Category Archives: Guest Posts

GUEST POST: Why Does God Allow Suffering

With the devastating massacre in Newtown, Connecticut Friday morning, many are asking themselves how could a loving God allow something like this to happen?  A frequent speaker at The Cove, Chip Ingram with Living On The Edge Ministriesreveals Bible truth about God’s perspective on how to overcome painful emotion and circumstances.

By Chip Ingram

“One of the most difficult issues in the world is the issue of suffering. Most everyone has probably asked at one time or another: “Why is there suffering – and if God is good and if God is powerful, then how can there be such evil and suffering in the world?”

This is a very big question that really warrants a much longer answer, but here is part of that answer in a nutshell: The issue for us is that this world is not what God originally created. When Adam and Eve sinned, the world became a fallen place where evil reigned. And this fallen state continues today.

Although it’s natural for us to ask this question especially when we are in the midst of a difficult situation or trial in your life, if we continue to ask the “why God?” questions, then we will get stuck in our pain and frustration. The purpose of this article is not to list all the reasons why a good and sovereign God can allow such difficult and painful things to happen in this world. And even if we did, there are some things in this life we may never know or fully understand.

But here is what we can know for sure: God is infinitely good, He has His children’s best interests in mind, and He wants to help us get through our difficult circumstances.

So, this is the game-changer: When you’re ready, stop asking “why?” and start asking, “what?” For example, ask God, “What do you want me to learn?” Or, “God, what do you want to do in me through this difficult time?” Or even, “God, what good could come out of this, if any? What do you think about this situation?”

There’s some deep theology to explore that is behind learning to ask “what?” but for now, we can be confident that when we do ask it, God will lead us to the right spot.”

Click here to visit Chip’s website.
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Please join us in prayer as we lift up the families, friends and the entire community of Newtown during this heartbreaking time.  “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 34:18 

Click here for information on Chip Ingram’s seminar at The Cove on May 24-26, 2013, Spiritual Simplicity: Doing Less, Loving More.

Happy Birthday Billy Graham

By Will Graham

Everywhere I go, people ask me about my grandfather and how he’s doing. As we celebrate his 94th birthday today, you may be asking the same thing. Well, I’m really pleased to tell you that he’s doing very well, especially for someone who has spent so many years on the road and accomplished so much in his lifetime. He misses my grandmother dearly, and looks forward to the day when he gets to go home to Heaven, but he also understands that God still has him here on this earth for a reason.

The other question I often get – usually right after people ask how he’s doing – is “What’s your grandpa really like?” I have to admit that the question often amuses me a little, as if my grandfather morphs into some sort of other being (for better or worse) when he’s at home away from the cameras and news media.

The truth of the matter is that the Billy Graham that I see when I visit his house is the exact same Billy Graham that you’ve seen on television or in person for decades. There’s only one difference: at home he’s quiet. He doesn’t talk.

When you see him in a television interview, or preaching from the stage, he’s always spreading his message. In fact, in the early days of his ministry he was referred to as “God’s Machinegun” because he would walk the stage and speak so fast and with so much passion.

But when he gets home, he doesn’t want to talk (especially not about himself). He wants to hear you speak. He wants to know how you’re doing. He wants to know about your family, your ministry, your job. 

If there’s one thing that I’ve always appreciated so much about my grandfather, it’s his humility. He honestly has no idea why God chose to use him – the son of a dairy farmer – to speak to so many people about the love, hope and salvation of Christ. He once said, “I feel like I’m just along for the ride, watching what God is doing.” It’s never been about him. It’s always been about God, and those around him.

I remember the day that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association broke ground on the ministry’s new headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was a cold day and drizzly October day, with everybody bundled up under a tent. Many speakers had wonderful and glowing things to say about my grandfather, what he has accomplished and how loved and admired he is.

When it became his turn to speak, my grandfather took the podium to applause and quietly began with words from the book of John. “Jesus must increase, and I must decrease,” he said. “I sort of cringe when I hear my name called in something that I know has been the work of God through these years.”

If you are asking what is Billy Graham really like, there’s your answer, my friends. He’s a humble man who cringes when his name is mentioned, who doesn’t want to talk about himself, but deeply loves others and deeply loves his Savior.

It’s my honor to wish my grandfather a very happy 94th birthday. I love you Daddy Bill!

Click here if  you would like to see what Billy Graham is doing on his birthday next year?   

Will Graham is the third generation of Grahams to proclaim the Gospel under the banner of BGEA. Will has spoken to audiences around the world. He graduated from Liberty University in 1997 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Religion and in 2001 graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree. Will and his wife, Kendra, have three children. He currently serves as executive director of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, N.C.

A Message from Will Graham: Pastor Appreciation Month

By Will Graham:

It is continually humbling to be compared – and even mentioned in the same sentence – as the wonderful man of God that I call Daddy Bill, my grandfather Billy Graham. But many people may not know one key aspect of ministry that both my grandfather and I share: we both started our ministries as pastors of local churches.

When my grandfather was a student at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., he served as part-time pastor of an area church. Then, as he finished his studies, he became pastor of a church in Western Springs, Ill.  He wrote in his autobiography that he was so enthusiastic that he accepted the call without even asking my grandmother, to whom he was engaged!

My path to the local church took a similar route, except that I had absolutely, positively zero desire to be a pastor. As I became a student at Liberty University, I spoke with my dad about my major, and he suggested that I focus on Bible and Business. “No matter what you do later in life, those two areas will serve you well,” he told me.

I took his advice, and – as a young student – I fell in love with the Bible. I became a sponge, soaking up all the wisdom I could possibly gather from my professors. I grew to see the Bible not as a collection of stories, but as one continuous narrative of God’s love for us from Genesis to Revelation.

Despite this passion for God’s Word and the burden I felt to tell others of His love for them, I still fought the idea of ever being a pastor of a church. I didn’t want it! To me, pastors were underappreciated and underpaid. They were stuck dealing with unwinnable situations in interpersonal and interchurch conflicts and were often told everything they were doing wrong (not what they were doing right).

Yes, I even went so far as to tell God, “Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll go wherever you want me to go and do whatever you want me to do, but I’m not going to be a pastor.” Looking back, this little statement certainly fits the old saying, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

I went on from Liberty to seminary at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, and it was there that Pastor Ron Rowe of Bay Leaf Baptist Church convinced me that – even though I didn’t want to be a pastor – it would still be good for me to get experience in a local church. He pointed out that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) always develops good relationships with churches where they are holding outreaches, and this experience would give me another perspective if I did end up as a part of the organization that bears my grandfather’s name.

His argument made sense to me, and I became an intern at Bay Leaf. Eventually I became the pastor of Bay Leaf’s church plant, Wakefield Baptist Church.

My friends, I loved it! It was one of the greatest honors of my life to lead that church plant and minister to the wonderful folks there. When the time came for God to call me to my evangelistic ministry and position with BGEA, I didn’t want to go. I wept openly because I didn’t want to leave, but when God directs your path, you follow. That’s one thing I learned through the process.

So, why am I sharing this whole story with you? It’s Pastor Appreciation Month, and I want to make sure that you are doing everything you can to support and encourage the pastor of your church. “Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.  Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other” (1 Thessalonians 5:1–13, NIV).

Whether your pastor entered the local mission field enthusiastically like my grandfather, or reluctantly like me, his calling is not one to be taken lightly. On any given day, your pastor is – with God’s help – guiding a flock that is dealing with depression, infighting, spiritual warfare, budget issues, divorce, lost jobs, deaths, and life-threatening diseases. And that’s in addition to all the other aspects of the role, like sermons, weddings, evangelism, programs for all ages, and community outreach.

Here are several questions for you to consider this month: Are you encouraging your pastor? Are you praying for your pastor? Are you seeking to build him up and not tear him down? Are you showing love and grace and support to your pastor’s spouse and family in order to make his job easier both at work and at home?

We all need to be held accountable and offered guidance at times, but is your criticism constructive and are you engaging your pastor in love and respect?

My friends, I ask you to please examine yourself and consider honestly your answers to the questions above. If you recognize that you are not being as supportive as you can be, start by praying for your pastor and let God direct your path from there. Make sure your pastor – and his family – know how much you appreciate him this month. And don’t let that encouragement end on October 31. Your pastor needs encouragement year-round, just like you and I do.

Considering giving a Cove gift certificate to show your appreciation to your pastor?  For more information or to to purchase, call 1-800-950-2092 .

Will Graham is the third generation of Grahams to proclaim the Gospel under the banner of BGEA. Will has spoken to audiences around the world. He graduated from Liberty University in 1997 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Religion and in 2001 graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree. Will and his wife, Kendra, have three children. He currently serves as executive director of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, N.C.

The God With Scars

By James Emery White 

James Emery White, pastor in Charlotte, NC and author, will be teaching on Living as the People of God in Turbulent Times at The Cove on October 24-26, 2012.

 One of the first things that happens at a violent crime scene, after evidence has been collected, is the removal of any and all signs that violence has taken place. Broken glass is swept up, blood is wiped away, bodies are covered up and removed. Everyone wants to do everything possible to keep the memory of the event from lingering in their minds.

 

Not God.

In the Book of Revelation, John comes face to face with a scroll, sealed with seven seals, that no one is worthy to open.  Weeping that no one could open the scroll,  and that the very heart of the revelation would be kept from him, John is told that there is one who can open it—the Lion of the tribe of Judah. When John looks for the Lion, he instead sees a Lamb in the center of the throne. The Lamb is alive but bears all the marks of having been slain, suggesting that its death is somehow part of its power (Revelation 5).

Why is a previously slain lamb at the center of John’s heavenly vision? Why is a unique word used for lamb found 29 times in Revelation, but only once in the rest of the New Testament? (John 21:15). How can a lion of power be found in a lamb?

To understand all of this involves understanding the Passover. During the time when the Jewish people were enslaved by the Egyptians, God sent the deliverer Moses and unleashed 10 plagues before the stubborn hearts of the Egyptians would allow the release of the Jewish slaves. The tenth and decisive plague was the death of the fi rstborn of Egypt.

The sacrifice of an animal was a common way for people of that culture to make amends for their sins. It sounds strange to us today, but there was a very important idea behind it. They saw sin as something serious, deadly and gruesome, something that could cost them their life before a holy God. So it was only through some type of atoning, sacrificial death—something equally serious, deadly and gruesome—that the sin could be addressed.

God told the Israelites that if they would sacrifice an unblemished lamb—one without defect, perfect in every way—and then take the blood from the lamb and spread it on their doorposts, the angel of death that was being sent to deliver the tenth and final plague would pass over them, hence the term Passover.  The Israelites did as God said. The angel of death came, the firstborn of Egypt were killed, and the Israelites who had covered their homes with the blood of the lamb were saved. It had such an impact on the leaders of Egypt that they released the Israelites from slavery.

Jews have been celebrating the festival of Passover ever since as a reminder of God’s deliverance from death, and the freedom that came from that deliverance, through the blood of a lamb. The festival came to be marked each year with the slaughter of a lamb that would then be eaten, along with unleavened bread, in remembrance of the quick departure from captivity in Egypt that did not afford them time to add yeast. But even more important, the taste would remind them of the bitterness of the slavery that the blood had released them from.

Just before His death, Jesus gathered His disciples together to celebrate the Passover, but with a twist: “[Jesus] took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This  cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’” (Luke 22:19-20).

Jesus gave the bread and wine new meaning. It would now represent Him as the unblemished Lamb that was sacrificed. Those marked by His blood would be freed from the slavery of their sin and would be passed over from the spiritual death that comes from sin. Through Jesus, “This was one death that was not to be airbrushed from the world’s consciousness. Instead, it was to stand at the center of human history, for we worship, as theologian Jurgen Moltmann once wrote, a crucified God.”  God was calling His people out of a deeper slavery than ever existed under the Egyptians—the very slavery of sin—into a new community in relationship with the living God.

This was one death that was not to be airbrushed from the world’s consciousness. Instead, it was to stand at the center of human history, for we worship, as theologian Jurgen Moltmann once wrote, a crucified God.

Any other God is false.

Even when facing a doubting Thomas, Jesus relied on one mark of authenticity: See my hands, see my feet, look at my side. I am the One that was crucified.

And that led Thomas to exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

It reminds me of the controversy surrounding the violence portrayed in Mel Gibson’s film on the passion of Jesus. There was a great deal of conversation about the brutality, the torture, the blood in the movie. “It’s so violent,” people said.

I wanted to say, “Yes, because it was.”

The film was rated R, and it deserved that rating—but I would argue that the R stood for Realistic.  I would have been more offended if the film had tried to water it down, sanitize it or make what Jesus went through something less than it really was.

Scars matter. When you pray to a Lamb that was slain, a crucified God, you pray to One who is able to understand your scars.

I once read of a little boy who went shopping for a puppy. He went into the pet store and asked how much the dogs were. The owner said that they sold for anywhere from $30 to $50. The little boy pulled out $2.37, all that he had.

“Here is all of my money. I don’t know how much it is, but it’s worth it.”

The store owner knew it wasn’t enough, but he let the little boy look at the puppies anyway. He looked at all of them, but at one in particular: the runt of the litter, which had a limp. The boy asked the owner what was wrong with that dog, and the owner said that he was born without a hip socket.

“That’s the puppy I want!”

“Son,” the owner said, “I can’t sell you that dog. He’s not worth it.  I’ll just give him to you for free.”

Tears filled the little boy’s eyes.  “Mister,” he said, “that dog is worth as much as any other animal in this store. You take my money.”

The owner did, and only as the boy walked out did he notice that the boy had an artificial leg.

Let us now and always worship the Lamb that was slain, the crucified God. But remember that you get to pray to Him, too. And when you do, you can trust that He understands whatever is making you limp.

This article is from the June 2012 Decision magazine.

James Emery White’s seminar titled Living as the People of God in Turbulent Times takes place at The Cove on October 24-25, 2012.  Call 1-800-950-2092 or click here for more information and to register.

Is Prayer at Work In Your Life?

By Joy Allmond

Do you ever have trouble praying? Is it hard to know where to start, let alone pray at all? 
Stormie Omartian, Bible teacher and award-winning author of the Power of Praying series, will help people explore these questions and find answer at The Cove in September. Read here a little about her personal prayer journey and some prayer tips she has just for you.

Stormie Omartian was at the end of her rope.

As a young professional living in Hollywood and working in television, she was bound by fear, anxiety and depression that was rooted in her background as an abused child. No matter what she did, she couldn’t escape the pain.

That is, until one day, when she turned to prayer.

Someone led her to Jesus Christ, but, as for many of us, the pain didn’t instantly go away. Shortly after her conversion, she began to see a Christian counselor, who encouraged her to fast and pray over her past and the impact it would have over her present and her future. 

That season of prayer and fasting dramatically transformed her life. It is because of prayer that she found freedom from the effects of her past.

“When I found absolute deliverance and freedom from depression and anxiety, I felt a burden lift. It was such a great manifestation of the power of God—I’ll never forget it. Prayer changed my life forever,” she said.

Now, she is widely known for speaking and writing about the subject of prayer, having released a series of popular books, such as The Power of a Praying Life.

“That time in my life led to find out about what God wants to do in our lives through prayer—our communicating with Him.  I wanted others to understand the power of prayer, so my husband and I began to form prayer groups.”

Why Don’t We Pray More?

Many of us, although we have been walking with Christ for years, have difficulty even praying at all.

“So many of us won’t stop and pray because we don’t think we’re good enough to receive an answer. Or maybe you don’t know how to pray. Some of us are too intimidated to pray because we think we don’t have the right words—we can’t pray the same way as the pastor. We all have these doubts and fears when it comes to prayer,” she explained.

That’s why she writes the books and speaks at conferences—to help people get past their misconceptions about prayer and learn to effectively communicate with God.

Tips For Effective Communication With God

The first thing, Omartian says, is to express our gratitude for God’s faithfulness and work in our lives.

“Thank Him for everything. Praise and worship isn’t just something you do while you wait for the sermon on Sunday. It should be a way of life.

“Also, ask Him to show you if there is any sin that needs to be confessed, because unconfessed sin puts up barrier between you and God. Scripture tells us that God will not hear us if there is iniquity in our hearts,” she said.

Once we confess this, then we must ask for forgiveness, and ask Him to help us obey Him in the particular area in which we struggle.

Next, she said it’s best to keep our prayers simple.

“It doesn’t need to be complicated. Prayer can get overwhelming if you start incorporating man made rules. Just communicate your heart with God.”

She also reminds us that we should seek the will of God in our prayers—not our own.

“Ask God to lead and prompt you to pray for the things He wants in your life. Remember that He will help you pray this way if you ask Him. Be honest with Him in your prayers.”

Lastly, she says it’s very important to be in God’s Word every day.

“It helps you to pray, because it help you understand what God’s will is. You will hear the Holy Spirit more clearly if you are filling yourself with the Word of God. He will bring things alive to you as you read. And, we need to hear His voice clearly, because there are so many competing voices out there. We need to be able to isolate His voice.”

From September 4-6, she will be at The Cove, teaching others about the importance and effectiveness of prayer, and helping them transform their prayer lives.

When asked about what she wants to accomplish through her upcoming time at The Cove, she simply said, “I want people to leave praying.

“We can learn about prayer, talk about it, read about it. I want to inspire people to actually do it! I want people to understand how much God wants to accomplish through prayers, and I want it to be a dynamic in their hearts.

There is still time to make plans to join Stormie and see what God has in store for you at The Cove September 4-6! Learn more about her seminar and register by clicking here or calling 1-800-950-2092.

The Word — Cove Staff Guest Post

By Laura Brown

On my desktop at work, there is a picture of my front porch.  Nothing fancy, just a couple of Adirondack chairs and, for summer, some strands of hanging Chinese lanterns.  This is a special place to me for more than one reason.  In the morning dawn, I watch an occasional fox canter around the side of the house looking for small moving shadows that will become its breakfast.  A neighborhood tabby cat crouches, stealth mode, in the culvert across the street, ear attuned to sounds of movement, in quest of a morsel to fill his belly. 

As I watch from the perch of my porch, I’m not unlike them.  I too have come here in the early morning to be fed.  I open to the Book of 1 Peter and read, “…love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the Word of God which lives and abides forever, because, ‘All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.  The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.’  Now this is the Word which by the Gospel was preached to you.” (Italics mine.)

The Word – according to these verses, I have been born through the Word of God, a Word that lives forever.  This is my cereal and toast.  It is this very Book, resting in my lap each morning under soft light, that brought me to Christ, to be ‘born’ in Him, to say take the broken crumbs of my life and use them all. These Words that are alive, they are the Words that were preached to my Grandmother, who read them to my Mother, who read them to me.  These living Words that never wither or fall away, but endure.

So why, when I love to eat, do I often struggle to feed on the Word? Honestly, some mornings, when the sheets are soft and my sleep is deep, I struggle to respond to the sound of crickets representing the alarm clock on my phone.  I don’t just want to hit snooze, I want to make the bad crickets go away and fall back into dreamland.  It’s the growing relationship that pulls me out of bed.  Like love letters from my husband when we were dating, my heart longs to hear from God in His Word.  (Hmmm…in school, I wasn’t attracted to my husband, he was a friend.  The more I got to know him, the more I was drawn toward him.  One day I realized his inner beauty and knew I could not spend life without him…how like my relationship with God!)   

It’s amazing, the longing for God that has grown over time.  More powerful than the need for sleep, more powerful than the growl of my stomach, more powerful than the want of any earthly relationship is the ache to sit with God, in His Word, on my front porch in the morning.  When finally, I win over my will, and sit at the table of God’s Word, I am always fed… and I never leave hungry.  The Word has become my home and there’s nothing like God’s Home Cooking.

Question for our readers:  Where is your special place to feed on God’s Word? 

Laura Brown is the Administrative Assistant to Guest Group Sales and Program here at The Cove.  She has been married for 30 years, has 2 grown children and 2 adorable grandbabies.  

For more information on bringing a group to The Cove, click here. 

The Power of Prayer and Surrender

God is always at work in our lives.  Do we see it…in good times and bad? Do we take time to thank our Creator for the blessings of each and every day?  Do we praise Him in all circumstances?  Do we surrender everything to Him?  A couple from Kernersville, NC knows a thing or two about surrender and the power of prayer.  May this beautiful story will be an encouragement to you today. 

By George L. Matthews

About 3 years ago, I developed a tremor in my right hand that was diagnosed as benign essential tremors.  

As the tremor worsened and other symptoms began to manifest, my wife, Dianne, asked her neurologist at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center for a neurology referral for me.  

He suggested Dr. Haq, in the neurology department there but told her he might be hard to see since his appointments were scheduled months in advance.  

When Dianne called to see about scheduling an appointment, she was told there had been a cancellation – the very next morning, at 8 am, “Could we be there?”  Is anything too hard for our God?   

Over the next few months, as I underwent numerous tests, my symptoms worsened.  Tests indicated polyneuropathy.  We thought I had spinocerebellar ataxia, but the tests were all negative.   Only one test was confirmed positive, that for paraneoplastic syndrome.  But we had no idea why this syndrome was present.  

In February, I began having difficulty walking.  In 3 weeks time, I was able to walk only with the assistance of lofstrand crutches. 

Every step was an effort.  

My entire body seemed to convulse when I tried to stand.  

The once self-sufficient, independent man that I had always been was reduced to needing help just getting out of bed.  

It was during this time God began dealing with me regarding my absolute surrender to Him as Lord of my life.  

I knew He was Savior, but did I trust Him to be Lord?  

It was easy to say yes to that question when all was well.  

But now, could I accept what He had allowed into my life with thanksgiving (I Thessalonians 5:18)?  When I finally realized that even in the darkest places, He was Lord, I felt that “peace that passes all understanding”.  

I knew that He had a purpose for this and I could trust Him.

Dr. Haq had decided that even though we still did not have a definitive diagnosis for my convulsive movements, he would admit me for a week of steroid treatments.  

I would enter the hospital on June 11.  Dianne had already booked a weekend seminar for us at The Cove for June 8-10 to hear Dr. Ken Boa. 

How amazing that God orchestrated our time at The Cove the weekend before my hospitalization!  

When we arrived for registration at The Cove, we signed up for the Interactive Sessions that were a part of the Seminar event.  

I was assigned with a fabulous group of men, and Dianne with a great group of women.  We were loved upon, encouraged, prayed for.  We were sought out by a couple who had used a recent hospitalization to witness to the hospital staff, and encouraged me to do the same. They shared Bible verses with us.  

We recognized that God had sent all these people to us this very weekend for a special purpose.  The staff at The Cove was so kind and helpful, and we knew they were also praying for us.  We were encouraged by Dr. Boa’s teaching.  

We left The Cove on Sunday knowing we were firmly secure in God’s hand, that He was in control, and we need not fear.  

On June 11, we arrived at the hospital to find out the treatment plan had changed over the weekend.  

One of the physicians Dr. Haq had conferred with had found an article that suggested IVIG treatments.  They started the first treatment Monday evening.  

By midweek, I began standing and taking steps without my crutches.  

By Thursday, I was making laps around the neurology department.  

As I walked, I shared with the staff of God’s goodness; I handed out tracts to those who asked how I could be so joyous.  God provided many opportunities for me to share His love during my stay.  

Then, on Friday I walked out of the hospital without my crutches.  

Am I cured?  We don’t know.  

The doctors were amazed at how well the treatment worked but can’t give a prognosis since they don’t have a definite diagnosis.  

But this we do know, “we are fearfully and wonderfully made” and the Creator God does know.  

It is in His hands and whatever He chooses to send, we accept.  He knows what is best for us.  He knew that until I was unable to manage on my own, I had reserved a part of me that was not completely surrendered to Him.  

I am grateful for this time of illness, for I saw not only physical healing, but spiritual healing as well. 

I felt the amazing power of prayer.  

I saw how God’s timing was woven throughout the events of the past months.  

I had great physicians, great medical staff to administer the treatment, all orchestrated by Him.  But more importantly, we had a lot of people praying for us…our church, our family, and our friends.  

How awesome is our God who walks with us, hears our cry for help, and sends people to walk through our valleys with us!!  

And answers prayer!

A Christmas Wish Granted…

By Trevor Freeze

It’s the beginning of December and the wracking of brains begins.

What do we get mom and dad for Christmas?

Another tie? Sweater? Movie passes? Weed eater?

For the Stevens family, the decision of what to get the folks for Christmas has become a whole lot easier.

“They know we love to travel,” Lynn Stevens said of her three grown children. “And they know we love this place.”

“This place” is The Cove — The Billy Graham Training Center — in Asheville,  N.C., and this past weekend, Tom and Lynn Stevens were using a gift certificate  from their three children to stay over after attending the Night of Worship
event.

“Stuff you forget,” Tom said. “A night at The Cove, you don’t forget. It’s an experience.”

It’s the second straight Christmas that Mandy, 33, Andrew, 29, and Emily, 27, decided to bless their parents with a trip to The Cove, although it was a  little easier the second time around.

“It was kind of a not-so-subtle hint,” Tom said.

That hint came shortly after the Stevens used the first Cove Gift Certificate to attend A Night of Worship with Andrew Peterson in 2011 and fell in love with  the place.

“The closeness you feel here,” said Lynn, who came from Eden, N.C., north of  Greensboro. “You can just sense the presence of God.”

But it wasn’t until the Stevens were in the car on their way to The Cove in  December that they felt God’s timing. The gift certificate was set to expire the very next day.

“We looked at the gift certificate and I said ‘What day is today?’ ” Tom said.
“That’s just how God works. He’s got a sense of humor.”

And as far as next year’s Christmas gift?

Any other ideas come to mind?

“We’re going to keep talking about this,” Tom said.

To learn more about The Cove, click here.
To purchase a Cove gift certificate for your loved one, click here.

Jesus Through The Centuries

By Stuart McAllister

Walking along the road with his followers one day, Jesus asked the question, “Who do people say I am?” The disciples offered a summary of the prevailing and popular views. There seemed to be a range of perspectives and a diversity of opinions amongst the people. Jesus then asked those closest to him, those he was mentoring, the ones who were captivated by him and committed to him: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter famously replied, “You are the Christ.” To any normal Jewish hearer, this meant Jesus was being recognized as the Messiah, the Hope of Israel, the promise of redemption.

From the birth of Christ to the present time, controversy has surrounded the name of Jesus. Was he a Jewish rebel, struggling against the status quo? Was he a religious zealot
eager to throw off the shackles of Rome? Was he a mysterious prophet come to impart sacred wisdom to the masses? Was he a good man whose moral example is simply a model for humanity? Was he a legend created by those with a penchant for myth? Was he a symbol constructed for a power-hungry religious empire?

From the earliest rejections of Jesus’s claims about his identity to historical debates ever
since, we now arrive in the era of vitriolic atheism and the culture of suspicion. It never ceases to amaze me how one question asked 2000 years ago can elicit such diverse, conflicting, and passionate discussion. Yet the question is one of such value that a degree of diligence and vigor is rightly demanded. Modern and postmodern claims that the Christian faith is something intellectually untenable have been ably addressed by writers such as Alister McGrath, N. T. Wright, Ben Witherington, Jr., Darrell Bock, and many more. Jaroslav Pelikan’s Jesus Through the Centuries and Philip Yancey’s The
Jesus I Never Knew
are good popular writings on the continuing quest to
rediscover Jesus.

Moreover, long before our quests or attacks on the historical Jesus, ancient writings pointedly answered the question of Christ’s identity. Writing to the young church in the city of Colossae, the apostle Paul wrote these startling words about Jesus: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17). Against the backdrop of Roman Imperial rule and power, these words would have been immensely subversive, a direct challenge to the reigning worldview. Indeed, the central conflict for the Christian became: Who is Lord—Caesar or Jesus? The outcome of this decision was costly, but as history demonstrates, it led to the gospel’s eventual penetration of the heart of Roman power.

Who is Jesus? This question remains as pertinent today as it was to those who were first asked. Is he a mere legend, as some would claim? Volumes of good New Testament studies
have been written that easily refute this claim. Or was he then, as C. S. Lewis asked, a lunatic (one who merely thought he was God), a liar (one who made horrendously false and misleading claims), or indeed, the Son of God?

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus invites those who are weary to come to him. Many centuries earlier, the prophet Jeremiah spoke of the wisdom and insight available to any and all true
seekers: “You shall seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart,” proclaims the divine heart. Perhaps if we meet these conditions, we may find ourselves in for a surprise. Who do you say that he is?

Join Stuart at The Cove in Asheville, NC on August 1-3, 2012 for his seminar titled Conversations That CountClick here to register or call 1-800-950-2092.

A native of Scotland, Stuart McAllister is North American Regional Director and Vice President of Training at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a renowned speaker, writer, and an associate fellow at Oxford University. Stuart speaks all over the globe with the same passion for the Gospel that he found when he first became a believer. Stuart is a frequent contributor to A Slice of Infinity, RZIM’s daily reading on issues of apologetics and philosophy, Just Thinking, the ministry’s tri-annual journal, as well as Engage, a magazine published quarterly by RZIM Educational Trust. Visit his website here to learn more.

GUEST POST: God’s Example…

By Neil Anderson

In the vast ocean of eternity there was a tidal wave of time that began with the incarnation of Christ and ended with His crucifixion. God stepped out of eternity into time in order that we might step out of time into eternity. His example set the bar so high that human achievement is beyond our grasp. The incarnation was the sternest possible rebuke to our pride. We cannot fully comprehend the example of Christ who “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7). He went from the highest state of being to the lowest state of human existence, becoming a helpless infant born in a manger to humble parents with no social status. For you and I to become a slug doesn’t come close to approximating the descent. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Our Lord’s time came to an abrupt end at the crucifixion, which was the sternest possible rebuke to our selfish nature. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jn. 3:16). Can you imagine what life on earth would be like if we all believed the Apostle Paul and lived according to Philippians 2: 3-5:    

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”  

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.

Neil Anderson’s seminar titled The Core of Christianity takes place on July 13-15 at The Cove in Asheville, NC.  To register click here or call 1-800-950-2092.

Neil Anderson is the founder and president emeritus of Freedom in Christ Ministries, a best-selling author, and former pastor and aerospace engineer. He was formerly chairman of the Practical Theology Department at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in the USA. He holds five degrees from Talbot, Pepperdine University and Arizona State University. For more information on Freedom in Christ Ministries, visit http://www.ficm.org/