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Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Vote!

posted by Ruth Graham

It is your civic duty to vote. No excuse. It is at the very heart of this great nation.

I know I get sick and tired of all the politics and wrangling but this is the one time we have to voice our opinion. Thee is such division in this land – I hardly recognize my country anymore. But I will vote my values today. And be thankful for the opportunity.

And when I cast my vote I will thank God for this great freedom and the young men and women out there protecting it. God bless ’em. Let’s do it for them. For ourselves. For our children and grandchildren. For our future.

Vote!

 

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The “War on Women”

posted by Ruth Graham

In recent years there has been discussion about a “war on women”. I am not sure what that means. Perhaps it started with a woman’s right over her own body, her right to choose. Or equal pay for equal work, though I see that as a human rights issue.  The glass ceiling, which seems to me to be shattered. So I am not clear on what the “war on women” is over. Who is at war with us and what are the issues? If men are at war with women that seems foolish since so many men are looking for a woman and vise versa.  If it is a political agenda by one party or the other, then it is far from altruistic. It is manipulative.  And I think women are smarter than that! Frankly, I don’t think there is a war on women! It’s been made up and talked about so often and so loudly that it’s made folks think there is a war on women. Back in the 60s and 70s there was “women’s lib”. We were told that we were oppressed and need to burn our bras and go to work in a man’s world. Fine with me if that is what you want to do…why make such a stink about it? We were told we had to be equal to men. I don’t think that is true. I have always felt women were stronger, smarter, more creative than men. And I believe God made men and women different. A look at our anatomy tells us that!! Each has a distinct role to play – not one better or greater or more significant than the other. Just different from each other and, I for one, am glad. I like my differences. I celebrate the differences. I like being a woman – always have. Someone once asked me on a panel if, as a woman, it was hard to be a minister. I don’t look at it that way. My ministry is to both men and women – it is not gender specific. Ministry takes barriers down; St. Paul said “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” What was Jesus’ view of women? Jesus associated freely with women. Women traveled with his band of disciples as He taught throughout Israel. They sat under His teaching. He did miracles on their behelf. He listened to them, comforted them, loved them, healed them, talked with them, touched  them publicly and was touched by them. No doubt He laughed with them in the day to day discourse as He was a man of joy and attended parties. He cared about the things they cared  about and sought to calm their fears. It was through a woman that Jesus entered the world; He was cradled in her arms, receiving nourishment from her breasts. Women were quick to understand grace and forgiveness; they were the first to declare He was the Son of God, the first to understand His mission and the first to carry the news that He was alive on the Resurrection morning. Women were the last at the Cross and the first at the tomb. He was gentle and kind. He didn’t patronize or make jokes at a woman’s expense. He loved women. When we are in Christ as a woman we need not “fight” for our place or position. It is bestowed upon us with love and gentleness. We are tenderly loved, cared for, enjoyed, honored and gifted. He doesn’t hold us back…He wants us to reach our full potential in every way. In Him we are free to do that – even better – we are empowered!

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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.

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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.

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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.”

 

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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