Love Series | Anna (Part Three)

And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

(Luke 2:38 KJV)


Would you still love God if you lost everything?

Anna, a widow in the New Testament, reminds us of Who our first love is. If we have more concern for human relationships than our relationship with God, we can experience major consequences.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26-27).

Whoa. Whoa. Is Jesus calling us to hate others?

Absolutely not. Based on the commandment He deems the second most important–to love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:39)–He definitely isn’t calling us to hate others. Based on the Word, we know that God loves and cherishes community, unity, and relationships.

Now why does Jesus use the word “hate” here? He’s giving us a comparison. That is, we are commanded to love God in a way that is immeasurable in comparison to our love for others. This makes sense that He would tells us this, looking back at our first commandment:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38).

It’s okay to cherish relationships. They are blessings in our lives, and God is gracious to provide them. They are additions. But if we are to truly cherish and care for the things God has given to us, we need to have a strong foundation in Him. Following God shapes our minds and hearts in a way that allows us to love others as we ought to.

Anna is a remarkable woman in the Bible who, honestly, lost everything. Yet, based on her life, it’s evident that she understood this concept of loving God. Despite the tragedies she faced, Anna’s love for Him brought fulfillment not only to her but to others, and the Lord didn’t let this go without a special blessing.

INTRODUCING ANNA

(Reference: Luke 2:36-38)

And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38 KJV).

Anna only appears in these three verses in Luke, but we can learn so much from her and about her in this moment.

First and foremost, we learn that Anna is a woman of God based on her descriptions.

Prophetess (Luke 2:36)

This doesn’t mean that she dabbled in a form of fortune-telling or foreseeing the future. A prophet was a person who spoke the Word of God (meaning prophetess was a woman who spoke the Word of God). From this, we know right away that she was known for proclaiming God’s Word to others. Perhaps she was considered a teacher or encourager in the temple to other women.

Of the Tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36)

This tribe was an example of God’s grace. In the Old Testament, when Israel had split into “Israel,” the apostate northern kingdom, and “Judah,” the southern kingdom, both nations were consumed by idolatry and corruption. Later, the Assyrians conquered Israel and took many as captives. The tribe of Asher (descended from Asher, son of Jacob) was the remnant who escaped this, having either migrated before the conquest or were part of the few exiles who returned from captivity. So, Anna had a great heritage stemming from the tribe of Asher, who served a reminder of God’s faithfulness in the midst of chaos.

Now, I’m going to skip forward slightly. In addition to being a prophetess and of the tribe of Asher, Anna could be found serving God.

And she . . . which departed not from the temple, served God with fastings and prayers night and day (Luke 2:37).

Anna took her relationship with the Lord seriously. She stayed in the temple. We’re not given further information about this, but perhaps she was given accommodations to live there–especially since she was pursuing a purpose, as she was serving God and proclaiming His Word.

An important detail is that she had made a routine of fasting and praying 24/7. Can you imagine the beauty of such a close relationship with God? She knew that loving the Lord was a choice and had to be followed with actions. Anna made it a habit to seek Him diligently.

Now, let’s look earlier in the passage:

she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years (Luke 2:37).

Anna lived a life of tragedy and devastation–and still, she had dedicated her life to pleasing God. She was now of old age, but she had been married young–only for seven years–then her husband passed away. She’s not noted to have children, and now she had been widowed for 84 years!

Also, being a widow in this society was not easy whatsoever. Marriage was necessary for survival and security for a woman during these times. Without a husband or sons, a widow would more than likely live a life of poverty. There were very limited opportunities for such a woman. So, we know that Anna had to live a simple life, without excess. To emphasize the hardship and poverty a widow–especially older ones–faced, Paul even acknowledged the burden by encouraging widows to remarry while they were young:

So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan. If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need (1 Timothy 5:14-16).

Understanding this context, Anna’s circumstances seemed to guarantee a life of suffering and loneliness. Nevertheless, as we’ve read previously, her life was anything but that.

Anna was honoring the Lord. She had no distractions, no longer any relationships or material possessions to sacrifice, but she was literally sacrificing all of her time and even her nourishment through prayer and fasting to the Lord. And she was being taken care of. The Lord provided her a place in the temple, she had contact with others who she probably discipled, and she had a deep relationship with God. She was being nourished by God Himself–and then, she had an encounter with Jesus that few others experienced.

A Love that Bears Fruit

This closeness to the Lord bore amazing blessings.

And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem (Luke 2:38).

This type of intimacy with Christ is so special because we are able to know God, to know His voice, His mind. Anna herself had this intimacy with Him, as she recognized her Lord–because she knew His characteristics so well. Through her time spent with Him, she had a heart that was prepared to meet her Messiah. She was probably praying about uniting with Him, and her prayers had been answered. In fact, she was one of the first people to see Jesus when He was born.

The very instant when Anna is introduced in Luke 2 is when Christ was born and Simeon had spoken a prophecy about the infant Jesus:

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35)

When Simeon spoke of Christ, Anna knew it was Him–the Messiah she had been waiting for–and she instantly went to meet Him and became a witness of His birth.

It’s interesting that there are accounts of people in the Bible who did not recognize Jesus. For instance, remember the Samaritan woman from Part 2? At first, she had no idea she was talking to Jesus, even though He knew everything about her and made that known, showcasing a knowledge–and compassion–only the Savior had. Though there were rumors of His coming, people perhaps expected Him to come in some sort of spectacle, if He was truly the Son of God. However, instead Jesus lived humbly and was even born into the world in a lowly way–in a stable.

I believe that Anna’s opportunity to come in and see her Savior was one example of how God honored her faithfulness and love for Him. Though she lived a simple life and had experienced great loss, she had unspeakable joy and security because she knew her Lord–a type of joy she had to share with others.

Just seeing Jesus once–and as an infant–was enough for Anna to speak about Him to those who were also seeking Him (Luke 2:38). Again, she displays a gift of discernment that was born through her time with the Lord. Just as she recognized Christ, she recognized others who desired redemption through Him and spoke directly to these people. One woman’s faith and diligence impacted many lives. Yet, we often we feel need to see God manifest Himself several times before we obey Him.

Lastly, I love that Anna met Jesus in the midst of her daily routine of serving Him. She had no time to make herself look “good” or suddenly become right before Him. Her love for God was evident and her heart was already in the right place. She was eternity-minded, with her Savior as her main preoccupation. This is a sincere passion for the Lord that one cannot fake–especially not before Him.

What would Jesus find you doing if He was ready to “meet” you? Would you be ready?

“WHAT ABOUT ME?”

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

Imagine that kind of love!

Focusing on romantic love, let’s think back on Anna’s life. A life that honored God, despite tragedies, particularly her loss of a husband at a young age, then being single for pretty much the rest of her life–not even having any kids of her own to keep her company. This would be a nightmare for most people. Many do desire marriage, and that’s perfectly fine. Marriage is created by God, so it’s a God-given desire and blessing. However, the issue is when a desire becomes an idol, a seeking-after-fulfillment kind of thing.

Anna’s story is a reminder of the realities of life. Anything can happen. Even the worst things. Not everything goes according to plan. In fact, things often don’t. If we hold onto people and things so tightly, our world would shatter in a way that seems irreparable if we lose them. Why would this happen? Because we were putting these things or people in a position that only God can fill. He’s the One who is eternal and without fault. So, while people naturally come with their own ups-and-downs, misunderstandings, and hurts, God is stable.

When we realize that others in our lives aren’t God, we are in the best position to love them. We will not expect things that people cannot give, and when there are slip-ups, we have a Christ-centered perspective on how to handle them. That’s why we are called to love God more than anything else. God knows how much we need Him, as He can truly fill our longings. When we love Him above all else, we are able to pour out a selfless love to others that has pure intentions–as opposed to a  fragile “love” that only seeks for its own and is easily shaken up or disappears in conflict.

I urge you to put God first. He will give you the eyes and ability to love others in many different scenarios as He has loved us.

He will take care of you.


But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

(Matthew 6:33 KJV)

Love Series | Samaritan Woman (Part Two)

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.

(John 4:39 KJV)


Is there a difference between guilt and shame?

Someone once explained it in a simple way:

Shame says, “I’m a bad person.”

Guilt says, “I’ve done a bad thing.”

So, guilt is conviction. It spurs necessary and vital growth. Without conviction, we would never be moved to change harmful and sinful ways. Others can give godly wisdom in our lives that inspires this type of conviction. Now, we often–and when I say often, I mean 9.9/10 times–do not like this. Let’s face it, we don’t want to acknowledge when we’ve done something wrong. But avoiding this is extremely dangerous. Sin has consequences. Avoiding areas of our lives that we know are not God-honoring leads to more and more decisions and more and more sin that can alter our life for the worst. So, when I say guilt, I’m talking about a godly conviction that causes us to recognize our faults and pushes us to be more like Christ.

However, shame, instead of encouraging our heart’s change, scares us into hiding. It makes us feel as though we must push others away, that we don’t deserve community, or that other people are judging us. Shame is where Satan thrives. Through shame, he tries to convince us that God is against us, that He doesn’t love us, that we are unrecoverable. Often times, people blame Christianity for putting “shame” on people. God has nothing to do with shame. Shame has no part in the gospel. Jesus came to set the captives free.

Part Two of the Love Series looks at the Samaritan woman who met Jesus in an unexpected way. Living a life of sin, she was a woman who felt immense shame and had been searching for security in ways that left her empty. Despite the shame she felt due to her own choices and her treatment by others, this woman was offered a second chance. Jesus broke barriers and offered her a relationship with her Savior that changed her life.

INTRODUCING THE SAMARITAN WOMAN

(Reference: John 4:1-42)

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”  (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) (John 4:4-8)

The Samaritan woman’s story tells of a woman’s transformation from shame, to conviction, to a new freedom and love for Christ.

When this woman is introduced in verse 7, notice that she isn’t given a name. The fact that she is anonymous is important, however, as it implies that there is a larger symbol or lesson behind the story for us to learn and apply to our lives.

While the woman is unnamed, she is identified as a Samaritan. The Samaritans were the people of Samaria, a northern region in Israel, located between Galilee and Judea. The Samaritans had a distinct pagan culture that posed a threat to Israel. As a result of cultural and religious differences, great hostility existed between the Jews and Samaritans.

Another significant point is that the woman came to the well at noon. This was an unusual time of the day to draw water, especially because it was hot, so others wouldn’t normally be found at the well during this period. Before we know more about the Samaritan woman, the fact that she was there shows that she was most likely avoiding other people, more specifically other women who would come to the well. As we read the passage, we learn why–that this woman was living in shame due to her sin.

This shame caused division between her and others. There were probably those in the community who knew about her reputation and didn’t want to associate themselves with her, and she felt outcasted and kept herself isolated from others. However, Jesus came into the picture and showed her a love that pushed her to abandon her past and her fear.

An Encounter Motivated by Love

Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans (John 4:9).

Jesus broke two societal traditions by speaking to this woman when he asked her for a drink of water. Notice that Jesus asking for a drink was not offensive but it stirred up curiosity in her. Teachers of the law were not allowed to speak to women publicly, and a Jew wasn’t to associate himself with a Samaritan due to the contempt between the groups.

He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs go through Samaria (John 4:3-4).

These verses express that Jesus had to go to Samaria. What’s also notable is that Jesus is described as being physically weary from his journey–something we hardly ever see in the Bible (v. 6). There is a sense of urgency here. A sense of purpose. Jesus had a reason to be in this Samaritan region at this odd time to speak to this woman–things that a man of His background typically would not be doing, according to society.

The woman acknowledged the peculiarity of the situation in verse 9, asking him why he would be asking her for a drink. Jesus used this as an opportunity to reach a hurting woman.

While the Samaritan woman had been isolated from others due to shame, motivated by fear, Jesus approached her, motivated by love.

The Ultimate Source of Love: Living Water

Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?

12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?

13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: (John 4:10-13)

Jesus wasn’t at the well to simply draw water–He didn’t even bring anything to draw it with! This wasn’t a mistake. Jesus often uses physical things that we understand to explain spiritual things, and we see this immediately during the exchange in this passage.

The Samaritan woman didn’t know she was speaking to Jesus (in verse 12, she asks if He is greater than Jacob), but she knew the “living water” He spoke of was one that she wanted. If whoever drank this water never would never thirst again as He claimed, it had to be another type of “water.” There was something the woman was thirsting after. Nevertheless, her curiosity sparked a willingness in verse 15. After Jesus told her the water He offered guaranteed eternal life, she asked Him for it.

However, before the woman could receive this water, she had to come to a point of acknowledging her sins. Face to face with the object of her shame. Why? She had to understand that she needed this water. She needed conviction.

Jesus addressed her about the way she had been living, but He did so in a way that showed love:

16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.

17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:

18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly (John 4:16-18).

The Samaritan woman didn’t hide the truth from Jesus. When He asked her about her husband, she admitted that she had none–and Jesus didn’t condemn her. Instead, He acknowledged that she was telling the truth. This woman previously had five husbands (perhaps they had died in the past, etc.), and now she was living with a man she wasn’t married with.

Now, there are still consequences for sin. Jesus welcomes us with open arms, and He wants us to come to Him with our sins and turn away from them. He gives us a new life. However, sin does have consequences. Emotional, physical, spiritual consequences. Fortunately, when we turn away, Jesus gives us a new life and freedom from shame.

The Samaritan woman’s life perfectly illustrates the fact that sin has negative effects.

Let’s recap: She was living in shame, fear, and loneliness. Before she even spoke, we see this based on her actions. Maybe she was looking for intimacy in her relationships with men in the past or the affair she was having now. She never found it there or in any of her attempts to find fulfillment. She was thirsting for  something that would finally quench her thirst.

Nevertheless, the woman still didn’t realize who she was speaking to. First she asked Jesus whether He was greater than Jacob, and now she stated her belief that He was a prophet (v. 19). Little did she know, Jesus was much more than a prophet.

Next, Jesus again broke religious tradition–barriers–man had set up that had no eternal value. The woman mentioned that the Samaritans believed that a certain mountain was the place of worship, while Jews believed Jerusalem was (v. 20). This had caused major tension between the Samaritans and the Jews. Jesus pointed out that they didn’t even know what they were worshipping (v. 22). It seemed that they loved tradition (where to worship) than they loved who they were worshipping. This was a tradition that brought division. Jesus explained that true worship of God was a matter of the heart:

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)

By bringing up this new topic of conversation, perhaps the woman was trying to steer the focus away from herself–now that her secret life was out in the open–but this becomes a great opportunity for Jesus to reveal to her who He was–and that through Him, she could receive the living water she had been searching for. And that love (a mindset and an action, which we will see later) was the only way to honor Him.

The Reveal: Love and its Legacy

The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things (John 4:25).

The Samaritan woman showed a willingness, and this is key. She believed that a Messiah was coming, and she believed that whatever He says will be the truth–He will set things straight in this world.

In this moment, knowing already that this woman was now convicted and she was willing to change, Jesus reveals Himself to her.

Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he (John 4:26).

He was the Messiah she was waiting for. He was the answer. He was the living water.

And right away, the woman had a remarkable response:

The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? (John 4:28-29)

She went into the city and told men–who she once avoided–about Jesus. She even left her waterpot at the well, which implied that she meant to return. In fact, those she spoke to returned to the well to see Jesus (v. 30).

Remember who this Samaritan woman was. A woman who never had true intimacy with those around her. She was outcasted, and she wasn’t living God’s way. Living in sin will never bring contenement. We see that in her shame alone.

However, with a relationship with Christ, she experienced a relationship with the only One who knew her so deeply, who could tell her everything she ever did (v. 29).

Her love, faith, and obedience to Christ first opened this new relationship with Him. Now, this led to new relationships and restored contact with others who she could bring to Christ.

It’s amazing to study the legacy the Samaritan woman’s love allowed. Her love for Christ allowed her to love others, as she saw they had a great need that could only be fulfilled through Him. Perhaps living an isolated life became a stronger testimony for her to understand humanity’s great need for a Savior.

She had a tremendous impact on others. Afterwards, Jesus’ physically remained in that region, as He stayed two more days with these people (v. 40), and many accepted a new relationship with Christ because of the woman’s testimony (v. 39, 41-42). Clearly she was following Jesus’ lead by breaking boundaries through love and leading others to ultimate freedom.

“WHAT ABOUT ME?”

We are quite similar to this Samaritan woman. Before Christ, we search for intimacy in wrong ways. However, anywhere you look outside Christ, you will end up empty.

It’s interesting that Jesus remained with the people of the city for two extra days. What a great reminder that He is faithful to His promise of coming to us when we seek Him.

On the topic of love, conviction from the Holy Spirit brings us closer to understanding God’s love and grows our love for Him, but shame does the opposite. While nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:38-39), shame puts a wedge between us and our relationship with God. Although He is near and His love is still unending, we, ourselves, can become resentful towards Him and make choices that distance ourselves from God. Note that this is a choice that we make. This is what Satan wants, but we can fight back. We cannot fight this battle alone, however, especially when it comes to dealing with spiritual matters.

God is there to help us in this fight.

What happens when this shame, this hiding, drives us away from God? As I mentioned in the introduction of the Love Series, we have a natural desire for love. So, when we are separated from the source of all love, God, we turn to other things and people that cannot fill this longing.

God has plans to make all things new, work things together for good, and you can be part of this great plan. God has plans for our relationships with others, but it has to start with Him. It won’t be right any other way. You can’t follow a God you don’t know!

He had a plan for this hurting woman, but Satan did, too. Imagine how many lives would not have known Christ if she had followed Satan’s plan to remain in sin and not live for her Savior. If we don’t live for Christ, imagine how many people we can impact negatively, how many people could miss out on eternal life, how many opportunities we can miss out on. It’s scary to think about. But think about this.

Just as the Samaritan woman discovered Christ’s love, we can as well when we choose to have a relationship with Him. Who knows where this love will take us. If we love God, we will live for Him. And when we live for Him, the possibilities are endless.


And many more believed because of his own word; And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.

(John 4:42 KJV)

Worship Wednesdays #8 | Dream for You

The profile // about the artist

Casting Crowns - Thrive
Thrive (2014)

Casting Crowns

  • Contemporary Christian rock band
  • From Daytona Beach, Florida

The pull // why i like it

Casting Crowns has been one of my favorite bands for years. I heard “Dream for You” a few months ago, and I love that this song is refreshing and uplifting. When we follow God, we allow the space for His amazing plan to manifest itself in our lives.

The message // what it means

The God we read in the Bible is the same God today. This song incorporates the narratives of many well-known Bible figures like David, Mary, and Joseph, and although they each had different stories, God pulled them through great difficulty, remaining true to His character. It’s easy for us to separate ourselves from those we read in the Word, but this is our portion as well. Just as God acted on behalf of those who honored Him in the past, He does the exact same today.

“I’m stronger than you think I am

I’ll take you farther than you think you can

You sing and call me Great I Am

So take your stand”

The call // best to listen when

You need encouragement. Every time I hear this song, it not only puts me in a good mood, but it reminds me that no matter what’s going on, God is and has always been in control.