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After the Candy

Last Saturday, we invited our community to join us for the annual outreach event we call ‘Trunk or Treat.’  More than 200,000 pieces of candy, stickers, glow sticks and fake spiders were passed out to 3,100+ costume-donned families. It was one of those occasions where you couldn't help but look around and think…this is incredible!

Incredible in the sense that so many people came out on an otherwise miserable day weather-wise. Incredible in the sense that the spirit of both the visitors and our church family was one of fun, friendliness, togetherness, and goodwill. Incredible in the sense that almost half of those attending indicated they had no church affiliation. In my mind, any time you can bring together 3,500 people (including church volunteers), representing multi-generational, multi-ethnic, and a variety of religious faith, or no faith backgrounds…it’s simply an incredible win for the Kingdom.

Why? Because it’s the way God intended us to live—in community. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the day approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25).

It’s easy to spend time with people we know, or with people that are like us. But it’s a discipline, something intentional, to build relationships with people who are different or don’t have the same beliefs. One of the great deceptions of the Christian faith is that it is content with the appearance of Christianity. It reassures itself that my faith is fine. I go to church, I give, I study, pray and am a good person. None of these things are bad, but if Christian subculture is all you are developing, you will miss opportunities to reach others for Christ.

“Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).

There will always be those who strongly believe the church should not recognize anything associated with Halloween. I’ve had a few express strong disapproval over how, as a Pastor, I can condone the celebration of evil. And, as a result of these concerns, every now and again, I’ll research the origin(s), evolution, and Americanization of Halloween.  I really can’t find anything, (aside from Hollywood adaptations) that indicates a root of evil.

While there are many opinions about Halloween, something that the five major world religions, along with even those not associated with any faith, have in common is a sense of community.  Community provides group cohesion and identity.

The Apostle Paul never compromised the gospel, but he did try to put himself in the shoes of those who were different from him so that he could open the door and communicate the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means, I might save some” 1 Corinthians 9:22).

As you greet neighbors and strangers at the door tonight for Halloween, may you be intentional in your words and spirit to reflect the love of Christ for all to see and hear.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

I Didn’t Know I Had A Choice

When was the last time you felt helpless?  Have you ever been in a situation where you could not get out, no matter how hard you tried?  I bet you have.  Maybe you’re there now.

Author Greg McKeown tells the story about two psychologists who conducted an experiment using German shepherds.  They divided the dogs into three groups.  The dogs in the first group were placed in a harness and administered an electric shock but were also given a lever they could press with their noses to make the shock stop.  The dogs in the second group were placed in an identical harness and were given the same lever, and the same shock, with one catch: the lever didn’t work, rendering the dog powerless to do anything about the electric shock.  The third group of dogs was simply placed in the harness and not given any shocks. 

Afterward, each dog was placed in a large box with a low divider across the center.  One side of the box produced an electric shock; the other did not.  Then something interesting happened.  The dogs that either had been able to stop the shock or had not been shocked at all in the earlier part of the experiment quickly learned to step over the divider to the side without shocks.  But the dogs that had been powerless in the last part of the experiment did not.  These dogs didn’t adapt or adjust.  They did nothing to try to avoid getting shocked.  Why?  They didn’t know they had any choice other than to take the shocks.  They had “learned helplessness” (Essentialism, 36-37).

Learned helplessness.  Ever been there, done that?  We all have—in different ways and circumstances.  A child struggles early on with math and tries to get better, but when his attempts fail, he eventually gives up, believing nothing he does will matter.  A wife wants her marriage to improve, but after years of passive response from her husband, she files for divorce, fully convinced that nothing will change.  You desire to break free from that hurt, habit or hang up, but after years of failed attempts, you, like the German shepherds in the above story, have a learned helplessness, and you wallow in your accepted pit of despondency. 

Wallow no more.  The first step forward is the awareness of your ability to choose.  Recognize you have a God-given ability to activate an invincible power within you that exists separate and distinct from any other thing, person or force. William James once wrote, “My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will” (idem.). 

When you forget your ability to choose, you learn to be helpless.  Drip by drip, you allow your power to be taken away until you end up becoming a function of other people’s choices.  Don’t just recognize the power of choice, exercise it.  Celebrate it.  It will be a long journey, but it is a road worth traveling through the power of the Spirit and in community with others.  Don’t wallow in your accepted pit of despondency. 

“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . .  But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15, NIV).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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