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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Don't Gild the Lily!


 Don't Gild the Lily!

Isn’t Jesus enough? Why do some feel they have to gild the Lily of the Valley for others to appreciate Him?

Several years ago, we were blessed by visiting the Holy Land Experience Park in Orlando when it was run by Marvin Rosenthal, a Jewish-born Baptist minister, of Zion’s Fire. The love of Christ shone in every face, from ticket takers to those who told inspiring messages in drama, song, and praise dance. The Gospel message – salvation by grace through faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Son of God Who paid our sin debt in full (1 Corinthians 15) – was evident in every exhibit, witness, and dramatic or musical presentation. Attention to detail and historical accuracy gave the visitor a true sense of living where and when Jesus walked the earth.

So what went wrong?

We were so looking forward to our return visit a few weeks ago, as we knew many exhibits had been added. Our first experience that day was positive – a tasteful yet dramatic fountain display synchronized to Sandi Patty singing “We Shall Behold Him.” Sadly, it was all downhill from there.

Our first clue to the very different perspective since Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) took over the park in 2007 was “Christus Gardens,” a wax museum allegedly depicting scenes from the life of Christ. The infant Jesus lay in a manger (Luke 2:7-16) filled not with hay, but with tinsel!!

The next scene confused me. At first I thought it was supposed to represent Jesus eating with the publicans and sinners (Matthew 9:10-11), because His dinner companions were all decked out in glitzy crowns and fine brocade robes. Sadly, I realized from the number around the table and the seating arrangement that it was the made-for-TV version of the Last Supper (Matthew 26:20-30), where apparently the itinerant apostles who were told not even to carry an extra coat (Matthew 10:10) had rented kings’ attire for this special occasion!

Other details at Christus Gardens were also less than Biblical – “Jesus” handing golden keys to Mary Magdalene as he appeared to her on Resurrection Sunday, and a white horse waiting by the tomb, as if He needed transportation!

We shook our heads, but made our way toward the new Church of All Nations, a 2,000 seat auditorium used for the theme park dramas as well as for broadcasting Sunday church services. The opulence was overwhelming, far from tasteful, and even sickening. Ornate gold plaster moldings, huge crystals bedecking crowns, sequined silver lamais adorning the curved balustrades, and a Disney-style sculpted panorama encircling the ceiling, with lit-up replicas of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Coliseum, the Statue of Liberty, and other national landmarks.

I do appreciate that the temple in Jesus’ day was God’s house, and that no expense was spared in decorating Solomon’s temple with taste and symbolism honoring God (1 Kings 6). Since Jesus ascended into heaven and the Holy Spirit indwelled each believer (2 Corinthians 1:22), the house of God has been within the heart of everyone who placed their faith in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15) as the only way to heaven (John 14:6). Early Christian churches met in the homes of believers (Acts 16:15,40; 20:20; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19), and there is no Biblical mandate to build ornately decorated, large sanctuary buildings.  

Nonetheless, centuries later, the majestic cathedrals of early and later Christendom drew the eye heavenward with their lofty architecture, and their costly statuary and stained glass served as a Bible depicting scenes and characters that parishioners could not read otherwise, as most were illiterate and had no access to printed Scripture.

In contrast, The Church of All Nations is in my opinion tacky, tasteless, and honoring the world rather than the Creator. The lavish extravagance continued into the ladies’ room, where every stall was completely mirrored on 3 sides so that you had a full frontal view of yourself perched on the porcelain throne and side reflections echoing ad infinitum! The highly polished black granite on the back wall and floor added to the mirror effect, prompting many women to giggle and one to exclaim, “There’s a message here – nothing is hidden!”

I thought rather that a church that would use mirrors as such a pervasive theme in its décor was worshiping the idol of Self, screaming: “There’s nothing more important than me!”

And speaking of thrones, they were everywhere, in the lobby, in the gift shop, beckoning visitors who wanted to play King or Queen for a Day or just to get a great photo op.  What the thrones had to do with Jesus’ earthly ministry I’m not sure, other than to remind us of Herod and Pilate while relegating Jesus to a supporting role or even to an extra. Speaking of photo-ops, these were available with cardboard statues of a hippie angel on a Harley-Davidson, and other characters from the dramas supposedly honoring Christ and the Gospel.

Ah yes, the dramas. The first one we saw was supposed to be a tribute to patriotism, but the poor quality of the acting, singing and dancing came across as cheesy and left us feeling cheated. Next came an unfunny comedy about an angel (yes, the hippie on the Harley) witnessing to a café owner about angels in the Bible. This led to a shockingly irreverent portrayal of Daniel (Daniel 6:16-23) in a den full of pompous, cowardly, inept lions, and his “rescue” by an angel whose main function was to flap her butterfly wings.

But the saddest of all was the “passion” play. It started to go south in a hurry when “Jesus” started whimpering like a scared puppy in the Garden of Gethsemane, crying about his fear of the ordeal to come. In the Bible, Jesus is described here as being “exceeding sorrowful unto death,” (Mark 14:34) not afraid, because of the cup of sin of all mankind that He would have to endure to pay the debt for all our sins. Taking on our sin would mean that during that time He would be separated from His Holy Father Who could not look on sin. But Jesus’ Godly sorrow was far from fear, for His perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).

After the crucifixion, a centurion swaggered toward the audience to intimidate everyone into being saved. “Close your eyes!” he roared. “You must believe! Ask Jesus into your heart right now!”

The scene then dramatically changed to a boxing match, staged as a battle of cosmic proportions, complete with music and lighting effects reminiscent of Star Wars. “Jesus” was dressed in what I assume was supposed to be grave clothes, but this looked like a muu-muu made of many layers of gauze with a big blood stain over his chest. In his corner were Elijah, Moses and an unidentified angel/prophet- type being, while Satan was supported by Pharaoah, Hitler, and Al Capone(?)

The two began duking it out, and about half the audience roared in delight (the rest of us were too embarrassed and sickened to even watch) when “Jesus” growled, “Go ahead, Satan, make my day!”

“Jesus” then died, then arose, then miraculously appeared at the back of the auditorium, wearing a huge sparkling crystal crown and a 40-foot long bejeweled purple velvet train. As he marched down the center aisle and shook hands with those who cheered him on, more angels with butterfly wings threw their tiaras on his train (wait a minute, I thought it was believers, not angels, who witness (Matthew 28:19) and who cast their crowns at Jesus’ feet (Revelation 4:10).

It made me wonder if “Jesus” would be signing autographs in the lobby, but according to the printed schedule, I guess he had to get ready for an event described as “Have communion with Jesus!” We opted to skip that, along with “get your miracle” at the fountain of prayer consecrated by Benny Hinn.

In fairness, it was not all bad  – the grounds were immaculately kept and beautifully landscaped, and there were some interesting artifacts including a replica of the excavated boat thought to be the one in which the apostles sailed the Sea of Galilee when Jesus walked on the water. A drama called “Four Women Who Loved Jesus” was actually Scripture-based and quite moving once you got over the fact that these women, including Jesus’ mother, were dressed in costly sparkling gowns. And thankfully, the Scriptorium, an extensive collection of rare historical Bibles and Scripture parchments assembled by the previous owners, is still there so we ended our day on a positive note based on God’s Word.

2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

Jesus Christ is my Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, Lord, Saviour, Master, Friend Who sticks closer than a brother. I don’t need and I don’t want man’s fancy trappings and worldly ideas of dressing Him up with entertainment, Hollywood fanfare, wardrobe, pagan temples and special effects.

He is all I need. Just give me Jesus.

This post and others like it are at our sister website, Saved by Grace -- we hope you'll visit there!


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