It’s Christ’s Time!

Today, as the season of Christmas arrives and Advent ends, my head is full of expectations. My thoughts reach as far as I can to describe God’s greatest gift. The biblical stories tell the tribulations of every person who reiterated the Good News. They took God’s word to every corner of the earth. I can narrow it down to just one word – God teaches us patience.

Faithfully we pray for unknown answers, as we remain alone with the Lord on this special holiday. If patience prevails, the wisdom of His word paints pictures for us. Times are hard at Christmas… money is tight, chores become a necessity, and patience wears thin. But let us remember, on this day, a Savior was born to save us from our sins.

Jesus was a gentle man, son of the Almighty, who walked the earth, teaching love and forgiveness. He instills everything in His good timing, such as patience, so we should each examine our hearts. Christmas images share love and forgiveness in storefronts, social media, and television screens. How can anyone be a humbug this time of year when the resounding message is “Peace to all and goodwill toward men?” Let forbearance and forgiveness ring in the holiday season and New Year!

I pray for everyone to learn the meaning of blessings from above. Kindness, consideration, and respect is the resonation of God’s love. We can’t hate yet sit in church and share the Lord’s messages. Shovel a path to a neighbor’s home, help a child zip up their coat or tie their shoes, or feed a hungry person. We are made in His likeness… a people of community.

God grants us life through His patience. He is a constant reminder we need forgiveness and understanding. If we can learn to be patient with ourselves, we can learn to be patient with others. The greatest service we can do for others is to show them His love, mercy, and grace.

It’s Christ’s time! May God exonerate you who conform to His heavenly wishes. Gather and sing… let the tune you hum this Christmas be an everlasting message. Allow Him to stay in your heart and blessed with His patience, for it’s a gift from God. Practice forgiveness on this holiday. I pray for the world’s redemption.



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12 Wishes – (a Christmas audio drama written and performed by Sirena Rayleeta Lind)

[subject 12 Wishes – (a Christmas audio drama written and performed by Sirena Rayleeta Lind)]

Merry Christmas, my Treasures!

12 Wishes

Written and Performed By: Sirena Rayleeta Lind

Video Rendered By: Amanda Froats

Sound Design: Joshua J. Price and Krystal Camarco

Rated PG for light Language

Description: This is a special Christmas release that is a true display of Sirena’s many talents. Having written and performed this holiday piece, Sirena takes us on a fantastic journey along side a homeless teenager, Emma, who recieves a mysterious Snowglobe that somehow grants her the Christmas miracle she didn’t even know she needed.

Listen Here:
https://youtu.be/4bWidjo0KqY

Christmas Caroling: Kimberly Kiser, Heather Olsen, Erin Swallow, and Lourie Holzmann

Music: Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
“Deck the Halls A”, “Dreams Become Real”, “Bittersweet”,
“Heartbreaking”, “Oh Holy Night”, “Sovereign”,”To The Ends”, “Touching Moments Three”, “Almost New”, “Reaching Out”, “Promising
Relationship”,”Angels We Have Heard On High”

Music from https://filmmusic.io by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com) License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

Sound effects: freesound.org, Soundsnap, Sound doggs, or self-produced.

This production was produced underneath a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial No Derivative 4.0 International License
License: CC-BY-NC-ND
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Immanuel: Christmas and The Meaning of the Incarnation of Christ

Christmas, Immanuel, NativityAs we approach the day that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, many of us are engaged in a swirl of activity to prepare businesses, homes, and churches for this important day. This is both traditional and understandable in most western cultures around the globe.

Most of these traditions and much of the activity is our human effort to both honor and praise God for sending His only Son from His heavenly home to be born as a helpless infant so that all could have the opportunity of the hope of salvation. However, many of us, including myself, can sometimes ignore the meaning of Christmas for lack of reflection amid the hustle and bustle of the season.

“Immanuel” equals “God With Us”

Christmas, Incarnation, NativityThe New Testament specifically applies the word “Immanuel” to the birth of Jesus in the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel account.

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:20-23 [ESV]

These four verses make a staggering statement that encompasses the complete gospel, or ‘good news’ of the New Testament. Moreover, it clarifies one indisputable fact; this could only have been the work of God.

Consider first what actually happened. The angelic message to Joseph said that 1.) Jesus was conceived via the Holy Spirit, 2.) That Jesus would be virgin born, 3.) He would “save his people from their sins” 4.) This was a fulfillment of ancient prophecy and, 5.) Jesus would be the embodiment of “God with us,” which is known as the doctrine, or belief that Jesus is “God Incarnate,” i.e. God in human flesh.

The Incarnation means that God the Son, through the means of God the Holy Spirit and within Mary’s womb, with the authority of God the Father comes to live among His creation as one of us. Only God could have done this, and only a supremely loving God would have done this.

For as soon as Jesus was conceived, the timeline toward His crucifixion began. The Triune God knew beforehand that this would be the case and Jesus came anyway to demonstrate God’s love through the giving of His life to atone for the sins of all humanity.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8 [ESV]

Christmas, Jesus, IncarnationThe love of God shown at the cross of Christ was always within the heart of God. Jesus began manifesting that love among us when He left His heavenly home and humbled Himself to become “God with us.”

Think of it. Jesus left the indescribable glories of heaven and choose to limit Himself to the weakness of human flesh, not for His sake but for ours. He left a domain so far beyond our comprehension, that the Bible says it defies even human imagination.

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—  1 Corinthians 2:9 [ESV]

Jesus left this to come and live among sinful, treacherous, unrighteous humanity and be scorned and murdered by His own people. ‘God with us’ meant this kind of love walked among us.

God didn’t need to become human to know us and our joys as well as suffering. We needed Him to show us through Christ how much He loved us, even unto death, and to take our sins upon Himself for our eternal good.

What Were the Odds?

Christmas, IncarnationBiblical students will recognize that the first four books of the New Testament are known as “gospels,” or accounts of the “good news” about Jesus Christ and that each one is written in a different manner or style. The authors record the same overall event, the life of Christ on earth, but from different perspectives and purposely writing to different audiences.

Matthew is written aimed at an audience of his fellow Jews for the intention of convincing them that Jesus was indeed the Messiah come in fulfillment of a multitude of Old Testament prophecies. Thus Matthew cites more prophetic declarations that are manifested in the life of Jesus Christ than any other gospel account.

conservative interpretation puts the number of messianic prophecies fulfilled by Jesus in Matthew at 25. Many biblical scholars state that Jesus fulfilled over 300 Old Testament prophecies during His life on earth.

Consider for a moment what the statistical odds are of any one person fulfilling this number of predictions about their life. In fact, to make it simpler, a couple of researchers and mathematicians tried to find out the odds beginning with the odds that one person fulfilled just 8 of these prophecies.

In the book Science Speaks, Peter Stoner and Robert Newman discuss the statistical improbability of one man, whether accidentally or deliberately, fulfilling just eight of the prophecies Jesus fulfilled. The chance of this happening, they say, is 1 in 1017 power. Stoner gives an illustration that helps visualize the magnitude of such odds: “Suppose that we take 1017 silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present time, providing they wrote using their own wisdom.”

Inset.4.12.18.2019If one follows the number further and calculates the odds of any person fulfilling 48 such prophecies about himself, the odds become 1 in 10 to the 157th power! That’s 10 with 157 zeros after it!

One other calculation to put some perspective on these numbers. The universe is estimated by most scientists to be 12 to 13 billion years old. Using the 13 billion years figure, that means the universe is approximately 4.1 x 10 to the 17th power seconds old.

Now convert that number to the smallest time measure currently used in science, the nanosecond. A nanosecond is a billionth of a second.

That means the odds of any one person fulfilling 48 of these prophecies is astronomically greater than the number of nanoseconds that have passed since the universe has existed! Only a being of infinite power and knowledge could have done this, and only a being of unfathomable love would have done it.

Jesus as Immanuel, ‘God with us,’ was God’s gift to humanity and the greatest Christmas gift we could ever receive. Let us be eternally thankful and praise the LORD for such a Divine gift of love this Christmas season and forever.

D.T. Osborn

Sources: The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001

Featured and Top Image courtesy of Lorenzoclick’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 1 courtesy of jacinta lluch valero’sFlickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 2 courtesy of Lawrence OP’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 3 courtesy of Ryk Neethling’s Flick page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 4 courtesy of Jonathan Gross’Flickr page – Creative Commons License

All other sources linked or cited in the text

Originally published in TIL Journal

Who is your hero?

Who is your hero?
I have a hero;
Jesus is my hero;
My only hero;
No other do I have;
He worked selflessly
For me and you;
While here below,
He defended;
He protected;
He provided for me:
And continues to do so;
No other do I so admire,
As I admire this son
Of the Almighty GOD;
The king of kings;
The king of the universe;
The universal king;
The second in the trinity;
One with the Father;
And the Holy Spirit;
Who forever lives
And reigns, Amen!

How Wise Were They?

The most beautiful story in history is the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ, which we celebrate every Christmas. Joseph and Mary, along with a string of other characters, remind us of how holy His birth was to all Christians. But through centuries of translations, this special event has become inundated with a lack of facts and/or misinterpretations. Let’s revisit a section of the nativity’s chain of events – that which involves the three wise men. I think it will surprise you to learn a few details never explicitly revealed in the Bible. For this blog, I will refer to the nativity story as written in the Book of Matthew 2:1-12.


Who Were the Three Wise Men?

Matthew tells us they came from “east of Jerusalem.” If we examine the historical facts, east of Jerusalem was the Parthian Empire (also known as Persia), which is today’s ancient Iran. They rivaled Rome during the time of King Herod’s reign and occupied much of Palestine.

Image of Persian Empire courtesy of Wikipedia

When the Medes (ancient Iranians) and Persians conquered Babylon, the Persians formed a priesthood of wise men known as magicians or magi. This appears to be the point of origin for the wise men, who held dual priestly and governmental authority. They were called the magi of the Parthian Empire but were NOT considered kings. (So, how did we invent the Christmas song, We Three Kings??) They were perhaps advisers to the kings.

Most residents of the empire practiced the Zoroastrianism religion, now considered being the oldest practice in the world. They believe in one universal, supreme deity, Ahura Mazda, or the “Wise Lord.” Despite their religion, they understood a new Savior would be born through the prophet Daniel’s prophecy. (Daniel 9:24-27)


Names of the Three Wise Men

Following the format of most stories in the Bible, the three wise men were never named, and only legend and many interpretations assigned the names Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. The Catholics kept the names and honored them as kings and saints, but their real names were never revealed in scriptures.

The three wise men, today, are called “Magi,” “the Three Wise Men,” and “three kings.” We’ve already confirmed they were not kings. “Wise men” translated is “magos,” which means an Oriental scientist, magician, sorcerer, or wise men. They interpreted dreams, were fortunetellers and royal astronomers. The gospel writer, Matthew, referred to them as ma’goi, or magi.


How Did the Wise Men Become Involved in the Birth of Jesus?

Many territories around Bethlehem had close links with King Herod, including the Parthian Kingdom. They knew Herod as a treacherous king who committed many murders, including his wife, her brother, and father, many friends, and military leaders. He didn’t trust anyone.

Image of King Herod courtesy of Wikipedia

The day arrived when the wise men appeared in Jerusalem, and they began asking questions around town. They wanted to know where they could find the new King of the Jews. A major stir developed because people believed their earthly king was Herod.

When Herod learned of the chatter, he became furious because he was the only king of the land. He approached Jewish religious leaders who told Herod what was written in God’s word. They told him the Messiah would be born in the town of Bethlehem:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:2

Furious at the news, Herod secretly called a meeting with the wise men. They told King Herod they witnessed a star which they believed to be the prophecy of the Jewish King. (Many Christians conclude the wise men followed the star, but the Book of Matthew only says they SAW a star).

King Herod, the conniving leader he was, acted thrilled about the magi’s news, but he was seething inside. He sent them to Bethlehem to find the Messiah.

“Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” Matthew 2:8


The Magi’s Journey

The Gospel of Matthew does not place the wise men at the birth of Jesus. It is written they arrived at a house with a young Jesus, by His mother’s side. It’s estimated He was about forty days old to two years of age, but not in a manger. They dropped to their knees and gave praise to the new Savior.

Image courtesy of FreeBibleImages.org

The evening of the magi’s visit, David, the archangel, paid a visit to the wise men. He warned them not to return to Herod, and he also told Joseph that night to pack up his family and move to Egypt for safety.

The wise men “departed into their own country another way.” (Matthew 2:12) Realizing he was snubbed by the magi, King Herod madly ordered the death of every boy between the ages of birth and two years old. He thought he would find the Messiah, but not before his death.


How Wise Were They?

I believe they were quite wise men! The word wise means having good judgment. They studied the word of God and obeyed His commands, even though they were of another religion.

Are the three wise men fact or legend? We can decipher the answer by reviewing the written facts above, but there is one profound message in their story… wise people acknowledge their need for a Savior.


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Who is coming?

Advent, waiting time;
Coming;
Getting ready for
The coming;
A time of joy;
A time of grace;
But who is coming?
Jesus of Nazareth;
Christ the king;
The king of glory;
And king of king;
Will soon be born;
And the world
Will celebrate.
Shall you be in the boat?
As for me,I will be.
That is why,
I join millions
Around the world,
To celebrate this waiting.
The Lord is coming.

Creating Creches

Last Christmas, my wife and I attended the largest private showing of manger scenes in the world. Made of every substance possible, I was in awe of their delicate beauty. I immediately knew we would have to collect nativity sets – I was hooked! The inspiring creches represented almost every country in the world, and every cost range too.

Nativities from all over the world – images owned by Bicks Books LLC

So, this year, as we began gathering topics for the Christmas blogs, I remembered the local church’s display of nativities. Detoured from my train of thought, I began searching the internet for sets made in Bethlehem. I couldn’t believe the splendor of these handmade creches of biblical olive trees. With my mind really ambling now, I wondered how long ago people made the sets, which signifies Jesus’ birth, thus today’s Christmas blog.

It surprised me to learn Saint Francis of Assisi, in 1223, created the first nativity scene in the town of Greccio, Italy.  He wanted to make an extraordinary experience for people who attended Mass at Christmas, and others who visited the area. But, his scene differed from those we purchase on the internet because he brought it to life!

Saint Francis of Assisi

Inspired by a recent trip to the Holy Land, he set up the Christmas scene in a cave just outside of town. It featured a wax figure of the baby Jesus, costumed people playing Mary and Joseph, a live donkey and ox, which a friend loaned St. Francis.

During the Mass, Francis told the Christmas story, then delivered a sermon. Afterward, many people strolled to the cave to watch a live enactment of the sacred event. He told the story of Mary and Joseph with tears and piety, and people responded with joy. His first manger scene became so popular that others soon followed his lead.

With time nativity sets evolved into an artisan craft. Today, the oldest set remains in Italy. Constructed in 1289, out of marble, it is attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio. He was an Italian architect and sculptor whose most famous work was the bronze statue of St. Peter now placed at St. Peters Basilica.

Creche sets of the 1300s were made of marble, wood, or terracotta. They placed most of them in chapels and churches for year-round displays. The most famous of these was a set carved in wood, in 1330, for the Poor Clare Sisters at the Convent of Saint Clare in Naples, Italy.

As Christianity progressed, Martin Luther used these holy scenes to counteract the pagan beliefs of Christmas trees. The creches became front and center of holiday celebrations for Christians.

Today, the tiny town of Bethlehem, in Connecticut, boasts a restored 300-year-old handcrafted nativity scene displayed in a barn on the grounds of a monastery. Thousands of people stream through the doors to view one of the country’s most exquisite artworks, dubbed the Rembrandt of creches. A coronation gift to the King of Sardinia in 1720, this masterpiece sits in a 15 by 10-foot area. The sixty-eight terracotta figures adorn colorful silks with gold embroidery. The creche is a lasting impression, for all walks of life are represented throughout the artwork. This must go on my bucket list!

Image owned by Robert Fenton Houser

Creating creches, whether in a live show or by the loving hands of true workmanship, will always remain the resounding reason for the season. They are a simple reminder of the humble King who would grow up to sacrifice His life on a cross for sinners. Let us never forget the gift of Jesus coming to earth to offer salvation to all people.

Be blessed!

www.danabicksauthor.com

A Christmas Celestial Event

A perfect scene… a star like none other, sitting above a stable in the peaceful night, and it’s announcing the birth of a holy Messiah. The Gospel of Matthew was the only book in the Bible that described “The Star of Bethlehem” occurrence.

Matthew 2:2

“…and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

What did the wise men witness in the sky that night? Was it real? Was it a star, a comet, or something else? The magi were skilled astrologers and scholars, so their fixation was not in the stars, but on large astronomical events which they believed would predict something happening. But why were they the only men to witness and describe a star guiding them? If they were well trained then why didn’t they understand what they saw in the sky?

Many astrologers of 2,000 years ago, the Chinese, Korean, and Babylonians, documented the heavens because they placed predictions based on events. The writings recorded then, are in a constant review by our astronomers today, and theories abound. But, one thing is for sure, no answer or explanation for this divine incident is clear. Here are the details I discovered, and you may come to your own conclusion.

I know little of astronomy, but for certain, stars do not move relative to themselves. Planets continuously shift through the solar system. Based on this, how did the sacred star move, leading the magi to Bethlehem? One theory suggests a heliacal rising. The planets Jupiter and Venus lapped each other while moving through the background stars. If the sun caught up to one of the planets, the planet would disappear until the sun moved far enough away from it. Then it would reappear shockingly bright in the sky, just before sunrise. Historical records show this exact occurrence on April 17 of 6 BC to December 19 of 6 BC. But, this natural alignment of planets, sun, and earth would not create a long, extended tail to the ground such as the one described by the magi.

A second theory suggests a comet. This seems to be the most logical explanation because it can hang over a city or land mass as did Halley’s Comet on March 8, 1986. Historical astronomy records revealed a tailed comet in the timeframe of the magi’s travels, and it lasted for seventy days. However, from Jerusalem’s vantage point, the comet would have been in the southern sky with the head close to the horizon and the tail pointing upward. The magi described the “Star of Bethlehem” as one they never seen before and comets were frequent visitors in their galaxy. So, as scholarly astrologers, why couldn’t the magi tell the difference between a comet and a star? Apparently, something confused their decision.

A final theory suggests the birth of a star, known as a nova. It certainly matched the biblical description. Once again, Chinese historical records reveal a new star was born in the northern constellation of Aquila in 4 BC. During the time the three wise men traveled from Jerusalem, the star would have lit their sky south into Bethlehem and not in the west. This explains why no one else witnessed this bright star. However, the star did not move, and it certainly didn’t stand over the city of Bethlehem; nor would it have stayed bright for the one to two years they took to find Jesus.

Revealing all the facts described in this blog, I will stand on my own theory. The Star of Bethlehem was an incredible act of God and one created for a unique purpose. God can use natural law to carry out His will because He is not bound by the laws He created for this world. When you think of the whole miraculous event of Jesus’s birth, a special star is not beyond His scope.

What do you think?


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The Fact Remains

This world still evolves in the past tense. I quoted a proverb in Ecclesiastes 1:9 which reads, “there’s nothing new under the sun,” and I’ll be darned if it isn’t true. Solomon wrote this statement, 500 years before Jesus’ birth, to emphasize the cyclic nature of human life on earth and the emptiness of living only for the “rat race.” It’s a life separated from God. But, our gracious God continues to rain down His love on us… even amidst the turmoil.

I’m not a great biblical scholar, but it’s obvious we, as God’s children have not learned a thing. It’s clear the hardships of Jesus are repeating themselves in the modern-day. How odd to read the trials of Jesus and then observe Christianity today.

The Pharisees and Jews took it upon themselves to discredit the Son of man. Jesus came to save the world and to give us salvation, but we’ve still not learned our lesson. He was a man so brutally beat, chastised and ridiculed because no one believed him. It was easier to side with the laws of the land, then to be uprooted to another religion.

But, a few knew the truth about Him in biblical days. They did not fear the religious upheaval, but embraced the faith, which led them to Him. In all His splendor and integrity, Jesus ultimately proved His identity when He died for our sins.

Today, our system finds it easier to ruin and destroy His direction than to believe in our Savior, who came to deliver us, two thousand years ago. The evil brews to the point of boiling, for unbelievers are monumentally winning over the world. The fact remains, if not for the faith of believers who held on to their principles, the rampant corruption would go wild. This is a prophecy in the Bible that our world is quickly fulfilling today.

My Dad, God love him, always said it’s easy to find fault in a person. I believe goodness lies beneath hatred when the truth slowly emerges from the layers. I can’t help but think back when Jesus walked on this earth. His ministry was short, for evildoers who had little faith and didn’t believe in His integrity blemished it. Doesn’t this sound familiar today as many allow the media’s march to undermine the truth of God’s word? I cannot imagine the inner turmoil of those who do not have faith in anything for they relish in hatred.

I energize my faith in the name of God’s glory, for the great master and overseer of all evil, brings to light the doers of animosity. Just as in biblical times, the proof takes a while to expose, but eventually, the truth will be revealed for it is God’s will!

Pray for those who live in doubt and fear faith because they find it easier to condemn than to compliment. The fact remains, God’s love will intervene in their destructive behavior.

My dad’s words ring out once more!

Proverbs 26:24-26

“A hateful person disguises himself with his speech and harbors deceit within. When he speaks graciously, don’t believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart. Though his hatred is concealed by deception, his evil will be revealed in the assembly.”


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The 8 Most Powerful Women in the Bible: Part One

What makes a woman powerful? Is it money, fame, a political position, or is it an Oscar-winning actress? Any of these attributes may be true in today’s society, but not in biblical days. Many excellent examples of strong, influential women grace the pages of the Bible, and I will review two a week for the next four Sundays. Our ladies, now two thousand years later, may find much wisdom in the biblical females. Use them as a guiding tool in your personal lives and to develop a relationship with God.

The last point I want to express is “behind every successful man is a strong and wise woman.” So true of these most powerful women in the Bible! I hope you enjoy my review.


MARY MAGDALENE

Mary of Magdala lived in a comfortable village of many Greeks in Galilee. They depicted her as a prostitute in town. According to scriptures, the single Mary Magdalene had a serious sickness caused by ‘seven demons,’ so many people assumed she was a fallen woman. But, in biblical times, certain illnesses such as schizophrenia, blindness, heart disease, and epilepsy were thought to be demonic. The Bible is unclear what her specific situation was, but bible scholars agree she was not a prostitute.

At some point in her life, Mary met Jesus in one of the many villages He ministered to, and He healed her afflictions. She became an immediate follower and a leader of a group of women who traveled with Jesus and helped to support His ministry. Only a strong, self-confident woman would be so brave to spread the Gospel in biblical days.

Jesus had two groups of people who accompanied Him – a group of men led by Peter the Apostle, and a group of women led by Mary Magdalene. However, according to religious tradition, females were meant to be seen and not heard, but Mary, in controversy, was very close to Jesus. Just as I wrote in the past, God chooses people to be His disciples that we least expect to reach this broken world. Mary was one such example. Her great faith earned special attention from Jesus.

On the day they crucified Jesus, Mary Magdalene, along with two others, stood at the base of His cross and watched Him breathe His last breath. Her heartbreak must have been unimaginable!  In the Bible passages of Luke 23 and Matthew 27, Mary prepared Jesus’ body for burial by making a spice anointment for the linens. She observed from afar as they placed His body in the rock tomb. Mary visited His burial site every day as if waiting… did she know something?

Image of Mary Magdalene courtesy of James Tissot Collection at Brooklyn Museum freebibleimages.org

In the early morning light, the following week, Mary visited the tomb. As she sat and prayed an earthquake erupted and forced the rock away from the entrance of the grave. Mary jumped up to look inside, and it was empty! Suddenly, God’s angel appeared before her.

“Woman, why are you weeping?”

With tears streaming down her face, Mary replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

Suddenly a voice from behind her spoke, “Mary! Why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”

Not recognizing the face, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” He responded with, “Mary!” It was Jesus standing before her.

She dropped to her knees, grabbed His hands, and said in Hebrew “Rabbouni!” Jesus told her not to hold on to Him because He had not ascended to the Father yet. Instead, He ordered her to go tell the disciples he was resurrected.

Mary Magdalene at Jesus’ resurrection courtesy of freebibleimages.org

Mary ran to them and announced, “I have seen the Lord.”

It is interesting that in a society where women were held in low regard, Christ showed Himself first to a woman. Mary loved her Lord, and she was His truest, faithful follower.

What made Mary Magdalene a powerful woman?

  • She taught us to live courageously and faithfully for Christ. Jesus set her free by eliminating her ‘demons,’ and instead of going about her own life, Mary worked for Him. Even when she faced difficult times, and people called her hopeless, she allowed Jesus to work through her.
  • Mary was more loyal to Jesus than His own disciples. They hid as Jesus was led to His crucifixion, but Mary stayed with Him. She also anointed His linen with spices.
  • Mary was given the honor of being the first person to see Jesus after His resurrection. She was very important to Christ, or He would not have revealed Himself to her before the other disciples. It may be safe to comment Jesus changed the way women were viewed in society.
  • Mary teaches us that even if our lives are in terrible disarray, it is never too late to find hope in God.
  • Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends and His apostle, ostracized her work as a disciple. In the Gospel of Thomas, he said, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of the Life,” but her strength of character and love of God gave her the courage to move forward. Today, she is often called the first woman evangelist.

What happened to Mary Magdalene after Jesus’ resurrection? Much controversy exists about this topic. One theory suggests fourteen years after the crucifixion, she was put into a boat by Jews and set adrift without sails or oars. The boat landed in southern France where she lived in solitude in a cave.

Another theory claims she accompanied John to Ephesus, where she died and was buried. Some say she evangelized Provence, France during her last thirty years.

A recent book titled The Lost Gospel even claims Mary and Jesus were secretly married and had two children, but someone’s imagination was a little overextended.

Today, in the Russian Orthodox church, they know her as the patroness of sinners and penitent women. One of the world’s best-known monuments is the Church of Mary Magdalene in East Jerusalem.


HANNAH

Image of Hannah courtesy of Moody Publishers and freebibleimages.org

Hannah is an inspiring and wonderful story of humanity and all its flaws. No one is the leading character in the story of their own life.

Elkanah lived in the Ephraim hills of a small town thirteen miles to the northeast of Jerusalem. He practiced polygamy through his Levite religion. Hannah was his first wife, and he adored and loved her, doting on her every need. But, she was infertile, and his family name needed to be honored with children, so he married another woman. Peninnah was envious of the love Elkanah had for Hannah. She cruelly taunted Hannah to tears each time she gave birth to their ten sons, and Hannah lost her sense of appetite.

One day, Hannah traveled to the sanctuary, and she spoke to the priest about her inability to have children. Her soul was crushed as the tears flowed down her lovely face. She dropped to her knees before the altar and prayed.

“Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, if you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain, if you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me by giving me a son, I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you. I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.”

Before the year was out, Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son named Samuel. She told Elkanah she asked God for this son. Hannah also explained when the child was weaned, she would present him before God, where he would remain forever. He agreed with her plans.

Image courtesy of freebibleimages.org

The day arrived when Samuel was no longer dependent on Hannah for nutrition. She took him to Shiloh along with a butchered bull, flour, and wine and presented him to the priest, Eli. “I prayed for this child, and God gave me what I asked for. And now I have dedicated him to God. He’s dedicated to God for life.”

Hannah and Elkanah dedicated their lives to God as they watched their son grow up among the priests. Hannah made Samuel little white robes cut to his size, and they took them to him. Eli often said a prayer over her on those visits, “God give you children to replace this child you have dedicated to God.” His blessings and prayers were heard as Hannah and Elkanah had three more sons and a daughter.

Today, we acknowledge Samuel as a prophet by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, an equal to Moses. He wrote the story of his life, including his mother, Hannah, in the Book of Samuel.

What made Hannah a powerful woman?

  • Hannah’s main attribute was perseverance. She prayed for many years for God to give her a child. She had faith in the power of the Lord and never doubted He would answer her prayers. Hannah teaches us never to give up, even when we think something is impossible. Her faithfulness to the Lord bled into her son, who became a great man.
  • Her boldness, strength, and devotion were like no other for she was a mother who gave up her first-born to the Lord. I’m sure most parents would rethink this decision. But, Hannah recognized all things are God’s possessions, even our children. He honors parents with children as merely a gift, a temporary gift. We are to mold them in the ways of the Lord as a blessing to all nations. In Hannah’s case, because she fulfilled her promise to God, He blessed her with a legacy of five more children.
  • Hannah’s power is also demonstrated through a promise which she kept to God. Her integrity is in the commitment of handing her child over to God. She never went back on her word, for if she did, she might never have conceived any more children. God rewards us for loyalty.

Thank you, Hannah, for teaching us we must trust in the Lord in everything in our lives. Life is not always a bowl of cherries, but with persistent prayer, miracles can and will happen. Dedication to the Master who created us, along with integrity, will reap you blessings beyond your wildest imagination.

Hannah is buried in the Tomb of Samuel in the West bank, beside her son Samuel, on top of a steep hill just north of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot.

We hope you enjoyed Part One and will return next Sunday for two more powerful women in the Bible.


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