subscribe to the RSS Feed

Sunday, September 21, 2014

America at worship

Posted by Gary on November 27, 2010

1 Corinthians 10:14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”

If you can bear to watch it, here is America at its church worshipping its god. God help us.

Not so fast

Posted by Gary on April 10, 2007

Often in debate concerning the use of imagery for either private devotion or in public worship some will insist that such imagery is allowable because it was included in the Old Testament tabernacle. In particular, they will point out the cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant or they might also mention the pomegranates or almond blossoms that made up the architecture of the tabernacle. One thing always seems to be missing from the reference to these items and that is the fact that God gave a pattern for these items, a design, they did not come from the imagination of men. Please note the number of times Scripture refers to this fact:

Exodus 25:8-9 “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. “According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.

Exodus 25:31-40 “Then you shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand and its base and its shaft are to be made of hammered work; its cups, its bulbs and its flowers shall be of one piece with it. “Six branches shall go out from its sides; three branches of the lampstand from its one side and three branches of the lampstand from its other side. “Three cups shall be shaped like almond blossoms in the one branch, a bulb and a flower, and three cups shaped like almond blossoms in the other branch, a bulb and a flower– so for six branches going out from the lampstand; and in the lampstand four cups shaped like almond blossoms, its bulbs and its flowers. “A bulb shall be under the first pair of branches coming out of it, and a bulb under the second pair of branches coming out of it, and a bulb under the third pair of branches coming out of it, for the six branches coming out of the lampstand. “Their bulbs and their branches shall be of one piece with it; all of it shall be one piece of hammered work of pure gold. “Then you shall make its lamps seven in number; and they shall mount its lamps so as to shed light on the space in front of it. “Its snuffers and their trays shall be of pure gold. “It shall be made from a talent of pure gold, with all these utensils. “See that you make them after the pattern for them, which was shown to you on the mountain.”

Numbers 8:4 “Now this was the workmanship of the lampstand, hammered work of gold; from its base to its flowers it was hammered work; according to the pattern which the LORD had showed Moses, so he made the lampstand.”

Acts 7:44 “Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern which he had seen.”

Hebrews 8:4-5Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “SEE,” He says, “THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN.”

1 Chronicles 28:10-19 “Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be courageous and act.” Then David gave to his son Solomon the plan of the porch of the temple, its buildings, its storehouses, its upper rooms, its inner rooms and the room for the mercy seat; and the plan of all that he had in mind, for the courts of the house of the LORD, and for all the surrounding rooms, for the storehouses of the house of God and for the storehouses of the dedicated things; also for the divisions of the priests and the Levites and for all the work of the service of the house of the LORD and for all the utensils of service in the house of the LORD; for the golden utensils, the weight of gold for all utensils for every kind of service; for the silver utensils, the weight of silver for all utensils for every kind of service; and the weight of gold for the golden lampstands and their golden lamps, with the weight of each lampstand and its lamps; and the weight of silver for the silver lampstands, with the weight of each lampstand and its lamps according to the use of each lampstand; and the gold by weight for the tables of showbread, for each table; and silver for the silver tables; and the forks, the basins, and the pitchers of pure gold; and for the golden bowls with the weight for each bowl; and for the silver bowls with the weight for each bowl; and for the altar of incense refined gold by weight; and gold for the model of the chariot, even the cherubim that spread out their wings and covered the ark of the covenant of the LORD. “All this,” said David, “the LORD made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, all the details of this pattern.”

Did God make imagery a part of His house and worship? Yes. Did He allow man to create that imagery from his own mind? No. Here we are at the heart of the idolatry so often committed through imagery, man making God or the things of God from the understanding (or desire) of his own heart and mind. We see this no more clearly than in images of Jesus. We do not know what Jesus looked like and the little indication we are given by Scripture does not justify the often strikingly handsome Jesus of our imagery:

Isaiah 53:2He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.”

According to image advocates it doesn’t matter how Jesus looks when we portray Him, the important thing is that Jesus was a man and that makes it alright to portray Him through imagery. Would it matter if I painted a picture of Joe Lafferty from Deer Isle, Maine but said it was Jesus? Wouldn’t we logically argue, “That’s not Jesus, that’s Joe Lafferty”? But see, the accuracy of the portrayal doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter if the portrayal is truthful, what is important is that we want a portrayal, an image, our faith needs it and therefore it is justified. (Let us not forget our images of angels either).

I am struck when I read the verses listed above, what was included in the Old Testament house of God was given through the express and specific plans of God, they were not to be strayed from, these items of imagery were not left to sinful man’s heart and mind. Note especially the different items referenced in the 1 Chronicles passage, amazing detail all from God, not man.

I must confess the commandment concerning imagery is one that I am only in the initial stages of understanding. I believe the command means much more for us than we might think. Much more than people who love their own way want to acknowledge. It will take great grace for God to rescue us from our idolatrous ways, but He can.

As for me and my house, we will weigh our options

Posted by Gary on October 26, 2006

Take a moment and read the following article from the November issue of Atlantic Monthly:

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Churches may have God on their side, but they can easily lose parishioners to the lure of the shopping mall, the cubicle, or even demon rum, a new study suggests. Two economists examined the effect of repealing “blue laws”—regulations banning certain retail activity on Sundays—on church attendance in the sixteen states that have done away with such laws since 1955, and found that when the laws fall, so too do church attendance and church donations. The drop-off in church attendance was steepest among people who had previously attended weekly, while those who attended more than once a week were unaffected by the laws’ repeal. States that repealed their blue laws also saw a noticeable increase in the consumption of alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine, and this spike was concentrated among precisely the people whose churchgoing had dropped off.

—“The Church vs. the Mall: What Happens When Religion Faces Increased Secular Competition?,” Jonathan Gruber and Daniel M. Hungerman, National Bureau of Economic Research

Some interesting observations: First, the overall effect of our nation’s effort to do away with the recognition of the Sabbath. Our national laws, which in the main were based on God’s laws, served to keep us from distractions and temptations to lead us away from focus upon God.

Next, it struck me that those whose church attendance was not effected were those who attended church more than once a week. While it would not be fair to make this say more than it does it is hard to deny the light this shines on those who insist that Sunday morning is enough. Deep commitment breeds lasting commitment. Jesus said that only one thing is necessary and it will not be taken from us. Those who seek God first are kept by Him from temptation’s influence. I am not surprised to see that those who feel an hour or so in the house of God with the people of God is enough could be easily distracted from coming at all.

Most strikingly, apparently this one time a week person is most susceptible to falling back into worldliness (the article’s reference to alcohol, marijuana, cocaine use is directly tied to this group). As people begin to neglect the house of God sin begins to make its way back into their lives.

If we know anything about the condition of our hearts we know that we need to keep ourselves from temptations. Blue Laws didn’t guarantee that people would go to church but repealing them has opened a flood gate of temptations that many of us have proven we cannot resist.

So often we as Christians ask ourselves if we would be able to die for Christ. Well, let’s be honest. If we are not strong enough to say no to the calls of the world on the day that God has set aside for Himself I don’t think we have much reason to believe we will make greater sacrifices.

This article was taken from research entitled, "The Church vs. the Mall: What Happens When Religion Faces Increased Secular Competition?” What effect has the mall had on your heart on the Lord’s Day? I wonder how much of our time is spent perusing the Sunday sale ads on Sundays. Yes, we’ve gone to church but where are our hearts? I fear that we tell ourselves that we have given God what is His but spend the bulk of the day looking at ads thinking about all the things we want to buy. It is possible to give homage to the mall without going to the mall.

What is your commitment to the Lord on His Day? Do yourself a favor, leave the Wal-Mart, and Home Depot ads for Monday. Don’t tempt yourself.

Images of Christ

Posted by Gary on

For some months I have intended to share this post from David Bayly concerning images of Christ. If you would like to read more on the issue of making images of Christ you will be greatly helped by going to David (and his brother Tim’s) Blog, BaylyBlog and click the subject link titled, "Worship/Idolatry". It is not light reading but very necessary. You can directly link to this post and read comments on it here.

Sabbath Exhortation

Yesterday many of us gathered at a funeral home and then a graveside. We were bound in grief and joy by memories of a departed friend who, though her body remains earth-bound, has departed this world for eternity. One week ago if we had gathered around her, we would have spoken directly to her. We would have called her by name and laughed with her.

Yesterday, we spoke of her. We placed pictures from her life around her. We told stories about her. We might have watched videos of her. All things that a week before we would never have done because a week before she was with us.

This morning we worship Christ, not through picture or allegory, but directly. We do not approach Him through such things as pictures, video and allegory because these are forms of remembrance for the dead.

Pictures are for visualizing the absent. Video and allegories are for a god no longer with us. Jesus is living. Jesus is here, in our midst. Those who possess reality do not resort to images.

We no more sit and look at His picture or speak of Him through allegory than I look at pictures of you rather than looking directly at your face, than I would describe you to others in theory and by allegory rather than exhibiting you directly.

Christ is not in the grave of video, pictures, memories and allegory. He has risen. He is with us.