The Purpose Behind Life Sucking

Have you ever gone through something that you repeatedly lifted to God in prayer, but felt like your prayers fell on deaf ears or that you, in general, were getting nowhere?  Something that made you feel… weak?

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

From this passage, I’ve discovered some great truths.  It seems as though God allows certain things we would consider trouble to essentially keep us humble.  The thorn in Paul’s side was placed there to keep him “from becoming conceited.”  He pleaded with the Lord several times as we all have done.  He did not want the thorn, just as we do not want our thorns, it’s painful, it’s irritable, it breaks our hearts, it keeps us ill, and much more.  It sucks.  God’s reply to his pleas is not a yes or no answer, and is convicting.  Does he say “ok, I’ll get rid of the thorn,” or “nope, I’m not doing anything about that thorn?” No, He tells Paul He is bigger than the thorn, that with God, that thorn is powerless.  He pulls the focus off of the thorn and it’s size and directs it to Himself and His size.  Once this sinks in to Paul, he no longer seeks relief from the thorn, and even INVITES weakness!  He has seen how the majesty of Christ is made more visible because of his weakness, and says “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

Can you imagine, that thing you’re thinking of right now that hurts you so bad, thats been tearing your life apart for months or years, suddenly losing it’s effect, and you say “I’ll take on more!”  This should shift the direction of our prayer!!  Yes, we can voice our concerns and hurts to God, and sometimes in the middle of the storm we absolutely need to, but what more of a productive prayer and mindset shift it is to thank God for who He is, for His power manifested in our weakness, for the victory that is SURE to come, for His infinite grace!

You could draw the conclusion then, that a purpose for life sucking is to keep us desperate, facedown before the Lord in humble surrender of our life and all it may bring us, whether it be joy or sorrow. I can say that I am BLESSED to be crushed and broken.  My God loves me enough to not allow me to think I have everything together, to think I don’t need Him.  I would rather have my world crashing around me so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
I feel very little need to go beyond that holy statement in search of a relief to a struggle.

Mike Arnold

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Halloween For Christians: Good Or Bad Idea?

A man in Mustang, Oklahoma is getting a ton of national media attention lately for the double homicide aftermath in his front driveway.  Johnnie Mullins is taking Halloween to the next level, putting together a murder scene on his property of two men brutally and bloodily slaughtered.  People are calling 911, children are freaking out, and the town/police aren’t happy.  Mullins says, “It’s Halloween, I don’t think it’s too far.”  I couldn’t agree more.  Death is what we portray with our Halloween decorations, it’s what we pay to see in movies, why on earth is it too far to carry the same logic to the furthest extent?  And if what he does is in any way wrong, how is the rest of Halloween’s celebration of death and demonic right?

America has a love affair with evil that is most blatant on October 31st.

BACKGROUND

Halloween is formed from the celebration of the early church to honor the martyrs called All Saints Day, which was set up as a challenge to the pagan holiday.  Halloween was called Samhein in Europe and Britain, where the major celebrations were marked by changing seasons.  Upon the coming of winter, they prepared to ensure survival by harvesting crops and slaying animals that wouldn’t make it.  Samhein celebrated the final harvest, death, and onset of winter for three days, October 31 to November 2.  They believed that the barrier between the living and the dead was removed to allow the dead to walk among the living, aka ghosts haunting the earth.

Many of the Celts embraced this time by engaging in occult practices and communicating with the dead, amongst other demonic activities, mainly to seek counsel on the future of their crops and weather prophecy.  Bobbing for apples was a practice used to bring the dead spirit’s “blessings” on a couple’s romance.  The superstition continued, they believed that the spirits wouldn’t leave until they were properly fed with treats, and would be “trick” or haunt the people who didn’t properly “treat” them.  More superstition developed, believing that if they wore a grotesque costume or carved a hideous face into a turnip (or pumpkin) and placed a candle in it, it would fool the wandering spirits.There was a series of events involving religious officials to try to “Christianize” the holiday.  In time, Halloween and Samhein were combined theoretically, and people understood that the spirits really were demons.
The tradition started for young kids to go door to door getting candy and food for their parties.  It didn’t become a US holiday until the British Isles working class immigrated in the nineteenth century, and the interest in the mischievous aspects was introduced to America.  Of course Hollywood has added to the “fun” with skeletons, vampires, demons, bats, mummies, monsters, etc. and America annually spends 3.3 billion dollars on Halloween, averaging about $42 per household.

FILTERED THROUGH CHRISTIAN LENS

The very nature of the enemy is to distort the word of God and subtly pacify the gravity and severity of the absolute relevance of His truth.  It rarely comes like a smacking into a brick wall, it comes slowly, comes portrayed as fun or as a joke.  Death is not charming, entertaining, or funny.  It was so serious that it had to be conquered with the life of our Savior.  But yet, what does Halloween consist of?  Images and scenes of death, gravestones, skeletons, dead bodies, etc, it’s horrific.  Why do we entertain ourselves with something we would never wish to be reality?

We live in a culture that encourages fear, when the character of God is the complete opposite.  All throughout scripture, you see God desiring peace in our lives, telling us that he did not give us fear, it is not from him.  He is clear in making it known that He is a God of peace, so if He’s not a God of fear, where do we get it?  Where does it come from?  It’s used as a marketing strategy to entice you to see movies that will scare you.  Haunted houses exist for the purpose of selling fear.  Again, these two things circle around the base of Halloween.  They are not of God and they defile His temple.  I’ve long said that if you have a problem walking through a dark wooded area at night, you’ve watched too many movies.  There is absolutely nothing to fear about that except tripping over a stick you couldn’t see.

Our purpose is the gospel, and we are to replicate Christ, be truth, and glorify God.  Does it glorify God to entertain, praise, focus, and decorate our “fun” with the things God clearly states He detests and hates?  That is a question directed at the reader to discover for her/himself, but my opinion drifts more towards understanding the celebration as a glorification of evil rather than righteousness, death rather than life, Satan rather than Jesus.This day and time period has so many traces of wickedness and evil but nobody really seems to talk about THAT part.  Below is a body of text from an actual Wiccan and witch resource site talking about America’s “harmless” holiday:

“Halloween is a time to take care of our dead, and to remember the past year. It is traditional on Samhain night to leave a plate of food outside the home for the souls of the dead. A candle placed in the window guides them to the Lands of Eternal Summer, and burying apples in the hard-packed earth “feeds” the passed ones on their journey. Divination is commonplace and Samhain is known as a time of year where the veil ‘tween the living and the dead is at its thinnest. As the nights grow cold, the dark half begins..

Samhain(pronounced Sow-in, Sah-vin, or Sahm-hayn), known most popularly as Halloween, marks the end of the third and final harvest, is a day to commune with and remember the dead, and is a celebration of the eternal cycle of reincarnation. Samhain (once again Halloween) is the most coveted sabbat by the Wiccan (and many Pagan) religions.In the European traditions, Samhain is the night when the old God dies, and the Crone Goddess mourns him deeply for the next six weeks.  The popular image of her as the old Halloween hag menacingly stirring her cauldron comes from the Celtic belief that all dead souls return to her cauldron of  life, death, and rebirth to await reincarnation.

Halloween, plain and simple is our favorite time of year. A true time for witches, Witchcraft itself, and Wiccans alike who feel that on this night the separation between the physical and spiritual realities is its least guarded and its veil the thinnest. It is a time for dimensional openings and workings, it is a somber holiday, one of dark clothes and thoughts for the dead, and it’s said to be the time when those of necromantic talents can speak with the dead and it is certainly a time to remember one’s own dead.”

I also read somewhere that Halloween marks the end and the beginning of their calendar.  When it comes to Halloween, all of evil points to and revolves around it, in the case of the wiccans, literally.

We are challenged to not be imitators of darkness.  Romans 12:9 tells us to hate evil, and love good.  Deuteronomy 18:9-14 says to do not learn to imitate detestable ways, including spiritists, sorcerers and witchcraft.  Ephesians 5:11, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness.”  It seems to me that our culture is hell bent on observing Scripture and directly disobeying it.

This isn’t just as issue of Halloween time, but the rest of the year as well, most notably, with entertainment.  Television contains so much garbage, especially with demonic horror flicks and shows like American Horror Story… I digress; I’ll tackle that another day.

I’ll take things a step further.  What about church harvest parties?  I’ll preface by saying I’m TOTALLY not against and absolutely for things that are directly attempting to reclaim the culture in this area by putting on productions or events that have consistently shown their kingdom worth with the souls they bring to Christ.  But others, I take issue with for a few reasons.  First, I’ve heard all too many say “well then, what am I supposed to do on Halloween, sit at home?” “If I’m not going to the ‘bad’ party, I HAVE to go to something.”  Why is it we feel we’re entitled to the same things the world apparently is entitled to?  Why, as Christians, do we feel we require a substitute in the absence of something the enemy created?  Why do we feel we’re missing out?  Once again, I’m not against events that have, in the past, caused people to receive Christ, heck I’ll even throw you a few twenties to help sow into it.  But if not, and we’re caught up in the mentality that we deserve a fun time because we simply just don’t want to do nothing… has anyone thought of prayer?  One of the greatest assaults on the heart and spirit of God in one night, so much evil being glorified, Satan is running rampant in our backyard and we’re too concerned with our own entertainment.

This should be a night of great intense spiritual warfare, where we “humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face, and turn away from wicked ways, and God will heal our land” – 2 Chronicles 7:14.  What does it mean to “turn away?”  Is it not performing demonic activities, just pretending and dressing up like we are?  Halloween is not just a fun thing to do, so many Satanists and witches are recruited that night, so many children’s interests are driving them to experimentation with sorcery, divination, and witchcraft.  Each year that’s passed, I’ve grown more and more surprised with the Christian’s disregard for these things.

Bottom line, this is something that has to resonate within you.  This is a decision you have to make based upon the conviction God has placed in you.  I absolutely urge getting before God, making sure that how you go about Halloween isn’t in anyway a dishonor to God.  Use the intellect and Godly logic you were created with to process every thought to the deepest extent.  Question yourself, “Will this glorify God and make my purpose and calling here on earth make sense?  Will this directly exalt Christ?”  It’s not something to take lightly, and it’s also something nobody can really take my word for.  As for me, I see the origin and the intent.  I see the here and now influence, and I smell Satan.  I know what Jesus did for me to conquer death and I am not going to, in any way, find it entertaining.  But again, that’s just me…

Mike Arnold

My Church is Better Than Your Church

A few years ago, Rick Warren tweeted to about 130,000 people “I challenge any church in America to match the spiritual maturity, godliness & commitment of any 500 members of Saddleback church.”  Interesting claim.  I read that thinking it’s blatant unrestrained pride, with a side order of gutsy, but it actually reveals an unfortunate truth: Is this not a dominant, sometimes silent, mentality in millions of churchgoers in the world today?

 

I applaud Warren’s honesty, while I hate the arrogance he represents.  I’ve seen it everywhere I’ve gone in my life, but my greatest repulse is that I’ve seen it in myself.  I thought everyone around me needed to change when it was me that needed it most.  I was God in my own eyes, above reproach, and everyone’s corrector, and since I “was God,” my relationship with the actual God was pathetic.  Since my eyes have been opened to my sin, there have been so many people I’ve had to seek forgiveness from.  It’s still a daily struggle to make sure I’m far from pride and close to lowliness, a place of entire dependence on God.

 

That said, I despise and am disgusted with the demonization of people who leave one church for another.  90% of the time they’re not leaving because of offenses or because they’ve fallen away.  They are not disloyal, and to assume so is to place precedence of institution/establishment over God.  The notion that one church is better than the other is tragic.  It brings with it superiority, hierarchy, and judgment and it limits your ability to receive wisdom from the Christ in others that are not associated directly with who you classify as “best.”  There are such rich teachings in the treasure chest of wisdom in the leaders and preachers of many local ministries, but it remains undiscovered to the judgmental mind, the prideful heart. 

 

Christ isn’t coming back for YOUR church, but for THE church.

 

Granted, there are the must have’s like sound doctrine, delivery of the gospel, conversion, evangelism, membership, discipline, discipleship, and leadership.  Of course there are times where division is necessary, such as when unbiblical things are accepted or taught.  And it’s ok to have differing opinions and tastes on how contemporary or hardcore the worship is, or the dress style, but are we divisive with others despite our mutual Major focus?

 

Historical, and I’m certain, modern day battle and war strategy involves analyzing your enemy, investigating their tactics and capabilities.  Somewhere in the middle of all this you’ll find discussion of weak points, and even the economical perspective:  How can I defeat my enemy without lifting a finger?  This is the sole purpose nations seek positive global relations with other nations that have a common bone to pick.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

 

Satan is smart, and he knows his resources have limited to no effect on a force as great as the Lord’s.  He’s been around for far longer than you or I and has utilized every second of his time strategizing against God and His people.  I believe that the existence of so many denominations and even animosity between similar denominations is an intentional system of attack authored by the devil.  Why?  Because we lose focus of expanding God’s kingdom when we’re too busy building our own.

 

None of us are 100% correct.  We absolutely strive to represent God’s Word the best way we’re able, but especially given our prideful tendencies, none of us should assume omniscience.  None of our labeled and established points of view are sitting on the throne, therefore reducing them to be subject to correction.  Romans 3:4 says “Let God be true, and every man a liar,” indicating God’s perfect wisdom ate our collective wisdom for breakfast 6,000 years ago.

 

Paul tells us “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… Why do you pass judgment on your brother?  Or you, why do you despise your brother?  For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” (Romans 14:4-5, 10)

 

Also, “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God…so than we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4: 4-6, 12-14)

 

I say this with compassion because I’ve been a struggler of this in past times.  If you find it difficult in your heart to love others and to display humility, I would question your love for Christ.  If your heart is currently hardened to what you’re reading, I would question the intent of your churchgoing experience.  Is this a segregated, cliqued social club or a group of people dedicated to the cause of Christ?  Are we here based upon the common interest that we’re better than everyone else, standing high on the same mountain, or because we all realize we need a Jesus seeking community, a militant salvation army, if we’re going to have a chance at reaching the half million unchurched people in our backyard?

 

Let’s unite for the common cause of Christ, because He is our perfect righteousness, the reason we live, and the lover of all of our souls.  Lets unite for the existence of a common enemy, because divided we’re consumed with hate, losing sight of our purpose, and defeated.

Mike Arnold