TLM Blog |

19
Jun

How Am I Supposed to Walk in Freedom?

Be free! Live free! Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? It’s a catchy phrase, but how do I as a mother, wife, employee, boss, or friend actually walk that out in my life. Or for that matter, how do you in yours? None of the roles I play have listed living free as a requirement for me to consider them a job well done.

None, except one! Being a Christian woman says for me to walk in freedom with Jesus Christ.

Alright, that sounds fantastic! But I’ve heard it said, and I bet you have too, about how restricting Christianity is to women. That, as a Christian woman, I am not allowed to do this thing, associate with those people, go to certain places, wear this outfit, or say whatever I wish. Those may be the world’s thoughts on what Christianity means, but it’s incorrect.

Christianity is rooted in the belief of Jesus Christ and His teachings. A Christian is simply a follower of Jesus. Please hear me on this, Jesus came to set the captives free!

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and commissioned me to bring good news to the humble and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up [the wounds of] the brokenhearted, to proclaim release [from confinement and condemnation] to the [physical and spiritual] captives and freedom to prisoners. Isaiah 61:1 AMP

Prior to Jesus, everyone was captured by sin and death was the price to be paid. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, He paved the road to my freedom (Romans 6:23). All I need to do to start walking out the rest of my life in that very freedom is to believe in Him, ask to be in relationship with Him, and profess Him Lord.

Throughout His life and through His death on the cross, Jesus displayed freedom for all. With that spirit of freedom came hope, healing, comfort, and above all else, love.

Mark 5:25-34 tells the story of a woman who was captive to an illness for over 12 years that kept her bleeding continuously. Because of this, by law, she was to isolate herself from the general public. Imagine that for a minute. Had she followed what society said a woman was supposed to do in that situation, she would have spent the rest of her life captive to this illness. She would have remained in line with what those around her thought she should do and remained ill. She would not have reached out to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe the day He was passing by her town. But this desperate woman recognized freedom was on the road passing her by, so she bravely stepped out of the crowd and grabbed on to the hem of His robe. She recognized through faith that Jesus Christ held freedom for her and she took the leap. And immediately, she was made whole!

John 4:4-42 takes us to a well on the outskirts of Samaria, a town despised by the Jewish people. Yet, Jesus spent time in places, like Samaria, that Jewish society said was no good and deemed unworthy. But there at the well, someone that we know as the Samaritan woman found freedom through Jesus. He spoke to and mentored this woman that even the good citizens of Samaria felt didn’t even deserve to gather water with the town. Had she followed what society said a woman was supposed to do in that situation, remain quiet, she would have spent the rest of her life captive to her past. If she had not answered when He spoke to her, how do you think she would have found freedom? Sure, the townspeople knew everything she had done, but they were only offering her condemnation. However, Jesus offered her living water, water that would satisfy her thirst for eternal freedom. Jesus, once again, was the key to freedom.

How about the woman accused of adultery! Read her story in John 8:1-11. Do you think she would have found freedom without Christ? Of course not! Left to the townspeople, she would have been stoned to death. It was Jesus that stepped in, spoke up, and secured her freedom.

I could go on and on with examples from the Bible that show Jesus wasn’t about rule following. He was and is about love and His love brings freedom. He has sent the Holy Spirit to walk with me and to help guide me in how-to walk-in freedom.

I’m a Christian and I am free indeed.

Does this mean I can be coarse in my language, eat whatever I choose, wear whatever I want, hangout in places that don’t seem very churchy? Sure, I can do all those things. I’m free to choose! But there are consequences to every decision good or bad, Christian or not. I cannot lose my salvation by doing something that goes against what Jesus is about, but internally, I’m not going to feel good about it. I know this, and so, I try very hard to remember the price He paid. To honor Jesus’ sacrifice, I strive to do the things I know will glorify God.

For example, Jesus has taught me that along the path of freedom is kind speech, using words to lift others up not tear them down. I have also learned, as a Christian, my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so I need to take care of it. Not because Jesus demands it, but because I want to honor the sacrifice made on my behalf. Because I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I want people to feel the love of Jesus through me regardless of how my outfit looks today or where I happen to be hanging out. The Holy Spirit living in me helps me accomplish these goals.

The freedom Jesus has given me makes me want everyone I meet to know that very freedom.

So, you see, Christianity isn’t about what I can or cannot do. Jesus does not care about my race, gender, or my past sins. He has a plan for me and you that is fully abundant and free of condemnation and societal restrictions. I say it’s time for us as women to arise, step out regardless of the crowd that surrounds us, drink of the only water that will quench our spiritual thirst, brush off the dust from the rocks thrown at us, and walk on the path of freedom Christ has purchased for us.

Are you ready to walk?

Written by Rhonda Carlsen

Please note all scripture was taken from the AMP – Amplified Bible

Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631. All rights reserved.

 

12
Jun

What Is Freedom?

freedom (ˈfrēdəm) :

the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint; the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved; the power of will or self-determination attributed to the will; the quality of being independent of fate or necessity

Many things can make us feel oppressed. At times, we feel so restrained that it can appear as if any level of freedom is impossible. Freedom can manifest as either physical or non-physical freedom. An obvious example of lacking physical freedom is being jailed or in prison. A societal stigma, such as not having children or a station in life, may be perceived as lacking a non-physical freedom. Regardless of which kind of freedom we feel has been lost, we can feel powerless or as if we have nowhere to turn as a result. Some may describe it as feeling like there is a straitjacket preventing us from embracing the independence and freedom we desire. When we get like this, we as human beings want to take control. We want to intercede on our own behalf, forgetting that God is in control.

However, Galatians 5:13 states:

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. NLT

In Scripture, God provides many clear illustrations of how we can stumble in our freedom by taking on His role versus ours, and therefore sin in our independence and self-determination.

Let’s take a look at two women in Scripture who represent God’s two covenants with man – the old covenant based on the Law and the new covenant based on grace. Maybe we can get a better handle on this freedom we speak of through the lens of this story’s narrative. Today, we’re going to talk about Sarah and Hagar.

Sarah, originally known as Sarai, was the wife of Abraham, originally known as Abram. Because of Abraham’s faith in God, the Lord would birth the nation of Israel through their union, but not before the freedom of both Sarah and Hagar, Sarah’s slave, had been trampled upon.

When you dive deep into Sarah’s life, you cannot miss the fact that she, who was not a slave, was deeply enslaved by societal standards.

At age 75, Abraham took his wife Sarah, his nephew Lot, and all his wealth from Haran to Canaan at the Lord’s command. The Lord’s promise to Abraham was that He would give the land to his many descendants (Genesis 12:1-6). Side note – Sarah was barren.

Later, during a severe famine in Canaan, Abraham was forced to go to Egypt. In fear, he had Sarah, who apparently was quite beautiful, pretend to be his sister so that if she was desired by someone there, he would not be killed for it. Indeed, when they arrived everyone noticed her beauty and as was common in the day, when word reached the Pharaoh, he took her and provided many gifts to Abraham because of Sarah. What just happened?

However, because Abraham allowed her to be taken as Pharaoh’s wife, the Lord brought terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and his household. Once Pharaoh realized Sarah wasn’t Abraham’s sister but his wife, they were graciously escorted out of Egypt with all their possessions (Genesis 12:10-20). To add to Sarah’s sorrow, this pattern of behavior repeated years later when Abraham came into the kingdom of Abimelech, but the Lord once again redeemed Sarah (Genesis 20). Childless and tossed around like a transaction, can you see Sarah’s chains?

In the midst of Sarah’s torn life was Hagar, her Egyptian servant. Hagar, a true slave, was caught between the pages of Abraham and Sarah’s life. Years after the Lord’s original promise to Abraham, Sarah who was still barren decided it was a good idea to give her servant, Hagar, to her husband as a wife in the hopes that through her she would have children. And Hagar? Choiceless in the matter.

Abraham takes Hagar and has sex with her at his wife’s bidding. But as in most cases, when we attempt to solve our own problems without consulting God, the situation only intensifies. Once Hagar knew she was pregnant, she became hostile and disrespectful to Sarah. Sarah, consumed by emotions, first blames her husband for her servant’s behavior. Abraham, not taking responsibility for his wife’s freely given gift, attempts to smooth over things with her by giving her free reign over Hagar. An angry, bitter Sarah was told to do what she saw fit. And she did. Sarah was so cruel that Hagar ran away.

But the angel of the Lord found Hagar along the road to Shur and told her to return to her mistress and submit to her authority. Broken, distressed Hagar is promised that she would be given more descendants than she could count. Overjoyed by the fact that God saw her, Hagar for the first time in her life is free (Genesis 16:1-13).

Yet, God’s plan was untouched by any of these events. At age 99, Abraham was told his 90-year-old wife, Sarah, would give him a son the following year. And at last, Sarah is freed, birthing her own son in old age. A new, everlasting covenant was formed at the birth of Isaac. Sarah would go on to be proclaimed the mother of many nations, with kings among her many descendants (Genesis 17:15-21).  

And Hagar, due to Sarah’s continued resentment toward her, would eventually be sent away with her son, Ishmael. On that day, however, Hagar would walk away a free woman forever!

The Scripture says that Abraham has two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. Galatians 4:22-23 NLT

Two women, enslaved in different ways by a society that devalued them based solely on gender, still possessed a level of self-determination and independence. In their struggle to gain their own personal freedom, they show us two different approaches we as humans take.

I can only imagine Sarah’s initial emotional distress as she was unable to have children, and then sense the growth of her desperation to give Abraham descendants. I am wrecked at her loss of freedom in having to become Pharaoh’s wife and then suffer a near similar fate with King Abimelech. Hopeless in her physical condition and desiring the admiration of her husband, she turns to a surrogate, but it leaves her feeling even more rejected.

And Hagar, having no freedom, not even in possession of her own body, grabs for any sense of status she can find. She knew even pregnant she was a slave, but now she had the one thing Sarah didn’t have at the time – Abraham’s son. Imagine the sense of freedom she must have felt in spite of her position as a slave. Her behavior would soon show it. The lack of restraint that she showed towards Sarah once she was pregnant must have been liberating for her, even if it was fleeting.

Both their stories could have ended horribly, but GOD! In their misery, He redeemed them, freed them, and elevated them both far above the common chattel they were. They are both illustrations of God’s mercy and grace! He fulfilled His promise to make them both mothers of many descendants, including princes and kings, but He did not waiver from His ultimate plan.

These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. The first woman, Hagar, represents Mount Sinai where people received the law that enslaved them. And now Jerusalem is just like Mount Sinai in Arabia, because she and her children live in slavery to the law. But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother. Galatians 4:24-26 NLT

Despite our limited perspective and actions, our limitless God will continue to work everything out in this world to accomplish His will and His promises for our good. May we find freedom in that! 

Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we come to you humbly, seeking freedom from all anxiety. We thank you that you give us the unrestrained freedom to follow Your Will and Purpose for our lives. We ask that you give us the power to go out boldly in Your Name and that You temper our independence and determination so that we can run the race You have place before us for Your glory. Remove the emotional hindrances and restraints that prevent us from freely serving You Precious Lord. Allow us to accept Your freely given Grace. We release the chains holding us back from true spiritual freedom. We bind the enemy’s stronghold on our emotional and physical freedoms both on Earth and in Heaven. In the Precious Name of Jesus we pray, AMEN.

Written by Melony Henderson

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.

 

5
Jun

Remembering How Christ Won Our Freedom

Just last week we celebrated Memorial Day here in America. Each year we take time to remember those men and women who during a military conflict gave their life for our country. All over the United States, thousands of American flags or decorated wreaths are laid at the tombstones of these fallen heroes. We acknowledge that their service and death has allowed us to live as a free nation for hundreds of years.

However, over two thousand years ago, there was a man who also made the ultimate sacrifice. He wasn’t in the military, but He was fighting a war that no human could ever imagine. This man did not die for just one country, but for the world. In doing so, Jesus broke the chains of sin over our life, purchased our freedom, and made us co-heirs to an eternal kingdom.

Yet, we struggle with this concept of true freedom in Christ. Perhaps at the center of it is the battle we have with a range of emotions that hint to us that our freedom may be just an illusion. If our emotions continue to well up and douse our confidence time after time, we feel less and less certain that freedom is truly ours.

Something in our psyche just cannot keep this principle in the forefront of our thoughts – that who the Son sets free, is free indeed (John 8:36). What is it about our spiritual man that struggles to believe that Christ’s work on the Cross is complete and forever?

Whether it is the ups and downs of everyday life or a major challenge that hits us from behind, sooner or later we once again come face to face with our humanity. In those moments, we struggle with whether we are spiritually free. Therefore, whether you have been a Christian for a few days or even several years, remembering how Christ won our freedom and the fullness of that freedom must be an intentional act on our part.

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. Colossians 1:19-20 NLT

There it is in black and white. It couldn’t be any plainer, could it? Paul tells us in Colossians that He made peace with everything. Perhaps the problem really comes down to the everything part. Does God really mean everything as in everyone.

There are so many days that I totally mess up. How about you? Can God truly be at peace with us and us with Him? Aren’t there rules we still need to follow in order to be made right with Him? Isn’t the shame, guilt, insecurity, and sadness we feel still an issue between God and us? Can our past really stay our past?

Ever had any of these thoughts and questions run through your mind? – I have!

Perhaps, I just don’t understand the depth of freedom I have available to me. Seriously, I’m just an everyday girl trying to make good on this life God has blessed me with while I keep all the plates spinning in the air! Yet, I believe in Christ. I know that He lived, died, and rose again. And there are days I feel bold and confident enough to walk in that freedom, but those days seem so few and far between. Why am I scared to show all that I am in Him?

This was me, my thought pattern, my feelings as recently as a year ago, but today, I am starting to truly understand my freedom in Christ, and I want EVERY woman to experience it!!!

Let’s go a little further in Colossians. Here is what the next two verses state:

This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. Colossians 1:21-22 NLT

I AM HOLY and BLAMELESS! In other words, I’m free! And, guess what? So are you! If you have placed your faith in Jesus, you are free my friend. He has purchased us with His blood and reconciled us completely and fully with God. Why do we let the weight of that escape us at times? Why do we feel the need to continue to work toward freedom instead of just walking in it?

I think part of the problem is our confusion between what culture says about us and what God has proclaims about us. Culture says we are free only if ……. Only if we don’t mess up again or only if we keep it all together are we free. God says we are free by His grace. Period.

I challenge you to take these verses and make them more personable to yourself and then REPEAT them over and over until you get them deep down in your soul. Let’s practice!

This includes you (insert your name) who were once far away from God. You (insert your name) were his enemy, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you (insert your name) to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you (insert your name) into his own presence, and you (insert your name) are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.

How does that feel? Pretty freeing, I hope.

Lord, forgive us when we forget the price you paid for our freedom. Forgive us for not walking in that freedom daily. Give us the wisdom to discern how our freedom can be used in Your perfect plan to bring others to You. Help us not to abuse that freedom, but to always use it for the greater good. There are people in the world who are dying to know the true feeling of freedom. May our lives shine Your grace and draw them to the only One who can truly set them free. Amen.

 

 

Founder, Transforming Love Ministries

Creator, She Steps Forward Women’s Conference


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.

 

29
May

Lois and Eunice – Leaving a Godly Legacy

Here we are just two short months after the She Steps Forward conference and the word legacy continues to swirl in my head. As we built up to conference, we introduced you to some awesome women of the Bible and the roles they played in moving the Gospel message along. Some were front and center. Others seemed to blend into the fabric of Jewish life. All were important!

Today, I have two women to introduce you to and the substantial role they played in one man’s life. Indeed, their story is one of legacy.

Before I introduce you to them, let me introduce you to Timothy. Timothy was a young, faithful disciple in the Christian faith. His character and reputation were so outstanding that when Paul came through Lystra on his second missionary journey, he immediately engaged Timothy (Acts 16:1-3). Paul’s choice to have Timothy travel with him gives us a sense of how valuable Paul thought Timothy’s presence would be during the next round of encouraging established churches and planting new ones. Paul would exhort him repeatedly during their relationship, calling him “my true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2 NLT) and telling Timothy not to let people look down on him due to his youth (1 Timothy 4:12). Paul’s love for this spiritual son is obvious in his writings. It is also very evident how much Paul trusted Timothy when you read through the instructions he gave Timothy for the church in Ephesus – a church Paul left Timothy in charge of overseeing.

Timothy was undoubtedly the recipient of a strong and consistent upbringing. His faith emerged at an early age. He stuck to his convictions despite being surrounded by a pagan culture and some new, unruly believers. In fact, Paul describes Timothy as possessing a “genuine faith” (2 Timothy 1:5 NLT).

If we revisit Acts 16:1, we discover that Timothy’s father was Greek, and therefore was most likely a nonbeliever. As this is the only mention of Timothy’s father in scripture, we can conclude that he most likely was not a part of Timothy’s life at the point Paul enters the picture. It would also explain Paul’s adoption of Timothy as a son and the way Paul affectionately mentors Timothy as they work together in person and from afar.

So where did Timothy get his knowledge of Christianity from? Included in that simple scripture in Acts is the first clue. Timothy’s mother was a Jewish believer (Acts 16:1). Now, we are starting to get the picture, aren’t we? Then in 2 Timothy, Paul clearly tells us who provided a rock solid foundation for Timothy’s faith. Enter Lois and Eunice!

I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. 2 Timothy 1:5 NLT

Not only was Timothy raised by a faith-filled mother, but he was also privileged to have a faith-filled grandmother watching over him!

Now we don’t know much more about these ladies except that their raising of Timothy was intentional in nature. In 2 Timothy 3, we find one last glimpse into the life of this family.

But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. (verses 14-15 NLT)

And there we have it! The women in Timothy’s life made all the difference in the world. Without the faithfulness of his grandmother and his mother in teaching him God’s word, Timothy may have become a statistic in his time. Half Greek, half Jew and fatherless, Timothy may have taken up with the wrong crowd. His youthful energy could have led him into a life of darkness and misfortune. But Lois and Eunice would have none of it.

While raising Timothy, I wonder how often they both thought back to Proverbs 22:6. Even as women, the stories of King Solomon and all his adventures would have been told to Lois and Eunice somewhere in their upbringing. And yet, Solomon’s powerful teachings would have also been passed on from generation to generation. No, I imagine Lois and Eunice had a great vision for Timothy and spoke words of affirmation over him from the time he was born. Even his name was most likely carefully chosen – Timothy in Greek means “honoring God.” Coincidence? I think not.

Lois and Eunice may have thought they were only raising a child, but what they did was create a legacy. Because they instilled in Timothy a love for God that was pure and true, he earned the love, respect, and admiration of Paul. He would go on to be one of the most notable and recognizable workers in the Church.

In John Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, he talks about the Law of Legacy. Simply put, he summarizes “A leader’s lasting value is measured by succession.” Now, I’m not sure if either Lois or Eunice ever considered themselves as leaders, but I would say that Timothy’s life (their succession) was a great indication of how well they led Timothy in his. And the Church was all the better for it.

I hope as women we are all striving to leave a legacy as positive and powerful as the one left by Lois and Eunice. You could be raising up an amazing son or daughter right now who will go on to do great things for the Kingdom in a variety of ways. Or, like Paul, you could be playing a pivotal role in someone’s else life by being a spiritual paternal figure to them. Either way, life will go on without you someday. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that when you stand before God in Heaven, He can smile at the legacy you left?

My dear sister, it is never too late to start shaping a brighter future!

 

 

Founder, Transforming Love Ministries

Creator, She Steps Forward Women’s Conference


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:

Maxwell, John C. (2007). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, Revised & Updated 10th Anniversary Edition. Nashville: Thomas Nelson (pg. 257)

 

24
Apr

Samaritan Woman at the Well – When You Feel Invisible

in·vis·i·ble (/inˈvizəb(ə)l/)  – an adjective – meaning unable to be seen; not visible to the eye.

To understand the full ramifications of the story behind the Samaritan woman at the well, let me start with a little framework to help us understand the divisive culture in which she lived. Specifically, we’ll look at the conflict between the Jewish and Samaritan people as well as issues surrounding gender.

According to the Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, feelings of ill will between Jews and Samaritans probably went back to before the separation of Israel into northern and southern kingdoms. Even then, there was a lack of unity between the tribes of Jacob. Part of the issue was the inclusion of Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, as full tribe members. Though they were actually born to Joseph in Egypt, Jacob adopted them into the Israelite family as Jewish descendants. This arrangement did not sit well with most full-blooded Jews, and thus, underlying conflict brewed between the two segments of people.

After the separation of Judah and Israel in the ninth century, King Omri of the Northern Kingdom bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer. There he built the city of Samaria, which became his capital.

Then Omri bought the hill now known as Samaria from its owner, Shemer, for 150 pounds of silver. He built a city on it and called the city Samaria in honor of Shemer. 1 Kings 16:24 NLT

To help us understand and give us a rough idea of the feelings that existed between the Jews and Samaritans, we need simply look at the turf wars between street gangs in Los Angeles or New York, the hostility experienced between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, the war between Serbs and Muslims in modern Bosnia, and the pure hatred of white supremacist groups towards any non-white person. In other words, even in Biblical times, there were severe racial, religious, and cultural separations. Politics and religion may have been underlying factors, but sadly, there was actual abhorrence between the Jewish people and the Samaritans, so much so that Jewish people would not acknowledge Samaritans in any fashion. They simply treated them as if they were invisible.

So where did that leave a Samaritan woman? Basically, all women in Biblical times were treated as second-class citizens. If it wasn’t bad enough that cultural and religious divisions existed, women dealt with a severe gender division. As a result, they were virtually invisible in relation to men. For example, men were not to address women in public. Therefore, to be a Samaritan woman was difficult indeed.

Enter Jesus.

During one of His many travels, Jesus leaves Judea to return to Galilee and goes through Samaria on the way. Tired from the long walk, Jesus stops at Jacob’s well about noontime while his disciples were off to buy food. As a Samaritan woman comes to draw water from the well, Jesus politely asks her for a drink of water. Imagine her surprise that He was speaking to her directly as well as respectfully. Taken aback, questioning why He is asking her for a drink of water, she points out that He is Jewish, and she is Samaritan.

Unphased by this exchange, Jesus proceeds to offer her the wonderful gift God has for her, the gift of living water. Quite confused now, she questions Him about His offer seeing as He has no rope or bucket for water. She also challenged how He could offer her better water than that which came from Jacob’s well. This leads Jesus to explain:

“Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” John 4:13-14 NLT

In utter amazement, she now wants the water Jesus is offering! After all, who wouldn’t want that kind of water?!?     

The beauty of this story is Jesus’ open, countercultural view and treatment of females. Jesus regularly and directly addressed women, especially while in public. His regard for the full, indispensable worth of women is clearly seen in scripture. However, Jesus did not sugar coat the sin in the life of any woman or man He met. Just like men, He held women personally responsible for their own sin.

Watch how He deals with the Samaritan woman at the well:

 “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!” John 4:16-18 NLT

The Samaritan woman, completely engaged now and having been outed by Jesus, bravely continues the conversation. And Jesus in His kindness reveals to her that He is the long-awaited Messiah (John 4:26).

At this juncture, the disciples return and are mortified to find Jesus speaking not just to a woman, but to a Samaritan woman. Yet, they are too fearful to question Him.

In contrast, the Samaritan woman hurries off to her village full of excitement. In her haste to share what she has learned; she leaves her jar at the well. Through her testimony, many Samaritans believed in Jesus as well as many others who encountered Him during His brief stay in Samaria. 

Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:42 NLT

Just like the Samaritan woman, though our circumstances or others may make us feel invisible, we are not. Jesus sees us and everything we do. Regardless of our situation, He loves us dearly and stands ready to use us if only we believe it. 

Precious Father, even when we feel like no one sees us, we acknowledge you have eyes only for us and we bask in your love. We pray that you will reach a multitude through us despite our invisibility to some. Continue to cover us against the enemy, guide us through the dark times, and by your love shine a light on us making us visible to those who need it most. In the sweet name of Jesus, amen

Written by Melony Henderson

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 Rift Between Jews and Samaritans by Pat McCloskey, OFM at Franciscan Media

Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, translated and adapted by Louis F. Hartman, C.SS.R (McGraw Hill) 

6
Mar

Priscilla – Uncommon but Qualified Teacher

With everything we compete against today, it is so easy to disqualify ourselves or to allow others to disqualify us from our calling. As I studied the life of Priscilla, I could not help but ask myself: “What right do I have to disqualify what only God can qualify?” As Priscilla was revealed to me, I found several biblical intellectuals who name her as the first woman pastor in the early Church. Just think about how easily it would have been, in that day and time, for Priscilla to count herself out of this monumental assignment. Or how she could have, based on her gender and marital status alone, allowed others to disqualify her God-given qualifications.

It is interesting that we are not told where Priscilla is from. Her ethnicity, although presumed Jewish, or her religious heritage is not given in scripture. Even her name is a common Roman name. It is in the book of Acts that the apostle Paul makes Priscilla known to us. Here the scriptures describe how Paul first meets Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth.

“There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife, Priscilla, because [the Roman Emperor] Claudius had issued an edict that all the Jews were to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them; and they worked together for they were tent-makers.” Acts 18:2-3 AMP

Passages such as Romans 16:3, which start as “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,” tell us Paul considered them to be his equals. His designation of Priscilla and Aquila as “fellow workers in Christ Jesus,” was terminology often used to describe other respected leaders in ministry. In verse 4 of chapter 16, Paul indicates that he and the Gentile churches were indebted to the couple for their work. High praise indeed.

Now let’s refocus a little more closely on Priscilla.

At the very first mention of Priscilla in the Bible, we are given immediate information that she is the wife of Aquila. I believe this makes her story even more powerful than most. As the mandate of ministry leadership manifests in her life, she isn’t single or widowed, she’s married. Priscilla is this unique woman who walked in the confidence of her calling while married.

Scripture provides a clear picture of this couple’s relationship. Priscilla is found walking in true unity with Aquila, placing herself under the covering of her husband, while still fulfilling God’s calling over her own life. Priscilla labors alongside her husband at the gospel work. Together, they were consistently busy for the Lord wherever they were. A rare gem. Even with so little accolades to who she was or where she came from, many believe, she was the first woman in the Church to preach the truth of Jesus Christ openly.

And then the Bible gives us this stunning picture of Priscilla’s gifting. In Acts 18:26, the Bible gives us this encounter in Ephesus between Priscilla and Aquila and a disciple named Apollos.

 “And he began to speak boldly and fearlessly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained more accurately to him the way of God [and the full story of the life of Christ].” AMP

Note Priscilla’s name is listed first in the passage. This is significant since the cultural pattern was, in such listings, to name the husband first. But there is something even more significant at play. Priscilla is found gracefully co-teaching a man, completely unheard of in that day. This further supports why we are led to believe she was considered to have held a pastoral role in the Church.

Throughout the remainder of the Bible, Priscilla continues to be mentioned equally with her husband, if not mentioned first. This reveals they were a true team and that barriers in leading the Church were being broken.

Proverbs 31:30 says:

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. NIV

When Priscilla spoke, she spoke with reverence for the Lord, with authority and confidence, and she was considered to be an expert on the teachings of Jesus. She bloomed wherever she was planted and faithfully served the Lord. Priscilla became a light God moved around to spiritually dark areas in order to illuminate the darkness with the truth of Jesus Christ.

“Paul stayed for a while longer, and then told the brothers and sisters goodbye and sailed for Syria; and he was accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila.” Acts 18:18 AMP

 

The churches of Asia send you their greetings. Aquila and Priscilla, together with the church [that meets] in their house, send you their warm greetings in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 16:19 AMP

 

Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, and to the household of Onesiphorus. 2 Timothy 4:19 AMP

Without question, Priscilla proclaimed the Good News. She spoke of God’s love from her mouth and then demonstrated it with her actions. Just like Priscilla, many women throughout church history have paved the way to teaching the Gospel. Yet, their part in this area has not been free from debate. Priscilla submitted to God’s calling and crossed traditional boundaries broadening women’s roles in ministry. Will you follow in her footsteps and dare to submit your giftings and talents to the mandate of God’s calling on your life?

Acts 2:17-18 says:

”In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” NIV

Regardless of gender, no person, called and gifted by God, should deny themselves or be denied by others any role in ministry, including Church leadership.

Don’t overestimate your inadequacies and underestimate your God-given spiritual gifts! Perhaps the expectations you have self-imposed, or allowed others to appoint in your life, really aren’t deal breakers! Nothing in our life happens by chance! God promises in His Word He can and will do something outside of your natural abilities if you allow Him. You may feel unsettled about yourself because you perceive yourself as lacking any real qualifications to teach the Gospel, or by the potential limits you see in front of you, but God is never unsettled about those He chooses. Step out BOLD woman of God and conquer!

Written by Stacha Ashburn, founder of “I AM” Code Sisterhood.

Please note all scripture was taken from the AMP – Amplified Bible or NIV – New International Version

Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

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

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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