Category Archives: Guest Posts

An Invitation from Will Graham

By Will Graham,

Will Graham Those of you who follow my ministry know that one of the things that drives me the most is my love for the Bible. Not just the New Testament, which is glorious and full of hope, but the Old Testament as well. When we just focus on the New Testament, we miss so much history and context, and we only see a portion of what God is telling us. So much in the Old Testament informs what we read in the New Testament.

Given that, I bet you won’t be surprised to hear me say that I am extremely excited to lead a seminar at The Cove in October, focusing on the book of 1st Samuel.

I’m preparing to do something that we’ve never done before in the 25 year history of The Cove, and that is work through an entire book of the Bible over the course of multiple years. Sure, we’ve had seminars that have covered entire books – Jonah and 3rd John, for instance – in one setting, but for our study of 1st Samuel we will work through the book deeply and deliberately and we will take as long as needed.

I have a game plan, and an idea of how far we’ll get during the first seminar, but I’m also ready to be redirected if I feel God’s leading that we need to speed up or slow down. And, boy, am I ready to go!

There are two things that I find really interesting about 1st Samuel. The first is simply the person of Samuel. The Bible says “the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.” (1st Samuel 3:19, NKJV). In other words, God didn’t allow him to say anything that didn’t come to be. Samuel is an amazing person and leader to study and from whom we can learn much.

Secondly, 1st Samuel takes place during a very unique time in the history of Israel. At this point, Israel is in the Promised Land, and when Joshua died there was no heir apparent. They chose judges such as Samson and Gideon to handle local issues.

Samuel was the last of those judges, and his focus was much more national in scope. He oversaw the transition of Israel from the realm of judges to the leadership of kings, and anointed the first two kings of Israel – Saul and David – with God’s direction. The kingship of Israel is a major theme throughout the Bible, and it all began in 1st Samuel. (It wasn’t always a clean and pretty thing, either!)

In the seminar we’ll look at the warnings that Samuel gave the Israelites as they demanded a kingship, and we’ll look at Saul – a man who looked the part (we’re told in chapter 9 that he was taller and more handsome than anybody) but was a colossal flop. As we proceed we’ll also look at David, God’s man, who would be the greatest king of Israel.

Can you tell I’m excited? I hope that you’ll make plans to join me. If you can only come one year, I pray it will be a blessing to you. If you can come back year after year, that would be a lot of fun too! Let’s just look forward to spending some time together learning about a few of the most historic leaders in the Old Testament and see what God has in store for us in the process.

Blessings to you!

To register for Will Graham’s seminar titled, Second Guessing God’s Plan, on October 7-9, 2013, click here or call 1-800-950-2092.  

GUEST POST: The State of the Nation and the Genesis 3 Attack!

By Ken Ham, President, Answers in Genesis.

Ken Ham for 2013On August 9-11, I will be returning to speak at the beautiful Billy Graham Training Center, “The Cove,” in the North Carolina  mountains.

I will be giving four presentations, plus holding a question-and-answer session, that will cover a variety of topics that touch on the state of our nation. Using God’s Word, I will shed some light on what is really happening spiritually in America—and what we as Christians can do about it.

One of my verses for this special time at The Cove will be 2 Corinthians 11:3:

“But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 11:3)

As we look at the state of our nation today, we see godlessness and unbelief sweeping across the culture.  “Gay” marriage and abortion are increasingly being accepted.  Also, the atheists are growing in number and aggressiveness in this once very Christianized culture. 

Something else is very sad in my adopted country of America. Statistics reveal that at least two thirds of our young people are leaving the church by college age, and very few return.  What is happening?  What has caused this?  What can we do about it?

God’s warning to us in 2 Corinthians 11:3 is that Satan is going to use the same method on us as he did on Eve to get us to a position of not believing the things of God.  It behooves us to carefully find out what that method was and to understand how Satan’s strategy applies to our world today.

If we go back to Genesis 3, we read about the method Satan used on Eve: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?””  (Genesis 3:1)

That question, “Did God really say?,” is the essence of his method to create doubt about Christianity’s validity .  Note that Satan successfully attempted to get Eve (and Adam) to doubt God’s Word, and that doubt led to unbelief. Just look at the mess this rebellion caused in our now sin-cursed universe. 

Note, however, that the very first attack by Satan was on the Word of God.  I call that the “Genesis 3 attack.”  There have been many types of Genesis 3 attacks over the six millennia since this first one in the Garden.  But even though these assaults manifest themselves in different ways in different eras of history, the attacks are essentially all the same: to get people to doubt and then disbelieve the Word of God.  That attack from Satan has always been on the authority of the Word.

Because of this warning God has given us, we need to be asking ourselves, “How does the Genesis 3 attack manifest itself today?”  We certainly see the consequences of the attack in the increasing moral relativism and the rejection of biblical authority across the nation, but what more needs to be understood?

It is my contention that the atheistic, evolutionary beliefs that are taught through the education systems of the world,  broadcast on TV, and presented as fact in most of the secular museums of the world are all a major part of the Genesis 3 attack of our day.  This attack (and sadly a significant part of the church has also succumbed to doubting the full Word of God) has undermined the authority of the Bible, beginning in Genesis, throughout the culture.  As a result, generations of kids from the church have been put on a slippery slide of unbelief.

Many people in the church today don’t know how to defend against this attack on God’s Word.  Of course, they are concerned for their children and grandchildren, and so they ask: “How to do we counter and answer this Genesis 3 attack?”

God has raised up Bible-upholding ministries like Answers in Genesis to help equip Christians to defend the Christian faith against the Genesis 3 attack of our day, and to challenge non-Christians concerning the truth of God’s Word and the gospel.

I hope to see you at The Cove on  August 9-11, as we discuss how we can deal with the Genesis 3 attack of our day.

For more information and to register for the 3-day retreat with Ken Ham on August 9-11 at The Cove in Asheville, NC click here or call 1-800-950-2092.

DISCOUNT FOR YOUTH: Given the appropriateness of this seminar for youth, registration is open to young people of middle school and high school age at a discounted rate when accompanied by a parent. Please contact our Reservations department at 1-800-950-2092 for more information.

GUEST POST: A Night Like No Other at The Cove

By Tiffany Jothen

I’m not sure I have ever seen my dad clap along to a worship song, but Saturday, I witnessed the phenomenon TWICE when Irish folk band Rend Collective Experiment took the stage at The Cove.  I don’t think anyone can see them in concert and not move around.

I first saw Rend Collective in Buffalo, N.Y., last fall when they performed at Rock the Lakes, a BGEA youth event.  Listening to their music is like a holy band room exploding in your soul — a Jesus jamboree.  It’s the kind of band that makes me want to learn an instrument so I can be in it, too.  My parents and husband gladly came along Saturday when I showed them a few of the band’s YouTube videos.

A couple of weeks before the concert, I ordered Rend Collective’s latest CD, “Campfire,” so I could sing along on Saturday.  I don’t like playing my music loud when I drive with the windows down, but this CD I want to share with everyone.  Seeing it live was even better.  They truly know how to honor God’s majesty and creativity.

One of the best things about Saturday’s performance — besides the high-energy band itself — was the audience.  More than 20 states — from California to Florida — were represented, with a few people under 10 years old and several over 70.  Some people wore sundresses or khakis; others went with the cutoff jean shorts and beanies.

An older woman who sat next to me at dinner before the concert said she knew nothing about Rend Collective, but was in the area and thought they would be good.  A group of 20-somethings who sat behind me during the concert called them a “sweet” band, and one guy in the group said a concert doesn’t get much better — a delicious dinner beforehand, no crowds to fight and not a bad seat in the house.  Outside, it poured down rain, but inside everyone eagerly anticipated the next song.

“When it rains this much in Ireland, we’re all just grumpy,” band member Gareth Gilkeson said in his Irish acccent.  He put up his hands in his vest pockets, wore a red tie and hat and used words like “wee li’l” and “shindigery.”  (His wife and fellow band mate, Ali, said after the concert that if you eat enough Lucky Charms, you’ll get the same accent too.)

Throughout the show, the band used all kinds of instruments, including an accordian, xylophone and trash can.  I was impressed with Ali’s ability to switch instruments multiple times during a song.  Lead singer Chris Llewellyn picked up a ukulele toward the end.

“It’s mostly played by little girls, but that doesn’t bother me,” he said.

RCE from TiffanyI was sad when my camera died about half an hour in, but I decided it was better to experience the concert first-hand anyway.  The lyrics on the screen made it easy to sing along, and it’s always moving to witness an entire room of people praising God together — voices and sometimes arms raised.  For one song, we put an arm around our neighbor and jumped in sync.

(Check out this video another person in the audience posted on YouTube!)

Other highlights included the band letting the audience lead “10,000 Reasons” and sharing their rendition of “In Christ Alone,” which I LOVED.  (Next CD maybe?)

This is a picture of me and my family, taken in my parents’ inn room after the concert.
RCE concert Tiffany and family

 

Guest Post: What Does It Mean to Have Faith in God?

By Sean McDowell

Sean McDowell, Bible teacher, author, and educator in San Juan Capistrano, CA, will be teaching on “The Faith” Is Not Blind at The Cove on July 12-14, 2013.

Sean McDowellWhat Does It Mean to Have Faith in God?

A few summers ago I spoke at a camp in Northern California. Topics for the week included intelligent design, the reliability of Scripture, and the historical resurrection of Jesus. On the last day of camp, a young Christian woman complained that if I proved the existence of God then there would be no room for faith.

Although she meant well, she was deeply confused about the nature of faith. She had a view similar to Mark Twain, who famously defined faith as “believing something you know ain’t so.” Many people today understand faith as a blind act of the will regardless of the evidence. But the Bible has a very different understanding of faith. Biblical faith is a trust in God because He has shown Himself to be trustworthy and dependable.

Understood this way, we see that faith in God is not unlike the faith we put in other people. The more evidence we find that someone is truly kind, honest, and dependable, the more likely we are to trust him or her. I did not put my “faith” in my wife when I first met her. Rather, I spent time getting to know her, learning about her passions in life, and examining her character. After spending much time with her I was convinced that she was (and still is!) a trustworthy person who I want to be with for the rest of my life.

The same is true with faith in God. He wants us to get to know Him so we can see that He is trustworthy. In fact, God expects faith from us because He’s given us good evidence of His dependable character, as when He showered Egypt with miracles before inviting Israel to follow Him into the wilderness (Ex 7–14). Rather than asking Israel for blind allegiance, God performed miracles through Moses so they could have a reasonable faith in Him. Miracles were done so the people would believe in God and His servant Moses (Ex 14:31).

God frequently performed miracles in the Bible so people would have confidence in His character. Before healing the paralytic, Jesus said, “But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mk 2). Jesus healed the man so people would know He spoke with authority from above. Jesus did miracles because He was good, but also as confirmation of His identity. John says Jesus’ miracles were recorded “so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name” (Jn 20:31).

Faith isn’t something we exercise just once. We need faith daily. It is a mistake to trust God for the “big” things of heaven (like salvation) but not the “little” things on earth (like daily guidance). God invites us to trust him moment by moment for all of our concerns. He is a well-seasoned guide who never leads us astray. We can follow God’s Son Jesus because He is the smartest, most powerful person around, and He loves us beyond all measure.

To register for “The Faith” Is Not Blind seminar with Sean McDowell on July 12-14, call 1-800-950-2092 or click here.

A Message From Will Graham: A Look at 2013

By Will Graham, Executive Director, The Cove

At the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, we’re praising God for an effective and blessed year of ministry in 2012. We saw God work in awesome ways as thousands came to study from His Word, receive rest and renewal, and return to their ministries and lives ready to make an impact for Him.

Now, as we celebrate The Cove’s 25th anniversary in 2013, we’re praying for an even more exciting year!

In addition to the peaceful surroundings and solid Bible teaching you’ve come to expect from The Cove, we’re doing a few new things this year that we’d like to tell you about.

First, if you’ve always wanted to take a seminary class but have never had the opportunity, you will have a chance this year. We’re working with Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) to hold an Intensive Bible Training event titled “The BIG Picture: Grasping the Master’s Plan from Genesis to Revelation.” Mark Yarborough, vice president for Academic Affairs, academic dean and assistant professor at the seminary, will lead this in-depth five-day seminar (June 24-28). As a Cove participant, you are going to love delving into the Bible in a real and meaningful way, and this is open to you whether you have ever had any formal Bible training or not. DTS students will have the option of attending to earn credit, and you can take the course alongside them (without ever having to fill out a seminary application!).

Another new opportunity this year will be select no-fee seminars. There are five in all.  Herb Reavis will lead a seminar next month titled “The Power and Possibilities of Genuine Revival,” Sinclair Ferguson, a seminar in March titled “Four Hours with the Master,” Jim Henry, a seminar in May titled “Sermons in Stone,” and in August, Neil Anderson, a seminar titled, Rough Road to Freedom, and Pedro Garcia, a seminar titled, “Tension: How God can use Stress to Save Your Life.”  These will include the seminar for just the cost of lodging and meals at The Cove. In other words, enjoy the on-site accommodations and gourmet meals, and you will be able to attend the seminar for free!

Finally, something that is near and dear to me. I must admit that I love the book of 1st Samuel. There are so many life-changing lessons in that book, and I love to preach and teach out of it. In October, I’m going to begin the process of teaching through the entire book in the format of a Cove Seminar, which will be titled “Second-Guessing God’s Plan.” I’m going to aim to work through 1st Samuel 1-4 during the three-day seminar. Then, next year I’ll pick it up again and keep progressing through the book. As far as I know, this is the first time we’ve ever made a single book of the Bible an ongoing, intensive, multi-year focus, and I’m really looking forward to digging into the meat of 1st Samuel with you!

Of course, we’re excited about these new opportunities, but they only scratch the surface of what is taking place this year at The Cove. We’ll have seminars from well-known Bible teachers like Jack Hayford, James Dobson, Pedro Garcia, Jim Cymbala, Chip Ingram and more; two military marriage seminars, one in February and the other in June, to strengthen the families of our service members; and several Evening at The Cove concert events featuring intimate performances by many of your favorite Christian artists. You can find a full list of what is coming up in 2013 at www.thecove.org.

On behalf of the entire staff of The Cove, thank you for praying for us and allowing us to serve you. God bless you and your family this year!

GUEST POST: Why Does God Allow Suffering

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

By Chip Ingram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Billy Graham

By Will Graham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Message from Will Graham: Pastor Appreciation Month

By Will Graham:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The God With Scars

By James Emery White 

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

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

 

Not God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any other God is false.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s the puppy I want!”

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

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

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

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

This article is from the June 2012 Decision magazine.

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

Is Prayer at Work In Your Life?

By Joy Allmond

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

Stormie Omartian was at the end of her rope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Don’t We Pray More?

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

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

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

Tips For Effective Communication With God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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