Category Archives: Bible Study Community with Kendra Graham

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

KENDRA GRAHAM: ONLINE BIBLE STUDY

God led the people around by the way of the wilderness.
(Exodus 13:18, NASB)

What Does it Say?

God led the people by way of wilderness

What Does it Mean?

This may seem like a weird topic for a blog at Christmas time, but this blog has been in the desert since last March!  I believe that together we are going to stay in this desert as long as God keeps us here.  Christmas in the desert may not be such a bad thing.

Surviving the Fire Swamp

Have you ever seen the movie, The Princess Bride?  It is one of my favorites. In the movie, Princess Buttercup is promised to marry Prince Humperdink, but Prince Humperdink is not her true love.  Buttercup’s true love is a poor farm boy named Wesley. As the heroic Wesley arrives to save Buttercup from the clutches of Humperdink, the Prince’s soldiers are in hot pursuit. Wesley takes Buttercup and runs towards the Fire Swamp, laughing as he looks back.

“Ha! Your pig fiancée is too late!” he says.  “We will soon be safe in the Fire Swamp!”

Alarmed at that statement, Buttercup replies, We will never survive!

To which Wesley responds, “Nonsense! You’re only saying that, because no one ever has before!”

The Egyptians and the Israelites viewed the wilderness like Buttercup viewed the Fire Swamp.  The wilderness was a place of chaos—a place of death, banishment and punishment. The wilderness was not a place of ease and safety, and it made no sense why God would lead His people into a place of hardship like this. Did He not know that for the Israelites the last hundred years or so in Egypt had been absolutely unbearable?  Didn’t He realize that this mass of people coming out of Egypt were hurting and broken?  Was God going to finish the job in a place of desolation so that there would be no trace of His people left on the face of the earth?  Why?

Changing Our Focus

I sometimes think that it’s easy for me to focus on the wilderness.  I mean the hardship there is staring me straight in the face.  Let’s not live in denial about this; let’s call it what it is.  I am not going to jump for joy when God says, “Kendra, for you I have a howling wasteland, a wilderness that you get to go and live in!” I am not cheering and saying, “Yay! HURRAH!”  I am probably saying, “Well, that figures.  God hates me.”  Look, I’m being honest; it’s just the truth of the matter.  I might as well not lie about it.  Just the word, “wilderness” seems barren, harsh, and like it goes on literally FOREVER. Wilderness? “Yippee….” (Eye roll emoji).

What if instead of focusing on the destination, we focused on the journey?  What if we focused on the first part of that verse?  “God led the people.

Well, I don’t like it.  I don’t like that God is leading me to a place to die. That almost makes it worse,  doesn’t it?

The Presence of the Shepherd

Does it really make things worse?  Or does it change everything?  God’s name is Jehovah Raah, which means “shepherd.”  A shepherd leads from the front, he doesn’t prod from behind.  A shepherd does not leave the sheep to be slaughtered or killed, but protects the sheep from all harm. The shepherd does not starve the sheep to death but finds enough food to provide the needed nourishment to continue. The shepherd does not leave the sheep, the shepherd leads the sheep. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep (John 10:11, NKJV).

You are not alone, even in the wilderness.  The presence of God Himself changes everything.  If all you have is God in the wilderness, and His name is Shepherd, Provider, Faithful, Deliverer, Conqueror and King, then nothing else is needed.  God is #ENOUGH.  Perhaps we have been led into the wilderness to learn this very thing.

He Keeps His Promises

Spurgeon told the story of an old saint who lay on her deathbed and declared that Jesus would never forsake her, because He promised to be with her wherever He led her. Someone asked her, “But suppose that He did not keep His promise and you were to be lost forever?”

She answered, “Then He would be the greater loser than I.  It is true I would lose my soul, but God would lose all His honor and glory if it were not true.”

If God went to such extremes to #deliver each and every one of us from the grip of Egypt, only to allow us to die as He led us into the wilderness, then God would lose His name, His character, and His perseverance in completing every work that He undertakes.

For the Sake of His Name

God leads you and me to where He is. This season of Christmas is not the easiest season for many of us. Many of us feel we have been led to the wilderness to die a slow death alone and abandoned. That is not true. Claim the name of God in the wilderness, in the midst of the barren and empty place you find yourself, and just see if the fact of the presence of God does not change everything. For the sake of His name, He will lead you through.

Nevertheless He saved them for the sake of His name,
that He might make His power known.
(Psalm 106:8, NASB)

 For the sake of You name, O LORD, revive me.
In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble
.
(Psalm 143:11, NASB)

“For My own sake, for my own sake, I will act;
For how can My name be profaned?
And My glory I will not give to another.”
(Isaiah 48:11, NASB)

What Does it Mean to Me?

Why has God led you to where you are?

When were you in a wilderness and saw God’s presence provided in a very real and tangible way?

If you are in the wilderness now, how will you seek to see the name of God proven today?  Are you even willing to look for His presence?

God promises in Jeremiah 29:13 that if we seek Him with our whole hearts we will find Him. What have you given the power to hold you back from seeking God in your wilderness?  Anger? Bitterness? Frustration? Depression? Despair?

LIVE IT OUT

Today, Oh LORD, give me the strength and desire to seek You, and the perseverance to continue to seek until I find Your presence and Your glory, here in this place.

God’s presence changes everything!

KENDRA GRAHAM: ONLINE BIBLE STUDY

“And you shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for 6 days. (4) Also seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark; then on the 7th day you shall march around the city seven times and the priests shall blow the trumpets. (5) And it shall be when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall will fall down flat, and the people will go straight ahead”  (Joshua 6:3-5, NASB)

What Does it Say?

  • You march around the city, all men of war circling the city once, for six days.
  • Priests carry seven trumpets before the ark.
  • On the 7th day, march around city seven times; and priests blow trumpets.
  • When they make a long blast on the trumpets, the people will shout with a great shout.
  • Walls will fall flat.  People go straight ahead.

What Does it Mean?

I shared earlier this summer about my visit to Seattle and the unforgettable experience of watching a glass blower as he placed glass pieces into the fire and went on to create absolute masterpieces.  A piece of that glass now sits on the desk where I study each morning.  It’s a jellyfish paperweight.  (I know that may seem like an odd choice, but my Aunt Tina and I signed up for a glassblowing class, and that was the craft of the day!)

I was hesitant to try my hand at this.  I had been watching the skilled artist do his thing, and I was blown away by his talent.  I do not have talent.  I should tell you that I stopped doing art projects when I was six and my snowflake in Miss Ruyle’s class turned out to be a total disaster. Yet Aunt Tina is such an encouraging person, and since she was going to take the class, I agreed to give it a shot. We signed our names on the waiver (the one that states the ovens are 2,000 degrees), and we picked a time slot to blow a piece of glass together.

The description of the class sounded innocent enough. The first qualification was that the participant had to be over the age of five—yes, a jellyfish glass paperweight is something a 5-year-old could make. I kept reminding myself of that all day. My heart raced as Aunt Tina and I returned to the glass shop at our appointed time. I was terrified the jellyfish would be similar to the snowflake downfall of 1980.

The glassmaster took me into the studio and had me pick out colors.  That was easy enough.

Then the work began. He put a piece of glass on a rod and patiently talked me through the process.  It was challenging.  I had to keep my rod spinning the entire time while simultaneously adding color and shape to my glass blob. The glassmaster never left my side, continuing to  instruct me and once in a while taking over the task of spinning the rod when I forgot and became distracted with a different task.

In the end, I did it!  My jellyfish looked like a jellyfish and everything!  I could not have done it if the glass master had left my side.  The individual tasks were none too hard or overwhelming, but I could not have completed the entire project without without the help and guidance of the skilled glassblower.

God Brings Down the Walls

This experience reminds me of the times when God asks us to step up and do something with Him.  Here in this passage in the book of Joshua, God was going to bring the walls of Jericho down.  God did not need Joshua or his army; yet He was teaching them what they could do if only they would live a life of obedience to Him.

Jericho was a formidable city—daunting with its huge outer walls. From the outset, the task seemed impossible; yet God was with Joshua as He had been with Moses.  As these verses record, God told Joshua exactly what He wanted him and the Israelite army to do:  Joshua and his army were to walk around the city once a day for six days; then on the seventh day, they were to walk around it seven times.

Simple Tasks, Unconventional Strategy

Was this beyond their capabilities?  No.  If the Israelites could do anything at this point, it was walking—they’d just finished doing that exact thing in the desert for 40 years!  Walking was in their gifted column.  GREAT!  Easy peasy.  Oh, and the priests would need to go out in front, carrying seven trumpets; and just behind them would come the Ark of the Covenant (a visual reminder of God’s promises and provisions).

Is any part of that task list difficult?  No.

Does it make sense? No, not so much. God was clearly telling Joshua what He wanted the Israelite army to do; now the question was, would they do it?

This is not how war is done, by the way. No general has ever re-used this tactical plan.  Priests do not normally go in front of the army.  Priests are not usually armed.  When the priests blew those trumpets, they probably already felt like sitting ducks; and now, drawing all that attention to themselves, well….

Did God hate them?  Did God want them killed for some reason?  Had God read the rules of war?  I’d have a lot of questions, especially if I’d been one of those priests:  “Joshua, did you hear God right?”

God calls us to tasks, and often those tasks are not beyond our capability; we can walk, we can blow a trumpet, we can shout…. but the task does not appear to promise success in the end. We might end up a laughing stock. We’ll be the butt of jokes.  That person will never speak to me again if I do that.  My friend will think I’m crazy.  We may think of a host of reasons not to obey God and take up the task, but what if we simply obeyed?  How might we see God work?

All for God’s Glory

Whatever task He is asking you to perform, the work is impossible without God.  He is doing the work, just as the glassmaster was really making the jellyfish that was in my hands.  The work can’t be done—and is impossible to complete—without the Master at our side.  It’s God who deserves the credit and the glory in the end.

Can’t you just hear Joshua’s response as the news reporter interviewed him after the walls fell?  “Yah, well, we really had been practicing walking with power, and well, these new Air Jordan sandals, well they did the trick!”  The idea of Joshua taking the credit is laughable.  There is no other explanation but God. The problem often lies with us wanting a tithe of God’s glory.

Closing the Faith Gap

When God calls me to things that are only possible with Him, the question really comes down to obedience.  There is always a gap between what I can do and what God must do.  That gap is faith.

Do we have ears to hear what God is asking of us and the faith to do it?  His command could be as simple as, “Text that friend of yours this verse that I showed you today.”

“But she’ll think I’m crazy!” So we don’t.

What if we did??  Obeying in the simple things is HARD, but in the end we just might see those walls of Jericho fall if we can get over our pride and desire for control and if we let God put those sandals on our feet to walk, place a trumpet in our hands to blow and give us a message for our voice to shout. The simplicity of faith is often HARD as we rely on God to do what He says He will do.

What Does it Mean to Me?

Do I have a testimony of a time when God nudged me to do something simple and I did it?  What were the results?  Was it for my harm or for His glory?

Has God ever called me to do something my pride just wouldn’t allow me to do?  Have I ever regretted that?

Live it Out:

Today I pray that You, Lord, will make me sensitive to Your Spirit.  Give me the faith to stop and talk to that person who passes my way, to encourage a clerk at the store with a gift or a word, or perhaps just text a friend with a verse.  Lord, may it be You Who leads me. I tend to think I know best, and I know there’s someone who needs to hear from me. Help me to obey as You lead.


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

#Enough for the Next Step

 

“So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. ”
( I Kings 19:8, NASB)

 What Does it Say?

He arose, ate, drank and went in the strength of that food 40 days and nights to Horeb, mountain of God.

What Does it Mean?

My husband and I recently watched “Hacksaw Ridge,” a movie that depicts the true story of Desmond Doss and the battle that occurred on Hacksaw Ridge in May of 1945.

A conscientious objector, Desmond did not object to his responsibility to serve in America’s military; but because he refused to take a life, he refused to carry or shoot a gun. Desmond Doss was a medic who was determined to save life, not end it.

The Medic Without a Gun

The battle that day was a grave one, and Desmond walked into it armed with nothing more than his medic supplies, his Bible and his faith.  Many lives were lost, and the American forces retreated off the ridge and back down to safety—all but the injured and the medic without a gun. Those who could retreat, did so; yet Desmond stayed, determined to treat, care for and protect the injured left on that ridge (American and Japanese).  Fear and exhaustion overwhelmed Desmond as he cried out to God, asking Him why he was there…

Immediately a cry was heard through the black smoke: a soldier, in pain, needing attention. The exhausted young medic asked God for the strength to get to the injured man and for the wisdom to be able to help him.  Alone in the dark that night, Desmond Doss treated and lowered to safety more than 75 soldiers who would have no doubt died without immediate attention.  When Desmond was interviewed years later, he remarked that his only prayer had been, “Lord, help me get just one more to safety.”  Just one more…

The Prophet Praying to Die

In this chapter of I Kings, Elijah is beat up, exhausted and ready to die. Unable to muster one more step, the beleaguered prophet sits down beneath a juniper tree (rotem– broom tree).  There, God provides shade in the middle of the wilderness, to take the heat off of Elijah. He then provides the prophet with food and water (resources that are desperately lacking in the desert). God comes to Elijah, providing the prophet with what he needs to take the first step, then the next step and then the next.

The Journey to Where God Is

Where was Elijah going, anyway?  God was leading Elijah exactly to the same place He leads us today: to where He is.  Elijah had just enough sustenance to make it to where God was—Horeb, the mountain of God.  Horeb, the same mountain where Moses had been leading sheep and encountered the bush that burned but was not consumed.  Horeb, the mountain to which God had led the children of Israel after their deliverance from Egypt.  Horeb, the mountain where Moses had been given the Ten Commandments—the mountain Moses had climbed when he cried out, “Show me Your glory.”

The journey to Horeb was a long, arduous, 40-day trek; yet it was a journey with purpose:  God wanted Elijah to know Him, to know His Name.  Elijah had given up comfort, ease and worldly prosperity, but he would gain an intimate knowledge of who God is and who he, Elijah, is to God.  Was the risk of giving it all up worth the reward in the end?

In the end, Elijah—the man who had begged for death to come swiftly—never tasted death as he was swept up in a whirlwind directly into the presence of God.  All the wealth and power that King Ahab and Queen Jezebel had at that same time in history could not be compared to the impact, testimony and relationship that Elijah had with the Great I AM.

Elijah had just enough for the next step… and found out God Himself was #enough, especially in the struggle.

 

The God Who Is Enough

Today, perhaps you are like me and the next step is exhausting to think about.  As Elijah was fed by God, may we too come to His Word today and depend on His provision for the same thing.  Dependence on God is a great thing, but it leaves no room for personal glory; and although we hate the thought of being dependent, in reality all of us are.  We’re dependent on a job, a relationship, a paycheck, a church, a doctor, or a coach… What if we just turned our eyes to Jesus and depended on Him to work through all those things?  Oh it’s hard, and we will fight giving God control over even the smallest detail, not to mention the largest!

Today, open God’s Word and ask Him to feed you…. just enough for the next step.  May God show you that His Name and His promises are #enough.

What Does it Mean to Me?

When has God given me just enough for the next step?  (Your testimony matters!)

How do I need God to provide strength for the next step?

What promises of God do I find in His Word that I can hold on to in times of exhaustion and heartache?

LIVE IT OUT

God, You promise that You are Jehovah Raah, the Shepherd, so lead me. You say You are the bread of life and the living water, so nourish. God, You claim that You are Jehovah Shalom, peace, so bring peace to the tumult.  God, Your Word tells me You are Jehovah Nissi, my banner in times of battle, so take up for me.  Please give me the strength to lay these things down at Your feet, and grant me the faith to believe that You are #enough for the next step.

 



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- UNBROKEN: PATH TO REDEMPTION

 “I AM the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage.  I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.  Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I AM the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”

(Exodus 6:6-7, NASB)

What Does it Say?

I AM the LORD and WILL bring YOU out from burdens of Egyptians. I WILL deliver YOU from bondage, I WILL redeem YOU with outstretched arm. I WILL take YOU for MY people.  I WILL be YOUR God. YOU shall KNOW I AM, who brought YOU out.”

What Does it Mean?

There is a powerful message of freedom in the new movie, “Unbroken: Path to Redemption.”  The main character in the film, Olympic champion and World War II hero Louis Zamperini is a man burdened by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of his wartime experiences. After Louie’s plane crashed, he survived 47 days at sea on a raft in the South Pacific—only to be captured by the Japanese and specifically targeted and tortured by Mutsuhiro Watanabe, known to prisoners as “The Bird.”


(Picture of Louis and “The Bird”)

Louis was plagued by nightmares which kept him in bondage and drove him to alcohol, enabling him to forget his misery, if only for a few hours.  On this dark and dangerous path of destruction, Louis’ marriage was being destroyed and his relationship with his daughter threatened. His very life was destined to come to an abrupt end if Louis continued in the direction he was headed.

In a key scene (without giving the entire movie away), Louis finds himself at a point requiring him to choose who he will bend his knee to. The image of “The Bird” is mocking him, telling him, “You will NEVER be free from me!”  “The Bird” is saying in not so many words, “BEND YOUR KNEE TO ME!”  Louis walks towards him, drawn to destruction…. drawn to bend his knee forever to the very thing that will kill him. But…there is hope. Behind Louis’ right shoulder there’s another image—a different choice: a preacher, with an outstretched arm, preaching the Word of God. It’s a choice that offers FREEDOM from all that has burdened him. In this moment of great struggle, Louis does bend his knee.  (You’ll have to watch the movie to see to whom.)

Here is where the choice lies, for each one of us.  We will bend our knee to the slavery Egypt offers or to the freedom the living God offers. The misery of bondage beckons us, reminding us that we’re broken—useless and left alone by a God who has forgotten us and cannot hear our cries. The TRUTH of God’s Word reminds us that we are loved—that we were created on purpose, with purpose. There is a battle raging over your very soul. Your choice matters. Your knee will bend, but to whom is what lies in the balance.

The truth is that God, with His outstretched arm, has broken the chains of bondage that have kept us enslaved to the world and all its misery. Here in Exodus, God declares what He is going to do for His people; then the story continues and HE finishes it.  I love what Pharaoh’s magicians say about what is happening in Exodus 9, “It is the finger of God.”  Forget all the power of God’s outstretched arm to save His people: God is doing it with just a finger (I bet it was the pinky finger)!

God saved His people. But, why?  Did He save them just to put a feather in His cap?  Just to impress the superpower of the day?  It was more than just saving… God saved His people so that they could knowI AM,” personally.

God created us to know Him.  He led His people into the wilderness not to torture them, but to teach them. God saved them from horrific misery and bondage; but it was more than that, and God continues to be more than that today.

Through Jesus Christ, God came personally in the form of man.  He came for one reason: to free us from the bondage and misery the world has to offer.  Jesus, by the power of His out-stretched arms on the cross, conquered the power sin has over our lives. Three days later, He conquered death and the grave when He rose from the dead in power. The chains of sin and death are broken forever, not just so we can be saved, but so that for the rest of our lives we can experience the power of that freedom and know its author personally. His name is Jesus.

We are not forced into freedom, it is a choice.  Freedom—the path to redemption—is an incredibly difficult choice.  As you watch the movie, you’ll see it played out. In Laura Hillenbrand’s book, Unbroken, Louis himself states just how hard the struggle was to walk away from “The Bird,” when he says, “It is actually hard to walk away from everything that is killing you.”

God severed the chains of bondage that had gripped Louis Zamperini’s life, and He can do the same for us today, if only we will walk away from our bondage and walk towards God, accepting the freedom He has bought for us with His own blood.

The very same choice the Hebrews faced so long ago is the choice you have before you today:  Bend your knee to Egypt, or bend your knee to the LORD GOD who has delivered you with His outstretched arm. (Or finger!)  You cannot live on both sides of the Red Sea; you must choose. Egypt will kill you in the end. The Bible tells us “the enemy “has come to steal, kill and destroy,” but Jesus has come to give LIFE and LIFE abundantly (see John 10:10).

What Does it Mean to Me?

  • What kind of life are you holding on to? Are you living a life with your knee bent in bondage to the past—toward bondage to guilt and shame? Toward enslavement to the rat race and a life defined by the power and influence of Egypt (the world and its culture)?
  • Why do we choose to live in bondage instead of freedom?
  • Why is it so hard to leave Egypt and all that it has to offer?

LIVE IT OUT

LORD, open my eyes to see You, and open my heart to follow You. Take away the struggle of chasing Egypt, and place within me a new heart to hear and follow You. Oh, that I may know the One who freed me!

Watch the trailer here. 


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

“Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you.  I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.  I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you would not be their slaves, and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.”   (Leviticus 26:11-13, NASB)

 What Does it Say?

I will make MY dwelling among you. My soul will NOT reject you. I will walk among you, be your God and you MY people.  I AM the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt, so you not be slaves, I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

What Does it Mean?

Aaron Shust recently wrote a song called, “Zion.”  There’s a line in the song that says, “You have no other shepherd, you have no other Lord.”  This phrase has been rolling around in my heart and mind for a few days, and in the end it brought me back to Egypt.

God’s chosen people had been captive in the land of Egypt for over 400 years.  Pharaoh was the leader God’s people knew.  The Egyptian gods were gods with whom the Hebrews were well-acquainted.  Throughout the land of Egypt, Pharaoh was seen as deity—a direct descendant of the gods.  In the eyes of the Egyptians, He made the sun rise and set, and he ensured the Nile would flood so the crops could grow. It was Pharaoh who brought the seasons and Pharaoh who protected the land.

Do you think it was possible for the Hebrews to believe that their own God had forsaken them after 400 years?  Is it too far-fetched to think that some Hebrews even found themselves in Egyptian temples, worshipping Egyptian gods?  Did the Hebrews ever look to Pharaoh to have their needs met?

In many ancient pictures of pharaohs, the ruler is portrayed holding a shepherd’s crook in one hand and a flail in the other, with his arms crossed over his chest.  In this way, the pharaoh was represented as being the shepherd and lord (or master) of Egypt.  The flail had multiple meanings: it was seen as a tool representing harvest, but it was also seen as a tool of power and punishment. The shepherd’s crook, on the other hand, represented the pharaoh as the leader of his flock.

In the Exodus, God’s chosen people were called out from under the leadership of and bondage to the pharaoh, yet that was all the Hebrews had known for generations.  God must have seemed very silent to them throughout those years of captivity.  Exodus 3 speaks of the pharaoh being a harsh taskmaster, breaking the Israelite slaves in both body and spirit.  Yet here in this Leviticus passage we see it revealed that Pharaoh would no longer be shepherd and lord:  YHWH, I AM that I AM would be their God and they would be His people.  That was the deal.

God was not ignorant of the hardships His people endured.  The Exodus 3 passage tells us God heard their cries and sent Moses, the deliverer (a foreshadowing of the day when God Himself would come as deliverer through Christ’s incarnation).  Here in Leviticus, the Word of God reminds His people that God did not reject or forsake them.  YHWH is a God who desires to walk with His people; yet in order to walk with them, God had to call them out.  When God called His people out of Egypt—out from under the thumb of Pharaoh, out from bondage, and out and away from the gods Egypt worshipped, He was calling them #home.  They would have to go through the desert, yes; but that was where they would learn to walk with, see, and experience the love of this personal God who #delivered them.

God’s call is the same today, and the same choice lies before us.  We are created to serve someone or something; that’s how it is. The choice is Egypt, or God.  Egypt had all the amenities and wealth of life. Sure, the Israelites were slaves. It was terrible and they were miserable, but it was predictable. Walking with God in freedom is a daily choice of dependence.  Freedom is HARD.

God created us to walk with Him—to know Him and to need Him.  There is no better shepherd, no kinder Lord than the LORD, YHWH.   We have been called out from the slavery the world offers, into the freedom that God gives.  The world of Egypt (the world) offered slavery and death, and it still does today; whereas God gives LIFE and life eternal (John 10:10).

I pray that you’ll determine today to have no other Shepherd, no other Lord.  Resolve to let YHWH lead you #home, even if the desert must be traversed in the process.  Oh, that we have ears to hear the One True God and voices to declare that the LORD is our God and we are His people.

What Does it Mean to me?

Who is my shepherd?  Who is my Lord?  Am I walking with God daily in freedom, or am I a slave to the world and all of its demands?

Do I even want to live in the freedom God gives?  What is the hardest thing I would have to leave behind in my “Egypt”?

Live it out:

Teach me how to walk with You, Jesus, even if it is through the desert.  Draw me to Your Word and teach me.  Give me the strength to live in the freedom You offer and died to give.  (John 3:16)

“Zion”
Aaron Shust


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

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Having Mixed Emotions About Back to School Time? A Word for Parents

Having Mixed Emotions About Back to School Time?
A Word for Parents

As our kids go back to school this year, let us determine to kindle afresh our love for the Word of God.

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.

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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.

 

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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.


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