The Real Woman of “The Da Vinci Code”

As of 2010, “The Da Vinci Code” is the best selling novel of the 21st century. It is one among several works of mystery fiction that have torn at the weaker fabric of faith among those who have claimed allegiance to Christ. At its best, “The Da Vinci Code” is what it claims to be: a work of mystery fiction. At it’s worst, it’s a tale that spouts forth blasphemy against the Holy Bible. One of the key components of many such books is the character defamation of Mary Magdalene in her portrayal as the romantic interest of Christ himself. “In the Da Vinci Code”, a descendant of Christ and Mary is discovered. It is found to be Mary who sat beside Christ at the Passover supper rather than the apostle John. Let’s take a look at the Biblical, factual, character of Mary Magdalene in the next couple of posts. Just who was this woman about whom so much has been lately postulated?
Well, as stated, modern writers have partnered with Hollywood to present to us the sensational new story about the hidden romance between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Many would even have us to believe that they were married; that indeed the weeping woman at the tomb of Christ was overly distraught because she was his widow. There is but one thing wrong with these hypotheses. There is not one shred of Biblical or historical evidence to support them. In fact, there is, inherent in the detailed description of the ministry of our Lord, much opposing evidence—so much that the very idea that Christ was sexually involved with any woman at any time is blasphemous. But the Bible student today finds much that is sensational about the life of Mary Magdalene. This woman, from the village of Magdala, was once possessed with seven demons. While we don’t know all about demon possession, we do understand that demons often made the people in whom they lived behave erratically, often screaming (Mk. 1:23), writhing and self-mutilating (Mark 5:4,5). The possessed often had to be physically restrained (Mk.5:4,5) and the demons apparently could use the mouths of their human houses to speak (Mt. 8:28-31, Lk. 8:27-31). Sometimes those who were demon possessed went about naked (Lk. 8:27). The possessed, as one can well imagine, became subjects of derision and were avoided by many in society. Barnes describes these evil spirits as “impure and unholy, having a delight in tormenting, and in inflicting painful and loathsome diseases.”* Sometimes those who were possessed went out from society and lived in caves or tombs to seek retreat and shelter (Mt.8:28-34). Our Mary was demon possessed. She was tormented, derided, and characterized by a type of insane behavior…until she met the Lord.

Mary was delivered from bondage by the One who had power over the Devil.

…and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons… (Lk 8:2)

Mark 16:9 affirms that it was Christ who had cast the demons out of Mary. Christ is the One, as well, who can take us from the torturous clutches of sin’s temporal consequences and its eternal torment. We need to reflect on the drastic change that occurred in the life of this woman on her day of delivery. She went from the darkest affliction to the purest affection. She changed from a tormented human to a human testimony. The insanity that was her existence suddenly changed to an eternal peace.

And Christ is still delivering. I am reminded of my friend Michelle, formerly a strip dancer. Scorned and denigrated, Michelle found her day of deliverance. She is a great worker in the local congregation I attend. I think of Marla, who left the casinos, the addictions of tobacco, and her passion for impure forms of entertainment, to become a devoted wife and mother with a steely determination to go to heaven. I think of Maria, my sister on a South American island, who confessed to me many of the sins listed in I Corinthians six, verses nine and ten, and then dared to ask if she, too, could be delivered as were those Corinthians who were washed, sanctified and justified (I Cor.6:11). And then there is me. Without His saving blood I am just as black as the vilest sinner. I desperately need the One who has power over Satan and death.

Praise God for his delivery from the power of Satan. While we are not possessed by evil spirits today as was Mary, we find ourselves bound by the shackles of Satan and sin until we come in contact with the Great Galilean.

Mary ministered to the Lord.

And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar,
among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. Mt. 27:55,56

What an amazing privilege to have been among the women who walked the dusty Galilean roads with Jesus. Oh, to have personally witnessed in one’s own flesh, the supernatural healing power of this Jesus! To have come to understand after that cleansing the source of the power! To be able to wash the feet of Diety! To have him in one’s home for lunch, bring along His water flask as he traveled through the villages, find shelter for him among those villagers, or just to sit down on a grassy hillside and be enthralled as he taught simple, yet profound lessons about the lilies or the sparrows as one who had authority (Mt. 7:29)!

Matthew 25:37-40 puts me in the picture:

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?
When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

I can set the table for the King of Kings. I can sew His clothes or go to the prison and speak words of hope to Him. When He is sick, I can take him chicken noodle soup and when He is hungry, I can take a loaf of homemade bread and a bag of groceries. Let me never be too busy or self-absorbed to minister in the spirit of Mary Magdalene! May my children grow up knowing that needs of others take precedence over selfish desires. May they take it for granted that our family will stop whatever we are doing to take care of the emergencies of our family in the Lord. When our children complain about the forfeiture of an outing due to an unexpected need in the body, may we open our Bibles to Matthew’s judgment scene and elevate the occasion of sacrifice to the divine privilege that it really is. “We are going to the hospital today with Jesus!”… “We are taking Jesus to the mental health center today!”…” We are getting to give Jesus a ride to services.”… “Jesus is coming over to talk about problems in His life.”

It is relevant to notice also that Mary gave of her substance in this ministry:

… and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons,
and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance. Lk.8:2

The Greek word for ministered in this passage is a form of the word we translate deacon. It means to be a menial attendant, to wait upon. The original language for substance means property or possessions.** The fact that our ministries to Jesus today should consist of substantial material sacrifice cannot be overlooked. The commission of all we have to his glory is required of Christians today. We should be willing to part with any material possession that can be used for His glory. The text indicates that Mary was a financial supporter of the ministry of Christ. Our financial support is still needed for His ministries.

For some time, in my daily prayers, I have prayed the following: “O God, I am so thankful for your material blessings in which we bask. We are rich! Help us, Father, to use these blessings for your glory. But if they ever get in our way of serving you faithfully, just please take them away from us. We want to go to heaven!”

It is a prayer that has strengthened my resolve to never let the pursuit of things get in the way of my responsibilities as a keeper at home. It has made decisions about ballgames versus Wednesday night Bible studies seem simple. It has constantly called me to more faithful stewardship. I want to give substantively to the ministry as Mary did.

Mary stayed till the end.

When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.
And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb. Mt. 27:59-61

That progression to the foot of the cross had been a grueling and sorrow-filled climb. Mary had followed the Lord from the halls of Pilate to the hill of Golgotha. She watched the agony of the cross from a distance. She felt the earth move under her and witnessed the tearing of the rocks (Matthew 27:50-56). She was present when the centurion at the foot of the cross made the good confession: “Truly this was the Son of God.” She and the other Mary followed the rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, as he laid the body of the Lord, wrapped in clean linen in his freshly hewn tomb. She watched as Joseph rolled the stone over the opening of the sepulcher (Matthew 27:56-61).

I recently had a study with a woman who was contemplating becoming a member of the body of Christ. She was unashamed in asking me just what would be required of her family. “Would we need to be there at every service? My kids have a lot of practices and games and our youngest really has a strict bedtime. The older two have loads of homework. Wednesday nights would be really difficult for us. I just need to know what kind of commitment we would be needing to make.”

I recall an elder in the church in one of the places we lived. Through every sermon, he constantly looked at his watch. He became visibly upset if the service exceeded the hour. I have observed, in some congregations, an exodus of a large number of people after the communion is served, but before the final song and/or prayer.

Somehow, I don’t think Mary was looking at the sundial. I don’t think she was wondering if the commitment from here on out would require more time and money. I don’t think she was thinking about how nice it would be to get home and wash her tired and dirty feet that had climbed the hill to Golgotha. I don’t imagine her thinking about what was for supper or whether there would be time before the Sabbath to go shopping at the market. In short, she was the kind of disciple that willingly stayed till the end. Are you?

Mary kept the law.

And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid.
Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment. Lk. 23:55,56

The One who came not to destroy, but to fulfill the law was subjected at last to the Hadean realm. His body was lying in the borrowed tomb of a rich man on a hillside near Jerusalem. The adrenalin from the events of the preceding day and night had to have been flowing through the veins of Mary as she left the tomb and went home. But she was a woman who kept the commandments in all circumstances.

I think it’s worthy of note that Mary was a devout law keeper, especially in view of the fact that chief priests and Pharisees, those who had been so condemning of the Messiah, for His healing on the Sabbath (Lk. 13:14), were now going about the business of meeting with Pilate, the Roman prefect of Judea, setting a secure watch and sealing the stone to secure the body of the Lord of the Sabbath…all on the Sabbath day! The Lord of the Sabbath was just resting on the Sabbath. He was about to prove once and for all, his lordship over it.

May we delight in His commandments (Ps. 119:35), realizing that his mandates are His mercy, His commandments are His compassion and His will is born of His Wisdom.

(to be continued)

Much of this post taken from “Power Lectures, 2009,” edited by Wade Webster, Southaven, MS; 2009 (article by Cindy Colley)

"EAT PRAY LOVE"

“EAT PRAY LOVE”
(2010) (Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem) (PG-13)

The above is a mini-review of “Eat Play Love”, the new Julia Roberts film. It comes from www.screenit.com. As I scrolled down the review, there were lots and lots of specifics that I would never even place on this blog. There seemed to be just a barrage of trash can material, especially in the category of imitative behavior: phrases. Suffice it to say that it makes me very sad to see and hear people of God endorse this movie on their facebook pages, blogs and/or in their casual conversation with others, especially in their conversations with people of the world, who are often sizing up the church simultaneously as they assess us, personally. I am ashamed that my Lord has to see His people endorsing Hollywood’s entertainment cesspool, when he has so clearly given us the call to “abstain from the very appearance of evil” (I Thess. 5: 22). We cannot pretend to be sanctified when we are choosing raunchy entertainment. We don’t have to see it. We don’t even need to see it. Entertainment, on the whole, is optional. When we, as his people make rational choices to ingest unholy and spiritually destructive media, mark it down: we will be negatively affected. Our characters will suffer. Our influence for Him will deteriorate. “As [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he,” (Prov. 23:7) Can I beg you to honestly answer the question before pursuing any optional path in life? Here it is: “Is this the choice I would make if Jesus were right here– going with me?” If the answer is no, then YOU are the reason you are not still walking with Him. He has not moved. Oh, he still knows your choices and those choices to be entertained by sin are still hurting Him; the One who died for you. But you get to choose. Will you make choices that will pull you over onto the broad path of the world? He is still beckoning with blood stained hands on the narrow path that leads to life. May we see the hypocrisy in singing “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary,” and “Purer in heart O God, help me to be…” and “More and more like Jesus,” while we continue to enjoy the works of the flesh as Hollywood presents them to us. We will be unable to convince lost people to leave sin if we are enjoying it on the screen from a comfortable seat in the theater. Let’s be real.

Book Review: BECAUSE I SAID SO, by Celine Sparks

I think it might be Publishing Design’s best seller for the year 2010 (although I haven’t gotten to read Patsy Loden’s new marriage book, yet. The word’s out that it’s fantastic, though.) But for now, I’m speaking of Because I Said So, by Celine Sparks. It’s been a while since I’ve read anything so “real”. This book is the epitome of down to earth, yet it catapults our spirits away from the carnal pleasures of this world and makes us long for the new heavens and earth. Based on the wise sayings Celine remembers from her mother during her seventies childhood, she will take you on a sentimental journey that leads to a much more important heavenward pilgrimage. It made me laugh and then it pricked a bit. It made me appreciate God’s revelation and yet it gave me a deep respect for His reservations… the things about which we have to wait till heaven to know for sure. I wanted this book to be a slow read so it would last a long time, but sometimes I just couldn’t put it down. I loved it because it was so Biblical. But in between each power-packed Bible lesson (13 lessons in all) I found an Erma Bombeck style family anecdote based on Celine’s real life experiences in her very busy life of preacher’s wife and home schooling mom of four.

I loved it because it was extremely personal. See, Celine and I share the same parents. I kept telling myself that I could not be the one to recommend this book, because I could never be objective about its contents. After all, its lessons launch from incidents and words and people that lived at 941 Lynn Dale Lane, my childhood home. But in the end, I could not help but recommend it. It’s just so plain and simple in presenting truths that are not always the most popular, but are the real answers for what ails us as women, personally, and as a society, in general. Simply put, the reader who conscientiously applies its down to earth truths will become less and less earth bound and more and more heaven bound. So thanks Celine, for reminding me of the real life lessons that helped me choose the path to heaven in the first place. May I heartily recommend this book for your personal study or for your ladies Bible study group?

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Guest Writer: Reed Vega-Book Review

In an earlier post I recommended Glenn’s new book Headed to the Office. I cannot know if the fact that Glenn wrote this book is a factor in my judgment about the quality and timeliness of this book. I’m just not objective enough to know. But I do know that I hope our son will read it, study it, apply it and teach it. I know that I continue to visit congregations where I think this book could be a positive and needed catalyst for leadership development. Recently my husband gave a copy of this book to Reed Vega. Reed, the 13-year-old son of Matt and Jennifer Vega of Montgomery, AL, was kind enough to carefully read and review the book. I want to share his comments with you, because they are insightful. Most of all, I want to encourage those of you who are mothers to be sure your kids are into good books. What a great idea for family Bible time for parents to occasionally have kids read great materials for several consecutive nights before prayer time and then spend a couple of evenings reviewing the readings. Great and doctrinally sound books for Christian families can be found at tuckerbooks.com, at focuspress.org, at apologeticspress.org, at publishingdesigns.com and at colleybooks.org. (among many others). Here’s Reed’s take on the book Headed to the Office.
BOOK REVIEW: HEADED TO THE OFFICE
by Reed Vega

I really enjoyed reading the book, Headed to the Office written by Glenn Colley. It takes an original approach to looking at the qualifications of an elder. I really encouraged me as a young man to develop these traits so I will be ready to lead God’s people in the future. Each chapter discusses one of the biblical traits of being a good elder in modern terms so that young people can easily understand them. In chapter one, He Wants to Be a Great Man, the book starts by asking the question, “How do you view yourself forty years from now?” This question prompted me to think about how I want to spend the rest of my life. It reminded me how much I want to live a life in service to God. It helped me to realize that there is no higher calling than to shepherd God’s flock. Chapter two talks about how elders keep a clear conscience in all they do in order to be blameless. This is something that has always bothered me about elders. My grandfather served as an elder for over thirty years. I have admired him and other elders for their service but they almost seemed too perfect to me. How could I ever be as good as them? However this book has shown me a new way to look at elders. It explains what being “blameless” really means. Even though they are good men and should be admired, they still have flaws. They have to work hard at living in such a way that they do not have to worry about someone accusing them of doing something wrong. I realized that my struggles with living a honest Christian life are helping to prepare me to be just like them someday. Chapters four, five, and six cover some of the most important topics in the book. If elders are to lead our church then they must be wise, of good behavior and they must have time for people other than themselves. I especially liked the book’s discussion of wisdom which was defined as: “The ability to see how a particular course of action will ultimately turn out.” This definition is a very good one. It makes clear that a wise elder can see what will help himself and the congregation grow spiritually and what will not. Chapter seven deals with how an elder must have a working knowledge of God’s Word. The book gives great ideas on how to gain bible knowledge. It suggests reading small books like Philippians that you can read at least one or two times through in a single sitting. It emphasizes keeping notes and using commentaries and dictionaries to answer any questions that come to mind. Chapter eight talks about how important it is for an elder avoid alcohol. One of the key verses given is Proverbs 20:1which says, “Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” The verse really illustrates how the requirement to not be given to wine goes hand in hand with the wisdom trait. When you drink alcohol and become drunk you become exactly the opposite of wisdom, you become a fool. Chapters nine and ten deals with the practical importance of an elder being able to control his temper and being honest in all his business dealings. The book says, “That you’ve got to remember that an uncontrolled temper hurts children and ruins marriage. I’ve never thought that any member of my family should be allowed to kick things or slam doors when angry, and that includes me.” The book says plainly that an elder cannot have a bad temper if he is to deal with problems rationally. The book also points out that dishonest business practices are not only evil but take away from giving to God. Chapter 11 talks about patience. The book points out the importance of the trait in many ways. One verse that is given is Titus 3:1-2 which says we are ”to be peaceable, gentle, showing humility to all men.” This is a problem that I struggle with sometimes. I get a little annoyed whenever someone is talking to me that gets on my nerves. I lose patience with them and try to get away from them as quickly as possible. One point that was made in the book was that if an elder does not have patience he cannot deal with matters that take a lot of time to fix. He will simply jump to a wrong conclusion, and cause even more grief for the whole congregation. Chapter 12 talks about how an elder must be the spiritual head of his family. I think it is true that an elder who cannot lead his own family probably will not be able to lead God’s church effectively. In addition, people in the congregation will not respect him or his decisions if he has failed as a husband and a father. Finally, Chapter 13 deals with the elder’s reputation. The book points out that we have to respect the elders but they also have a responsibility to earn that respect. They must protect their good reputation by avoiding bad language, not wearing clothes that convey bad behavior, etc. The book quotes Matthew 6:6 to emphasize that a person’s reputation should reflect his private devotion to God. I agree that a good reputation is important because if an elder has a bad reputation at work and then becomes an elder in the church he could give the church a bad reputation in the community. This was the first book I have ever read on the qualification of elders. I thought it was a good, thorough explanation of the traits of being an elder. It not only defined each trait well but it showed me the importance of developing those characteristics while I am young. I hope that one day I am ready to serve as an elder but this book will certainly help me be a better Christian no matter what my eventual role in the church.

Moral Anesthetics

It’s really a daily challenge to be in this world and yet remain insulated from its spiritually destructive components. I cannot imagine going through a day without having to constantly remind myself of what conversations, media and relationships are appropriate for somebody who’s following Jesus and what Philippians 4:8 would filter out for me. I want His word to always be the filter in the nitty-gritty decisions of everyday living. I think sometimes it’s easy for me to say the big things like “I would give my life for Christ,” or “My favorite book is the Bible” or “Growing in Christ is my number one goal,” but it’s the all-day-long difficult and specific choices that make or break my big easily stated commitments.I don’t call into question the sincerity of somebody whose little choices don’t reflect the big professions of life. Sometimes I think we really do mean the big commitment statements found on our profiles on facebook. It’s just that the inconsistencies in the little decisions don’t sting because we’ve become environmentally and culturally anesthetized. What should really hurt us as His people doesn’t hurt at all because we’re breathing the fumes of the society in which we live. Once I accidentally made a pretty huge gash in my left hand; lots of blood and nausea, an eventual scar and a pain that was wretched.On another occasion a doctor made a similar gash in my foot to remove a piece of glass; lots of blood, a similar scar, but absolutely no pain. The difference was, of course, the presence of the anesthetic.

So how is it that we can sing “I am mine no more, I’ve been bought with blood,’ or “Purer in heart O God, help me to be,” or ” I surrender all” or “Lord take control,” and yet fail to even feel the sting of the destructive media influences that are in direct opposition to the themes we’ve stated for our lives? I think we just don’t feel the pain that should accompany spiritual wounds because we are anesthetized by the culture in which we live. As the world becomes more and more ungodly, we are lulled into a kind of comfortable moral drowsiness that makes us unaware of the effects of the tools in the hands of the devil. We find ourselves laughing at all kinds of wickedness as it is digitally welcomed into our living rooms, bedrooms and dorm rooms. We can listen to vulgarity and profanity and hardly be aware we’ve heard them even as they work to erode the values that we’ve professed all along. Pretty soon we start thinking through our days about the drama or the hilarity of some episode that really was pretty far removed from the “I want to grow in Christ” thesis through which we intended to filter our choices. We start talking about things that are in the Galatians 5:19-21 list with the same nonchalant tone with which we would talk about the weather.Without even really thinking about it, we spend more time concentrating on the works of the flesh as portrayed by Hollywood than we do in Bible study or prayer. Pretty soon, the gap between what we profess and our practical focus is a chasm.Perhaps we find that in our entertainment choices, we sometimes “rejoice in iniquity.” Perhaps we even encourage others to violate their consciences by encouraging them to love what God would identify as abomination. In short, we’ve just become numb to the sorrow we should feel as his children at the presence of sin in our media choices. The devil wants to devour us and he is much more successful when we start failing to feel the pain of the lion’s tenons and teeth.

It’s been helpful for me to constantly remember and repeat the phrase “Entertainment is optional.” Being “optional” means it’s not a requirement for life. It means it’s not absolutely necessary. In fact retaining entertainment in my life is probably less necessary than retaining my limbs or my eyesight. But Jesus said if your eye or your hand offends you, just get rid of it rather than allowing it to cause the loss of your soul. I can go to heaven without ever turning on the television, but I can’t go to heaven if I’m not “abstaining from the very appearance of evil.” (I Thess.5:22)

Matthew 6: 33 is not too difficult to understand when it comes to this abstinence from the appearance of evil. It’s not hard to understand when I try to conform my thoughts to Philippians 4:8. Where it gets hard is not in my ability to comprehend its meaning. It means when I have choices in optional matters I am going to make sure my allegiance is first to His kingdom and righteousness. Where it gets hard is in my willingness to apply it all day long. It’s difficult while I am watching the episode to stop and ask, “Am I seeking righteousness when I put this stuff into my head?” It’s difficult to just pick up the remote and say “I choose to seek first His righteousness.”

So many times, I can look back and know full well that a particular decision was completely out of alignment with the BIG profession I have made for my life. Those times are my biggest regrets. I want to adjust the practical part of my Christianity, because Christ can’t remain in my heart if He’s not affecting my agenda, dominating my calendar, making my choices, and shaping my plans. The remote should be controlled by Him.

Just one practical example and I’m done: Below is a review of a popular television show. This series is just one example of a frequent subject of facebook commentary by those of the world and by some who wear His name. But wouldn’t this material hurt us if we were to awaken from the effects of the devil’s anesthetic? “Awake. O sleeper, and arise from the dead and Christ will shine on you.” (Eph. 5:14)…”We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then, let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” (I Thess.5:5,6)

(Review taken from Parentstv.org)

Now in its sixth season on CW, One Tree Hill centers around Lucas Scott, a gifted basketball player from the wrong side of the tracks in small North Carolina town, along with Lucas’s half brother Nathan, Lucas’s best friend Peyton, and Brooke, a sexually free young woman who has started her own clothing line. Nathan’s wife Haley and the seductive Rachel round out the cast.A young adult soap opera consumed with edginess and angst, One Tree Hill contains strong and frequent profanities such as ass, piss and bitch. Sex is also a major area of concern, with Nathan’s mother swimming topless and having sex with her son’s best friend. Graphic violence is also an issue; the season premiere featured a character being hit by a car, then awakening a prisoner of a psychotic nurse who tortures him.

One Tree Hill is not recommended for viewers under age 18.