“Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.” Psalm 118:5 #FindFreedominChrist
We hope that you will enjoy our “prayer note” — an internal communication, here at The Cove, created each month to remind and encourage our staff to pray. We will share these with you at the beginning of each month in hopes that, you too, will be encouraged.
Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NKJV)
We made it through! Although much of the snow has melted, images remain frozen in our memories…we, the survivors of “The Blizzard of 2016.”
The huge winter storm affected the entire eastern third of our nation and disrupted the lives of more than 100 million people. Aside from the usual snow-day inconveniences of school closings and grocery stores emptied of milk and bread, there were serious and deadly consequences resulting from this massive weather system. At present, the total number of deaths attributed to the storm stands at 55. At any given moment during the storm or in its immediate aftermath, a look at online news feeds and TV newscasts revealed a study in contrasts.
One minute we viewed pics of adorable snow-suit clad children sledding with dad; next, we heard accounts of horrific traffic fatalities as semi-trucks lost control on icy highways. We grinned as we watched a Giant Panda delightedly frolicking in the powdery snow…but grins faded as we heard the tragic report of a mother and toddler who perished in their idling car—deaths blamed on carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of the vehicle’s clogged tailpipe. Our hearts broke as we learned the child’s father had been just outside, shoveling to free the car of snow.
In an odd confluence of events, we saw simultaneously the breathtaking beauty of a world covered in glistening white…”Yaaay, God!”…and the heartrending tragedy of death and destruction…”Why, God?” The varied images of the blizzard brought it into focus again: The human condition exists in a kaleidoscopic jumble of joy and pain, laughter and tears, hope and despair. At any moment, you may have a relative suffering from cancer and another celebrating the birth of their first child. On any given Sunday, your pastor may be preaching to a business professional who just received a promotion, and another who never found work after last year’s layoff.The Old Testament records the account of Job, who after learning of the loss of his cattle, servants and even his own sons, held tight to his faith as he issued this challenge to his wife, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?“ (Job 2:10, NKJV).
As the account of this faithful man’s suffering continues, we see him begin to question God. Yet among the many lessons the book of Job teaches us, one of the most important is this: God is big enough to handle our questions. In Job chapter 38, God lays out some questions of His own, all designed to lift Job’s eyes away from his current dire situation and up to the omnipotent, sovereign God who created and sustained him. Among the many revealing questionsGod asked Job is this: “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail?” (Job 38:22, NIV).
Rather than providing a detailed meteorological map and a lesson on low pressure systems and atmospheric phenomena, God gave Job a vivid mental image of the true Source of blizzard conditions. When we’re hit with a storm of trouble and “Yaay, God!” changes to “Why, God?”, we’re tempted to ask, “Who’s minding the storehouse?” The God who’s big enough to handle our questions answers, “I AM.” There are other biblical references to God’s storehouses. The psalmist David reminds us, “He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; He sends lightning with the rain and bring out the wind from His storehouses.” (Psalm 135:7, NIV).
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave us this reassurance: “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?” (Luke 12:24, NIV)
After confronting the Israelites with their sins of apathy, unfaithfulness and corruption, the prophet Malachi delivers God’s message of hope, promising blessing to His children if they will turn back to Him in repentance and obedience:
“’Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty,’and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’” (Malachi 3:10).
On any given day in 2016, we will minister to a wide range of people at The Cove. When this year’s seminar season begins on February 12 with the Chip Ingram Military Marriage Retreat, some of the military personnel who attend will have just returned home from a long deployment. No doubt there will be couples whose marriage is near breaking from the strain of long periods of separation and stress. Others may be visiting The Cove simply as a relaxing getaway and a means of celebrating and strengthening an already strong marital bond. Newlyweds and seasoned marriage partners will be in attendance—each person as individual as a snowflake. How can we adequately minister to the heart of each participant? We can’t, but God can! Pray that He will throw open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing on these men and women. Pray that God will open their hearts to each other and to Him.
The February 24-26 Leadership Renewal Retreat with Jim Henry will bring pastors from various denominations and varied situations. One pastor and spouse may arrive with joy and excitement, happy to be attending the retreat and anticipating some well-deserved downtime. Another pastoral couple may come with heavy hearts, seeking respite from a troubled ministry that is strained to the breaking point. Each retreat participant will arrive with a different set of needs and expectations, but all will be knocking at the door of the same Storehouse. Pray that the blessings of refreshment, renewal and encouragement will be poured out upon these faithful servants. Praise God, He hears our prayers, and His storehouse is never empty.
Join us in praying for the following events in February:
FEBRUARY 2016 EVENTS
(For more information or to register, click on the links below.)
Women’s Bible Study with Jane Derrick — Morning:
January 12-February 23
Love that Makes A Difference
Women’s Bible Study with Kendra Graham — Evening:
January 12-February 23
Portrait of a Disciple
An Evening at The Cove (dinner, concert, and meet & greet) with Brandon Heath — February 14 (lodging also available)
Leadership Renewal Retreat–Free to Lead: Encouraging the Shepherd with Jim Henry — February 24-26
NOTE: This retreat is free to qualifying pastors and their spouses.
We appreciate your prayers. God bless you!
Come be rejuvenated in a quiet peaceful setting tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains while continuing your work in growing the Lord’s Kingdom. The Cove, in Asheville, NC, is a perfect setting for refreshing your faith and maturing your relationship with Christ.
Check out our FREE events for 2016 and click on a link below that is of interest to you.
These events are FREE for those actively serving in pastoral ministry (and their spouse), providing the opportunity to interact with their peers and receive insight, instruction, and best practices from experienced Christian leaders.
Leadership Renewal Retreat: Encouraging the Shepherd
with Jim Henry, February 24-26, 2016
Pastor’s Institute: Jonah On the Run
with Jerry Vines, April 12-13, 2016
Leadership Renewal Retreat: Engaging the Next Generation (Specifically for YOUTH pastor and spouse.)
with Sean McDowell & Alex McFarland, April 25-27, 2016
Pastors’ Institute:3-D Discipleship: Loving, Growing, Reaching
with Lon Allison, July 12-13, 2016
Leadership Renewal Retreat:The Conviction to Lead
with R. Albert Mohler, Jr., November 7-9, 2016
Each month one of our staff, Donna Riesen, prepares a “prayer note” to remind and encourage our staff to pray. We will begin sharing these with you on the first of each month in hopes that, you too, will be encouraged.
By Donna Riesen:
Have we lost Jesus? Another Christmas season has come and gone, and we’ve shopped and eaten and wrapped and traveled, but have we marveled at the miracle? Like Mary, did we take the time to “ponder in our hearts” the truth of God coming to earth as a helpless baby, on a rescue mission of love? Like the Wise Men, did we go out of our way to seek Him?
Aside from the New Testament birth narratives, the visit from the Wise men, the account of Christ’s circumcision, and the flight to Egypt, the Bible is silent on a large portion of Jesus’ childhood until Luke 2:41-52 gives us a brief glimpse of the boy Jesus at age 12.
Following their usual custom as faithful Jews, Mary and Joseph made their yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. Luke records an astonishing sequence of events as—after an entire day’s travel on their return to Nazareth—Mary and Joseph realize they have lost track of Jesus. If you’ve ever lost sight of your child for even a few minutes in the aisles of a department store, you know that heart-stopping feeling they experienced.
(Side note: Before accusing the couple of child neglect, we should consider that the large crowds who made the Passover journey together usually divided into two groups: men, and women & children. Since Jesus was now twelve years of age, Mary may have assumed her Son had joined with the group of men to make the journey home, while Joseph probably believed Him to be with the women and children. Since the crowd of pilgrims probably included lots of extended family, Jesus would have had plenty of relatives to look after Him in either group. Who wouldn’t volunteer for that babysitting job?)
After searching and inquiring to no avail among the group of travelers, the worried couple made a hasty return trip to Jerusalem. Verse 46 tells us that “after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46, NKJV). We let out a sigh of relief at hearing that the boy was found safe, then catch our breath again in amazement as we read that “all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers” (2:47, NKJV). The amazement increases as we picture a frazzled Mary scolding the Son of God: “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought you anxiously” (2:48, NKJV).
Jesus’ reply gives us the first clue that He is aware of His identity and destiny as the Son of God. “Why did you seek me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49, NKJV)
The Bible then tells us in verse 50 that “They did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.” In spite of being misunderstood, verse 51 shows us the humility of Christ, as He “went down with them and came to Nazareth and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart.”
From the day the angel first appeared to her in the little village of Nazareth, to the temple at Jerusalem, and then to the foot of the cross, tender-hearted Mary would have much to keep and ponder.
As we ponder the happenings of 2015 and look ahead to 2016, may our prayer be to never lose track of Christ. As He was found in the temple discussing the Scriptures with leaders two and three times His age, may we be found seeking for Him in the pages of His Word and in prayer.
As Cove staff, we are privileged to work in a place where we are daily “about our Father’s business.” Whether we are changing bed linens, changing an inn reservation or changing a lightbulb, we all serve in a place where lives are changed by the power of the Word of God and the work of His Spirit. 2016 will be a year of change for all of us at The Cove. Although we will “hit the ground running,” may we never run ahead of Christ in self-sufficiency or lose track of Him by lagging behind in disobedience. Instead, let’s enter this new year on our knees in a posture of prayer. If you’ve lost track of Jesus, that’s the best place to start.
Click here to see what’s happening at The Cove.