Category Archives: Bible Study Community with Kendra Graham

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

KENDRA GRAHAM: ONLINE BIBLE STUDY

For I am mindful of the sincere faith that within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother, Lois, and you mother, Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. And for this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God…  (2 Timothy 1:5-6a)

What Does it Say?

I am mindful of the sincere faith in you which first dwelt in your grandmother and mother, I am sure it is in you as well.  I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God

What Does it Mean?

I have put off this blog for three weeks.  I don’t want to think about school starting again.  I am one of those parents that LOVES summer and wishes time would stop for a minute—but it never does.  Today, with my eldest child, I begin the trek known as “senior year.”  Today, like it or not, she will have her senior portraits taken.  My heart can’t handle it.  I don’t want to feel all the conflicting emotions that are fighting for precedence.

Bittersweet is a great term to describe it. “Bitter,” because this is my last year with her at home 24/7. This is my last school year to pour into my eldest daughter all the things she needs to know before she heads off to a college four hours away. This thought makes me panic; it makes me want to grasp to keep her here with me, just as she’s always been for the last 18 years. The bitter hurts.

(CJ’s Senior Graduation Pic)

This time can also be described as “sweet,” because I am so excited for her to embrace this new direction in life. I love that she prayed for months and months about where God wanted her go to school.  I can’t wait to watch the journeys she embarks on and what she gets to see.

My heart is an absolute conflicted mess.

Whether we as parents are dropping kids off at kindergarten or they are driving themselves to their first day of their senior year, the school year can be daunting.  Every year I say, “I want to be better, more engaged; I don’t want to forget which day is a half-day and what time my parent teacher conference is. I will not run from that dreaded science fair project and wait until the night before to get all the supplies. I will be on top if it this year!”

What does being “on top of it” really mean in the grand scheme of things?  What does it really look like?  I ran across these verses in 2 Timothy a few weeks ago, and God spoke to my heart about what is really important. Living out a sincere faith in front of your kids is a BIG DEAL.

As our kids go back to school this year, let us determine to kindle afresh our love for the Word of God.  A genuine faith is a faith that is not one where we dust off our Bible app on Sunday mornings. A genuine faith is one that gets us out of bed a bit earlier or drives us to stay up a bit later and open up the Word of God and ask God to transform our lives. A genuine faith is one that stirs up in us in such a way where we must carve out specific minutes each day for God’s Word and direction.

I remember in high school when I would get out of bed early to ensure I had enough time to properly tease my hair and hairspray it in place so that it did not move. I still remember glancing into the dining room and seeing my dad every day with his Bible open, reading the Word of God and praying.  That image is forever seared in my memory.  My parents lived out their faith in the most genuine way in front of me, and remembering my dad at that dining room table has had a life-long impact on me.

Here in these verses, Paul is reminding Timothy of his grandmother and mother. These two women, in the middle of a corrupt Roman society, lived out their faith. They lived out the message of the Gospel in front of Timothy. Their legacy of faith had impact. Paul uses that real life example of faithfulness in the home to stir up and remind Timothy of the faith that is in him as well.

Paul goes on to remind Timothy in verse 7 that God has not given him a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and love and discipline. It can sometimes be HARD and frightening to live out genuine faith in our culture today; but this school year as parents, let’s determine to pass on that legacy: the legacy of a sincere faith that is not just talked about but is lived out. This school year let’s determine to be disciplined, above all, in the Word of God. Let’s LIVE BOLD, faith-filled lives in front of our families.  A fire left to itself will burn out, so let’s stir the embers of faith this school year as never before.

Homeschool parents, public school parents, independent private school parents, and Christian school parents, what if we all together got on our knees and prayed fervently day after day for God to raise US up to live the Gospel in front of our kids in a supernatural way? Can we even imagine how in this school year we would see God work in unbelievable ways?

As the school year progresses we may fail at being those “super-parents” we expect ourselves to be: attending every performance, volunteering for every field trip, and having the most incredible science fair projects. But what if this year we determined to be those parents with a faith that is on fire? This will be hard; but God has not given us a spirit of fear but power, love and discipline.

Today, I embark on a bittersweet journey with my daughter.  I pray that above all she will remember the Gospel fire that lives within me. Let’s tackle this school year saturated in the sweetness of the Word of God.

What Does it Mean to Me?

When are you carving out disciplined personal minutes to be in the Word of God?  If not every day, will you determine to discipline yourself to open God’s Word three times a week?

Do you have a legacy of faith in your family, or will you be the beginning of that legacy?

How can your faith be described?

LIVE IT OUT:

Today, LORD, thank you for meeting me here in Your Word.  As today proceeds, please stir up Your Word within me.  Give me the power to live out the Gospel in front of my family today.


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

Are you a Christian church or non-profit ministry looking for a place to hold your conference, retreat or ministry event?  Click here for more information on holding your event at The Cove.

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

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KENDRA GRAHAM: ONLINE BIBLE STUDY

 “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker—An earthenware vessel among the vessels of the earth!  Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands?’”  (Isaiah 45:9, NASB)

What Does it Say?

Woe to one who quarrels with his Maker. Will clay say to potter, “What are you doing?” Or the thing made say “He has no hands?”

What Does it Mean?

I recently traveled to Seattle, Washington. Greeted by Seattle’s cold and rain, I began to feel as if the cold weather continues to chase me! As I navigated the city’s rain-soaked streets, I was drawn to what seemed to be the warmest spot in town— a unique glass shop called Art by Fire. The ovens inside the shop were 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and my Aunt Tina and I could literally feel those ovens breathe their warmth into the chilly side street we were walking. In the days since our visit to that unique place, my heart and mind continue to process our experience.

My aunt and I watched with intrigue as the glassmaker placed a rod into the fire to take hold of a lump of glass. As he removed the clear hot piece of glass, he continuously turned the rod to prevent the glass from falling off the rod and on to the hard concrete floor. As long as the glass remained in this red-hot state, it stayed incredibly pliable. The artist then added color, firing the glass again as it cooled and became less moldable. While the glass was at its hottest, the glassmaker used tools to shape the lump of glass into a work of art. We watched in amazement as the master designer reached for pliers and began pulling apart pieces of glass to create the petals of an iris. Then, with creativity and great skill, he applied a large putty knife of sorts, placing pressure in the proper places and rounding certain pieces out at just the correct angle. When I asked how he’d learned to create these amazing pieces, the artist said, “I see them in my mind, then my hands get to work.”

As I watched this extraordinary artist work, a verse in Isaiah came to mind: “..will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’”  (Isaiah 45:9, NASB).

The glass didn’t scream at the creator when put into the fire. The glass needed to be put into the fire so that it could be formed and so that color could be added. The glassmaker told Aunt Tina and me that it was the fire that solidified each piece’s unique color. The glass would cool quickly as the artist worked, so multiple trips to the fire were needed.  The process was fascinating: Early-on it was difficult to see what the piece was going to become, but by the end it was obvious—the lump of glass had been transformed into something beautiful—a true piece of art that was worth every penny of the price listed on the tag.

My heart was softened as my eyes witnessed the process from start to finish. I so often become frustrated with God because of the fire He leads me to walk through. I tend to immediately think that God hates me and doesn’t care if I die or if I hurt. I am evidence of the creation screaming at the potter, “What are You doing?!”  The process is often excruciating as I fight and refuse to face the fire, doing all I can to run from the extreme heat; but what if I allowed the Creator to place me where He needs me to be, for as long as I need to be there?

The interesting thing about that glass-artist was that when he placed the glass piece back into the fire to heat it up, it was never in there for very long: just long enough to make it pliable—then it was immediately removed. The artist explained that while the glass piece was being fired he had to pay very close attention it, constantly turning the piece to prevent it from falling off the rod or getting destroyed in the fire. If the artist left the glass in the heat of the fire for too long, it would liquify the glass, defeating the purpose of the piece.

Sometimes it seems like “forever” in the furnace; but if I decided to stop fighting, and allowed the Creator to fashion what He wants, adding the color He desires (not the color I demand), what kind of testimony would my life become?  What if I allowed the Creator to use those pliers to pull away the petals from the stem so that I could become what He desires me to be? I confess I don’t like the heat of the fire or the pressure of the pliers. Yet I know this truth: God never promised life would be easy, but He did promise that we would never be alone and that He will never leave us or forsake us (see Hebrews 13:5).  The book of Romans tells us that the “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18, NKJV) and that “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NASB).

We can trust the Creator. The white-hot heat of the fire or the burning heat of the desert is not for our harm, but for our good. This is where faith comes in. We have faith for something, because it’s hard.  We hold on to the fact of God’s promises when everything around us and everything in our hearts says to put our fists in the air and RUN from the fire and from everything we thought we believed about God.

What if we held on, pressed in, and really believed what we have said we believe? Then our lives would reflect a work of art that only God could create. The choice to trust is yours. This is hard! I wish it were easy, but I encourage you to press on, my friends… through the heat of the desert and the flame of the fire.

What does it Mean to Me?
  • How hard has it been to choose to stand in faith and not run in fear, anger and bitterness?
  • When have you seen God or felt the closeness of God while going through the fire?
  • How can we pray for you today if you feel alone in the midst of the fire?

LIVE IT OUT

Today, LORD God, give me eyes to see Your hand on that rod while this fire threatens to overwhelm me, and give me a heart to accept it as I cling to Your Word. Give me today a specific promise from Your Word that I will claim. Instead of the anger and bitterness I feel rising in my soul, may Your Word be the cry of my heart.


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

Are you a Christian church or non-profit ministry looking for a place to hold your conference, retreat or ministry event?  Click here for more information on holding your event at The Cove.

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

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KENDRA GRAHAM: ONLINE BIBLE STUDY

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9, NASB)

What Does it Say?

Have I not commanded YOU? BE strong, courageous; do not tremble or be dismayed. The LORD your GOD is with you wherever you go

What does it Mean?

I recently had the rare opportunity to go to Scotland with my husband, Will. Among the places Will was privileged to preach was the historic town of Falkirk—the town in which William Wallace, the hero of Scotland’s history of freedom, was betrayed by his own countrymen and then dragged to Edinburgh where he was put to death. As you may know by now, I love history. I wish I’d loved it when I was in school! Although dates and battles continue to confuse me, I’m often inspired by the life stories of people from different time periods.

 John Knox (photo: Getty)

The Scottish people have a long history of courage, and among the most courageous individuals in the annuls of Scottish history stands the towering figure of John Knox.  Born somewhere around 1572 (no one knows the exact date), Knox became a tutor to nobles—a decent, respectable, and safe job to have. Yet the safe and secure life of John Knox was forever changed when he heard the Gospel preached by George Wishart. Embracing that Gospel, Knox bent his knee to the King of kings and decided to live his life for Jesus with passion and courage. Yet that courage soon melted away from Knox as he watched his mentor and evangelist George Wishart strangled, beaten and burned in the courtyard of St Andrews Cathedral by Cardinal Beaton.

Not long after the martyrdom of George Wishart, the church gave the nod to John Knox to carry forth the message of the Gospel to all parts of Scotland. The people were bound by the government and church of the day, but the Gospel would set them free! That evening when John Knox received the call to preach, he ran home, got into his Scottish cupboard (closet) and cried, petrified and frozen by fear.  At that moment not an ounce of courage could be found in him.  Knox could not preach.

A fearful John Knox left the country and found himself in the presence of John Calvin, where for the next 18 months he studied the Word of God. I love that God did this, don’t you? Isn’t it so encouraging to know that even the great men of God were afraid? God understands that we are afraid, so He meets us in it and teaches us through it, so that we can, with His strength, rise above it!

John Knox did return to Scotland under the rein of the wicked Mary, Queen of Scots.  As Knox boldly proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus to his fellow countrymen, it sparked a nationwide revival. The monarchy and the ruling church of the day hated Knox for what he was doing, but the people of the country loved him and turned to God. Queen Mary of Scots was forced spare Knox’s life, since the monarchy feared a rebellion and total upheaval if Knox were to be killed.

As it turned out, John Knox died of old age, preaching the Gospel with boldness and courage to any and all who would listen.  When he died, the nation of Scotland mourned—so much so that Knox’s body and grave ended up being decimated. A stone courtyard (now used for parking) was erected directly above his burial plot. The country refused to forget the light of  the Gospel that Knox brought to a dark and dreary land on the verge of hopelessness.  Today, the site of John Knox’s grave may indeed be a parking space (space 23, to be precise), but his impact will never be forgotten.

John Knox once said that all he had to offer the Lord was his mighty weakness.  God used the mighty weakness of John Knox in a powerful way.  This mighty man of weakness was quoted as saying, “Lord, give me Scotland or I die!”  God honored that.

What if we were courageous enough to give God our weaknesses?  Forget about all the strengths you have. It is usually our weaknesses that prevent us from embracing the purpose that God has set apart for us, isn’t it?  John Knox boldly preached his first message in Scotland on June 11, 1546 at St Andrews Cathedral, the location where he had seen his dear friend George Wishart killed. The very place that took his fear is the place that God used to spark a powerful revival in his land. I cannot even process it all.  I stand in awe of God.

It was humbling to be standing in the ruins of that very St Andrews Cathedral on June 11, 2018, with my husband, Wil Graham, who with his Scottish heritage was there in the great country of Scotland to once again see God work in a mighty, mighty way. I was privileged to be able to watch and witness the hand of God moving across the country from Peterhead, to Aberdeen, from Banf to Fraserburgh to Grangemouth, Stirling and Falkirk.  The remnant of Scotland is just as strong and courageous as they were in 1546.

God is on the move!

What does it Mean to me?

What weakness is keeping you controlled by fear instead of faith?

When has God asked to use the mighty weakness in your life?

LIVE IT OUT

Today I will ask God to give me the courage demanded for what He has called me to do.

“A man with God is always in the majority”  –John Knox


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

Are you a Christian church or non-profit ministry looking for a place to hold your conference, retreat or ministry event?  Click here for more information on holding your event at The Cove.

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

Follow us on social media. click map

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Kendra Graham: Online Bible Study John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 

(John 10:10, NASB)

What Does it Say?

The thief comes to steal, kill, destroy.  I came that they have life abundantly

What Does it Mean?

Life is hard. Suicides are up all over the world. The recent loss of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain show that the hopeless perception of suicide as the only option reaches across all socioeconomic groups.  Regardless of whether you are rich or poor, hopelessness can seep in no matter who you are or where you live.  In the United States, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death overall and the second leading cause of death from the ages of 10 to 34.  There were twice as many suicides than homicides in 2017. People are hurting and hopeless.

Over the past few weeks I have been writing about the desert and what an intense struggle it is to hold to the Word of God when all you see around you is a barren, unforgiving land. Has God brought you out to this place to forget you, or lead you off a cliff, or abandon you?  My answer is a resounding, “NO!”  God has brought you to this place of desert because of His kindness and love. This makes no sense, right?  In the desert places of life, you have nothing else to do but to cling to God.  Dependence upon God for your very survival is the only choice. It is through these times of desert in our lives that God in His grace shows us our desperate need for Him. If it were not for these times, would we be tempted to think we didn’t need Him?  God provides shade in the desert (link to previous blog on the broom tree)  and then shows us how we can grow to be shade for others in their desert places(link to previous acacia blog)). He shows us why just living the easy life on the surface is so dangerous (link to previous eucalyptus blog), and He shows us that although He has called us to hard places, even there He has provided all that we need (link to previous blog on goats).

Two weeks ago at the hospital where I work, God brought me a patient.  This patient was scheduled to undergo a cesarean section for her third baby; and before we went back to the operating room, she bluntly told me she wanted to die. I sat down with her and we had a desert talk. Life is hard, and I am so sorry. The enemy would have you believe that your life has no purpose, that you are more a problem than a help.  The enemy has one game plan, and that plan is as bold as these three words that Jesus spoke in John 10:10: to steal, kill and destroy.  The enemy wants to steal your purpose and to kill and destroy the very thing you were created for.  All of us are created to walk with God, to know God and to NEED God.  Our need for God is not a design flaw.  The enemy knows exactly what we were created to do, so if he can keep us far from it, then he wins.  This is what the enemy’s plans are for you, your family, your friends and your church.  Bold?  Yes.  But it’s not the end of the story.

God loves us so much that He came Himself, not trusting you or me to anyone else.  God came with skin on, and His name is Jesus.  Jesus came to give us LIFE.  He always leads to LIFE.  Even in these places of desert and struggle and hardship, cling to Jesus and He will show you LIFE in the middle of the desolation.  For some reason it is easier for us to believe we deserve the plan of the enemy, but that is a lie. Jesus came because of His great LOVE for US.  God so loved us that He gave His Son Jesus to die on a cross so that we may LIVE. (John 3:16, I John 4:9)

God trusts us with these times of desert.  The desert is no joke: it is a struggle to see God, to hear God and to cling to God, but my friend, there is LIFE there! Water will flow from illogical sources, and food will show up in ways you could never have imagined.  The desert just may become the place where you saw God and walked with Him more intimately than you could ever describe. Just keep walking.  Keep holding.  Keep digging deep into the hardened earth for that ounce of water.  You have purpose given to you from the highest ranks of heaven, so don’t be so quick to just give that away.

I literally told my patient that God sent me to her to tell her just how precious she is to Him and just how big her purpose is.  I shared John 10:10 with her. Tears streamed down her face as she decided then and there to fight for the LIFE God has given her. Are these the streams in the desert that Isaiah 35 speaks of?  “Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.  Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert” Isaiah 35:6 (NIV).

Maybe tears are not the streams we dreamed of, but those tears that day gave hope to the hopeless. If I had not been in the desert, I would not have seen this woman who was in desperate need of shelter. Perhaps God has trusted us with walking through hard places so that as He shows us His provision, we can then be that provision for others.  It’s hard, but this current desert has not been wasted, and so I will hold to that.

For He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU.” Hebrews 13:5 (NASB)

 What Does it Mean to me?

 How has the enemy tried to steal, kill and destroy your purpose?

What desert have you been entrusted with to encourage you to CLING to the PROMISE of who God says He is?  How has God encouraged you to continue clinging when everything else in this world screams at us to curse God and die?

How has God given you LIFE?

LIVE IT OUT

Today I will LIVE, beating back the lies of the enemy with the TRUTH of God’s Word.


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

Are you a Christian church or non-profit ministry looking for a place to hold your conference, retreat or ministry event?  Click here for more information on holding your event at The Cove.

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

 

Follow us on social media. click map

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Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study: Isaiah 41

 

Isaiah 41:17-20 (NASB)

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst.  I, the LORD, will answer them Myself, as the God of Israel, I will not forsake them. (18)  I will open rivers on the bare heights, and springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land fountains of water.  (19) I will put the cedar in the wilderness, the acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert together with the box tree and the cypress, (20) that they may see and recognize and consider and gain insight as well, that the hand of the LORD has done this…”

WHAT DOES IT SAY?

The afflicted and needy seek water, tongue parched. I the LORD will answer Myself, I will not forsake them.  I will open rivers in heights, spring in valleys, make the wilderness a pool and dry land fountains. I will put cedar, acacia, myrtle, olive in wilderness, juniper, box tree cypress in desert, that they may see, recognize, consider and gain insight that the hand of the LORD has done this.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

Life is hard.  I find myself telling my kids that all the time.  I wish life were a bowl of cherries every day and adversity stayed at bay, but that is just not realistic.  Who can identify with an adversity-free life?  If you have never had an ounce of adversity, I praise God for that, I truly do; but it would be hard for me to even have coffee with you, because it would be difficult to relate.  It has been said that all of us have either just been through a time of adversity, are in a time of adversity, or are getting ready to go through a time of adversity.  Adversity happens— it’s life.

My most recent blog posts have been wrapped around the image of the desert.  The winter was long, hard and cold; and this spring has been filled with rain and dreariness for days on end. This is the kind of weather that I struggle with.  Winter and spring have been my desert in a sense—maybe more of a frozen tundra—and it has created a longing in me to return to the literal desert of Tucson, Arizona, where I grew up, so that I can dry out and thaw out.  This is what led me to study actual desert habitats, to see how things survive in places where there is little or no water or food.

I am so drawn to these verses in Isaiah 41; they paint such a picture of desperation.  The afflicted and needy are seeking water and sustenance yet find none.  When we’re afflicted and hurting, we seek to alleviate the pain. That is not a bad thing—it’s a human thing.  We have needs, and we need them met. The quote, “Necessity (desperation) the mother of invention” has been attributed to Plato. We seek and we seek…we problem solve, and we collaborate, and when we finish with all that, we end up parched.  We look for answers and relief where there is none to be found.  We try to move, to get out and fix it all.  In this world, our human ingenuity will always leave us lacking—wanting more, and never fulfilled.  Awesome. This blog is truly shaping up to be an encouragement! 

To give us a lift, let’s consider the mountain goat: The mountain goats in the desert are amazing! These goats are sure-footed (or sure-“hooved,” I guess).  With hooves much wider and sturdier than the farm goat or countryside goats we’re used to seeing in petting zoos and on farms, a mountain goat will jump over rocks and ravines and can scale the craziest ledges.  According to Encyclopedia Britannica, these goats actually prefer to sleep on steep, rocky ledges and hillsides.  Who in the world would prefer to live on a rocky ledge overlooking a life-ending drop?  That is crazy!  Another truly awe inspiring fact about these goats (and also about the mule deer of the desert) is that these animals can smell water beneath the surface of the desert floor to about two feet.  The animals will use their hooves to dig up water that is hidden to the naked eye.

(Above Pic: Mountain Goat in En Gedi)

Another type of wild mountain goat, called the Ibex, can be found in Israel at a place called En Gedi. Located by the Dead Sea in the middle of the wilderness, En Gedi is the place where David went to hide after he had given King Saul a minor robe-trimming.  David was in En Gedi when he wrote the words, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You” (Psalm 42:1, NASB).  The name En Gedi means literally “The spring of the goat.” Who knows? David may have been watching that wild mountain goat called the Ibex when God inspired him to write that psalm. (The Ibex still reside at the En Gedi preserve today.)

(Above Pic: Water in En Gedi)

I wonder if the prophet Isaiah had En Gedi mind while he was penning those verses in Isaiah 41: a tremendous spring, situated right in the middle of the wilderness. In contrast to En Gedi, the nearby Dead Sea (also located in the desert of Judea) is so salty that no life can reside in it.  The Dead Sea is… well…dead! It doesn’t really speak of “life.”  Almost everything in this desert wilderness speaks of adversity, hardship and desperate need…. but then there is En Gedi.

In the middle of the desert, where sojourners are faced with the very true reality of dehydration and death, there is this unexplainable, life-giving spring. En Gedi is just that—a spring of life.  Coming out of the rocks in this mountainous and difficult place is fresh water, not salt water!  Bursting forth in the middle of the desert, although hidden among a difficult path, is refreshment—and not just refreshment, but shelter. There are broom trees and acacia trees that shelter and feed the goats, as well as a fresh spring easily traversed by these animals in residence.  En Gedi is a literal oasis, brought forth out of nothing.

Visualizing En Gedi while reading Isaiah 41 brings me such hope and confidence in the God who loves me (41:8), who chose me (41:9) and who is with me and refuses to leave me (41:10,13,14,17).  I pray you will take hold of this same confidence. God is not ignorant of your needs nor of the fact that the mountainous path is hard, rocky, and dangerous; He has made provision for that, and that provision is Himself.  God will make water flow from desert rocks and will produce shelter and food from a rocky, hard land if that is where you are.  God will do what is necessary in order to provide for His people.  There is nothing too difficult for God, and no person is too small to escape His eye.  These verses don’t say God “may” help you, or “may eventually remember your adversity.”  God says He is there, He will provide, and He will not leave you.

I love when David speaks of the deer panting for water in the desert. He likens it to how he pants for God and His Word in these dry, hard and weary places.  David never said that the deer wished for an easier path that was more scalable.  David realized the provision God had given these mountain roamers, and he asked for the same.

It’s easy to lose sight of God in the reality of desert adversity, but what if we really took the time to look around?  Would we see a spring that came out of the rocks at just the right time? Would we discover shelter from a broom tree, (link to broom tree study) just as we were about to collapse from heat exhaustion? Would we find food from the leaves of an acacia (link to acacia study) to ease our gnawing hunger?  Sure, it’s not the provision we’d prefer or the green pastures we’d hoped for, but it is a miracle of God’s provision, grace and presence nonetheless.  It is because life has adversities and we are utterly desperate that we even look to God at all.  Often, it is not until we have explored every avenue of self-provision that we finally call out to God and find He answers us, Himself.  I love that.  He doesn’t send an email through a secretary, but He answers us personally Himself.  What verses of hope! What an amazing oasis in the middle of the desert!

Lord, give us eyes to see and hearts to receive.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ME?

When has God provided an oasis in the desert for you?  What did your oasis look like?  A promise to hold on to?  A person who dropped by?  A meal that you may or may not have even liked that provided sustenance?

Have we been praying for God to change the path of adversity before us, instead of making our hooves sure-footed as we climb the terrain?

LIVE IT OUT:

Today, LORD God, give me eyes to see Your overwhelming provision, and a heart to accept it.


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

Are you a Christian church or non-profit ministry looking for a place to hold your conference, retreat or ministry event?  Click here for more information on holding your event at The Cove.

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


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Kendra Graham Online Bible Study: How Deep Are Your Roots?

 

Matthew 13:5, 20-21 (NASB)

Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil.

The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the Word and immediately receives it with joy; (21) yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the Word, immediately he falls away.

 What Does it Say?

Others fell on rocky places, not much soil, immediately sprang up, no depth of soil. This is the man who hears the Word and immediately receives it, yet has no firm root; when affliction arises, immediately he falls.

What Does it Mean?

Desert survival has been my focus the last few weeks.  This year, the freezing cold winter has been a desert of sorts to me.  I have learned that God is my shade; He has provided for me in the midst of my struggle (link to broom tree).  I have learned that sometimes God wants to grow me in an unforgiving land to allow me to be a shade to others, as He has been to me (link to acacia).  In light of this, my question for this blog changed a bit.  Instead of studying trees and plants that can survive in the desert, I asked the question, “What trees or plants don’t survive”?

I’ve become obsessed with studying the root systems of desert vegetation!  Both the broom tree and the acacia have root systems that drive deep into the earth to find water where seemingly none exists.  Some  acacia trees have been found to have roots 200 feet below the surface; and with the smallest amount of water they can stay fertile and green, producing fruit in a landscape that is unforgiving and brutally hot.  Not every desert tree has this root system.

On August 11, 2017, my home town of Tucson, Arizona, experienced a microburst– a rain storm that comes up quickly, dumping a lot of water in the desert in a very short amount of time.  In just an hour and half, the skies dumped about a half-inch of water on the hard packed earth of the desert, and this water was accompanied by heavy wind gusts.  Eucalyptus trees on the east side of Tucson fell in such dramatic fashion that reports from locals called it a “war zone.”  I decided to research a bit about this tree that I grew up seeing peppered throughout my city.

The eucalyptus grows incredibly fast and can grow up to 60 feet in height and 25 feet wide.  It’s not uncommon for an eight-year-old Eucalyptus to reach over 18 feet (what a difference from the acacia tree, which takes 20-30 years to grow).  The eucalyptus depends on intentional watering, but can survive on minimal hydration.  This tree will give a luscious, thick-shaded canopy for those desert travelers looking for relief.

A Eucalyptus tree is an impressive sight in the desert: it is more lush than an acacia, and it provides a great deal more shade and cover than a broom tree.  The scented oils from Eucalyptus leaves are quite fragrant.  Who would not be drawn to this tree? Who would not want to be the tall eucalyptus tree that everyone can see for miles and ooh and awe over?

Do not be deceived.  The eucalyptus tree has hidden dangers.  The thick foliage, although beautiful and fragrant, is not just a luxury for the weary traveler. Bee colonies often hide among the greenery and branches, where they thrive and are drawn to make the tree their permanent residence.

The eucalyptus tree has a very shallow root system.  In fact, 90% of the roots of this stately looking tree are found in just the top 12 inches of the rocky desert soil.  Eucalyptus should not be planted near homes or businesses, because the root systems are invasive and can drive into foundations, septic systems and water pipelines. The Eucalyptus tree does what it has to in order to survive; and if that means destroying your family’s incoming water supply or outgoing sewage pipeline, then so be it.

Outwardly, the eucalyptus appears strong as an oak; however, if you look deeper into this tree that shoots up with relative ease in the desert, you’ll come to find that just a half-inch of rain is enough to  topple this huge tree, which can do some pretty severe damage to nearby people and structures on its way down.  (One planned community in Tucson planted Eucalyptus trees because they were fast growing, lush and made the sub-division look like an oasis in the desert; but after just a few years and thousands of dollars in foundation and septic system damage, the residents paid almost a million dollars in eucalyptus tree removal!) Wise landscapers know that Eucalyptus should be planted far away from homes and buildings because of the potential damage it can bring.

When Jesus tells the Parable of the Soils in Matthew 13, He speaks about a shoot that goes up quickly (Matthew 13: 5, 20-21).  As you read these verses, can you see the eucalyptus tree in that description?  We need to be careful about who we are attracted to in the desert, and we need to be careful about who we ourselves settle on becoming.  The eucalyptus trees in the desert look full and beautiful.  Many people are attracted to them for the fine scent they bring and the full shade they provide, but the hidden dangers have to be taken into consideration.  I think it is so profound that in addition to a shallow root system, there can be hidden colonies of bees in a Eucalyptus tree.  (When the trees fell after the microburst in Tucson, the firefighters could not go near some of the trees until the bees had dispersed.) Even when help arrives for those injured by a fallen Eucalyptus, it can be delayed. 

I get it! I want easy.  I want accessible water.  I don’t want to drive down 200 feet into the hard  soil to find the ounce of water I need to survive in the desert, but it is that driving deep for the Living Water of the Word of God that will shore up my roots and give me stability when the wind and rain do come with extreme unrelenting force.  We desire for pastors and churches to feed us so we are not wanting a single thing, but perhaps God desires more.  Perhaps God desires for each of us to go deeper, personally depending on Him and His Word–not solely on what others feed us.  Is that a bad thing?  The eucalyptus tree may give a more complete shade, but is it a safe tree to run to?  Will the eucalyptus tree still stand in the storm?  Sometimes looks are deceiving.

Adversity will come. God allows adversity so that we can see that His Word is true as we hold on through it.  The acacia tree thrives in the water of a flash flood when a foot or more of water rushes through the desert canyons, yet the eucalyptus tree falls with just a half-inch of rain.  Will we stand through the storm and become a shelter for others, or will we fall and damage those around us?  Drive your roots into the Word of God.  Do not be so quick to shake your fist and walk away from a God who loves you and gave His life for you (John 3:16).

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you Living Water” John 4:10 (NASB).

 If you are thirsty in this dry and weary land, Jesus beckons you to ask HIM for the Living Water.  Keep driving deep into His Word, so that the roots you have will last through the storm and allow you to be a shelter for others, not a hazard.

What does it mean to me?

What tree describes you?  An acacia or a eucalyptus tree?

Have you ever had the outward appearance of being a tree of strong faith, while your root system was only surface-deep?

How deeply are your roots planted in the Word of God?  Did you start well but fall away when adversity came?  How will you begin today to replant and drive your roots deeper?

LIVE IT OUT

Today I will seek out the Living Water in the Truth of God’s Word.  From now on, I will not settle for having a shallow root system. I will dive deep into God’s Word, and, with His strength, hold on to Him through the storm.


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

Are you a Christian church or non-profit ministry looking for a place to hold your conference, retreat or ministry event?  Click here for more information on holding your event at The Cove.

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

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Kendra Graham Online Bible Study – Jeremiah

 

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose hope is in the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes. But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8, NASB)

 What does it say?

Blessed is the man who trusts the LORD and in the LORD

He shall be like a tree planted by water that extends roots by a stream, will NOT fear heat, its leaves green, not anxious in drought nor cease to yield fruit.

What Does it Mean?

The desert is a hard, unforgiving place. God seems to have a pattern of leading His people to the desert: from Moses to King David, to Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul, Jesus, and many others. All these individuals had been driven to the desert to experience God. The desert is a place of thirst, with brutal temperature changes from unbearably hot during the day to freezing cold at night.  And if the desert climate doesn’t do you in, there is danger from wildlife and deadly insects—AWESOME, right?  So why would God lead His people to the desert? To kill them? To torture them?

The desert places in the Bible were not locations where God led His people to drive them off a cliff.  The desert was a place where God brought His people to the point of total dependence, and then provided for them in extraordinary ways. These desert places were transformed from a place of danger and dread to a place of refuge and provision. The desert became the place where God taught His people to walk with Him—a place where God came and lived among the people He so loved. The desert became a place of intimacy with God, where the Word of God did not dehydrate and dissipate; in the desert the Word of God came to life.

I shared a little bit in my last post about my journey which lately seems like a desert place (link to previous).  There have been days in which I struggled in the morning just to put my feet on the ground and start the day and then struggled to continue the day through to the end.  How do I walk with God in the desert?  I have felt alone, left to decompose by the elements that have been beating down with relentless force. I recently began to study the desert’s vegetation and animals. The desert is actually home to me, so I went back in the recesses of my mind to Tucson, AZ, where in high school we took a class called “Desert Survival.”  I know that if God has led me to this place, then He will provide for me here.  Yet to be honest, I don’t like God’s provision in the desert because I don’t like the fact that I’m here at all.

In my last blog post on the desert broom tree, God showed me He has provided just enough shade in this desert place to decrease the intensity of the heat and make it bearable for me.  God is my shade at my right hand. I am not the only one in this desert place, but the vastness of the desert often makes me feel that way.  Recently, I found myself speaking praise out of one side of my mouth for the shade God provided, and out of the other side of my mouth curses for calling me here. I found myself asking WHY, as the frustration of this place rose within me.  Can anyone relate?

God showed me the acacia tree, so I want to show you as well. The acacia tree is a relatively slow-growing tree; it takes around 20- 30 years to mature.  According to Jewish plant experts, this tree will grow much taller than the broom tree: at full height an acacia will be six to nine feet tall.  The leaves of an acacia tree all come together at the top and cast an umbrella like shade across the desert floor. The welcome shade decreases the heat for groups of travelers as well as for their animals. Native to the Judean Negev desert, the acacia has evergreen leaves and is found only along dry river beds that are subject to flash flooding in the desert.  The roots of the tree drive deep into the earth, further than most desert plants, finding the smallest bits of water to survive. When the rains come and the floods rise, the packed earth of the desert floor cannot receive all this water; however, the acacia trees readily soak up the excess.

In addition to providing shade for desert animals and Bedouin travelers, its leaves produce food for camels. The pods (fruit) that the tree bears become food for deer and other desert animals and are also used for reproduction of the tree. The wood of the acacia tree is incredibly hard and difficult to chop down; acacia branches will burn long into the night to keep the Bedouin nomads warm and protected.  In periods of severe drought, the tree will go dormant; yet at the first sign of rain, the acacia will burst back to life and produce its fruit in season. The acacia is an incredible tree!

The prophet Jeremiah was often in the Judean desert, and the acacia is quite probably the tree he is speaking of here in chapter 17.  When we read this verse (and a similar passage in Psalm 1), we may think of a tall Oak tree planted by a rippling stream—a lush and beautiful source of complete shade towering above green grass, colorful flowers and cheery butterflies.  That is the picture we want—a soft place.  We sometimes believe that if we follow God, He will lead us to greenery and comfort 24/7.

Yet what if this acacia in the desert is the tree that Jeremiah speaks of?  What if he’s referring to this tree that survives in the harshest conditions in the Negev, giving shade, food, protection and care to others who are traveling through? This tree is planted by the dry river beds, with its roots extending deep into the empty riverbed, awaiting the waters that will rush in during monsoon season. The acacia will not fear when the heat comes; even with such little rainfall throughout the rest of the year, its leaves remain green. The acacia is not anxious in a drought because it will go dormant just waiting for that next drop of water which will bring it back to life and produce fruit.

What if this is what we are called to be?  What if God was our shade, our broom tree, at our right hand so that He could grow us into an acacia tree on the desert floor?  Oh, we don’t like it.  I don’t like it.  I would rather someone else be the acacia tree so that I can navigate through this place as fast as humanly possible… but what if God was our shade so that we could be the shade someone else needs in the same place?  The Word of God says we will be blessed in this desert place if we can trust in the LORD.  Psalm 1:2 tells us how we can be that tree firmly planted; it comes down to meditating on God’s Word day and night.  We have to be in God’s Word and know what God says.  We have to know what He promises and hold on to that promise in the times of flood, drought, rain and heat. Regardless of our current condition, God calls us to trust in that Word that He has given us. The only way to trust in His Word is to know what it says.

To be an acacia tree is a high calling where deep roots are required for survival.  Our desert survival depends completely on soaking our roots in the Truth of God’s Word.

What Does it Mean to Me?

How deep are your roots, and what are they soaking in?  Are you soaking in the ever-changing landscape of the world around us, or in the unchanging Truth of God’s Word and His promises?

When have you been called to be an acacia tree to someone else?  How was God your shade so that you could be shade to others?

Often we feel so alone and isolated in these desert places, which is why when you share your story of God’s provision, you become that oasis in the desert to someone else.

LIVE IT OUT

Today I will seek out that Living Water found in the God’s Word even in this desert place.  I will seek to be that acacia tree for someone else as they travel through the same desert, so that they know that they are not alone and that God is who He says He is and His promises are all yes and Amen in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20).  Oh, that we may rise out of the desert floor to become an oasis for others!

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

Are you a Christian church or non-profit ministry looking for a place to hold your conference, retreat or ministry event?  Click here for more information on holding your event at The Cove.

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

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KENDRA GRAHAM ONLINE BIBLE STUDY – PSALMS

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 PSALM 121

“The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade on your right hand.”  (Psalm 121:5)

 What Does it Say?

The LORD is your keeper, your shade at your right hand

What Does it Mean?

Have you ever felt like you were in a wilderness? Struggling just to make it another step?  I am going to be honest here: This winter and spring have been HARD. We all go through times of struggle and dryness, and it’s easy to feel left alone and beaten down by the elements.

I grew up in the desert of Tucson, Arizona, where the sun beat down relentlessly day after day—in the summer the temperature could rise as high as 115 degrees Fahrenheit.  (It was a dry heat, but 115 degrees is still 115 degrees!)

When you think of the desert, you may envision nothing but sand for miles and miles; yet in reality the desert is not just a vast expanse of sand—there are mountains, cliffs, and even vegetation. One particular plant called the “desert broom tree” can be found in the desert and in other rocky places all throughout the landscape of my old stomping grounds. Not a tall tree by any means, the broom tree is more like an overgrown weed/shrub; and although I can’t really say the plant is beautiful, in the fall it does produce some pretty flowers. The humble broom tree does have its uses, though. It can be food for rabbits, and Native Americans have a history of using its leaves in tea for medicinal purposes.

The roots of a broom tree will grow deep down into the desert floor, finding the most minute bits of moisture which enable it to not only survive the elements, but to become a hearty plant—so hearty, in fact, that it can be a difficult plant to eradicate from the landscape.

As kids, we used the shrub for shade. We would play for hours outside; then, to cool ourselves from the intense heat we would sit under the broom trees and re-hydrate.  Believe it or not, it made a remarkable difference—under that overgrown weed bush the temperature would be 15 degrees cooler. The desert broom brought the welcome relief of shade, and the bushes were plentiful enough for all of us kids to sit underneath our own personal shrub.

Do you recall someone else who else rested under a broom tree in the desert?  In I Kings 19, Elijah—who was running from rotten King Ahab and wicked Queen Jezebel—rested under a broom tree.  God preserved the exhausted prophet’s life in the middle of the wilderness by feeding him and providing for him a shady resting place under the big shrub.

The more I thought about God’s shade and the broom tree, I noticed something I really didn’t like:  The broom tree does not block out all the sun. When I want God to give me shade from the elements that are relentlessly beating down, I want complete and total shade and refreshment. I want a majestic Oak, surround by nicely trimmed and mowed Kentucky bluegrass, at the banks of a clean, refreshing stream of mountain water. (I don’t ask for much, do I?)

When God provides a broom tree in the wilderness, sometimes I find myself complaining—deciding just to die on the desert floor rather than accept the shade He is offering.

The shade God offers is just enough.  Sometimes it may be the big oak; but more often than not, it’s simply a filtered shade that decreases the temperature to a bearable degree. Thinking about the shade at His right hand tells me that God’s shade is never further away than the length to which I can stretch my own right hand. His shade is always close. God takes the brunt of the sun so that I can be in His shade, and yet I still find fault with it.

These past months have been difficult. Sometimes the “strong” (maybe more accurately termed  “stubborn”) person I tend to be strives to keep going forward… whether in rain, snow, wind or sun.  As I read these verses and remember those days of playing in the desert of home, I realize God may be simply telling me to rest awhile. “Come; sit, under this broom tree, Kendra. All the elements that are distressing you will not be taken away; but under here, under My shade, it’s cooler. Here, in My shade, I will give you not only rest but the strength you need.”

What Does it Mean to Me?

When has God been that filtered shade in the middle of the wilderness of life for you?  Was it a friend who dropped by to encourage you? Was it a single ray of sunlight in the middle of a long, cold, dark and dreary winter?  Was it a phone call, a text or an email?  Take time to thank God for sending that broom tree; and if you don’t have eyes to see His shade, will you pray that today you feel that shade your soul is so in need of?

LIVE IT OUT

Stretch out your right hand as far as it will go, and say with passion and belief, “You, oh God are MY shade at my right hand!”  Say this every minute of the day if you have to. Every time you use your right hand today, remember God is your shade…. your broom tree.  Hold to it.

 

Kendra Graham Online Bible Study – Judges

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 JUDGES

So Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD” (Judges 6:6, NKJV).

What does it Say?

Israel was greatly impoverished and cried out to the LORD

What Does it Mean?

We don’t need God … well, until we need God. We hate that God allows hardship.  If God really loved us then He would give us everything we wanted—when we wanted it—and would not allow any difficulty or struggle to come into our lives.  God would not allow us to hit rock bottom, that’s for sure!  Isn’t that what we think a loving God would be like?  When life hits us hard and knocks the wind out of us, we do not question our love for God—we question His love for us.

In verse one of this chapter, we read, … the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD.”  Israel decided against following God’s laws, choosing instead to follow their own hearts.  God’s chosen people believed that they knew best, and that they no longer needed God.

The Israelites started out focused on God; and as they walked with God, He allowed them to prosper. Somewhere in the midst of prosperity, however, they forgot God. Israel decided to live life the way they wanted to; they did not want to be strapped down to God’s Word and obedience to Him.  And the Scriptures tell us that Israel’s God—refusing to force obedience—allowed His people to walk away from His protective hand. God allowed the Midianites to ruin and ransack the land.  The first few verses of this chapter reveal how the Midianites were like locusts on the land—everything that had been full became empty, and the land was left barren.  The livestock and crops were taken.  The children of Israel were living in caves and dens, full of fear that the Midianites would come back and take their lives.  The lives of God’s people had not just fallen apart—they were completely dismantled.  God’s people had lost everything.  The people were greatly impoverished.

How long did it take for God’s people to come back to God? Was it right away?  Did they return before they wandered too far from God?  Did they quickly see how God loved them, instantly understanding that walking with God and following His laws was for their protection not for harm?  Sadly, no.  Israel was no different than we are.  We walk away from God. We demand God leave us alone; and then when He does, our lives really fall apart and our fists fly as we blame God for everything . In our pride and stubbornness we determine we will “show God,” so we fight and fight and fight the Midianites until we are utterly exhausted. If we’re honest, it is not Midian we are so upset with—we’re angry with God for being so far away from our terrible plight.

Meanwhile, God has not gone anywhere. It was not God who walked away.  God is still where He can be found (Deuteronomy 4:29, Isaiah 55:6), but we refuse with all that is in us to go back to Him.  So we continue to live in our pride, digging a hole deeper and deeper until we are greatly impoverished physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.  Here, in this passage in Judges, Israel fought Midian and lived in their own stubbornness for seven years. Yet God is patient and has eternity to wait.

Israel did not turn and cry out to God until they had lost everything.  They lost their land, their prosperity, their food, their homes…their pride.  Did you know that it is impossible for a prideful, arrogant person to “cry out to the LORD”?  Prayer takes humility.  Prayer takes an attitude of “I need You, God because I can’t without You.”

Seven years of hardship.  Seven years of pain.  Seven years of loss.  Seven years of bitterness towards God for allowing Midian to do such atrocities.  Seven years of living in their pride, even in the midst of humiliating circumstances.  Seven long years of trying to show God they could fix it without Him.

But God loves us enough to wait. We have such a misunderstanding of God’s love, don’t we?  When I read this passage I could not help but think of the prodigal son.  The Father allowed the son to leave, and then he waited.  Love waits.  It waits until we are done.  God’s love kept Him waiting for His people, and that same love keeps Him waiting for you and me. God has not gone anywhere. God is found in His Word, and in His Word you and I will find that God is love. He loves for His children to cry out to Him. When we cry out to God, we find Him waiting with arms open wide—not condemning us, but loving us.

You and I were created to walk with God—to know Him and to need Him. As we walk with God and cling to His promises day by day, we will not find our lives to be problem free and full of material wealth, yet we will live a life full of God.  God’s purpose and personal plan for each of us is to live a life full with Him!  In the midst of hardship we can have peace, patience, and perseverance (John 16:33, 2 Corinthians 4:8).  In the midst of prosperity we can have a thankfulness for God’s generosity and presence (Psalm 127, James 1:17).  The key to a life of purpose is God Himself.  Cry out to God today and begin anew to walk with Him.

What Does it Mean to Me?

What causes you to cry out to the LORD?

When was a time you walked with the LORD faithfully, but then fell away?

What will it take for you once again to walk with the God you were created to walk with?

LIVE IT OUT

LORD, today as I cry out to You, help me to come back to You. Teach me Your Word.  Walk with me once again as this new day starts.

————————————————————————-

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

Are you a Christian church or non-profit ministry looking for a place to hold your conference, retreat or ministry event?  Click here for more information on holding your event at The Cove.

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

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Kendra Graham Online Bible Study: Mark 15:39

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 15:39

A Triumphal Entry

And when the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

What Does it Say:
The Centurion standing right in front of Him saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God”

What Does it Mean:
The book of Mark goes through the narrative of the crucifixion in a unique way.  Recently I was reading, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire by Nigel Rodgers and was pretty amazed by what I read.

Romans had what was called a “Triumph”.  A triumph started probably back in the days of the Greeks, but Octavian, Caesar Augustus made the honor of triumphs for emperors of Rome only.  When Rome would win a major battle, there would be a huge parade, celebration in the street which would parade the captives of that particular battle in front as proof of his accomplishment and then the emperor, “humbly” behind.

The triumphator, the emperor, would be taken into the place of the palace called the Praetorium, where the Praetorium guard of Rome would be.  The elite soldiers would take a special sash called a toga picta, which symbolized, and drew the connection between the emperor and one of their Roman gods, like Zeus, Mars or Jupiter.  The emperors since Octavian were known as the “sons of the gods” and these triumphs would remind the people of that very thing.  The Praetorian Guard was the closest thing to the emperor so they would of course know the deity of the emperor more intimately than anyone, so for them to dress the emperor was a very important part of the triumphal process.  The emperors would often pay off the Praetorian Guard, so that they would really make a convincing show of this whole process.  The soldiers would place a crown of laurel upon the head of the emperor.  The emperor would begin the processional in the field of Mars  (Campus Martinus) and proceed down the sacred way to Capitoline Hill (the place of the skull where tradition has it that as the Romans were building their city, a full in tact human head was found here).  At Capitoline Hill the captives were either killed or they were set free depending on the rule of the emperor.  The Roman guard would go before the emperor on this journey and would exclaim to the crowd, “HAIL! The son of god!  HAIL, the son of god!”  The crowd would cheer and bow as the emperor passed. Lastly the emperor would ascend up the steps of the temple of Saturn with one man on either side.   One man would tell him that he is the son of god and the other would remind him that he is mortal.  The emperor at the top of the steps would be offered a goblet of wine, which he would pour out on the ground as an offering to the gods and to Rome signifying that the emperor would give his life blood for the gods and Rome. The crowd would cheer.  An animal would be sacrificed there, at that place to satisfy the payment to the gods in thanks in adoration for the victory and power that Rome enjoyed.  The city would feast the rest of the day.


(Picture:  Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified)

Now, read Mark chapter 15.  How would the disciples explain to the Roman world the triumph of the Savior, Jesus, to a pagan world who did not know the Word of God and were not looking for a Messiah?  Through the triumphal procession of Jesus.  The similarities cannot be ignored.  Mark 15:16, the soldiers took Him, Jesus into the Praetorium and dressed him in a fine kingly toga picta of purple and fashioned for Him a crown, not of laurel but of thorns.  They put it on Him.  The guard went before him on a procession (Mark 15:18) and exclaimed, “Hail! King of the Jews!” They led Him out of the palace and through the city, to crucify Him.  They brought Him to a place called , Golgotha, translated “The place of the skull” (Mark 15:22).  Jesus wound through the city along the way called the “Via dolorosa” which means the way of suffering and is seen today as “the sacred way” as many this Easter will make their pilgrimage down the same way.  The soldiers offered Jesus wine mixed with myrrh, Mark 15:23, but He would not drink it.  The guards continued their mocking and jeering in the face of the son of God who was not just symbolizing that He would pour His life blood out for His people the Jews and the world, but He was doing it (John 10:17-18).   He was crucified between two thieves.  One thief proclaimed, (Luke 23:39) “Are You not the Christ save yourself and us!” The other thief asked Jesus to “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).


(Picture: Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified)

All this was taken in by the Roman Praetorian Guard in Jerusalem.  This particular centurion soldier at the cross saw Jesus as the undeniable Son of God.  How many times had that soldier been a part of Roman triumphs?  How many times was he forced to bend his knee to the emperor exclaiming that the emperor was the son of god?  How often had he been paid off by the Roman authorities to pronounce the deity of the Roman leader?  Yet here, in front of the cross, this man proclaimed without payment or force, “Truly this man was the Son of God”.  He had seen so many imposters, that here, at the cross, the Truth of Jesus was seen.  Even the Roman world would be able to see, understand and believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God (Matthew 16:16).

Do you see similarities to that of a Roman triumph?  Truly this was the ultimate triumph.  The triumph once and for all for sin.  Jesus triumphed at the place of the skull.  Jesus triumphed over sin at the cross and three days later rose again and triumphed over death at the grave.  The cross is not a defeat, but the greatest triumph that the world will ever see.

Many of us have seen failures of men who claim to be next to God.  We have seen failures of leaders who preach the Word the God.  We have seen failures of godly men and women who have fallen to adversity in this world.  We have seen failures of the church.  We have seen failures in Christian schools and universities.  We have seen failures in Christian organizations.  It is so easy to focus on all those who have fallen, but truly isn’t that just proof of the reason and desperate need of the world for Jesus?  This Easter, let’s join the centurion at the cross standing in front of Jesus alone.  As we look to Jesus this Easter may our words ring ever so similar to that centurion as we proclaim, “Truly, this is the Son of God!”.

What does it Mean to me?

Who do you say Jesus is?  Everyone must decide about Jesus.  This Easter will you make that choice to cry out to Jesus who alone is able to forgive and redeem your sin? (Acts 16:31, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:33, Romans 5:8, I Corinthians 15:3-4)

When have you truly taken the time to see Jesus for who He has proven Himself to be?

LIVE IT OUT.

Dear God, I am a sinner and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe Jesus Christ is Your Son. I believe that He died for my sin and that you raised Him to life. I want to trust Him as my Savior and follow Him as Lord, from this day forward. Guide my life and help me to do your will. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.”

Daily read the Word of God and get to know the love this God has for you since before time began.


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