Archives For Jesus

Daughter of Jerusalem

She was the first person to see her resurrected Savior, a sinner whom Jesus cleansed of seven demons, and one of the women who followed and supported Jesus and the Twelve Apostles, but who was Mary Magdalene? What was her story? In her latest novel, Daughter of Jerusalem, New York Times bestselling author Joan Wolf puts a story to the person of Mary Magdalene. This first-person tale begins when, at a young age, Mary is sent from her family to live with her aunt and ends after Pentecost.

This is the first Joan Wolf book that I read and I am so glad I did. The novel is easy to read and utterly engrossing – I didn’t want to put it down. I cried at times while reading of Mary’s hardships and rejoiced in her triumphs. I will definitely be reading more of Joan Wolf’s writings. I’ll also be learning more about the Biblical account of Mary Magdalene. The book has me intrigued and I want to learn more about this important woman.

I love historical fiction because it weaves well-known historical characters and occurrences into the story. It’s fun to see how the author gives life to the Biblical account by putting names and relationships to people who we know little about from the Bible, such as Fulvius Petrus, an acquaintance of Mary’s that turns out to be the centurion that had the faith to ask Christ to heal his servant from a distance. However, it is important to remember that Daughter of Jerusalem is a work of fiction. The Bible gives us no reason to suppose that Mary participated in many of the events that the author places her at, nor does it give us many details about her life. It also doesn’t explain her political leanings. I found it startling that the author blends Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany (the sister of Lazarus and Martha) into a single person. I had always thought that these were two different people, but after reading the book I spent some time researching and discovered that there are some who believe that they may be the same person (though many scholars do not). The author provides a believable explanation of how Mary of Magdala could also be Mary of Bethany and the truth is that we really don’t know.

This is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it to any Christian. It is a wonderful story, makes some great points, and will cause you to open your Bible and learn more.

Want to read it? Worthy Publishing invited me to review Daughter of Jerusalem as part of their blog tour for the book and has given me a copy to give away to one of my readers! Enter below. Good luck!

I came across an interesting post on Internet Monk a few weeks ago and want to share it with you. It has led to interesting discussions among my family members and caused me to question my own reactions to certain behaviors. The post is entitled “Will We Have To Leave?” and relates to cohabitation and other sinful lifestyles and how the church responds to them. Here’s a snippet:

Nothing really works in this situation. People are broken and looking for something to glue themselves together. Religious people are accumulating morality points and abandoning the Gospel. The possibilities of a community of Christians to show what it means to love people as Jesus did and in their own weakness get lost in drawing lines and pretending there is such a [thing] as justification by having never [cohabited].

The possibility of seeing someone repent of sin, come to Christ and move toward true gifts of forgiveness and marriage is apparently less appealing than the Pharisaic joys of letting sinners know they aren’t welcome with us or the God we worship until they clean up their mess.

Read the entire post here.

It’s confession time. I actually have avoided inviting people to church because they were cohabiting and I wasn’t sure how this fact would impact the people’s experience at my church. You can probably imagine the thoughts that were going through my head: “What will people say if they find out? Will they still be welcoming and be a good testimony?” The good news is that when I’m being honest with myself I do think that those in my church would do the right thing. Most of them, at least, would join me in welcoming any guest, regardless of the areas of sin in his or her life. That doesn’t mean that my church would be accepting of the behavior, but sensitive to the fact that while the behavior shouldn’t be approved of, the person should feel welcome. The behavior should change if/when the person forms a relationship with Christ. If, at that point, the behavior continues, then we have a problem that needs to be dealt with.

Time for self-examination: how do I really feel about this? Would I participate in gossip about this individual? If it weren’t my friend, would I feel comfortable with the situation? Would I be a good testimony? I would like to think so. I pray that I wouldn’t gossip, that I would feel comfortable enough to make the visitor comfortable, and that I would be a good testimony. I also pray that I wouldn’t be so accepting that I inadvertently show acceptance for the behavior.

How about you?

Your Whole Self

By Nate LaClaire —  October 27, 2009 — 4 Comments

Several years ago, Christian singer Dan Haseltine (of Jars of Clay) challenged readers of Relevant Magazine to bring our whole selves into our relationships. I must admit that when I first read his article, entitled Your Whole Self, certain aspects turned me off. However, on closer inspection the truths found within overpowered the negatives.

There is a weight to the Gospel. There is a mass connected to the story of redemption. It is in the dark places – the addictions to pornography, alcohol, drugs, power and control. It is in our propensity to blame and abuse each other, our greed and our depravity. It is the substance of these things that gives us a place to speak about the slow road to recovery… In our church culture, there are behavioral codes set in place to give the appearance of victory. There are things that church people cannot talk about. There are activities that church people do not engage in…. There is not a darkness or a shadow to speak of… Because we have chosen to speak only about the victory from these things, we are left to promote a gospel that is feeble and moveable at best… Our Gospel is unbelievable because it is only half a Gospel. It is the resurrection without any signs of the crucifixion. I believe there are profound reasons why Jesus still carried the scars from the nails on His hands when He appeared to His friends. He was bringing the entire Gospel to His disciples…

The full article is available here.

Last winter, a series of events reminded me of his article. I was reminded of the importance of being authentic. It is only in our total authenticity that we are able to testify to what the Lord has done for us. Too often we Christians give an air of perfection. Several years ago, I heard a testimony that the giver was saved from a life of “terrible sin” at the age of five and had lived for Christ ever since. Twenty years of the person’s life was missing. Twenty years of struggle, twenty years of growth. As someone who was at that point very much teetering on the edge, suffering from addictive behaviors and very nearly ready to give in at any moment, the testimony left me with a sour taste in my mouth. “Terrible sin at the age of five,” I thought, “you don’t know terrible sin – I’ll show you terrible sin!” At the same time, I knew better than to believe that someone so close to my own age hadn’t struggled over the previous 10-15 years with certain sins that were very much a reality to me. It seemed insincere. And yet, that testimony reflects the norm for our sterilized church culture. In fact, if you had asked me yesterday you probably would have heard a similar response: saved somewhere around the age of five, forgiven for my sins, now I’m a new man and look forward to eternal communion with my Savior. Is it untrue? No, not at all. I believe that I was forgiven for my sins once and forever when I accepted Christ at around the age of five, but there is so much more to my story. The fact that I don’t have much of a pre-conversion story (due to my young age at the time) doesn’t mean that God hasn’t been working in my life.

Funny thing about sterility: it tremendously inhibits the ability to reproduce/multiply/spread the Word. Seeds that aren’t planted will never grow, stories that aren’t told will never inspire, and pain that is never shared will never give hope to another hurting soul.

So, what now? I’m going to work harder to bring my whole self into my relationships. It might hurt – probably will – but anything else is a lie and will inhibit my ability to serve Christ.

PS Despite my initial reaction, I don’t question for a moment that a five-year-old can be saved from a life of “terrible sin.” All sin is terrible. Life in sin is terrible. I am confident that the person giving that testimony was referring to this fact. I don’t mean to suggest that my own sins have been worse than anyone else’s, but rather that our struggles as redeemed children of God are very much realities that we should embrace in the name of authenticity. Failing to do so shortchanges those around us and fails to give God the glory for the progress He has made in our lives.

Temptations

By Nate LaClaire —  August 13, 2008 — Leave a comment

O how the world to evil allures me!
O how my heart is tempted to sin!
I must tell Jesus, and He will help me
Over the world the vict’ry to win.
– Elisha A. Hoffman, “I Must Tell Jesus,” verse 3

A few months ago, during a worship service, I was playing “I Must Tell Jesus” and singing it with the congregation. Now, I have sung and played this song many, many times before – many tens if not hundreds of times – but this time, those words from the third verse stood out. Sometimes it seems to me, especially with hymns, that the words are wonderful and spiritual, but lack reality. Like when we sing hymns about raising hands in celebration in a very conservative church with no one raising any hands. Or when we sing about giving up everything for the cause of Christ, knowing full well that few if any of us will ever make such a sacrifice. Not this time… those words fit me exactly at that moment. My eyes actually teared up as I was playing, which seldom happens. It was a moment from God, a reminder that only through Him can I ever hope to find victory over my temptations. I praise God that He brought those words to me when I needed them most and, most of all, that He will give me the strength to stand up against my selfish addictions. Praise the Lord!

Portland’s "Holiday Tree"

By Nate LaClaire —  December 15, 2006

Officials in Maine’s largest city have decided to call the traditional Christmas tree at Monument Square a “holiday tree,” citing a desire to be sensitive to other people and religions as the reason for their decision to avoid directly referencing the Christian holiday. But Michael Heath, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine (CCLM), notes that the Portland officials apparently have no problem with insulting 850,000 Christians who live in Maine.

On this issue, I have to respectfully disagree with Mike Heath. The city’s political correctness is ridiculous, for the reason Kiera McCaffrey mentions (below), but why does it really matter what they call the silly tree? We Christians focus all of our energy on whining and complaining about every little thing that secular culture does and we miss the important part. The Christmas tree was originally based on a pagan ritual. Even the date of Christmas was taken from pagan culture. I love many of our secular Christmas practices and symbols – including the Christmas tree – but we need to get real: they are a part of secular culture. Jesus never said that we must celebrate His birth on December 25. He never said we should erect evergreens in our living rooms for the month of December. He never suggested hanging mistletoe above our doorways. And for all we know, he was born in July.

Like I said, Portland’s move is a stupid one:

But Kiera McCaffrey, a spokeswoman for the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights — a group that has been tracking the issue for some 12 years — says Portland’s renaming decision will not fool anyone. In talking with the Herald, McCaffrey asked what other religions take evergreen trees indoors and decorate them. “They are Christmas trees,” she said. “Everybody knows that.”

However, they don’t know any better. They are blinded by their hatred. What’s our excuse?

Source: Bows of Folly: Portland Blasted for PC Pandering With ‘Holiday Tree’