Tag Archives: Kendra Graham

KENDRA GRAHAM BIBLE STUDY: WEEK 4 HANDOUT

Welcome to Kendra Graham’s online Bible study. Our prayer is that you grow deeper in the knowledge and understanding of God’s Word and His promises for you. Below is the handout for the third week of the Bible study with a few homework questions at the end. 

AM
#ENOUGH
to Quench Your Thirst…

STEP ONE: Pray

STEP TWO:  Read the Text.

  Exodus 17:1-3 (NASB)

Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink.

Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water that we may drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?”

But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, “Why now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

 

STEP THREE:   WHAT DOES IT SAY?
THE FACTS ONLY PLEASE

 In this step you need to list the outstanding facts of the passage. DON’T get caught up in the details, just list the facts. Do not paraphrase. Use the actual words of the passage. This is God’s Word; a lot of times this step seems tedious to some, but I urge you, as we read and say and write God’s Word, it begins to sink deep into our hearts. If you just pick one fact out of the verse, write it down and meditate on it.

1:    All the sons of Israel journeyed according to the command of the LORD and camped at Rephidim. There was no water to drink

2:    The people quarreled with Moses “Give us water” Moses: “Why do you test the LORD?”

3:    The people thirsted for water, they grumbled “Why now have you brought us from Egypt to kill us, our children and livestock with thirst?”

 

STEP FOUR:  WHAT DOES IT MEAN? THE LESSONS

Look for a lesson to learn from each fact. What are the people doing that they should be doing? What are the people doing that they shouldn’t be doing?

 Is there a command to follow? A promise to claim? A warning to heed? An example to follow? Meditate on these. Ask God what lesson it is that He wants you to hear or learn.

1:   It is easy sometimes to get into a performance trap. We have done everything God requires, like go to church, follow His commands, memorize the Word, help people, do what is right even when it’s easier not to…. and where has following God gotten us? To a place of urgent desperate need. I don’t like that. God leads us to places that require a dependent faith on Him.

2:   God has let me down, so I am not moving until He shows up and fixes this. The people “tested” God. We often get tired of God being the One to give the tests, well, it’s my turn. Prove who You are, and I will believe. God says, believe who I AM and see how my name is proven. We don’t like that. We demand God lead us to a place of excess… it looks empty. The thing is… this is a place where God provides in excess… to overflow! We just need to know where to look.

3:   It is here, when we are hurting, thirsty, and full of more questions than answers that we literally cannot remember a single blessing the freedom God gives us. It is at times like this, when Sinai is literally in view, that we quit. Slavery was easier. It is here, when we can’t go another step, that we throw our faith away. Our hearts are tired and we hurt…. so we will leave God before He leaves us. He may be faithful to you, but He will not be faithful to me. God is not #enough. If we leave now… we will miss the miracle.

 

STEP FIVE:  WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ME? NOW APPLY IT…. TODAY.

Take the lessons you learned and put them into the form of a personal question that you would ask your spouse, or a friend or your son or daughter.

 As you write the questions, listen for God to communicate to you through His Word.

 Do not rush. Do not write things down just to have something on paper, this step takes more time that you may think. This is where Scripture meditation becomes real, this is where you begin to hear that still small voice speak to you, and place His finger in your life and begin to direct your paths…. this day, and the next, and the next. Do you trust Him enough to put into place that which He is moving you to?

 1:   When have you tried to control God with your good works, church attendance, Bible study teaching, and amazing ability to follow…? When was a time where you know God led you to a certain place, only to find that when you got there, or were in the process of getting there, you found lack rather than abundance? Did you question whether you heard God correctly or not? (Honesty is REALLY hard here….)

2:   When was a time where you got tired of all of God’s tests and you felt like it was your turn to refuse to move until you received an explanation? How hard is it to live on promises and not explanations? What promise of God are you currently trusting God to come through on?

3:   If you were to make a list of your blessings from God vs your grievances, which list would be easier to compile? Do you really believe I AM that I AM is more than #ENOUGH? Why or why not? What part of your desert journey caused you to question everything about God? Did you quit or press in? If you quit, what obstacles were in the way of turning back and pressing to Sinai? What promises do you need God to come through on? If you pressed in, then in what way did you see God that you would have missed otherwise?

STEP SIX:  LIVE IT OUT.

Look over all your facts, lessons and applications for a given passage. 

Is there a main theme to them? Does one verse stand out over the rest for some reason?

 Hold yourself accountable to live out in your daily life that which God impresses upon your heart. Write it out, sign it, date it and claim the transforming power of God’s Word and His presence in your life.

 

Write down the name of God, who He promises to be to me…

            Call on His name, hold to His name

                        Look for His name to be evident today… even if it is not                                                  evident in the way I demand.

                                    I AM THAT I AM IS MORE THAN #ENOUGH.

                                                Shout that out throughout today… then tomorrow.

                                                                        Help my unbelief.

HOMEWORK:

Do the Three Questions on:

 Exodus 17:9-16

Get stuck?  www.annegrahamlotz.com


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 Bible Study: Week Two Handout

Welcome to Kendra Graham’s online Bible study. Our prayer is that you grow deeper in the knowledge and understanding of God’s Word and His promises for you. Below is the handout for the second week of the Bible study with a few homework questions at the end. 

AM
#ENOUGH
to LEAD you…

STEP ONE: Pray

STEP TWO:  Read the Text. 

Exodus 13:17-22

(17) Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near, for God said, “The people might change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.”

(18) Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea; and the sons of Israel went up in martial array from the land of Egypt.

(19) Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God shall surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones from here with you.”

(20) Then they set out from Succoth and camped in Etham on the edge of
the wilderness.

(21) The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way and a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and night.

(22) He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

STEP THREE    WHAT DOES IT SAY?  THE FACTS ONLY PLEASE

 In this step you need to list the outstanding facts of the passage.  DON’T get caught up in the details, just list the facts.  Do not paraphrase.  Use the actual words of the passage.  This is God’s Word, a lot of times this step seems tedious to some, but I urge you, as we read, and say and write God’s Word, it begins to sink deep into our hearts.  If you just pick one fact out of the verse, write it down and meditate on it. 

17:    God did not lead them by land of Philistines, even though near; God said, “The people might change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt”

18:    God led by way of wilderness to Red Sea; Israel in martial array

19:    Moses took bones of Joseph; he made Israel promise, “God shall surely take care of you.”

20:    They set out on edge of wilderness

21:    The LORD was going before them in pillar of cloud by day and fire by night that they may travel day/night

22:    He did not take away pillar of cloud/fire from before the people

STEP FOUR:  WHAT DOES IT MEAN? THE LESSONS

Look for a lesson to learn from each fact. What are the people doing that they should be doing?  What are the people doing that they shouldn’t be doing?

 Is there a command to follow? A promise to claim? A warning to heed? An example to follow? Meditate on these. Ask God what lesson it is that He wants you to hear or learn.

 17:    God leads us by His way for His reasons. God knows us, and He knows how easy it is for us to bail when things get tough. 

18:    God’s ways are not our ways; that is probably why we struggle to follow Him. When it comes down to it, we want to control God and His direction, not let God control us and our direction.  Following the Good Shepherd will always take faith on our part.  KNOW that I AM is #ENOUGH to personally lead me.  *martial array– often we think we can handle “battles” because we look the part… but God knew the people were broken and He ALONE, the GOOD SHEPHERD, would have to do all the fighting this time on their behalf.  It is important to know we do nothing in the battle for our souls, we just receive the salvation offered.

19:    Joseph died BELIEVING that GOD would LEAD them out.  Sometimes we need to borrow the faith of others to make it though the desert.  Seeing Joseph’s bones would also be a reminder that Egypt was not their home and the Egyptian gods were not their gods, I AM knows the way out and will fulfill HIS promises even if we forget them or don’t believe them.  God’s faithfulness to HIS WORD does not depend on us and/or our belief or lack thereof.

20:    God brings us to the edge… so that we can make our own personal choice… we can follow Him to the wilderness, or we can follow Egypt.  God will not force us to follow, but bids us to come to Him and trust Him—even to this hard place between the Sea and the wilderness.

21:    The LORD, “I AM that I AM,” was leading them. His presence was visible
and present, yet they did not know Him. Faith will be needed to follow every time.

22:    God refused to take His visible presence away from His people, even though the people would constantly question that presence and whether or not it was trustworthy.  I AM knew He is #ENOUGH to lead His people and would daily show and teach His people that very thing.  God promises to never leave nor forsake us.  His presence today is found in His Word, His promises are #ENOUGH to follow and trust.

 

STEP FIVE:  WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ME? NOW APPLY IT…. TODAY.

Take the lessons you learned and put them into the form of a personal question that you would ask your spouse, or a friend or your son or daughter.

 

As you write the questions, listen for God to communicate to you through His Word.

 

Do not rush.  Do not write things down just to have something on paper; this step takes more time that you may think. This is where Scripture meditation becomes real. This is where you begin to hear that still small voice speak to you, and place His finger in your life and begin to direct your paths…. this day, and the next, and the next.  Do you trust Him enough to put into place that which He is moving you to?

 

17:    When have you followed God when it made no sense at all? How did God show up?  Has there been a time when you sensed you should have followed God but did not like the direction or destination, so you refused?

18:    When have you put conditions on where God is allowed to lead you? When and how has following God taken faith on your part?  How have you tried to help God with all your “expertise”?  When have you humbly accepted salvation from God, knowing you had done nothing to deserve it or make it happen?

19:    When have you had to borrow the faith of someone else to make it through a certain situation?  Have you known anyone who died believing the promises of God even though they did not see those promises fulfilled in their lifetime?

20:    When have you made a physical choice to follow God, only to end up pinned in between the sea and the wilderness?  When did it seem easier and more sensible to bail out from where God was leading than to continue?  What did you do? Bail or continue?

21:    When has it taken faith for you to follow where God was leading? Has following God taken faith just one time, or does it seem to take more faith every time?

22:    When have you had to claim the promises of who God IS in His Word?  When have you felt as though God has left you, even though His Word says He won’t?  How and when has God’s presence led you, although you battled with doubt along the way?  When you looked back, were you able to see where God had been?  When has God been true to HIS Word, even when you were not true to Him?

STEP SIX:  LIVE IT OUT.

Look over all your facts, lessons and applications for a given passage. 

 

Is there a main theme to them?  Does one verse stand out over the rest for
some reason?

 

Hold yourself accountable to LIVE OUT in your daily life that which God impresses upon your heart.  Write it out, sign it, date it and claim the transforming power of God’s Word and His presence in your life.

  Be in the Word of God; know who God IS, not who I demand Him to be.

            Know Jehovah Raah as MY SHEPHERD as I decide to follow Him

 

HOMEWORK:

Do the Three Questions on: Exodus 16 – any verses

Get stuck?  www.annegrahamlotz.com

I AM #ENOUGH
To LEAD as SHEPHERD

1.  #ENOUGH in Places of DESPERATION

Exodus 13:17-22

2. #ENOUGH in Places of DECISION

Exodus 14:18-31

3. #ENOUGH in places of DESTITUTION

 Exodus 15:22-27


Thank you again for joining us for this Bible study. Feel free to let us know if you have any questions or concerns. Praying that you have a very blessed week ahead!


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

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Pinterest

KENDRA GRAHAM ONLINE BIBLE STUDY

Exodus 3:7-8 (NASB)

(7) The LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings.

(8) So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite.

WHAT DOES IT SAY?

  1. The LORD said I have SURELY seen the affliction of MY people

I Have given heed to their cry because of taskmasters

I AM AWARE of their sufferings

  1. SO I HAVE COME to deliver from the Egyptians

to bring them to a spacious land flowing with milk and honey

to the place of Canaanite, Hittite, Amorite, Perizzite, Hivite

What Does it Mean?

Suffering and affliction: these are two words we do not jump up and down about, but they’re words we can all relate to.  Here in Exodus chapter 3, God has heard the cries of His people in Egypt, and so He has come to Moses to inform him of what is going on in Egypt.

Moses’ face is in the dirt; he is not speaking, God is speaking.  I think that’s something, don’t you?  Moses obviously has an opinion about what’s been happening to the Hebrews in Egypt, don’t you think?  I mean, the reason Moses finds himself there in the desert at all is because he has seen an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave to death and he has subsequently murdered the Egyptian in a heated outburst of anger.  The treatment of the slaves bothers Moses so much, it has led him to commit murder.

Don’t you wonder if Moses had heard about this “God of the Hebrews” and questioned whether He had any real power at all?  Why hadn’t God intervened?  Why hadn’t He stopped all these atrocities from happening?  I think Moses legitimately thought he knew the depth of it all. Being a prince of Egypt, he’d had a “behind the scenes” view and had actually come to a place where he had  refused to be called the son of the Pharaoh’s daughter (see Hebrews 11:24).  Yet even at this point Moses still doesn’t know the depth of the brokenness of the Hebrews in Egypt, so God informs him.

The word for affliction is “oiny” which means much more than just physical abuse.  God is informing Moses that His people have suffered tremendous physical, emotional and mental abuse at the hands of the Egyptians and are crying out from the depths of their souls to be #delivered from Egypt. The word aware is, “Ra’ah,” which means God more than knows what the affliction is; it is as if it had been done to Him.

God sees the injustices.  God sees the pain; He walks with us in it, because He understands what it takes to have victory in it. I don’t like that.  I want God to protect me from it, not walk with me in it.

I love how in Exodus 3:8 God tells Moses, “SO I HAVE COME to deliver” (emphasis added).  God is not asking Moses to use his contacts in Egyptian politics or to use his power as a son of the Pharaoh’s daughter.  God is telling Moses, I AM is going to deliver them.  Moses, with his face in the dirt, probably feels more useless than ever: his relevance in Egyptian culture has long passed, he is wanted on a murder charge for which he is guilty, and he has no idea how to even begin to help a people that are that broken and hurting.  What could Moses say? What could he do?  Moses can do nothing.  All he brings to the table is his ability to bend his knee in the dirt to the I AM who will do the #delivering.

God came Himself.  God did not trust the Hebrews to anyone else.  Likewise, God did not trust you to anyone else.  He came Himself.  God Himself came in the form of a man: His name is Jesus.  Jesus lived a perfect life and then paid the debt that a holy God requires.  Jesus was stricken for us (see Isaiah 53).  Jesus died a horrible, horrific and painful death on the cross so that He could walk us through the pain and suffering of this world.  We pray to a God who understands all sides of the hurt.

God never acts on our time table or in the way we think is best, but when we cry out to Him, God hears, He answers, and He comes Himself.

What Does it Mean to Me?

When have you felt abandoned by God? What injustices has God          seemed to have missed or not cared about in your life? In what              area of your life is it time to claim that God is “the God Who                    Sees”? (Jehovah Roi)

When have you cried out to God with true intensity?  When have you seen God act on your behalf.

What causes you to doubt that the depth of your pain matters to an Almighty God?  When has anyone really understood your pain?

Who are you looking to, to deliver you?  How many people have let you down or left you disappointed?

LIVE IT OUT

Today, instead of just crying out to a friend,  or my mom,  or a boss, I will cry out to GOD, whose name is Jehovah Roi, the God who sees.  Lord, give me ears today to hear Your Word, a heart to believe Your Word and eyes to see You walk with me in this world.


Join Kendra Graham  for a free Women’s Bible Study at The Cove, Tuesday evenings through February 26. 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.

To watch the first session, 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

 

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

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Pinterest

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’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.

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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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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.

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Kendra Graham Online Bible Study: Mark 15:39

Welcome to Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study! This is a place where we can come together and share in our journey towards Scriptural truths and spiritual maturity. We pray this will be a safe, respectful, resourceful place to come and discuss God’s Word…to discover What it says…What it means…and What it means to you!Make sure you don’t miss a post, just enter your email in the “Subscribe Via Email” box in the upper left-hand corner of our blog. It’s free and you’ll receive these posts straight into your email inbox.

KENDRA GRAHAM NOTES FROM Mark 15:39

A Triumphal Entry

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

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

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

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

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


(Picture:  Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified)

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


(Picture: Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified)

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

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

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

What does it Mean to me?

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

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

LIVE IT OUT.

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

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


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Kendra Graham’s Bible Online Bible Study – Acts 16:23-25

Kendra Blog Title

Welcome to Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study! This is a place where we can come together and share in our journey towards Scriptural truths and spiritual maturity. We pray this will be a safe, respectful, resourceful place to come and discuss God’s Word…to discover What it says…What it means…and What it means to you!

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Kendra Graham notes from Acts 16:23-25

“When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely;  (24) and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. (25) But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:23-25

Step 1

THE FACTS:
(Verse23) struck with many blows, threw into prison, (verse 24) fastened feet in stock, (verse 25) Paul and Silas were praying and singing to God, prisoners were listening.

Step 2

THE LESSONS:
Recently, some of the information about what happened behind closed doors to Saeed Abidini has come out in interviews in the media. I had the honor of spending a day with the Abidini family not so long ago. It overwhelms me when I hear the horrible atrocities that Saeed had to endure. Saeed was beaten so badly one day that he was unable to sleep for 20 hours, he was in so much pain. What did Saeed do? He prayed for his captures, his family, the other prisoners and praised God. This blows my mind. How is this humanly possible? Answer, it isn’t.

How often do we read these stories, especially the one of Paul and Silas in prison, and we tell it with such gusto each and every VBS season, how God shook the prison and set the captives free, and they sang in prison and it was great! It is great… but when you hear of a beating first hand, of someone you know, and you look in their eyes, and you see the scars, and you hear of the torture… it is almost something you don’t want your children to hear or ever know about.

It’s sobering. It’s frightening.

At least it is to me. Perhaps you have a greater faith than me and would step up with gusto to endure such cruelty. I tend to have an easier time bringing questions to God about the whole situation. I did not listen to Saeed’s story and break out with a hymn of praise as he was describing the beatings. Tears were welling up in my eyes and my heart was heavy. That was me, don’t get that confused with how Saeed was.

Saeed had the most peaceful look upon his face, as if he was remembering those moments in the dark with Jesus. Saeed is not bitter or angry, instead he is grateful that God entrusted him with such a story of grace. There were others in the prison who needed to hear Saeed’s prayer and praise. There were others, an American, who needed his encouragement. There were prison guards who needed to know that Jesus saves, and gives strength to the weak.

Saeed said that while in prison, the presence of God was so permeated that you could not miss it if you tried. God was so close to him, and His presence so real to him in this time that he could not help but praise His name. Saeed was pressured to turn his face away from Jesus, but he said he couldn’t… not even if he tried. Then he praised even more. God trusted Saeed with a difficult testimony.

It takes so much less for me to run from God and shake my little dust fist in the air and tell God that He got all this difficulty wrong in my life. God needed Paul and Silas to press in here, in this prison, because there was a jailer and captives that He loved more than anything. Paul and Silas had been in the streets for days preaching about the Gospel to the Philippians, but alas, it would not be the testimony preached from the rooftops that would reach these particular people… it would be the testimony lived out in prison that would finally capture the heart of the jailer.

God was trusting Paul and Silas with suffering, they had to be in the innermost cell… they had to have a jailer employed to keep them in… the lengths God will go to for one person, a jailer no less… but through it all, the presence of God would so drench that place, that even when the foundations of the prison would shake, the captives would refuse to leave.

This is what the presence of God does.

We were created to experience His presence, and in His presence, joy is inevitable even when your feet are in stocks. It wasn’t the fact that Saeed, Paul and Silas were delivered from the pit that gave them joy, the fact of joy was the presence of God in the pit.

“Freedom in Christ is not a matter of location, but a matter of the heart” -Casper Ten Boom (when he was captured and placed in a concentration camp in World War 2.)

Step 3

APPLY IT:

What about you? Perhaps today you find yourself in a pit, in a place of struggle and everywhere you look is darkness and frustration, and you are questioning where God is in this???

Today, will you ask Him to focus your eyes on Him, and even in this place of bondage, give you freedom? Where is it that you need to press in to, and grab a hold of that testimony God wants to forge in your life? “When God leads us down hard paths, He gives us strong shoes.”- Corrie Ten Boom from The Hiding Place.

3

LIVE IT OUT: Today Lord, open my eyes to see where You are working. Give me strength to walk where You lead.
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What Scripture are you studying now? What have you learned? How has the Lord spoke to you? Share with us in the comments section.
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To see more of Kendra’s Bible Studies, click here.