Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Anna's Encounter with Divinity

Watch this series on video here.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Every Revive Our Hearts program is a collaboration. Today you’ll be hearing from an author and a speaker who has a passion to speak God’s Word to women. There’s a whole team who helped record this program and produce the audio you’ll be listening to.

We have others who answer phones and build websites and respond to emails and send out resources and so much more of the behind-the-scenes work that makes this ministry possible. Every member of our team is so important. You’re an important part of the team, too.

This program would not be coming to you today without the financial support of listeners like you. The month of May is the end of our fiscal year. That’s when we close our financial books and evaluate what kind of ministry we should plan for in the year ahead.

We’re asking the Lord to provide $435,000 or more during the month of May. That amount will allow us to continue our current outreaches, and any giving above that amount will allow us to expand into some key areas of opportunity. To help meet this need, some friends of the ministry have offered to double each first-time gift received this month, up to a challenge amount of $70,000.

If you’ve never given to Revive Our Hearts before, now would be a great time to contact us and have your first gift doubled. When you make that first gift, we want to say "thank you" by sending you a copy of my book Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free.

Here are some ways you can contact us:

  • You can get more details or donate at ReviveOurHearts.com 
  • You can give us a call at 1–800–569–5959 
  • You can write to us here at P.O. Box 2000, Niles, Michigan 49120

As you listen to today’s program, would you ask yourself, “Has the Lord used this ministry in my life, and would He want me give a gift to support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts financially?” I would just encourage you to respond however the Lord leads. Thanks so much.

Leslie Basham: This is the Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, May 5, 2014.

A week ago, Erin Davis and a panel of other women were here discussing true beauty. This week, Erin’s back to explore the stories of eight women who encountered Jesus. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss to get us started.

Nancy: We’re very excited to have a “first” at Revive Our Hearts today. With our normal recording audience, we have a guest teacher. Erin Davis has been a long-time friend and a partner with this ministry. Some of you know her name from the Lies Young Women Believe blog—she’s our chief blogger there (you’ll get to know more about that in the days ahead).

Erin loves the Lord; she loves His Word, and she’s a gifted Bible teacher. Some time ago I said to her, “Erin, would you be willing to come and record a session with Revive Our Hearts . . . teach our women here, and speak to us from the Word?” She agreed to do that, and we’re very excited to be seeing God raising up younger women who are gifted at speaking to women.

Erin particularly has a heart for teens, so we have a lot of teens with us in the room today. Erin’s going to be teaching a series on women of the Bible who met Jesus. She’s produced a resource that we’re making available to our listeners this week called Beautiful Encounters: The Presence of Jesus Changes Everything. You’ll be hearing more about that today and in the days ahead.

Erin, welcome to Revive Our Hearts. We’ve interviewed you before. You’ve shared your heart for teens, and we’ve talked about your different books, but I’m so happy for you to have the mic today and to be teaching us. I’m going to sit in the audience and listen and let the Lord speak to me, as we see what the presence of Jesus does—how He changed women in the Scripture, and how He can change our lives. Welcome to Revive Our Hearts. Give Erin a hand if you would. (applause)

Erin Davis: Picture this. My husband Jason (you’ll hear a lot about him as I speak) and I were heading into a restaurant to have dinner. Only the best for us, so it was Applebee’s. We’re heading in, and we get to the doorway, right as I hit the doorway, coming out is Gary Sinise.

Now, you may not know who that is. He’s a relatively famous actor. I know him best from Forrest Gump, in which he was Lt. Dan. So, I hit the door and Gary Sinise is coming out. I like to think I don’t get star struck, but I got inches from the man’s face and I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Hey, you’re Lt. Dan!” . . . which is of course is not his name—he has a real name. 

And he has this huge bodyguard behind him. And the bodyguard says, “Heh, heh, heh—you kind of caught me off-guard with that one.” And in the moment, I realized what a fool I had made of myself. I ducked in the restaurant and probably tried to hide under the table.

My husband stood outside and chewed the fat with “Lt. Dan”—Gary Sinise—and his bodyguard. It was very embarrassing. It was an encounter I will never forget. All of us have had encounters we will never forget—maybe not as humiliating as that one. That’s what this radio program is all about. Fortunately it’s not about my most embarrassing moments, because we couldn’t condense those into eight programs.

But these programs are about encounters that changed everything. The women who had these encounters would never ever forget them. They are eight beautiful encounters. These women are not famous women from the pages of history. It’s not Martha Washington or some people that we read about that are interesting.

These women encountered Jesus Christ while He lived on the earth. They share that one important thing in common. There are a lot differences among them. They’re in every stage of life; they had a lot of things going on in their situations, but they had this in common: their lives became a canvas on which Jesus painted beautiful pictures of His character.

It’s not really about the women in these stories, although their stories are interesting (and we all love a good story). But what their stories reveal is who Jesus is, and that’s why we’re going to study them together. The stories are less about the women and more about Jesus.

So I’m praying they’re going to lead us to some encounters of our own with Jesus, along the way. Let’s dig in. We’re going to start in Luke 2 with a little-known woman from the New Testament. We don’t know a lot about her. There’s not even a lot in Scripture about her, but we sure can learn a lot about Jesus from her story.

We’re going to be in Luke 2:36–37:

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.

That’s Anna’s complete biography. That’s all we know about her. She was from the tribe of Asher, which is one of the twelve tribes of Israel. We know that she was married once, but that marriage didn’t last very long. She was widowed just seven years in. When we meet her, she’s a very old woman, and she’s given herself completely to worshiping the Lord as a widow.

She spends all of her life in the temple. The Bible says she doesn’t leave. She worships. She fasts. She prays night and day. That’s Anna, and Anna is a warrior. She is a prayer warrior. I bet you have warriors like Anna in your church . . . women who are advanced in years. That’s what the Bible says about Anna—“advanced in years.” That’s a very nice way of saying Anna was old.

Women like Anna, advanced in years, who give themselves completely to the Lord. They’re the prayer warriors among us. You need to know an “Anna” in your life. Girls, you need an “Anna,” whether it’s your grandma or a friend’s grandma or a friend of your mom or your neighbor. You need a woman who’s advanced in years, who’s given herself completely to the Lord and is a prayer warrior. We all need a woman like that.

They’re so unassuming. These are not the women in our churches who have platforms or books or bylines or maybe even a public ministry at all. But they are warriors for the kingdom, and that’s who Anna was. She lived a quiet life totally sold out for the Lord.

And it was because Anna was totally sold out for the Lord that she got a privilege that no other woman in all of history will ever get. It’s pretty cool. Let’s jump back a few verses and we’ll find Jesus being presented in the temple as a baby. . .

Verse 22 says this,

And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him [Jesus] to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord (vv. 22–24). 

So, here is what’s going on. It’s time for Mary and Joseph to perform the ceremonial baby dedication. We have baby dedications at our church, and I imagine they’re a lot like baby dedications at your church. They’re like mass baby dedications—every baby born in the past year is hauled up on stage, and “we’re going to bless you all real quick.” That’s how it happens in our church.

We were dedicating Judah this summer. He was just a few weeks old, born at the beginning of July. I think he was four or five weeks old when it was time for the mass baby dedication. So the children’s minister sent me a list by email about how things were going to go down.

I started to panic because the Davis family was family number two among about twenty families. That meant I needed to get my three-year-old and my five-year-old to stand on the stage and not hit each other, kick each other, pretend they were pirates . . . And I had to get my brand new baby to not need to be fed or swaddled or go to sleep or not spit up on me for an eternity. So . . . we practiced.

All I can say is, I did my part. And then the children’s pastor, who must have a vendetta against me, handed me a bag of toys up there. My children, of course, wanted the toys, so I said, “No, you can’t have the toys. Be still! Put your hands in your pockets”—several times!

Noble sees his grandparents out in the audience, "Hi, Geegee! Hi, Grandad!" And he’s waving. Eli is laying on the floor, and they want the Frisbee that’s in the bag, and I was sweating bullets. We made it through. I don’t know if Judah got properly blessed or not, but we did survive the blessing. I know how Mary must have felt in this moment!

Jesus was only forty days old when this happened. Bethlehem was about six miles from Jerusalem, so his poor momma had not slept in forty days—I know, because I’ve lived there. She is just trying to survive, and she’s sleep-deprived, and her hormones are out of whack—and she probably still has to wear her stretchy pants to the baby dedication.

Then she has to ride the six miles from her home to the temple, and then she has to get back on that stinkin’ donkey with the baby. She’s just wanting to survive the day, and then this happens.

Let’s go to Luke 2:25:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel."
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed" (vv. 25–35).

How’s that for a blessing? What Simeon did was to confirm Jesus’ divinity. Hold on to that word for a minute, because Simeon was not the only one to recognize it. This passage takes us right back to Anna. Remember, she’s in the temple, she’s fasting, she’s praying, she hasn’t left.

She’s been watching and waiting for a Savior for fifty years! She’s been desperately looking at the horizon, waiting for God to come. “Divinity” is just a fancy word for the nature of God. (Not to be confused with that sticky white candy, maybe your Grandma makes at Christmastime.)

Divinity is a big deal! Divinity is what makes God, God. His divine nature is what separates Him from us. When did humanity first recognize that Jesus was divine? Was it when He worked His first miracle? Was it when He preached His first sermon? Was it when He stood up to the religious leaders of His day?

Maybe it was when He was resurrected from the dead. Maybe that’s when the masses first connected the dots. But not Anna. Anna recognized Jesus’ divinity before He ever did a single thing. He was a forty-day-old baby, wrapped in a blanket in His momma’s arms, and she’d been waiting for Him for fifty years. She ran over to Him and recognized that that just wasn’t any baby—that baby was God!

He was still wrapped up, and I’m sure He didn’t look very God-like. Forty-day-old babies don’t do anything. They’re just kind of lumps, and they’re very dependent on their mommas. That’s the state that Jesus was in when Anna first goes, “Ahhh! He’s here! God is here!”

The reason she knew that was God was because she had been waiting and praying for decades. She had been watching for God to reveal Himself among her people.

Now, we like Jesus’ human side, right? However, if we just focus in on the humanity of Jesus, we miss the most important part of Jesus. There are over seven billion people on our planet. In many ways, our experiences are similar, and they have been since the beginning of time.

But there is only One Person in all of history who is both fully God and fully man. That’s why His divinity is so significant, and that’s why Anna reacted so strongly to what—at that point—just seemed like an ordinary baby. She runs across the temple and exclaims, “He’s here!” And the Bible says she just kept telling about Him to anybody who would listen.

“I just saw God in the temple!”

“Really? What did He look like?”

“Well, He looked like a baby wrapped up in a blanket.”

“Oh?”

But she knew that she had encountered Divinity in that moment. She reacted so strongly because He was God wrapped in human skin. If we’re in church very long, we speak what I call “Christian-ese” and we get used to these sayings and these ideas about God, but every once in a while He needs to blow our minds with the things that we’ve become very familiar with.

He needs to blow our minds with the fact that He came as God wrapped in human skin, and it was so obvious that—even as a baby in His momma’s arms—it was obvious that He was divine. I think it’s a tendency to become more excited about His humanity than His divinity. Maybe that’s because we can understand it, and divinity’s just over our heads.

But in order for us to truly encounter Jesus, we have to have an encounter like Anna did. He is God wrapped in human skin. She’d been in the temple for decades, and she was surrounded daily by humanity. I imagine the temple was a lot like our shopping malls . . . just people everywhere, everywhere, everywhere.

You can get where humanity is brushing up against you all the time, and I don’t do very well in those situations. I want to curl up in a fetal position or drink some coffee when I’m surrounded by that much humanity. That was Anna’s reality—she was surrounded by humanity for decades.

But it wasn’t humanity that she needed. It was Divinity that she craved. She longed for Divinity. It was Divinity that she knew she really needed, and the she knew her people really needed. I don’t know what kind of God Anna was waiting for. I don’t know what she thought He would look like, but I doubt she expected Him to be a baby, still dependent on His momma.

She’d been praying for her people to be redeemed for a very long time . . . and here He was! What’s interesting is that Anna’s circumstances didn’t change instantly—and neither did her people’s. Here He was as a baby, and her people were still in the same circumstances they’d been in, and Anna was still in the same circumstance she’d been in, but she seemed to grasp all that we need to know about Jesus’ divinity. She grasped that Jesus’ divinity is not dependent on our feelings or our circumstances.

I have a great friend, and she often says this to me (and I love it), “Feelings aren’t facts, Erin, they’re just feelings.” Jesus might not have felt like God. In that moment He just felt like a tiny baby, but Anna knew that feelings weren’t facts. She was in the presence of Divinity.

He didn’t change her circumstances in that moment, but Anna knew that she was in the presence of Divinity—whether it looked like it or not. Whether or not it looks like He is God in your life right now, He is. He is Divine. There have been a lot of times in my life when I’ve thought, If You were God, You would do something about this. Thankfully, He’s God whether it feels like it to me, or whether it looks like it to me, or not, or whether I have the perspective to know it, or not.

Of course, Anna did not have the perspective of all that was going to happen with Jesus in just the next thirty-three years. But He was certainly going to show up and be God and shake things up.

So, He has always been God, and He will always be God, and that’s true no matter what we see or we feel or we experience. It reminds me of a story of John the Baptist when he was waiting in a jail cell. John knew the importance of divinity.

John 3:27–28 says,

John answered, "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’”

John was human, through and through, and he knew it, and he wanted to make sure other people knew it.

He was saying, “Anything I have, it’s come from God. I’m not Him. You need to be looking for God.”  John seemed to understand this tension between humanity and divinity, and that people were so desperately looking for a Savior. He understood that some people kind of got confused and thought, Well, maybe it’s John.

John was quick to point out to them, “No, no. I’m just a man. I’m not Him. You need to keep looking. Anything I have comes from God.” He recognized this tension between humanity and divinity.

But in Matthew 11, John’s been imprisoned by Herod. He was speaking out about a relationship that Herod was in, and Herod didn’t like that, so he threw John in jail. John’s essentially on death row. Just a few chapters later, in chapter 14, John is beheaded.

But before that, in Matthew 11, John is sitting in a jail cell, and he probably knows he’s on death row. He sends this message to Jesus in Matthew 11:2:

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

What he’s really saying is, “Are you God? Or are you just a man? Because, I would expect that if God was here, my circumstances would be a little different. I expected that God would show up, and He would shake things up. I didn’t expect that God would show up and I would rot away in a jail cell waiting to be beheaded by a pagan king.”

“Are you God, or are you a man?” is basically what John said. He’s concerned because he can’t match up his circumstances with his understanding of Jesus as God. So, again, there’s this tension: “If Jesus is God, why am I here?” But Jesus was God.

Between when John sent that message to Jesus and when John was beheaded, Jesus healed the man with the withered hand; He made the man who was blind and mute see and speak; He taught about the kingdom of God in parables; He taught the parable of the weeds, the mustard seed; He taught the parable of the hidden treasure, the parable of the pearl of great price. Jesus could teach about the kingdom of God because He was God.

I have no doubt that the stories of those healings and those radical teachings made their way back to John’s prison cell. There was more than enough evidence for John to go to his grave convinced of Jesus’ divinity. “He’s God!” Jesus was God as John sat in that prison cell, and Jesus was God even though He didn’t meet anyone’s expectations of what God on earth would be like.

That’s why coming face to face with Jesus’ divinity is such a game changer. There has to be a point where you look at Jesus like Anna did, like Simeon did, and you say, “Jesus, You’re God. I know it doesn’t always feel like that, and my circumstances don’t always reveal that, but I believe in Your divinity, no matter what.”

When we make that choice, we’ll see Jesus’ divinity all over the place. It will be very obvious to us that Jesus is God. But we’ve got to be warriors, like Anna, in order to really recognize that. Remember that Anna was unassuming—you might not even have picked her out in the crowd. She wasn’t famous; she wasn’t a Bible teacher. She was a just a woman who prayed and fasted, and prayed and fasted, and prayed and fasted, and sought the Lord . . . and she was a warrior.

Because of the kind of warrior she was, she was watching. She was worshiping. She was praying. And because of that, she was able to see God for who He really is. And when we live like Anna did—worshiping constantly, praying constantly, seeking Him constantly—then we can see Him for who He is. And the good news is, He’s God!

Nancy: Erin, thank you so much! You’ve talked about one of my favorite characters in the New Testament—just such a rich life this woman had. I was listening and thinking, Some of us have grown up just knowing that Jesus is God, but in our culture today, that is not a given.

There are a lot of people who think He was just a man, just a good man, just a good teacher. And really, if we believe that He is God, that’s counter-cultural, isn’t it? We’re going to have to go against the current.

Erin: It’s extremely counter-cultural. In fact, young women have been labeled “the mosaic generation.” So they might tell us, “Yes, Jesus is God,” but they might also believe that some other characters in history have a role to play or have some form of divinity. They’re called the mosaic generation because they assemble lots of pieces of truth.

We’ve done ministry in Jamaica, and there are Rastafarians there. They’ll say, “Oh yes, Jesus is God—and so is King Selassie.” So you have to know that it really is a line in the sand.

Either Jesus is God, and the only God, or He isn’t. If He is, that has such tremendous ripple effects in our lives.

Nancy: And that’s my next question: Why does it really matter, and what difference does it really make? If that little baby that we think about at Christmas and we sing carols about, if that one-time infant who grew up to be a man, if He really is God, what difference does that make?

Erin: Well, if He’s God, He gets to be in charge. I think that’s maybe why we like that Christmas story so much; it’s so warm and fuzzy. But He didn’t stay a baby. He moved on to the cross and then to the resurrection, and He now reigns. He gets to be in charge. It’s not about Jesus just giving us warm fuzzies. It’s about us giving over the reins to Him, because He is God. He is in charge, whether we feel like it or our circumstances say that or not.

Nancy: As a result of His being God, He’s the only One who can save us from our sins. So this is hugely important. I think of young women growing up in a culture that does not accept the divinity of Jesus—that He is Divine, and He is uniquely God. He is the only God. If you not only know this in your head, but you believe it in your heart, it will change your life.

Thank you so much, Erin, for taking us to the Word and pointing us to Jesus.

This is just the first of eight women that Erin will talk about from her book Beautiful Encounters: The Presence of Jesus Changes Everything. We’re going to be looking at seven other women over these next days. If you’d like a copy of this study that Erin has written for young women (you can decide if you fit that category), we want to make that available to you.

If you send a donation of any amount to help support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts (and that’s all we’re about—pointing women to Jesus), we’ll be glad to send you a copy of that resource. It’s a great study. It’s a study that teen girls can do, moms can do with their teens. You can do it in a homeschool setting, in a Sunday school setting, a small group setting, or just on your own.

I’ve been looking through it and thinking, This is not just good for teens. This would be good for middle-aged women, like me, too. So we’re making it available. If you want to make a contribution to help the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, you can give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, or visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com. Let us know what gift you’d like to make, and be sure to ask for a copy of Beautiful Encounters.

Thank you so much, Erin, and we’re looking forward to hearing about the next woman who encountered Jesus. Be sure to join us tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss, letting you know about a resource from our guest teacher, Erin Davis. We’ll send you her workbook Beautiful Encounters as our way of saying "thanks" when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size between now and next Wednesday, May 14. You can also order additional copies of Beautiful Encounters for your small group at ReviveOurHearts.com. You can also order the leader’s guide.

You can interact with Erin Davis today. She’ll be part of the Revive Our Hearts listener blog. Visit the daily transcript at ReviveOurHearts.com, scroll to the end, post your comments or questions, and read Erin’s thoughts.

The Bible tells the story of a woman simply called “adulterous woman.” What a label. Erin Davis talks about the labels we wear, and about the beautiful encounter this woman had with Jesus. That’s tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

 

 

 


 

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