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Reflections

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 5

When my daughter was two, she brought an important lesson to life for me. We were walking in our neighborhood in October, and she was noticing the creepy decorations on people’s porches. She would turn to me, wild eyed, and stiffly say “I’m not scared”. Her expression and her body language said otherwise. Day after day, until those decorations came down, she illustrated the fact that people sometimes present a front that is different than what they are feeling, or who they are on the inside.

Since then I’ve had many interactions with people where I realized that what they were presenting to my eyes and ears was not what I was perceiving with my heart and spirit. And I will admit there have been times when I was reticent to reveal my true self. Haven’t we all been on both sides of this equation? And this brings me to the fifth, and final truth in this series.

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 5

The Halloween season reminds us to look beyond the disguises that people wear.

Today is the day for disguises

Today is the day that highlights this truth like no other. We will see people in obvious costumes all around us. We will look at them and know that they have altered their appearance and are playing a character which is not who they really are. We will perceive children beneath their disguises and people we love behind their masks. We will treat them for who we know they are, not for who they present themselves to be today. And oh, what a picture of discernment that we can hold onto for the rest of the year!

It is obvious on Halloween, but next week it won’t be so easy. When our loved ones look like themselves, and hide behind everyday facades, it takes more effort to notice. But it is more crucial than ever that we look through the disguises and into the hearts that lie beneath. What types of costumes might we see on Halloween which mirror those we see in daily life? (Shameless plug for tomorrow’s post on this very topic – I sure hope you’ll join in!)

Halloween disguises: How to have a healthy hope and a happy heart as Halloween hastens: truth 5
Photo by Yan Krukov
Disguises are obvious on Halloween

There is no time like Halloween to reflect on costumes and disguises. When I see the costumes today, and easily look through them to see a cherished person underneath, I am going to fill my tank of resolve to see through the facades I see all year. Any time I get an opportunity to improve my interactions with other people for God’s glory, I want to lean in.

This Halloween, may you have a healthy hope and a happy heart in light of Who God is and who He has created you to be. On a personal note, this has been my first Halloween season as a blogger, and I realize this series may have been counterintuitive to many of my readers. I cannot thank you enough for reading and engaging and for being so gracious with my point of view. You all are amazing! God is continually blessing me through you.

Click here to read the Introduction to this series.

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Reflections

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 4

This is my favorite of the 5 truths I have to share about how to have a healthy hope and a happy heart as Halloween hastens. I know the phrase “life-changing” is over-used and under-appreciated these days, but this experience I am about to share really did effectively change my life, and definitely for the better. I hope it does the same for you!

Front yard graveyard: : How to have a healthy hope and  happy heart as Halloween hastens, truth 4.
Front yard graveyard

It happened like this. I was jogging around my neighborhood in October, a few years ago. There were several houses in a row which were decorated to the hilt for Halloween. It was one front yard graveyard after another. I was trying to keep my focus on the sidewalk in front of me and thinking that I couldn’t wait until November 1, when all of this décor would be put away. In my head, I hummed, “What a day of rejoicing that will be that will be!”

If you don’t recognize those lyrics, they are from a song called “When We All Get to Heaven” by Brad Paisley. The refrain became my pace, as I rounded the corner by these decked out homes.

When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus
We'll sing and shout the victory

Suddenly, I had a realization so powerful, it almost knocked me to my knees. I stopped mid-stride and stumbled to a halt. My rhythmic breathing caught in a half a startled inhale and half a sob in my throat, as the revelation settled over me. These front yard graveyards were powerful and victorious visuals of the future!

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 4

The Halloween season gives us a victorious visual!

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord for ever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17 (emphasis mine)

I stopped and I looked around me with fresh, astounded eyes that must have taken up half my face, I was so incredulous. They were also brimming with uncontrollable tears. God met me right there and gave me something to anticipate about Halloween. Even now, as I retell the story, I can feel the awe in which I stood at that moment.

Since then, instead of turning away from the yards full of tombstones and half buried corpses, I stop and photograph them. They are victorious visuals of how the grave has no power over me! One amazing day, in a glorious instant, these scenes will play out, for real, in graveyards all around the world.

Halloween decor, skeletal remains in the grass: : How to have a healthy hope and  happy heart as Halloween hastens, truth 4.
The dead will be raised, imperishable. Oh death, where is your victory?
1 Chronicles 15:52, 55

“For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’

‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’”

1 Corinthians 15:52b-55

I no longer live in that neighborhood, but I jogged to it yesterday to re-live the occasion with God and take a photo to share with you. I was disappointed to find that there were no front yard graveyards there anymore. I smiled at the thought that maybe God showing up on the sidewalk that day had taken the enemy’s fun from that corner. It is more likely that the families have moved from there, like I have.

Either way, I was genuinely bummed to NOT find the elaborate graveyards. I had been looking forward to reveling in the best styrofoam and plastic visuals I’d ever seen. If you had told me, years ago, that one day I’d seek out a Halloween scene like this for its hope, I would’ve thought you’d lost your ever-lovin’ mind. But here I was, sorry to behold a blank lawn.

My dejection is why I can to say with certainty that this event, a few years ago, was “life-changing” for me. An encounter with God should always be that. I believe this is the correct use of the, otherwise over-used, term.

I will never be able to ‘unsee’ the glory in what was meant to be gory. Every grave WILL be opened. Every corpse WILL rise. And that is an event to which I look forward with great anticipation.

“But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise – let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy – your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.”

Isaiah 26:19
Happy skeleton rising from the earth : How to have a healthy hope and  happy heart as Halloween hastens, truth 4.
“Let those who dwell in the earth wake up and shout for joy” Isaiah 26:19

I want to be somber for a moment right here, though, and say that the victory in this visual is not guaranteed. The terror that is attempted in most front yard graveyard depictions cannot hold a candle to the horrifying possibilities which accompany the real event. Jesus DID die and rise again (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). In so doing, He DID conquer the grave (Romans 8:11). He DID make a way for ALL of us to partake in His victory (1 Thessalonians 4:13-15). But we MUST accept it while we live here on earth (John 3:16).

The day will come, when everyone, previously dead or never so, will find themselves in front of Jesus. Those who are His, because they chose to accept Him when they were given the opportunity on earth, will be ushered into eternal glory. Those who are not, because they refused Him when they were presented the choice on earth, will be cast away into eternal damnation.

You are being given the opportunity to decide, right here, right now. If the Lord comes back tomorrow, are you ready? Have you chosen Him? If not, will you choose Him today?

Please ask if you have any questions, or if you are unsure whether you have settled this matter with God. It is the most important, life-changing, eternity-defining decision of your existence. Please my precious friend, don’t let another day pass you by without knowing that you know that you know.

I can be reached via the comments below or the contact link at the top of this page. I have posted more information here. My hope and prayer for you is that you have a healthy hope and a happy heart as Halloween hastens. May you revel in the victorious visual of a front yard graveyard. May you look forward to the actual event and say with certainty, “What a day of rejoicing that will be!”

Click here to read the Introduction to this series.

Categories
Reflections

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 3

There was a period of time when I was plagued by a recurring thought. It wasn’t based on truth, and it wasn’t honorable. I struggled with it for several days, trying to take it captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and replace it with pure, admirable and praiseworthy thoughts (Philippians 4:8). Finally, I reached out to a mentor for support.

She suggested I sing worship songs out loud whenever the thought came to mind. I asked her why, and I will never forget her answer. “Because Satan hates being reminded that he is not the object of your worship, and he will get tired of pestering you when praise to Jesus is that is all he gets in return.” Boom!

Joyful woman with headphones: How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 3
Photo by Gustavo Fring
Remember the Greatness of God!

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 3

The Halloween season gives us a reason to sing!

There are many opportunities to misplace our adoration and adulation at this time of year. I suppose that is true year-round, but for some reason, it is expected in October. Even many Christians temporarily ‘step out’ on their position as the bride of Christ to flirt and dance with the dark side at Halloween.

It can be more difficult than ever to keep our minds focused on things which honor our King, when so much that comes at us does not. Our senses are inundated with representations of things which vie for our hearts and attention. This is why I believe Halloween, more than any other season, gives us a chance to sing faithfully and loudly to our God.

Photo by Polina Zelenina
Sing, dance and worship Jesus!

When we feel oppressed

Christians, especially those who don’t participate in Halloween, can feel oppressed in spirit this time of year. One reason for our oppression might be disappointment with the homage paid to evil. Another could be the very real clash between the Holy Spirit in us and the spirits who oppose Him. Whatever the reason, singing songs of worship to our Savior will remind us of His greatness. It may also convince any darkness present that it would prefer to leave.

“Your Great Name” is one of my favorites in moments like these. It is a battle cry of most soothing sorts.

Lost are saved, find their way, at the sound of Your great name
All condemned, feel no shame, at the sound of Your great name
Every fear, has no place, at the sound of Your great name
The enemy, he has to leave, at the sound of Your great name

Jesus, worthy is the lamb that was slain for us, son of god and man
You are high and lifted up, that all the world will praise Your great name
Oh, Your great name

Redeemer, my healer, almighty
My savior, defender, You are my king
Your Great Name, song sung by Natalie Grant

When we feel tempted

Let’s be honest – it is hard to be left out. People have parties which we don’t feel we should attend. There are costume contests with tempting prizes, for which we cannot compete. And what about our kids? How do we explain to them that much of what their friends are watching, doing, and celebrating isn’t honoring to God? It sure is tempting to compromise.

Foggy window, fall outside: How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 3
Photo by Andrew Neel
It is tempting to compromise when we feel left out.

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

1 Corinthians 10:13

This verse reminds us that God is with us, and He cares. He knows we are tempted, and He isn’t mad. In fact, He’s helping and providing a way of escape. We can sing to that!

God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill You created
The Light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die

And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You, so will I
So Will I (100 Billion X), song sung by Hillsong United

When we feel ashamed

Shame is hard to carry. Our enemy would have us believe it is our cross to bear. Precious friend, please hear me. He is a liar and you do not have to bear the burden of shame. At Halloween, we may come face to face with demons we’ve courted in the past. We may even feel comfort in the shadows, like we belong there. But if you are a child of God, this is false.

Solitude among leaves: How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 3
Photo by Yulia Polyakova
Shame vs. Conviction

The Holy Spirit will convict you. This conviction comes with the desire and the means to change. Conviction is a path to freedom vs. the confinement of shame. Praise and worship provide the perfect realignment for when we feel ashamed.

Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance
I just want to praise you
I just want to praise you
You broke the chains now I can lift my hands
And I'm gonna praise you
I'm gonna praise you
Shackles (Praise You), song sung by Mary Mary

Woman with leaf and headphones: How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 3
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio
Lord, You are worthy to receive glory, honor and praise!

There is nothing like songs of praise and worship to God to renew our healthy hope and happy heart as Halloween hastens. What is your favorite worship song? Please put it in the comments. Let’s create a playlist for the season!

Click here to read the Introduction to this series.

Categories
Reflections

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 2

I have a quick background story. It is related to the topic, I promise! My dad was the head football coach for the high school I attended. I grew up – even before I got to high school – going to, not only all our games, but as many of our opponent’s games as possible.

We took copious notes; wrote down their plays and looked for patterns. If we could, we tried to figure out which signs from the sideline coach resulted in which plays on the field. We studied our rivals, so we’d know how to beat them.

Football coach calling plays: How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 2
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
Coach signaling plays

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 2

The Halloween season gives us a glimpse into the playbook of our opponent.

The enemy of God has a strategy. He lies. He masquerades. He throws suspicion in one direction so he can hide in plain sight in the other. He does his best to convince us that he is make-believe, safe to play with, and poses no danger.

“He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

John 8:44

“How?” you might ask. “How do we see our rival running these plays at Halloween?” I think there are many answers, but here are some examples:

He masquerades

Kid in a cute devil costume: How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 2
Photo by Marta Wave

Evil hides behind his make-believe persona. Devil depictions with pointy ears and pitchforks make him more of a cartoon character than something real. On the flipside, he is not a mangled monster either. These disguises look nothing like his actual appearance, so his masquerade is effective. He is much more likely to appear angelic, if we actually encounter him. (Click here for more from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada)

“And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

2 Corinthians 11:14

He hides in plain sight

Camouflaged spider: How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 2
Photo by Saketh Upadhya on Unsplash
Huge spider in plain sight, as big as the picture – can you see him?

Because we contrive our own frightening experiences in Haunted Houses and Corn Mazes and such, we tend to think of evil as man-made this time of year. We seek those spine chilling moments and assume they’ve been manifested by human ingenuity. We don’t foster a healthy hesitancy toward wickedness. This allows Satan to prowl about in the open and simply blend in, hiding in plain sight.

The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From roaming throughout the earth, going to and fro on it.’

Job 1:7

He deceives people into thinking he’s harmless

Cute, smiley Halloween décor: How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 2
Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Halloween décor can be grotesque and repulsive, but it is not always. There are cute little “ghosties” with friendly faces and smiling jack-o-lanterns and winsome witches in white. They make evil palatable and approachable, even for kids. In this way, people are lulled into carelessness and deceived into thinking of Satan as harmless. I, personally, think this is his favorite play, and he is running it unopposed.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8

At Halloween, we get an opportunity to glance into the enemy’s playbook. We get to watch the patterns he repeats. We see how he tries to deceive and where he is successful. And just like my dad’s football team, we can defend against, and beat, an enemy whose strategy we understand.

Football team huddle: How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 2
Photo by Pixabay
A well prepared defense is as important as a great offense.

When I realize that the Halloween season provides an opportunity to gain better insight into the opponent of my King, I anticipate it differently. I find that I can maintain a healthy hope and a happy heart because the enemy is showing his hand and I’m ready to take notes.

What plays do you see him running, this Halloween or at any other time you’ve seen through his deception? Do the strategies I’ve listed shed light on anything you’ve experienced? Do you believe it is all just innocent fun? I’m anxious to hear your thoughts!

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Ephesians 6:12

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

Ephesians 5:8-11

Click here to read the Introduction to this series.

Categories
Reflections

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 1

Has anyone seen the end of September? I think I misplaced it. How is it October already?

Unpopular truth bomb: I’ve never been a fan of October. I’ve entitled this series “How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens”. It is for two kinds of people: those who are like me and those who aren’t. Do you FALL (pun intended) into either of those categories? Great! You’re just who I’ve been expecting.

I know it isn’t popular opinion, but I will quickly explain my position. I feel that taking part in festivities which, even loosely, pay homage to the sworn enemy of my Savior and Lord should be completely out of the question. Witches, demons, violence, fear, and the horrors of Hell are all very real and dead-set against my King. Courting them feels like treason to me.

Halloween porch decor: How to Have a Healthy Hope and Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 1
Photo by Bee Felten-Leidel on Unsplash

I’ve held this position my whole life, so I’ve always seen October as a month through which to endure. My neighbors put out their creepy decorations and the stores have aisles of grotesque things which cackle and frighten the kids (and me) as we are forced to pass by. November 1st dawns new and beautiful, because Halloween is over, everyone turns to giving thanks, and candy is 50-75% off!

These past couple of years have been different, though. God has been showing me some ways to appreciate Him as well as maintain a healthy hope and happy heart as Halloween hastens toward me in the rush that is October. I plan to share 1 each Sunday as we count down to the 31st.

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 1

The Halloween season reminds us to be on our knees.

Our prayers have the power to overcome darkness with light. With Halloween décor, we are literally inundated with visual reminders of what goes on in the spiritual realm and it should remind us to pray. We might be able to use the excuse that it is ‘out of sight, out of mind’ the rest of the year, but not in October. The gory, horrific, lure of evil is front and center and should drive us to our knees with prayers of both petition and praise.

Petition

As much as humans can contrive of scary things, we cannot conceive of the fright with which hell is fraught. We all know people who are headed there. This season, as we get a glimpse of what is in store for them, we should be on our knees in petition for their souls. Satan woos them, not because he cares at all about them, but because he hates God. He only wants them so Jesus cannot have them. We need to fervently pray for their eyes and hearts to be open to the truth.

Spider web: How to Have a Healthy Hope and Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 1
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Its a Trap!

Praise

At no other time in the year can we be more aware of the contrast between our salvation and that to which we were doomed before we were saved. Jesus died an excruciating death and bested evil so we could live free! Even when they’re whitewashed and googly-eyed, the frightening feels of Halloween should remind us that our faith gives us victory over fear. Because we belong to Jesus, Satan is our defeated foe. To Him be the glory forever!

I also have a personal gift, for which I praise God in this season. He gave me a precious baby girl, born at the end of October. Her birthday gives me a joyful distraction and I’m so thankful for the blessing that she is!

Fall colored balloons: How to Have a Healthy Hope and Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 1
Photo by PhotoMIX Company on Pexels.com
October birthdays are especially special!

I realize not everyone struggles to have a healthy hope and a happy heart as Halloween hastens near. If you do, I see you! I hope the posts in this series will give you something positive to focus on.

If you are all about this time of year and don’t understand why anyone would feel differently, I see you too. Thank you so much for reading. Maybe this series will give you insight into why some people feel the gravity over the revelry.

There is no time like the present for all Christians be on our knees. This is true as Halloween hastens and it is true as Easter dawns. Any day which can be found on the calendar is a good day to pray. In fact, a healthy hope and a happy heart are hard to find apart from prayer.

White pumpkin and fall decor: How to Have a Healthy Hope and Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 1
Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash
Today is the day to pray!

What are your thoughts about Halloween? Do you embrace or endure the festivities? Either way, would you be willing to join me in a challenge to use the Halloween season as a reminder to pray?

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

Ephesians 5:8-11

Related Post on the Posture of Prayer: Is your Posture Appropriate for a Dress Code which Requires Full Armor?

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Devotions

Fear the One You Trust

“My son…
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”

Proverbs 3:5-8

My beloved child,

I never want you to be afraid, but I pray for you to fear the One you trust. Fear in this sense, is a reverence – a deep respect, and a healthy realization of how powerful the Lord is. He holds everything, knows everything, and you cannot fool Him. If you think you’re wise enough to pull the wool over His eyes and get away with sin, you’re not wise at all. Don’t trust yourself to ever be more clever than God.

You’re accumulating knowledge and God is giving you increasing wisdom but know the difference between your thoughts and His. Trust His. Give your whole heart over to what the Lord has to say when you read His Word, converse with Him, and seek counsel from fellow Christians.

Black coffee mug with Proverbs 3:5-6 on it: Fear the one you trust

As you listen and learn, His plans for you will become clear. But even then, there are several ways to arrive at His will, and if you continue to acknowledge and follow Him, He will lead you on the most direct path to get there. Take His route and you will avoid many potholes and pitfalls along the way.

When you boldly fear the One you trust, it benefits you mentally and physically. Being afraid is a whole different thing, and will have the opposite effect, so be sure to recognize the difference.

There are two forces in this world – good and evil. Be intentional about which you entertain. They are opposing powers and you cannot embrace both. To worship the Lord, you must shun all evil; otherwise, you are divided and not able to wholly submit to the One you trust.

I desperately want to see you healthy and nourished, physically and spiritually. I desire for your every path in life to be straight and sure. I pray you will always fear the One you trust.

You are truly and deeply cared for.

This post is part of a series which was born the day my son moved out of the house. Please read Wait, one more thing! for the backstory.

Another post in this series, which you might enjoy, is Live Long and Prosper.

“Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.”

Psalm 34:9