—What I did this Winter: Our European Vacation


Numbers 20:
2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD ! 4 Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”
6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”
9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

This January, we traveled through France and Italy for three weeks. We saw all the major wonders, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre (briefly), Normandy (I was only allowed one military history site in our itinerary), cathedrals, Colosseum, the Vatican, and numerous other famous places and internet cafes. It was very informative, to say the least. For example, I discovered that in France, “Notre Dame” is virtually a generic term for a cathedral. There are apparently “notre dame” cathedrals in almost every city of any size.
The Notre Dame in Paris, of course, is the one to see for architectural and engineering interest. The classic vaulting and buttresses leave one to wonder at the design of such a complex structure without any of the conveniences of modern engineering and mathematical discipline. Then there was the “treasury”of Notre Dame in Paris….
I have never been especially tolerant of faux Christianity ( Matthew 7:21-23 ), but I never could have imagined this. At least half of the “treasury” consisted of ornate jars and cases containing small pieces of dead people, apparently kept through the years for some presumed magical power they might possess. It took me several days to stop seeing this horrific stuff in my head.
Later, we travelled to Rome. The history, art, and architecture were fabulous, of course. But there is an entire basilica in Rome devoted to the “ascension and coronation of the virgin”. I hadn’t heard this story before—it must be one of those “inner circle” myths, like the ones from Scientology(trillion-year-old volcanoes) or Mormonism (spirit children“), that doesn’t get much public exposure because it is so preposterous that it would subject the “belief system” to ridicule.
We saw a lot of art in the Vatican museum from Renaissance and Medieval eras on this theme, including beautiful murals and mosaics by Rafael. Entirely without the knowledge of any of the Gospel writers, Mary apparently rose from her tomb, gave the apostle Thomas the gift of a belt (?!), and then ascended into heaven, where Jesus crowned her “queen of heaven”. Except that the story has no historical, Biblical, or doctrinal basis—it didn’t happen.
Remember this glorious birth announcement by the prophet Isaish:

Isaiah 9:
6
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

The whole of the Law and the Prophets of the old Covenant were written to direct us to Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords(Galatians 3:23-25). But none of this even suggests a queen!

Why, then, is so much effort and devotion given to maintaining this disastrous fiction? It is obvious enough that object of this misplaced worship isn’t Mary. The last previous holder of the title “queen of heaven” was Juno/Hera of Greco/Roman mythology—“queen of heaven”, “great lady”, wife and sister of Zeus. I suspect that the founders of this cult were so disappointed to find that the Gospel writers had omitted their favorite goddess from the texts that they dutifully wrote her back in.
Catholic theologians argue at length that Mary’s other children were cousins (based on a liberal, uncontextual translation of the Greek text), or that they were the children by Joseph with another woman named Mary, and so on. Why is it important to world Catholicism that Mary be a virgin throughout her life? I don’t know my Greco-Roman mythology well enough, and I’m frankly just too tired to work this one out—a Vestal virgin vestige?
It doesn’t take much effort to find out who the real Mary really was, and exactly why she was chosen for her role in God’s plan (Luke 1:26-38). It is also easy to find the example we have been given of her very human fallibility. In Mark 3:20-21, we see that Jesus’ family—including His mother—came to take Him home, because they thought He had lost His mind! Like so many others, Mary and the rest of Jesus’ earthly family lost faith in His Divine Purpose, and in God’s Will. Hearing of the enormous crowds surrounding Jesus, they decided to get Mary’s eldest back home where He couldn’t continue to make a fool of Himself and embarrass the family. Jesus answers them, and announces the Fulfilled form of the family, in verses 31-35. Mary was incredibly blessed by God, but she was also a sinner just like the rest of us (Romans 3:23-24), in need of the Savior.
Nor is this deification of a mortal woman just harmless folklore. Jesus said (Matthew 7):

21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

In fact, as we were approaching the Vatican on a tour bus, the recorded tour guide announced St. Peter’s Basilica as the “center of world Christianity”. Where do the news services go when they want to learn the position Christians of the world will take on a given issue or event? What do outsiders to the Christian faith think we believe, and where do they look to determine what Christians are like? Catholicism, like so many other fraudulent traditions which vainly use the Name, is a lie told about God. The cost to the people of the world that Jesus came to save is incalculable.
The Truth is, that Christians don’t have “holy sites”, other than the one in their hearts and minds occupied by the Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 31:33). There isn’t a “saint” you need to call on before you start your vacation trip. We don’t have “relics”, “icons”, or even required special days of observance. Baptism and the Fulfilled observance of the Passover which known as “the Lord’s Supper” or “Communion”, are performed to honor and remember Jesus’ love and sacrifice on our behalf, not a requirement of Salvation, which is only through faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8-9). There are only two Laws in Christianity (Matthew 22: 37-40)! If the overwhelming Spiritual need to love and honor God isn’t in your mind and soul, ritual observances will have absolutely no value for you in any case.
And how does anyone who has ever read the Good News of Jesus Christ tolerate the existence of a priesthood? Are we to actually believe that God worked tirelessly among men and especially in the development of Israel and Judah for 3,000 years to lead us to understand the purpose of the Messiah, then endured the ultimate Sacrifice of His Son, tore the curtain of the Most Holy Place to show that the Way was now open for men to enter His Presence with confidence, as His children and heirs, all so that He could establish another system of written codes and rituals, and separate Himself from His people by another priesthood? Are you people deficient? Read it for yourselves! Pray for His Wisdom (James 1:5), and learn what Jesus actually said and did!
God did all these things, and paid this unimaginable Price, to set us free—to lead us in the final Exodus out of slavery to sin and death! Why would anyone want to go back to slavery?
Consider the example of Moses. He was so attuned to God’s Purpose and Will, that God called him His friend, and spoke to him plainly, face to face. God held Moses in higher standing than even His prophets. But Moses made a serious mistake, as seen in the Scripture above (Numbers 20). After years of frustration, worn out from the constant rebellion and failure of Israel to comprehend God’s Glory and Deliverance, Moses finally “lost it”. Just for a moment, after over 40 years of a job that would have mentally and physically crippled anyone else I can think of, Moses let his own will come between God’s Love and Forgiveness—and God’s people. God took away the ultimate desire of Moses’ life, the right to march into the Land of Promise with God’s people, and then took away his life.
Please consider this very carefully, all those of you who presume to regulate and administer God’s blessings according to rules and rituals you made up yourselves, or adopted from other traditions you like better than God’s Provision for our Salvation by faith in His Son. If God dealt with a man He called a friend so harshly for making this mistake just once, how will He deal with those who make a career of it?

Matthew 7
23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Jesus has promised to bless us and take care of us if we simply put His Will first (Matthew 6:33), and to be our Foundation if we put His Word into effect in our lives (Matthew 7:24-27). He also promised that God’s Holy Spirit would be with us to remind us of His commands and guide us according to His Ways (John 14:26). He showed us that the whole Law of God is summed up in just two closely-related commandments (Matthew 22: 37-40, Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18 ). Salvation is obtained solely by faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:1-4, 10: 9-13, Ephesians 2:8-9). Our quest, as God’s children, to grow up to be like Jesus is motivated and enabled by His Holy Presence with us (Philippians 3:12-14, Ephesians 4:15). Our victory in Jesus is an accomplished fact, sealed by God’s Promise (Romans 8:37-39)!
Even if these other “traditions” were harmless—which they are not—why would anyone want them? We can be held in the protection of God’s Love, blessed with His Wisdom (James 1:5), by simply asking Him to come into our lives in the Person of Jesus Christ. Nobody needs to carry a baggage of mysticism or ideology, or any other sin, or their terrible consequences (Romans 6:23).
[edited 6.30.2005]

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