Friday, October 30, 2009

What is October 31st, really?

Is it:

a.) a fun-filled night in the US that originated from Druid superstitions and beliefs?
b.) the day before All Saint's Day, a day to celebrate the Saints who gave their lives in service to God?
c.) the day Martin Luther nailed his "95 Theses" to the Castle Church door, thus beginning the Reformation?

Well, actually it is all three. Did you know....

October 31st is the last day of the Celtic calendar and is known as Samhain, a pagan holiday celebrating the dead, and steeped in superstition. The ancient culture thought the dead souls roamed the villages at night. Gifts and treats were left out on Samhain to pacify the evil spirits. In addition, faces were carved into turnips to fool the roaming souls into thinking a spirit was already occupying that space and therefore protecting the house from any evil spirits.(Hence, the customs of trick or treating and jack-o-lanterns evolved.)

Later, the Catholic church set aside November 1 (the day after Samhain, October 31st) as All Saints Day. This is a day of remembrance of the men and women who lived their lives in service to God. November 1st was selected as a means to turn a pagan ritual into a Christian holiday in hopes of converting pagans and helping those who were newly converted.

Then in the early 1500's, after years of study, prayer, and searching the Scriptures, Martin Luther realized that some of the teachings and practices of the Catholic didn't follow Biblical teachings. He wrote his findings out (all 95 of them) and nailed them to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. In that day, if someone wanted to debate an issue, they would post their debate on the door of the church. (It was like a message board for the townspeople.) He intentionally selected October 31, because he knew most of the people would be attending church services for All Saint's Day the following day. By challenging the practices of the Church, Luther was hoping for change within the church. However, his actions instead infuriated the church leaders and he was threatened with banishment and forced to stand trial. At the trial, he was asked to retract his findings. He replied by saying, ' Unless I can be convinced by the clear teachings of the Bible that I am wrong, I cannot and will not retract what I have written." Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen."

Because of Luther's standing up for the teachings of Scripture, his standing up to the false teachings of the Church, and the Church refusing to change their wrong practices, others began questioning the Church and examining the Scriptures themselves. This was the beginning of the Protestant Reformation (named for those who protested the teachings of the Catholic church).

So whether you choose to celebrate today by going trick or treating, enjoying a parade, or attending a party--if you are Christ-follower--take some time today to reflect on the impact of Martin Luther's life. As a Christian, this day should be more than just dressing the kids up and getting candy to eat. It should be a day of thanksgiving for the stand taken for religious freedom and Truth almost 500 years ago. Take some time today to think about it!

Monday, October 26, 2009

God's glory displayed

First, has it really been almost 6 weeks since my last post? Time has been flying by. School is keeping me so busy through the week and every weekend has been filled with much activity. I had to put on my soccer mom/football mom hat for those weeks, but now it is time to hang those hats back up. And now, I am hoping for a few weeks of calm and enjoyment before we burst into the holiday season. ;-)

But the real motivation for this post (now that my excuses have been stated).....

A few weeks ago, we were asked the question in Bible study, "What is your favorite season?" I don't have one. I LOVE them all. Living in the Midwest is such a blessing. About the time you get used to a season, it's time for a change. We have four distinct seasons here in Illinois...and the next one arrives in quite a contrast to the one before it. I really do love each season. But right now, at this time, I am thoroughly enjoying AUTUMN.

Last week on Wednesday, the kids and I went out for several hours and took pictures amongst the fall colors--beautiful red bushes, yellow trees, and green evergreens. It was a gorgeous day. (I was able to get some great shots and will hopefully get them posted soon.) Then on Friday, I had the opporutnity to drive up to Elsah and enjoy the colors of fall along the Mississippi. It was breathtaking and even the kids noticed the beauty of the trees.

However as beautiful as those scenes were, one surpasses them in my mind's eye. Is there anything more glorious than a sunrise on a fall morning? This morning as I was making the bed, I peered out the bedroom window to see the sun rising over the tops of the trees in the woods behind our house. The pinks and blues of the new-morning sky accented the oranges, yellows, reds, greens and browns of the trees. It was, it was magnificent.

My reason for loving AUTUMN is that it is such a visible reminder that God is creative and loves beauty. We were created by a God who doesn't live in a black and white world. Instead He created all the beautiful colors that we get to enjoy. His plan for the plants included this changing of the colors. Was this necessary? No. I'm sure the plants could have "gone to sleep" for the winter without their farewell display. But God in His wisdom made them to stop their production of chlorophyl which in turn causes the leaves to lose their greenness and results in the awesome variety of colors that we get to experience. Why??

I believe there are two reasons. The first is for Himself---for His glory and His enjoyment. Colossians 1:16 says, "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible...all things were created by him and for him." To sum up that verse, He created everything and He created it for Himself...for him to enjoy and for it to glorify Him. The second reason is for US! He loves us. He gives us gifts we don't deserve because of His love for us. Nature is one of His gifts to us.

Be encouraged! As you look at the colors of nature this fall, let it be a reminder that God loves you. He wants you to enjoy His creation. It is His gift to us.