I haven’t blogged in quite some time.  Part of the reason for that is that my internet connection at this place is (to put it mildly) quirky, which makes using web applications like xanga less than perfectly easy.  But another part of it was that I began to question my own motives in blogging about my experiences.  I don’t want to give even the appearance of evil (Though 1 Thessalonians 5:22 does not actually refer to avoiding appearances†), and I was concerned that I might appear to be self-seeking or proud which is not my intention and might actually do the opposite of what I intended.

I have come to the conclusion though that it is more important to exhort and build up than to be concerned about someone thinking I’m self-aggrandizing. 

Scriptural Principle:
Thessalonians 5:11
“Wherefore exhort one another, and build
each other up, even as also ye do.”

The reason I write posts like Why Extended Stay Evangelist and Unhalloween is to exhort my brothers in Christ, as I examine my own life and see where God is leading and directing me to exhort others to examine their own hearts and see if perhaps God is leading them in the same direction and we can share the journey.  The reason why I write posts like Winnie and First Contact is to encourage and to receive encouragement. 

So, I will continue to share with you my efforts, my successes and failures, and my insight from God’s word.

† See http://www.crivoice.org/appearance.html for an explanation

Meet Winnie.

Winnie knocked on my door the other night, and when I opened the door she
breathlessly asked “I’m sorry to bother you sir, but is there any chance I
could come in here while the police are talking to my boyfriend.”

Wow! I was nonplussed to say the least.  My first inclination was to say yes and let her in.  My second was to worry about involving my
family with a person whose boyfriend was being questioned by the police.  I didn’t give worry any opportunity to
besiege me.  I let her in immediately and
offered her a chair.

Scriptural Principle:

Hebrews 13:2 “Forget not to show love* unto strangers: for
thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

* The NIV says “to entertain”

She sat down and told me what was going on: She had come home from walking over to the nearby Wendy’s for some dinner to find the police in her apartment and her boyfriend with his hand in the air.  

“I slipped out before they could see me.  Why are the police talking to my boyfriend?”

“Are you OK?” I asked.  

“I’ll be OK; I just—Why are the police in my room?” she was mervously opening and shutting her cell phone.

“Would you like me to go up and find out what’s going on for you?” I asked, but she rather emphatically declined, saying that she just wanted to call her brother to pick her up.  After she had made the call, I asked if I could pray for her.  She was amenable, so I began to pray.  

I prayed for everything I could think of.  For peace and comfort for Winnie, for wisdom for the cops and for her boyfriend and his friend, for speed and safety for her brother.   And then I continued as follows:
“Lord, we know you love us, that you love Winnie, and that your desire for us is for our good.  Thank you that with all of creation at your fingertips you love us so much that you want to have a personal relationship with each one of us, that you care about the details of our lives, that you know Winnie’s situation right now.  Lord we know we don’t deserve your love and relationship, that you are a perfect and just God and we have all done things that break your law and deserve to be punished.  Lord thank you that even though the punishment for breaking your law is death, that you desired a relationship with us so much that you sent your son Jesus Christ who was perfect and had never broken your law so that he could willingly take our punishment so that we wouldn’t have to pay the price for all the bad things that we have done.  Thank you that if we believe that you are who you say you are in your word and if we choose to make you Lord of our lives and if we accept the gift that Jesus made when he died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins that you offer us eternal life with you.  Thank you so much for your mercy, even when we don’t deserve it.”
It may come out a bit contrived here on the page, but when I was praying it was heartfelt, from the spirit, and though I was aware of the fact that it was a witness, I wasn’t praying <i>to</i> witness.  I was praying from my heart to my God.  Nevertheless I realize that it was a witness and I believe that Winnie recognized that I was not pushing at her, but simply praying, interceding for her.  

When I finished praying, my wife came in and asked if she could get Winnie something to drink.  She had already been in our apartment for almost an hour.  My wife made her some tea, and she made a few more phone calls before her brother arrived to take her away.  I gave her my card at some point during all of that, but I found it on the floor of our apartment after she left, so I will probably know how the Spirit used my prayer in her life, and that’s OK, because it’s not about me, it’s about Him.  

I will also just mention that I was so blessed by my wife after Winnie was gone, I really was worried about how my wife would feel about my having just invited her in like that, considering her situation and our family with three young children.  My wife turned to me after she left and said “I feel like maybe I wasn’t hospitable enough to her.  I didn’t even offer her something to drink until she had been here for a whole hour” (like she had had the opportunity!)  I assured her that she had been more than hospitable enough, and my spirit soared to know that I had a wife whose spirit was in harmony with my spirit and the Spirit of God.  What a blessed encounter!

My wife and I always have a hard time when All Saint’s Eve rolls around. We have a real problem with even the ‘alternative’ celebrations provided by most churches. Until now I’d never really been able to put my finger on what the problem was. After last year’s ‘trunk-o-treat’ event at our church, I got a bit of clarity.

Let me start by saying what the problem is not.

The problem is not the idea of an alternative to a pagan/secular rite. When I was growing up, there was a couple in my church who refused to allow their children to participate in Easter celebrations ‘because the eggs were borrowed from pagan symbolism’. And eventually they even decided that because Christmas was celebrated on December 25th because of its proximity to the winter solstice, that they could no longer celebrate Christmas. Now in one sense, they were right. They were right about their facts. Eggs were adopted from pagan symbolism (More Info). Christmas was placed on the 25th of December to offer an alternative to solstice celebrations (More Info). However, my family didn’t have a problem with these celebrations, nor do I. Why then is Halloween different? It too originates in pagan rites and has been Christianized ( More Info). So why do I feel a twinge of guilt when I condone (by my attendance) even so much as a church-sponsored ‘trunk-o-treat’ event?

It’s not the implementation details, per se. Our trunk-o-treat event had the ‘Pumpkin Gospel’ and two puppet shows with evangelism moments while I was there. It was truly a blessing to be there and see kids from the surrounding community listening to the gospel message, hearing the great Christian music and seeing our church as more than that building that’s mostly empty six days of the week. I appreciated especially those who volunteered for the mostly thankless tasks of candy distributor and game supervisor, as well as the wonderful efforts of the youth band and the puppet team. Attending this event this year and feeling that twinge of concern yet being blessed nonetheless, and trying to sort it all out has led me to some conclusions. But before we get to them, I probably need to let everyone else in on the epiphany of sorts that I had regarding what was causing my twinge.

Let me begin with the minor issues. Let’s talk about the title: ‘trunk-o-treat’. What does it signify? What aspect of Christian history or life is emblematized in the name of our event? In the past its greatest cachet was that it offered a ‘safe’ and ‘Christian’ alternative for neighborhood kids. But to what is it an alternative? For the neighborhood kids, it is not an alternative to anything. When I was growing up and church events were held on the night of the 31st, that might have held, but not anymore. Sure they attend the ‘trunk-o-treat’ on Sunday, but they’ll be out trick-or-treating on Monday as well. It’s not an alternative; it’s just double the candy. Well then, it must be an alternative for the church kids, the Christians. Again, though, I must ask: alternative to what? Would we as Christians send our children out to celebrate the one if we didn’t have the other? If so, we could hardly call ourselves Christians. Could we only follow him if the way was easy and we still got the candy? What about our celebration differentiates us from the secular world? The only answer I can come up with is that in its basic inception, nothing does. Sure we tack on a bible story booth and puppet times (And those ministries may very well be life changing for some of the attendees. I’m not trying to suggest that no good comes out of the wonderful efforts that so many put in), but there is nothing intrinsic to our celebration that differentiates it. If a fellow office-worker asked me ‘So just what are you celebrating at your ‘trunk-o-treat’?” I wouldn’t have a good answer, and if I did come up with an answer I’d have no way to justify it. So much for ‘trunk-o-treat’. It may placate the candy hungry hearts of our children, but it isn’t in any real sense an alternative.

So if the ‘trunk-o-treat doesn’t hold up as an alternative. How does it fare on its own merit? If you followed the links earlier, you’re aware of the origins of Halloween or Samhain celebrations in pagan mythology and history. You’re also aware of how the Catholic church attempted to position All Saints Day so as to preempt the pagan celebration. Unlike with Christmas and Easter however, they were basically unsuccessful in changing the nature of the celebration or the attitudes of the participants. Further, protestant denominations when they broke with the Catholic Church quickly abandoned the celebration (probably because most no longer believed in the existence of Saints over and above the joint sainthood of all believers with Christ). And thus, the alternatives put on today in the protestant churches do not even have the veil of legitimacy that All Saint’s Day gives to the Catholic church festivities. Once again I am drawn back to my primary question: What are we celebrating?

Finally I think I understand the distaste that I’ve always felt for ‘Fall Festivals’ ‘Great Alternatives’ ‘trunk-o-treats’ and the like. It boils down to this. If we celebrate in the way the world celebrates and at the time the world celebrates, and we aren’t clear about what we are celebrating, then we tacitly acknowledge that the world has won—that Satan has won—that we have nothing better to offer. In short we abandon our religion (that is to say our beliefs and methods of worship) to join the world in the worship of things which don’t deserve it–apostasy.

Is there another way, a way more in keeping with the spirit of Christmas and Easter? I think that there is.

The idea came when I was reading my church bulletin after last year’s event and I saw the announcement for the annual Missions Sunday pot-luck. Included was the suggestion, ‘Dress internationally if you can.’ I thought to myself. They’re a week too late; this is dress up week. And then I thought, seeing how it’s missions’ week, why limit it to international regalia? Why not dress up as famous missionaries and/or converts as well.

You walk in wearing a trenchcoat, the brim of a fedora hiding your eyes. Flashing open your coat, you reveal 14 pockets filled with your contraband merchandise—Bibles! You’re Brother Andrew, God’s Smuggler. (Exercise for the reader: Figure out how to include an ‘iron curtain’ in the costume)

Don a priest’s collar. Add some bling-bling in the form of a gold cross, talk about getting the vulture (or monkey) off of people’s backs and carry a ‘switchblade’. You’re David Wilkerson (of The Cross and the Switchblade).

Insert head through large square of cardboard with sheet draped around the edges to look like a table. Use silver spray paint to produce a ‘platter’ around the opening. Add lots of fake blood. Eat locusts and honey. You’re John the Baptist (arguably the first missionary?).

Wear prison stripes, dirty wig, and support your skeleton thin sister in the same. You’re Corrie Ten Boom, Tramp for the Lord.

Gather to celebrate the great commission, those who have given their lives in its fulfillment, the current work, the lives being changed. There is something worthy of celebration! But do it a week earlier so that it coincides, as it were by chance, with a certain pagan/secular holiday.

Here are a few more details of how one might implement such a program though they are not intended to be definitive suggestions, merely examples.

Give the children treats, but not just for the sake of having treats. Instead, establish booths for various missionary efforts/organizations/families. Have a different kind of treat (possibly with international origins) at each.

Have several (costumed or not) ‘missionaries’ and/or ‘converts’ (real or made-up) who tell the children their stories and share the gospel message both the evening of the ‘main’ event and at several events (Sunday School, Bible Battalion, Etc.) leading up to it (generate a buzz). Each missionary might endow all the children listening with a small baggie/handful of treats (establishing a pattern similar to that of Father Christmas).

Advertise in the community by publishing a leaflet/flyer with several ‘scary’ Halloween stories—namely stories about martyred missionaries/believers.

Establish traditions rather than just emulating (borrow what works of course). Encourage the establishment of special home and church decorations that symbolize the nature of the celebration; use these rather than pumpkins, apples, scarecrows, or black cats (or where possible invest the old symbols with new meaning). Make those symbols such that they might easily be adopted all unknowing by the secular community (like the Christmas tree, the Easter Egg, etc.)–or don’t and avoid the commercialization…?

Ensure that the primary celebration leaves no room for double dipping (Why not have a pot luck on a Monday? Why confine church to Sundays?). Celebrate on the evening of the 31st of October, no matter what weekday it falls on.

Share the vision with other churches. Encourage them to implement similar celebrations; invite them to participate in cross-congregational activities.

Plan November or December short-term missions trips and have sign-ups on the 31st.

This is the mere beginning of a proposal for a true Holy Day (holiday) which really means something to replace the current emptiness (at least for me) that is the modern church Halloween celebration.

Some of these suggestions may be inappropriate. Some may be impractical or mutually exclusive. I am posting here at least partially in the hopes of encouraging the generation of other ideas. How can we be proactive about Halloween? How can we take the fight to the devil instead of retreating behind our bunkers? I look forward to hearing what others think.

What is an extended stay evangelist you ask (or perhaps you don’t and you stumbled onto this site for some other reason)?  This site will hopefully answer this question and allow you to share in my experiences.

So I have up and moved my entire family of 5 to a one bedroom apartment in an extended stay hotel in a less than savory area of town. It’s a big change.  We’re going from a 3 bedroom 2 bath house with multiple living areas and a large backyard to two rooms–one bedroom with just enough room for our queen size mattress and a crib matress for the 2 year old, and a combo living-dining-kitchen, plus a small bathroom of course.  I’m typing this while sitting on the crib matress with my feet on the queen from our bedroom (at least we have free internet access, yea!).  We’re still unpacking what little we have left after giving away most of our possessions, but I can already tell that it is going to work.  We fit, even in relative comfort.  We’re where we should be, for now.

I know what you’re thinking: “You must be crazy.”  I’d have thought the same thing if someone had told me even two years ago that this is where I would be today.  So let me tell you what’s “wrong” with me–what causes an upper-middle-class suburban family man to give away his possessions and move his family into an urban hotel in a poor area.

I know a secret that much of the world does not know or chooses to ignore.  The Bible (you know the book you hate it when people thump?) is true.  It’s not merely a good “guide for living” or a “collection of stories” or a “moral option.”  It is actually hard, black-and-white true.  The kind of true that’s worth betting on.  A sure thing.

I know I’ve lost a good half of you who have at this point written me off as “one of those fanatics” and moved on.  Of those that are left, I figure most of you still would deny the truth of the above statement.  Even if you identify yourself as a Christian you probably have some doubts in the back of your mind.  You’ve heard someone or another bring up some apparent inconsistencies and you didn’t have an answer and now you’re not really sure what to believe.  A few of you do believe the above and yet still can’t imagine how that simple statement could lead inexhoraby to the actions I outlined in my first paragraph.  Stick with me. Over the next weeks and months, I’ll share my adventures living as an extended stay evangelist.  I’ll also be answering some of those nagging questions, sharing with you the truth of the Bible and encouraging you to seek (and find) the truth for yourself.

My name is Robert Flach and I am worried about the contant flow of people into everlasting punishment and shame due to my inaction and the inaction of other Christians
like me who have let their fear overcome their compassion.  I have
decided to make a change in my own life to do what I believe God is
calling me (and all Christians) to do.  Notice the parentheses in the last sentence.  That’s right.  God is calling you as a Christian to be doing what I am doing.  But don’t take my word for it.  Read your own Bible, pray, and listen for God to speak to your heart.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be quoting scripture on this site (from public domain texts and with proper attribution), but I would encourage you to get a hold of the word of God (the Christian Bible) for yourself, read the full context of anything anyone quotes to you, and listen to what God has to say.

I had at the same time become concerned with the state of Christians in America today–specifically, the fact that the majority cannot be easily differentiated from their neighbors (except by their location on Sunday morning, and possibly, a few other nights per week).  I believe that God calls us to be in the world but not “of” it.  To me that means that it should be possible to easily tell the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian through a very short period of observation of their daily life. 

Well that wasn’t (and still isn’t) me.  This isn’t some holier-than-thou diatribe about why I’ve got it right and you’ve got it wrong.  In fact I know I’ve got it wrong.  That’s why I’ve begun this journey, and I’m sure God will correct and guide me along the way.  But I do want to encourage you if you haven’t started, if your neighbors don’t know you’re a Christian, if your bumper sticker is your only witnessing tool, to join me on a journey into the heart of God’s will, into the great comission, into the only task that is really worth doing with a Christian’s time on this earth–preventing the wholesale loss of the only life worth having by the hordes of people who are dying each day without realizing the truth of God’s word.

And how do we go about it? Well I’ve started by getting rid of a lot of things that were hindering me from doing God’s work and fulfilling his plan for my life, and then moving to an area where he could more easily use me on a daily basis.

And there you have it:  Now you know how an upper-middle-class suburban family man can give away his possessions and move his family into an urban hotel in a poor area.  If you want to follow my journey, see me fall on my face, see God move in people’s hearts, see what happens next.  Hang on.  There are more posts to come.

Let me close this missive with a few truths.

1. Daniel 12:2 says: “And many of them that
sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life,
and some to shame and everlasting contempt.Ӡ
2. Matthew 10:28 says: “And be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to
kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and
body in hell.”

Are you absolutely sure you know what happens after we die? 

I am–I am absolutely sure I know what happens after we die.  Futher I am confidently assured by an unimpeachable authority that my knowledge is accurate.

If you’re not, consider checking out the following questionnaire: Are You Good?

† All quotes will be from the American Standard Version of the Bible.  This version is in the public domain.  I choose to use a Public Domain Biblical text because the idea of copyrighting the Bible (and placing restrictions on its use) seems both hypocritical and counterintuitive.