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Category Archives: New Testament Verse Studies

Anna the Prophetess

Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem. – Luke 2:36-38

Only a few short verses in the book of Luke are dedicated to Anna the prophetess, but they are so profound and I believe we can learn a lot from her story. Anna was one of the few female prophets mentioned in the New Testament. After seven years of marriage her husband died and I cannot imagine what that was like for Anna. We can guess that even if her husband was not a good man, this would still be a tragic event in her life because being a widow in those times was not exactly glamorous. Widows were not considered heirs, and it does not mention that she had sons to take care of her, so we can assume that she had her fair share of struggles. What I admire about Anna is that in the midst of tragedy and a complete life change, she held fast to the Lord and to His word. She had distinct gifting in the area of prophecy and the Bible says that she never left the temple and worshiped God day and night with fasting and prayer. That’s dedication! Since the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down to dwell among us on earth, we no longer need to visit temples and offer sacrifices of atonement – in fact 1 Corinthians 6 says that since the Holy Spirit is inside us, our bodies are now temples. So the fact that Anna never left the temple is key to this lesson – she was always dwelling in the presence of God, always pursuing Him, always in tune with what He had to say and we can experience this same thing throughout our daily lives because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and His word is readily accessible to us. We have to be constantly aware of the Holy Spirit’s promptings and convictions so that we can grow spiritually and get to know and recognize the Father, Son and Spirit deeper as we continue through life. One day, Anna walked past Simeon who was talking with Mary and Joseph as they were holding Jesus as a baby (for more reading, this is just as Simeon had finished prophesying over Jesus, Luke 2:25-35). This was the day that Anna had been created for, I believe. She was a prophetess, and her whole life’s purpose was to know God on a deeper level each day so that when she saw Him with her own eyes, she recognized Him immediately and without hesitation. She knew God so well, she enjoyed such an intimate relationship with Him, that when she walked past, she knew who this baby was.

Anna knew God because she spent all her time in His presence and therefore she recognized Him immediately. It’s hard sometimes to discern when God is speaking or if it’s something we have conjured up in our minds. The more we know Him, the easier it is to recognize Him. The way we get to know Him? We dig deeper and more frequently into His word, and we spend time in His presence in prayer and reverence for who He is. This is the journey that I am on. I want to know him so well as a result of my ‘dwelling in the temple’ that I cannot question what is God and what is not – I will know immediately His voice, His presence, His promptings in my spirit. Join me on this journey, you can never have enough or too much of Him and His word.

Permission to Believe

He believed in God, who gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist. – Romans 4:17 (HCSB)

This verse is permission to believe without hesitation. This verse sums up what God is capable of doing. This verse is a command to have faith that is not restricted by science, by reason, by man, by our tiny human minds that don’t understand. This verse is empowering and comforting all in one – empowering because we have access to this God who brings death to life and creates something from nothing, comforting because this God is on our side. Why would we fear anything of this world and beyond it when this God is our God? Be encouraged by this verse today – what is it that you desperately need? What miracle are you asking for? What trial are you facing? I pray that your faith will rise as a result of reading this verse and that it will no longer be restricted by things so much smaller than our God.

An Enduring Faith

We feel entitled to comfort and convenience, yet when we observe true followers of Christ in the Bible, and even Christ himself, they had neither comfort nor convenience – in fact, they suffered through much more than most of us would say we could handle BUT….they had a fire inside of them that could not be put out. Their faith was somehow not as shaken as mine probably would be given their circumstances. I’m about to introduce a somewhat radical idea (at least for me anyway): Discomfort and suffering can actually be beautiful experiences that God can use to build up our faith. Now I am not saying that we all need to go out into the desert without food and water and wait for something amazing to happen, but I am saying that instead of asking God to change our circumstances, to remove our current struggles and sufferings, we should rather BEG God to use what we’re going through now to strengthen our faith, to prepare us for more trials. Because let’s be honest, life is never going to 100% peachy. Whether you’re rich or poor, whether you’re single or married, whether you’re in Africa or America…everybody’s going through something. The trials don’t end, the struggles continue. I feel as though it’s foolish to ask God to get rid of everything we’re going through because with the right attitude and prayers, those are the very things that should draw us so much closer to Him, those are the things that should build up our faith despite our circumstances (just like some of the people we read about in the Bible) – and that is so pleasing to God!

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. – James 1:2-4

Separating our circumstances from our identity in Christ

Have you ever felt hardpressed on every side? You turn one way, and you’re pressed. You turn the other way and it’s the same deal. It’s so easy to let that get you down and I come so close to wallowing in my circumstances all the time! No matter how wonderful your walk with Jesus is there will always be trials and hardships that you have to face. So how on earth do we react without anxiety, without anger, without defeat and discouragement? We have to learn to separate our circumstances from our identity in Christ.

One of Satan’s biggest delights is when we allow our current situation to overshadow who we truly are in Christ. It’s a mind game that we have to learn to win. So often we make a mistake, or face an issue and allow the results to shape the way we see ourselves – “I’m such a bad mom” // “I was doing so well but of course I had to ruin everything” // “I am not worth all this trouble” // “I am destined for failure”. These statements (or similar ones) are so common in the midst of troublesome or stressful circumstances but there is a flaw in each of them: the word “I”. We have to train our minds to replace those “I” statements with God – “GOD has called me to be an excellent mom” // “GOD makes all things new and won’t let me go to ruin” // “GOD has deemed me worthy enough to send His son to die for me” // “GOD has a perfect plan for my life, one of prosperity and growth”. In reshifting the focus from us onto God, Satan is automatically defeated in this area. We remind ourselves that God is in control, that He has specific plans for everyone, that He is enough for us.

Here are some verses to remind us as we separate our circumstances from our identity:

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! – 1 John 3:1

And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. – Romans 8:17

But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him. – 1 Corinthians 6:17

“You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.” – John 15:16

Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. – Luke 10:19

God, Be The Solution

After this, Jesus crossed over to the far side of the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias. A huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous signs as he healed the sick. Then Jesus climbed a hill and sat down with his disciples around him. (It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration.) Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked,“Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?”  He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.

Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!”

Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”

“Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered about 5,000.) Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted.

– John 6:1-11

Let’s take a look at this New Testament story that most of us have heard since we were kids. From the outside it’s pretty simple: lots of hungry people, Jesus performs a miracle, lots of full bellies with plenty of fish and bread to spare. This is a great story, and the outcome might make us feel warm and fuzzy but apart from proving once again that Jesus performed miracles during His time on earth, how does this passage of Scripture actually apply to our lives? 

It seems that Jesus has quite the sense of humor when he tests Philip, almost sarcastically, by asking him for the solution. He is stretching the disciples’ minds and their faith too. And to be honest, if they hadn’t been focussing on earthly things they probably would have gotten the right answer. Philip basically dismisses any possibility of feeding these people, Andrew finds half of a solution but unfortunately his mind is too narrow to follow through. They determine what is and is not possible, when they are standing right next to the One who has performed real miracles in front of them (at this stage Jesus has already turned water into wine and healed many people)!

I think we do the same thing as Philip and Andrew in this story – we assume that we have the authority to deem something ‘impossible’ when the Solution is right next to us, testing us, wanting us to believe in a practical way that anything and everything is possible for Him. The beauty of this story is that despite Philip and Andrew’s narrow-mindedness and even though they searched for a solution, forgetting that He was right there to provide it, Jesus still performed the miracle. 

Often we are too busy running around like headless chickens in the midst of our crisis, searching for the non-existant earthly solution when Jesus steps in and very graciously sorts us out. We do not have the authority to determine what is impossible and what is ‘doable’, yet so often that is exactly what we do! This makes me wonder how much more He will bless us if we stop, acknowledge that He is the only solution and ask Him for a miracle in faith? I feel like Jesus will honor us that much more for broadening our ‘mental horizons’ and realizing (unlike the disciples in this story) that He is the only solution. 

Preparation and Equipping

2 Timothy 3:17 says that God uses the Bible to prepare and equip His people to do every good work. If we’re not studying and applying His word to our lives we are neither prepared or equipped to do what He has called us to do OR to be fully satisfied in Him. It’s like putting on armor. As Christians we need to prepare ourselves daily to face whatever Satan’s going to throw at us and to obey whatever God has commanded us to do. In order to live the life that God has destined for us with freedom, joy and true fulfillment we have to be prepared and equipped so that we can do “every good work” that God intends for us to do. It is a sacrifice to take time out of our busy schedules to meditate on His word but if we don’t we will not be ready to step into what God has for us.

“God uses it [Scripture] to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:17

A Challenge to Love

“And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.” – Colossians 3:14 (MSG)

This verse hits me so hard every time I read it. As a girl, I do concentrate somewhat on what I put on in the morning; clothes, make-up, perfume etc, but how many times do I pay attention to preparing my heart for the day? I should wake up in the morning and prepare myself not for who is going to notice my appearance throughout the day but for who is going to notice my attitude, my heart towards others, the way that I love people. Because everything that we, as Christians, do reflects and represents Christ and we have to make a conscious decision every morning about whether we are going to represent Him in a positive or negative way. For me, it is all about an attitude of love. Jesus did not live His life judging and condemning those around Him, like so many of us are tempted to do, He simply loved. And unlike us, Jesus knew exactly what was going on in everyone’s lives whether it was public knowledge or not. We, however, have no idea what someone is going through. We don’t necessarily know their story, their past, sometimes even their present so how could we, as messed up people ourselves, possibly condemn and judge them for how they talk or act or dress or the statements that they make? I believe that this verse is a challenge to commit to love unconditionally, without condemnation or a sense of superiority. We are instructed to never be without love. So the next time that someone cuts in front of you while you’re driving or treats you harshly or acts mad or stand-offish,  bear in mind that you have no idea what they’re going through or what they have gone through to make them that way and simply love.

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