Monday, December 27, 2021

My Story Matters (A Lesser Known Lady with GREAT FAITH)...Anna, the Prophetess


It's an unlikely New Year's passage, the one above...

...the story of Anna.

(Anna the Prophetess, by Rembrandt)

She's one of the handful of people who recognized JESUS at infancy. 

I am intrigued by these three verses, where God wrote Anna's biography to inspire us...

Not at first read, maybe...but; 

it's obvious, the Almighty uniquely set apart her life for this one moment in history.

I'm deeply challenged...


I find Anna's story startlingly ApPrOpRiAtE as a New Year dawns; 

As I contemplated this brief account, the Lord gave me a WORD (well, let's make this plural, a few "words") with which to enter 2022.

I'm always curious as I await a New Year how He will challenge me to live in the next season.

More so with 2021 running down to a close with the new-year-clock.

(Anna the Prophetess, by Rembrandt)

The Holy Spirit, through Dr. Luke's pen, sums up all of Anna's earthly years right here in verses 36-38.

Actually, that's a lot of ink for a New Testament woman! 

(Anna the Prophetess, by Jerry Bacik)

Here's what we know about Anna:

1) The Jewish community knew her as a prophetess. Anna inspired and encouraged others with the words the Lord placed on her heart. Her mouth was her ministry, and she wasn't afraid to speak the words of the Lord. She often spoke of hidden-things, things revealed to her, either by inspiration, or birthed in dreams and visions (Olive Tree Enhanced Strong's Dictionary: prophetis). 

Anna was a truth-teller, not necessarily a future-teller. Yet, here, Anna's prophecy shows up in the giving of thanks, as she proclaimed to those who were in the temple that day, "Here is the Redemption of Israel! Wait for Him NO MORE!" 

Anna's boldness in being God's mouthpiece is exactly how people described her (just as Luke did). They knew her to point others to the hope of their future redemption! Anna always looked forward knowing her Redeemer was nigh... 

Imagine her JOY when she knew she had no further to look!!

(Anna the Prophetess, in brown on the right, depicted at Jesus' dedication, author unknown)

2) We know the name of Anna's dad: Phanuel (this is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Peniel, meaning "the face of God.") Perhaps her father had a story to tell, like Jacob in Genesis 32, where he, too saw the face of God and lived to talk about it. I find this random fact interesting, since Anna herself comes face to face with God (God-the-Son held in the arms of his earthly mother).  This moment in time presented Anna her Phanuel-moment! 

The Lord honored Anna's faithfulness by revealing Himself to her. Years ago I was told that God honors those who honor Him. Anna's story is a testimony to that little platitude.

3) Anna arose out of the little known Northern Tribe of Asher. Asher is often called The Lost Tribe, because most of the people from Asher were assimilated into Syria when the Northern Kingdom was taken captive. Very few of them returned to Israel....but Anna did. This one little fact assures us that 

Anna was a survivor. Whatever life threw at her, Anna made the most of it. 

(Icon of Anna the Prophetess, at the Basilica, where her remains are held)

4)  Anna was widowed at a very young age (probably married as most girls were around the age of 14), by 21 her husband had passed away, no doubt leaving her childless. At this point, she had either lived another 84 years following his death (which made her about 105 according to most commentaries)...or she was 84. Fact is, she was old and had been focused on her ministry a long time.  Instead of looking for another husband to fulfill her, Anna chose a life of dedication to the Lord. Because she was a known prophetess, she probably had a room along the outside walls of the temple (rooms were reserved for temple priests, prophets, and other assigned workers). 

Hers would have been a hard existence as a woman dwelling in a man's world. But, day and night, she stayed in the temple living out her calling...purposely focused...looking forward never backward with regret or remorse.

5) One last thing that has to do with Anna's "forward-focus." Anna filled her time with worship, prayer, and fasting. 

Anna did the hard work of a life committed to her Lord... 

Yet, this I know, when the Lord, Himself, has been the sustainer of a soul (as He was for Anna - widowed, barren, undoubtedly poor, living a meager existence in the temple), these things - 

worship, prayer, and fasting - are a source of Great Peace to the GIVER. 

In Anna, I see a life of contentment and peace no matter the situation surrounding her.

So, as I sit on the cusp of 2022 (🎉🎉🎉), it's my desire to renew my commitment to the Lord with longing that my life reflects an Anna-heart...

I, too, want to:

...speak truth and encourage hope in others; to live as an overcomer (no matter what 2022 may throw at us, welcome the obstacles as opportunities for presenting Jesus); fulfill God’s purpose; stay forward-focused; re-commit to trusting the Lord fully; and always point others to the Savior...until His face I see!


One day, we will see Him face to face, and like Anna, will give thanks to God for His remarkable gift of grace!

Perhaps this year!

Who knows, maybe my life (and yours) is uniquely set apart for such a moment in history???

How will people describe us?

I'd like to be known as Anna was known; to be as faithful as Anna, always forward-focused, looking and waiting for my future redemption....


I still believe #adventisnear!


P.S. Disclaimer. If this seems familiar to you? Well, this blog post was last year's New Year's entry; but, I needed to re-read it as a refresher.  

These are still my Words to Live by for 2022.

Anna's story matters for all time! 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

My Story Matters (Women in the Lineage of Jesus): Mary, the Mother of Jesus, Part 2

As's part 2 of Mary's story.

I want to remind you: Mary was not someone special.  

She was a woman of flesh and blood, just like you and me.  

To acquire a healthy heart in the midst of difficult life circumstances is not always easy, but she reminds us that it is possible!  

No one can say Mary lived an easy, comfortable life - the Roman government put constant pressure on the Jews to conform to the will of Caesar; tax collectors continuously raised taxes, leaving their countrymen financially poor and living a hand-to-mouth existence; and, religious leaders hypocritically forced the Law, while not obeying it themselves...

Along with all this, she'd been recently betrothed - an arranged marriage, with a man, who, it turns out, treated her with honor, kindness, and love. 

But....the results of a healthy heart always lead us to the very purpose of our creation: to bring glory to God as we enjoy relationship with him.  

There is no greater gift I could wish for you this Christmas season!  

So, let’s dig in...  What more can we learn about Mary?

A Mary-Heart:

(is) Pensive – I love the way God’s Word expresses this truth,And Mary pondered these things in her heart.”  There is no question that the road to a healthy heart is through reflection.  It’s the key to processing what is happening in our lives.  When we add Scripture to our ponderings, we’re able to find the way to the “treasure” that God has in store for us (this is but another translation of this Greek word, synterreo). As we learn to meditate on what is happening in our lives, in connection with the TRUTH, God releases spiritual treasure for us to mine and guard closely.  

God's word and a pensive heart will always lead us to deeper intimacy with our heavenly Father; and deeper intimacy is what all of us really long for, whether we know it or not (Proverbs 19:22)!

(is) Prayerful 
– One doesn’t burst out in prayer the way Mary did during her interchange with Elizabeth (what we term The Magnificat) on a moment’s notice.  No, Mary practiced prayer.  She was comfortable with being vulnerable and open with the Lord in the prayer-closet of her life, way before she was able to pray publicly the way she did.  Obviously, the Holy Spirit guided her words, but I believe Mary was reared on the words of her relative David, who also knew how to pray.  

“To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.  Do not let me be put to shame (Ps 25:1-2).”  “Redeem Israel, O God, from all their troubles (Ps. 25:22).”  “To you I call, O Lord my Rock; do not turn a deaf ear to me. Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place (Ps. 28:1-2).” 

(is) Poor in Spirit – Sprinkled throughout the Matthew and Luke passages, Mary is referred to as “humble.”  Those who recognize their spiritual poverty are most likely the ones who will be richly filled and blessed (Matthew 5:3).  Mary’s contagious humility reflected an incredible confidence in her God; and, it reflected the assurance she held in her identity in Him, as well.  All of this led Mary to great courage...not an absence of fear, but an absence of self.  It’s one of the critical pieces of the puzzle that helped her let go of her son, and submit to his sacrifice on her behalf, as well as ours...

(focuses on) People –  Years ago, I remember reading a novel based on the lives of Joseph and Mary.  The story ended with the birth of Jesus.  The end of the book left us with Mary looking lovingly at her son in the manger, and as she looked, the manger became over-shadowed by a cross...  The point was that from the beginning God showed the mother of our Savior that her son was born to die and his death meant the salvation of the world.  His birth and untimely death ushered in a new paradigm – a new covenant of grace.  Whether it was at that moment, or another, I don’t know, but I believe at some point Mary had to reconcile in her heart that her son was the answer to the world’s sin problem, and she surrendered to that plan.  Could I?  Don’t think so!  But that is the bottom line of proving Mary’s healthy heart.  Healthy hearts do not live self-focused; they sacrificially give for the benefit of others.  Healthy hearts are always others-focused!

May God remind you of these truths throughout this Christmas season – a season of giving selflessly to others as Christ gave for each of us!

May you all have a very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

My Story Matters (Women in the Lineage of Jesus): Mary, the mother of Jesus

A week ago, we dove into the life of Bathsheba... At that time, you were invited to explore the answer to the question: Are there certain character traits God looks for as He chooses His vessels of service?

We've noted: 

God doesn't always pick the qualified...rather, He does a work of Grace in each of us in order to qualify us.

He gives us second chances, as His vessels of honor, sanctified, and useful for His service.

He causes our stories to be redemptive, and restores them for the purpose of making them meaningful for His glory...and, to which others may relate.

Because of the stories in Scripture we are assured: 

our stories matter!

And, yet, in the case of Mary, we see a different kind of story entirely.

So, with that introduction, we begin to look at the mother of Jesus...and dig a little more into her character and her life.

To start, I invite you to go to Bible Gateway and read Matthew 1 & 2, as well as, Luke 1 & 2, for a Scriptural understanding of this amazing woman!

As evangelicals, I think we sometimes tend to shy away from discussing Mary.  

There is an underlying fear of being accused of incorrect theology; so, we avoid any conversation about her whatsoever.  

To this, I say we do Mary a great disservice!  There is much we can learn from our Savior’s mother.  

The question I have asked myself over and again is this:  what was it God the Father saw in this young woman to cause Him to choose her over any other young girl?  

In an attempt to find an answer, I have scoured the Scriptures that talk of her, and have come up with this one thought:  

Mary exhibited a healthy heart.  

I don’t know too many who can give us a straight forward glimpse of what "healthy" looks like, yet I believe Mary does. 

Oh, I know what unhealthy looks like.  That would be mine.  

My heart is often me-focused.  I react to people and life circumstances foolishly.  My pride often steps in the way.  My discontent with what I have, and my desire to gain more, crowds out gratitude and generosity.  

Not true with Mary.  As I’ve X-rayed her heart, I’ve listed eight traits that God reveals to us about her from His Word.  

That’s too many to list in a one-page devotional, so we’ll place her under our microscope this week and tomorrow....

Let me just say, my prayer this Christmas, is for the Lord to GIFT ME A MARY-HEART...

In fact, perhaps this is a worthy goal for 2022.

A Mary-Heart:

Pursues God – I know this, because I believe Mary fully understood what it meant to live a “with-God” life.  The Lord had specifically said in reference to the coming Messiah that a virgin would give birth to a son, and  He would be called “Immanuel” – which means God with us (Matt 1:23).  Mary was raised on passages like Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go;” or Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear for I am with you...,” and Isaiah 43:1-2, “Fear not...when you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”  So, when the angel reminded her to “Fear not,” Mary was reminded that the God she pursued was always with her.  Like her ancestor David, before her, Mary had inherited a heart that chased after God.

(is) Pure – Several times in Luke’s account, as well as in the Isaiah account, it is made clear that Mary was a virgin. The Greek word (parthenos) not only means one who had not had sexual intercourse, but it meant one who was chaste, pure in thought and life.  Proverbs 4:23-27 admonishes, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life (meaning, it affects everything you do!).  Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.  Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly in front of you.  Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.  Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”

(gives God) Permission as she develops Perspective – While Mary, like any of us, was at first troubled at the words of the angel, and questioned how what he told about her could even be, she processed it all rather quickly – this “thing” that happened to her was what it was...and God would be with her!  In spite of what she knew people might say, and do, her response still amazes me, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”  Even Elizabeth’s response to Mary upon seeing her, spoke of the submissive heart Mary acquired when she said, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” Still not convinced?  Mary’s response to Elizabeth was nothing short of amazing, My soul boasts in the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.”

(is) Peaceful –  While we don’t read this specifically in the Scriptures, we can know this to be true about Mary, by virtue of the fact that Mary lived a With-God-life, pursuing Him with her entire being, granting Him permission to “do as He would” with her life, rejoicing in His will. These responses always result in the “peace of God which passes all understanding.”

As we enter into the Christmas season, may we learn to exemplify a Mary-heart... Let's seek:

A healthy heart that fervently looks forward, gives freely, suffers patiently, and submits reverently.

You are invited to come back tomorrow for the rest of Mary's story....


Wishing you a most Merry Christmas! Thank you for engaging with me are a gift. 

Saturday, December 18, 2021

My Story Matters (Women in the Lineage of Jesus): Bathsheba, #2

A follow up for those of you who have privately, and otherwise, messaged me about Bathsheba's story being a case of rape on David's part. 

I want to re-iterate:

The written Scriptures are unclear. 

...and, we must stay hermeneutically sound as we study what God's word says...

Agreed, I have looked at several commentaries, and there are opinions to be found on both sides of the aisle...

...But, my job, as I study Scripture, is not to say more than what a passage is saying.

Certainly some things are easily understood, because we know human nature...

...For example, let's take a look at what Bathsheba experienced in approximately a 6-month-period of time:

  • She went from being the married wife of a soldier (who obviously put his soldiering, and his reputation as one of David's 30 mightiest men before family...making me wonder, just what kind of priorities did Uriah hold) to being widowed to being remarried (to the KING, no less). 
  • She went from being childless, to being with child, to birthing a precious son, who passed from this world within a week's time. 
  • She went from being an ordinary housewife, in an ordinary home, to living in the palace as Queen to the nation's beloved King David.
  • She went from obscurity to being the talk of the nation (had there been paparazzi, she would have graced the cover of every tabloid and People magazine of the day).  

Yet, Bathsheba carried all of this with unfolding grace and unusual strength of character...and upon the death of her child, following a period of grieving, allowed David to "comfort her" (naham: to console, to empathize, show tenderness, compassion, warmth and mercy). 

AND, if you read 1 Kings, chapter 1, you will quickly realize that Bathsheba was not one to sit by quietly, and not speak up. In this story, as Bathsheba confronts David on his promise to make their son, Solomon, king upon his death, we quickly note there is much more to Bathsheba than mere victim. 

No matter what happened, we cannot deny that Bathsheba experienced a tangled mess of painful, emotional, traumatic, personal responses. If anyone needed a counselor, this dear girl did! It is NEVER easy to heal from this much emotional turmoil, and rebuild your life... But, in this one moment of stolen passion (no matter what ensued prior to it - and, again, I'm not saying it wasn't rape...WE DO NOT KNOW!), life was complicated and messy...and, truly, even after David's repentance, he and Bathsheba never really recovered completely (read the rest of David's messy drama)...

As to the culture of the day...and the thought that Bathsheba really had no choice but to go to the King, I found this from two or three different trusted writers (the ones who have written the published commentaries - I am quoting but one):  

"Many believe Bathsheba had no option but to meekly follow David's messengers to the court, because to disobey, or refuse, could have potential dire consequences. However, during those days, it was total knowledge that no Jewish citizen had to obey a king who himself claimed to be under God's law. For in following the Lord, the King covenanted with both His Holy God, and God's people, to submit to the Divine Law (Warren Wiersebe)." 

I'm just asking you to ponder these thoughts...

I simply do not know what happened...

AND... because the Lord doesn't make it clear in His Word about what took place, intimately, between these two people, then there is a BIGGER MESSAGE we are to focus on.


God is a God of  second chances. 

And, those of us who mess up can still be "men (& women) after God's own heart..."

We might even be found doing something extraordinary for the Lord...

Ponder, in wonder, about one more thing....

1 Samuel 3:1-5 would suggest that Bathsheba was Davids' seventh wife (keep in mind numbers often have meaning in Scripture)... However, this passage does not mention Michal, David's first wife, who remained barren. So, in reality, we count Bathsheba's as David's eighth wife.

This is truly SIGNIFICANT...

The number 8 in Scriptures is often used to symbolize "new beginnings." 

With the birth of Solomon to David and Bathsheba, this hope was fulfilled for both the King and Bathsheba.

There's something about "beginning again" that cleans the slate, washes away emotional pain, and releases us from bondage. Repentance is that eraser. It is an incredible reset button. It is the delete key on all of the junk from our past that we wish we could wipe away. 

Repentance is the do-over we all need.

Repentance via confession to both God and our fellow man... 

The Lord, knowing our needs as well as He does, provided a way for us to begin again, live in hope, right our wrongs, and find healing from our pasts. 

No matter the ensuing consequences of what followed David and Bathsheba, their hearts were restored. They were given a "begin-again." 


So....all this to say, some things we can't ever know, so we don't focus on taking a "side" (especially when based on opinion, or some sociological/psychological trend of the day)...

What we do is focus on the BIG PICTURE OF GOSPEL GRACE extended to all of us. 

God qualifying the unqualified.

God making the ordinary extraordinary. 


Thursday, December 16, 2021

My Story Matters (Women in the Lineage of Jesus): Bathsheba

The lineup of ladies in the lineage of Jesus is pretty unusual to say the least!   

We have Tamar – who prostituted herself to gain what was rightfully hers; 

Rahab – a prostitute who sheltered Israelite spies and bartered their safety for hers; 

Ruth – a Canaanite convert; and now, Bathsheba...  

I’ve spent a good deal of time reading the biblical narrative, as well as researching several books and commentaries.  No one seems to agree completely on how much blame to place on King David...  

All we know for a fact is that 

1) David wasn’t where he was supposed to be – he should have been at war like all the other kings; 


2)  He had knowledge of who Bathsheba was – after all, she was the grand-daughter of one of his most trusted advisors, the daughter of one of his 30 “mighty men”, and the wife of another one of the “30”; 

3) Bathsheba wasn’t exactly where she was supposed to be, either, as well as being indiscreet in the process; and 

4) According to 2 Samuel 11:4, she “came to him,” indicating a willingness, if you look closely into the Hebrew word used in the text. 

While David took the blame, neither could claim to be blameless (a little more on this, perhaps mid-week). 

The point is God doesn’t exactly pick the qualified, does He?  

When it comes to the work that He does on earth for His Kingdom, more often than not, He chooses the least likely.  

I’m so thankful...  

In my opinion, this is the lesson of Bathsheba.

God's strength made perfect in our weaknesses...our human frailties...for His glory!

God's grace overcoming our sinful selves...and using us in spite of us...

But, are there certain character traits God looks for when he picks vessels for Kingdom service?  

That has become the looming question as I study many of the heroes/heroines of Scripture. 

When we get to the life of Jesus’ mother next week, we’ll discuss the answer to this question in more detail.  

For now, I find myself overwhelmed that God has “picked me” with a specific purpose in mind. 

I, too, find traces of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba living inside of me. 


I have been given the same ultimate purpose as these, too!  

To get the full picture we must go back in time...

Historically, kings were hand-picked by the "gods" (at least that’s what everyone believed).  

The king that the gods of the universe hand-picked were the ones who would best exemplify “tselem” (the Hebrew word for “made in the image of”).  

You see, these gods desired a man who would present to the world a picture of who they were: their character and nature...

The kings would be a "shadow, a shade" of the original god...
Selfishly, according to this belief system, the gods wanted the lower classes to see a human who mirrored their true ruler.  

And, only the kings, whom the gods put on the throne, could possibly “tselem,” and image the one who put him in power.  

But God changed everything with the Genesis account.  

As commoners began to read, and fully understand, what Genesis 1:26-27 meant, their lives were transformed.  

Everyone, no matter their class, was “tselem” (made in the image and likeness of God).  Do you see what this meant?
It gave value; “who I am” became clearly defined by "whose I am."

Not only “who I am,” but “what I do” as a result is fully evident. In other words:

The creation account revealed our destiny.

Why is this important?  

No matter how obscure I am, no matter how sinful, no matter what I have done; 

God’s plan for me is clear.

He placed His image in me, so the world can see who Rules my life; and, mirror His true character and nature....

I may get off track...

I may not be very talented...

I may be quite sinful...

But, this has nothing to do with my “qualifications” for service.  

It matters not how impressive my resume looks.  

Whose I am, and who I am as a result? 

Well, these form the basis of my qualification for service.  

God just looks at people quite differently than the rest of the world does when it comes to making His choice.

Once we get on board with His intentions for us.... His plans are unstoppable!

Question:  How’s God’s plan working through you today?

Prayer:  Father God, you who call the last people anyone would expect, here I am. As under-qualified as I feel to do anything for your world, help me to do the work for which I was created. Give me the courage to hear and answer your call.  Let me remember if you call, you equip.  Amen.