At this time of year it is customary for us to make New Year resolutions. We vow to stop bad habits or to start new ones: to lose weight; get out of debt; get a better job; learn something new; spend less time on Facebook…
The funny thing is that deep down we know we’ll break these resolutions a few days after we make them! If we’re focused they’ll last a week, maybe a month! Few of them last very long, let alone for a lifetime. Despite our good intentions we often find it difficult to fulfil such promises made either to ourselves or to other people. So we are not really surprised when we go back to our old ways.
In contrast, God never, ever breaks His promises. I think this is amazing! But how do we know this?
Firstly, He cannot lie:
“…in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began”
Titus 1 verse 2 ESV
Secondly, no-one and nothing can thwart God’s plans:
“No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the LORD”
Proverbs 21 verse 30 ESV
So when God promises something He does it! This certainly is both reassuring, and totally outside of our own experience.
Now God has made some mind-blowing promises to us, and these are revealed in the Bible. One of my favourite Bible passages is in 1 Corinthians 2:
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him – these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit”
I Corinthians 2 verses 9-10 ESV
These fantastic promises can change our lives completely: not only now but for eternity. They tell us how we can be saved from death to live for ever in the idyllic conditions of God’s future kingdom on earth.
But we have to know about the promises and act on them. The only way to do this is to read the Bible. If we decide to make a New Year resolution, let it be to read the Bible everyday; it could be one of the most important promises of our lives.
If you fancy a daily Bible reading app there’s a great one here:
Booo!! ‘Spooky in the dark’ was always a favourite game amongst the kids at family get togethers when I was growing up. You close the curtains, turn out the lights, and hide. Then someone enters the dark room and tries to find everyone as their eyes adjust to the dark. It was hide and seek with the lights off; it felt intense, scary!
I do wonder whether we have a strange fascination with being scared. Whether it’s by watching a tense film or jumping out on people to shock them, feeling scared or shocked is perhaps appealing in a strange kind of way. Of course being afraid of the right things keeps us alive, it’s probably a good idea to be afraid of sharks, cliff edges, and [insert whatever you’re afraid of here]. But what about fear when there is seemingly nothing to be afraid of? Fear of the unknown? Fear of the dark?
The dark will be full of strange creatures, monsters and ghouls over the next few days as the UK and the US gear up for another Halloween. I’m left wondering what’s really at the heart of Halloween and what it’s all about. On one side it seems to be just another commercial success as Halloween becomes the the third biggest ‘event’ for retailers behind Christmas and Easter, with shoppers in the UK estimated to spend a staggering £400 million on Halloween items this year. Maybe it’s just another excuse for us to dress up, to have some fun, and for kids to demand sweets from strangers with veiled threats of ‘tricks’ to those who don’t cough up! But does it go deeper? And should we get involved?
There’s a decent litmus test to help us here in these words from Paul:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8
I suppose the question to ask is whether or not Halloween is based on values such as truth, honesty, justice, purity, love, goodness? If it isn’t, should we spend our time ‘celebrating’ it?
I’m not entirely sure to what extent people who celebrate Halloween think they are really conversing with the dead, maybe in darker ages people were more genuinely concerned with connecting with ‘other worlds’. In ancient times God warned against paying attention to those who thought they could summon the dead:
“When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you…one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord.”
In more modern times Paul again encouraged us to:
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:11
So as we spend time thinking about Halloween, it’s origins and what it stands for, the darkness, fear and threat that comes with it, perhaps we should instead think of the light which Jesus spoke of:
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
Whatever your views are of Halloween, whatever enjoyment you get from playing ‘Spooky in the dark’, I’m comforted by the light of the Gospel, the light of Jesus, and the positive message he brings.
Can the dead come back to life? The Bible Says YES – but not yet!
Jesus rose from the dead and can never die again. Resurrection of those who believe in him is the true Christian hope. True followers of Jesus will live again – for ever – when he comes back to the earth. This is a far more uplifting and much more powerful than the things which don’t really go bump in the night.
“For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”
I Corinthians 15:21-23 ESV translation
(This and other blogs can be found on the website of our sister church in Morecambe)