Beliefnet
Safe Place with Ruth Graham

We are entering a new year. We may have plans, goals, and resolutions but have we stopped to invite God into the process? It is good to plan the year. Ask Him meet us in it – to dwell with us there. That’s not only a good thing but a wise thing to do.

In 2 Samuel 6:12 we read about a man named Edom. The Ark of God was placed in his home, temporarily. While it was there, God blessed him and all he had. Solomon assures us in Proverbs 3:33 that, “He blesses the home of the righteous”. Do we want all God has for us this year and do we want Him to bless all that we do? Let’s ask God into the planning; not wait until we have gotten ourselves into a mess.

So often when we plan we worry and fret over whether we have covered all our bases. Second-guess ourselves. He wants us to quit striving and trying to figure things out. Trust Him. He wants to be in control of the process and planning.

He’s already got plans for this year. His plans are precise – nothing is by accident – and perfect. His ways are good.

Let’s ask God to meet us this New Year in a special way. Let’s make plans as to how we will meet with Him: at what time, morning? afternoon? evening? where? Do you have a cozy, comfortable spot? What will your time look like? (you don’t have to follow some formula from someone else.) Journaling? Reading the scriptures? Studying the scriptures? Praying the scriptures? Praying? What posture? standing…kneeling…sitting…lying down? If you need some ideas there are many good books out now to help with your private devotional time. There are many. Just go to Amazon and type in “Bible devotional” – you will be flooded with titles. Actually, I published a 100 devotional book: Fear Not Tomorrow God, is Already There.

This past year I read through The Chronological Bible. Excellent. Some days the reading was quite difficult but I made it! It was worth it to me and I recommend that Bible or The Daily Walk Bible. God will bless your efforts. And we can rejoice today for the blessing that is already waiting for us in our tomorrow.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

It had been a long 400 years of silence. Malachi had been the last “official” word from God. Now the silence was deafening. Life went on but where was God? Did He care? Did He leave them? Did He forget them? Had He washed His hands of them? Did they misinterpret what He said to them?

God had used prophets throughout Israel’s history to tell His people what He wanted them to do. He wanted them to rebuild the temple and worship Him alone. He wanted them to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him. Their history was very sketchy with God. It was a history of obedience, then rebellion, then obedience, then idolatry – up and down, back and forth. Most of them hadn’t listened to the prophets – there were a few that were obedient, a remnant. Most continued to disobey God. He warned them that their disobedience would be judged.

And then God got quiet – deathly quiet. He didn’t say anything to His people. He didn’t say anything for 400 years. That’s a long time! Just because God is silent does not mean He is not at work.

God’s people went through a hard time. But He was silent. Maybe He had forgotten them – but He said He wouldn’t. Maybe something happened to Him – but He is eternal. Maybe He went away – but He is always near.

The ones who were obedient were hopeful that God would one day speak to them again. They hoped year after year. They had no idea how He would speak.  He surprised them. He didn’t shout from heaven. He didn’t stand on a street corner preaching. He didn’t send a letter. He sent a baby – His very own Son!

Why that’s ridiculous! Absurd. How would a baby bring victory over oppression? Peace to war and conflict – especially that in my own heart and mind? Who would devise such a plan? Can a mere baby do anything about my fears of the future and guilt of the past? Why would God think such a crazy plan would work? And for what reason?

Why expose Himself to the ugliness of the world? Foolishness. A baby isn’t relevant.

Or maybe, just maybe God is onto something! A baby is innocent and pure. A baby is sweet and tender. A baby brings people together. But wait a minute a baby grows up! This just doesn’t make sense. How would a baby make a difference?

Let’s ask the shepherds that had heard the angel’s message and then went to the stable to see the baby. They were glorifying God and praising Him all the way back to the fields. Or ask the magi. They bowed and worshipped the baby. Before they left, they gave lavish gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh . Odd gifts for a child. Not one toy.

Well, at least the gold could provide for their needs. But frankincense? It was an expensive spice which was the only spice allowed on the temple altar. And myrrh? It was used in embalming?

What was all that about? It speaks to the treasure to be found in Jesus. As the song says, “I rather have Jesus than silver or gold.” It speaks of the sacrifice of Jesus that would end the need for blood sacrifice it the temple. I speaks of Jesus death.

So what does all that gruesome stuff have to do with the baby and Christmas? Everything.

 

 

 

Well, you have to live under a rock not to know that the new Star Wars, The Force Returns, will come out later this week. People have camped out for weeks at theaters to get a seat with pre-bought tickets. The excitement is at a fever pitch. Why? Perhaps we liked the other movies in this franchise – I think I only saw the first one and I thoroughly enjoyed it and I will go see this one when the crowds thin out. Perhaps we are eager for a distraction from the horrible events of this past year. We want to know the good guys to win.

But I read on the Internet that there is a new religion named, “Jedi ism”. I am not kidding! They even have a “church”. They believe in a unifying force that exists within, around and always return to. There is a 10-part training course. They believe the movie, Star Wars, was fictional and meditation is an important element to rid one’s mind of the negative force. Belief in God is optional. They believe in freedom – there no restrictions on your life.

That’s interesting. A man-made religion based on a fictional movie. Wonder if it works for them.

Well, I believe in the good force that created all things (Genesis 1 – 2:7) and by His will we all exist. (Acts 17:24) I believe in the Holy Spirit who lives within, around me (Acts 1:8, Matthew 15:9). There is a training course based on the Bible and it is important to mediate on it day and night. (Joshua 1:8)

The story of the struggle between good and evil is as old as Genesis 3:1. We can certainly see signs of that struggle all around us in today’s world.

I believe in the evil force called Satan. I believe there will be an epic battle between God and Satan. And I know who wins! (Revelation 20:7-10) Defeat of Satan is assured. The victory is ours.  Every wreath, every tree light, every gift, every cookie, every candle, every carol points to the One who defeated Satan. Jesus Christ is Lord. We can start celebrating now!

 

At church on Sunday a lovely young, very pregnant woman sang a solo of “Mary Did You Know? That song has become one of my favorites.

But it caused me to think – what did Mary know? We aren’t given many details but from what we do know, she was a remarkable young (teens) woman. And in turn, her parents must have been very remarkable.

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will one day walk on water? The angel didn’t tell her nor would I think could she imagine it.
Mary, Did you know
That your baby boy will save our sons and daughters? Probably. When the angel Joseph that Mary was pregnant he told him, “You are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21)
Did you know
That your baby boy has come to make you new? I am not sure Mary knew the specifics but she had hints of it when the angel said, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” Mary knew the prophecies about the coming Messiah and would put the pieces together. 
This child that you’ve delivered
Will soon deliver you

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will give sight to a blind man? No. I am not sure she knew those specifics but she knew He was a special child.
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will calm a storm with His hand? No. That is another specific that the angel did not mention. It was hinted at in scripture: “He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea was hushed.” (Psalms 107:29)
Did you know
That your baby boy has walked where angels trod? I would imagine that since the angel was talking with her that her child, too, was in the company of the Heavenly hosts.
And when you kiss your little baby
You’ve kissed the face of God?  For a young Jewish girl to dare to think she could approach the Holy, Most High God was beyond imagination. I doubt she even thought that way.

Mary, did you know? Yes. the prophet Isaiah hinted of such things when he wrote: The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bid up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year off the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God to comfort all that mourn…..” (Isaiah 61:1-2) Jesus quoted that prophecy as referring to himself. (Luke 4:20)
The blind will see
The deaf will hear
And the dead will live again
The lame will leap
The dumb will speak
The praises of the Lamb. Mary had no way to know these amazing things about her baby. But she did know the Prophets foretold of His special anointing. There are over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament fulfilled by Jesus. And when John questions whether Jesus is the One or should he look for another, Jesus’ reply was to point John to these things. (Matthew 11:2-15)

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy is Lord of all creation? Yes. The angel told her, “The power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the  Son of God.” (Matthew 1:35)
Mary, Did you know
That your baby boy will one day rule the nations? Yes. Again she was familiar with what the prophets foretold. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Matthew 1:32-33)
Did you know
That your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb? It was beyond imagination but, yes Mary knew this baby was set apart by God to fulfill all the promises God made to Israel. (Matthew 2: 30-32)
This sleeping child you’re holding
Is the Great I am? As a new mother, Mary was just enthralled with her baby. She touched His tiny face and counted His small fingers. She breathed in that fresh baby smell. Like any new mother, she was taking it all in. So much was new to her. So much was happening. Overwhelming. We are told, “Mary treasured up all these things an pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19) There must have been many nights she recalled the events surrounding her baby’s birth and pondered their meaning.