Dear Church Family,
In Sunday school this past week, we were discussing how pagans have sought to divine the will of God as recorded in Scripture. One of those uses was “teraphim.” This Hebrew word is usually translated in the Bible as “household idols” or “household gods” (e.g., Genesis 31:19; 2 Kings 23:24) as it refers to small statues that were kept on hand in the home to pray to in order to divine the will of God. After trying to please the idol, questions would be asked of it and then people would await a reply.
During the class, we began to discuss how many people today turn to superstition and the use of a kind of teraphim or talismans. Many people use things like horoscopes, good luck charms, and crystals to know the future or obtain some kind of supposed good fortune for themselves and their loved ones. Unfortunately, even some who profess faith in Christ have bought into this kind superstition.
One of the examples that I brought up on Sunday was the use of St. Michael medallions by soldiers. While I was serving as a chaplain in the 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, I surprised to find the ubiquitous use of, and fondness for, St. Michael medallions – even among those who professed to be Bible-believing Christians. I can’t tell you how many conversations I had with professing believers, warning them about the danger and idolatry of looking to “St. Michael” for help and protection, and putting your hope in a trinket attached to your dog tags.
Each week, a different chaplain provided the content for the “chaplain’s corner” in the official Fort Bragg newspaper, The Paraglide. So, when my turn came, I took the opportunity to address the superstition of St. Michael. And, I did so by attempting to summarize Paul’s sermon from Acts 17:22-34. Before you read what I wrote, it may be helpful to note that the St. Michael’s medallions had an inscription on them that read, “Saint Michael – Patron of Paratroopers – Protect us” (see photo: https://www.82ndairbornedivisionmuseum.com/product/st-michaels-with-82d-patch-medallion/).
Dateline: Mars Hill, Fort Bragg (Acts 17:22-34).
Men and women of Fort Bragg, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I have been here, circulating amongst the soldiers and people of this installation, I have been examining the objects of your worship. I have seen necklaces and charms with inscriptions to unknown gods, saying, “Protect Us.” I have noticed charms and bracelets, bumper stickers and tattoos, ascribing worship to an unknown deity. You seem to want to cover your bets by offering worship to everything and anything that might be able to help you. Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. Whom you do not know, I will describe to you.
The God who made the world and, indeed, all creation, does not dwell in man-made buildings. He who brought all things into existence, is not bound by amulets and trinkets. In fact, he isn’t even served by human hands as if He were in dire need of our service, affection, and loyalty. We give nothing to Him. He gives us (and all living things) – life and breath. Every time a new baby is born, He has willed it to be. Every time, someone draws breath, He is monitoring his lungs. In fact, if He ceased to will it, all creation would cease to exist.
This God began our history by creating one man. And, from the one man He made every nation of mankind. Men and women of all races descended from this one man whom God created from the dust of the earth. From this one man, God spread His very image throughout the world, so that even our enemies (as well as our friends) are descended from this one man. Throughout the history of the world, mankind has groped around like a man in the dark, trying to find or reach God in some way. Yet, He has always been near each and every one of us.
It is God, not man, who controls our timeline. It is God, not man, who has set up the political and social boundaries that encompass us. It is God, not man, who controls our historical destiny. For in Him, we live and move and exist. As even some of your own talk show hosts have said, ‘We are all God’s children.’ Therefore, since we are all ‘God’s children’ we ought not to think that God’s Nature is like gold, or silver, or stone, or can be captured in the artful design of man’s imagination. We must realize that in some way He is like us. Or rather, we are like Him. Yet, He is wholly other.
Knowing, then, that man is prone to create God in his own image, God in His mercy has overlooked the ignorance of men and our epochs of idolatry. Despite our insignificant and petty attempts to worship gods that are not true, God has revealed Himself to us and sent us a message. Now, today, God is commanding all men throughout Fort Bragg and the world to have a change of heart – to repent of their idolatry. God makes this call for repentance, not just because He deserves our pure worship, but it is also in our best interest. For this God who controls history, has set a day in our future in which He will judge the world (all mankind, everywhere) according to His standard of what is right and wrong, according to His own justice. And just as He populated the earth beginning with one man, He will judge all men in that future day according to another man whom He appointed. How do we know who this man is? This man through whom God will judge the world? God has furnished to us proof of who he is by raising Him from the dead.
Now, you have three options: (1) You may sneer and mock the message; (2) You may seek to learn more about this Man; (3) You may join the followers of this Man and believe. What will you do?
The Lord be with you!
– Pastor Peter M. Dietsch