All posts by notesfromthecove

Saturday Snapshot — A Sweet Surprise for Lily

Well-known singer/songwriter, Brandon Heath demonstrated the love of Christ that he so often sings about when he took time to meet with a young fan attending his concert here at The Cove last weekend.

This wasn’t just any fan, and it wasn’t just any meeting.  This was Lily, a sweet 12-year old girl from Tennessee, who lost her daddy to a tragic accident in 2015, and this meeting was set up as a surprise for her by her mother and the Heaths.

Lily in front with Brandon Heath sign Feb 2017

And because we thought you’d love to see how God’s divinely arranged meeting took place, here’s the back story:

On Valentine’s Day in 2013, Lily’s mom and dad attended An Evening at The Cove with Brandon Heath.  Because Lily’s parents were Heath fans, they shared their love for Brandon’s music with their daughter.

Flash-forward to January of this year: Lily’s mom wrote a letter to Brandon and shared a bit of their story.  She explained that she was surprising Lily with a trip to see him in concert at The Cove and included the following in her letter: “Lily was born with a song in her heart, and that really made her dad so very proud.  Just recently she joined the ensemble at her school and she loves to write her own lyrics.  I am going to encourage her to bring some of her lyrics to show you and maybe see if she will ask you to sign her little book of creations.  She might be too shy.  I don’t know if she will do it.  But given the fact she has had a rough year, I thought you might want to know this little girl is a big fan and would greatly appreciate a hug and a boost from you.  We will be in line at the meet and greet before we head back home to Tennessee.”

Brandon and his wife were so touched by Lily’s story that they asked if Lily would meet with Brandon before his concert!

Here are some photos to give you a glimpse of what happened on this specials night.

brandon and lily in green room
Brandon and Lily meeting before his concert, in the green room.
Brandon singing with Lily
Singing together!
Lily lyric book signed by Brandon
Lily’s lyric book.
2_BrandonlilyandStaci
Brandon, Lily and her awesome mom!
Brandon Heath with Lyrics for young girl
Brandon with a surprise for Lily: lyrics to one of his songs.
Brandon and Lily on the stage
Brandon surprised Lily and presented his gift to her during the concert.


Friends, God gives all of us opportunities to be instruments of His grace, and He chose Brandon in this instance.  We are grateful to have had a glimpse into this God moment for Lily, and we hope it will be an encouragement and a blessing to you, too.

Lily, if you’re reading this, we thank you for sharing your God-given gift of writing lyrics, and we look forward to seeing how God uses you in the years to come.  Bless you, dear one.

KENDRA GRAHAM’S ONLINE BIBLE STUDY — Esther 6: 13-14

Welcome to Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study! This is a place where we can come together and share in our journey towards Scriptural truths and spiritual maturity. We pray this will be a safe, respectful, resourceful place to come and discuss God’s Word…to discover What it says…What it means…and What it means to you!

Make sure you don’t miss a post, just enter your email in the “Subscribe Via Email” box in the upper left hand corner of our blog. It’s free and you’ll receive these posts straight into your email inbox.

Kendra Graham notes from :  Esther 6: 13-14

“And Haman recounted to Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him.  Then his wise men and Zeresh his wife said to him. “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall is of Jewish origin , you will not overcome him, but will surely fall before him.  (14) While they were still talking with him the king’s eunuchs arrived and hastily brought Haman to the banquet which Esther had prepared.”

Step 1

THE VALUE of a SOUL…

THE FACTS:  

Haman recounted to wife and friends everything that happened to him.

His rise men & wife said, “If Mordecai before whom you have begun to fall is Jewish you will not overcome, fall before him”

While still talking, eunuchs brought Haman to banquet Esther prepared

Step 2

THE LESSONS:   The day had been difficult for Haman.  Haman was second in command of the Persian Empire, but acted a lot like he was first in command.  Haman was prideful, manipulative, scheming, and evil–let’s call it what it is.  Haman wanted to annihilate and utterly destroy the Jews, and no one could stop him, or so he thought.  You see, Haman hadn’t thought twice about the fact that the very name of God is Deliverer and Almighty God.

Chapter 6 ends with these two verses (13 & 14).  Haman, like in verse 13, has begun to fall.  Pride’s demise was beginning to speed up.  When God works, HE works quickly and completely.  Often times we tend to ask where God is because HE IS TAKING FOREVER.  We tend to yell, “God’s not fixing this!” more than we believe God will take care of the matter in His time.  We scream in our hearts, “God don’t you see what that person is doing or has done!?  When will YOU deal with it?”  Often we mistake God’s patience with the sinner for God’s tolerance of sin.  Sin is a BIG deal to God and yes, God will deal with it.  Notice Haman is beginning to fall… his pride is coming down in sheets, and Haman is humiliated.  God DOES NOT HUMILIATE…our own pride and fragile ego humiliate us.  Humiliation is a result of an unwillingness to be humble.  Does that surprise you or disappoint you?  As I looked at this passage with a deeper intensity my heart was broken.  God humbles us, because He hates us?  NO.  Because He loves us.  God opposes the proud, He is far from the proud, the proud are set at opposite ends of the arena from Him, and God’s hand made creation was created not to be far, but to be close.

SO God.. in His grace, humbles us, to bring us near to Him.  God gracefully humbled Mordecai… Mordecai did not get promoted yet stuck his neck out for the king.  God humbled Esther in her three days of fasting… “Trust Me, Esther… it’s not about your position… it’s about your surrender.”  God did not humble them to defeat them, He humbled them to deliver them.  Mordecai and Esther are already delivered, it is not hinging on the decision of the Persian king… it was given by the King of kings.  God is trying to do the same thing to Haman… to humble, not humiliate, to deliver not defeat… the only difference is the response in the end.

God really broke my heart over this passage this week.  God asked in my heart, “Why, Kendra, do you love the book of Esther?”

I had some cheesy replies that sounded really theological and thought through… but God… asked again, “Why do you love the book of Esther…honesty now.”

I blurted out… “Because Haman gets his head on a pike.  I like the fact he is humiliated with Mordecai, and then he whines to his wife and then the last act of his life he begs at the feet of a Jewish woman before he is hung on his own gallows.  I love the irony.  I love the justice.  There are no hanging threads… it’s complete.”

God waited some moments before He stirred my heart again to hear His voice which was drenched with a mixture of sadness, disappointment and grief, then I heard, “You have spoken truthfully.”

Now I was sad, but wasn’t entirely sure why.

Then, the words stung in my heart, “Have you been with Me this long, yet still do not know Me?” John 14:9.  Ouch.

Verses flooded my heart, the first of which was this, “ The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness but it long-suffering towards us, NOT WILLING THAT ANY should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

God placed this pause here… as Haman is being taken… just as Esther was taken in chapter 2 to the palace.  What if Haman repented and didn’t get his head on that pike?  Would I tear or cheer over that?

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…  John 3:16, so who is excluded according to me or you?  There is a bounty on the head of Haman… and it is so much more than 10,000 talents of silver or even all the lives of the Jews in the Persian Empire… the bounty demands the blood of a Holy God.  So God paid it.  This is the value of a soul… a single soul.  God spared not His own Son… and so I cheer when someone falls to their eternal demise to satisfy my own warped sense of justice?

So, {sigh} we pause… here, at the end of chapter 6 and leave Haman alive for one more week, so that we can learn to humble ourselves before a holy God and plead for the lives of lost.  A high price was paid for each soul by a relentless God compelled by His great love for the sinner.  I am thankful for the pauses God places in my life.  Let’s not waste this one.  The value of each soul is priceless and precious.  SELAH

Step 3

APPLY IT:  Do you love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you? Matthew 5:44  Will you ask God to show you the value of a soul?

LIVE IT OUT:  Start today being more concerned with the character of God being displayed in my life than the need for revenge or justice.

___________________________________________________________

If you’re in the local area and can attend our free annual Women’s Bible Study at The Cove, it’s not too late to join us!  We’d love to see you in person.

Registration is open and you can sign up online for Kendra’s evening study or by calling 1-800-950-2092.  (Click here to sign up for the morning study with Jane Derrick.)


NOTE: If you are unable to attend Kendra’s winter Bible study at The Cove in person (January 10 – February 21, 2017),  we will continue the online study as well, using lessons shared during the LIVE study.  We are also streaming the study LIVE via Periscope.  Can’t watch live?  Don’t worry, you can catch the replays in the Periscope app indefinitely.  We will begin streaming LIVE each Tuesday evening around 7:15 p.m. ET (give or take a few minutes).

Not sure how to use Periscope? 
1.
 You must first sign up for Twitter (it’s free).  Click here for step-by-step instructions.
2. Then you sign up for Periscope (it’s free).  Click here for step-by-step instructions.

Make sure to follow The Cove on Twitter and Periscope, so you will be notified when we go LIVE.  We are @TheCoveNC.

Cove Bible Verse for Week of February 13

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,”
(Philippians 4:13, NKJV). 

Renee | Program Assistant | Philippians 4:13SMALL_Renee_Program Assistant


Click here for a schedule of seminar, concerts and retreats at The Cove in beautiful Asheville, NC.

Visit the Chatlos Memorial Chapel, Visitors Center, and Ruth’s Prayer Garden.  Click here for directions and operating hours. Tours are free.

Saturday Snapshot — You’ve Shared With Us!

A few weeks ago, we had some technological difficulties, and were unable to share our normal Saturday Snapshot post, so we asked you to share with us instead.  And several of you did!

Thank you for allowing us a little peak into your world and allowing us to share here on our blog.

Enjoy snapshots of things your fellow readers love…

So, we know the Internet was created for cute cat pictures and funny videos, right?  Well, one of our readers has provided the cute factor for us.  This is 12-year-old Kitty Kitty.  We imagine she is probably one of our most faithful feline readers!  Doesn’t she look smart?
FullSizeRender

Sweet Kitty Kitty…

12 year old kitty kitty from Ocean Shores Wa

This NotesFromTheCove reader’s husband is a bass fisherman and fishes all the lakes in the state of New Hampshire.  This delightful shot was taken on Lake Sunapee.  Wow! IMG_4173

One of our readers enjoys watching wildlife out the window and reading in this sweet spot.  And just look at that beautiful orchid!
a quiet spot to sit

Don’t you love how God shows us different perspectives of His creation throughout the seasons? This reader shares her winter view as seen from her couch.  Beautiful!

sitting on the couch before churchIt’s hard to beat a sunrise or sunset at the beach!  Here’s a  postcard-worthy shot shared with us from Hilton Head Island’s South Beach.  The Scripture paired up with this couple’s photo is just perfect: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen up to you.” Isaiah 60:1.

DSCN3171Thank you again for sharing with us!  Have a blessed weekend!


Click here for a schedule of upcoming seminar, concerts and retreats at The Cove in beautiful Asheville, NC.

If you’d like to hold your own event at The Cove, click here for more information.

Visit the Chatlos Memorial Chapel, Visitors Center, and Ruth’s Prayer Garden.  Click here for directions and operating hours. Tours are free.

5 Quotes from Billy Graham on the Love of God

BGEAinK.C.04-56A Love Like No Other

Billy Graham said, “I am convinced the greatest act of love we can ever perform for people is to tell them about God’s love for them in Christ.”

In order to truly tell others about God’s love, we must know it for ourselves.  Do you know His great love?

Here are 5 powerful quotes from Billy Graham on God’s love–a love like no other:

Gods love did not begin at the cross quote from Billy Graham COVE

Agape Love quote by Billy Graham Cove

Gods Love is Unchangeable quote from Billy Graham -- Cove

God is sending forth His message of love...Billy Graham Quote - Cove
The love of God can be rejected quote by Billy Graham Cove

Our prayer is that you would feel the powerful love of God in your life today.  If you don’t know God, but you’d like to begin your journey to peace with Him today, click here to learn how.

Blessings.


Click here to visit our website and see what upcoming events are taking place at The Cove.

Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study — Esther 4:13-14

Welcome to Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study! This is a place where we can come together and share in our journey towards Scriptural truths and spiritual maturity. We pray this will be a safe, respectful, resourceful place to come and discuss God’s Word…to discover What it says…What it means…and What it means to you!

Make sure you don’t miss a post, just enter your email in the “Subscribe Via Email” box in the upper left hand corner of our blog. It’s free and you’ll receive these posts straight into your email inbox.

Kendra Graham notes from :  Esther 4:13-14

“Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews..  (14) “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish.  And who knows if you have attained royalty for such a time as this?”

Step 1

THE FACTS:  

(13) Do NOT imagine that you can escape any more than all the Jews.

(14) If you remain silent at this time, relief WILL arise for Jews from another place.  Who knows if you have attained royalty for such a time as this?

Step 2

THE LESSONS:   Defining moments…we all have them in our lives.  Everything is fine, until it’s not fine–then what you do matters more than you think.

Esther has been challenged here by Mordecai.  Esther’s people–her kindred–are marked for extinction; and if Esther hadn’t realized: she is queen.  Esther lays out some incredibly logical reasons why she was not in a position to help, she couldn’t afford to put her very life on the line in front of a king who had little to no value for life at all.  Mordecai basically tells her, “Esther, you can’t afford not to.”

“Esther, do you think your title, your amazing Jimmy Choo shoes, or the spa treatments that have kept your skin remarkably smooth will protect you when it really comes down to it?  Do you really think that?  Because the fact is…. you are a Jew.”

If Esther does not stand up now, then she will be doomed to live in fear until she does.  She will do herself and her people no favors if she doesn’t speak now.

Mordecai then presses with a great #Truth but a hard #Truth.  Esther, God will #deliver us.  For the sake of His name (I Samuel 12:22, Ezekiel 20:14, 36:22, Jeremiah 14:21) God WILL deliver us.  Mordecai knows in Whom he believes.  Perhaps, Esther, you were chosen to be queen for such a time as this.  DO NOT forget who God is.

Now that is a defining moment!  It’s not about us–it’s about God.  This is a hard Truth…none of us are indispensable.  No matter what position, power, prestige or wealth we may have, or not have… when God is not permitted to rule, He OVERRULES.  God is on the move.  God’s plans cannot be thwarted by the incarnation of evil, by a cruel power-hungry king, or by a queen who is scared to death.  The question is, will you join God, where you are, where He is working?  He invites us to join Him, but the choice–that defining moment of choice–lies with each of us.  Our platforms won’t save us, our influence won’t save us, our ingenuity won’t save us… but God, for the sake of His name, #delivers us.

This passage of Scripture begs the question, “Why are you where you are?  Why have you had the life you have had, the mentors you have had, the family you have had?  Why are you at the job you have, have the friends you have?”  Some of you know exactly what God has called you to.  The time for deliberating is done.  If you refuse, God will use someone else.  It’s not about God getting His work done… it’s been done before the foundation of the world. It’s about you allowing God to inscribe His name all over your life, where you are.

You are providentially placed, and it is NOT about what you want to do… it’s about what God wants to do through you to transcend your moment in history.  For such a time as this, you have been placed in your classroom, in your school, in your neighborhood, in your church, in your community, in your diner, cleaning those houses, taking care of those patients, raising those kids, running that store, working that cash register….

Everything is fine–until it’s not fine.  This call on Esther’s life was HUGE… life and death! The call on your life is equally HUGE… life and death.  It’s time we finish the deliberating… it’s time we stop with the logical reasons why we just can’t right now… it’s time, in this defining moment of today, that we decide to answer the call for or against.  For the sake of His name, God will #deliver His people… He will #deliver you…it’s already done.

In your world full of broken dreams, where the #Truth is hard to find, where you have been let down, more than you have been lifted up, where it seems nobody cares–really cares–for you, it still matters what YOU DO.  There is a difference YOU have been called to make–providentially–but the choice is up to you.  NO one can make it for you–not your priest, pastor, mentor, parents or friends.  There is a voice that keeps calling out for someone who is not afraid to obey  (For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him  –2 Chronicles 16:9.)  Will you be the one to answer that call?  If the LORD provides the power, will you reach deep down into the depths of your debating and deliberating, and #decide… YES! I will be the one.  Today is your defining moment.

Step 3

APPLY IT:  What call has God placed on your life where you are TODAY?  How have you deliberated that calling away with logic?  Are you willing to ask God what His call is on your life, or is it better to have plausible deniability?

LIVE IT OUT:  TODAY…. the people I run into, the places I go… I will look for the hand of God working.  Today I will be one whose heart is fully committed to God.

___________________________________________________________

If you’re in the local area and can attend our free annual Women’s Bible Study at The Cove, it’s not too late to join us!  We’d love to see you in person.

Registration is open and you can sign up online for Kendra’s evening study or by calling 1-800-950-2092.  (Click here to sign up for the morning study with Jane Derrick.)


NOTE: If you are unable to attend Kendra’s winter Bible study at The Cove in person (January 10 – February 21, 2017),  we will continue the online study as well, using lessons shared during the LIVE study.  We are also streaming the study LIVE via Periscope.  Can’t watch live?  Don’t worry, you can catch the replays in the Periscope app indefinitely.  We will begin streaming LIVE each Tuesday evening around 7:15 p.m. ET (give or take a few minutes).

Not sure how to use Periscope? 
1.
 You must first sign up for Twitter (it’s free).  Click here for step-by-step instructions.
2. Then you sign up for Periscope (it’s free).  Click here for step-by-step instructions.

Make sure to follow The Cove on Twitter and Periscope, so you will be notified when we go LIVE.  We are @TheCoveNC.

8 Reasons Why You Should Attend a Personal Spiritual Retreat

Untitled design

When Billy and Ruth Graham founded The Cove, they dreamed of a place where people could get away from the daily distractions of life and grow in their relationship with God.

Billy Graham prayed it would be a place of instruction, inspiration, intercession and impact.

Ruth Graham prayed it would be a haven for retreat, rest, relaxation and renewal, “where we can meet with the Lord Jesus personally and privately, and we’ll never be the same again.”

Our Personal Spiritual Retreats are designed to help facilitate your time alone with God. We’ve outlined some benefits you’ll get from this special time:

  1. Retreat. Life can make you grow weary. Sometimes you just need to step away from the daily distractions and rest in the care of Jesus.
    He tells us to “Come away with me to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31
  2. Renew. Do you ever feel like you need to start afresh? Sometimes coming before the Lord with all your baggage in tow and leaving it at His feet is all you need to renew your heart and spirit. A retreat at The Cove is a good place to begin this process.
    “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
  3. Refresh. Refreshment can come in many forms. At The Cove, you will be refreshed with the care of our servant-hearted staff, from the delicious food to nourish your body, to the comfortable rooms that have been prayed over, to walking any of the 10 miles of trails throughout the property. As you enter our gates, you will feel the presence of God amidst the tranquility of our beautiful 1,200 acres on this mountain.
    “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1, 2 
  4. Relax. When you’re running on empty, it can be impossible to relax. Everything about The Cove is designed to offer you a place to rest and relax, from the comfortable furnishings throughout the property, to the serene stream meandering alongside the walking trails. Find a bench in the woods to sit and spend time with God.
    Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
  5. Impact. Allow God’s Word to impact your life. Maybe you need to draw closer to your Savior. Maybe you would like to hear from Him in order to make an important decision in life. Spend time meditating on God’s Word—it will never return void.
    “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.” Hebrews 4:12
  6. Intercession. You have the privilege of going straight to the throne of God. Spend time in prayer for others in your family, your community and around the world. Prayer is powerful. Delight your heavenly Father by praying in Jesus’ name and without ceasing.
    “Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.”  Ephesians 6:18
  7. Instruction. The Bible is your very own instruction book. Use it to learn more about God, His people and how He wants you live your life.
    “Apply your heart to instruction, and your ears to words of knowledge.” Proverbs 23:12
  8. Inspiration. Do you have a decision you need to make? A move you are considering? A new project you are looking to embark on? Maybe you think your ministry needs to go in a new direction. Allow God to fuel you with His inspiration by spending time alone with Him prayer and in His Word. 
    “I will hear what God the Lord will say.” Psalm 85:8

Click here to find a time that will work for you to get away on a
Personal Spiritual Retreat.

Watch here as Dr. John Parrish shares what you can expect while attending a GUIDED Personal Spiritual Retreat.

Want to get away and participate in a Guided Personal Spiritual Retreat? Call 1-800-950-2092 to sign up while space is available!

Enjoy these testimonies from others who have taken part in a Personal Spiritual Retreat:

“I felt the presence of God from the time I drove onto the property. Nothing could be stronger or better than His sweet presence.”

“I loved everything from the devotional, reflections, surrounds, staff, food and God’s presence.”

“This was far more than I imagined it would be, very emotional, powerful and moving.”

“I would recommend it no matter the situation they are going through. It is enlightening and helps to strengthen your faith and walk with God.”

“I was so richly blessed! May the Lord continue to guide you, encourage and equip you as you serve others. Blessings! May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13″

Cove Bible Verse for Week of February 6

“For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die,” (Philippians 1:20, NLT).

Kristen | Chapel Visitor | Florida | Philippians 1:20

SMALL_Kristen_Florida_Visitor_Chapel


We’d love for you to stop by and visit the Chatlos Memorial Chapel, Visitors Center, and Ruth’s Prayer Garden.  Click here for directions and operating hours. Tours are free.

Click here for a schedule of seminar, concerts and retreats at The Cove in beautiful Asheville, NC.

Prayer Note: February 2017

We hope you will enjoy our “Prayer Note” — an internal communication here at The Cove, created each month to remind and encourage our staff to pray. We share these with you at the beginning of each month in hopes that you, too, will be encouraged.

Prayer Note(3)

By Donna Riesen

PRAYER IN HARD PLACES

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

28 And Peter answered him,Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”  (Matthew 14:22-33, ESV)

If you are of a certain age and grew up attending Sunday School, you probably saw this story illustrated with flannelgraph.  You watched as the story progressed and the teacher slowly placed a few paper cutouts of dark, menacing clouds, explaining how a big storm was gathering over the Sea of Galilee. Then, in a dramatic flourish, she slapped on a couple of huge waves and perilously tilted the paper boat sideways. The only thing holding it afloat was a few dots of fuzzy lint clinging precariously to the dark blue flannel. Your eyes grew big as saucers. Your stomach dropped as you put yourself in the place of the frightened disciples, alone on a troubled sea, rowing furiously and bracing yourself against the wind and the sharp spray of the cold waves. You held on for dear life as the teacher continued reading Matthew’s account…“The boat was a long way from land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.” (v. 24)

The Apostle John tells us, “The sea became rough, because a strong wind was blowing” (John 6:18, ESV).  How could this be? The disciples were right where Jesus had told them to be. He had sent them into the boat and out onto the sea, yet “the wind was against them.”

Matthew’s account tells us the event occurred “in the fourth watch of the night” (v. 25)—somewhere between 3:00
and 6:00 a.m.  As the exhausted disciples summoned all their strength, rowing furiously against the gales, their minds must have swirled with questions.  Hours earlier they had been with Jesus and watched as He performed a jaw-dropping miracle, feeding a crowd of more than 5,000 with a boy’s lunch of five loaves and two fish.  They’d had the privilege of being the distributors as well as the clean-up crew, and boy did they clean-up!  The people had gone home satisfied, leaving behind twelve baskets full of “broken pieces.” (See Matthew 6:1-13.)  Now here the disciples sat, afraid and confused, needing a miracle of their own…but where was Jesus?

Ever been there?  Right where you believe God led you, yet facing a strong wind blowing against you or a rough sea that threatens to overwhelm you?  Whether it’s a sudden storm of traumatic injury or the gathering clouds of worry over an uncertain future, you’re exhausted and confused. And the same Lord who fed the five thousand seems distant, remote, and unreachable.

Overwhelmed, the disciples continued their losing fight with the waves. As they stared into the darkness seeking for a glimpse of the shore, their eyes began to focus on a barely discernable figure in the distance.  Did they drop the oars in alarm as they saw the figure approaching, walking on the choppy surface of the sea? The ESV version describes them as being “frightened” in John 6:19, but Matthew and Mark’s accounts are even more direct: they tell us they were “terrified” (Matthew 14:26 and Mark 6:50, ESV).

The Bible tells us that “Immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid’” (v. 27).  Praise God for His calming presence and reassuring voice in the midst of a storm!

Most of us would have collapsed with relief, thankful for the chance to lay down our oars and steady our nerves—but not Peter! Ready to step out of the boat and onto the still-churning waves, he knew the safest place to be was the place nearest to Jesus. “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water.” (v. 28) At the Lord’s command, “Come,” Peter was overboard but upright, walking on the water toward Jesus.

We Sunday School kids marveled at Flannelgraph Peter: standing upright and full of faith, headed straight for Jesus. Then the teacher reached into the basket for the next illustration. Placing a cutout of the desperate, flailing disciple on the board, she slowly and dramatically proclaimed the Scripture, “But when He saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out,Lord, save me!’” (v. 30)

We’ve been there too. We’ve heard His voice. He’s calmed our fears and assured us of His presence. At His command we’ve stepped out of the boat in obedience and faith. And then it happens. We take our eyes off Jesus and start looking around us. When this happens, we’re sunk (or so it seems).

The flannelgraph lesson continued, as in a rapid motion the teacher reached up and removed the illustration of a drowning, desperate Peter, replacing it with an image of Jesus reaching out with a firm grip on Peter’s hand.  The small classroom echoed with our collective sigh of relief. Flannelgraph notwithstanding, no virtual reality experience available today could elicit a more dramatic reaction from a roomful of children.

I was privileged to be one of those Sunday School kids, and I’m grateful for the committed Christian teachers who taught me the Word of God and helped make the stories of Jesus come alive for me. All grown up now, I realize it wasn’t the one-dimensional flannelgraph retelling that gripped my heart, it was the Holy Spirit working in me to draw me and reveal His truth.

Like the disciples, we’ve seen our share of storms and been emboldened like Peter to step out in faith to follow the Lord. And like Peter, there have been times when we’ve taken our eyes off Jesus, looked around us and begun to sink.

In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis wrote that “Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.” As the harsh winds of reality raged around them, Peter and the disciples experienced a faith-shaking test; but in the end, it was Peter’s bold step of faith that resulted in their recognition of Jesus’ divine Sonship. “And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”  (Matthew 14:32-33, ESV)

In the reality of our personal lives and in our work at The Cove this year, we may find ourselves in some hard places, facing some faith-testing storms. Let’s pray that our response at these times will be to fix our eyes on Christ and cry out to Him, “Lord, save me!” Praise God that He will not relax His hold on us and He will reveal more of Himself to us and to others, even in the hard places.

As you pray for the ministry of The Cove during the month of February, please pray especially for those who will be attending the Pastors’ Institute and Military Marriage Retreat. Many of these pastors and military personnel (and their spouses) have found themselves in hard places in the previous year. Pray that the Lord will reveal Himself to them, reassure them of His presence and strengthen their faith for the days ahead. Pray that marriages will be strengthened and ministry commitments renewed and revitalized.

Thank you for praying!


February Events:

Women’s Bible Study — Morning: January 10-February 28
(Teacher: Jane Derrick; Worship Leader/Emcee: Carole James)
Living Under the Wings of the Almighty: The Place of Peace and Safety

Women’s Bible Study — Evening: January 12-February 21
(Teacher: Kendra Graham; Emcee: Jill Gottenstrater)
Delivered: The Book of Esther

 An Evening at The Cove with Brandon Heath — February 12
(Emcee: Michelle Bachelor)

Don Wilton —February 16-17
(Emcee: Glynn Bachelor; Worship Leader: Lucas Jack)
Pastors’ Institute—Reigniting Your Call

John Cook — February 24-26
(Emcee: Bill Wolfe; Worship Leader: Giles Blankenship; Pastor-in-Residence: Ed Graham)
Military Marriage Retreat—Each for the Other, Both for God: The Bible’s Design for a Resilient Marriage

Thank your for praying!

Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study — Esther 3:2-4

Welcome to Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study! This is a place where we can come together and share in our journey towards Scriptural truths and spiritual maturity. We pray this will be a safe, respectful, resourceful place to come and discuss God’s Word…to discover What it says…What it means…and What it means to you!

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Kendra Graham notes from :  Esther 3:2-4

“And all the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman; for so the king commanded concerning him.  But Mordecai neither bowed down or paid homage.  (3) Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai,  “Why are you transgressing the king’s command?” (4) Now it was when they had spoken DAILY to him and he would not listen to them, they told Haman to see whether Mordecai’s reason would stand; for he had told them he was a Jew.”

Step 1

THE FACTS:  

2: ALL king’s servants at king’s gate bowed & paid homage to Haman,  the king commanded, but Mordecai.

3: The king’s servants at king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why are you transgressing  the command?”

4: DAILY they had spoken to him, he would not listen, they told Haman Mordecai’s reason: he was a Jew

Step 2

THE LESSONS:   It was the law of the land to bow to Haman.  Mordecai did not.  There is so much debate on why Mordecai didn’t bow.  Was it personal pride or his God-fearing duty?  Let’s just for a second go a little deeper and not get so caught up on the surface.

Just go along to get along… it’s your duty to be a good citizen.  Don’t speak out or stand out… blend in…. for the safety of everyone.  It’s just easier that way.  Let’s not make waves.  NOW that is the culture we live in.  We are so pressured on all sides by political correctness, it’s suffocating.   Sometimes God moves in your heart in such a way where it becomes very clear… if you bow… you will be disobedient.  All the others, often times even the Christians around you seem fine with the accommodations … but for some reason, your heart is stirred. Mordecai’s heart was stirred.  Perhaps he had privileged information that no one else had regarding Haman… he is after all the enemy of the Jews. This refusal to bow put Mordecai in a tough spot.  When you make a stand, it will be noticed, and if that stand is for the #Truth of God’s Word or the #Gospel… odds are it will not be received well.  This is just how it’s always been… even in 478bc.  Be prepared for push back.  Know that it is what God has called you to.  In your obedience, God will strengthen your weak knees.

The king’s servants DAILY tried to help Mordecai change his mind.  I get the sense that they plead with him.  PLEASE MORDECAI… BOW!  Just do it and get it over with.  It’s not hard.  Our obedience will not only put us in a hard place, but those around us.  Mordecai is breaking the law.  He could fix everything for everyone if he would just do the action required!  The king’s servants who witnessed this are bound by duty and honor to report him, or they will be seen as collaborators.  Perhaps they really need this job… they can’t afford to lose it.  Maybe there is a promotion around the corner for one of them, and they are not willing to risk their entire career and livelihood on Mordecai’s morals.  You cannot expect others to feel equally called to the stand that God has called you to make.  Don’t get mad at other people or other Christians because they go into self preservation mode and don’t stand up for you or with you.  This is your stand, set in your heart by God… make THAT STAND… alone if need be. Don’t shrink back.

I love the fact that Mordecai’s line didn’t move.  He was #unshakable.  Mordecai’s obedience would be costly–obedience always is.  I am reminded of the story I heard from Saeed Abidini just last year after he was released from an Iranian prison for his stand for Christ.  If Saeed would just denounce his faith in Jesus, everything would get a lot better.  He would receive medical treatment for his wounds, he wouldn’t be daily beaten, and he could possibly get released!  Saeed said that daily God would give him the strength to stand in obedience.  #Unshakable #refuse2compromise.

Step 3

APPLY IT:  Where is it that God has called you to stand out?  Do you catch yourself saying, “When I have a more important position, I will make a stand, but not here, not now?”  Have you been making a stand but get frustrated because the “Christians” around you don’t seem to be called to the same stand, so you judge them?  Do we want the ease of God’s blessings but not the hardship of obedience?  Where is it that God has called you to be #unshakable?

LIVE IT OUT:  Make your stand where God has called and refuse to compromise.  Bloom where you are planted.  Be #unshakable

___________________________________________________________

If you’re in the local area and can attend our free annual Women’s Bible Study at The Cove it started last week, but it’s not too late to join us!  We’d love to see you in person.

Registration is open and you can sign up online for Kendra’s evening study or by calling 1-800-950-2092.  (Click here to sign up for the morning study with Jane Derrick.)


NOTE: If you are unable to attend Kendra’s winter Bible study at The Cove in person (January 10 – February 21, 2017),  we will continue the online study as well, using lessons shared during the LIVE study.  We are also streaming the study LIVE via Periscope.  Can’t watch live?  Don’t worry, you can catch the replays in the Periscope app indefinitely.  We will begin streaming LIVE each Tuesday evening around 7:15 p.m. ET (give or take a few minutes).

Not sure how to use Periscope? 
1.
 You must first sign up for Twitter (it’s free).  Click here for step-by-step instructions.
2. Then you sign up for Periscope (it’s free).  Click here for step-by-step instructions.

Make sure to follow The Cove on Twitter and Periscope, so you will be notified when we go LIVE.  We are @TheCoveNC.