Monthly Archives: May 2014

Relics of a Dying Age

Have you ever kissed a statue? I have. As a boy, I attended St. Andrews Catholic Church in Abilene, Kansas. I also attended its school from the third to the eighth grades. A part of the school’s routine was to attend Mass. The interior of St. Andrews church building was quite elaborate. High on the north and south walls were the Stations of the Cross, a devotional where one would stop at each image (I forget the number, maybe twelve) to offer prayers and meditate. The windows were stained glass, very beautiful, with each mosaic-like segment encased in lead. Toward the front were devotional candles, some gently fluttering flame, while others awaited a monetary offering and a match. And up above, on the wall of the sanctuary, a large candle continually burned, always replaced when burned to the final pool of wax. The latent scent of incense and burning candles gave the interior an olfactory patina that seemed heady with solemn service to God. And of course, in the center of the sanctuary stood an elaborately fashioned main altar with the repository for communion wafers, called the tabernacle. There were two minor altars at the front of the sanctuary, one on the right and one on the left. In front of the right altar, to its right, was a life-sized statue of the crucified Christ. At a certain time of the year, we children would file in line and kiss the nailed feet.

I do not write this to ridicule. I am forever grateful for the loving upbringing of my mother who raised me in the Catholic faith. I also am aware of many decent people, honorable and honest good neighbors, who are a part of this religion. I write this in the hope that some who read might walk away from this scene and never look back, just as I have walked away with the hope never to look back. Also, I write with anticipation for those who are not involved with, or who marginally entertain religious imagery and sensory stimulation, that they will beware and not go that way.

The world of sensory stimulation is exciting. It lifts us out of the austere and drab. It makes us feel like we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. Isn’t this why we like movies? For a time, we take a trip into something bigger, thought provoking, and immediate. It is like being immersed, for a little while, into another life. I think this is the allure of religious imagery and sensory stimulus. It sort of dresses up our sense of spirituality. It seems an enhancement to ourselves. Like going to the movies, it provides an escape from ordinary perception. But the world of sensory stimulation is just smoke and mirrors. Just as celluloid degrades and technology crashes, so cathedrals burn, tattoos of Jesus get smeared and bruisey with age, stained glass gets broken, candles burn out, and incense gives way to decay. We might groom ourselves with deodorant, scented lotion, and other toiletries, but isn’t it a bit strange to try and apply similar earthly embellishments to our spirit?

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7).

Our bodies are earthen vessels, a part of the external world. They are set in contrast to the good of God in Jesus Christ. For example, an elderly sister in Christ was facing death, yet through her cheerful spirit she magnified Christ. The earthen vessel was dying, but her spirit gave courage to the living. It was unvarnished, real. There was no need for any enhancements because Christ was living in her.

The very sacrifice of Jesus is at the heart of what it means to follow him.

“Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach”(Hebrews13:12-13).

Jesus was crucified without phylacteries on his head and forearm, he had no fringed garment. His service to the heavenly Father was without religious regalia. Isn’t it ironic, that man has made the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion into a religious decoration? An item of devotion has replaced the new and living way. We are called to follow Jesus “without the camp.” It means we can’t take with us a Temple made with hands, an Aaronic priesthood with ornate vestments, altars, incense, lamps, and the like. Likewise, we can’t include contributions from the religious cultures of the Gentiles; statuary, ceremonies, the mayhem of recycled paganism. We have no great religious display other than the meekness of service in vessels of clay. We have no Christian nation other than the church – those called out from the world who are recessed among every nation of mankind. And there is no banner other than the figurative idea of glorifying “Christ and Him crucified.”

Having been a catholic, I can say Catholicism has taken religious sensuality to the hilt. But Protestants do follow after in their meager ways; plain crosses instead of figured ones, portraits of Jesus with devotional radiance, logos and emblems, religious décor, flags, ceremonies, etc. Even those of us who are trying to worship in spirit and truth sometimes feel the need of some religious sensibility in our accoutrements — cruciforms tastefully applied here and there. If such things gave glory to God, He would have given us inspired artisans to prepare the divine motif. Like Bezaleel and Aholiab who crafted the Ark of the Covenant and the tabernacle with all its furnishings, such artisans would have been appointed with a display of heavenly power.

So, is zeal for the Lord defined by iconoclastic behavior? Should our faith cause us to sniff at every religious device? How dry and austere. Our faith should cause us to develop behavior that is of Jesus. The application of ourselves in the way, truth, and life of Jesus should cause us to beware of religious display. Even more, it should cause us to examine ourselves that we might walk more closely to the Master, that we “may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.” It is a matter of focus, the spiritual world versus the world of the flesh.

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints (Revelation 19:7-8).

Louis Garbi
124 Locust St., Barnett, MO  65011-1004

1 Corinthians 10:13

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

As our Brother Paul was writing to the church in Corinth to warn and encourage them, he reminded them of this simple, yet profound, truth. As I grow older this verse grows more precious. I first learned to depend on and find comfort in it back when my father was diagnosed with cancer of the vial duct. During this time, I memorized this scripture, meditated on it through the day, ruminating and drawing nearer to the Lord. I even wrote “1 Cor 10:13” on the inside of my hand, so that when I was at work and I opened my hand, there it would be to comfort and strengthen me through the day. I would like to share with you some points to ponder on this precious golden nugget from God’s word.

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man:”

When confronted with a difficulty or struggle in life, the first words out of our mouths is “why me?” We often feel we are alone and the only one going through this temptation. We think the difficulty is unusual and extraordinary. But you are not alone! There are others who have already gone through, or are experiencing the same thing that you are right now. I am not the only one! This is not beyond our ability with the Lord’s help!

“God is faithful!”

Those who put their trust in God can know that He will not let them down. God will provide. He keeps His promises. If we look to ourselves we are bound to fail. But if we look to God, then our problems, temptations, and struggles are not as great as they may have once looked. It is not how big our problem is, but how big our God is! To understand God’s faithfulness all we have to do is read the scriptures, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope”(Romans 15:4). Consider how He kept His word to the children of Israel time and time again. Look at your own life. All of us have had difficult times in the past. Look at God’s faithfulness, how He provided strength to bring us through those storms. We are here today as proof. If He provided in the past, will He not also provide now?

“God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what you are able”

It is not God’s desire for His children to be crushed. He knows our frame, what we are made of and what we can handle (Psalm 103:14). The Father often does not take away the trial, the temptation, the difficulty. Consider the night of our Lord’s betrayal. He visited the garden where He knelt down and prayed earnestly three times that this coming cup of suffering and sorrow might be taken away from Him; but each time He concluded and submitted to the Father’s will, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:37-44). The Father did not take away the cup from His only beloved Son. The Father did not take it away for our sakes, for the salvation of the world! However, Luke’s account reveals to us that, “Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him”(Luke 22:43). That same strength is available: our heavenly Father desires to supply His children with strength to endure and be overcomers!

Several years ago, I shared this verse (1 Corinthians 10:13) with a sister in Christ who was going through some very difficult problems. She came to the conclusion, “then I must be able to handle it.” She did not feel like she could handle it at the time, but she understood that God knows and is only interested in our good. Thus, with His help, she could bear it and she did. Great is Thy faithfulness!

God“will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it”

The Father, in His great faithfulness, will provide a way of escape. This shows us that we have a part in our escape. As our Lord demonstrated, our responsibility is to humble ourselves in the sight of God, trust Him, and seek His will. (James 4:10; Proverbs 3:5-6; Matthew 7:7-8). Often God does not take away the problem, but deliverance is obtained through His strength. During the storms of life, He provides comfort and strength through His Spirit, His word inspired by His Spirit, and His people (Acts 9:31; Romans 15:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:11-14). We have a solid Rock in Jesus Christ to steadfastly anchor our souls (Hebrews 6:18-19). His children have the privilege, because of Jesus our Savior, to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). As is so often the case, we grow spiritually when we are tested and tried. Without the trials and difficulties we could not develop and grow to be all that God created us to be! Consider 1 Peter 1:6-7, 2 Corinthians 12:7-12, and 1 Peter 5:6-10.

I hope and pray that you will find strength and consolation in this verse, as I have, and that your faith and love in the Father will grow stronger through the years of your dedication in His service!

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58).

Dan Huff
7 Ross Rd., Eldon, MO  65026