*******

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sermon--10/1/06--Mixed Signals

Mixed Signals

I am going to make a few proposals to change some of the famous public service ad campaigns you’ve seen in the last decades and I want to ask how many of you think these sound like good ideas? What kind of message do you think they send?

Noting a shift in the youth mindset and America’s value systems, many of the old government, public service announcements have been retooled. Gone are the outdated “Just Say No”, “Don’t Drink & Drive”, “Don’t Play with Matches” campaigns. Maybe you’ve seen some of the new ones.

Smokey the Bear—longtime spokesman for the National Park Service has come out with a new commercial series concerning playing with fire—“Only You can prevent forest fires, but if you really want to start a fire or play with matches—be sure and only start small fires at home.”

On a similar note—the Illinois Department of Transportation is coming out with a new ad campaign, getting rid of the “Designated Driver” idea, instead, they could offer special training classes for the frequent drinker. The new slogan is—“Protect the Streets—Drink and Drive successfully by Practicing Often.”

“Just Say NO” and other warnings against gateway drugs like alcohol and marijuana have been replaced. Local elementary, middle and high schools can offer after school training and free samples to students so they can find out which drugs they prefer and how to take them correctly. After all, they’re going to do it anyway. “Just say ‘Once’”.

What kind of message do these ads send?

Mixed Signals. Mixed Signals are things that are confusing to our kids. We parents say one thing, then at some point, contradict ourselves and the kids cannot be sure which one they should follow, which one they should believe.

Is it wise for us to say 364 days of the year that something is bad, something is to be avoided, something is dangerous, and 1 day of the year, give them permission to participate in what we’ve been saying is bad all the other days. Last year America spent about 3.3 Billion Dollars on Halloween related things.

This is a month in which many believers will send mixed signals to their kids, their neighbors and friends. Some of it won’t be by design or decision, but by the decision of others. Some may be because you may not have noticed or given it a second thought in some time.

Let me ask you, how many of you, your friends, or your kids have seen more about death, about witchcraft, about evil and murderous and demonic forces lately? If you haven’t yet, drive by the front of Wal-Mart, watch TV this month, ask the video store what type of videos are most rented this month.


I am concerned how we adults and parents tend to tolerate, even send mixed messages about death, the occult, witchcraft or the demonic. Messages that are inconsistent with our faith the remaining part of the year. Adults and Parents seem to be leading the mixed signals.
National Retail Federation
2005 Top Kids' Costumes
# of Children
1. Princess 11.8% 3,778,217
2. Witch 5.2% 1,664,215
3. Spiderman 4.5% 1,439,321
4. Monster 4.1% 1,304,385
5. Darth Vader 3.9% 1,259,406
6. Superhero 3.9% 1,259,406
7. Star Wars Character 2.5% 809,618
8. Batman 2.4% 764,639
9. Ninja 2.3% 719,660
10. Clown 2.3% 719,660
11. Pirate 2.1% 674,682
12. Angel 2.0% 629,703
13. Pumpkin 2.0% 629,703
14. Power Rangers 1.8% 584,724
15. Cinderella 1.7% 539,745
16. Vampire 1.5% 494,767
17. Cheerleader 1.5% 494,767
18. Cat 1.5% 494,767
19. Ghost/Ghoul 1.4% 449,788
20. Soldier/Sailor 1.4% 449,788
2005 Top Adults' Costumes
# of Adults
1. Witch 16.4% 3,923,124
2. Vampire 6.0% 1,448,538
3. Actor/Famous Person 3.3% 784,625
4. Monster 3.0% 724,269
5. Pirate 2.4% 573,380
6. Angel 2.3% 543,202
7. Clown 2.3% 543,202
8. Ghost/Ghoul 2.1% 513,024
9. Zombie 2.1% 513,024
10. Renaissance Costume 2.0% 482,846
11. Princess 1.9% 452,668
12. Devil 1.8% 422,490
13. Grim Reaper 1.5% 362,135
14. Soldier/Sailor 1.4% 331,957
15. Superhero 1.4% 331,957
16. Nurse 1.4% 331,957
17. Gypsy 1.4% 331,957
18. Pumpkin 1.3% 301,779
19. Pimp 1.1% 271,601
20. Wizard 1.0% 241,423

Apparently, the older you get, the darker your costumes. It’s hard to say how these mixed signals are contributing to the spiritual climate in our country. But let me share this with you.

According to Information collected from 1990 to 2001, The fastest growing religion (in terms of percentage) is Wicca -- a Neopagan religion that is sometimes referred to as Witchcraft. Their numbers of adherents are doubling about every 30 months.

14.1% do not follow any organized religion. This is an unusually rapid increase -- almost a doubling -- from only 8% in 1990.

These beliefs, once largely ignored or dismissed in America are increasing in our population and becoming more and more accepted & real to the point that now the military is required to have wiccan chaplains and burial rites.

When the Israelites began entering the Promised Land, they were given several warnings regarding the religious practices of the surrounding peoples and how they were not to be like them. For them such beliefs were a reality, a competing belief system that was a lure to be unfaithful to God.

Deuteronomy 18:10-14—“10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells [notice good/bad, white/black isn’t mentioned], or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD. 13 You must be blameless before the LORD your God. 14 The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so.

Isaiah 8:19-20—“When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.

I believe God knew what He was talking about when he called His people to stay away from those things because they are dangerous to us spiritually. The other nations practiced these things so they could gain control over or knowledge of the future, they would worship the created thing, rather than the Creator—ultimately these beliefs and practices keep people from an authentic faith in God based on worship in spirit and truth—so these are deceptions intended to prevent us from truly knowing God—so they function as lies and are demonic in their origin.

While many of us dismiss the occult or demonic, I know there are those in this room who can say otherwise, myself included. . I hope you believe the Bible when it talks about the dangers of the demonic and the occult. I hope you believe that Jesus had very real confrontations with the demonic, as did Peter, Paul, the other Apostles and the church—and you don’t write those accounts off as psychological conditions or some other medical phenomenon.

I hope you are not telling your kids that the occult is wrong, it’s dangerous, and totally opposed to God while at the same time saying, “we’re going to let you dabble with it for a little while, just once a year. We’re going to buy dark, occultic decorations for our house, we’re going to encourage playing with witchcraft by putting the black pot in the lawn, we’re going to trivialize death and the demonic with cute cartoon figures and costumes that desensitize you to the real thing.”
That’s like saying:

Playing with matches is bad and dangerous, but let me show you the right way to strike them, let me give you a few things to burn.

You shouldn’t drink kids, but let me buy you a six pack and let you drink it at home.



Hey Kids, there is a spiritual evil out there trying to corrupt your soul and keep you from God, you must Resist the devil—but let me buy you a 10 horned demon mask, a witch or serial killer costume.

John tells us that he wrote the book of 1 John to warn us “about those who are trying to lead you astray”—1 John 2:26. John warns us in 4:1 to “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God”.

It is my conviction that many Bible believing Christians have stopped “testing the spirits” when it comes to how we participate in Halloween. I’m not saying that that a real Christian will not participate in Halloween. I’m afraid that we no longer care whether what we do, or whether how we celebrate is “from God” or not, that we no longer consider the spiritual impact of HOW we participate. The demonic packaged up as “harmless fun” is still demonic and makes it more dangerous.

2 Corinthians 11:14 warns us that, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light”. In other words—he puts on a costume trying to convince everyone he is a cute, harmless, misunderstood guy. He wears a costume to hide who he really is and hopes that you’ll invite him in for a visit.

1. Playing with the Occult is Dangerous—Saul in 1 Samuel 28:4- was so afraid of the Philistines, that after trying to ask God what to do about it and getting nothing—more likely b/c his heart wasn’t faithful and his attempts were more insulting to God than inspiring.
He then sought out a “medium” (the title of a recent TV series, BTW) to consult the dead prophet Samuel. He wore a costume to do it— vs. 8 lets us know that he wore a disguise to meet with this woman. And while most biblical scholars disagree on exactly what happened when the spirit of Samuel appeared, was it really him, was it a delusion or a demonic deception, they all agree that something happened. Saul had to take her word for it because he apparently could not see the vision for himself—vs. 14.

Saul is playing with fire—he is doing something God commanded not to do, something he knows is wrong & tried to get rid of at one point by expelling the mediums earlier in his career.

He is dabbling, thinking he is exempt, thinking that it won’t hurt him, thinking that it’s not really a big deal, but he’s about to find out it is a big deal that there are consequences.

2. Playing with the Occult has Consequences—
1 Chron. 10:13-14—“Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance, 14 and did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.

a. Even non-Christians are beginning to recognize Halloween related consequences for children.

b. A study conducted of six- and seven-year-olds by Penn State psychologist Cindy Dell Clark found that most parents underestimate just how terrifying the holiday can be for young kids.

c. “Halloween is a holiday when adults assist children in behaviors taboo and out of bounds," Clark writes in the anthropological journal Ethos. "It is striking that on Halloween, death-related themes are intended as entertainment for the very children whom adults routinely protect."

3. Dabbling In The Occult is not Compatible

a. Acts 19:13-16—The demonic is real and dangerous. You and I must not dismiss it because there is a very real spiritual battle going on; a real demonic power. While most of what we see in America today, like the astrology, the wicca, the psychic hotlines, is fake—it is not always fake. And the Believer should know better than to try and live in both worlds.
b. Acts 19:17-20—Believers Got rid of their old way of life. Some of them had practiced sorcery in their previous way of life—but Jesus changed all of that. They may not have felt convicted to get rid of it in their lives, but they eventually saw the need, no matter how valuable the items were. Sorcery, witchcraft, the occult, idolizing death are not compatible in the lives of those who love God.


Whether you celebrate & participate in Halloween activities is a decision between you and God. I want you to hear me clearly-- the way the world celebrates Halloween is not compatible with your faith.

I’m not questioning your salvation if you have a pumpkin at your house or if you give out candy.

What I do want you to do is question how & why you participate—don’t decide as a parent today, based on the pleasant memories you had as a child. Examine everything by your faith.

1. Test the Spirits to see whether they are from God.
a. Test the things your kids are exposed to—sadly, Halloween is more than just one day—many kids are looking forward to it all month just like they do Christmas—it’s hard to walk into Wal-Mart with all the decorations all over the stores, TV shows more horror movies, cute cartoonish characters try to convince your kids that witchcraft, magic, monsters and death is all harmless fun—they talk as if God sees a difference between a bad witch and a good witch, between black magic and white magic—and there is none.
b. Test the costumes they want to wear—kids, let your faith guide your decision. Adults, make the decision whether something is appropriate for your kids—offer alternatives because it’s not too late

c. Test the decorations of your house—kids open your eyes to what you see at home and ask what message it sends to your friends of your fatih. Parents, re-examine your plans—make your home a place of light and hope that does not glorify dabbling in darkness.

d. Test the decorations of houses as you walk around—don’t go to those houses that glorify the occult

e. Remember that Kids can’t always distinguish between the Real and Unreal. They don’t think like adults logically, emotionally—as the study I mentioned found—the scary, death, occult themes affect them more than we realize. Make a commitment to Protect them and not Confuse them or send conflicting messages

f. Reclaim the day—don’t let this day be controlled by the dead in your house. Try to promote life by handing out tracts with your candy, by carving Christian images in your pumpkins, by inviting all you know and recognize to church, and by reminding your house and your guests that Oct. 31st is the day Martin Luther hammered his 95 Theses on the door of the Cathedral back in 1517 that started the Reformation. On Oct. 31st, he began a revolution of faith that we are living in today.

g. Embrace Philippians 4:8—“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.”

6 comments:

ProEvangelical said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ProEvangelical said...

I want to thank God that he gave you the courage to preach this sermon.

We Christians have lost a lot of credibility with regard to being able to proclaim the whole counsel of God.

This is, I think, because we either compromise our convictions to the extent that we look unprincipled, or we capitulate altogether to this world's vogue.

It is clear from even a cursory reading of the Bible that it teaches there is a kingdom of darkness, and there is a kingdom of light. If we surrender this basic distinction of kingdoms we surrender the gospel.

The pop culture, and the commercial culture (along with other facets of the culture at large) have trivialized, and are continually trivializing the Bible's teaching about ultimate good and evil.

Christians shouldn't encourage the further trivialization of our basic beliefs by being wishy washy with regard to the less popular parts of the Bible's message.

because He lives,

Charlie

David Rogers said...

Thank you for this thoughtful, and I believe, biblical approach to this controversial subject.

I am going to save your notes to reference later, whenever I need to deal with this with others.

God bless you!

Phil Hoover, Chicago said...

Kelly, great blog.

But remember, this is a BLOG...not a book.

Your post got tedious and very LONG>

Hopefully your sermons are not the same way. LOL

Kelly Reed said...

Charlie, thanks for the encouragement. We do flirt with the kingdom of darkness too often.

David, may God continue to bless your ministry in Spain. I was concerned about this message b/c for some reason, people have very emotional reactions when their participation is challenged. I'm still learning the character of the congregation God has given me as I've only been here since April. But the response has been encouraging.

Phil--in my e-mail, the "wait till I get going" should be read with your best Viscini accent from Princess Bride.

Thanks for your feedback.

Kelly

Francoise said...

Hi Kelly- I have seen your Halloween celebrations and was amazed beyond words at the spectacle of an entire country getting into this fear-of-the-dead ritual. It's starting to come into Australia- but most people have no idea what it's all about or what they're suposed to be doing. The average Aussie regards it as yet another example of "American cultural imperialism"!

Kids have very fertile imaginations. They also harbour haunting fears that lurk way down, deep in their psyches. Fairy tales were designed to alleviate these terrors, and dressing up can achive the same purpose.By donning a goblin's disguise, you take control, and overcome your instinctive terror of it, that sort of thing.

As for mediums, etc- I have studied this subject exhaustively for over 30 years and am convinced that it is NOT supernatural in origin, but fraud, through and through. With what I know of their shonky practices, I could, if I were an unethical sleazebag pretending to have the ability to talk to the dead- set myself up in business and make a handsome living. But I couldn't live with myself if I did that. I've tried telling people how John Edward and James van Praagh do their "readings", but the need to believe in an after-life is so entrenched into the average person that they would rather not know that it's just deceit and trickery. An American, whose name was soemthing like Lamar Keene
( can't recall exactly) wrote an expose of the despicable tricks that he used to perform to fleece grieving people of their cash. If only more would be as honest as that man!