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War is Hell

February 1, 2016

You may disagree with me. We can agree to disagree but let’s do it agreeably, to quote my pastor. We are at a very crucial time in our country.

Sadly, we are a country at war. We live with that fact everyday. But we have, to some extent, become immune to the news. Sometimes a story or an event will bring it back front and center or we are reminded in the movies like American Sniper and 13 Hours. Or events like Paris and San Bernardino when terror comes close. But there are on-going battles being fought by young American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Personally, it was brought home to me this morning as I talked with my sister-in-law. My nephew will soon be deployed for 6 months to one of those countries. (I want to be discreet out of an abundance of caution.) My nephew is one terrific man who always wanted to be in the service – it is a career choice for him. It is dangerous work. It is hard on him and his sweet family. The movie, American Sniper, made me appreciate so much more what my nephew and his family go through. Their security and trust is in God Himself. They have a very solid support network. But it doesn’t make it easy.

6,852 military personnel have been killed in the War on Terror; 900,000 have been wounded. Think about that! Each number represents a life, a family. It affects so many. As a nation we are taking responsibility for our wounded veterans so much better than we did after Viet Nam, but the impact on our nation of these precious lives has yet to be revealed.

War is hell. There is no other way to think about it. It destroys lives, families, cultures, nations. I’ve been in areas right after a war and the destruction is hard to comprehend. Massive damage to the landscape but especially to the human psyche. If the war was to stop today, we still couldn’t recover what we have lost in terms of physical and emotional damage.

Am I arguing against war? No. Some wars are right. But they need to be declared and won. Today we are fighting war by rules. When in history has this ever been done? That is so stupid in my book. We tell our enemy what our plans are. We tie our warriors’ hands behind their backs and give them less than optimum equipment. (This makes me worry for my nephew. Do he and his men have what they need?) If we had gone after this war with all of our military might, let the military fight in the way they believed they could win…the toll would not be so great. I believe we have lost greater numbers because we did not fight to win.

I know we can argue that all day long but, in my opinion, to try to fight a politically correct war is foolishness.

And for our men to have sacrificed their lives to gain territory or prisoners only to have it given back or money traded for terrorists is mind blowing. As an American I am deeply concerned. I am offended by the actions of those who sit in Washington. They don’t want to offend this or that group. Let me tell you, they are offending me! And others like me.

For the past 10 days I have been privileged to be in a group from all over the country – sea to shining sea – that meets by conference call to pray together for our nation and this election. I believe there are groups all over our land who are praying. The first ballots will be cast today…we need to pray. We need to ask God’s forgiveness for abandoning His Truth and doing what is right in our own eyes. Ask for His mercy – we do not deserve it – but we can ask for it. Ask for revival – beginning in us. This is not a spectator sport! This is serious, life-changing stuff. We have to get involved – if only by prayer.

We may not be in the theater of war, as our military are but, we can be on the front lines in prayer. (Did you see the movie, War Room?) Will you commit to pray daily for our men and women in uniform – to keep them safe, make them courageous; our President – that he will see God’s wisdom, not just his own and that of his Cabinet; his Cabinet – to give wise counsel; our Congress – to stand for godly principles; voters – to take this responsibility seriously and choose candidates who have moral values? That’s where we start today.

Oppression and Justice

January 12, 2016

One of my favorite verses is, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.” (Isaiah 59:19 KJV) The more recent translations say it this way: “For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the Lord drives along.” The New English Bible puts it this way, “For it shall come like a shining river, the spirit of the Lord hovering over it.” And one more, the New Living translation says it like this, “For he will come like a raging flood tide driven by the breath of the Lord.”

In context, this passage is talking about how God will come to avenge those who are oppressed, where there is no justice and He, Himself, will come to save them. It’s quite a powerful image. “So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm, and his justice sustained him. He put on righteousness as his body armor and placed the helmet of salvation on his head. He clothes himself with a robe of vengeance and wrapped himself in a cloak of divine passion. He will repay his enemies for their evil deeds. His fury will fall on his foes. He will pay them back even to the ends of the earth. In the west, people will respect the name of the LORD; in ht east, they will glorify him. For he will come like a raging flood tide driven by the breath of the Lord. The redeemed will come to Jerusalem to buy back those in Israel who have turned from their sins, says the LORD.”

What a scene that will be! He has not forgotten nor is He inactive now. He is getting ready to step in to show Himself in all His power and glory to the nations. That day IS coming – I believe soon.

Actually, I intended to write something quite different. But theses different translations shed new light on my understanding of the passage. For me, the verse has always been about when I am under attack by the enemy (Satan), God will step in powerfully to protect and save me. And I do believe it can be taken that way. The truth of that is supported throughout the Bible
But as I typed that passage, I could not help but think of the oppressed in our world today. I’m not thinking of those our politicians call “oppressed”. Some may be but, some are passionately talked about during a campaign season for political gain then quickly forgotten. I’m thinking more of those being trafficked as sex slaves, or persecuted because of their faith in Christ, those ravaged by illnesses for which they are unable to get treatment, those who cannot find enough to eat, those who have no access to clean water, those used as “mules” for the drug trade – slaves really. There are those in Afghanistan oppressed by the Taliban and, now Isis. Those in Syria oppressed by a regime that is corrupt and evil. Those oppressed by war and poverty.

There is much injustice in this world. God sees it. God is going to balance the scales – God is a god of terrible justice. “A day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will judge everyone according to what they have done.” Are you prepared? There is mercy to be found in Jesus Christ. When we repent and ask His forgiveness, God then sees us as His children. Jesus’ blood washes our sins away. We need not stand before God’s throne in shame and dishonor. He took our punishment for us and we will be presented to God, as perfect and blameless. (Jude 24)

So this then is our future:”Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared…And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne saying, “Look God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them and they will be his people. God himself will live with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. And the one sitting not he throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”. (Revelation 21)

New Year’s Prayer

December 29, 2015

I wrote and published this years ago. I thought it appropriate for this new year. (It was published just as it is with it’s lack of punctuation.) Maybe it will speak to your own heart and mind. Let us pray for one another as we enter the unknown of 2016. I pray God’s richest blessings for you this year, dear reader, as we follow Him into unknown teritory. Ruth Graham

A new year is now here
Lord Jesus
expectantly I enter it.
Not knowing what is ahead
I lean on You.
If it be happiness
let me wear it graciously
if it be sorrow
let me wear it bravely
if it be frustration
let me wear it trustingly
if it be wealth
let me wear it thankfully
if it be poverty
let me wear it proudly
if it be sickness
let me bear it cheerfully
if it be health
let me use it serving You
if it be emptiness
let me fill it with You.
Lord Jesus
I do not ask for happiness
only joy
I do not ask for wealth
only richness in You
I do not ask for health
only strength from You
so whatever You send my way
in this New Year
can be faced
leaning on you.

Christmas – Again?

December 24, 2015

Christmas rolls around faster and faster each year. 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 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 Adam he could enjoy everything – it was all there for his pleasure. The only thing that was off limits was the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If he ate the fruit of it, he would die. God gave Adam choice. To obey or not.

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 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.

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, 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 – was coming to earth! Who would have thought!

By coming to earth 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 from labor. He was going to get his heart broken by betrayal. He was going to have to face hostility. He was going to deal with difficult family issues – jealousy, unfair criticism, injustice. And a brutal 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.

God Almighty…Creator…came as Servant…Redeemer. How do you respond to so great a love? You worship!

Christmas Carols

December 7, 2015

I love Christmas Carols! But not until December 1st!

I like to celebrate Thanksgiving and enjoy the blessings of that season. I like pausing to thank God for all the blessing He bestows. Times are hard for so many right now but we still are blessed by life itself, family, friends…I think of those refugees fleeing danger and oppression clawing for a better life under freedom. Even they have life and family. But how much more we have. Not only do we have food, we have grocery stores bulging with food and throw out so much. We have family – even if we don’t all get along we have the money to go see them or phone them. We have freedom. Really, we are so blessed. As dysfunctional as they may be we can go see our families and celebrate our traditions. Or we have the choice to go be with friends… We may be feeling ill but we have the best medical care in the world. You get my drift. It is appropriate to pause and thank God, not just one day in the year but every day. All we have comes from Him.

Even as I type this I have the Christmas carols playing and a pine scented candle burning…I love it. And I also have the anxiety that I am way behind. I used to have Christmas done and wrapped by December 1st so that I could bake. Well…my baking may be done in January this year. Not sure why I am so far behind. Possibly because I am stumped as to gifts to give. I think most of those I “send to” are done but it’s my children and grandchildren. And lack of energy…

I’ll get in gear on time I am sure.

But what I started to tell you was – last week I went to a local Christmas program put on by our local Christian radio station. I did it more to support the station – thinking it would be “hokey” I wanted to do my part! (I went patting myself on the back.)

God had a surprise for me. It was terrific! Good full, traditional Christmas music. And the message was great. The preacher used Christmas music to tell the Christmas story. Starting with O Come O Come Emmanuel – the prophets predicted the Messiah would arrive – the people hoped and prayed for Centuries. They longed for that day. Then It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. It actually happened! The day arrived. Their waiting was not in vain. “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne” – yes, Jesus left all of heaven’s glory in obedience to His Father and His love for us to come to earth. He who created the womb was confined to one. “Away in a Manger” the spotless lamb of God was put into a crude, dirty manger where animals slobbered as they ate. I think of all the preparations I made before my first child was born…Mary could not do that…she had to travel far distances on a donkey. Talk about uncomfortable!

Back to the message…We Three Kings. The Eastern astrologers saw the star – unusually bright – that lead them to the stable. These kings knelt and worshiped bringing expensive gifts for the child.

The speaker then began to talk about Jesus’ return – again predicted by prophets – to be fulfilled, I think, very soon. He used “I’ll be Home for Christmas”. It gave me goose bumps! Yes, we, just like Abraham are, “looking forward to the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11: 10)…And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God: and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away. And he that sitteth on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he saith, Write: for these words are faithful and true. And he said unto me, They are come to pass. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Yes, one day we WILL be home for Christmas! Hallelujah!

Lobster Shells

December 1, 2015

I visited a new church on Sunday – it opened in April as a plant from Charlottesville. It’s just down the street from my house. I met the pastor and his wife some weeks ago as they are very mission minded and supportive of Advancing Native Missions – on whose board I sit. As I entered I was greeted warmly and found my way into the sanctuary which had music softly playing.

I sat down. Soon a nice couple came and hesitated to sit beside me – I told them I didn’t bite! We introduced ourselves by first name and I discovered they were also visiting from another church. I felt someone behind me who is also associated with Advancing Native Missions – she and her son joined me on my row. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the founder of Advancing Native Missions and his wife sit down at the end of the row – they came quite a distance to attend the church as they live “over the mountain”. So I felt at home among friends.

I’m not wild about contemporary worship styles but the music was full and good. I just don’t know why it has to be repeated so many times. I’m of the old school – I like the great hymns of the Church. Some of the music I was not familiar with but the worlds were worshipful.

The pastor got up to preach. His message was excellent. All about new beginnings using the story of the crippled man at the Pool of Bethesda that Jesus healed. The man had been ill for 38 years. The sick and crippled came to the pool so they might be the first one in the water when it stirred and thereby be healed. Jesus asks the man if he wants to get well. At first blush this seems like a foolish question; he wouldn’t be there if he didn’t want to be healed! But I think we all know folks that say they want healing but never do anything about it. They like their identity as the wounded one; it gets them attention; healing can be scary. And when you talk with them they tell you their story over and over. So it was a good question: “Do you want to get well?” The man’s reply was that he has no one to help him into the pool and each time someone else beats him to it.

I wonder if after all those years he became discouraged. Bitter. Angry. Did he passively accept it as his lot in life? He said he had no one to help him get in. Was he lonely? Abandoned? Caregivers get weary.

Jesus told him to “Get up! Pick up you mat and walk.” Agin, that must have sounded odd to those nearby. Maybe even cruel. But instantly he was healed. What kind of feeling is that? Did he feel a burning sensation go through his body? Or did he “just know” Regardless, he stood up, obeyed and picked up his mat and walked! It had been a long time since he stood upright. He could see the world from a very different vantage point now. Why did Jesus tell him to pick up his mat? The pastor said that it was to take away any provision for returning. Not going back there. He no longer had a place to go back to! Life now had a new beginning for him. Sort of like pouring the booze down the sink or flushing the pills in the toilet.

He had to carry his mat. He took ownership of his healing and new beginning. There was a “divine shift” as the pastor said. The man was going to think and act differently. He was embracing the future as a healed man.

The pastor told us something I had never heard before: that a lobster sheds it’s shell. The lobster outgrows its shell has to shed it, if he doesn’t he can’t grow. The lobster is very vulnerable when it sheds the outer protection of his shell. But another shell begins to form.

Often we create our shells of protection against hurt and woundings. Perhaps they have been in place so long we think they are part of us. But if we insist on holding on to them, we cannot grow into the fully mature Christian God wants us to be. And God promises to be our protector, defender Himself. By us trying to protect ourselves we usurp God’s rightful place. He knows our needs before we do. He cares about us more than we do. He covers us and shelters us under His wings. If we thaw His place and try to cover ourselves, we are indeed, vulnerable.

Do we want to get well? Do we want to grow? Are we willing to make ourselves vulnerable? Do we need a “divine shift” in our lives or do we just want on go on in the same mindset and rut? We can get up and begin to walk in the newness Jesus promises. “The Lord will accomplish what concerns me. Thy lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting.” (Psalms 138:8) “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” (Psalms 32:7) That’s as safe as you can get!

What Makes God Boast?

November 23, 2015

I recently heard an African man speak. He was from Liberia. He had fled his country during the war and while fleeing buried his dead child on the trail – no marker for the little grave.

He spoke of Job in the Bible. When Satan comes in from roaming the earth and stands before God. God asks Satan if he has considered Job. “There is no one like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Basically, Satan says Job is that way because God has blessed him and put protection around him. God tells Satan to do what he will with Job but not touch him physically.

Satan leaves and proceeds to destroy all that Job has: his children, his cattle, servants, his sheep and herdsman, as well as his camels. All is destroyed. Job grieves but, “in all this Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”

Again, Satan comes in to stand before God after roaming the earth. Again, God asks, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he maintains his integrity though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

Satan says Job is that way because he still has his health. He challenges God, “Stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones and he will curse you to your face.” God gives Satan permission on the condition that Job’s life is to be spared. And we know what happens. (If not, I recommend you read that great book.)

We are given a fascinating behind the-scenes look into heaven! And bird’s eye view of Job’s less-then-helpful friends.

The African speaker said that God was bragging on Job to satan. Beating His chest, as it were, because of Job’s fidelity which satan challenged. Then the speaker challenged us: “What does it mean for God to beat His chest for me? What have I done to make God boast?” Wow!

Think about that for a moment.

I don’t want to fall into the trap of “works righteousness” or “performance orientation”. But my first thoughts were things that I had done. Accomplishments that were sure to please God. Kindnesses along the way. Service I had given.  All performance oriented. Job had presented God and his 3 friends with all sorts of arguments and defenses. But when God actually showed up, this was Job’s response:

I know that thou canst do all things,
And that no purpose of thine can be restrained.
Who is this that hideth counsel without knowledge?
Therefore have I uttered that which I understood not,
Things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.
Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak;
I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.
I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear;
But now mine eye seeth thee:
Wherefore I abhor myself,
And repent in dust and ashes.

Job in God’s presence felt small and ignorant of God’s ways. But God boasted of Job for his trust in Him.

God’s answer to our suffering is Himself. He is enough. Our proper response is to trust. That makes God boast, beat His chest with delight and joy. He’ll point to us and say down the corridors of heaven, “Those are my children! They are trusting me. He’ll point them out to the angels and say, “See them? They get it!”

I confess, I am not there yet.


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