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KENDRA GRAHAM: ONLINE BIBLE STUDY

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

What Does it Say?

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

What Does it Mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Brings Down the Walls

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

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

Simple Tasks, Unconventional Strategy

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

Is any part of that task list difficult?  No.

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

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

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

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

All for God’s Glory

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

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

Closing the Faith Gap

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

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

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

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

What Does it Mean to Me?

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

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

Live it Out:

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


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

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

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

 

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KENDRA GRAHAM: ONLINE BIBLE STUDY

#Enough for the Next Step

 

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

 What Does it Say?

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

What Does it Mean?

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

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

The Medic Without a Gun

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

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

The Prophet Praying to Die

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

The Journey to Where God Is

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

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

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

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

 

The God Who Is Enough

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

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

What Does it Mean to Me?

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

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

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

LIVE IT OUT

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

 



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

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

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

 

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KENDRA GRAHAM: ONLINE BIBLE STUDY

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

 What Does it Say?

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

What Does it Mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Does it Mean to me?

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

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

Live it out:

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

“Zion”
Aaron Shust


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

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

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

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

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

What Does it Say?

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

What Does it Mean?

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

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

(CJ’s Senior Graduation Pic)

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

My heart is an absolute conflicted mess.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Does it Mean to Me?

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

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

How can your faith be described?

LIVE IT OUT:

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


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

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

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

Follow us on social media. click map

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KENDRA GRAHAM’S ONLINE BIBLE STUDY – MARK 5:6-7

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 Mark 5:6-7

Mark 5:6-7

 “Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him” (Mark 5:6, NASB)  “and crying out with a loud voice, he said, ‘What do I have to do with You, Jesus Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!’” (Mark 5:7, NKJV)

 What Does it Say?      

Seeing Jesus from distance, he ran up, bowed before Him.

Crying out with loud voice: “What do I have to do with You, Jesus, Son of Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me.”

Step 2

What Does it Mean?

Here, Jesus and the disciples are on “the other side.”  As we discussed at length last week, the disciples—the talmidin—would have never gone to the other side, ever.  Focused on obeying God and staying out of the world, the disciples had no room for the mess that was Rome.

This man who lives among the tombs, naked and crazed, is a very good example of why they stay away from the other side. This man is a Gentile (unclean), naked (unclean), has all sorts of wounds oozing blood (unclean), and doesn’t just touch dead things, but LIVES with the dead (SUPER DUPER UNCLEAN).

Yet Jesus is driven to this man… a man who is an absolute mess. Jesus sees beyond the physical, beyond what is obvious, beyond the persona that is put out for everyone to see and to fear. In Roman society that places high value on beauty and accomplishment, there is no one worth less than this man—yet Jesus sees him as worthy—so much so that He has crossed the angry sea to get to him.

Overcome by demons, the man is driven by the demons that reside within him. Yet verse 5 says, “Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up to Him.” Isn’t that something? The demons know that they are in submission to Jesus! They know they must bow down in the presence of the Son of the Most High God; BUT the demons think they have a plan to beat God at His own game.

That is the arrogance of the enemy.

 What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” The demons here are claiming that they have legally and legitimately stolen this “other side,” and, specifically, this man. The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10); that is their plan, and has always been their plan.

“This side”—this Roman side—sees Caesar as god. “This side” has no room for Jesus! “Go back to Your other side, Jesus!” The demons understand the power of the name of Jesus, so they are literally saying here, “GO!  In the name of Jesus, leave me and everyone over here alone!”  Casting out Jesus in the name of Jesus?  That is #BOLD.  The demons understand who Jesus is. Oh, that we would!

Notice what the demons do not say in this passage: They do not say, “In the power of Neptune,” nor do they call on the name of Zeus, Apollo or Mars. The demons know that every single god that is worshipped on this other side is powerless. It’s only the name of Jesus.

Only the name of Jesus offends. Our world and today’s culture are no different. The world and its culture actually legitimize the name of Jesus by running so hard from it. “There is no other name given under heaven whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Now Jesus binds the demons by His Word, sending them to the bottom of the sea and healing the mind of this man.

How many of us have been here, where this man is?

Maybe we are not streaking through the streets, cutting ourselves with sharp stones or living in a graveyard, but we are no better off. We hurt. We suffer. We shriek out in response to the pain in our souls night and day… but the nights… oh the nights are so long. We have been kept from our purpose.  Our lives have been stolen from us, and life has destroyed our fire. Some of us feel that we deserve the lot we have, because of the choices and decisions we have made. We continue to hurt ourselves, because we believe this is as good as it gets for us. I have been here. I have, in my anger, hurt and despair felt lost and forgotten by God and driven by bitterness and anger.

BUT! Praise God! Jesus has come “to seek and to save those who are lost.” (Luke 19:10) God Himself has come to that “other side” where we’ve been hiding. Where we have been hoping on one hand God would just leave us alone to die, but on the other hand praying that someone would see and care. See here, God cares! God cares so much that He came Himself—not trusting you to another—to free you, to #deliver you. We often come at Jesus just like Legion did in this story, with fists flying and speech reeling. But GOD sees beyond our pain, beyond the legions of deep, deep hurt, and He speaks HIS Word.

The very name of God is the only name that saves (Acts 4:12); yet so often we prefer to use that name against Him, just like Legion did here. BUT Jesus comes anyway, to speak the power of Truth over us, the power of Truth found in the Word of God.

You were meant for more than this. Are you tired of being bound?  Are you willing to be set free?  He came to preach the GOOD NEWS! “To release the captives and set free those who are oppressed” (Isaiah 61:1-2).  Come… come to Jesus in your pain, mess and hurt.  The choice is yours.

What Does it Mean to me?

What legion of emotions and circumstances have you bound?

When did you come to Jesus and how were you #delivered?

Everyone follows someone or something. Who or what are you following? What visceral response do you have at the name of Jesus?

LIVE IT OUT

In humility, not arrogance, I bend my knee to Jesus. I will get into the Word of God and determine to believe Truth.

P.S. Ladies, our in-person Winter Women’s Bible Study at The Cove is now underway, and it’s not too late to join us!  Let’s get together Tuesday evenings in January and February and dig into the Word of God.  Register online today.

Can’t make it in person?  We’ll be streaming LIVE each Tuesday evening on Periscope, via Twitter, where you can watch from the comfort of your own home.

Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study — John 10: 9-11

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!

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 John 10: 9-11

  “I am the door of the sheep, if anyone enters through me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal, and kill and destroy; I came that they may find life and find it abundantly.  I AM the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

THE FACTS:  

I am the door of the sheep. If any enter through me he shall be saved, go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.  I came that they may find life abundantly.  I AM the good shepherd; lays down his life for the sheep.

Step 2

THE LESSONS:   

I’ve been thinking about this verse in conjunction with my trip to Israel for the past six months.  I had the opportunity to go to Bethlehem, where Luke 2 describes how the shepherds were living in the fields, keeping their watch over their flocks by night.  Wil and I weaved our way through the city and out to where the hills were littered with caves.  These caves are where shepherds would bed down for the night as they hustled the sheep deep into the darkness of the cave for safety.  At the mouth of the cave there could be found evidence where fires had been, blackened marks on the roof of the cave.  The shepherds would start a fire, cook their dinner perhaps, and maybe use the fire for warmth and protection from any wild animals that would be tempted to attack their sheep.  The shepherd would then bed down in the front of the cave, lying his body across the opening so that an intruder would first have to get through the shepherd before attempting to take the life of one of his flock.

mouth of cave where shepherds would stayStanding there in the darkness of the cave was overwhelming.  The John 10 parable of the shepherd and the sheep came alive to me.  I could hear the sheep bleating in the dark, not understanding why they had to be trapped in this cold, dank, dark place.  I could see the shepherd as he set up camp for the night.  Unbeknownst to the sheep, their safety was first and foremost on his mind.

Can you see it? The sheep are in the cave, protected by the physical body of the shepherd.  The shepherd will lay down his life and die before he relinquishes one sheep to the slaughter.  The shepherd’s body is the actual door.  The LIFE of the sheep is on the mind of the shepherd.

The sheep will go in for protection led by the shepherd and will be led out by the shepherd to eat.  So what do they eat?

Standing on the hills outside of Bethlehem made me wonder this very thing.  I asked our local tour guide and pointed to the lushest spot that I could see from the hill just beyond the city.  Do they eat there?  Are those the pastures of Bethlehem that David penned the 23rd Psalm in?  There was what seemed brown desert as far as my eyes could see… except for this one beautiful patch of greenery! An oasis in the desert!

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Our guide laughed,  “Oh no! The sheep would never be allowed to graze there! Farmland is hard to come by here in the desert, there are not fields of green!  The sheep may be able to glean the fields after harvest, but never be allowed to romp in the crops!”

Ok…. then where in the world would these sheep eat?  Luke 2 says they were living in the “fields by night” and Psalm 23 says pasture land… is that not lush green new delicious grass as far as the little sheepie eyes can see?

Standing in the “fields” which are really  “shepherds’ desert hills”, because that is where the caves would be found and where they would bed down, he told me how the sheep have always grazed in that land, and it has been rolling around in my mind ever since.  It isn’t what I thought.

IMG_5430

 Across the hills, there are noticeable sheep grazing trails which he pointed out.  All I see are trails in the dirt and I see rocks, a lot of rocks, I don’t see a bit of green.  More confused than ever, he explained to me about the desert climate.  Rain is a luxury in places like this, but there is a little humidity in the air, and it does rain, a little.  This little bit of rain combined with the humidity will accumulate on the rocks in the hills (fields), and underneath these rocks, as the water accumulates in the shade of that rock, a mouthful of yes, lush new green grass will grow.  The shepherd will look for a hillside that was exposed to this moisture and bring his flock to graze it from top to bottom or bottom to top.  Each step, a mouthful for the sheep.  The sheep must continue to follow the shepherd because he knows what hills have the food.

I could now see, each step, contains just enough food for the next step, and there’s not enough grass to bask in that one place for the rest of your life, but enough for the day.

This reality changes everything.  Today’s pasture is not enough to fulfill tomorrow’s needs.  The shepherd knows where the sheep need to be.  The shepherd leads the sheep through the desert, not for their harm, but to provide for their life.  The shepherd leads the sheep in the dark dank cave at night, not to punish or torture the sheep but to protect them.  The shepherd lays his own body across the door, not to keep the sheep in, but to keep the enemy out.

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 How often have we had the wrong view of God?  We look at God through the eyes of sheep, we can’t help it, we have more in common with the sheep than with God.  BUT GOD, loves us anyway, and in those very hills, in those very skies that I gazed into, that day, I remembered the night that was lit up with all heaven as the angels proclaimed to the shepherds and the sheep, “For unto YOU is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!” The hills that had fulfilled the needs of the sheep that day were those very hills facing the city of David.

Like it or not, we all follow someone or something, even you leaders out there.  The Word of God says, that everything else is like a thief, that comes to steal your joy, kill your dreams and ultimately destroy.  Have you ever asked yourself, “Is this all there is?”  LIFE is not elusive.  Jesus came to give us LIFE, to take us back from the thief that has stolen everything and restore us to the LIFE that He has intended us to have from the beginning of time.  It doesn’t look like we think, just like those sheep trails, but God with skin on came for US.  Jesus came to be our Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of peace Isaiah 9:6.  We are all created to follow after someone or something, so Jesus came, to lead us and to give us life abundantly, one mouthful at a time.

Jesus said I AM the good shepherd, so who better to invite to His bedside the night of His birth, than those shepherds who understood what it was like to lead, love and protect the sheep?

For God, so loved the world that He gave His only Son, Jesus, to be that shepherd for the sheep. Jesus would indeed lay down His life so that we, His sheep, could have life abundantly.

Glory to God in the highest! 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ME?

Where are you looking for sustenance in life?

When have you demanded that God provide everything you need up front?

Who or what are you hoping in to find your daily needs met?

What really do you expect God to do for you?  Have you been looking at God as though He is torturing you instead of providing and protecting you?  Will you seek to find the Good Shepherd this Christmas in His Word?

LIVE IT OUT:  

Open God’s Word today and glean who Jesus is, and how He desperately wants to lead you and give you life.  Ask today that your eyes be open to where He is, in this season, in your life.

– Kendra

P.S. Ladies, registration is open for my 2018 Women’s Bible Study at The Cove.  Let’s get together seven Tuesday evenings in January and February and dig into the Word of God.  Register online today.

Can’t make it in person?  We’ll be streaming LIVE each Tuesday evening on Periscope, via Twitter, where you can watch from the comfort of your own home.

Watch the 2018 Women’s Bible Study video here:

Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study – Daniel 10:12

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!

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 Daniel 10:12

“From the first day that you set your heart to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard.”

THE FACTS:  

From the FIRST DAY you SET your heart to understand and humble yourself before God, your words were heard.

Step 2

THE LESSONS:   

Humility vs Pride…. this is the battle isn’t it?  This verse is really powerful.  Pride drives us from God.  “There they cry out, but He does not answer because of the pride of men” Job 35:12.  God does NOT hear the cries of the prideful, but of the humble, He does.  Proverbs 29:23 says, “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble sprit will obtain honor.”  Isn’t that just the opposite of what we think?  IF we are humble, then we will be walked over, we will be looked at as weak, and we will not get anywhere in life…. but here, in God’s Word, the opposite holds the Truth.  When we bow to our pride, then we are exalted.  When we bow to our pride, then our prayers are heard.  This is SO HARD.  Humility goes against all that is in me…. whether my pride comes in the shape of arrogance or self-pity… my pride is big and at times seems like an insurmountable obstacle in my life.

In this verse in Daniel, it says, “From the first day you set  your heart to humble.”  The word “set” is the Hebrew word, “nathan” which means: to grant; to be delivered up, to be put upon, to permit, to humble to.”  THAT IS HARD.  Maybe not for you… but I am a fighter unfortunately.  From the first day that I allow God to grant me humility… set my heart to allow God to deliver humility to me…. uggggggh…. sigh…. HARD…. who wants two heaping scoops of humility… maybe three or four if we allow God to do what He wants to…. wow… why would He do this?  Why does God want to humble us so much?

God wants to humble us so that we can see that He will come through for us when we have complete and total dependence on HIM, and not ourselves.  To see that when we are humble, open, feeling like a sitting duck ready to be destroyed, HE WILL fight for us and defend us.  God wants to humble us so that we can see and know that HE IS FAITHFUL and will be faithful to US… it’s not just a tagline that New Testament pastors preach every Sunday, but meant to be a way of life.  When we are humble we are more able to show grace to others and be a testimony of what God will do for His people.  God wants to exalt us in HIS time in HIS way, not our own… and that only comes through humility.  To obey God… takes humility

Humility is NOT natural, and not easy… it wasn’t meant to be, that is why even Daniel, the great prophet, had to “set” — had to “determine,” had to “purposely choose” to humble himself before God.  It takes strength to set your heart to humble and obey God instead of fighting for yourself and your own reputation. It’s easy and natural, to allow personal pride to rule the day.  We love to self-protect.  We love to judge.  We love to fix problems ourselves, but God wants us to pray in dependence upon Him.  God will not abuse your humble state but will protect you, be your refuge and be your God.  God hears the words of the humble from the very first day that we set our hearts to do so.  We are not setting ourselves to humble under the hand of man who seeks to destroy, whose intentions are evil, but God pleads with us to set ourselves to humble to a loving God who is relentless for us, loving us more than we could ever comprehend.

When it comes down to it… we don’t understand the ways of God and often we have more questions than answers…. but if we could humble ourselves, God would hear our prayers and heal our lives, families, churches, cities, and nation.  The story begins with you and me setting our hearts to humble before God.  Each of us given a unique fingerprint so that God could leave His unique imprint of faithfulness in our lives to the world around us.  If only… you and I would set ourselves to allow God to humble us before Him.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ME?

What steps will I take to set my heart to humble before God?  Has God asked a certain type of obedience out of me but my pride is preventing me from doing so?  Speaking to a colleague? family member?  Friend?  Boss?

KG BS OBEDIENCE TO GOD BEGINS WITH HUMILITY

LIVE IT OUT:  

Obey God today where He leads you, in what He asks you to say, and what He asks you not to say.

LORD, help us to begin to obey you in the small things every day as we set ourselves to humble before you daily.  Give us the strength to even pray that prayer, as we fight against it.

– Kendra

P.S. Ladies, registration is open for my 2018 Women’s Bible Study at The Cove.  Let’s get together seven Tuesday evenings in January and February and dig into the Word of God.  Register online today.

Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study — John 16:33

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!

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 :  John 16:33

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

THE FACTS:  

These things I HAVE SPOKEN: in ME you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation. Take courage; I have overcome the world.

Step 2

THE LESSONS:   

Life is hard…

This past week has been difficult for my family.  My second daughter (my middle child) broke both of her arms playing in a soccer game, where ironically, it’s against the rules to use your arms.  This is the daughter that has always had to work harder.  This is the daughter who has learned perseverance and struggle at a young age.  This is the daughter who knows of tribulation more intimately than the others.

I have another dear friend who is clinging to the promises of God, tooth and nail, as she claims His faithfulness to keep her family intact.

Yet another friend across the country had her world rocked beneath her feet as her husband, a “God-fearing” man, left her and her four children to marry a woman he knew for months.

Let’s be honest, can we?  Let’s revisit the last blog post for awhile.  In this world we will have tribulation… we get that part, all too well, do we not?  Then when we come to God in the rawness of our emotion and our eyes cannot see straight because of the tears that obscure our view, we cry out “Marah!”  That bitter water from the desert.  This is bitter!  Where are You God?!  The article from December 3rd, 2015 in the Daily News keeps populating my thoughts, when on the front cover it proclaimed, “God isn’t Fixing This!”  My soul cries “Marah!”

Mass shootings…. Marah!

Hurricanes that kill and destroy… Marah!

More questions than answers…. Marah!

Here in John 16:33, Jesus plead with His disciples to hear these words.  Jesus is God with skin on who had eternity to decide what words He was going to use and speak, and these are the words that He spoke directly before His betrayal, torture, execution and resurrection.  Jesus was not speaking of defeat, but victory.  The disciples were about to see with their eyes what was going to look like a defeated Messiah…. but that was not the Truth.  It takes courage to believe the Truth.  In the TRUTH there is peace and joy.

Jesus did not wait for eternity to come in order lie to us. Jesus came to speak Truth so that we might believe (John 20:31).  The problem with the Truth is that we don’t like it.  The Truth is, that the Truth is harder to believe than a lie (John 8:45).

When things are going great, we tend to pat ourselves on the back for being so smart and so savvy, but when things fall apart, and we have more questions than answers, instead of holding to the Truth of who Jesus is, we raise our fists and we shout, “Marah!”  You brought us to this place to kill us.  You are not good.

In this verse, John 16:33, we see Jesus is trying to pour courage and peace into His disciples.  In the middle of chaos, in the middle of suffering, in the middle of the storm, if you cling to Me (Jesus), if you believe I AM who I say I AM, then there is peace and victory.  Your eyes see defeat… your heart feels defeat…. BUT I HAVE OVERCOME… and that victory is given to you!  We can claim that same victory the Apostle Paul and Corrie Ten Boom (The Hiding Place)  did in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 When they proclaimed, “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed, we are perplexed, but NOT in despair, persecuted, but NOT forsaken, struck down, but NOT destroyed.”  These are HARD Truths to hold to…. but HOLD.  By the skin of your teeth, HOLD to the faithfulness of God when all you want to do is let go.

This past week I have watched the You Tube video below, over and over.  This woman was caught in the middle of Harvey, the recent hurricane that devastated Houston.  The rain continued to fall for days beyond what was predicted.  This woman had her family with her, trapped in the upstairs of her townhouse.  In the middle of tribulation, in the middle of losing all her material possessions, “Marah” was not pouring out of her soul, but peace… strength… and the power of God was evident.  This is the power of the Truth of who Jesus is.

Without Jesus we have the storms, but no anchor that holds.  The testimony of this woman’s song gives me the strength to stand and sing when Marah is at the tip of my tongue.  Our testimonies of the faithfulness of God need to be spoken of.

The Truth is…. we will have tribulation.  Regardless of whether or not you are a follower of Jesus.

The truth is, that as long as we are in this world, there will be struggle.  That previous statement may be a Truth that brings anger boiling to the surface of your soul…

We were created to walk with God, know God and need God…. Another Truth you may or may not like.

We were never intended to face or walk through life without the help of Almighty God… so He came personally, and overcame… His name is Jesus.  John 14:6, Jesus said, “I AM the way the TRUTH and the life.”  Singular… the way…. the Truth … the Life… You may find that statement as well, angering and “exclusive”, but God did not wait for eternity to come and then confuse us… that statement, above all, is very clear….

Jesus came and His name means, “Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace” Isaiah 9:6.

Marah is easy… it’s natural… but to this woman… praise poured out.  Lord, give us the courage to hold… when all we want to do is let go.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ME?

How have you battled or how are you battling to hold to the Truth of who Jesus is?

When did you have peace in the midst of Tribulation?

Has God ever been faithful to you in the midst of tribulation?

Will you have courage to share your story of God’s mercy and faithfulness to encourage others to hold when everything they see and feel is screaming Marah?

When did God change your moment of “Marah” into a moment of praise?

If you have yet to trust the Truth of who Jesus is, will you today?

LIVE IT OUT:  

Show me what is real more than what I feel.  Lord, meet me in my Marah, and put Your words of praise deep in my heart.  Help me to claim the fact that You have overcome the world when everything seems to tempt me to believe the opposite.  #overcome

Lord Jesus, today I come to You.  Help me believe that You are the way, the Truth and the Life.  Forgive me for the Marah, the bitterness that has separated You and I.  Come into my life and be my Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.

– Kendra

Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study — Matthew 26:56

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!

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 :  Matthew 26:56

“But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.  Then all the disciples forsook him and fled.”

THE FACTS:  

All this was done so Scripture of prophets be fulfilled. All the disciples forsook Him and fled.

Step 2

THE LESSONS:   

We were hand made by God to walk with God, know God and need God… but sin separates us from Him… So He came Himself, not trusting us to another, to make things right. Romans 5:17

Jesus was bound in the Garden of Gethsemane and led to the house of Caiaphas, where the scribes were already assembled.  Jesus was led down the mountain, across the Kidron Valley, and up the ancient steps to the house of the High Priest.  Was that night especially dark?  Was the only light on the path, the light from those arresting Jesus?  I wonder if even the insects and the nocturnal animals chose to just stay in that night?

Jesus was arrested in the cover of darkness, where injustice and evil prefer to reside undetected by the light.  Jesus even asks them why they took him in the cloak of night, when daily He taught in the temple, and at any time they could have seized Him in the light of day.  The question went unanswered.

There was a group already assembled at the house of the old High Priest, Caiaphas.  No wake up call in the middle of the night needed, it was as if everyone was on the same group texting thread and court was in session before Jesus arrived, like it was the norm…. away from the cameras and questions that would have been asked during the day.  The first three, of six trials of Jesus would take place in the middle of the night.

Jesus was alone.

The verses, here in Matthew, say that all His disciples fled and forsook Him.  None of them stayed to fight the mob.  None of them stood in great faith.  You see, the closest disciple of Jesus needs Him to die on that cross and rise from the grave just as much as the worst of sinners does.  The Bible says, “we all have sinned” – Romans 3:23.  It’s at this point that you see why God had to come personally.  God could not trust this part, His suffering and death to just anyone.  All of us would flee… BUT GOD loves us so much that He came personally, while we were enemies against Him, and died for us — Romans 5:8.  The wages of sin is death — Romans 6:23.  Someone has to pay that wage.   We were not created to pay that debt or bear the wrath of God, so God bore it Himself — alone.

This past May, as I ascended those ancient steps to the house that is historically accepted to be that house of Caiaphas, my soul was stirred as I saw Psalm 88 in a new light.  This house has been excavated in layers which shows that the “house” was much more than just a home:  There is evidence of living quarters, but also, the size and how it is laid out shows that perhaps it was also used much like a governmental building of sort.  It was much too big to just be a home, but what was found below was much more telling.

Kendra and Will Graham at the bottom of the ancient steps
Will and Kendra Graham on the ancient steps to Caiaphas’ house.

As you arrive, you enter a courtyard.  Today there is a church built on this location.  As you enter the church and begin to descend down, you see evidence of holding cells, or a small prison, which would not be a stretch to imagine that the home of the High Priest would have held religious prisoners.  The Jewish leaders were allowed to hold prisoners, they were just not allowed in Roman control to execute them.

Caiaphas Courtyard where Peter denied Jesus 2
Caiaphas’ courtyard, where Peter denied Jesus.

In this dark base of the home, there are holes cut out in the rock where leather straps would have been affixed to strap arms of the prisoners above their heads a little wider than shoulder length apart.

Prison with leather straps where they would tie up prisoners or bind them
Prison, with leather straps hanging from the ceiling, where prisoner would be bound.

In this pit there was a place of solitary confinement where they would put the worst of the criminals.  In this pit, there is a small hole from above, where the bound prisoner would have been lowered down into complete darkness.  There would be no escaping if someone was placed here.  Between the Jewish trials and the Roman trials, there was a period of waiting for the palace to awaken and be ready for business.  Is it too much to think, that Jesus could have been lowered into that pit, to await His trial before Pilate?

Pit

Underground cave info

When we descended down to the bottom of the pit, in what is believed to be the house of the high priest, silence overtook us.  Here in this pit we read Psalm 88 aloud, with the aid of a small light:

LORD, You are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you.

May my prayer come before You; turn Your ear to my cry.

I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draw near death.

I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength

I am set apart with thudded, like the slain who lie in the grave whom You remember no more, who are cut off from Your care

You have put Me in the lowest pit, the darkest depths.

Your wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with all Your waves

You have taken from Me, My closest friends and have made Me repulsive to them.  I am confined and cannot escape;

My eyes are dim with grief.  I call to You LORD, every day; I spread out my hands to You.

Do You show Your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise You?

Is Your love declared in the grave, Your faithfulness in destruction?

Are Your wonders known in the place of darkness or Your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

But I cry to You for help, LORD, in the morning, my prayer comes before You.      

Why LORD do You reject Me and hide Your face from Me?

From My youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne your terrors and am in despair.

Your wrath has swept over Me like a flood; they have completely engulfed Me.

You have taken from Me friend and neighbor, darkness is my closest friend.  

Can you hear Jesus pour His soul out?  Alone, abandoned and bound. What prophetic words written by David, so many years prior to this night.  Jesus, experiencing the complete and total wrath of God for us–instead of us.  Jesus endured it all.  God not trusting us, His hand-made creation, to anyone else, so He came personally to pay this incredible debt so that we can walk with Him, and know Him as we were created to experience. All this was  done to prove the Scriptures of the prophets.

God DOES love us! God is willing to give everything He has for us to be able to walk with Him and know Him!  God really does look at us like a bride sacrificing all He has for our eternal safety (John 3:16).  Jesus was abandoned, so we are not! This is the Gospel! This is the good news! Jesus was found worthy to the be Lamb at Passover for sin, once and for all!  We have been #delivered from the darkness because He was bound and #delivered to the darkness! So come on!  Come on! Let’s live bold and courageous, in the light, while there is still day, #Propelled to tell the Good News! God’s wrath has been stilled, by Himself.  Even when all forsook Him, He refused to forsake us.  We are free, we are #delivered, so live #propelled2purpose.

APPLY IT:  

How often do we see what God isn’t doing for us instead of what He has and is doing for us?  When was a time that I forsook Jesus, yet He refused to forsake me?

LIVE IT OUT:  

Today, Lord, open my eyes to see your goodness and your faithfulness as I remember the suffering You endured on my behalf.


What Scripture are you studying now? What have you learned? How has the Lord spoke to you? Share with us in the comments section.

Kendra Graham’s Online Bible Study — Hebrews 12:1-2

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!

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 :  Hebrews 12:1-2

“Therefore, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which easily entangles us, and let us RUN with endurance the race that is set before us, (2) fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

THE FACTS:  

Since we have a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, lay aside every encumbrance and sin and let us RUN with endurance the race set before us. Fixing OUR eyes on Jesus, author and perfecter who endured the cross.

Step 2

THE LESSONS:   

“You are the WORST runner I have ever seen!”  “But coach, it’s BLISTERING hot out here, the humidity is unbearable! Look…I come from a climate with a “dry heat”.  I just can’t run anymore in these conditions.”  This was the discussion that I was having with my college soccer coach, my senior year, during the 2nd day of preseason.  I was supposed to be the captain of the team, but I was running sprints–keeping in mind we were on number 5 and knowing we had to run about 95 more–I had to pace myself.  My coach responded to that with, “You run with reserve in your tank, and I need players willing to give me all they have every time.” #ouch

Now, dear reader, come to Rome with me–to the Vatican…

Vatican in Roman Times
The “circus” at the Vatican.

I’m going to be honest with you, I was ignorant on the history behind where the Vatican stands.  The area of the Vatican was known during the Roman Empire period as Ager Vaticanus.  It was a marshy piece of land where villas were built and the Emperor Caligula had beautiful gardens built for his mother.  The Emperor Nero added to it and built an impressive “circus” in the midst of the gardens.  What is Nero’s Circus you ask?  Well, it was a horse track, of sorts.  There was an arena built around a track for charioteers with horses.  In the middle of the track, there would have been a narrow strip of land, an isthmus of sort, that would have been adorned with obelisks or statues of the gods.  The obelisk in Neros Circus was one single piece of red granite weighing more that 350 tons! There were tunnels on either end of the stadium for the horses and athletes to come out, and there were seats for the onlookers.  There would have also been a section of “box seating” for the Emperor.

When the charioteers would come out, they would come to the box where the emperor sat and would pay homage to him, showing the crowd that they train and run for the emperor.  The crowd would cheer and chant the praises of the emperor, declaring his deity.  Often the emperor would address the crowd, being adorned in a sash of the god Apollos or Zeus, showing the crowd that he was a direct descendant from the gods,and that he had the authority as the son of the gods.  Can you see this imagery?

Vatican with 12 disciples on top
The Vatican, in all it’s glory. Do you see the statues of the 12 disciples at the top? They are life-size.
Kendra in front of the Vatican
Here I am in front of the Vatican!

With the emperor watching, these charioteers dressed in white robes, would have driven their horses in such a way as to win the race.  There would be nothing left in their tank, lest they be seen as a disgrace.  The point of these games were to declare to the world that Cesar is god.  This circus, Nero’s Circus is historically where the disciple of Jesus, Peter, was crucified upside down.  Peter was crucified at Ager Vaticanus.  I did not know this.

Peter
Statue of Peter.

Understanding what Nero’s Circus is, has given Hebrews 12:1-2 a deeper meaning.  We have been chosen by God to walk out of that tunnel for Him! Our run in this life, declares to the world–not that Cesar is God, but that Jesus is God!  The writer of Hebrews is using arena language here!  A language that the people of the time would have understood. This walk with Jesus, is an Olympic event.  Our walk, our RUN, declares that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords.  This idea of discipleship is not just something on our Sunday schedule! It’s a BIG DEAL! So RUN!  Run #propelled2purpose.  RUN!

Since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, we do not have the luxury of just walking it out, or running with reserve left in our tank.   RUN with perseverance the race set before us.  Each of us runs a different race, at a different pace, but for the same King.  The way we live and the way we run matters to a world that is looking on!  It will take perseverance!  Will it be hard?  Yes.  Will you have more excuses than you can count to bail out and quit?  Yes.  Is it worth it to stay in the race and finish well?  ABSOLUTELY!

RUN this life, your life, with purpose, where you are.  Press in, not out.  I Corinthians 9:24, “Don’t you know that ALL the runners run, but only ONE gets the prize?” SO RUN like you are going to win it.  Your run…my run in front of our cloud of witnesses shows the world that JESUS is KING! SO RUN!

It was intentional that that particular Sunday school teacher poured into you, that pastor who taught you, that grandparent that finished well, and that mentor who lived Jesus to the end…. to show you how to RUN.  I Corinthians 1:11, “Follow my example as I follow Christ.”

 My cloud of witnesses include many people along the way who have shown me what it looks like to run their race for the True King.  These cloud of witnesses who have gone before showed me how to live Jesus to the cloud of witnesses in my race who sit and stand watching what I will do. I think of my middle school soccer team, my co-workers, my patients and my own children.  My cloud of witnesses who taught me are different from yours, and the crowd of witnesses watching me are different as well.  Our races are different, but our finish line is the same. 

SO, my DEAR READER…. RUN!!!!!  Run today as if it is your last.  How devastated would I be if Jesus said to me at the end of my race the same thing my coach said so long ago… “You run with reserve in your tank.” 

STOP holding back!  Peter did not hold back.  In front of his great cloud of witnesses, Peter, who began the summer needing to be restored because of the denials that were in his past, the guilt and shame that could have ended his race all together, ends well… here… at Nero’s Circus.  Caligula and Nero both thought they had built things that would forever stand to prove their deity, however today, centuries later, not many remember or have any idea whatsoever that those prestigious charioteers once raced for the pride of the deified emperor at the Anger Vaticanus.

Today, at the Vatican, most know that beneath the marble floors of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel lies a foundation where so many Christians finished their race, “ad mairoem Dei gloriam,” meaning: to the glory of God.  A foundation for the church that has lasted through the centuries.  “Upon this ROCK (Peter) I will build my church… Mathew 16:18.  Think about that… don’t be so quick to move on.  Think about what the Vatican is today.  There is not a shred of emperor worship left at “Nero’s Circus”, but the testimony of Peter still stands with strength to the glory of God.

So let’s RUN today and not hold back regardless of the heat and humidity as we FIX our eyes on Jesus. RUN.

Step 3

APPLY IT:  

Who are the witnesses in my life? Name the cloud of witnesses that have poured into you… both living and deceased. What are the names of those watching your race who need to see you live out the fact that your life has purpose given from the hand of the King of kings?

How are you running?  Would others describe you as one who runs each day with reserve in your tank or abandoned unto God?

LIVE IT OUT:  

TODAY… strengthen my feeble knees, aching feet, and hurting hips to RUN in such a way to bring joy to my Savior.  FIX my eyes on Jesus…. fix my eyes on my current race, not the race I wish I had or want to have, but the actual race before me.


What Scripture are you studying now? What have you learned? How has the Lord spoke to you? Share with us in the comments section.