Through many years of traveling in the ministry we have visited and photographed many shrines, especially Roman Catholic shrines such as Lourdes, Knock, Fatima, Guadaupe, and Medjugorge. These are not simply sites where tourists can observe the setting and learn more details of historic events. Shrines are erected to encourage devotion. Roman Catholics are encouraged to have special devotion to particular saints or mysteries. The term, shrine, has come to be used broadly to refer to a special place of pilgrimage where intense devotion or veneration is both part of the religious motivation as well as a feature of the structure. Though here we are referring to public shrines, countless families have built a shrine in their home or yard. Shrines contain pictures, statues, relics, or some other idols to inspire devotion.
Biblical Christians are quick to identify shrines and relics with idolatry. We recall the story of Peter, James, and John as related in Luke 9:28-36, Matthew 17:1-9, and Mark 9:2-10. The three gospel writers tell how Jesus took them into a mountain to pray. While they were there, the appearance of Jesus was changed. Jesus became dazzling white – Matthew says as bright as the sun. Then several other remarkable things happened. The human figures that could be identified as Moses and Elias (Elijah) were seen talking to Jesus. Then, as they departed, Peter said unto Jesus in Luke 9:33: “Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.” While he spoke they were overshadowed by a cloud and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son: hear him.”
Isn’t it interesting that Peter’s first reaction was not to determine the significance and purpose of this occasion, but how he could draw attention to what had occurred there. Peter, James, and John were indeed fortunate to have seen what most all have desired, and still desire to see: the power and glory of God — though what they saw was only a small part of greater things to come. Seeing Moses and Elias in their resurrected bodies was a tremendous proof of John 5:21 – an issue greatly disputed between the Pharisees and Sadducees. Though the voice of God had been heard numerous times by others, what an awesome experience for these three.
Sadly, Peter’s response was external. He had fallen into an error as old as history. He proposed to build some shrines. Had he done so, all could have known exactly where this event had taken place, but it is not the place that is important. Had those shrines been erected, countless numbers of pilgrims would have visited there through the centuries, falling prey to idolatrous responses. No doubt, there would be those with vested interests making a good living from it with stories of miraculous cures and undoubtedly it would be possible to purchase souvenirs or pay to look at, perhaps, grains of sand upon which Jesus stood when the transfiguration occurred or upon which He stood while speaking with Moses, and Elias. Yes, Peter had made the error of thinking that because a sacred event had occurred in the place, that the place should be set apart. But in God’s plan of salvation, places are not sacred. Just because a great event occurs in a place does not mean that the place is sanctified. The Kingdom of Heaven is not built of places and things; it is built in people’s souls.
God’s messengers have gone throughout the world preaching as Romans 10:18 and Psalm 19:4 teach, but the world has made gods of the messengers and ignored the messages. In this age we have God’s Word given to us fully. God has shown us His will and calls all to repentance, faith, and righteousness. But like Peter, man has focused on the dazzling events rather than worship the God of the events.
If Peter had been given his way, there would now be three shrines on some mountain location in the Holy Land. We must remember that Peter made this proposal before he received the Holy Spirit. His understanding had not yet been opened. Luke stated that Peter did not know what he had said. Because the Holy Spirit was not within him, Peter fell into the error of idolatry – that deadly sin which will cause the ultimate destruction of the world and damnation for those who have not been cleansed from it through the blood of Jesus.
How many Christians, even Fundamentalists, today have fallen prey to superstitious practices. How many would cherish an opportunity to touch a chip of the true cross thinking that this would bring some blessing or miracle? So today we see many worshiping or revering (it’s a matter of terminology) objects or places because great events are attached to them. The important thing is that there was a message to be taken to heart, a message that would lead people into a greater understanding of God and His will and greater desire to allow His perfect will in their lives. But instead of heeding the message and being brought into a more sincere and spiritual relationship with God, crowds go hoping for tangible things. True faith and knowledge tell us that sincere prayer is heard by God wherever it is offered, without even the need for it to be spoken. God’s Word and power are not be be sought after in places, but in the heart of each true believer.
All through the ages, people, like Peter not knowing what he was doing, have worshiped places, acts, and objects. Millions upon millions today are still doing it. They are in pitiful darkness, led by false leaders, seeking that which they are not finding. Let us ask ourselves, “Have we heard the voice of God in our hearts?” If so, what are we doing in response? Are we allowing Him to be Lord in our lives or are we basking in the experience? One day we all will hear the audible voice of God. Will He say, “Depart from me ye workers of iniquity, I never knew you!” or “Well done, thou good and faithful. . .enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
My Roman Catholic family has a unique heritage. Our great-great uncle, Abbot Bruno Doerfler, OSB, was sent by St. John’s University (SJU) to Rome to study for the priesthood. He returned to SJU and was made rector of the university. Later he was sent as a missionary-explorer to pioneer the Northwest Territories in Canada. He colonized the area and established Roman Catholic churches. He built the monastery in Saskatchewan and became its first Abbot. There is a town named after him near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Presently Rome is in the final process of canonizing him a saint. His brother, Hiliary Doerfler, OSB, was the physics professor at SJU. Among other things, he invented the first wireless radio station at SJU in the 20’s. Ours was a strict Roman Catholic family.
When I was eleven, we moved from our comfortable home in a Minneapolis suburb to the northern woods. There we lived without any modern convenience. There my life was forever changed through a tragedy that resulted in my becoming a teen-parent. I chose to raise my daughter, despite the difficulties. After graduating from high school I worked two part-time jobs, and with some public aid pursued my education. I received my certificate in sales and marketing before applying for college.
Because of my long interest in becoming a Catholic missionary, I took classes in all of the foreign languages offered. I settled on German as a major and studied abroad, using student loans. Upon returning to the USA to complete my coursework, I took courses in anthropology. Two of the four branches of anthropology were culture and linguistics. I made the Dean’s list and graduated with a B.A. in both German and anthropology. After being accepted to a Ph.D. program at Washington State University for linguistics, I was hired as a teaching and research assistant. After returning to St. Cloud I assisted my professors while they co-authored a textbook and was given the honor of authoring the accompanying teaching manual.
Then, in January of 1986, someone gave me two tracts and a Bible. Though I was an atheist since studying anthropology, I agreed to read them. I read one chapter a night in the Bible. It was puzzling to find so many verses indicating that a person had to be “saved” to get to heaven (Luke 18:42, Acts 4:12, I Tim 2:15, Mark 10:27). Being raised in the Roman Catholic system, I was not familiar with the term, “saved” nor did I know what it meant.
In the fall of 1986, I began teaching at SCSU. My son was born in September and there was much debate over my selection of his name, “Christian.” This prompted me to question the “openness” with which I’d been taught liberal people were so compassionate. As the Lord would have it, we shared a hospital room with the assistant minister’s wife of the fundamental Baptist church from which the tracts had come. I had many questions, mainly, “What must I do to be saved?” However, her response fell on deaf ears.
Three months later, there was a knock at my door. Two men from the church shared the gospel with me two weeks in a row. The pastor and assistant pastor also visited. After attending two special services, Vacation Bible School was about to begin. I was invited to take my children, which I did — reluctantly.
The V.B.S. memory verses were the first chapter of John. I got as far as John 1:1-5 the first evening. That is when I realized that it was Jesus who had walked in the garden. “He” is the one who was “in the beginning. . .” I kept reading the book of John and discovered that, not only did He walk in the garden, but that He was the one who had spoken to Abraham and Moses. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). Still, I didn’t understand about trusting in the completed blood sacrifice of Jesus for my salvation. On the second night of V.B.S., the sermon was on Matthew 7:13-14. I was under such conviction by then that I did not return for the remaining services.
On Friday, the assistant pastor visited and answered many of my questions by showing me the applicable Scripture verses. It was finally clear to me that the only way of salvation is to have simple, childlike, faith in the blood sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for my sin. At that moment I understood a Scripture that had been troubling me: Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter ye in at the strait (narrow) gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” At about noon on June 26, 1987, I trusted Christ and left the broad way for the narrow way. On Sunday I made a public profession of my faith and was baptized two weeks later. I began soul winning that day and have never ceased.
Soon after my salvation, the dean of the college offered me a tenure track position in the department. Already I knew that I would not be encouraged to grow spiritually in the department that had led me into atheism. I declined the offer. The news that I had become a born-again Christian stirred up some static in the department, to say the least. Then, the Lord rewarded me with a career counseling teen parents. I had previously volunteered with a friend I’d met in graduate school. We spoke across the country on issues related to women in poverty. A local county agency hired me and I continued there for more than eight years.
Since my salvation, my Catholic family has come to Christ one by one. Nineteen of us are now saved and most are attending independent, fundamental Baptist churches. Five co-workers have been saved. The Lord gave me the privilege of leading my supervisor to Biblical salvation and several former students. As a Roman Catholic, my desire had been to be a missionary. Now, instead of spreading the empty dogmas of Romanism, I am married and serving with my husband as independent, fundamental, Bible-teaching, Baptist missionaries in Luthuania. It is wonderful as a Christian to commit our ways unto the Lord and to know that He is directing our pathway blessing us in so many ways as we endeavor to bring honor and glory to His name.
Image Of Mary In Tree?
At Olivet Memorial Park in Colma, just south of San Francisco, hundreds of people have gathered to see a pine tree trunk that many think contains an apparition of the Virgin Mary. They say they see the head of the Virgin Mary in a dark spot with a white halo surrounding it. Sap drippings from the face, they say, look like tears. Many have placed flowers, candles, and rosary beads on a makeshift shrine. Many go there to say prayers. They think the discovery of the image is connected with the December 12th feast day for the Lady of Guadalupe.
Priest Faces Rape Charges
A priest in Oklahoma has been charged with raping two elderly nursing home residents by instrumentation. An examination of the two women confirmed they had been abused sexually. Because the priest agreed to go to a hospital for mental evaluation he was released on only $10,000 bond. He allegedly said he was sorry and knew that what he did was wrong.
Cuban Catholics Practice Voodoo
A January 19th Newsweek article reported that Santeria (voodoo) is Cuba’s most popular creed even though millions are bapatized Roman Catholics. It also said that several years ago the pope of Rome blessed voodooism in Africa and that he does not believe that Christianity is the one and only saving faith.
President of SBC’s Midwestern Seminary, Dr. Coppenger, is a participant in the annual SBC/National Council of Catholic Bishops dialogue. Roman Catholicism was not listed in a flyer advertising a national conference on cults and the occult to be held at SBC’s Beeson Divinity School.
“Terrific!! I am so glad there is someone out there willing to speak up. I was told that you are a good source to help start a Catholic outreach through my church. Do you have time available to speak at our church? I would like to start an outreach program to the local Catholic churches in my area and my Catholic friends.” (CA) EDITOR: A huge percentage of most every community is Roman Catholic. If churches are not targeting Roman Catholics with the Gospel, we are missing many people. Many Roman Catholics have become inactive and are looking for answers — the kinds of answers found in the Bible. They only need the guidance of a sincere Bible Christian. If your church does not already have a support group for ex-Catholics, please consider starting one.
“The Bible you value so much is a group of Scriptures selected by the authority of the Roman Catholic Church to be inspired by God. If you do not accept that authority, then why do you accept the Bible determined by that authority?” (MN) EDITOR: We frequently hear this kind of logic. The answer is that the books of the Bible were inspired by God and accepted by true believers long before the Roman religion compiled their list of authorized books. Rome likes to take credit where credit is not due, just like she likes to claim that she is the original church — which is not true — and implies that there was no other church until the 16th century Reformation. There were many churches that were not Roman Catholic. Rome has done much harm to the true body of Christ over the centuries. This was largely due to the independent nature of the true church, whereas Rome became institutionalized and political. Even Rome’s historians attest to this truth, but most all Catholics believe Rome’s distorted versions of history.
“We were so pleased to receive your letter along with the materials about the Catholics. We are surrounded by Catholics and believe this is God’s answer to our prayer for teaching materials that can help us be more effective in our witness for Christ. Thank you very much.” (Philippines)
“I have read Pilgrimage From Rome three times and have been impressed by the love which radiates from every page. You have a sweet and firm compassion for all the lost, especially those blinded by Rome.” (PA)
“Every day He comes to me with new assurance. More and more I understand His words of love. But I’ll never know just why He came to save me, ‘till someday I see His blessed face above.” All during the day, as I go about my responsibilities, I find myself singing various songs. Those old hymns are truly food for the soul! How sad that most of the younger generation does not know them. This thought brings tears to my eyes. What will they have to help refocus their thoughts on the things of God instead of the pressures of the day?
The work certainly does keep us busy. Perhaps that is what keeps us feeling young and energetic — the necessities require lots of energy! Last month we had meetings in Tennessee and Georgia. It was wonderful to meet, ex-priest, Al Scardino in person and spend several hours comparing notes and rejoicing over the way God has worked in his life. Upon arrival home, we freshened up the suitcases and left for Riverside for four days of meetings. That was a great blessing. Then we hurried home to do more cleaning and painting so John and Marian Swearingen could move in. What a blessing they are already! They will be wearing numerous hats here as there are all kinds of tasks that need someone to do them. Please pray for all of us as we work together. And pray for yet other workers that the Lord will send to help with the ministry here.
The month ended with a visit from one of our supporting pastors and his family and missionaries from Mexico who picked them up as they headed for meetings below the border. We also hosted three retired Baptist Navy chaplains and their wives for an afternoon. How thankful we are for a dishwasher and washer and dryer!
Mail and telephone calls always bring reports of God’s blessings in the lives of ex-Catholics. It is wonderful to have a part in providing them with materials and encouragement for reaching families and friends.
2/1 – Jericho Road Baptist Church @ San Diego CA
2/3 – Retired Navy Chaplains (Baptist) @ San Diego CA
2/5 – Swearingen’s scheduled to arrive at MTC
2/8A – Clairemont Baptist Temple @ San Diego CA
2/8P – Ex-Priest Cipriano Valdes Family @ San Diego CA
3/1P – Filipino-American Baptist Church @ Chula Vista CA
3/8 – Pomerado Road Baptist Church @ Poway CA
3/15A – Bible Baptist Church @ Vallejo CA
3/15P – Orchard Ave Baptist Church @ Vacaville CA
4/19A – Bethany Baptist Church @ Grand Rapids OH
4/19P – First Baptist of Stryker @ Stryker OH
4/20 – Emmanuel Baptist Christian School @ Toledo OH
4/22 – Dillon Road Baptist Church @ Fostoria OH
4/23A – Toledo Christian School @ Toledo OH
4/23P – Toledo Bible Institute (Southside) @ Toledo OH
4/24 – Southside Baptist Church @ Toledo OH
4/26 – Southside Baptist Church @ Toledo OH