Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Safe Place with Ruth Graham

God’s Silence

posted by Ruth Graham

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 only. 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. He didn’t say anything to His people. He didn’t say anything for 400 years. That’s a long time!

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 and 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 those 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 and before they left, they gave lavish gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh . Odd gifts for a child. No toys among these gifts.

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. It speaks of Jesus’ death.

So what does all that gruesome stuff have to do with the baby and Christmas?  Everything. That’s what it is all about.

What does Jesus know about school slaughter?

posted by Ruth Graham

I don’t think any of us can get the school shootings out of our minds. The images haunt us. The news bombards us with speculation then finally facts make their way into the news. The analysts try to come up with answers and blame. It’s stunning. It is beyond comprehension. I try to put myself in the place of one of those parents…”if only”… “just a week ago”… life changed forever in a moment.

We rage against the only one safe…God. Why did He allow this? Couldn’t He have intervened? Couldn’t He have prevented it?

How can He be good? Fair? Just?

No. It does not make sense. How can He know how they/we feel? He was never in a school building being gunned down. He never had the shock of learning His child had been gunned down by a man crazed with a mental illness.

Will He strike me dead if we say we hate Him?  If we say we don’t trust Him anymore? How can I trust Him now? After what has happened. No it all seems so dark. So pointless.

The Christmas lights and music mock us.

Or do they?

Emmanuel. “God with us” is the message from God to all broken hearts.

 

 

Ho Hum. It’s Christmas Again…

posted by Ruth Graham

Christmas seems to have rolled around faster this year. Perhaps because I am older…Yikes! Perhaps it is because the stores begin to put out Christmas items in July and August.  And how many times can you hear “O Holy Night” on the grocery     store Musak (Do they even use that anymore? – showing my age! )so you no longer hear the tune or the message?  Christmas has lost its meaning as we run from store to store or click through hundreds of websites checking our lists so that no one is forgotten.

In the midst of all of that we have to do and be we have to make the time to reflect on Christmas – just exactly what it means to us today in our technological world? What meaning does it have in my world of schedules, demands? Is it about the decorations and gifts? Is it about parties and special food treats. Is it about holiday music – I have to admit I am tired of “Jingle Bell Rock”.  Is it about family gathering whether or not you want to see them?

We have heard the Christmas story hundreds of times, what’s new to learn? How can such an old and familiar story move us in the 21st Century? The Christmas story begins back in Genesis. God set His plan in motion way back at the beginning of time.

God had created the earth and all that was in it – trees, birds, animals, oceans, mountains – everything. But still something was lacking. So He made a man, Adam. They enjoyed intimate relationship. He placed him in a beautiful garden. It was an ideal, perfect place. God had told them he could enjoy everything – it was all there for his pleasure. The only thing that was off limits was the tree of knowledge of god and evil. If he ate the fruit of it, he would die. God gave Adam choice. To obey or not. Choice. We still have choice.

God saw that Adam needed a helper so he made Eve. Adam liked that now he had a woman to enjoy the garden with him. They enjoyed one another without shame.

Satan was very crafty and showed up to tempt Eve and made her doubt God’s word to them. He made them think there was something more – that God was holding out on them. He is still doing that to us in very subtle, attractive ways. He encouraged them to choose to disobey. They did and that’s the day the world began to die. Nothing was the same. Adam and Eve were literally and figuratively banished from the garden to struggle.

But God didn’t let them go. In great love and mercy God continued to woo His people back – through covenants and promises, deliverance and prophets. They continued their sinful ways. Finally He left them to their own devices.

After years of silence (400 to be exact), God announces that He is coming to earth and his name will be Emmanuel, God with us. What a remarkable concept!  This high and holy God; the one whose face could not be seen; the one who could not be approached – He’s coming to earth! Who would have thought!

By coming to earth God to be human, like us, was stooping to our level. He was going to learn what it was to be human. He was going to get his hands dirty and blistered from labor. He was going to get his heart broken by betrayal.  He was going to have to face hostility. He would know the brutal murder of a family member, John. The shock of the news yet the demands that life has to go on. The need to get away. He was going to deal with difficult family issues – jealousy, unfair criticism, injustice.  And a savage execution.

Why would Almighty God, secure on His throne, surrounded by adoring beings, leave the comfort and glory of heaven to be with us? He longed for relationship with the ones He created – you and me. He would do anything – even the unimaginable – to have a relationship with us.  He was going to go toe to toe with Satan himself and win us back. He put death on notice. Once and for all, He would defeat Satan.  That is what Christmas is about.

Why?

posted by Ruth Graham

I have watched the news with profound sadness and real questions. Questions are good and natural at such a time. Anger too.

Wow. There is just not much to say at such a time.

But I think of the message of “Emmanuel”. God with us…in the loss, tragedy, heartache, questions…

God is still almighty, wise, good, faithful, loving…He has not changed.

 

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