Category Archives: Bible Study Community with Kendra Graham

Scripture, Bible study, God’s Word, Kendra Graham

Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study — Mark 10:47-48

Kendra Blog Title

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 Mark 10:48

Many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept on all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

THE FACTS:

Many were sternly telling him to be quiet; he kept on more. Son of David have mercy on me.

Step 2

THE LESSONS:

Bartimaeus was blind, so he lived a life of begging for scraps to stay alive. One day Bartimaeus (we’ll just call him “Bart”) heard with his ears that Jesus was walking through Jericho. There sat Bart, begging at the back gate as people left the city on their way to Passover in Jerusalem.  Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem as well—to the Last Supper and to Lazarus, who had been dead a few days.

Suddenly Bart began to yell, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47). The crowd did not like this, because they could not hear the teaching of Jesus; all they could hear was the shrieking of an unimportant, forgettable blind man.  Oh how they wished Bart would pipe down!  They pressured him to stop; he did not.  The crowd continued all the more to pressure Bart to quiet, but he refused.

What was blind Bart saying? I argue the reason Jesus even went through Jericho—and not around the Jericho bypass (especially with Passover looming)—was because blind Bart was the message. Jesus went through Jericho for two reasons: First, to gather a crowd to hear Bart’s message; and second, to heal Bart.  Bart was saying, “Jesus, Son of David.”  This was a BIG deal.  Bart was telling the Jewish crowd on their way to Passover that Jesus was the Messiah. This very statement would be what the Sanhedrin would use to crucify Jesus in the next week or so.  This was a BOLD message, and Bart was preaching this message in his darkness.  The crowd bullied him to stop. Yet Jesus didn’t stop Bart’s message, nor did He stop the crowd from pressuring him. Did you ever think about that?  Jesus allowed Bart to be bullied into shutting his mouth. What would Bart do?  Why would Jesus allow that?

Last week we noted that when God delivered Israel out from under the thumb of Pharaoh, He led them to the desert. Why?  Deuteronomy 8:2 gives us the reason: “To test them to see what was in their hearts.”  So God would know what was in their hearts?  NO—so that Israel would know what was in their hearts. Marah—bitterness—was in their hearts, and God needed to deal with it. What was in Bart’s heart? A message of hope.

Have mercy on me!”  Bart had the hope of healing because he knew who Jesus was.  Even if Bart had not been healed, it would not have changed the fact that Jesus is Messiah.  Even if Jesus ignored him, even if Jesus walked by or would not defend him in a crowd that was yelling at him, Bart’s message did not waver and did not change.

What would make your message waver and change? Bart would preach Jesus Messiah.  Bart was the message. Perhaps Bart begged often in the courts of Jericho’s synagogue, hearing the teachings of the Torah and scrolls of the prophets.  With his keen sense of hearing, Bart connected the dots of Messiah better than those who had seen Jesus do countless miracles.

Bart, being blind, knew his own desperation and need for Jesus. When Jesus walked by, Bart’s message could not be taken from him. In his darkness, in his blindness, in his pain, Bart preached until he was heard.  Tested in his heart, and in spite of being ignored by Jesus and bullied by the crowd, Bart continued to preach Jesus Messiah.  He continued to plead for mercy until he received it.

Jesus stopped (verse 49).  Bart’s faith stopped Jesus in His tracks.

Then Jesus, through the crowd beckoned Bart to him.  Cruel?  Seriously.  Think about it.  The crowd is mad and annoyed at Bart.  Jesus is not right beside him, obviously, because He “beckons” him to come (49).  Bart is blind, and Jesus is asking him to weave through a crowd?

I love that it doesn’t matter to Bart.  BOLD Bart gets up, leaves everything he owns in the world, and takes that first step.  I’ll bet there was help after that first step was taken.  It’s the first one that seems so daunting, so impossible–so cruel even.  But God will make a way when there is no way.  Bart believed this.  Jesus did not promise Bart healing; Jesus only called to him.  Yet Bart left everything just to be in the presence of Messiah, knowing Jesus would take care of the rest.  What faith!  Blindness in the end is not what Bart is known for; we remember him today for his  BOLD belief.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ME?

When have we been tested to know what is in our hearts? Did we press into belief, or raise our fists in “Marah”?

What has caused our message of Jesus to waver and change? Culture? Pressure for tolerance? Scientific data?

How is our belief known to the world around us?

LIVE IT OUT:

Lord, open my ears to hear your message of Truth to me, then open my mouth to make known with BOLDNESS the mystery of the Gospel.  (Ephesians 6:19, NASB)

– Kendra

P.S. Ladies, our in-person Winter Women’s Bible Study at The Cove is now underway, and it’s not too late to join us!  Let’s get together Tuesday evenings in January and February and dig into the Word of God.  Register online today.

Can’t make it in person?  We’ll be streaming LIVE each Tuesday evening on Periscope, via Twitter, where you can watch from the comfort of your own home.

Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study — Exodus 15:2

Kendra Blog Title

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 Exodus 15:2

The LORD is my strength and song,

And He has become my salvation;

This is my God and I will praise Him

My father’s God and I will extol Him.

THE FACTS:

The LORD is my strength, song, my salvation, my God. I will praise Him, I will extol Him.

Step 2

THE LESSONS:

The Israelites were on the bank of the Red Sea–Egypt was in hot pursuit.  The hand of God had released Israel from under the yoke of bondage and had exacted judgment upon the Egyptian gods.  All those Egyptian gods, including the ruling Pharaoh, were no match for God Almighty, the #deliverer.

Israel was panicked though.  The people had followed God, which led to the sea.  They were hemmed in… freedom was somewhere on the other side.  The Egyptian chariots were closing in fast.  The Israelites could hear the war cry of angry soldiers led by an even angrier Pharaoh.  Death was certain…. or was it?

Moses cried out to God and God parted the Red Sea.  The land was not muddy and mucky to walk across, but it was solid and dry. The Sea represented for Egypt and the Israelites an abyss.  The sea was “bottomless”, a place of death, a place where the gods came from, the underworld.  The sea was a place to be feared.  The Israelites could do nothing about that abyss that stood before them, destruction on either side, so God did.  God made a way, across the abyss, across the “underworld”, now the choice would lay in the lap of each Israelite.  What do they do?  Do they cross, or do they stay?

I know some of you are like, “That’s crazy! OF course they cross!

Come on!”  Put yourself there.  The sea was an image just as much as Egypt was an image of everything they feared.  It may have looked like a trap to them.  How many times do we think God is trapping us and just walking us off a cliff?  What about you and your kids go first, and I see if the walls of water stay…. then I will decide!  There is no time for hemming and hawing, though.  The choice must be made.  The opened sea offers the #hope of #deliverance.  The shore offers sure death.  The shore is what they know.  The sea is an unknown.  The Israelites could do nothing to open the sea and do nothing to hold the water back.  The Hebrews could do nothing to aid in their deliverance, they just had to accept it, trust that God would save them, as they walked across Hades on dry land.

We like to have a hand in our deliverance, don’t we?  We want to be part of it, to ensure that it will stick.  Well, we don’t have that option any more than the Hebrews did on this night.  We either stay on the shore of Egypt, or we walk across to freedom.  We cannot have one foot on one side and one foot on the other.  A choice must be made and that choice is an #allin choice.  If you stop in the middle of the sea, to have some deliverance and some captivity, you drown in the middle.  The enemy has come to steal, kill and destroy, Jesus has come to give life and give it abundantly (John 10).   We are created to serve someone or something, it’s either Egypt, with its power, prestige, and excess, or it’s God.  There are two kingdoms, and the Bible says you cannot serve two masters (Luke 16:13), you serve one, and the one is your choice.

God was not going to force Israel to freedom, to where He is, but He would make a way to get there.  Each Israelite had to choose.  They did nothing to obtain their deliverance, but they had to receive it and walk across that sea.  #Allin or #Allout.  As they stepped off the bank of Egypt and began to walk to the other side, something miraculous happened, a song welled up in their souls.  We do not get the song until we step and receive.  We want the song beforehand, but that is not how it works.  AS we trust and put feet to our faith, we see that the walls of water will stand, we see that the path across is dry and will hold and will not swallow us up.

When they got to the other side, God became personal to each of them.  Each of them sang their song of #deliverance.  God provided corporate #deliverance and a personal #deliverance to each one of them personally.

God saved ME!  God provided for ME! God protected MY family, God held the water back for ME! God is MY deliverer.  God became personal.  Oh God became MY God.

We can do nothing for our #deliverance.  God came down, personally, not trusting you to another, and His name is Jesus.  Jesus lived a perfect life, and as He died on the cross, that cross became a path across Hades for all of us.  Jesus rose from the dead the third day and crushed death.  God has made a way for us to get to the other side.  #Deliverance is offered corporately but must be personally received.  The kingdom of this world has come to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus has come to give life and give life abundantly.  The choice is yours.  You cannot serve two kingdoms.  Israel proclaimed “You are highly exalted” in verse one.  Exalted derived from the Hebrew word Meloch, which means king.  Each of us is following someone or something, which kingdom that is, is our personal choice.  Choose wisely.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ME?

Who or what are we following?  Which kingdom?

We are #allin but on what side?

Who or what is keeping us on the side of Egypt when we know its intentions? (Steal, kill, destroy.)

Is the reason we are slow about accepting deliverance because we want a hand in it?

Do we have a personal story and song of #deliverance?

LIVE IT OUT:

Today is the day of salvation.  Today accept the free gift of deliverance that the cross offers.

Oh God, I am a sinner, I have been following, been a slave to the kingdom of this world.  Thank you for making a way through it all.  Thank you for dying on the cross and conquering sin on the cross and death at the grave.  By faith, I step, accepting your free gift of salvation.  I am #allin for You.  You are highly exalted.  You are my God and my deliverer. Help me to follow You.

– Kendra

P.S. Ladies, our in-person Winter Women’s Bible Study at The Cove begins today.  It’s not too late to join us!  Let’s get together seven Tuesday evenings in January and February and dig into the Word of God.  Register online today.

Can’t make it in person?  We’ll be streaming LIVE each Tuesday evening on Periscope, via Twitter, where you can watch from the comfort of your own home.

Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study — John 10: 9-11

Kendra Blog Title

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 John 10: 9-11

  “I am the door of the sheep, if anyone enters through me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal, and kill and destroy; I came that they may find life and find it abundantly.  I AM the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

THE FACTS:  

I am the door of the sheep. If any enter through me he shall be saved, go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.  I came that they may find life abundantly.  I AM the good shepherd; lays down his life for the sheep.

Step 2

THE LESSONS:   

I’ve been thinking about this verse in conjunction with my trip to Israel for the past six months.  I had the opportunity to go to Bethlehem, where Luke 2 describes how the shepherds were living in the fields, keeping their watch over their flocks by night.  Wil and I weaved our way through the city and out to where the hills were littered with caves.  These caves are where shepherds would bed down for the night as they hustled the sheep deep into the darkness of the cave for safety.  At the mouth of the cave there could be found evidence where fires had been, blackened marks on the roof of the cave.  The shepherds would start a fire, cook their dinner perhaps, and maybe use the fire for warmth and protection from any wild animals that would be tempted to attack their sheep.  The shepherd would then bed down in the front of the cave, lying his body across the opening so that an intruder would first have to get through the shepherd before attempting to take the life of one of his flock.

mouth of cave where shepherds would stayStanding there in the darkness of the cave was overwhelming.  The John 10 parable of the shepherd and the sheep came alive to me.  I could hear the sheep bleating in the dark, not understanding why they had to be trapped in this cold, dank, dark place.  I could see the shepherd as he set up camp for the night.  Unbeknownst to the sheep, their safety was first and foremost on his mind.

Can you see it? The sheep are in the cave, protected by the physical body of the shepherd.  The shepherd will lay down his life and die before he relinquishes one sheep to the slaughter.  The shepherd’s body is the actual door.  The LIFE of the sheep is on the mind of the shepherd.

The sheep will go in for protection led by the shepherd and will be led out by the shepherd to eat.  So what do they eat?

Standing on the hills outside of Bethlehem made me wonder this very thing.  I asked our local tour guide and pointed to the lushest spot that I could see from the hill just beyond the city.  Do they eat there?  Are those the pastures of Bethlehem that David penned the 23rd Psalm in?  There was what seemed brown desert as far as my eyes could see… except for this one beautiful patch of greenery! An oasis in the desert!

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Our guide laughed,  “Oh no! The sheep would never be allowed to graze there! Farmland is hard to come by here in the desert, there are not fields of green!  The sheep may be able to glean the fields after harvest, but never be allowed to romp in the crops!”

Ok…. then where in the world would these sheep eat?  Luke 2 says they were living in the “fields by night” and Psalm 23 says pasture land… is that not lush green new delicious grass as far as the little sheepie eyes can see?

Standing in the “fields” which are really  “shepherds’ desert hills”, because that is where the caves would be found and where they would bed down, he told me how the sheep have always grazed in that land, and it has been rolling around in my mind ever since.  It isn’t what I thought.

IMG_5430

 Across the hills, there are noticeable sheep grazing trails which he pointed out.  All I see are trails in the dirt and I see rocks, a lot of rocks, I don’t see a bit of green.  More confused than ever, he explained to me about the desert climate.  Rain is a luxury in places like this, but there is a little humidity in the air, and it does rain, a little.  This little bit of rain combined with the humidity will accumulate on the rocks in the hills (fields), and underneath these rocks, as the water accumulates in the shade of that rock, a mouthful of yes, lush new green grass will grow.  The shepherd will look for a hillside that was exposed to this moisture and bring his flock to graze it from top to bottom or bottom to top.  Each step, a mouthful for the sheep.  The sheep must continue to follow the shepherd because he knows what hills have the food.

I could now see, each step, contains just enough food for the next step, and there’s not enough grass to bask in that one place for the rest of your life, but enough for the day.

This reality changes everything.  Today’s pasture is not enough to fulfill tomorrow’s needs.  The shepherd knows where the sheep need to be.  The shepherd leads the sheep through the desert, not for their harm, but to provide for their life.  The shepherd leads the sheep in the dark dank cave at night, not to punish or torture the sheep but to protect them.  The shepherd lays his own body across the door, not to keep the sheep in, but to keep the enemy out.

IMG_5432

 How often have we had the wrong view of God?  We look at God through the eyes of sheep, we can’t help it, we have more in common with the sheep than with God.  BUT GOD, loves us anyway, and in those very hills, in those very skies that I gazed into, that day, I remembered the night that was lit up with all heaven as the angels proclaimed to the shepherds and the sheep, “For unto YOU is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!” The hills that had fulfilled the needs of the sheep that day were those very hills facing the city of David.

Like it or not, we all follow someone or something, even you leaders out there.  The Word of God says, that everything else is like a thief, that comes to steal your joy, kill your dreams and ultimately destroy.  Have you ever asked yourself, “Is this all there is?”  LIFE is not elusive.  Jesus came to give us LIFE, to take us back from the thief that has stolen everything and restore us to the LIFE that He has intended us to have from the beginning of time.  It doesn’t look like we think, just like those sheep trails, but God with skin on came for US.  Jesus came to be our Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of peace Isaiah 9:6.  We are all created to follow after someone or something, so Jesus came, to lead us and to give us life abundantly, one mouthful at a time.

Jesus said I AM the good shepherd, so who better to invite to His bedside the night of His birth, than those shepherds who understood what it was like to lead, love and protect the sheep?

For God, so loved the world that He gave His only Son, Jesus, to be that shepherd for the sheep. Jesus would indeed lay down His life so that we, His sheep, could have life abundantly.

Glory to God in the highest! 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ME?

Where are you looking for sustenance in life?

When have you demanded that God provide everything you need up front?

Who or what are you hoping in to find your daily needs met?

What really do you expect God to do for you?  Have you been looking at God as though He is torturing you instead of providing and protecting you?  Will you seek to find the Good Shepherd this Christmas in His Word?

LIVE IT OUT:  

Open God’s Word today and glean who Jesus is, and how He desperately wants to lead you and give you life.  Ask today that your eyes be open to where He is, in this season, in your life.

– Kendra

P.S. Ladies, registration is open for my 2018 Women’s Bible Study at The Cove.  Let’s get together seven Tuesday evenings in January and February and dig into the Word of God.  Register online today.

Can’t make it in person?  We’ll be streaming LIVE each Tuesday evening on Periscope, via Twitter, where you can watch from the comfort of your own home.

Watch the 2018 Women’s Bible Study video here:

Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study — Romans 9:12, 17

Kendra Blog Title

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 Romans 9:12, 17

It was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.”

For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the earth.”

THE FACTS:  

The older will serve the younger.

For THIS purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, that My name proclaimed throughout the earth.

Step 2

THE LESSONS:   

Welcome to Herod’s Judea!  Well, that is what Herod the Great would have liked everyone to say from his time on earth until the end of time.  Herod had an eye for architecture and could be described with ease as a master builder.  Herod, like many of the Roman rulers, had a problem with extreme arrogance and desire for power, prestige, and significance.

Herod was not a Roman Caesar but was given a decent chunk of the Roman empire to rule and reign over.  Herod was going to press as close to that line where Octavian (Caesar Augustus) walked as he could without being labeled a threat by the empire. Herod wanted to be remembered until the end of days as one of the greatest of all time.  Truth be told, most people when asked about who “Herod the Great” was would probably mention something about killing baby boys during the time of Christ.

The Herodium is located 7 miles south of Jerusalem and 3 miles southeast of Bethlehem.

Herodium on map

The Herodium rises out of the Judean desert like a volcano.  This fortress, and others built by Herod, were built due to Herod’s paranoia of the Jews.  Herod was never worried about his throne being taken away by Caesar, but Herod never trusted the subjects he ruled over.  The towers in Jerusalem, for instance, were strategically placed so that he could monitor those inside the walls, not those who could come from the outside.

Herodium ruins (3) for blog

Herod was an Edomite, a direct descendant of Esau (the older brother).  Herod was also a ruler of Israel, the descendants of Jacob (the older ruling over the younger).  Isn’t that interesting?  Out of all the people that could have ruled over Judea at that specific time when Jesus the Messiah was born,  was an Edomite.

Scholars think that the place the wise men came to inquire of Herod could have easily been at the Herodium due to its proximity to Bethlehem. The star the wise men were following could have taken them towards Bethlehem; as they approached and caught sight of  this massive castle-like structure rising out of the desert, it surely must have caught their attention. This structure breathed power and prestige–a place fit for the King of kings.  Who else would be able to create an oasis out of an empty desert?  It makes sense that when Herod (the older, from Esau) heard the news of Jesus (the younger, from Jacob) being a king, it fed his paranoia.  The Word of God, the Truth, will always prevail.  I think Herod deep in his heart knew that but would fight against it until the day he died. Much like many of us today.

The dichotomy between wealth and power according to the world’s standards and God’s standards are seen when we compare Jesus and Herod.  Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the city of David.  Jesus was not born in a prestigious man-made fortress, on top of the world so all could see, but Jesus was born in one of the thousands of shepherds caves carved out by the hand of God.

Herod the Great jockeyed for position in the Roman Empire to satisfy his thirst for power and prestige to be recognized as a deity.  Herod had no regard for human life but killed anyone who would threaten his throne.

Jesus, in humility, walked with God daily and was compelled towards men and women, (His handmade creation). Everything Jesus did was focused to show the power and glory of God as He proclaimed God’s name throughout the earth.  Jesus left this world without building one structure that we know of.  Jesus left nothing that we can say with certainty was owned by Him.  Jesus lived to give His life on a cross, bearing complete shame so that we can live life and live it abundantly (John 10).  Jesus gave all He had away, even to His last breath, yet the impact He has had, has far outweighed Herod who tried so hard to build lasting impact. Jesus lived a life of faith in God, showing us God’s Word and character can be trusted.

Herod chose to put his trust in bricks and mortar so that his legacy would live on throughout the ages.

The older will serve the younger. The Truth of God’s Word was bitter to Herod, not that he even knew or wanted to know it.  Herod listened to the traveling wise men and anger and jealousy grew in his heart.  Herod wanted Jesus and everyone else to bow to him, to worship him, to legitimize him as ruler, and if not, he would be sure that the traitor who challenged his throne was killed.  The kill order went out and all the baby boys 2 years and under were slaughtered so that Herod could maintain his crown.  Herod thought he held all the cards, but in a moment, in a cave, in the town of Bethlehem, just 3 miles away, Jesus changed the timeline of human history. BC became AD in a moment.  Now that is power.  Herod could not touch Jesus.  Jesus is God with skin on, and the younger ruled over the older, whether Herod realized it or not.

The Bible says in Philippians 2:9-11, “For this reason, God highly exalted Him (Jesus), and gave Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Everyone, even Herod the Great, will bow to Jesus.  The older will serve the younger.  God’s Word is True.  We may not like it, it may leave a bad taste in our mouth, it may anger us to no end, but it does not change the Truth of who Jesus is.  We all must make a decision about who Jesus is.  Herod chose to trust in his bricks and mortar.  Jesus is still making a living worldwide impact today, and where is Herod?  Herod’s masterpieces are just that, in ruin pieces.  Choose you this day whom you will serve (Joshua 24).

We are created for impact.  We are each created with individual fingerprints to leave God’s unique imprint on the world around us.  It isn’t about me or you–it’s always been about Jesus.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ME?

Who do you say Jesus is?

Will you set down your own ideas of grandeur and impact and be willing to bend your knee to a God who is so relentless for you, He died for you?

How will you today, in the things you do and the things you say, allow God to demonstrate His power and His name through you?

LIVE IT OUT:  

Today, ask God how He wants to show you who He is.

Jesus, today I confess with my mouth that You are Lord, not me.  I confess that You died and rose again so that I can live that abundant life You have set aside for me.  Teach me Your Word and show me what it means to follow You.

– Kendra

P.S. Ladies, registration is open for my 2018 Women’s Bible Study at The Cove.  Let’s get together seven Tuesday evenings in January and February and dig into the Word of God.  Register online today.

Can’t make it in person?  We’ll be streaming LIVE each Tuesday evening on Periscope, via Twitter, where you can watch from the comfort of your own home.

Watch the 2018 Women’s Bible Study video here:

Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study – Matthew 16:18

Kendra Blog Title

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 Matthew 16:18

“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

THE FACTS:  

I say to you Peter, upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

Step 2

THE LESSONS:   

Jesus traveled 25-30 miles from Galilee to Caesarea  Philippi with his 12 disciples to give a 10-minute lesson.  Jesus will go to whatever length He has to so that we understand the lesson that He wants to teach us.

Caesarea Philippi was an abased place.  If the disciples had a hard time going to “the other side” of the Sea of Galilee because of the Roman Decapolis, then Caesarea Philippi would have never been a place on any of their bucket lists!   Jesus had a lesson that the disciples needed to learn “on site” so when He would later say, “Go therefore into ALL the world and preach the Gospel,” the disciples would understand that statement to mean ALL.  This was one of the very last lessons Jesus would teach them physically.  After this journey, Jesus would make His way to Jerusalem and the cross.

Caesarea Philippi was a wicked and vile place.  The nickname for this place was literally called “The Gates of Hell” where the pagan fertility god Pan was worshipped.  In this place, there was a large cave where a huge amount of water ran out into what historians wrote to be a bottomless pool of water.  The people of that time believed that it was here that the god Pan and the fertility gods disappeared down to the underworld–to Hades itself.  People from all around the world would come here to beckon with vulgar acts the return of these spirits to bless their lives and give them fertility.  This, the “gates of Hades”, is a dark, powerful, evil place of conjuring evil spirits up in order to get their hearts desires. This place was wicked, ungodly and evil, contrary to everything in the Torah.  This place was such an abomination that Jewish tradition has it that when the Messiah would come, the gates of this place at Caesarea Philippi would be destroyed beforehand because the two would not be able to co-exist at the same time.

The Rock

So, Jesus began to teach, at the foot of evil with boldness and certainty, needing His disciples to know with their hearts who He is.  Jesus proceeds to ask a question, “Who do men say that I am?”

 The world is very confused and debauched, desperate to know who holds the keys to life.  People are willing to sell their souls for their desires, looking for someone or something to hold on to, to believe in.  In a world full of false gods… where is the True God?

The disciples began to give their list of who men say that He is… a prophet, Elijah, Jeremiah or others.  Then Jesus, makes it personal, “Ok, now, who do YOU say that I AM?”  Is Jesus just another prophet who will die a martyrs death?  Is Jesus just a hope of God to come?  Who is Jesus?

Simon Peter with boldness speaks with authority as he says, “You are the Christ the Son of the Living God!”

“Blessed are you, Peter!”  Jesus explains that it is God Himself that revealed that to Peter.

Peter boldly stated Jesus is the Son of the Living God, then Jesus turns to Peter and says, not even these gates of Hell, this formidable stronghold of evil, will be able to stand against him as he preaches the Truth with boldness and authority.  On this rock, I will build my church.

WHAT?  Remember where they are… they are at the base of this mountain carved out by Alexander the Great to honor the evil disgusting god, Pan.  Upon this rock?  Was Jesus pointing to that rock?  Remember they walked 25-30 miles for a lesson on site….

That rock represents everything that is evil, hopeless and broken in the world that we live in.  The commission is for you, Peter, and the rest of you to GO! Go into this world and preach the Gospel! A Gospel that will bring those people at the base of that rock true hope and life! Go into this community and build My church!  Replace their lie with the Truth.  AND… when you do, the gates of Hades will NOT prevail against it.  Think about it…. a gate is defensive.  A gate keeps people out.  So Jesus says, “Go on the offensive! Go through those gates, even those gates will not prevail against the authority of the Gospel.”

Jesus then turns and says, “IF ANYONE wishes to come after me, he must deny himself.” IF ANYONE.  Not just the good Jewish men and women from their home at Capernaum, but ANYONE… even if any of these pagans here partaking in this filthy ritual want to truly find LIFE and find it abundantly they are invited to follow Me just as you 12 have been invited to do so.  Can you see it?  Can you hear it?  Jesus calling to a pagan world from the depths of His soul…. these rituals are not where hope and value and purpose and meaning are found!  This debauchery leads to brokenness and hurt and heartache!  COME! Follow ME!  What are you giving in exchange for your soul??? If you follow Me, you will find LIFE!  It’s like Jesus was beckoning not just His disciples but the lost world to “COME to ME and LIVE!” Matthew 16:24-27

Upon this rock, the very doorstep of the Devil, Jesus proclaimed Truth with boldness and courage as He then turns to make His journey to the cross. Jesus was lighting that fire of courage and boldness inside of His disciples.  People will be #delivered and set free to #LiveBOLD powerful lives.  Oh, to  LIVE and have that abundant life that is only through Jesus.  Hope, peace, love found in the ABSOLUTE TRUTH of God’s Word.

We get so confused by the world, don’t we?  I just helped my daughter with a poem tonight where she had to identify with the “post-modern world”.  We are enlightened now.  There is no absolute Truth.  If you want to believe in the god pan, then go for it.  If you want to believe in yourself, go for it.  The only “Truth” that will be found in the end of it all is a world without peace, without hope, without love, and without God.  Everyone and everything, in the end, will let you down and leave. BLEAK.

Our worlds are really not that much different from the first-century world.  The pre-modern world was just as abased and hopeless as the enlightened post-modern world.  Hopeless people looking for truth, hope and love.  Hopeless people needing a relentless God whose Word is TRUTH.  A Truth that will hold through the questions, doubt, and heartache.  A Truth that indeed will “set you free”.  A Truth that demands a holy payment for unholy sin.  A Truth that doesn’t flinch or change through the ages.  SO Jesus, God with skin on came and His name is Jesus, Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The gates of Hades at the foot of Mount Herman in Caesarea Philippi are in ruin.  The Word of the Lord endures forever, and His church continues to be built each and every day even in the most evil and dark corners of the earth.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ME?

Who do YOU say Jesus is?  Jesus said He is the Way, the Truth and the LIFE in John 14:6.  DO YOU believe that?  Everyone will have to answer that question.  Who do you say Jesus is?

What formidable stronghold have you been called to #LiveBOLD and proclaim Jesus to?

LIVE IT OUT:  

Go into all the world reflecting the love and passion of Jesus to a dying, confused and hopeless world.

– Kendra

P.S. Ladies, registration is open for my 2018 Women’s Bible Study at The Cove.  Let’s get together seven Tuesday evenings in January and February and dig into the Word of God.  Register online today.

Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study – Daniel 10:12

Kendra Blog Title

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 Daniel 10:12

“From the first day that you set your heart to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard.”

THE FACTS:  

From the FIRST DAY you SET your heart to understand and humble yourself before God, your words were heard.

Step 2

THE LESSONS:   

Humility vs Pride…. this is the battle isn’t it?  This verse is really powerful.  Pride drives us from God.  “There they cry out, but He does not answer because of the pride of men” Job 35:12.  God does NOT hear the cries of the prideful, but of the humble, He does.  Proverbs 29:23 says, “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble sprit will obtain honor.”  Isn’t that just the opposite of what we think?  IF we are humble, then we will be walked over, we will be looked at as weak, and we will not get anywhere in life…. but here, in God’s Word, the opposite holds the Truth.  When we bow to our pride, then we are exalted.  When we bow to our pride, then our prayers are heard.  This is SO HARD.  Humility goes against all that is in me…. whether my pride comes in the shape of arrogance or self-pity… my pride is big and at times seems like an insurmountable obstacle in my life.

In this verse in Daniel, it says, “From the first day you set  your heart to humble.”  The word “set” is the Hebrew word, “nathan” which means: to grant; to be delivered up, to be put upon, to permit, to humble to.”  THAT IS HARD.  Maybe not for you… but I am a fighter unfortunately.  From the first day that I allow God to grant me humility… set my heart to allow God to deliver humility to me…. uggggggh…. sigh…. HARD…. who wants two heaping scoops of humility… maybe three or four if we allow God to do what He wants to…. wow… why would He do this?  Why does God want to humble us so much?

God wants to humble us so that we can see that He will come through for us when we have complete and total dependence on HIM, and not ourselves.  To see that when we are humble, open, feeling like a sitting duck ready to be destroyed, HE WILL fight for us and defend us.  God wants to humble us so that we can see and know that HE IS FAITHFUL and will be faithful to US… it’s not just a tagline that New Testament pastors preach every Sunday, but meant to be a way of life.  When we are humble we are more able to show grace to others and be a testimony of what God will do for His people.  God wants to exalt us in HIS time in HIS way, not our own… and that only comes through humility.  To obey God… takes humility

Humility is NOT natural, and not easy… it wasn’t meant to be, that is why even Daniel, the great prophet, had to “set” — had to “determine,” had to “purposely choose” to humble himself before God.  It takes strength to set your heart to humble and obey God instead of fighting for yourself and your own reputation. It’s easy and natural, to allow personal pride to rule the day.  We love to self-protect.  We love to judge.  We love to fix problems ourselves, but God wants us to pray in dependence upon Him.  God will not abuse your humble state but will protect you, be your refuge and be your God.  God hears the words of the humble from the very first day that we set our hearts to do so.  We are not setting ourselves to humble under the hand of man who seeks to destroy, whose intentions are evil, but God pleads with us to set ourselves to humble to a loving God who is relentless for us, loving us more than we could ever comprehend.

When it comes down to it… we don’t understand the ways of God and often we have more questions than answers…. but if we could humble ourselves, God would hear our prayers and heal our lives, families, churches, cities, and nation.  The story begins with you and me setting our hearts to humble before God.  Each of us given a unique fingerprint so that God could leave His unique imprint of faithfulness in our lives to the world around us.  If only… you and I would set ourselves to allow God to humble us before Him.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ME?

What steps will I take to set my heart to humble before God?  Has God asked a certain type of obedience out of me but my pride is preventing me from doing so?  Speaking to a colleague? family member?  Friend?  Boss?

KG BS OBEDIENCE TO GOD BEGINS WITH HUMILITY

LIVE IT OUT:  

Obey God today where He leads you, in what He asks you to say, and what He asks you not to say.

LORD, help us to begin to obey you in the small things every day as we set ourselves to humble before you daily.  Give us the strength to even pray that prayer, as we fight against it.

– Kendra

P.S. Ladies, registration is open for my 2018 Women’s Bible Study at The Cove.  Let’s get together seven Tuesday evenings in January and February and dig into the Word of God.  Register online today.

Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study — John 16:33

Kendra Blog Title

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 :  John 16:33

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

THE FACTS:  

These things I HAVE SPOKEN: in ME you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation. Take courage; I have overcome the world.

Step 2

THE LESSONS:   

Life is hard…

This past week has been difficult for my family.  My second daughter (my middle child) broke both of her arms playing in a soccer game, where ironically, it’s against the rules to use your arms.  This is the daughter that has always had to work harder.  This is the daughter who has learned perseverance and struggle at a young age.  This is the daughter who knows of tribulation more intimately than the others.

I have another dear friend who is clinging to the promises of God, tooth and nail, as she claims His faithfulness to keep her family intact.

Yet another friend across the country had her world rocked beneath her feet as her husband, a “God-fearing” man, left her and her four children to marry a woman he knew for months.

Let’s be honest, can we?  Let’s revisit the last blog post for awhile.  In this world we will have tribulation… we get that part, all too well, do we not?  Then when we come to God in the rawness of our emotion and our eyes cannot see straight because of the tears that obscure our view, we cry out “Marah!”  That bitter water from the desert.  This is bitter!  Where are You God?!  The article from December 3rd, 2015 in the Daily News keeps populating my thoughts, when on the front cover it proclaimed, “God isn’t Fixing This!”  My soul cries “Marah!”

Mass shootings…. Marah!

Hurricanes that kill and destroy… Marah!

More questions than answers…. Marah!

Here in John 16:33, Jesus plead with His disciples to hear these words.  Jesus is God with skin on who had eternity to decide what words He was going to use and speak, and these are the words that He spoke directly before His betrayal, torture, execution and resurrection.  Jesus was not speaking of defeat, but victory.  The disciples were about to see with their eyes what was going to look like a defeated Messiah…. but that was not the Truth.  It takes courage to believe the Truth.  In the TRUTH there is peace and joy.

Jesus did not wait for eternity to come in order lie to us. Jesus came to speak Truth so that we might believe (John 20:31).  The problem with the Truth is that we don’t like it.  The Truth is, that the Truth is harder to believe than a lie (John 8:45).

When things are going great, we tend to pat ourselves on the back for being so smart and so savvy, but when things fall apart, and we have more questions than answers, instead of holding to the Truth of who Jesus is, we raise our fists and we shout, “Marah!”  You brought us to this place to kill us.  You are not good.

In this verse, John 16:33, we see Jesus is trying to pour courage and peace into His disciples.  In the middle of chaos, in the middle of suffering, in the middle of the storm, if you cling to Me (Jesus), if you believe I AM who I say I AM, then there is peace and victory.  Your eyes see defeat… your heart feels defeat…. BUT I HAVE OVERCOME… and that victory is given to you!  We can claim that same victory the Apostle Paul and Corrie Ten Boom (The Hiding Place)  did in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 When they proclaimed, “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed, we are perplexed, but NOT in despair, persecuted, but NOT forsaken, struck down, but NOT destroyed.”  These are HARD Truths to hold to…. but HOLD.  By the skin of your teeth, HOLD to the faithfulness of God when all you want to do is let go.

This past week I have watched the You Tube video below, over and over.  This woman was caught in the middle of Harvey, the recent hurricane that devastated Houston.  The rain continued to fall for days beyond what was predicted.  This woman had her family with her, trapped in the upstairs of her townhouse.  In the middle of tribulation, in the middle of losing all her material possessions, “Marah” was not pouring out of her soul, but peace… strength… and the power of God was evident.  This is the power of the Truth of who Jesus is.

Without Jesus we have the storms, but no anchor that holds.  The testimony of this woman’s song gives me the strength to stand and sing when Marah is at the tip of my tongue.  Our testimonies of the faithfulness of God need to be spoken of.

The Truth is…. we will have tribulation.  Regardless of whether or not you are a follower of Jesus.

The truth is, that as long as we are in this world, there will be struggle.  That previous statement may be a Truth that brings anger boiling to the surface of your soul…

We were created to walk with God, know God and need God…. Another Truth you may or may not like.

We were never intended to face or walk through life without the help of Almighty God… so He came personally, and overcame… His name is Jesus.  John 14:6, Jesus said, “I AM the way the TRUTH and the life.”  Singular… the way…. the Truth … the Life… You may find that statement as well, angering and “exclusive”, but God did not wait for eternity to come and then confuse us… that statement, above all, is very clear….

Jesus came and His name means, “Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace” Isaiah 9:6.

Marah is easy… it’s natural… but to this woman… praise poured out.  Lord, give us the courage to hold… when all we want to do is let go.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ME?

How have you battled or how are you battling to hold to the Truth of who Jesus is?

When did you have peace in the midst of Tribulation?

Has God ever been faithful to you in the midst of tribulation?

Will you have courage to share your story of God’s mercy and faithfulness to encourage others to hold when everything they see and feel is screaming Marah?

When did God change your moment of “Marah” into a moment of praise?

If you have yet to trust the Truth of who Jesus is, will you today?

LIVE IT OUT:  

Show me what is real more than what I feel.  Lord, meet me in my Marah, and put Your words of praise deep in my heart.  Help me to claim the fact that You have overcome the world when everything seems to tempt me to believe the opposite.  #overcome

Lord Jesus, today I come to You.  Help me believe that You are the way, the Truth and the Life.  Forgive me for the Marah, the bitterness that has separated You and I.  Come into my life and be my Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.

– Kendra

Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study — Matthew 26:56

Kendra Blog Title

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 :  Matthew 26:56

“But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.  Then all the disciples forsook him and fled.”

THE FACTS:  

All this was done so Scripture of prophets be fulfilled. All the disciples forsook Him and fled.

Step 2

THE LESSONS:   

We were hand made by God to walk with God, know God and need God… but sin separates us from Him… So He came Himself, not trusting us to another, to make things right. Romans 5:17

Jesus was bound in the Garden of Gethsemane and led to the house of Caiaphas, where the scribes were already assembled.  Jesus was led down the mountain, across the Kidron Valley, and up the ancient steps to the house of the High Priest.  Was that night especially dark?  Was the only light on the path, the light from those arresting Jesus?  I wonder if even the insects and the nocturnal animals chose to just stay in that night?

Jesus was arrested in the cover of darkness, where injustice and evil prefer to reside undetected by the light.  Jesus even asks them why they took him in the cloak of night, when daily He taught in the temple, and at any time they could have seized Him in the light of day.  The question went unanswered.

There was a group already assembled at the house of the old High Priest, Caiaphas.  No wake up call in the middle of the night needed, it was as if everyone was on the same group texting thread and court was in session before Jesus arrived, like it was the norm…. away from the cameras and questions that would have been asked during the day.  The first three, of six trials of Jesus would take place in the middle of the night.

Jesus was alone.

The verses, here in Matthew, say that all His disciples fled and forsook Him.  None of them stayed to fight the mob.  None of them stood in great faith.  You see, the closest disciple of Jesus needs Him to die on that cross and rise from the grave just as much as the worst of sinners does.  The Bible says, “we all have sinned” – Romans 3:23.  It’s at this point that you see why God had to come personally.  God could not trust this part, His suffering and death to just anyone.  All of us would flee… BUT GOD loves us so much that He came personally, while we were enemies against Him, and died for us — Romans 5:8.  The wages of sin is death — Romans 6:23.  Someone has to pay that wage.   We were not created to pay that debt or bear the wrath of God, so God bore it Himself — alone.

This past May, as I ascended those ancient steps to the house that is historically accepted to be that house of Caiaphas, my soul was stirred as I saw Psalm 88 in a new light.  This house has been excavated in layers which shows that the “house” was much more than just a home:  There is evidence of living quarters, but also, the size and how it is laid out shows that perhaps it was also used much like a governmental building of sort.  It was much too big to just be a home, but what was found below was much more telling.

Kendra and Will Graham at the bottom of the ancient steps
Will and Kendra Graham on the ancient steps to Caiaphas’ house.

As you arrive, you enter a courtyard.  Today there is a church built on this location.  As you enter the church and begin to descend down, you see evidence of holding cells, or a small prison, which would not be a stretch to imagine that the home of the High Priest would have held religious prisoners.  The Jewish leaders were allowed to hold prisoners, they were just not allowed in Roman control to execute them.

Caiaphas Courtyard where Peter denied Jesus 2
Caiaphas’ courtyard, where Peter denied Jesus.

In this dark base of the home, there are holes cut out in the rock where leather straps would have been affixed to strap arms of the prisoners above their heads a little wider than shoulder length apart.

Prison with leather straps where they would tie up prisoners or bind them
Prison, with leather straps hanging from the ceiling, where prisoner would be bound.

In this pit there was a place of solitary confinement where they would put the worst of the criminals.  In this pit, there is a small hole from above, where the bound prisoner would have been lowered down into complete darkness.  There would be no escaping if someone was placed here.  Between the Jewish trials and the Roman trials, there was a period of waiting for the palace to awaken and be ready for business.  Is it too much to think, that Jesus could have been lowered into that pit, to await His trial before Pilate?

Pit

Underground cave info

When we descended down to the bottom of the pit, in what is believed to be the house of the high priest, silence overtook us.  Here in this pit we read Psalm 88 aloud, with the aid of a small light:

LORD, You are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you.

May my prayer come before You; turn Your ear to my cry.

I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draw near death.

I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength

I am set apart with thudded, like the slain who lie in the grave whom You remember no more, who are cut off from Your care

You have put Me in the lowest pit, the darkest depths.

Your wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with all Your waves

You have taken from Me, My closest friends and have made Me repulsive to them.  I am confined and cannot escape;

My eyes are dim with grief.  I call to You LORD, every day; I spread out my hands to You.

Do You show Your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise You?

Is Your love declared in the grave, Your faithfulness in destruction?

Are Your wonders known in the place of darkness or Your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

But I cry to You for help, LORD, in the morning, my prayer comes before You.      

Why LORD do You reject Me and hide Your face from Me?

From My youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne your terrors and am in despair.

Your wrath has swept over Me like a flood; they have completely engulfed Me.

You have taken from Me friend and neighbor, darkness is my closest friend.  

Can you hear Jesus pour His soul out?  Alone, abandoned and bound. What prophetic words written by David, so many years prior to this night.  Jesus, experiencing the complete and total wrath of God for us–instead of us.  Jesus endured it all.  God not trusting us, His hand-made creation, to anyone else, so He came personally to pay this incredible debt so that we can walk with Him, and know Him as we were created to experience. All this was  done to prove the Scriptures of the prophets.

God DOES love us! God is willing to give everything He has for us to be able to walk with Him and know Him!  God really does look at us like a bride sacrificing all He has for our eternal safety (John 3:16).  Jesus was abandoned, so we are not! This is the Gospel! This is the good news! Jesus was found worthy to the be Lamb at Passover for sin, once and for all!  We have been #delivered from the darkness because He was bound and #delivered to the darkness! So come on!  Come on! Let’s live bold and courageous, in the light, while there is still day, #Propelled to tell the Good News! God’s wrath has been stilled, by Himself.  Even when all forsook Him, He refused to forsake us.  We are free, we are #delivered, so live #propelled2purpose.

APPLY IT:  

How often do we see what God isn’t doing for us instead of what He has and is doing for us?  When was a time that I forsook Jesus, yet He refused to forsake me?

LIVE IT OUT:  

Today, Lord, open my eyes to see your goodness and your faithfulness as I remember the suffering You endured on my behalf.


What Scripture are you studying now? What have you learned? How has the Lord spoke to you? Share with us in the comments section.

Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study — Hebrews 12:1-2

Kendra Blog Title

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 :  Hebrews 12:1-2

“Therefore, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which easily entangles us, and let us RUN with endurance the race that is set before us, (2) fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

THE FACTS:  

Since we have a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, lay aside every encumbrance and sin and let us RUN with endurance the race set before us. Fixing OUR eyes on Jesus, author and perfecter who endured the cross.

Step 2

THE LESSONS:   

“You are the WORST runner I have ever seen!”  “But coach, it’s BLISTERING hot out here, the humidity is unbearable! Look…I come from a climate with a “dry heat”.  I just can’t run anymore in these conditions.”  This was the discussion that I was having with my college soccer coach, my senior year, during the 2nd day of preseason.  I was supposed to be the captain of the team, but I was running sprints–keeping in mind we were on number 5 and knowing we had to run about 95 more–I had to pace myself.  My coach responded to that with, “You run with reserve in your tank, and I need players willing to give me all they have every time.” #ouch

Now, dear reader, come to Rome with me–to the Vatican…

Vatican in Roman Times
The “circus” at the Vatican.

I’m going to be honest with you, I was ignorant on the history behind where the Vatican stands.  The area of the Vatican was known during the Roman Empire period as Ager Vaticanus.  It was a marshy piece of land where villas were built and the Emperor Caligula had beautiful gardens built for his mother.  The Emperor Nero added to it and built an impressive “circus” in the midst of the gardens.  What is Nero’s Circus you ask?  Well, it was a horse track, of sorts.  There was an arena built around a track for charioteers with horses.  In the middle of the track, there would have been a narrow strip of land, an isthmus of sort, that would have been adorned with obelisks or statues of the gods.  The obelisk in Neros Circus was one single piece of red granite weighing more that 350 tons! There were tunnels on either end of the stadium for the horses and athletes to come out, and there were seats for the onlookers.  There would have also been a section of “box seating” for the Emperor.

When the charioteers would come out, they would come to the box where the emperor sat and would pay homage to him, showing the crowd that they train and run for the emperor.  The crowd would cheer and chant the praises of the emperor, declaring his deity.  Often the emperor would address the crowd, being adorned in a sash of the god Apollos or Zeus, showing the crowd that he was a direct descendant from the gods,and that he had the authority as the son of the gods.  Can you see this imagery?

Vatican with 12 disciples on top
The Vatican, in all it’s glory. Do you see the statues of the 12 disciples at the top? They are life-size.
Kendra in front of the Vatican
Here I am in front of the Vatican!

With the emperor watching, these charioteers dressed in white robes, would have driven their horses in such a way as to win the race.  There would be nothing left in their tank, lest they be seen as a disgrace.  The point of these games were to declare to the world that Cesar is god.  This circus, Nero’s Circus is historically where the disciple of Jesus, Peter, was crucified upside down.  Peter was crucified at Ager Vaticanus.  I did not know this.

Peter
Statue of Peter.

Understanding what Nero’s Circus is, has given Hebrews 12:1-2 a deeper meaning.  We have been chosen by God to walk out of that tunnel for Him! Our run in this life, declares to the world–not that Cesar is God, but that Jesus is God!  The writer of Hebrews is using arena language here!  A language that the people of the time would have understood. This walk with Jesus, is an Olympic event.  Our walk, our RUN, declares that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords.  This idea of discipleship is not just something on our Sunday schedule! It’s a BIG DEAL! So RUN!  Run #propelled2purpose.  RUN!

Since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, we do not have the luxury of just walking it out, or running with reserve left in our tank.   RUN with perseverance the race set before us.  Each of us runs a different race, at a different pace, but for the same King.  The way we live and the way we run matters to a world that is looking on!  It will take perseverance!  Will it be hard?  Yes.  Will you have more excuses than you can count to bail out and quit?  Yes.  Is it worth it to stay in the race and finish well?  ABSOLUTELY!

RUN this life, your life, with purpose, where you are.  Press in, not out.  I Corinthians 9:24, “Don’t you know that ALL the runners run, but only ONE gets the prize?” SO RUN like you are going to win it.  Your run…my run in front of our cloud of witnesses shows the world that JESUS is KING! SO RUN!

It was intentional that that particular Sunday school teacher poured into you, that pastor who taught you, that grandparent that finished well, and that mentor who lived Jesus to the end…. to show you how to RUN.  I Corinthians 1:11, “Follow my example as I follow Christ.”

 My cloud of witnesses include many people along the way who have shown me what it looks like to run their race for the True King.  These cloud of witnesses who have gone before showed me how to live Jesus to the cloud of witnesses in my race who sit and stand watching what I will do. I think of my middle school soccer team, my co-workers, my patients and my own children.  My cloud of witnesses who taught me are different from yours, and the crowd of witnesses watching me are different as well.  Our races are different, but our finish line is the same. 

SO, my DEAR READER…. RUN!!!!!  Run today as if it is your last.  How devastated would I be if Jesus said to me at the end of my race the same thing my coach said so long ago… “You run with reserve in your tank.” 

STOP holding back!  Peter did not hold back.  In front of his great cloud of witnesses, Peter, who began the summer needing to be restored because of the denials that were in his past, the guilt and shame that could have ended his race all together, ends well… here… at Nero’s Circus.  Caligula and Nero both thought they had built things that would forever stand to prove their deity, however today, centuries later, not many remember or have any idea whatsoever that those prestigious charioteers once raced for the pride of the deified emperor at the Anger Vaticanus.

Today, at the Vatican, most know that beneath the marble floors of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel lies a foundation where so many Christians finished their race, “ad mairoem Dei gloriam,” meaning: to the glory of God.  A foundation for the church that has lasted through the centuries.  “Upon this ROCK (Peter) I will build my church… Mathew 16:18.  Think about that… don’t be so quick to move on.  Think about what the Vatican is today.  There is not a shred of emperor worship left at “Nero’s Circus”, but the testimony of Peter still stands with strength to the glory of God.

So let’s RUN today and not hold back regardless of the heat and humidity as we FIX our eyes on Jesus. RUN.

Step 3

APPLY IT:  

Who are the witnesses in my life? Name the cloud of witnesses that have poured into you… both living and deceased. What are the names of those watching your race who need to see you live out the fact that your life has purpose given from the hand of the King of kings?

How are you running?  Would others describe you as one who runs each day with reserve in your tank or abandoned unto God?

LIVE IT OUT:  

TODAY… strengthen my feeble knees, aching feet, and hurting hips to RUN in such a way to bring joy to my Savior.  FIX my eyes on Jesus…. fix my eyes on my current race, not the race I wish I had or want to have, but the actual race before me.


What Scripture are you studying now? What have you learned? How has the Lord spoke to you? Share with us in the comments section.

Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study — Luke 8:26-29a

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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 :  Luke 8:26-29a

“Then they sailed to the country of the Geresenes, which is opposite Galilee.  And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons, and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house but in the tombs.  Seeing Jesus he cried out and fell before Him and said in a loud voice, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you do not torment me.” (29) For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man.”

THE FACTS:  

They sailed to the country of the Geresenes, opposite Galilee.  When HE came out on the land, He was met by a man from the city, possessed by demons, living in the tombs.  Seeing Jesus he cried out and fell before Him, “What business Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Do not torment me.”  He commanded the unclean spirit out.

Step 2

THE LESSONS:   

The disciples and Jesus had just left their city of Capernaum.  Capernaum, and the people there, took very seriously the commands and the Word of God.  The people strived to be separate from the encroaching Roman world and stay true to God; however, this day, Jesus tells His disciples to get in the boat and go to the other side.  This is a BIG deal for them, because you see, they would have NEVER gone to the other side.  The other side was where the Decapolis was, a Roman territory.  The Roman world was a pagan world, a world with many gods, the head god being that of Caesar Augustus (Octavian) who was said to have descended from the gods himself.  Octavian was literally referred to as the “son of god”.

Ruins of the old city of Decapolis
Ruins from the old city of Decapolis.

The “other side” was enemy territory… yet Jesus was getting in a boat to go and seek and to save ONE lost sheep.  En route, there was a terrible storm where the disciples thought they were going to die, but Jesus calmed the sea with a word.  The Word of God is powerful.  The boat safely sees the shore in the country of the Geresenes, opposite Galilee.  Everything on this opposite shore is opposite…. not just the location.

 Verse 27 says that Jesus came out of the boat on to the land and immediately he was met by a man who is running around naked and living in the tombs.  I wonder if the disciples watched from the boat, because it does not clearly state whether they ever got out of the boat of or not.  If I was a disciple and saw Jesus get out of the boat and then saw this crazy naked man who lived in the tombs run up to Him…. I would have stayed put.  You see THIS is why we are not to go to the other side!  This clears it up! It is for our safety!  We will always have plenty of reasons why we should have stayed home.  Legit reasons!  BUT GOD…. driven by His relentless love for His handmade creation will not be deterred, detoured or distracted. Our lives are messy and many of us are left in shambles from a harsh world, but Jesus is driven to get out of the boat and come to us regardless of all the reasons He should stay away.

Cave like opening on left side of hill tomb would have been here
Tombs would have been in caves like this one on upper left side of photo.

The demons who are residing in this man immediately know Jesus.  Isn’t that something?  The demons don’t wait for Jesus to flush them out, but in the name of Jesus–the Son of the Most High–the demons named Legion actually try to command Jesus to leave them alone!  How about that?!  Even the demons know there is power in the name of Jesus!

The demon possessed man is healed.  The demons ask to be sent to a herd of pigs, which Jesus allows, and they cast themselves into the sea.

In verse 28, the man who is healed asks Jesus if he can go with Him, but Jesus sends him back to share his story to those living in the Decapolis.   The man returns proclaiming Jesus to that Roman territory.

Think about this entire scene and what the disciples are witnessing.  The disciples are charged to go to a place they thought God told them to stay away from.  They get in a boat and have immediate opposition which they could easily interpret as God saying, “GO BACK”… yet just as they are about to abandon ship, Jesus stills the storm.  They press on.  The boat lands on the other side and immediately there is a crazy naked man who is screaming at them.  WOW.  Surely God did not want them to come here, right?  BUT GOD… the Son of the Most High,  gets out of the boat and goes TOWARDS the crazy tomb dweller.  The demons believe Jesus is the Son of God… the disciples are still hashing it all out.  Jesus heals the demon possessed man and then sends him back to the Decapolis.  (Don’t you know the disciples had to be relieved when Jesus said the naked tomb dweller could not go with them?!) Then Jesus gets back into the boat to go back to Capernaum.

What risk for ONE lost sheep!  What will those say on the other side when they return?  This could definitely be bad PR!  Would it have been worth it for you or me?  I don’t think I would have risked all that for a crazy tomb dweller… and then I would have missed the miracle.

Later, when Peter in Acts 10 is directed by God to visit Cornelius, he finds there a group of believers who receive the Holy Spirit in the same way as the Jews had.  During this visit of several days, we can assume Peter would have eaten with his Gentile host.  Through Peter’s prior vision (Acts 10:9-16), God prepared him to break bread with Gentiles with a clean conscience. How much do you want to bet that the food that was served was pig!?!?  Looking back, the “crazy tomb dweller” turned out to be of major importance to the building of the Kingdom of God.

It is so easy to forget the importance of ONE single act of obedience.  It is so easy to marginalize people that we don’t agree with or understand.  People were never lost on Jesus.  The Good Shepherd goes after the one lost sheep.  Jesus didn’t need a platform in the Decapolis in the amphitheater or prestige among the Romans to be taken seriously.  Jesus went to where no one would have gone to seek and to save that one impossible messy sheep that most would have just let roam.  This is Jesus.  Jesus is relentless and compelled for you and for me, even in the middle of our mess.  Jesus will cross turbulent seas and hunt us down as we hide among the tombs, because He loves us that much.

Step 3

APPLY IT:  

Do you remember a time where Jesus was relentless for you when most would have given up?  Where and to whom have you been propelled to share your story of Jesus?

The man in the tombs wanted to go with the disciples, but Jesus called him to stay and to share where he was…. often we would rather be anywhere else other than where Jesus has asked us to be.

LIVE IT OUT:  

Lord, as You bring others into my life today, give me the Words, the strength and courage to show them Your love…. even the unlovely and messy.

Will you share your story here with us about when Jesus was relentless for you?  There is power in our stories of how Jesus #delivered us…. After He #delivers us, he #propels us to purpose.

Share with us in the comments section below.