From the Pasters Desk

Roger Phillips

Friends One of my highest honors is to be addressed as pastor. I count it a privilege to serve as the pastor of Beulah Baptist Church in Fruitland FL. The term "pastor", in the Baptist Church is one of two offices the church, deacon being the other, and is considered synonymous with "elder" or "bishop.” I am pleased to serve with the other servants of the church at Beulah. The pastor gives the sermons the majority of the time and It is my great pleasure to preach and to teach. As the leader of the congregation the pastor also gives advice and counsel to people from the community or congregation. I am thankful for the opportunities afforded to me. I look forward to serving this great congratulation and community. Please do not hesitate to call me

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Robby Paxton

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A Christian Looks at Halloween

          During Halloween, shoppers look to get a big bang for the buck, and Halloween delivers. What's the cost of a few bags of Halloween candy? Statistics reveal that around 95% of Americans will buy candy, décor, and costume spending $8.5 billion in 2019. Record Halloween sales give retailers the kick start that they need for holiday sales. It signals how well they'll do during the all-important holiday season. That's when about 20% of retail sales occur for the entire year. The kick-off is Black Friday, which is just a month later. In fact, 39% of shoppers begin their holiday shopping before Halloween.
          One reason for Halloween's popularity is that it's a very affordable holiday. It doesn't cost as much as Christmas or Thanksgiving and it perceived as lots of fun and there is great acceptance in the culture. Part of this is a permanent shift to thrift that occurred during the Great Recession. Shoppers are willing to spend money on something if it provides a lot of value. Halloween does that. Halloween's affordability means that people are spending more now than even before the recession. In 2007, they paid $64.82 each.* Per-person spending hit a low point of $56.31 in 2009, climbing quickly to $66.28 a person in 2010, and $72.31 in 2011. In 2019 it reached $86.27 per person.
          Halloween is mostly a western custom and it has no direct reference in the Bible. However, there are Biblical principles that directly relate to the celebration of Halloween. Consider for a moment what you are celebrating and what Halloween is all about. Is holiday uplifting? Is Halloween pure? Is it lovely, praiseworthy, or of good report? Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Is Halloween based on godly themes such as the idea of peace, freedom, and salvation or does the holiday bring to mind feelings of fear, oppression, and bondage?
          Additionally, does the Bible sanction witchcraft, witches, and sorcery? The Bible makes it clear that these practices are an abomination to the Lord. The Bible goes on to say in Leviticus 20:27 that anyone who practiced witchcraft, soothsaying, sorcery should be killed. Deuteronomy 18:9-13 adds, “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.”
          The name "Halloween" comes from the All Saints Day celebration of the early Christian church, a day set aside for the solemn remembrance of the martyrs. All Hallows Eve, the evening before All Saints Day, began the time of remembrance. "All Hallows Eve" was eventually contracted to "Hallow-e'en," which became "Halloween. "As Christianity moved through Europe it collided with indigenous pagan cultures and confronted established customs. Pagan holidays and festivals were so entrenched that new converts found them to be a stumbling block to their faith. To deal with the problem, the organized church would commonly move a distinctively Christian holiday to a spot on the calendar that would directly challenge a pagan holiday. The intent was to counter pagan influences and provide a Christian alternative. But most often the church only succeeded in "Christianizing" a pagan ritual—the ritual was still pagan but mixed with Christian symbolism. That's what happened to All Saints Eve—it was the original Halloween alternative!
          The Celtic people of Europe and Britain were pagan Druids whose major celebrations were marked by the seasons. The imagery of death, symbolized by skeletons, skulls, and the color black, remains prominent in today's Halloween celebrations. The pagan Samhain festival (pronounced "sow" "en") celebrated the final harvest, death, and the onset of winter. The Celts believed the curtain dividing the living and the dead lifted during Samhain to allow the spirits of the dead to walk among the living—ghosts haunting the earth.
          For others, the focus on death, occultism, divination, and the thought of spirits returning to haunt the living, fueled ignorant superstitions and fears. They believed spirits were earthbound until they received a proper sendoff with treats—possessions, wealth, food, and drink. Spirits who were not suitably "treated" would "trick" those who had neglected them. The fear of haunting only multiplied if that spirit had been offended during its natural lifetime. Trick-bent spirits were believed to assume grotesque appearances. Some traditions developed, which believed wearing a costume to look like a spirit would fool the wandering spirits. Others believed the spirits could be warded off by carving a grotesque face into a gourd or root vegetable (the Scottish used turnips) and setting a candle inside it—the jack-o-lantern.
          What should a Christian's response be? Today Halloween is almost exclusively an American secular holiday, but many who celebrate have no concept of its religious origins or pagan heritage. That's not to say Halloween has become more wholesome. Children dress up in entertaining costumes, wander the neighborhood in search of candy, and tell each other scary ghost stories; but adults often engage in shameful acts of drunkenness and debauchery. So, how should Christians respond?
          First, Christians should not respond to Halloween like superstitious pagans. Pagans are superstitious; Christians are enlightened by the truth of God's Word. Evil spirits are no more active and sinister on Halloween than they are on any other day of the year; in fact, any day is a good day for Satan to prowl about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). But "greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). God has forever "disarmed principalities and powers" through the cross of Christ and "made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them through Christ" (Colossians 2:15).
          Second, Christians should respond to Halloween with appropriate wisdom. Some people fear the activity of Satanists or pagan witches, but the actual incidents of satanic-associated crime are very low. The real threat on Halloween is from the social problems that attend sinful behavior—drunk driving, pranksters and vandals, and unsupervised children. Like any other day of the year, Christians should exercise caution as wise stewards of their possessions and protectors of their families. Christian young people should stay away from secular Halloween parties since those are breeding grounds for trouble.
          Third, Christians should respond to Halloween with gospel compassion. The unbelieving, Christ-rejecting world lives in perpetual fear of death. It isn't just the experience of death, but rather what the Bible calls "But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." (Hebrews 10:27). Witches, ghosts, and evil spirits are not terrifying; God's wrath unleashed on the unforgiving sinner—now that is truly something to bear in mind.
          Christians should use Halloween and all that it brings to the imagination—death imagery, superstition, expressions of debauched revelry—as an opportunity to engage the unbelieving world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. God has given everyone a conscience that responds to His truth (Romans 2:14-16), and the conscience is the Christian's ally in the evangelistic enterprise. Christians should take time to inform the consciences of friends and family with biblical truth regarding God, the Bible, sin, Christ, future judgment, and the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ.