Ann Lovell

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Who do you say that I am?

It all began with Peter's confession that Jesus is the Christ. From there, Jesus began to draw the disciples deeper and deeper into intimacy with Him.

When we recognize Jesus as "the Christ, the Son of the Living God," He will also draw us into a deeper relationship with Him. He will begin to share with us His purposes, His plans, and His glory. Just like Peter, we may not always understand His plans; we may fight against His purposes; but we will see His glory.

"Who do you say that I am?"

Based on Matthew 16:13-17:9


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Be amazed ... be very amazed ...

"But Jesus said to them, 'Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.' And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.'" Matthew 13:57-58

Is it possible for us, as followers of Jesus to become so familiar with the presence of God in our lives that we cease to be amazed in His presence? I've been reading stories from Mumbai, India, this week as three teams of volunteers walked through the streets and slums, sharing the story of Jesus along the way. The volunteers told amazing stories of salvation, physical healing, and yes, even a couple of exorcisms - really miraculous stuff. (You can read those same stories at

Reading all of this has taken me back to my trip to India last year when I saw a crippled woman stand up straight. I didn't know what to think then. I'm not sure I can even make sense of it now. But I know what I saw.

But the question remains: Why don't we see stuff like this in the U.S. - a "Christian nation" or at least a country once founded on Christian principles. Perhaps Matthew 13:57-58 provides a clue. Perhaps as a nation, and especially as the American church, we have become too familiar and comfortable with how we've seen God work through science and technology to believe that He might be willing to step outside of the box we've created for Him to speak to a people who desperately need to witness His power.

Are we, by our lack of faith, quenching His Spirit from working in our lives and the lives of those around us? If so, shame on us, and may God, in his mercy, give us a new revelation of who He is and all that He wants to be in our lives.

Stand amazed in His presence.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Back where it all began

As Jacob was running from Esau, God revealed Himself to Jacob in a place Jacob named Bethel. At that point, Jacob promised that the Lord would be His God if God would eventually bring him back to that place (Gen 28:18-22). On his way back to Canaan, after years of working with Laban, Jacob wrestled with God in a place he named Peniel and learned that his name would be Israel (Gen 32:22-32). Finally, in Gen 35, God led Jacob back to Bethel - the first place where God appeared to him. This time God spoke to Jacob directly, changed his name to Israel, and promised to fulfill his covenant.

What a great example of the process of sanctification. While our walk with God has a definite starting point, God continues to work in us to grow us into the men and women He wants us to be. Sometimes, we need to go back to the place where it all began to realize the faithfulness of God in our lives. What is your Bethel? What spiritual markers define your life? Do you need to go back to the place it all began?


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Thoughts on Jacob and John the Baptist

Sometimes it is actually nice to read the Bible as a story - taking multiple chapters at once - rather than verse by verse. I noticed three things by taking that approach today.

1. Jacob's flair for deception was passed on to his sons. Jacob "struggled with God and with man" and overcame his penchant for deception, especially after spending all those years working for Laban - another master deceiver in his own right. Jacob's sons, however, learned deception from their father, as evidenced by the story of Dinah and the men of Shechem. We might want to rejoice in the "justice" of the massacre, but in reality, Jacob realized the negative impacts of his sons' actions. It is important to remember that our children mimic not only the good but also the bad in our lives.

2. Because of Jacob's lifestyle of deception, his relationships within his family were filled with conflict - a reminder that healthy relationships are built on mutual respect and trust. There is never a place for deception.

3. As Jesus was sending out the disciples in Matthew 10, he warned them about the kinds of struggles they would face. Then, in Matthew 11, we find the story of John the Baptist - facing those very struggles Jesus described in Matthew 10. Jesus' warnings to the 12 disciples as they set out to evangelize their world were real then ... and they are real now. We need to remember to pray for those who are struggling around the world for the sake of the Gospel.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Drowned pigs

Matthew 8:32-34 (The Message): "They [the pig farmers] told everyone ... what had happened to the madman and the pigs. Those who heard about it were angry about the drowned pigs. A mob formed and demanded that Jesus get out and not come back."

The villagers were more concerned about the drowned pigs - the loss of income - than they were about the transformation in the demoniac's life. They were so much more concerned, in fact, that they ran Jesus out of town. In one of the stories from Mumbai, India, this week, an angry young man asked a female volunteer, "What makes you think that you should come here when we have our own gods?" The volunteer gave a good answer and the visit ended positively. Reading this story in Matthew, however, reminds me that "the world" will not always rejoice with us as lives are changed by the power of Jesus. When we share the transformational power of the Gospel and lives are liberated, we cannot expect a standing ovation from those who stand to lose in the deal.

Visit to learn more about the work in Mumbai.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Praying in faith: Genesis 24:12-15

I just want to offer a quick note on the prayer of the servant in Gen 24:12-15. Before the servant finished praying, Rebekah appeared, and as the servant continued to watch Rebekah, he became more and more convinced that she was the answer to his prayer. The servant prayed in faith, and in the very next moment, he was trusting that God was at work. So often when I pray and begin to see circumstances change, I keep asking and seeking to make sure the "answer" I'm seeing is from God. How much better I would be if I prayed in faith, trusting that my next step. my next thought, the next change in my circumstances was being directed by God - simply because I asked him to do so.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

A refuge for the oppressed

Genesis 20:1-22:24, Matthew 7:15-29, Psalm 9:1-12, Proverbs 2:16-22

"The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord have never forsaken those who seek you ... For he who avenges blood remembers, he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted." Psalm 9:9, 10, 12. This year, one of my goals is to share with Christian women in the US how Christian women in Asia are addressing issues of concern to women in the name of Jesus. This runs the gamut from human trafficking to poverty to crime to race relations. Since most of these are "social justice" type issues, I've been reading the Bible through that lens. The Bible has a lot to say about social justice and meeting human needs. These verses in Psalms and today's passage in Genesis remind me that God cares about oppression and injustice. As His hands and feet, we should do what we can to address these issues, and more importantly we should introduce those who are suffering to the One who cares for them.


Friday, January 8, 2010

What is man?

Genesis 18:16-19:38; Matthew 6:25-7:14; Psalm 8:1-9; Proverbs 2:6-15

Who says you can't bargain with God? The terrible horrible no good consequences of sin. And Uncle Abe to the rescue in today's Genesis reading. Asking and receiving ... always a troubling concept for me but God has taught me much about that passage over the years, and the reality that wisdom, discernment and knowledge are available just for the asking, as the writer of Proverbs reminds us. More on all that later. What really struck me tonight was the reading from Psalms. Until 4 months ago, I have lived for the past 10 years in crowded, polluted Asian mega-cities where the night sky is shielded by pollution and city lights. Now I live in a place where I can see the stars ... millions of them ... and it is wonderful. My husband and I have started taking 3k walks at night, and as we walk and talk, I often marvel at the beauty of the stars. When I consider the majesty of God and the beauty of His creation, I am overwhelmed that He even bothers with us. But He loves us so much! Today, I'm going to just camp on that realization. What a promise! What a comfort! What a Savior!


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Desperation, Silence and Praise

Genesis 16:1-18:15
Matthew 6:1-24
Psalm 7:1-17
Proverbs 2:1-5

So much in the reading for today! We all could spend pages on the entire Abram, Sarai, Hagar saga. It reads like a soap opera. But I will limit my thoughts today:

1. God's encounter with Hagar in the desert is one of the most tender and intimate in all of Scripture. Hagar was a young abused, marginalized, pregnant woman with no options. Both she and her baby were facing death in the desert when God intervened. "He is the God who sees me," Hagar said, because He met her in her most desperate need. He continues to be "the God who sees me" to women (and men) who find themselves in desperate situations.

2. There was a 13 year lull in the conversation between Abram and God. Once Abram stepped out of God's plan and tried his own hand at fulfilling the covenant on his own terms, God was silent for 13 years (Gen 16:16 and 17:1). I think this is why, 13 years later, when God spoke again, Abram fell facedown. Most of us know how difficult it is when our intimate human relationships gets rocky. It is even worse when we are separated from our heavenly father because of our own stupidity. Still, God reappeared to Abram with "a new plan." He is the God of second chances and by His grace, He even redeems our mistakes.

3. After reading the story in Genesis, I was touched by the words of Psalm 7:17. Perhaps, if they'd been written then, both Abram and Hagar would have sung these words after their encounters with God, "I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most High."


Generations, life spans and population growth from Genesis 5

My husband, Joe THE accountant, is also reading through the Bible this year. He led a great devotional on Genesis 5 today. He did the math to answer the question, "Who was Cain afraid of when God said he would be banished to wander the earth?" Based on the ages and life spans of those listed in Genesis 5, Adam would have lived to see 8 generations! Methusaleh would have died in the year the flood began. Then, extrapolating even with conservative estimates on population growth, there would have been over a billion people on the earth by the time of the flood.

Some scholars believe, since the Hebrew word for Adam can also be translated "mankind," that God may have continued to create other people after Adam and Eve. But based on the account in Genesis 5 and some fairly simple math, it appears that there was no need for God to continue to create people. Joe's theory also answers the questions about the Nephilim in Genesis 6. I'm hoping he will write up the details of his explanation, complete with the chart. If he does, I will post it here.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

God's place or "the best" place?

Today's reading: Genesis 13:5-15:21; Matthew 5:27-48; Psalm 6:1-10; Proverbs 1:29-33

Genesis 13:12. Lot chose the “best place,” but Abram lived in Canaan, the place where the Lord has always intended him to live. We may not live in the “best place” or be in the “best circumstances” by human standards, but if we are living where God has intended us to live, then we are exactly where we ought to be.

Genesis 14 is an interesting story of Abram rescuing Lot after he was taken captive during a war in which the King of Sodom fled. Verse 12 notes that the land was full of tar pits and as they fled, some of the army of Sodom fell into the tar pits while others fled to the hills. Abram organizes his own army and pursues the armies who have captured Lot and his possessions. He rescues him, and the King of Sodom wants to allow Abram to keep some of the loot. Abram refuses, but gives a tenth of everything to the priest Melchizedek. (He is mentioned again in the book of Hebrews). Lots of interesting foreshadowing and salvation parallels in this passage.

Genesis 15:6 “Abram believed the Lord and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Abram asked God for the impossible. It was impossible for Abram to have a child in his old age. Abram knew it, and Sarai knew it. But Abram was willing to ask for the impossible. And when God promised He would provide an heir, Abram believed him. It is this kind of faith that results in righteousness. Am I willing to ask God for the impossible in my life? Am I willing to believe Him when He says He will do it?

Proverbs 1:29-33. Since I know the “rest of the story” about Sodom and Gomorrah, today’s verses in Proverbs are even more interesting. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were “good” places to live in Abram’s day. Many, like Lot’s wife, considered it a privilege to live there. But they were also twin cities of sin, and in the end, they ate “the fruit of their ways.” Abram, however, listened to God and because of this, he lived in safety, “without fear or harm.”

Today’s reading reminds me that the best place to live is in the center of God’s will. And the center of God’s will is in a love relationship with Him. Then, we can trust that He is directing our steps and leading us to the place He wants us to be, both spiritually and physically.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Thoughts on grace versus law in Matthew 5 ...

I did quite a bit of reflecting on this passage last year after Dr. Dan preached a sermon on it. Dan noted that numerous times in Matthew 5, Jesus said, “You have heard it said …” Then, he quoted Scripture and then followed up with the words, “But I say to you …” Jesus would then illuminate the Scripture for his listeners. Dan’s point was that the Bible can not be interpreted apart from the Spirit of Jesus Christ. If we do otherwise, we can easily become just like the Pharisees, and Scripture can then be twisted by Satan and used to “kill, steal, and destroy.” I think this is wise counsel, and as I continued to reflect on this sermon last year and in reading Matthew 5 again today, I am struck by another insight.

In every situation where Jesus quoted the Old Testament law, (“You have heard it said”), he offered a more restrictive interpretation of that law, (“But I say to you”). We see this in today’s reading on the subject of murder. We’ll see it tomorrow on the prickly issues of adultery and divorce. In fact, even before Jesus began offering examples, he said in verse 19, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them …” (vs 17-20).

Once again, I believe that Jesus is laying the foundation to explain that man cannot possibly hope to achieve salvation and favor with God through his own efforts. Instead there must be a sacrifice, a substitution, to pay the penalty for our sin and lead us into right relationship with God. Rather than being a call to legalism, I believe that Matthew 5 is outlining the futility of legalism and again pointing to our need for a Savior.

Continuing along this grace versus law line, I think in our Western mind-set, we tend to think of the movement from the law to grace as a linear one. But perhaps in the paradox of the Holy Spirit, the movement is more circular.

  1. The Law brings condemnation and guilt. “Oh, wretched man that I am!” Paul said. (Romans 7:24).
  2. But “by grace we are saved through faith,” and with the help of the Holy Spirit we are both free from the law and yet empowered to live according to it. “Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord,” Paul said in Romans 7:25.
  3. Once we achieve this freedom in Christ and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to fulfill the law, “there is, therefore, no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1).

I think there is perhaps a “spiraling up,” if you will. While there is “no condemnation,” as we begin to fulfill the Law through the power of the Holy Spirit, He continues to convict us of sin – and the process of sanctification takes place – the movement from “glory to glory” described in 1 Corinthians. And as we continue this “stairway of faith” through the power and help of the Holy Spirit, we move closer and closer to becoming the people God wants us to be.


Motivations, detours, and stopping short

Genesis 11:1-9. Motivations are important. There is a difference in taking on a “God-sized” task for the glory of God and taking it on “so that we may make a name for ourselves” (v 4). Nehemiah and Ezra were “nudged” by the Holy Spirit to rebuild the temple and the wall of Jerusalem, but the folks who built the tower of Babel had different, more self-serving motivations. I think one of the greatest challenges of my Christian walk is discerning the difference between Godly and selfish ambition. Ultimately, I simply have to pray and trust that while I may make my overall plans, the Lord is directing my steps as I commit every day to Him.

Genesis 11:31. We must be careful not to stop short of God’s best for us. Terah and his family were on the way to the Promised Land, but they found a comfortable place and stopped short. It is my prayer that I will not be so comfortable in my life and ministry that I stop short of where God may want to lead me.

Genesis 12: 10-20. Beware of detours. My pastor in Seoul, Dr. Dan Armistead, preached on “Abram’s detour” last year. When the famine occurred in Canaan, the story does not indicate that Abram consulted God. Instead, he made the decision on his own to move to Egypt. Sometimes in crisis we tend to act too quickly, and this was the first example of a similar pattern in Abram’s life. And acting too quickly very often results in trouble!

Genesis 13:3. Again from Dr. Dan in Seoul, when we find ourselves on a detour that God did not direct, we need to go back to the place we were before the detour. Abram returned “to the place between Bethel and Ai,” and God met him there.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Thoughts on Canaan's curse ...

After I posted my thoughts on Noah, a friend asked what I thought about Noah's curse on Ham and Canaan (Gen 9: 18-29). She found the whole curse thing troubling, given that Noah had made a spectacle of himself, after all.

I've heard a couple of different takes on the issue, the most prominent being that Ham "gloated" over Noah's nakedness and even delighted in seeing his father come to such disgrace. Just as Noah's sin was wrong, Ham's reaction to Noah's sin was also wrong. The curse part is troubling, but one writer points out that Noah cursed Canaan, Ham's son, rather than Ham himself (Genesis 9: 25). In fact, a better translation of that verse might be, "Cursed is Canaan." According to the author I read, essentially Noah may have been saying that Ham was a disrespectful son and a bad father by rejoicing in Noah's disgrace. As a result, Ham's son, Canaan, was cursed to follow the same path - he too would be a bad father and a disrespectful son. This follows the same type of warning that we find in Exodus 20:5-6 when it talks about the sins of the fathers being visited on the sons. It isn't the fault of the sons that the fathers sinned, but often children simply repeat the behaviors they've seen from their parents and carry both the good and the bad baggage into their own families. Again, Noah’s sin, Ham’s sin and the curse on Canaan continue to underscore our brokenness and our need for a Savior.

I've posted a link to the commentary that outlines this view:

It's a little long, but worth the read. What think ye?


Thoughts on sin, repentance and other heavy stuff

January 4

Genesis 8:1-10:32
Matthew 4:12-2:25
Psalm 4:1-8
Proverbs 1:20-23

1. While the ark preserved a family to continue God's work in the earth, it did not cure our basic sin problem. Mankind cannot by his own efforts or his own righteousness save himself. Genesis 8:21 and 9:21 underscore that. "The Lord ... said in his heart, 'Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood ..." (Gen 8:21). And sure enough, after God blessed Noah and his family and put them back to work on the earth, just a few verses later we find Noah naked and drunk in his tent (Gen 9:21). Even after a fresh start begun with the blessings of God and sealed with a rainbow, Noah, a righteous man, messed up. We cannot please God by our own efforts. Still, God's love and mercy are evident in the blessings that He gave to Noah and his family. While our sin grieves the heart of God, He knows that we cannot fix ourselves, as hard as we might try. This leads to point 2.

2. We seriously need a change of direction. Perhaps this is the reason that Jesus' very first message was one of repentance (Matt 4:17). “Repent.” Turn. Change your direction. “You’re going the wrong way!” Jesus seems to shout. Why is this change of direction necessary? Because the kingdom of God is near! Jesus is not proclaiming the end of the world (Hollywood films and Mayan calendars notwithstanding) but the kingdom of God. A new way of living. A new way of relating. The people were going the wrong way – trusting in ritual and religion and law. Jesus came to show them a new way – the way of relationships, intimacy, and obedience motivated by love.

3. The message of repentance struck a chord with the early disciples that resulted in action. “And immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him" (Matt 4:22). "Immediately" is a very strong word. If Jesus were to call me today to leave my work and my family and follow Him down a new path, would I be willing to do so? We have just begun a study of Nehemiah in our Sunday worship time. Our pastor said, "Nehemiah left a cushy government job because God nudged him to do so. He left the "secret service" to become a contractor." What action does God want me and you to take in response to His nudging this year? Am I - are you - willing to take the risk?


Sunday, January 3, 2010

The corruption continues ...

January 3

Genesis 5:1-7:24
Matthew 3:7-4:11
Psalm 3:1-8
Proverbs 1:10-19

Already in the first 7 chapters of Genesis, we've seen sin enter the world through one act of disobedience. The next generation added murder, and then generation after generation follows until the entire earth is corrupt and God is grieved that He even made us. Still his mercy is evident, as He saved a remnant through Noah and his family to continue His work in the world. Love the literary elements of these first 7 chapters, right down to the foreshadowing of the coming of Christ and His salvation through the story of Noah and the ark.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Starting the New Year right ...

A friend of mine started a facebook page encouraging women to read the Bible through in 2010. Since I'm a day ahead of those in the US, I am on Day 2. The reading for Jan 2 is:

Genesis 3:1-4:26

Matthew 2:13-3:6

Psalm 2:1-12

Proverbs 1:7-9

The story of Cain and Abel really struck me today. "The Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one ... would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord's presence ..." Gen 4:15-16. The remaining verses chronicle how Cain married and had children and grandchildren. How sad that Cain chose - by his sin and his failure to repent - to live his life outside of God's presence. While his life continued "normally" - with marriage, children and grandchildren - he gave up on the one relationship that mattered most. How sad. The words of Proverbs 1:7 seem particularly relevant in light of this story, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom but fools despise wisdom and discipline."