutes at least), and so it's time for a Friday Five. Today, my 5 favorite sports teams:

1. The UTEP Miners

The J.M. Hanks High School Knights

3. The San Antonio Spurs. Go Spurs, Go!

4. The UT Longhorns

5. The New York Yankees

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Post-weekend purge.

- On Monday, I started a new week, volunteered for lunch at Wayside, and spent a couple of hours working at the Firehouse on our expansion:
Man, it's amazing how much garbage renovating a 1,000 square foot shopping center suite produces! This pile, which is about 4 feet tall, isn't even a third of the trash we've taken out of there:

- Tuesday was the 1 year anniversary of Vista del Sol Baptist Church voting to become Del Sol Church. It was tough helping people see the need for the change, and some just were not able to come around, but in the end we have seen incredible spiritual and numerical growth and so while I'm sad that some left, I'm glad we made the decision - the right decision.

- Wednesday morning I took some of the staff out to the International Family Missions ranch out in Fabens. I had been there before, but it was great to see it again and learn even more about the needs there. They facilitate and equip families coming in on mission trips, but I think that we can help them with some of their needs at the campus. I really see us equipping the equippers.

- Wednesday was also First Wednesday Lord's Supper service at Del Sol Church. It was a great time of worship and remembering Christ's death. First Wednesday is always so humbling and centering for me; it's good to take some time to intentionally stop and remember Christ's sacrifice.

- Like 2 minutes before we started the program, Craig, our worship pastor, asked me to pray at the end of the song set. I wish I had been given more notice, but it was still a great experience to be on the main stage. I'd like to do that more often.

- Thursday was the Mix. We started our new "YouPick" message series by talking about some miscellaneous questions. This coming week, I'll be talking about the Presidential election and who Jesus would vote for. This should be good!

- After the Mix, Troy, Rick, Kristin, and I had a late dinner at Cheddar's. That was pretty cool, but what I enjoyed even more was talking with Rick and Kristin for over 2 hours after we left when the restaurant closed. We walked out of the restaurant a little after 10 pm, but we stayed and talked 'til nearly 12:30 am.

- El Paso is SOOOOOOOOO beautiful at night.

- Seriously's such a beautiful place all the time, but it's so much more majestic when the sun goes down.

- I love Fridays. I love not having to rush to get ready and go to work. I love being able to just sit and watch TV, read a book, or get under the blankets and watch a good movie.

- I really did not enjoy working Parents Night Out on Friday night though. It's nice to have the extra cash, but I'm seriously thinking of quitting. After all, if Fridays are my day off, I probably shouldn't be working on my day off anyway.

- On Saturday I worked all morning on my front yard, getting it ready for the fall. I really hope that this cold will keep it from growing until the Spring, because even though I enjoy yard work, at this point I'm sick of spending EVERY Saturday doing yard work.

- I love Sundays. And I love Del Sol Church.

- I didn't get to see the overall count today, but our numbers in the youth were wayyy down. Maybe because of the weather?

- Some Walterisms:
~ Complaining doesn't just make the complainer miserable; it makes EVERYONE miserable.
~ The hardest part is admitting you're a complainer.
~ Complaining is like bad breath: we recognize it in others, but not in ourselves.
~ Complaining makes us forget God, but gratitude causes us to focus on God.
~ Complaining is a sin because it's questioning God's existence, doubting His care, and forgetting His goodness.
~ What would it look like if we as a church exchanged blasts for blessings? If we replaced complaining with compliments?

- And wow ...Craig did a GREAT job with the worship celebration today. I totally did not expect that last song! Nice, Craig ...nice.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

It's coming!

Driving by my local Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse on Thursday night told me one thing:

Christ-mas is coming!!!

81 more days.