Friday, 12 October 2012


I had an unexpected revelation the other day in Tesco.  We came upon the Halloween aisle and you know what?  For the first time in my life I didn’t care!!

I’ve been a Christian my whole life pretty much and every year at this time I’ve found the Halloween displays troubling. I was never one of those Christians that sees the demonic everywhere – the Christian equivalent of the ‘reds-under-the-beds’ paranoia of the 50’s and 60’s!  But I did find it upsetting to see it.  It used to bother me that so many American Christians would participate in trick-or-treating; dressing up as ghosts and ghouls, witches and wizards and skeletons and devils.  "Didn't they know how evil it all was?" I thought.  I’ve never allowed my children to participate in Halloween parties or dress up.  (I still vehemently object to trick-or-treating but that’s because it’s simply another invasion of American culture into Britain and while I love the USA I’d quite like to keep our society and culture British! However I’d be just as upset if Americans in small villages started doing Morris dancing just because they saw us Brits doing it).

However the finished work of the cross, the message of the superb and complete victory of Christ, the understanding of the delight the Father takes in his creation and the union we have through Jesus has obviously changed my thinking more radically than I thought.

I guess I now think that dressing up for Halloween and enjoying a party with a ‘scary’ theme is no different to watching a scary movie or Doctor Who!  It makes the participants no more likely to become involved in the occult or have any influence over them than dressing up as a Priest or a Nun for a ‘tarts & vicars’ party would make you suddenly decide the religious life in a convent or monastery was for you!  The activities and trapping of Halloween are silly not demonic!  The American Christians that participate in it have a much healthier attitude to Halloween than most evangelical/charismatic Christians in the UK - they treat it as a silly bit of family fun!

The enemy was soundly defeated Colossians 2:15 tells us this “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

So let’s stop focusing on the enemy, stop focusing on the fear, stop obsessing about the outward appearance and most of all stop judging.  Let’s look to Christ and his glorious triumph and give the enemy exactly the amount of attention he deserves – none at all.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Battleship Church

I remember years ago hearing a preach, at least twice, about how the church isn't supposed to be a cruise liner but a battleship; everyone in their place with a job to do to fight the battle.  At the time I absolutely agreed with it and if you’re the person who preached it, or if you’re someone who absolutely believes this, then please don’t be offended by what follows.  It’s not a dig or a personal attack it’s just a reflection of how far my thinking has changed over recent years.  (And perhaps it’s better news for hurting, lost, damaged, frightened people than conscription into an army would be!)

The implication of the battleship analogy is that we have to fight.  That there is an active, dangerous enemy that has power, power to attack us, hurt us, damage us or even possibly kill us if we’re just loafing about not remaining constantly vigilant and ready to defend ourselves.  We know we have a captain, Jesus, in charge of the ship and he’s plotted out a victorious strategy and the outcome of the war is assured but at the moment our enemy is fighting a vicious rear-guard campaign designed to inflict maximum losses out of spite.  Jesus’ earthly mission was like the D-Day landings that turned the tide, the act that effectively won the war but the troops, us, still need to advance to Berlin to ensure peace.

I'm not sure where unbelievers fitted into the battleship analogy.  Were they held captive on enemy vessels?  Were they, in some cases, manning those vessels willingly; perhaps the Satanists or those practicing the occult would be viewed this way?  Were the unbelievers simply adrift in the sea, clinging onto whatever flotsam and jetsam they could awaiting rescue?  But once rescued instead of being repatriated and given tea and sympathy they are immediately given a uniform, some basic training and then assigned a post on the battleship!

You know what?  I think the church IS a cruise liner.  I think the captain is still Jesus, but he’s a captain who’s no longer at war.  He actually did defeat the enemy as the scripture says in Colossians 2:13 -15 “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross”.  He’s now the captain of ‘The Love Boat’!  We are the passengers, enjoyed the rest spoken of in Hebrews 4, the victory over the sinful nature spoken of in Romans 6, 7 & 8.  The enemy is stripped of power, and all that remains is the lies he spread via his propaganda.  We really don’t have to actively engage in warfare.  The only weapon left to the enemy is lies.  Jesus, Mr. Truth, set us free!

Where are the unbelievers in this analogy?  Are they on the enemy vessels?  No – they were all sunk.  Are they adrift in the sea hoping there are no sharks sniffing around?  No.  They’re on the ship with us!  The only difference between the believers on the ship, who spend all day enjoying the fullness and bounty of the banquet at the captain’s table, relaxing in the sunshine, playing, having fun and loving each other and the captain, is that they’re below decks in the dark in the hold!  They either don’t know the captain bought them a ticket for the cruise and that they've got their own stateroom ready and waiting or they don’t believe that they deserve it!  Perhaps they don’t even believe that there is an above-decks to come up to – perhaps they've believed so much of the enemy propaganda they think the hard-life below decks is all there is.

Do we as believers have a job to do?  Yes.  But it’s a pleasant task, an easy burden and a light yolk.  It doesn't involve military drills, harsh discipline or fighting.  All we have to do is open a door into someone’s darkness in the hold and love them into seeing that they really are invited to the captain’s table.  The ticket is real, the full cost already paid for.  The cross paid the price for all, 2 Corinthians 5:14 – “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died”.  So let’s enjoy our cruise, invite as many as we can to join the feast and take Paul’s advice in Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” which in this analogy would be abandoning your luxury stateroom to go back below decks and eke out an existence in the dark!