Summary: Halloween is a fun time that permeates our culture.... and it also has its dark and sinister side. Yet even Halloween’s dark side pales compared to an even worse threat of the occult in our nation.

OPEN: Tomorrow is October 31st. It is best known as the day of Halloween, but it also the day on which other significant events have taken place.

· In 1938 Orson Welles broadcast his famous “War of the Worlds” that caused much of the United States to become panicked by the possibility that Mars might be invading the world.

· Houdini died on this date in 1926.

· And in 1517 Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis (questions) which challenged many of the teachings of the Catholic Church on a church door in Wittenberg. In many protestant churches this day is called “Reformation Day”.

But as significant as those events in history have been… this is still the season of “Halloween”. It is a pervasive holiday. In fact, Halloween has literally become a national holiday.

Only Christmas out-earns Halloween.

Only New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl Sunday out-party it.

During this time of year, our children can hardly get away from it.

It’s part of almost all their cartoons. It’s included in nearly all the shows they might watch. It’s advertised excessively not only on TV, but also in WalGreens, Wal-Mart, and at the local grocery store. Kids from the neighborhood traipse up and down the street wearing all kinds of outfits, laughing, collecting candy and… frankly having a lot of fun.

But there is a dark side to this “holiday.”

A&E recently had an hour long program describing the pagan background for much of the activities that traditionally are part of decorations and activities at this time of year.

A lot of kids dress up like cult-figures - demons, witches, and ghouls and goblins.

Many of the TV programs and movies at this time of year focus on death and dismemberment in the most horrid of ways.

AND Police report on a large number of animals who are often ritually sacrificed every year on this date.

It’s BECAUSE of this dark side of Halloween that my kids have never gone “Trick or Treating”. That’s also why many churches attempt to offer counter-celebrations that try to divert their children away from the dark side… and point toward the light. One of our sister churches has a celebration they call their “Holy Ghost Weiner Roast.” Another church I heard of has a “Fools For Christ” Festivity, and still another has a “Touched By An Angel” activity where their kids dress up like angels and hand out tracts throughout the neighborhood.

Our congregation has HarvestFest. It’s a celebration that still offers the fun of costumes and candy and games, but plays down the wicked side of the season. Kids were politely asked NOT to wear demonic outfits (in fact, they won’t win prizes if they do). Our children’s minister Greg Peck gives a devotion that focused on Jesus as our “light” who has overcome the darkness of this world. And we view this as a great opportunity to reach out to our community while giving our own kids a chance to have good clean fun. It’s a chance for us to talk to others about Jesus and what He does for our lives.

I. But this time of year also gives me an excellent opportunity to talk about something a whole lot more dangerous than letting our kids go “trick or treating.”

As dark and distasteful as Halloween can be, it only comes once a year. The topic I’m going to discuss this morning has a far more insidious effect on people because it is embraced by many Americans every day of the year. I’m talking about the occult.

In one recent survey of 1700 teens, it was found that

25% (one of every 4) High Schoolers admitted to having used Ouija Boards

19% (one of every 5) had used astrology or their horoscope to learn about their future.

11% (one of every 10) had had their palms read.

Hollywood – always on the lookout for way to push the envelope as well as looking for ways of tapping into a new marketing group - has begun to introduce TV shows with a renewed passion that focus on the occult.

Montel Williams has “Fortune-teller” (Silvia Brown) as a regular visitor.

Tony Danza’s talk show regularly features a “Numerologist” (basically a fortune-teller who tells your future based on your name’s “numeric value”).

There are numerous Shows dealing with “Channeling” and “speaking to the dead”.

A couple of years ago, there was a big show called “Crossing Over” where the host claimed he could speak to the dead.

Mediums and those who “speak to ghosts” have become popular with two of the most recent being “Medium” starring Patricia Arquette and “Ghost Whiperers” starring Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Other shows try to make witchcraft look acceptable. Charmed has been an extremely popular show over the past decade and then there’s the child oriented wickedness: a cartoon entitled “W.I.T.C.H.”

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