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Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Feelings, Prayer and Sin

posted by Ruth Graham

Several things I heard last week are worth passing along. “Feelings are not facts.” That is so true but we act like feelings are facts. I may feel my friend was offended and nurse a hurt but later I  found out she was not – she was just late to an appointment! But how often I let my feelings rule me. Often I don’t feel like I am making progress and I get discouraged. But just because I don’t feel it, doesn’t make it true. I have to trust others to tell me when I am using the wrong barometer.

Feelings are fickle. They can depend on the weather, my health, my tiredness, my diet, my children, the stock market, the daily news… Feelings are not a dependable measure of anything except how I am feeling at that moment. It could all change within the hour! I have to look to truth. And the only reliable source is God’s Word.

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I also heard last week: “Prayerlessness is an unconscious sense of self-sufficiency. Pride.

Prayer is a daily expression of humble dependance on God. Humility.”

 

Adam and Eve, the very first people created, were given an ideal world. A perfect life with all things in unity and harmony. Satan came to tempt Eve by making her doubt the truth of God’s Word. She did. She then lead Adam astray and we humans have suffered the consequences ever since.

How did Adam respond to his sin? 1.) He tried to hide from God.  2.) Then he tried to cover his nakedness.  3.) Then Adam tried to shift the blame.

Human nature has not changed. We do the same. It is interesting that the way we deal with sin is exactly the way Adam did.

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First, we try to hide it from God. We won’t admit it to God which is silly since He knows all about what we have done. He asked Adam, “Where art thou?” not because He didn’t know, He asked because He wanted Adam to admit where he was.

2.) We try to cover our sin so no one will know. We dress it up. Change the language of it. Rationalize. Gather folks around us that have done the same things so we won’t feel badly about ourselves. We become inauthentic, pretend it isn’t there.

3.)  We shift the blame. Adam told God that it was the woman God gave to him – so it was God’s fault! That seems silly but we do the same thing. We don’t like to take responsibility for our actions. It’s our parent’s fault. It’s our horrible childhood. It’s our spouse…children…economy…

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If we take responsibility we have to admit something is wrong with us. Yeah, there is. It’s called sin. We have to admit it, confess. And go to God to ask for forgiveness. He stands ready and eager to forgive. Forgiveness is His habit – all we have to do is ask. There is such freedom in that.

Speaking of freedom – go vote tomorrow!!

 

 

 

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What God Looks Like

posted by Ruth Graham

So many people, including me, wonder what God looks like. In my imagination I see him looking like Michelangelo’s Moses which is in the Vatican. Very imposing. Impressive. But last week as I was preparing  a message for a ladies’ retreat, I saw Him a bit differently. Maybe I am last one to see it but it was a new idea to me.

In the Bible God is always described in terms of light. Often He is given an anthropomorphic (Revelation 1:13-16) description but, in His essence, He is light.  Even the  description in chapter 1 of Revelation uses language of the human form: “like a son of man dressed in a robe…with a golden sash…head and hair were like wool…and eyes like blazing fire…feet like bronze glowing in a furnace…voice sounding like rushing water…His right hand held seven stars…out of His mouth came  a double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining all its brilliance.”   The writer described God in terms of a human form so that is how we imagine Him to be. But He was most often referred to as light or fire.

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Light has four characteristics: intensity, quality, direction and balance. We can give those same characteristics to God. He is intense in His love for and pursuit of us. His judgement is intense towards all ungodliness and evil. His love and mercy toward mankind are unfailing. He is pure and holy in all His ways. Balance means to  have equilibrium. God is fair. He judges with equity.

In Revelation chapter 4 we are allowed to peek over John’s shoulder as he looks into heaven. John says he saw God’s throne and “one ” siting on it. I just assumed it had human form. But not necessarily a “person” as we might think. It is more of a brilliant light and color. In his earlier letter, St. John says, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” James tells us He is the father of heavenly lights, with whom there is no variableness of turning.  He is eternally the same. Constant.

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When Ezekiel saw the vision of God he saw “A fire enfolding itself and brightness was around it.” He said it had the “appearance” of fire.

Moses was not allowed to see His face – no one was or, they would die. Moses was allowed to see His glory but only from behind.

Revelation when talking about heaven says, “It has no need of the sun or moon because the glory of God gives it light.”

God is light. And when Moses saw the burning bush it was God who was in the bush as a fire, not a human form. The bush didn’t burn up because it was light not literally fire. It appeared as fire and that is the only way Moses could describe it. My dictionary says light “is electromagnetic radiation to which our eyes react with a wave length from 400 to 700 nanometers with a speed of 186,28 miles per second”! I don’t begin to understand that.

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All colors are dependent on light. In Revelation 4, John mentions all manner of gemstones surrounding the throne. Their colors of blue, gold, green, red, white…all dependent on the light from the Throne.

I can only imagine this light, this fire. It would be like staring at the sun. Brilliant. Dazzling.

And fire can be terrifying. I have seen news reports of devastating fires. (I admire firemen and am thankful for them.) Fire destroys – just think of the wildfires in California – so much damage and loss. I visited several years ago the areas in Colorado Springs that burned. One home owner gave me a jagged chunk of lavender colored glass and told me the fire had exploded a vase and this was all that was left. Though the fire was weeks before, the smell was still in the air. Yes, it is destructive. Yet, fire is purifying. It is healing. We use it for cooking. We use it for energy – like a coal-burning furnace. Fire demands respect.

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But light isn’t always terrifying. Light can also be used for revealing things we can’t see otherwise. Light is comforting – just think of the child that wants a night-light. When I used to visit my mother and my arrival would be after nightfall, she always had the light on for me – like Motel 6!! I was always welcomed by the glow from the lantern by the front door.

God is light. Like light, He can’t be confined.  God cannot be confined – His realm is all the universes! He cannot be described – He just is. We see these attempts by John and Ezekiel but we understand that He is beyond description. God wants to be known. Jesus came to show us what God’s face looks like. Paul says we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus!

And one day we will stand face to face with Him. Glory.

 

 

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10 Righteous

posted by Ruth Graham

I have enjoyed watching politics since I first voted in 1968. I am a registered independent – always have been.  I have sent money to both Republicans and Democrats.

That does not make me an expert on anything but I do have opinions on most things.

But as I watched the last Republican debate I began to despair. Where is civility? Grown men at podiums interrupting each other, calling  each other names, misrepresenting views…there were three exceptions: Mrs. Carly Fiorina (She was not in the last debate. She suspended her campaign.) Governor John Kasich and Dr. Ben Carson. Mrs. Fiorina spoke in previous debates with conviction but she never stooped to distortion.  Like Dr. Carson and Governor Kasich, she did not get into the mud pit, though plenty was slung her way. I would be willing wager that Dr. Carson nor Governor Kasich will ever sling mud or resort to name calling. Governor Kasich has a wonderful temperament – doesn’t lose his cool. No wonder Ohio elected him twice! He seems to be a genuinely nice man. Dr. Carson may be soft-spoken; that does not make him weak. His life story is remarkable. He is brilliant, compassionate and a true patriot. He is more of a philosopher and we  Americans don’t think like that anymore. No. I do not think he will win. Never did think it. He is too much of a gentleman. He has integrity and he knows he is answerable to God. They all are really but it must not be something they think about often.

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On the scale of civility Dr. Carson and Governor Kasich lead the pack by a mile. And it really is more like a pack of dogs than grown American men seeking the highest office in the land of the greatest country in the world. What would our great founders, George Washington or John Adams think about all this? I am quite sure they would be shocked and deeply saddened to hear the low-level of discourse that our current politicians are engaged in. They no longer speak of lofty ideals and enduring principles. They seem to seek celebrity more than statesmanship.

The Democrat side doesn’t seem to be as fractious. However, one candidate may well have to answer for criminal behavior and years of cover-up; the other one has dangerous ideas even though he seems to be genuinely authentic. He is quite a contrast to his opponent.

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Using foul language is  a sign of weakness. One may promise not to use salty language once they win the nomination but how ’bout practicing now? And how does one make such a change overnight?  Politicians are notorious for making promises they don’t intend to, or can’t, keep. To my knowledge three (there may be others) of the candidates profess a personal relationship with God through Jesus.  Christians should elevate the discourse not get down on the level of the others.

What kind of role models are these men? It’s really a shame. But the Millennials are a generation absorbed in video games and washed in violence. It is a generation that has no prayer in school, abortion on demand and self-concern is the measure of morality. Duty and responsibility are dirty words. Where are our leaders? Who are the good guys – are there any good guys?

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Have we gone past the point of no return?  Is there hope? Will God grant us mercy?  Abraham asked God to spare Sodom for the sake for 50 righteous men. Then 45 righteous. Then 40 righteous. Then 30 righteous. Then 20 righteous. Finally only 10. “And he said I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.” Let us pray to be one of the 10 and may we multiply.

 

 

 

 

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Shreck in the Bible?

posted by Ruth Graham

I happened to run across a verse  in the book of Numbers in the bible That I hadn’t seen before. Oh, I ‘d seen it and read it but it hadn’t grabbed my attention as it did the other morning.

There is an interesting background story to it.

The Israelites were trekking across the plains of Moab with a reputation for defeating their enemies. They were great in number which they created fear in those they approached. Such was the case of Balak, king of Moab. He knew their reputation – what they did to the Amorites and he was “filled with dread” as they came near. So King Balak sent messengers and bribe money to Balaam, a sort of “rent-a-seer”, a soothsayer, asking him to curse the Israelites on his behalf. Balaam sold his services as seer. He dutifully (using sorcery) sought God about the matter and God told him not to curse the Israelites because they were a blessed people. Balaam replied to the king through the messengers God told him not to curse the Israelites.

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The king sent more distinguished  messengers (princes of Moab) the next time with more bribery money. Balaam told this group that it didn’t matter how much money the king gave him he would not go “beyond the command of the Lord.” So far so good. He did invite them to stay the night and he would ask God again about putting a curse on Israel.  God told him that he should go back with them but only say what God told him to. Balaam and two servants set off the next morning on his donkey. Scripture tells us God was angry with Balaam. That seems odd as God told him to go with them but say only what God told him to. So why now God was angry with Balaam?  God knows our thoughts and true intentions. God knew Balaam was more interested in the money and gaining so prestige with King Balak. His motives were all for self.

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As he journeyed on his way, God sent “the angel of the Lord” to block Balaam’s way. He could not see the angel but the donkey could. So the donkey went off into a field  avoiding the angel standing there with sword drawn.  Balaam was furious and beat the poor animal – referred to in the NIV as a female donkey. Then the angel stood in a narrow walled passage between two vineyards and again blocked the way. As the donkey tried to go around Balaam’s foot was hurt against the rock wall that narrowed the passage. Now Balaam was furious and beat her again.

God gave the donkey the gift of speech (precursor to Shrek?), she asked Balaam, “Why have you beaten me?” Balaam, even madder, said, “You have made a fool of me. If I could I’d kill you”. The donkey tells Balaam she has been his donkey and asks, “Have I been in the habit of doing this?” Balaam, replied, “No.”, at which time God opened his eyes to see the angel of the Lord. (Usually when the Bible uses the term “angel of the Lord”, it is referring the pre-incarnate Christ.) Balaam saw Jesus standing there and he “bowed low and fell facedown”. The angel of the Lord tells Balaam He was the one blocking the way because He opposed Balaam’s mission and had the donkey not taken action the angel would have killed Balaam but spared the donkey. Balaam confessed his sin and volunteered to go back home but the angel said, “Go with the men but only speak what I tell you.”

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Balak hired Balaam to curse Israel. He did not – he blessed them – as God told him to – four times. Balak was not a happy king; he thought he’d hired, bribed, a seer to curse but God gave him the truth through Balaam It’s a very interesting story!

There is more to it as Balaam delivers God’s message  –  you are welcome to read it in Numbers 22-24. Balaam even prophesied Jesus’ coming.

What an odd story. A “rent-a-seer” used by God to deliver His message. The seer being changed on the way because he came face to face with Christ. God speaking thorough a donkey! The seer foretelling the coming of Christ “as a star out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel”. Wow! What an unlikely pair – a talking donkey and a rent-a-seer!

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That should give us comfort. God uses anything and anybody – the most unlikely. God will use us for His purposes – even when we try to avoid God, doing what we want to do with wrong motives. Balaam wasn’t fooling God. I don’t think Balaam turned out well, however. In the New Testament he is referred to derogatorily as one who is greedy, concerned about what others think, misleading others.

However, back to the verse that caught my attention!  “One who hears the words of God, who has knowledge from the Most High, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened.” (Number 24:16) I don’t know about you but I want to be like that. Actually, more like the donkey! I want to hear God’s voice – be “tuned in” to Him so I hear him even in unlikely places. Do we loose focus on God by our own greed?  We may look good to others but God knows our hearts. Balaam focused on money and his reputation.  Don’t we do that?

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I want to have knowledge from the Most High. The only way is in staying in and studying His Word. He has revealed Himself in the scripture. Jesus said He is the Word of God. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the “exact representation of God”. (Hebrews 1:3) If we want to know what God is like – study Jesus.

I’m not sure I’ve ever had a vision although there have been times God clarified some issues for me in a dream. It isn’t a regular event. I want my eyes open to see as God sees – other people, the world, the events around me. So often I am focused on my world around me. My interests. My friends. My “stuff”. My reputation.

I have a few precious friends who are global thinkers – they think of  events and issues from a global perspective – God’s perspective. . They challenge me to think bigger – broaden my focus.

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I want to worship with my heart, head and body – fully engaged. Or do I sit and bemoan the worship music? My mind wanders. I loose focus and waste my time and God’s. Sometimes I wonder what He hasn’t given up on me.

He has promised He never will give up. He loves me with an everlasting love. He delights in me. Not because I am perfect or have it all together. He loves me because He created me. He made a plan for my life. He sent Jesus to die for me so I can live with Him forever in Heaven! You can, too!

 

 

 

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