Tag Archives: Bible Study

Prayer Note for January 2019

We hope you will enjoy our “Prayer Note”—an internal communication here at The Cove, created each month to remind and encourage our staff to pray. We share these with you at the beginning of each month in hopes that you, too, will be encouraged.

“Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually” (1 Chronicles 16:11, NASB).

Tuesday, January 8, and subsequent Tuesday mornings throughout the month of January will find the Training Center filled with the sound of women’s laughter and excited chatter as ladies gather to attend our morning Bible study.  Please pray for our new speaker, Dottie Edwards, as she leads these women in a study of God’s Word each Tuesday morning from January 8 through March 5.  Pray also for Kendra Graham as she continues to teach in our Tuesday evening Women’s Bible Study, January 8 through February 26.

Here are some specific ways in which you can pray for The Cove throughout the month of January:

  • Pray that many women from the Asheville community and surrounding areas will be drawn to come to The Cove to study God’s Word.
  • Pray for Dottie Edwards to teach God’s Word with courage, boldness and great joy as she shares the truth that Hope in Christ Matters. Pray that the Holy Spirit will work in the lives of each individual, revealing to them the hope that comes from knowing God and claiming His promises.
  • Pray for Kendra Graham to teach the Scriptures with clarity, accuracy and excitement and she takes the ladies of a journey of discovery through the desert of the exodus, revealing with undeniable certainty that God—The Great I AM—is enough. Pray for each participant to take this truth to heart and discover for themselves that God is enough for their every need.
  • Pray for Michelle Bachelor as she leads the team each week.
  • Pray for emcees Patty Stump and Jill Gottenstrater as they welcome the ladies, support our speakers and share important information each week.
  • Pray for safety for each carload of women that enters and leaves our gates.
  • Pray for sweet fellowship and for new relationships to be formed as sisters in Christ join together for study, small group times and around the tables in our dining room.
  • Pray for Cove Staff who will serve in various capacities each Tuesday and throughout the week. Ask the Lord to let Jesus be seen on our faces and heard through our words as we: take calls for registration and lunch reservations…welcome cars coming through our gatehouse…answer questions at the Front Desk…prepare handouts and program materials…run the sound system and advance slides…greet guests entering the doors of our Training Center and Chapel…clean buildings…maintain our roads and grounds…prepare and serve food…clear tables…prepare schedules…and carry out a multitude of other tasks and assignments!

Written by: Donna Riesen


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

“For unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  (Luke 2:11-12, KJV)

What Does it Say?

TO YOU is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. This a sign to YOU; YOU shall find the babe in swaddling clothes, in a manger.

What Does it Mean?

Last week I received an invitation to the White House Christmas party. It was super exciting, the chance of a lifetime! I had never been in the White House! I had been by it, I had taken pictures of it, and I had even gone to the “White House Gift Shop” across the street from it…. but never inside!

How does one get a chance to attend the White House Christmas Party?  First of all, I needed to be invited (odds are this is the only and last time I will be invited)…  Second, I needed to accept the invitation and go through the list with the social secretary in the White House of what to bring, how to dress, and what not to bring.  I needed to know my arrival and departure time as well as parking information and what entrance I should walk through.

Once I arrived at the White House, I had to produce two forms of ID.  I went through three checkpoints. I went through a metal detector.  My bag was x-rayed twice.  If I exited, I would not be allowed back inside.  WOW.  What a process!  When GOD came to earth, should He not at the very least have done what the president does to stay safe? Shouldn’t God have had a screening process?

This is why I LOVE these verses so much!

First of all… Christ’s birth issued an invitation:

For unto YOU…

The gift is for you, and the gift is also offered for me. It’s personal.  God has always been personal, from the first day, when He walked with Adam in the cool of the evening (see Genesis 3), to when God’s presence was in the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night (see Exodus 13:21), to when Jesus was born in Bethlehem and walked the shores of Galilee and taught, to today as He lives in the hearts and souls of men and women. His Word is just as alive and active (see Hebrews 4:12) today as always.

The name of God, Jehovah, means the All-Existent One (the One who has always been) but more intimately it connotes the meaning, the One Who Wants to be Known.  God wants to be known by us, personally, so He came and lived among us, with skin on, and His name is Jesus.

Why would God come to live among us?  God created man and woman with His hands, and gave each of us a soul designed to walk with God, know God and need God.  We don’t like to need God, but it is just a fact of creation.  We are created with a God-shaped soul. The problem occurs when we see that the character of God is holy and perfect and we are not (Romans 3:23).  God cannot refuse His own character; He cannot make any exceptions for unholy men and women to come into His presence, yet we were created to walk with, to know and to need God.

GOD so loved the world that He GAVE HIS only SON.
(John 3:16)

God was the only One who could fix the problem, so He came Himself, refusing to trust you and me to any other person, place or thing.  God would come with skin on and live that holy and perfect life, then pay the debt that unholiness demands—which is a blood debt—on the cross.  God Himself would pour out His wrath on His own Son, in order to spare you and me.  God Himself made it possible to invite us to walk with Him and know Him, because we are desperate and need Him (see Romans 5:9-10).

God came down to you and to me and was born in Bethlehem—in a barn, with no amenities, no cleanliness, no state of the art fetal monitoring system, no NICU doctor on standby, no nursing staff to make sure His Apgar score was reasonable, no one to clear His lungs and dry Him off according to hospital policy. Jesus came not to be flashy or to to wield His power over Caesar Augustus.  Jesus came to be found by everyone.

I love how the words that were spoken that night were to shepherds.  Shepherds who would not have had business or formal attire to wear to the celebration.

I love how God was so very clear with the shepherds… they were invited personally, and God was going to be clear about where to go to find Him.

God with us, Emmanuel, did not want to remain a mystery for eternity. His birth was not meant to confuse us or send us on some hypothetical goose chase.  God came to be found. He came to be found by each shepherd that night and by you and me today. The angels did not exclude any of the shepherds in that field; all were invited corporately, but the decision to come would be personal.  Tim could not go for James, and Nicholas could not go for Sam, each of them would have to decide whether or not to make that journey to the place where He could be found.

I love how the barn is not an intimidating place. The place that God with skin on could be found was accessible to each shepherd—no shower or change of clothes needed… and bring the sheep, too! Don’t delay! Come now, just as you are.

GOD refused to be out of reach of the very people He came to save.  The elite business man and owner of the barn could come to where Jesus was, as well as the outcast and the shepherd.  No one is forbidden to approach a manger. No one is out of place or under-dressed.  There is no secret service to escort you out if your two forms of ID are not acceptable.  You can stay as long as you like and come back as often as you can.

Jeremiah 23:13 is just as true today as it was before the birth of Jesus: “You will seek me and find Me when you seek with all your heart” (NIV)

An invitation to the White House is great, but an invitation to the very throne room and presence of the Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of peace… now that is really something!

Jesus is right here, within reach; we just need to come and accept His invitation. The invitation is for all, just as you are. No need to fix, clean or straighten up before you come, or you will never come.  The decision is personal. Will you accept this invitation, this Christmas, to know the One who gave up heaven so that you and I can begin to know Jehovah—the One who has always been, Who desires to be known by His handmade creation. The choice is yours.

What Does it Mean to Me?

What decision have you made about the invitation that is extended to you this day, a Savior which is Christ the Lord?

LIVE IT OUT

Today, I will take time to remember the true meaning of Christmas and reflect on that day that I accepted His invitation.

Today, if you have never accepted that personal invitation to come to Jesus, will you accept it now with a simple prayer?

Dear Lord Jesus,
You left heaven to come so that I can walk with You and know You, because I need You.  Your Word says “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him, will have eternal life” (John 3:16). I am accepting Your invitation today, now. Come and be my Savior, this day. Teach me to walk with You from this moment on. Amen.

 Merry Christmas!


Kendra Graham is  offering a free Women’s Bible Study at The Cove starting Jan. 8th. The study will also be live-streamed through social media. To view a snippet of the study entitled #I Am Enough, click here. 

To register for this study, please visit this link.


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

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!

Bible Verses For The Week: Thankfulness

We have so much to be thankful for, and it starts with Jesus Christ. He paid the ultimate price so that we can have freedom and hope for eternity. As we begin this week, let’s remember to thank our Lord for everything He’s done for us.

“I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds” (Psalm 9:1, NIV). 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV). 
“Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” (Psalm 107:8-9, NIV). 

“For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5, NIV).

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him”(Psalm 28:7, NIV).

 


Click here for a schedule of seminars, 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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Saturday Snapshot: Will Graham New Release ‘Redeemed’

We are so excited for Will Graham’s devotional book to be released on October 23rd! Redeemed: Devotions for the Longing Soul features 50 devotions. Some include stories about Billy Graham. Others use examples from Will Graham’s life and ministry. All devotions point to the eternal hope we have in Jesus Christ!

“God Stories.”

That’s what Will Graham calls the anecdotes in his first book Redeemed: Devotions for the Longing Soul.

“I’m excited about it because I get to share some personal stories,” Will said.  There are stories of his grandfather, “Daddy Bill”- known to the world as Billy Graham- his grandmother, Ruth Graham, and his own experiences.

Click this link to order your copy! 

*All proceeds from Ruth’s Attic help support World Wide Evangelism through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.


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

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

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

Follow us on social media. click map

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Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study: Isaiah 41

 

Isaiah 41:17-20 (NASB)

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

WHAT DOES IT SAY?

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

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

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

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

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

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

(Above Pic: Mountain Goat in En Gedi)

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

(Above Pic: Water in En Gedi)

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ME?

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

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

LIVE IT OUT:

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


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

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

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


Follow us on social media. click map

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

 

Matthew 13:5, 20-21 (NASB)

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

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

 What Does it Say?

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

What Does it Mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does it mean to me?

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

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

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

LIVE IT OUT

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


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

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

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Devotional- Rooted in Christ

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.”  (Matthew 7:24-25)

When the storms come in your life, are you shaken? It is normal for all of us to experience feeling uncomfortable, unsettled, fearful, heartbroken, or even like the wind has been knocked out of our sails. We will feel the blow. This verse clearly says that the winds blew and beat on that house. When we go through storms, it will sometimes feel like we have been hit mentally, emotionally, and physically. It hurts. We will feel it. Jesus is not saying that we will not feel it. He is telling us that if we are rooted in Him and in His Word that we will not fall. It will not destroy us. He gives us the tools we need to withstand the storm.

He gives us strength. The kind of strength to endure any storm in our lives. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46:1-3)

He gives us peace. A peace that we cannot attain from the world. It is a peace that is lasting. A peace that will cover us! John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” We have nothing to fear when we are in His presence. When we are rooted in Him. He is the Prince of Peace. He says that,These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

He gives us joy in the midst of the storm! It is one thing to just get through the storms of life by simply just getting through them. But God offers us to have joy in these tough times. We can have joy because through the storms we are gaining strength.  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

It is up to us to study and read His Word. It is our lifeline for everything we need in our lives. After we read it, we must act on it. We must put it to the test and activate it in our lives. The Word says in James 1:22, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. ” That means that we take His Word and literally stand on what it says. When storms come and we know that they will, we must root  ourselves so deep in Him that it will not shake or move us.  Take some time to memorize some key verses like the ones above to call upon when you need them.  Listen to worship music and give Him thanks for the blessings in your life.  We would also love to encourage you and pray with you. You can click here and we have someone available to chat with you right now!

May God be with you today and always!


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

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

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

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Kendra Graham Online Bible Study – Jeremiah

 

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

 What does it say?

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

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

What Does it Mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Does it Mean to Me?

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

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

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

LIVE IT OUT

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

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

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

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

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