27
Feb

Mary Magdalene – If You Feel Criticized for Your Past

This week, we’re going to meet another Mary found in the Bible. She is known as Mary Magdalene and she sure had a checkered past! But did it stop her? Did her past keep her from stepping out into her God-given destiny? Let’s find out together.

Who was Mary Magdalene? What qualifications did she have that allowed her to walk with Jesus? Was she a scholar, a prophetess, or something else?  It’s been rumored that she was a woman of ill-repute, a prostitute. However, what I have discovered in my research of Mary Magdalene was that this rumor may have been created by Pope Gregory the Great to more fully illustrate the forgiveness found in Christianity. Others, admittedly on the feminist end of the spectrum, surmise that this may have been done to minimize her in what was a patriarchal society. Regardless of the reason, there is no evidence of Mary Magdalene being a prostitute found in scripture. There are indications that she may have been of some financial worth and was one of the women that supported Jesus and the disciples in that manner.

What we do know is that Mary of Magdala was a demonically possessed woman prior to her encounter with Jesus. The scriptures tell us that Jesus cast out seven demons from her.

“He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene from who he had cast out seven demons.” Luke 8:1-2 NLT

Can you comprehend the struggle within this woman’s soul? She was possessed by seven demons, but when she encountered Jesus, He immediately and completely stripped that away from her. She came to him tortured and tormented, sick and ailing and Jesus restored her. You can be sure people had a thing or two to say about her behavior while she was under the control of seven demons. I bet she was the talk of the town. Did she allow the criticism from her past to hold her back from following Jesus? No, not at all. She boldly followed Him.

Mary Magdalene was forever changed after her encounter with Jesus. Her gratitude is evidenced by the fact that she followed him, supported him, nurtured and cared for him from the moment of her freedom from her demonic past to His crucifixion on a hill, to the tomb from which He arose, and beyond.

“And many women who had come from Galilee with Jesus to care for him were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee” Matthew 27:55-56 NLT

Mary Magdalene watched as Jesus was crucified. She sat across from the tomb as His broken body was laid inside and the stone rolled in its place to seal the opening (Matthew 27:61). As I read this, I realized that this is how we women are. Our love for those that are important to us supersedes our desire to turn away from the pain. I’m sure she didn’t want to watch Jesus being tortured and crucified, but how could she leave Him to go through that alone. She couldn’t. It was imperative to her that when He looked out from the cross, He would see love reflected from her eyes to His. She couldn’t walk away from Jesus, no matter how hard it was to stay. She had to be there to care for Him in any way she could, even if that meant just being a kind face among the angry mass at the cross or being among the few that watched over His body until it had been laid to rest.

At sunrise that Sunday morning after the crucifixion, Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of James, and Salome arrived at the tomb to find the stone rolled aside. As the women entered the tomb, they saw an angel that told them Jesus wasn’t there. He had risen! The angel instructed them to go tell the disciples that He had risen. The women were shocked and fled. Yet, they were also filled with joy. They didn’t just flee in fear, they rushed to obey. They ran toward what the angel was calling them to do – spread the Good News (Mark 16:1-8).

The women would tell the disciples and those around them that the tomb was empty. Peter and John would come and view the tomb and leave in wonder, but the women remained there still trying to take it all in (John 20:1-13).

Then scripture tells us something amazing! Jesus appeared to the women (Matthew 28:9-10) and addressed Mary Magdalene directly.

As John 20 continues, it tells us of Mary Magdalene’s final encounter with Jesus.  At first, Mary doesn’t recognize the Lord. Perhaps blinded by her tears, she mistakes Him for the gardener. But Jesus speaks to her and she then realizes who she is talking to.

The Lord instructs the women to deliver a message to the disciples that He will meet them in Galilee (Matthew 28:10) before He ascends to the Father (John 20:17). With great respect, John’s account clearly states that Mary Magdalene was the deliver of this message to the disciples (John 20:18).

Well, I have a better understanding of her now and I hope you do too. Without a doubt, we know of her only because she walked away from her past. You see, Mary Magdalene could have just continued in her life letting her past determine her steps. She could have remained possessed by the demons that held her captive, and if so, we would have most likely never heard of her. She would have missed out on being the first to witness the appearance of the risen King. However, Mary reached out to Jesus, she trusted in Him to make everything right within her. She allowed the Lord to throw her past out and make her a new creation in Him. She would no longer be known as a host for demons, but as the Apostle to the Apostles. Isn’t it time we stop letting our past get in the way of our future and follow the Lord wholeheartedly so that we may complete the mission He has laid out for us. Today, I’m stepping into my destiny and not letting my past haunt me anymore. How about you?

Written by Rhonda Carlsen

Please note all scripture was taken from the NLT – New Living Translation

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Other references:

The Women’s Study Bible: New Insights for all God’s People by Mary J. Evans

The Everything Mary Magdalene Book: The Life and Legacy of Jesus’ Most Misunderstood Disciple by Meera Lester

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20
Feb

Mary, Jesus’ Mother – Seeing the Vision God has for You

Just imagine you are walking uptown one day, simply window shopping, and then from out of nowhere a stranger appears in front of you. Before you can really react, the stranger tells you an unimaginable thing is about to happen to you. Worse yet, you really won’t be able to explain it to anyone and they believe you. I mean your girlfriends have always thought you were a little bit of an exaggerator, but this, this is going to send them right over the edge! What would you do?

Honestly, I have not a clue how I would react, but there is one woman we can turn to for some guidance – Mary, the mother of Jesus.

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” Luke 1:26-28 NLT

I can’t even imagine the look on Mary’s face. Can you? One minute she is going about her daily routine and the next she is face to face with an angel! As this encounter continues to unfold, Mary is told not only is she going to have a baby, but the baby of ALL babies, the Son of God.

The words falling on her ears must have been overwhelming to say the least, but keeping her wits about her, she doesn’t ask God to prove what is being said just how it will happen. I mean it’s a logical question. She’s a virgin.

So, Gabrielle explains how the conception will take place. And Mary’s response?

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. Luke 1:38 NLT

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12
Feb

Tabitha – When All Hope Seems Lost

A friend of mine has decided that she is going to help me become a writer and has been giving me a few assignments to complete. This time my subject is Tabitha. Me having vaguely heard of Tabitha, if at all, decided to do some research so as not to disappoint my mentor.

Consequently, when I did a Google search for Tabitha, the first sentence that came up was: “Tabitha is an American fantasy sitcom and a spin-off of Bewitched that aired on ABC from September 10, 1977 to January 14, 1978.”

Now of course, we do not want to discuss a fictional character from someone’s childhood, but a significant female character of the Bible. So, let’s get started on the story of this little known, but wonderfully generous woman!

Acts 9:32-35 gives us just a little background and context. In these scriptures, we find Peter, who was traveling from place to place, visiting the town of Lydda. During this time, he meets a man named Aeneas who was paralyzed and bedridden for eight years.  Peter proclaims to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you! Get up, roll up your sleeping mat!” (verse 34). Aeneas is then healed and the whole population of Lydda and Sharon turned to the Lord after seeing him walking around. This is where Tabitha, also known as Dorcas, is introduced (Acts 9:36-42).

There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). Acts 9:36 NLT

Research finds that Tabitha was a Christian woman who lived in Joppa and was one of Jesus’ early disciples. 

The name Tabitha is a Hebrew baby name, meaning beauty and grace. It is derived from the Aramaic word for gazelle. Dorcas, a Greek name, also means gazelle. During this period, there was a mixed population of Jews and Gentiles in the area. Both groups commonly had a Hebrew and Greek name. Thus, the writer of Acts identifies her by both her names.

Tabitha is said to have been doing “kind things for others and helping the poor” (verse 36). However, Tabitha suddenly becomes ill and dies. As was the custom of that day, her body was washed for burial and then laid in an upstairs room for viewing. Believers heard that Peter was nearby and sent two men to beg him to come as soon as possible.

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6
Feb

Mary of Bethany – Shaking the Weight of Others’ Opinion

Can I be honest with you for a minute? When I first read of Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha and Mary, I agreed with Martha. I identify with her! After all, what more important guests could you have in your home than Jesus and His disciples. Breakout the fine china and linens; there are guests to impress!

But wait, to agree with Martha means I must disagree with Jesus! Well, I’m not going there, so, let’s dig deeper into Mary’s story. Perhaps she will teach you and me something about being a Mary in a Martha world.

In Luke 10:38-42, Mary of Bethany enters the story:

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

 

But the Lord said to her. “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” NLT

In John 11, though a message sent to Jesus by Martha and Mary, we learn that Lazarus, a dear friend of Jesus and brother to the sisters, is sick and dying. This gives us the knowledge that Jesus had an ongoing relationship with Martha and Mary. They were also His dear friends. They knew Him, not just of Him, but directly knew Him!

However, Jesus doesn’t arrive in Bethany until after His friend’s death. As He neared the town, Martha rushed out to meet Him, but Mary stayed home. Why did she stay home? Wouldn’t the proper thing be to meet Him just as Martha had done? Isn’t that what everyone would expect?  Mary does go to meet Jesus, but only after she’s told that Jesus wants to see her.

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30
Jan

Phoebe – Don’t Disqualify Me or My Calling Because God Hasn’t

As I was challenged to dig deeper into Phoebe, this woman from the Bible, I couldn’t help but think: “She is only mentioned once in the Bible. What could I possibly gain from Phoebe’s story?” My God, I was so wrong. Though she is only mentioned once in the Bible, this was a woman of phenomenal Godly character, a woman who knew her worth, a woman who had an encounter with Jesus Christ.

Phoebe is revealed in Romans 16:1–2 where Paul writes,

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.” NIV

In biblical times, letters of introduction to strangers were common. The mention of Phoebe in this way means that she was probably the bearer of the letter that went to Rome. The name Phoebe means bright and radiant. From Paul’s comments about her, it seems that those words characterized her personality and her Christian life.

This gives so much context as to who Phoebe was, and if God would use her, He can use us too! Paul writes, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe.” This is super profound here. This speaks volumes of the intimate relationship in which she and the apostle Paul had. Paul associates himself with Phoebe like a brother. An authentic partnership, one without hierarchy between them. The gender difference didn’t restrict either Paul or Phoebe from the mandate God had on each of their lives.

We so often will allow the fact that we aren’t this or we aren’t that to stop us, and we miss the opportunity to be used to the ultimate level God has ordained over our life. Here we see Phoebe being Phoebe, not allowing societal norms to hold her back from everything God has called her to be. Phoebe isn’t waiting for permission to fill the needs she sees within the body of Christ. Instead Phoebe just does.

The word commend is expressively loud and a word of praise. With an exclamation of admiration, this is how Paul affirms all that she is and all she has been. He immediately gives her title, so no one is deceived that though she is a woman, she is less than a leader of the Cenchreae church. Her discipleship counts. Any brother or sister who has confessed Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior has discipleship that counts, in Jesus’ name.

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21
Jan

Damaris – One Woman in a Crowd

Have you ever been in a crowd, or even among a few people, and felt completely invisible? I mean, your standing right in front of them, but there is no acknowledgment of your presence or any polite conversation started to draw you in. There is nothing. And you feel utterly invisible.

I wonder if in that moment you, like me, become completely frustrated, maybe even angry at the other person because of his/her lack of manners. You may chalk up the situation to a waste of time and simply walk off. And yet, feelings of longing to be seen and to connect linger in the hours after the encounter.

Why is that?

I believe it is because we were not created to be alone. We were created for community. We seek that togetherness in everyone we meet and when we don’t find it in some, we feel rejected and isolated.

Starting in Genesis, we see God creating community for the man called Adam.

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Genesis 2:18 ESV

In the end, even Jesus does not leave without making sure that we are able to commune with God. He tells the disciples that a helper is coming after his departure.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:16 ESV

So, there is always a piece of us seeking community, seeking to be heard, seeking to be seen.

How do you reconcile these feelings when it comes to God? Everyone at some point has felt a lack of God’s presence in their life. Many of us in our struggles cry out: “Don’t you see me God?”

Woman of God, we can’t transpose our disappointments regarding other human beings onto God. Don’t doubt for a moment that the One who created you doesn’t see you in every moment of time. Don’t take any period of silence between you and God as an indication He doesn’t see you. It is simply not true.

How can I be so bold in making such a statement?

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12
Apr

TLM Made the News!!

When I founded Transforming Love Ministries a couple of years ago, I had no idea what God was going to do with it. I just knew that women’s ministry is valuable and I wanted to support women everywhere in finding their path to God and/or His calling on their life. Today, TLM is about to reap the benefits of over two years of labor. God is showing up in big ways and opening doors for the ministry.

I’m excited to share that TLM made the news!!

Click HERE to read our story in the Suffolk News Herald entitled: Suffolk group helps women achieve more.

I look forward to sharing many of these stories over the years!!!

Blessings to you and yours!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transforming Love Ministries

Empowering Everyday Women to Chase God-sized Dreams!!!

 

 

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7
Mar

She Steps Forward Conference Coming Spring 2019!!!

It’s been a while since we spoke, but Transforming Love Ministries is working on something special!!!

Get Ready for She Steps Forward: Into Destiny (2019)

Work is underway to bring you the first annual She Steps ForwardTM conference hosted by Transforming Love Ministries in Spring 2019. Our theme will be: Into Destiny!

This conference will have a little something for everyone:
*Need some time to hear from God and be refreshed by uplifting worship?
*Need to sharpen your leadership skills so that you can lead more effectively in your area of ministry?
*Want to know more about professional writing and speaking?
*Want to get advice from those doing women’s ministry today?

Then you are going to love the She Steps ForwardTM conference!!

CLICK THE BUTTON BELOWto sign up and be among the first to know all the exciting details to come over the next several months!!! Subscribers will have first crack at early registration!

EVERYONE is welcome near and far! Nearby hotel arrangements will be explored once we set the date and confirm a venue. Tell all your girlfriends!! …and join us March 29-30, 2019 as we become Women of Faith who are Leaders in the Faith!!

Transforming Love Ministries
elaine@elainelankford.com

 

UPDATE TO PAGE: If you have landed on this page, please come on over to:  https://elainelankford.com/she-steps-forward-conference/ for full conference details, ticket purchase, and/or hotel reservations. We look forward to serving you!

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1
Jan

Is 2018 the Year You Will Rise?

“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” Acts: 2:17-21 ESV

This passage in Acts is a direct quote from the second chapter of the book of Joel. Having just received the Holy Spirit, excitement filled the members of the early church and they began to proclaim God’s greatness. When those in the community heard what must have sounded like utter pandemonium, they couldn’t help but draw closer. Their faces would reflect their astonishment as they overheard the various dialects of the new believers clearly. Their minds would feel numb from attempting to figure out how they could understand the words they heard without the need of a translator.

And in this moment, Peter would rise. Peter, who had stumbled and slipped all along his walk with Jesus, would now stand confident and bold in proclaiming the Good News.

I believe this was Peter’s defining moment. Would all the instruction, demonstration, and testing he received from Jesus now manifest and propel the faith forward? I think we would all agree, having the benefit of the rest of the New Testament, that it certainly did.

So what role are you playing in the faith? Our passage in Acts tells us God’s spirit is poured out “on all flesh.” Both genders are equally empowered in this passage to “prophesy.” There are no limits placed upon those the Lord has called –no age, gender, or race limits. And most importantly, there is no time limit.

Today, the Church is at a crossroads. Daily the powers of this world throw down the gauntlet daring us to push back. Will we rest easy in these later days expecting someone else to step forward? Or will we each recall the early days of our walk with Jesus and rise to proclaim His truth in a fresh and audacious way? I hope as you step into 2018 you chose not only to take your stand, but thoughtfully consider who else you need to bring along with you. May God constantly pour out His Spirit upon you and bless you mightily this year!

Happy New Year to you and yours!

 

 

 

 


Scripture reference from:

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

 

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22
Dec

Should We Really Celebrate Christmas?

Well, Christmas is upon us again! December 25th seems to roll around earlier and earlier each year. Are you ready?

Among all the holiday festivities, Christians everywhere are gearing up to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And they should since He is the Reason for the Season! Yes, long before Santa Claus stole the show, Jesus’ birth was (and for many of us still is) the centerpiece of the day.

But what does the Bible say about celebrating Jesus’ birth? Would it surprise you to know we are not commanded to commemorate it?

Other than the recorded account of Mary’s pregnancy and His birth (Luke 1-2), it doesn’t say anything about an established celebration. Now, that’s in stark contrast to the Lord’s Supper, which commemorates Jesus’ death and was given to us by Jesus Himself as a command to do regularly (Matt. 26:17-30, Luke 22:7-23, Mark 14:12-26).

Therefore, I ask, should we celebrate Christmas?

Absolutely!!! In fact, we need to celebrate everything about Jesus every day! In a world that is growing increasing dark, we need to shine the light that has been strategically placed in our hearts on every occasion. And since Christmas, one of the largest holiday celebrations of the year, draws people from all walks of life to the Church, we need to maximize that opportunity to share the love of our Savior with the world.

The fact of the matter is there is no Christmas without Christ. To overlook the sacrifice He made to leave Heaven and dwell among us is unfathomable. Therefore, we must continue to tell His story from beginning to forever!

In that vein, I would just like to pull a few truths out of the nativity story that are tucked behind the scenes and yet are so critical in telling Jesus’ story.

First, we so easily forget that Jesus’ existence didn’t start here on earth at His physical birth, but that He was One with the Father prior to that fateful day and that Their existence has never been constrained to what we know as time.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John 1:1, 14 KJV

Second, His entire purpose in being born was to die for our sins and restore our relationship with the Father. (John 3:16-17)

Matthew Henry once said: “Come, and see the victories of the cross. Christ’s wounds are thy healings, His agonies thy repose, His conflicts thy conquests, His groans thy songs, His pains thine ease, His shame thy glory, His death thy life, His sufferings thy salvation.”

And lastly, there is no purpose in Christmas without the victory of Calvary, which is celebrated at Easter.

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 15:55-57 ESV

I hope these truths speak to you and bring your Christmas celebration to an even deeper level. Oh, by all means, enjoy your family, the food, and the exchanging of gifts! But this Christmas, let His story draw you back in again and remind you of the true joy we celebrate. My Christmas wish for you is that your heart will overflow with the love of the Father and the sacrifice of the Son.

And don’t forget, tell His story!!!

Merry Christmas!!!

 

 

 

 


Scripture References from:

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

King James Version (KJV). Pubic domain.

 

 

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