Pensées

Thoughts on the Meaning of Life…..by Todd Helmkamp

Archive for October, 2008

All Hallows’ Eve

Posted by Vogeler on October 31, 2008

All Hallows’ Eve, or Halloween in its modern incarnation, is a subject of much debate in evangelical circles.  Often, mostly due to incorrect propaganda from the early 20th century, Christians of many traditions consider Halloween a Satanic holiday, or wonder if it’s okay for their children to participate.  Well, before I give my opinion, let me give you some of the history of Halloween.

The idea of a harvest festival, at or near the Autumnal Equinox, is very old.  Many of our current Halloween practices can be traced back to the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced “Sow-in”).  The Celts were a race of people who lived in what is now Europe, and are especially known for populating Gaul (Western Europe) and the British Isles during the time of Julius Caesar.  Samhain was a time when the world “died”, part of the natural cyclic order of the world (similar to Greek beliefs about Persephone). The Celts did not worship a “Lord of the Dead” named Samhain, as I have read on other Christian sites, and it was not a festival worshipping death in any form.  Rather, it was a belief that at this time, the boundries between the spirit world and the human world were thin.  I’m certainly not saying that this is a valid belief, but it is worlds away from the assertions of some Christian writers.  There is not a single shred of historical or anthropological evidence that the Celts worshipped death (and I have studied them for the last 15 years).  They did believe that evil spirits roamed the earth more freely at this time, and took steps to try to protect themselves, not welcome the evil spirits.  They often wore masks or costumes at this time to try to frighten the spirits away, which is most likely where we get the current custom of dressing up.

In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV created a special feast day to honor saints and martyrs.  It was called All Hallow’s Day (“Hallow” means “holy”; in Old English, Alhalowmesse) and the night before was called All Hallow’s Eve, from which we get “Halloween”. Many scholars believe that Boniface created the day to replace Samhain with a church holiday.

Immigrants to America brought many of their Halloween traditions with them, but some are unique to the US.  One such custom is “trick-or-treating”, where children dressed in costumes go door-to-door begging for candy (the trick part is still practiced in some areas, but has been frowned upon since the late 1800s).  Trick-or-treating began when young immigrants dressed up and wandered their neighborhoods, begging for food or money.

I think that a large part of the confusion about Halloween stems from, as usual, ignorance.  There is a world of difference between paganism ( believing in false gods) and Satanism (intentionally worshipping the Enemy of God).  Although the powers behind paganism are demonic, the intentions of the practitioner are not.

In case you’re wondering how I know so much about this stuff, like I said before, I’ve studied Celtic culture and history for years.  But, there was also a time when I practiced paganism, including celebrating Samhain.  Of course, I am not advocating paganism!  It is wrong, and a sham.  God alone must be worshipped!  But I, along with many others, worshipped out of ignorance, not with the intent to worship the Enemy.  And I think that’s important to keep in mind when considering Halloween.  Remember, the intent of the day was NEVER to glorify Satan.

All that being said, I still think it’s prudent to approach Halloween very cautiously.  Whether or not it’s intended to worhsip Satan, the fact remains that the holiday is all about death, and death is not natural, according to God’s Word (it was brought into the world through the sin of Adam and Eve).

I think that many of today’s activities are harmless.  Luke, my oldest, is dressing as Buzz Lightyear from Disney’s Toy Story. Brennan is dressing as an adorable little monkey.  We’re going trick-or-treating, then to a party at a local church (the party is open to the public).  There’s no harm in any of these activities.  But there are many activities associated with the holiday that can be harmful.

  1. Dressing up as a demon, witch, ghost, horror movie character, etc.  This is common sense.
  2. Seances, Ouija boards, tarot cards, and other methods of divination.  We are expressly commanded to avoid these things.  (Deut. 18:10)
  3. Pranks.  Don’t be a jerk to people.  Duh.

Overall, participating in Halloween is a personal decision.  If you feel the Holy Spirit telling you to stay away, then by all means listen!!  But please don’t judge those who feel that it’s ok to enjoy the harmless aspects.

*Most of the material here is re-written from a lesson I taught several years ago, but I did some
additional fact-finding and checking.  Some places that I used to check facts include the History
Channel's site and the site from the About.com Guide to Christianity.  Whatever you do, though,
always read more than one source before you form an opinion!  That goes for everything (except
Scripture)


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Ranting

Posted by Vogeler on October 31, 2008

I just realized that my last two posts have been kind of “rantish” (is that a word?  If not, I claim it!  Huzzah, I made up a word!), so I thought that I would also write a post about what I love about Christians and Christianity.

  1. People who give up a privileged life in the US to take the Name and Word of Christ to a land where they could be killed for loving Jesus.
  2. Pastors who work 50 hours a week at demanding secular jobs, have weekly prayer meetings, attend worship practice, and then preach a Spirit-Inspired message on Sunday, all for no pay because the fledgling church can’t afford it.
  3. People who cancel a vacation or put off purchasing something they’ve wanted for years to help rebuild homes in disaster areas.
  4. Pastors who cheerfully visit hospitals at 3 am to comfort frightened people.
  5. People who stand for what they believe, no matter who is around.
  6. People who are strong enough to say, “I was wrong” and ask for forgiveness and healing.
  7. Pastors who work a demanding secular job, have a new baby, but still pour their lives into young people every week.
  8. Church staff members that work extra hours to get the job done.
  9. Pastors who aren’t afraid to speak the Truth, even when it’s not popular.
  10. People who work demanding secular jobs but then go and volunteer for several hours at their local church and don’t write a word about it on their blogs.
  11. Pastors who have enough courage to admit that they’re human and ask for help.
  12. People who love to teach very young children about Jesus to lay a firm foundation.
  13. People who are willing to forgive those who hurt them.
  14. People that put God first, and it shows.

What are some of your favorite things about Christians and Christianity?

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Forwards

Posted by Vogeler on October 31, 2008

Why is it, that when somebody sends an email forward with hundreds of email addresses that you have to scroll past only to find some poem about Jesus and butterflies or something* it always says at the bottom, “93% won’t forward this” or something equally dumb?  Do they really think that that little “zinger” is going to guilt me into forwarding their stuff?

Sorry, but my faith in Jesus Christ isn’t evidenced by the email forwards I annoy people with but by the way I live my life every day.

*Yes, I realize and appreciate the sentiment behind most of these emails.  But I get annoyed when someone insinuates that I’m a bad Christian because I don’t forward sappy, smarmy, and not-very-original emails.

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Bothersome

Posted by Vogeler on October 30, 2008

I read a lot of blogs by people involved in full-time Christian ministry.  Recently, several of them have posted about the necessity for pastors and their staff members to take time off.  While this is definitely important, especially for those who are too devoted to their jobs (*ahem* Pastor A. *ahem*), all of these posts have started to get on my nerves.

For years, I worked a full-time job, varying between 40 and 50 hours a week.  Then, I spent several hours a week at the church helping with the youth program, being a Boy Scout leader, and a member of several committees.  That adds up really quick.  And I was frequently asked by one person or another to help on other things.

I’m not whining; part of the problem was my reluctance to say “no” and disappoint people.  And I truly wanted to help out as much as I could.  But my point is that while churches are often (and rightfully so) careful not to overload staff members, volunteers usually get overlooked.  And I got burned out fast.   A ten-hour day primarily spent among non-Christians is just as wearing as a day spent in ministry.

So, I guess my message in this post is, Pastors:  be careful not to ask too much of your volunteers.  And volunteers:  learn to know when too much is too much.

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“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…”

Posted by Vogeler on October 24, 2008

This is part of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.  The full Amendment reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

There’s been a lot of talk recently about firearms.  Hunters, anti-hunters, special interest groups, the political candidates, all have different opinions. I, too, have an opinion.

I strongly believe that each and every citizen of the United States of America over the age of 18 has the right to own, load, and shoot a firearm for recreation, hunting, or self-defense.  I strongly believe that this right is fundamental to the proper functioning of a Republic, for several reasons (although I think it’s a bit silly, and dangerous to legitimate authorities, for a private citizen to own such weapons as sniper rifles, assault rifles, armor-piercing ammunition, etc.  That makes me think they’re up to no good).

First, in case of attack by foreign or domestic enemies, it will most likely prove a great asset that many people are trained in, and capable of, the proper use of a firearm.  If it becomes necessary for the average citizen to resist, that resistance will be much more effective if he or she can use a firearm.  One of the reasons the American Revolution was successful was that most of the colonists involved used firearms on a daily basis, either to hunt or in defense against Native American attacks.

Second, if the security of my home is compromised by an enemy who is armed with a firearm, or even another weapon, my chances of successfully defending my family increase dramatically if I have a firearm.  Unfortunately, the 3-5 minute response time necessary for a police officer to reach my home to protect me may be 3-5 minutes too long.  Therefore, I must look to my own defense, which I will gladly do.

Third, a firearm may be used to hunt.  Legal hunting can help to put food on my table (very important during difficult economic times), and it is a great asset in managing animal populations.  In Northeastern Indiana where I live, there are many, many auto accidents every year that involve deer, many of which cause considerable damage and injury.  Out-of-control deer populations also damage farmers’ crops, and compete with agricultural herd animals for pasture and grazing.  Because there are few natural predators left in this area, many deer starve each winter.  By removing some of these animals, hunters help to reduce the risk of these problems.  Not to mention, when done properly and with respect for God’s Creation, hunting can be an intensely spiritual experience, as we reconnect with the world around us.

But the biggest reason I am a strong supporter of gun ownership is defense.  I do not trust my fellow humans, nor do I trust my government.  Unfortunately, human nature has demonstrated for the last several thousand years that my distrust is well-founded.  A man without a gun will have a difficult time effectively defending himself or his family against an assailant that has one, nor will a populace without guns be able to defend themselves from an unjust government that possesses them.  Governments throughout history have known that if the populace does not have access to weapons, they can be controlled.  I don’t think any of us truly want that (except for those who want to do the controlling).

On one of the blogs I read ( by Dave Duffy, from Backwoods Home Magazine) the question was recently asked, “What will you do, personally, if Government agents come to your door and ask you to give them your guns?” After a lot of thought, I have to say that my answer is, “Peacefully hand them over.”  As much as I would hate to give them up, as a Christian I am commanded to acknowledge legitimate authority:

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”  (Romans 13: 1-2)

Of course, when the established authorities command something that goes against God’s Word, the Word absolutely takes precedence.  The problem is that God’s Word never mentions (to my knowledge; if I’m wrong, please correct me!) a right to own weapons.

That’s my take on the issue, and I have written my elected representatives to let them know how I feel and that I will vote accordingly.  And despite some media spin-doctoring, I do not believe that Senator Obama is a supporter of gun rights, as he consistently has voted against them in the past.  Although Senator McCain is far from perfect, his moral record, stance on abortion, and stance on gun rights make him my candidate of choice this year.

I am a peaceful man; I don’t go out of my way to cause trouble.  I have never been in trouble with the law, and would be absolutely content to live the rest of my life without ever having to fire a gun in self-defense.  But unfortunately, I may not have a choice.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

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Honesty

Posted by Vogeler on October 22, 2008

Setting: A small room at a local community college.  Folding chairs are arranged in a semi-circle around a podium with a microphone.  People of various ages occupy the chairs as a young, obviously-nervous young man steps up to the microphone.

Nervous Young Man: *ahem* “Is this thing on?” *tap*  “Uh, my name is Todd, I’m an Evangelical Christian… and…uh….I don’t tithe regularly.”

Audience: “Hi, Todd.”

Since I became a Christian, nearly six years ago, I’ve struggled with tithing.  As a child, my parents gave something to their church every week, although I don’t know how much, so they set a good example for me. But when I got out on my own and was single, money was pretty tight (mostly because I spent it all on eating out and other frivolous stuff) so I rarely gave anything to the church, contenting myself with loads of time spent volunteering.  When I got married a little over two years ago, my wife and I agreed that we needed to tithe 10% every week.  And we did, faithfully, even though I wasn’t making much and we were partly living off my student loan checks (I was in college full-time while working).

When I was downsized this past April, we continued to tithe for a bit, but as things got worse and we got farther behind, I truly felt God telling me it was ok to pause for a while (yes, I still believe God really did give us a limited time away from tithing).  But now it’s been six months.  Part of my income is commision-based, which is not cool, as business has been really slow the past several months and we’ve been barely scraping by even without tithing.  Yet I have begun to feel that God wants us to start tithing again.

Which brings us to the point of this post.  I’m scared.  I’m really, truly frightened of beginning to tithe again.  We are in a financially precarious position (along with the rest of the world).  We do not have the money to tithe faithfully and pay our bills (none of which are frivolous.  I need high-speed internet for my computer business and our satellite is free for a year.  Everything else is a need).  I know in my head that God has cared for us in the past, and will continue to do so, but it hasn’t quite reached my heart.

I feel really called to help people take control of their finances; as many of my friends and family can tell, I am passionate to the point of being obnoxious about it.  We are so close to getting to the point where we have some things paid off and can start attacking our debt (we want to be debt-free in the next 10 years).  But I also know that I can’t truly minister to people to help them with their finances until I have surrendered mine to God’s hands.

This isn’t meant to be a whiny post, or an attempt to get pity.  I guess the only thing left to do is take the step of faith, trust that God knows what He’s doing, and let go.

And that’s the hard part.

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New Pics

Posted by Vogeler on October 6, 2008

Here are some update pics of my boys.  🙂  The Superhero shot is definitely my side of the family.

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Mortgage Industry: Take Note

Posted by Vogeler on October 6, 2008

“My belief is that personal freedom cannot grow beyond personal responsibility. The more people that learn to be fully accountable for their lives, the more freedom each of us can enjoy and the more fulfilling all of our lives will be.”

—Reed Konsler

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