Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Who am I and why am I here?

posted by Ruth Graham

Back in the 1960s – 19870s there was this “youth revolution”. Young people were questioning authority, rejecting authority…many of these youth we labeled, “hippies”. They  threw over the conventional and traditional to come up with their own “relative” truth. I suppose each generation has their own form of the same transition into adulthood. But this particular one altered our culture. It wasn’t just a passage into adulthood. It was a permanent shift in out national thinking. Young people wanted to “express themselves” regardless of what it was. There was a lot of anger.

This particular era gave birth to feminism, the anti-war movement, drug usage, the civil rights movement, the sexual revolution, abortion, prayer was taken out of schools, the War on Poverty and resulting social programs, the Peace Corps. There was also, in the Church, a movement of the Holy Spirit. He moved on His Church to bring new life within – especially in the Catholic Church. Other movements were born out of it like, Calvary Chapel and The Vineyard. There seemed to be a move away from the historic denominations toward a more independent, relaxed form of worship: “seeker friendly” churches. Church music went through a revolution leaving behind traditional hymns and replacing it with choruses.

So many changes. Some good. Some not so good.

But every generation must ask, “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” I have observed – and still observe – people trying to answer those questions without having any foundation on which to stand. Before the 60s and 70s it seemed that certain things were understood as true. Absolutes were acknowledged. Now everything is relative. If it is “my truth” that is all that is needed. “Your truth” may be different from mine. That’s OK. As the bumper sticker declares, “Coexist”. Be tolerant and inclusive.

In Dr. Phil’s words, “How’s that working for you?”

As I read the headlines I have to come to the conclusion, it isn’t working at all. The world, our culture, is imploding. It seems as if the world is coming to an end. Can it get much worse? Probably.

There ARE absolutes. I know for certain that God exists. I know for certain He loves me and every living thing. I know He loved us so much He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and die by crucifixtion and come back to life. I know He is real and alive today. I know there are moral absolutes established by God for our good. I know when we go against those absolutes, chaos results.

Only Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life.” No other religious figure claimed that. No other religious leader came to life from death. Only Jesus.

Since that is true, there are implications for our lives today. Who am I? A person handmade and loved by Almighty God. Why am I here? To worship Him. The Westminster Catechism says it best, “The chief end of man is to love God and enjoy Him forever.”

 

O.T. God vs. N.T. God

posted by Ruth Graham

A friend recently asked me how I reconcile the vengeful, war-like God of the Old Testament with the meek mild Jesus. That is a question that has come through the ages. On the surface it does look like it is almost two different Gods. The God of the Old Testament does rain fire down on sinners. He does drown armies. He smites people with leprosy. He strikes down one who dared to help steady the Ark of the Covenant. There was blood and fire and law and judgment and punishment.

He was/ is a fearsome, awesome God. One who is holy – absolutely holy. He will not be trifled with – then or now.

We cannot begin to see Him through our own understanding. It fails every time. His holiness is transcendent. We have nothing to compare it to. No one, nothing in our understanding comes close to understanding the greatness, purity, holiness of this powerful, terror-able God.

And yet in the Old Testament we get glimpse of another side of His character when we read, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried….” Isaiah, the Prophet wrote, “I will make mention of the loving-kindnesses of the Lord, according to all the Lord has granted us…which He has granted according to His compassion…” He also wrote, ” Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb?  Even these may forget, but I will not forget you, behold I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands…” Jeremiah the prophet wrote, “The Lord’s loving-kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail, they are new every morning.” David, who was a sinner like us but, was called “a man after God’s own heart wrote, “Bless the Lord oh my soul, and forget none of His benefits; who pardons all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagles…”. David also wrote, “I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live…gracious is the lord and righteous; yes, our God is compassionate.” And of course the very famous, “The Lord is my shepherd…” And perhaps my favorite, “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs, and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.”

Often God is portrayed as masculine. Heroic. Strong. Vengeful. Powerful. But my study of the Bible leads me to conclude that there is a feminine side of God. After all a woman was half of the equation when God created “man” in His image, male and female He created them. The scripture talks about God in  feminine roles – teaching and feeding His people – the roles of a woman, “Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in my arms; But they did not know that I healed them…I bent down and fed them.”

Space limits too deep a discussion of this but there is a good book on the subject, The Mother Heart of God by Trudy Bayak. I recommend it to you.

Scripture tells us that Jesus is the exact representation of God. So if we want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. John tells us “God is love.” If God is eternal and unchanging, which I believe Him to be, what is true of God in one age, is true in another.

Jesus is often portrayed as gentle, mild, meek. Milquetoast. But, in fact, He was far from it. Jesus was a revolutionary. He was dangerous. That’s what got Him crucified. He turned the world  on its ear. No longer and eye for an eye but turn the other cheek. Love your enemies. Give your shirt as well as your coat. Go the extra mile. Read the Sermon on the Mount and decide if Jesus was mild. That is hard stuff.

God is “both and”. Much bigger than we can grasp. I find great comfort that God is both fierce and gentle; holy and merciful; mighty and patient; demanding and forgiving. He is a great God.

 

Don’t limit God in His role. He is both male and female. Both hard and gentle. He is much more than we can begin to imagine.

Forgive Again and Again and Again

posted by Ruth Graham

I am sure you have experienced many occasions when someone has hurt you. Depending on the relationship with that person the hurt was a deep wound or you brushed it off. The ones we can brush off are easier to forgive. Like a friend who is late for an appointment, or a child draws on your freshly painted wall. The ones that causes a deep wound are much more difficult to forgive. A spouse’s infidelity, a friend that broke a confidence, an unkind, critical remark. Those are much harder to forgive.

How about the person who wounds you time and again? They do the same thing repeatedly and leave you deeply hurt, questioning your own value. That is really hard to forgive. Some might say impossible. The easiest thing perhaps is just to cut them out of your life…but that isn’t forgiveness.

Peter asked Jesus such a question; “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times.” We are not told what prompted Peter to ask the question. Perhaps Peter had a person in mind. A family member that continued to put him down? A neighbor that kept taking advantage? A spouse that had an addiction? We aren’t told. But it was something Peter wanted to find out. He asked Jesus if forgiving 7 times was sufficient. The rabbis of the day taught that three times was sufficient. So Peter doubled that and threw in one more for good measure. Going above and beyond.

And the question implies that Peter has experienced repeated hurts – for the same thing. His brother put him down repeatedly. His neighbor didn’t respect boundaries repeatedly. His spouse was addicted and creating havoc in the home. Or perhaps Peter was thinking of himself. Maybe his impulsiveness got him not trouble more than once. (I know the Bible doesn’t tell us these things…I am using my sanctified imagination.)

I am sure each of us have asked the same question hoping that Jesus’ response might give us some wiggle room. We’d like to think there is a point at which the transgression is so grievous that we don’t have to forgive. But Jesus’ answer doesn’t give us any wiggle room. Not only no wiggle room but His answer goes beyond imagination. What He is saying is that we are to be God-like in our response to an offense.

We have often read and I have said myself that forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. It frees us from the offense. It isn’t matter of letting someone off the hook – it is getting ourselves off the hook of transgression done to us!

But it is more than that.  When we forgive we are reflecting God’s character – it is Hs nature to forgive. The act of forgiveness is more, so much more than our emotional well-being. Therefore when we forgive we enter into a very divine grace, a sacred behavior.  I am beginning to see that the act of forgiveness is not about me at all. It is a form of true worship. It is me being willing to lay aside my desires for what I think is fair, picking up my cross and following after God.

And perhaps by His grace God will use me to bless the one that wronged me. Isn’t that what Jesus did on the Cross?

I am not saying that it is easy. It goes against my own nature. I strain against such. I argue. I fight for my rights. I nurse my hurts. I walk in self-pity and carry bitterness. But in the end I come down to this very simple truth. Jesus said to forgive over and over and over and over again – it reflects His nature. That’s what He wants from us. That is what He is doing in us.

 

Good and Evil

posted by Ruth Graham

The contrast between evil and good has been in the news and on our front pages this week.

It was a thrill to see Dr. Brantley on the news yesterday as he left Emory University Hospital hand in hand with his wife. It is a miracle that he is alive and expected to live a full life. Ebola is a deadly virus that kills 30 to 90 percent of its victims. Dr. Brantley credited God and the many prayers around the world for his healing. I praise God for it – as we all do.

In the same week we learned a family of deep faith lost their son to a gruesome beheading by the barbaric group called Issis. Evil seemed to triumph. Josh Foley’s parents  prayed earnestly for his release. Many prayed for him as they had prayed for Dr. Brantley. Prayed for his safety and release. Even the Pope prayed. Why were their prayers not answered?

How do we juxtapose those two events? Why did  God not answer one prayer but He not answer the other? Do we have to make ourselves theological pretzels to make sense of it? Are there answers?

First, God did answer both prayers. Just because one was answered as we hoped does not mean He didn’t answer the other. We do not know the mind of God.

I will be the first one to tell you that I don’t have an answer and anyone who does, is not being honest. There are just some things we don’t and can’t understand. I can tell you I believe in the sovereignty of God with all my heart. I know He is in control and He has a plan. His plans are being worked out even now – though we may not be able to see it. What we see is not all there is.  There are major events happening in the spiritual realm right now. There is so much more we don’t know. I can’t help but believe that God is setting the stage for the return of Christ.

I believe the events in the past week illustrate the intense battle being fought between good and evil. We do know evil has already been defeated at the Cross – Christ is triumphant. Every knee will bow and acknowledge He is Lord of Lords. One day…

But back to here and now on earth there is suffering and heartache. Let us be faithful to the One who is at work in every circumstance. I don’t know who said it but, I like the quote, “When we can’t see His hand we can trust His heart.” If you are suffering today I offer no pat answers no cliches but a trust in the character of God Who is just, merciful, all-loving, all-wise, all-powerful, big, good, compassionate, near, faithful and the only true Hope in the world.

 

 

Previous Posts

Lasting Gifts
Well...the house is decorated. The cookies baked. The presents bought - and most already wrapped. Others mailed out. I remember when I treated wrapping as an art form - each was decorated to perfection - almost like Martha Stewart. Gone are those days...to much time and too much money. Now I find a

posted 1:30:55am Dec. 17, 2014 | read full post »

Stealing Christmas
Have you ever felt dull? Tired? Like the color gray? Just no joy in living. No spark of excitement. Everyone on FaceBook seems to have the joy and energy for the season- but you. With the holidays coming on you are supposed to be excited about family,shopping, cooking, decorating, wrapping, parti

posted 2:43:59pm Dec. 01, 2014 | read full post »

Happy Thanksgiving!
Have a fun day reflecting on the many blessings you enjoyed this year!

posted 2:41:02am Nov. 27, 2014 | read full post »

The Blessings that Remain
I may have posted this last year...it's worth repeating.   There are loved ones that are missing From the fireside and the feast; There are faces that have vanished There are voices that have ceased; And we know they passed forever From our mortal grief and pain - And we

posted 4:21:27pm Nov. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Being Thankful
I  got this some years ago. It is by an unknown author. It's all a matter of perspective.   Being thankful for: The mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends. The taxes I pay because it means that I am employed. The clothes that fit a little

posted 3:11:11pm Nov. 19, 2014 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.