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I'm surrounded by thousands of suspended paper lanterns that look like glowing jellyfish in a black ocean. I reach out and touch one. It bounces off me, awaiting its ascent heavenward.

Fireworks explode overhead. Green, red and blue sparklers provide a magical backdrop as the golden dots begin to float into the distance.

It's easy to get swept up in the magic and beauty of the moment, forgetting the real meaning -- releasing one's sin -- behind this northern Thai festival called Yi Peng.

A Thai woman standing next to me, Som Mookjai, says this is the one time of year she feels light and beautiful from the inside out. The 48-year-old mother of two has been practicing Buddhism her entire life and never misses this November full-moon ceremony. She literally counts down the months, and then days, until she can release her sins through these traditional lanterns.

Mookjai spends most of the year making merit, or doing good works, for her various sins and wrongdoings. She takes food to the monks, but feeding the orphans is where she finds the most joy.

"You can never do enough merit," Mookjai says as she picks up a lantern for herself and one for me. 

I thank her for the gift and explain that I don't need it. My God already sacrificed for my sins. She nods, not really interested, and continues with the task at hand -- preparing the lantern for launch.

"I release lanterns just enough for my sin," Mookjai assures me, then explains that as the lanterns float higher and higher, she feels lighter and lighter. "I do not do too many, just enough for the year."

Lanterns all around us begin standing straight up; it's time for another mass release. Mookjai's lantern is ready. She places my hand on the bamboo frame to feel its gentle tug. It's ready to ascend. She whispers another prayer to Buddha and slowly releases the balloon.

We watch the beautiful lantern rise lazily, joining thousands of others in flight. They move as one in the dark sky, drifting higher and higher. When a wind current whisks the glowing mass away, we are left standing there, engulfed in darkness and empty-handed.

"I still feel heavy," Mookjai sighs. "One is not enough."

(Sprenkle, MISSIONS CLOSE-UP: 'One is not enough,' Buddhist woman says at lantern ceremony, Baptist Press, 12/16/10).


Praise the Lord for the Biblical Gospel!! "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool." (Hebrews 10:12-13).

Why Do I Hate Halloween??

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“He observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger” (II Chronicles 33:6).

Many have asked me about my stand for or against halloween and its observances.  Some have claimed that it is the worship of satan and his demons.  Some claim it is just a harmless vestige of some ancient culture.  What's the Bible say?

First, lets look at some historical data about halloween.  In North America, the yearly observance of Halloween amounts to a multi-billion-dollar industry, second only to Christmas…selling costumes, candy and food items, party supplies, greeting cards, tours of so-called haunted houses, and other forms of entertainment. But what is the history of this particular day? The story may surprise you.

More than two thousand years ago, a people called the Celts (Kelts) lived in what are now Ireland, Great Britain, and France. Among the Celtic people was an elite intellectual class known as the Druids, who served as religious priests, judges, lawmakers, and scientists. They had an elaborate pagan religious festival, along with certain rituals. Chief among these was the Fire Festival called Samhain (pronounced sow-en), observed at harvest time to mark the Celtic New Year.

The Celts believed that on this night the barrier between the natural world and the supernatural was removed, and the spirits of the dead were able to move freely among human beings. Samhain was the most solemn and important night in the Celtic year.

After the Roman Catholic Church brought Christianity to the Celtic peoples in the seventh century, some of their traditional folk customs were Christianized. In 835 A.D. Pope Gregory IV moved the church’s “Feast of All Saints” from the spring to November 1st to replace the observance of Samhain. All Saint’s Day, still observed today by many Christians, honored believers who had died. The night before, which featured a sacred vigil in church, became known as “All Hallow’s Eve,” or Halloween. But the old practices of the Druids died hard and were denounced by the church as witchcraft. This is how Halloween became known as a witch’s holiday.

Dressing in costumes and going door-to-door comes from a much later tradition in the British Isles, a practice not restricted to Halloween. Masked players would go from house-to-house, putting on a simple drama or musical performance in return for food and drink. Often these performances had Christian themes.

The “trick-or-treat” custom we know today is thoroughly American in origin. In the nineteenth century, when Irish and Scotch immigrants brought their Halloween traditions to North America, the night became an occasion for pranks and mischief. Vandals would go through the night, soaping windows, overturning outhouses, and pulling gates from their hinges. These pranks were playfully said to be the work of witches and ghosts, but by the 1920s the joke wasn’t funny anymore. The damage to neighborhoods was mounting.

To counteract Halloween vandalism, community clubs like the Boy Scouts began to organize alternatives that are safe and fun. Children were encouraged to go door-to-door and receive treats from homeowners and merchants, keeping the troublemakers away. By the 1930s, the practice was popular nationwide, and young voices crying, “Trick or treat!” were echoing through neighborhood streets.

In this way, a combination of pagan, Christian, and civic elements formed the Halloween celebration we know today. In recent decades, however, a renewed interest in the old pagan beliefs has blossomed in North America. Popular entertainment, including television shows like “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer,” and even “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” make occult themes and witchcraft seem fun and acceptable. The result is that Halloween today has become strongly associated with the occult and a preoccupation with the dead—two influences that Scripture and the church have always warned against.

You see, Satan is not a joke. He’s real. Though the Bible clearly states that God is the world’s highest authority, He gave Satan a certain amount of power. With God’s permission, the evil in this world is under Satan’s control. This is why the apostle Paul said, Eph. 6:12 “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

Satan was the first one in history to openly defy God. He also started a way of life that was self-centered and rejected God’s authority. That marked the birth of sin, which is nothing more than rebellion against God. Today sin affects the entire human race. We are all guilty, and therefore all deserve sin’s penalty. “For the wages of sin is death….”

I. It glorifies death. (I Cor. 15:26)

II. It honors Satan and demons. (I Cor. 10:20; Psalm 78:49; I Peter 5:8)

III. It is helping to destroy America. (II Chronicles 33:6, 10-11)

IV. It is not needed by young people. They need God. (II Chronicles 33:12-13)

[Author's note: Thanks Bob for historical background]

Give God Glory!

Psalm 29:2, "Give unto the LORD the glory due unto His Name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness".

Psalm 29:2 may well be considered the "Key Verse" for the entire Book of Psalms.

"Give unto the LORD the glory due unto His Name..." We are being reminded that we should live our lives so that it brings glory unto God! In fact, neglecting to give God the glory due unto His Name can be considered THE SOURCE of trouble in our world!

"Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, THEY GLORIFIED HIM NOT AS GOD (my emphasis), neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." Romans 1:19-21

Are you glorifying God by the way you live and by what you say? Don't contribute to the source of trouble in this world, but contribute to the solution for this world - Give God glory! And that means God with all your heart, mind and strength; put God first in everything you think, say and do; and set out to honor Him in all your endeavors. When you pray, you give God glory. When you sing unto Him, you give God glory. When you obey Him, you give God glory. When you squelch the flesh, you give God glory. When you love out of a pure heart, you give God glory. "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" - 1 Corinthians 10:31.

I liked this on my friend's blog so I reposted it...Thanks Mike :)

God Will Win

Exodus 9:16 "And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth."

On June 27, 1876-more than 130 years ago-General George Armstrong Custer led his men . . . straight into defeat. What Custer thought would be an easy victory against a village actually turned out to be total destruction for him and his men at the hands of the Sioux nation and Sitting Bull. Despite the fact that the Sioux won the Battle of Little Bighorn, they lost the war. It was bound to happen. Why? Though I do not care for General Custer, he was defeated, but there were a lot more where he came from.

I do not care what "the score" may be right now; the truth is, God will win the war. He always does. But how He wins is up to you. God can work through you or against you; with you or without you; in this lifetime or in eternity. Whether you see it or you do not, God will win.

With God, there is no such thing as a "win-win" or a "win-lose" situation. One word describes God's record-WIN. God will win. He is the One Who raised up Pharaoh (Exodus 9:16). Do you suppose Pharaoh realized this? Did the Jews know this? God raised up Pharaoh for His (God's) glory and to show His (God's) power. God will win. Pharaoh might not have submitted to it, but some of his servants did. Exodus 9:20 says that Pharaoh's servants who feared God's judgment "made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses." God will win; it was just a matter of how. And these servants were wise enough to realize this.

Throughout Exodus 8-9, God makes known that He will win. Exodus 8:10 declares, "That thou mayest know that there is none like unto the LORD our God." Verse 22 repeats, "To the end thou mayest know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth." Chapter 9, verses 14 and 29 say, "That thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth," and, "That thou mayest know how that the earth is the LORD'S." God won-He made it clear that He will win.

God will win. He will win today, and you can ask Pharaoh about that.

Rest in God

"Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." (Heb 4:1-11)
Included in God's promises is rest for His people. This rest not only begins with rest from the guilt and condemnation of sin (salvation), but it also can grow into rest from our struggles against the flesh and the world (sustainment). Verses 9-10 speak of this latter "remaining" rest. "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God." Those who are God's people became such by entering into God's rest from sin and guilt (verses 1-4). And having tasted of this, there still " remains...a rest for the people of God."

The entrance into this additional spiritual life-sustaining rest necessitates a ceasing from one's own works and one's own abilities. "For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works." (vs. 10).  To rest in the Lord for a growing life of godliness, service, and fruitfulness, one must be willing to renounce himself as the source or cause of the working. Previously, we saw that the Apostle Paul walked/lived unto God in this manner. "...but I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (1 Cor. 15:10).  It seems fair to say that Paul worked perhaps harder than any other leader in the early church. Yet, he acknowledged that his strength and power was from the grace of God, not himself or his abilities. This fits perfectly with another verse from Paul that simply stated, "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God" (2 Cor. 3:5). Ultimately, such a life is explained as Christ Himself expressing His life in and through our lives. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:20).
This ceasing from our works is to be as complete as God's ceasing from His work at creation. "And God rested on the seventh day from all His works...For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His" (Heb. 4:4, 10). God rested on the seventh day, because his "creation-work" was finished. We are to rest from our works, because we cannot add to the finished work of Christ for us. He completed our redemption upon the cross. "...he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost" (John 19:30). He has also fully prepared the works that He wants us to now enter into by faith. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Eph. 2:10)

Are you tired of the struggle?  Are you weary in well doing?  So do you need rest today?  Simply "rest" in the Lord and stop relying on your own strength and abilties to accomplish anything.  God bless you!

What's in Your Hand?

Exodus 4:2 "And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod."

Sometimes instead of man asking God questions, God asks man questions. His asking is not because He does not know; His questions are rhetorical, to make a point. In Exodus 4, God did not ask Moses about what was in his hand so that He (God) would know-He asked Moses so that Moses would know.

Often we picture Moses with a striking, powerful rod, along with his flowing beard and white hair. We associate the rod with his persona from pictures and characterizations. But Moses' rod was just a plain, ordinary rod any shepherd would have had. Can't you almost hear Moses answer God? "Um, a . . . rod?"

God's question to Moses is a good question for us today. What is in your hand? Whatever it may be, it largely depends on the abilities and responsibilities that God has given you. And it is up to God to make sure both the ability and the responsibility are balanced. You will never be a good steward of that which is in your hand until you know what it is. Likewise, if your abilities and your responsibilities are not balanced-that is, what you can do and what you should do-you cannot be a good steward of God's gifts.

What was in Moses' hand? A rod with significance, not because of Moses, but because of the God of Moses. The rod would not later part the Red Sea, nor would Moses. God parted the sea, and He did it through Moses and through a rod.

Notice the progress in the chapter. God first asks Moses about what is in his hand, and Moses calls it "a rod." In verse 17, God tells Moses to take "this rod," and then in verse 20, the Bible says, "and Moses took the rod of God in his hand." Was Moses' rod the rod of God? It was now!

The rod was in some ways a metaphor for Moses himself. God was teaching Moses about Moses by using his rod. You can either use what is in your hand, or you can abuse it. Later on, God used this same rod in Moses' hands to give water from a rock (Exodus 17). What happened later when Moses was the one using the rod, and he struck the rock instead of speaking to it? When he was obedient, God did what only He could do. When Moses rebelled, he abused the rod and only bad things happened.

Today, what is in your hand? It is not "a rod," nor is it "this rod," but it is God's rod!

The story is told of a master violinist who was to play a great concert with a very expensive European violin. The concert hall was packed as the crowd stirred with anticipation and excitement. The master violinist finally emerged from backstage and began playing his first arrangement. It was beautiful, stirring, moving, and exciting. When he was finished, the crowd erupted into applause-an ovation like none other.

After several minutes, when the crowd finally settled down, the master violinist promptly took the violin, stepped to the front of the stage, and smashed the violin against the stage! The crowd gasped and sat stunned-until the master violinist went to another violin case on the stage, pulled out the $5000 violin, and finished the concert. The violin he smashed was purchased at a pawn shop for $20! You see, no one came to the concert hall that night to hear a $5000 violin; they came to hear the master violinist.
With God, the ordinary things are made extraordinary; the natural are made supernatural. May God help us to realize what is in our hand today and let the Master use it.