Do you know who sits beside you?

When we go through unknown or challenging times, we need to remember God’s faithfulness and all He has done in our lives. He WAS faithful in the past, IS faithful now and He WILL CONTINUE TO BE faithful in the future. Faithful is not only a reflection of Who He is, but an inseparable part of what He does. We CAN trust Him in ALL things.

Although we know these things, sometimes we simply need to be reminded of them. That’s what happened to me. While trying to encourage others, I was the one that needed the encouragement and reminder a few months ago.

I began the new school year at a new school here in Jerusalem. After teaching for two years at a combined elementary and junior high, I now teach high school. I began looking for a new teaching position this past summer after deciding to leave my previous school. Going to interviews again was not easy, and at times, even frustrating. But, I trusted that God would close the doors He didn’t want me to go through and open the one that He prepared for me. The position I was interested in had to be part-time and not include being a homeroom teacher this year. I wanted to invest more time in discipleship and other things. This was the opposite of what some schools were looking for. When the day for my interview at this school came, my mom and I prayed that morning that I would receive an answer right away. And that is what happened. The school offered me exactly what I was looking for and I was the one who had to give them an answer if I was interested, which I was. On the first day of school, I met some of the other teachers. They were warm and welcoming and offered to help in whatever I needed. I went home that day with a heart full of gratitude, knowing that this position, as well as the welcoming and attitude of the staff, were all God’s grace.

In addition to starting a new position, I also moved into a new apartment. This, too, was an indescribable gift of grace, as I found an apartment that was exactly what I was looking for. There were a lot of challenges related to the move and sometimes, I thought maybe I was making a mistake. But, then came the encouragement from some people with whom I am very close. And sure enough, when my impatience was replaced by faith, my eyes were open to see how He was working all things out.

In a similar way, the past year was difficult from a number of perspectives. There were moments I felt completely drained. Nevertheless, during that time, I kept praying and God encouraged me through His Word to continue looking to Him and casting my cares upon Him. This past summer was full of changes and activities and the only way I can describe getting through it is by grace upon grace and sometimes I felt overwhelmed by it. In His mercy, God allowed me to find not only what I was looking for, but what I needed in terms of an apartment and employment, as well as the refreshment and encouragement He gave me.

As I talked with friends about difficulties or hardships they were experiencing, I realized once again how we don’t always know what those sitting or serving beside us in the body of Messiah are going through. Outwardly, many are smiling and appear happy, while inwardly, some are hurting. We so often greet each other at various events and gatherings and ask, “How are you” and smile. Sometimes, we don’t even bother wait for a response. And, if we do, what is the response we hope to hear? When I hear some say they are OK, but their faces show their hearts are burdened, I regret to say I don’t always take the time to inquire what happened and if there is anything I can do to encourage them in any way. Granted, we can’t always be the ones to listen to every problem and we certainly don’t have answers to everything. But, we don’t need to have answers or solutions to people’s burdens or difficulties. Just showing an interest, expressing a word of encouragement and taking the time to pray with and for that person, can make a difference in someone’s day. We aren’t always aware of what people are going through. So, we should be careful not to be quick to judge their behavior, as we could easily judge wrongly. 

Relationships nowadays often lack the personal “follow through” in communication. Opening our eyes to those around us is not enough. We need to act on what we see as well. When the Lord Yeshua saw that the multitudes who came to hear him had nothing to eat, he had compassion on them and did not send them home hungry. Instead, he fed them. This was a lesson for his disciples to learn that they were to go and do the same. But, more so, whatever they later fed the multitudes, whether it was physical or spiritual food, they first received it from Yeshua. If we were to have a compassion meter, where would we be on the scale? Would it show that we have compassion for others or that our compassion is lacking? The next time we ask people how they are doing, will we truly listen and respond to what is shared with us?

Will we allow God to use us as vessels to pour into the lives of others? As the Lord Yeshua said to his disciples, the harvest is great but the workers are few. When we ask God to send workers to the field before us, we need to be ready to be among those workers who are sent.


Under His Wings

“He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may take refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and wall.” (Psalm 91:4)

I have been reflecting recently on the concept of being sheltered under the wings of God. I prepared a devotion for the elementary school last week and shared about Ruth, the Moabitess, coming under God’s wings, and I took a closer look at the verse quoted at the top of this post. The thought of taking refuge under God’s wings is beautiful. But, what significance does it have for us? We could easily ask, “What does this mean for me, personally?”

When Ruth came to Bethlehem with Naomi, she turned her back on all that Moab had to offer. She left all her family, friends, hope, security and stability and went to a land foreign to her – a land where she was considered a foreigner, a land where there was no guarantee that she would again enjoy any of the things she left behind. It could be understood that Ruth counted the cost and declared in words that have been repeated countless times over the centuries, that Naomi’s people would now be her people and Noami’s God will be her God (Ruth 1:16). What an amazing statement! It took on added significance when Boaz said to her later that she came to take refuge under the wings of the God of Israel (Ruth 2:12).
As I shared this with my students, I realized that the words and thought expressed in Psalm 91:4 had a much deeper meaning that what I thought previously. Coming under God’s wings presents not only a word picture of a mother fowl gathering her chicks under her wings to protect them and give them comfort. It is an expression regarding God’s compassion, tenderness and faithfulness. His truth is described as a shield and an impenetrable wall. Nothing can break through. We can lean on His Word because He stands behind it to perform it. God’s faithfulness is constant, because He never changes.
This week, I spoke with my mom about some things that were on my mind recently. At one point, she asked me if I was worried because of a terrorist attack that happened in the city the day before. My answer was that God called me to live in Jerusalem, so I am not worried. I know that He will give me the grace to do what He called me to do, in all things. I realized shortly thereafter how true this statement was – in ALL things, even those which discouraged me. I needed to remember to take refuge under God’s wings, trusting Him to be my shield and wall. I needed to rest in His presence, confident that He is in total control of all things, including my life, and that under His wings I can find refuge and comfort, as well as peace.

My congregation recently suffered a great loss and shock, as one of our Elders passed away following complications from Covid 19. He left behind a wife and three children. The sense of loss was immense. The entire congregation still feels like it is going through a valley, experiencing pain with many unanswered questions. Yet, in the midst of it all, we know that death is not the end. We have the hope of resurrection and of life eternal. Our good Shepherd and the Chief Shepard of our congregation, Yeshua, will remove our tears, remove our pain and lead us through to green pastures, never leaving our side. Yes, we have a hope that this world does not have, nor can it understand. It is a hope of life forevermore with the Lord Yeshua, in Whose presence is fullness of joy.

If you are going through a valley, if you are discouraged, don’t despair. Be encouraged, for there is hope even in the valley. Yeshua, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, knows His flock, each one by name. Nothing is hidden from His sight. He is in control of everything and works everything to the praise and glory of His name. Maybe, as you read this, you are going through a tough time. Even though you may not feel it, He is, indeed, at your side. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He will bring light into your darkness if you just trust Him and allow His wings to cover you.

House of Water – When Feet are Washed

“…one who gives others plenty of water will himself be given plenty” Proverbs 11:25

I returned from Bath, England, today after a week-long retreat with a dozen and a half other women, all of us studying in a Bible course together. Each morning during the retreat began with a 3-hour lesson and then we had the rest of the day off to tour the beautiful city of Bath and its remarkable surroundings. The studies were good and focused and the content stimulated deep discussion and openness in a level that would not have been reached had we done the course over a period of several weeks here in Israel. Staying with such a closely-knit group of women who knew each other, some more and some less, and doing a variety of activities together, was a unique an extremely rewarding experience.

The main focus of the course was leadership and women’s ministries. As the lessons progressed, so did the level of openness with each other. As our time in Bath drew near to the end, many of the women shared how this time was such a blessing for them that they felt their feet had been washed. Some shared that they felt they were able to speak about personal things in a very comfortable and accepting way that they couldn’t do before. They felt that being so busy serving and ministering to others, this week provided them with the opportunity to be ministered to. Our lovely and gracious hosts in Bath, as well as people that serve in the local congregation there, literally went out of their way to spend time with us, take us places and even drive us when our taxi didn’t arrive. We also had a chance to participate in the meeting of the congregation this past week and met many brethren from different places, which was a great joy.

The washing of feet wasn’t literal, of course. We didn’t have a basin with water and a towel for each person’s feet to be washed. Although the thought of washing of feet had crossed some women’s minds before coming, in the sense that they hoped this would be such an experience for the women, they didn’t realize how profound our time together was. The place where we stayed was called “Waterhouse” – a very fitting name for a hotel in Bath, but even more fitting because it became a place this week where feet were washed spiritually. All of us, the women in our group, as well as our hosts, felt encouraged by each other and by the fellowship. Serving the Lord and serving others in the Lord, is both a blessing and an honor. Still, times of rest and refreshment are needed. The Scriptures instruct us in the importance of rest, both physical and spiritual. We were all were given a time to rest emotionally and spiritually, as we focused on spending time with each other, enjoying fellowship and simply having fun.

The local believers gave of themselves to bless us for a full week. It was simply amazing and deeply appreciated, as they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us by the grace of God. Their hospitality and love was evident through everything they did and, in a way, they washed the feet of our group, who came to Bath for study and for fellowship. What happens when feet are washed? I believe both those who do the washing and those whose feet are washed, are encouraged, blessed and strengthened for the continued walking and running they have to do. Washing of feet isn’t a one time act. It needs to be done regularly. As we walk in this earth and our feet get dirty, even hurt and wounded sometimes, we need others to come alongside us and help us rest and to prepare for the continued race ahead. Many times those who have a gift of serving others will be attentive to the need to wash the feet of others, but they themselves need times of refreshing and encouragement too. The world leaves its dust on us daily and often we wonder why, at the end of the day, we feel as though we have been in a fight. Maybe the race feels too long and too hard today, with no end in sight. We need to keep our eyes on the Lord and ask Him to bring someone to wash our feet, to help you in this journey. Maybe He’ll encourage us to wash the feet of someone else. Washing of feet can also be accomplished through serving others, showing kindness, love, care, giving a kind word or even just an attentive ear. A timely word goes a long way and listening ears may be just what the other person needed. There are so many ways to do that. May we all be aware of our family in Messiah and be willing to serve others with love and joy to wash their feet, being mindful of the fact that ours may also be washed in the process.

Picture taken by Heidi L.

A Different Kind of Complete

I was on hike recently with a group in the North of Israel. It was an easy trail, but rocky. I wore my hiking shoes that I had for a few years and they looked almost new, even though I used them a lot. Half way along the trail, I felt something was wrong with one shoe and it felt like I was walking with flip flops. I looked down and saw that part of the sole of one shoe was coming apart and was almost completely torn. I removed the loose part, thinking I could fix it somehow later, so I kept walking. A few minutes later, I stopped again and this time saw that the entire sole was detached and crumbling. That is not something I wanted to see in the middle of a hike, especially in a rocky and thorny terrain. I stood in the place where I stopped, waiting for some people who I thought might have the gear to help me out. Amazingly, two guys at the end of the group had some special tape so they “bandaged” both my shoes, as the other one was coming apart by then too. They commented that the shoes were on their last hike and that there is no way to restore them. We all hoped they would last until the end of the trail. I couldn’t help but imagine myself continuing the hike with my socks and just prayed God would prevent the shoes from falling apart until the end of the hike. When we reached a stop, some people looked at my shoes and joked how silly they looked with the two kinds of tape on them but also how odd that the shoes would crumble like that, especially with how new they looked. We eventually shortened the hike because of something else, but I was grateful that my shoes held until the end, as with every step, more pieces separated and fell off. What an experience!

I told my mom what happened and sent her pictures of my shoes, which gave her a good laugh. It really was funny and I also laughed as I verbally expressed what happened. But, the more I thought of it, I realized there was much to learn from these perfectly looking shoes that were falling apart.

How often do we look to others who seem to be holding it together, who appear not to have a care in this life – as if the vessel of their life is intact, “complete”, without any “visible” fractures. How often do we feel embarrassed when we know of our own brokenness and cracks? How much more are we aware of them when we’re around those who seem to be “complete”?

Watchman Nee, in his book “The Release of the Spirit”, encourages us, as believers, to look at the broken vessel in a good way. The brokenness enables the treasure within it to flow out. If the vessel is never broken, the contents remain inside. Many times we try to keep the vessel from breaking and focus on the vessel itself, instead of what it contains. What he said resonated with me as it is something I wrote about a lot in my blog. He added, “Many think that their outward man is more precious than their inward man. This becomes the problem confronting the church. One will treasure his cleverness, thinking he is quite important. Another will treasure his own emotions, esteeming himself to be more advanced than other people. Others highly regard themselves, because they feel they are better than others, their eloquence surpassed that of others, or their quickness of action and exactness of judgment are superior and so forth”. How true! 

A friend shared that as she was working with others to prepare an event, each person contributed an idea, except for her. Then someone said to her that there must be something she can do. The way it was said hurt her, as she felt self-conscious and thought that others considered her as being incapable and not as talented as the others. In other words, like an incomplete vessel looking at the perfection, talents and wisdom of the other vessels who are better than her. She felt very discouraged and shared with me that she didn’t even feel she had any talents or gifts with which she could serve. 

In another situation, someone who is very shy and quiet was thought to have something wrong with her, because she wasn’t as talkative or active like others. From my acquaintance with her, I know she was fine and had friends and that nothing was wrong. We are quick to judge others who are different from us, who don’t exhibit the characteristics we expect them to have. Interestingly, another person I know who is introverted spoke with me and shared that she felt something might be wrong with her for not being more outgoing. She felt she should be more like others, that she should try to change her personality to meet up with the expectations of others and be more socially acceptable. 

Looking at people with the anticipation of them being or behaving a certain way and labeling them as “imperfect” because they are different from what we expect of them, is judgmental and harmful. It is like judging a book by its cover – looking at the outside instead of at the inside. 

My shoes looked almost brand new. Yet, the falling apart occurred in seconds and without warning. Taping them up helped to keep the pieces together, temporarily. But, it didn’t take care of the real problem that was causing the shoes to crumble. Outwardly, they seemed good, when in fact, they weren’t. How many times do we as people “look good”, almost “perfect” on the outside when in reality we are near a breakdown? We might “bandage” ourselves so we won’t appear as if we’re breaking, but those bandages don’t hold for long. As Watchman Nee continued in his book, “We are not antique collectors. Nor are we ‘vase’ admirers. We should be those who desire to smell only the fragrance of the ointment”. 

I was reminded recently of the fractures that may appear in life and how God gently puts them back together. Some people I know went through or are now experiencing severe health issues, others are recovering from emotional hurt. These are cracks that appear in the vessel and there is no need to hide them. There is a need to take care of them, but not to “tape” everything together to appear fine. God works in each of our vessels, in each person who is broken to bring forth a beautiful, sweet savor that will not only glorify Him, but also encourage others in the process. He doesn’t leave us in our brokenness, but rather He puts the vessel back together, so it is more beautiful than before it became cracked, the lines and the scars being a testimony to His greatness. We will never be perfect in this life. We don’t need to try to be “complete” for the world’s sake, because we already are complete in Him It is a different kind of complete, one that remains despite the brokenness through which the fragrance of the knowledge of Him is released in every place (2 Cor. 2:14).

Redeemed from Shame – A Story

It was a hot day, like so many days before. The last thing she wanted to do was to take the long walk to the well. But, she knew that there would be little likelihood of anyone else going out at this time and that this was the right time to go out, when the sun was high in the sky. She lifted the empty jug and headed out of the city towards the ancient well, alone. Time and again, she longed for someone to talk to while walking the distance to the well, drawing the water and walking back to the village. Being treated as a stranger in the village where she grew up, with people gossiping about her and giving her stares as though they can’t tolerate her was the life that she became accustomed to. She knew she had made a lot of mistakes in her life and wanted to change and make things better for herself. But, she didn’t know how and was almost resigned to the fact that this is the way things will continue. “If only someone would talk to me, instead of talking behind my back. If only someone would try to help me“.  She longed for a friend, for someone to walk with, someone who would care for her and try to understand how difficult her life has been and not point an accusing finger at her. It was a long walk towards the well. Shame and disgrace followed her daily and without some kind of miracle, she thought it would never change.

As the woman drew closer to the well, she became aware of someone standing near it. He did not look familiar to her. She thought to herself, “Who is that? Why is he sitting at the well? There’s no one else around. Maybe this isn’t the right time to come here, after all.” But, she was filled with curiosity and felt that she was being drawn to continue on the path to the well. As she approached, she quickly discerned that this man was a Jew. Again her thoughts began to race. “What is he doing here?“. As soon as she reached the well, the Lord Yeshua was the first to speak and said to her “Give Me a drink”. He, too, was alone, as those who traveled with Him had gone into the city from which the woman came. The situation allowed for open discussion. The woman was surprised at His request and quickly replied, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?”. It seemed strange to her that he would ask her for water, as Jews and Samaritans had no dealings with one another. The woman did not argue, but began to lower her vessel into the well, glancing curiously at the One Who stood before her. “He seems…different… even…kind“, she thought to herself. His eyes looked at her with compassion, with a kind of comforting warmth that replaced the pounding heat of the day. Then He added: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 

This unexpected comment peaked the woman’s curiosity even more. She wondered how this stranger intended to bring not only water, but living water out of such a deep well without a jug or a bucket or another kind of vessel of some kind. She was totally unprepared for any discussion about God and couldn’t understand His statement regarding a gift of God. “Does God really care about me? What kind of gift is He talking about?” She needed to bring the conversation back to a human level and tried to compare the Lord Yeshua to our forefather, Jacob, whose ancient well supplied water to Jacob and his family and even his flocks, the well at which they were now standing. “Surely”, she thought, “this man is no greater than our father Jacob”. But, the Lord Yeshua was not there for idle conversation or for a discussion of man’s accomplishments or greatness. He brought the conversation back to a spiritual level and answered her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life”. The woman still did not understand. But, His words “shall never thirst” struck a nerve, particularly in the scorching heat of the day, when she made the trek to the well so that there would be water to drink in her home.  She quickly answered, “Sir, give me this water so I will not be thirsty, nor come all the way here to draw.” Yet His response was the last thing she expected to hear. “Go, call your husband and come here.” Caught by surprise and with no small amount of embarrassment, she lowered her head and said she had no husband, thinking of the man she was living with who was not her husband. The Lord Yeshua confirmed what she said, mentioning her five husbands and the paramour with whom she was now living. What He said startled her. They never met, she never even saw Him anywhere and she didn’t know His name. “How could this man know so much about my life? Has he been talking to the people in the village who are always mocking me? No. He has to know all this from another source. He has to be a prophet! A real prophet and He’s talking to me. What is going on? I’m not comfortable with this conversation focusing on me.” The woman just wanted to change the subject from her sinful lifestyle, because every time the topic came up in the village, she became a source of shaming and mocking. All she ever felt from people was their contempt, their dumping guilt and reproach on her. She messed up her life, but there was no one who ever tried to help her to get her back on the right track, or even to speak kindly to her. So she changed the topic, bringing up one of the points of contention between Jews and Samaritans – the place of worship. Yeshua went along in the conversation, but made it clear that she and the Samaritans worshipped what they didn’t know, but the Jews knew that “salvation is from the Jews” and that God is more concerned with worship from the heart than worship from a place and that He was seeking those who would worship the Father in spirit and in truth. Those words penetrated her heart and she responded with a sense of understanding and an expectation long hoped for: “I know that Messiah is coming; when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” She expressed what she knew, as well as what all hoped for. The Lord’s answer was clear and straightforward: “I who speak to you am He.”

The woman not only heard all these things but took them to heart as she realized what had happened. The relatively short conversation was now over. The Lord’s disciples were returning from the city. Now, it was her turn to go. But, in her excitement, over what she had heard, an excitement that she hadn’t felt in years, she left her vessel at the well and ran back into the village. In the heat of the middle of the day, she began to talk with everyone she saw. She knew they had to hear. “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Messiah, is He?” She believed He was. No, more than that. She knew He was. People were stopped in their tracks. They were commenting to one another, “Isn’t this that woman, you know, that one? What happened to her? She seems …different”. A handful stopped to listen to her, then a crowd and then multitudes. And now, she was leading them to the Lord Yeshua! Her brief testimony “He told me all the things that I have done”, provided the opportunity for people to hear for themselves. He accepted their invitation to stay with them and after two days, many said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Their response to the woman was not meant to push her away, but was intended as an encouragement. They themselves heard and believed in the Messiah, the One they were waiting for.

The woman didn’t realize it at the time, but a change had taken place in her life as well as in her heart that day. After hearing the Lord Yeshua speak, the people in the village began to change their attitude towards her. When confronted with her sinful life, she repented and strived to honor God in her life. It was hard, and she struggled with it, but for the first time ever, she wasn’t alone in the struggle. Others now reached out to help her. They, too, were convicted of sin and repented. Their lives were changed.

Time passed and the woman was no longer the subject of gossip and ridicule, but of praise. News from Jerusalem reached her village. She heard that the Lord Yeshua was accused by the religious leadership, mocked, laughed at, put to shame and then, crucified. If she could understand Who He was, why couldn’t they? When she heard that He had risen from the dead, her joy could not be contained. She understood that this Man at the well needed to be worshipped in spirit and in truth and that could only be accomplished by a changed life. He took away her reproach and shame by becoming a reproach for her and for us, and in the process, granting everlasting joy that flows from deep down within us.

Final thoughts on the Samaritan woman:

Shaming and gossip are real and sad phenomena in society, and the believing community is not exempt from them. It is important for us to remember that admonishing and shaming are not the same. Shaming is talking badly of someone, showing how that person is in the wrong and putting him down without trying to correct or help either the person or the situation. Admonishing is showing a brother or sister their wrongful behavior according to God’s Word and trying to help them. While it is important to admonish brothers and sisters in the faith if they deviate from the Word of Truth and live in a way that is dishonoring to God, it should be done in love. Firmly, but lovingly, we should admonish them and encourage them with the goal of bringing them to repentance, not to shame them or gossip about them.

There are fundamental issues on which we should not be willing to compromise, and if a brother or sister refuses to repent in these matters, we should relate to them in accordance with the dictates of God’s written instructions and not in accordance with our emotions. But we should always strive to do our best to bring them back to a right relationship with God. This holds true even if the issue is not a matter of sin in a person’s life, but just a disagreement with something someone said or did. We should not stop communicating with one another and certainly not gossip about that person. Shaming and gossip will only bring about division and can do considerable, unnecessary harm in relationships. Let us strive to give honor and glory to God not only in speech, but in action as well. It is part of worshipping God in spirit and in truth.

© Hannah Kramer

Giving honor where honor is due

While reading Matthew 8, I began to ponder the story of the centurion – a man with an important and powerful position, who was granted considerable authority by the Roman Empire to serve in a foreign land. What caused this man, who served an Empire hated by so many, to not only build a synagogue, but to also demonstrate love to the Jewish people that was so evident to those around him that they sought to help him.

I wondered what his background was, whether he was born a Roman or was raised as one, taken from his homeland as a child or a youth, as was the case with so many others at that time, and recruited into the military to serve the empire. What sparked his love for Israel and, especially, what led to his acknowlegement of the Lord Yeshua and to the recognition of His authority? He undoubtedly heard of Yeshua’s miracles and how the religious leadership opposed Him. Did the centurion’s love for Israel spring from a study of the Hebrew scriptures? Was he curious about the national hope of Israel that anticipated the coming of a Messiah? Not much was said about this man, apart from his exceptional behavior that led the Jewish religious leadership to want to help him because they thought he was worthy. The point that stood out for me was that the centurion didn’t see himself as worthy. His behavior was certainly contrary to the behavior of most of the Roman cohort, especially when they were vested with such authority and power. From a human point of view, he could have commanded that that the Lord Yeshua come to him and heal his servant. He could have sent soldiers to forcibly bring Yeshua to him. He could have exerted his position and imposed on Yeshua to do as he said. But the centurion did none of that. He viewed himself as unworthy and undeserving for Yeshua to even enter his house. When one considers the pride that evidenced much of the doings of the Roman Empire, this Centurion’s behavior towards the Jewish people and His attitude and esteem towards the Lord Yeshua were nothing short of amazing.

Yeshua returned the honor, acknowledging the greatness of the man’s, which also recognized the Lord’s authority. May it be that we would be the possessors of such faith! There is much to learn from this Centurion. We all have a role in society. Some have a job that comes with a grand title, some have degrees, others serve in certain ways. Most people see themselves as worthy of honor because of the role and position they have in society. Some actually seek recognition for it, like those who donate to various causes, who seek a sense of perpetuity by having their names inscribed on the cornerstones buildings or hospitals or other public places, so everyone would know who was behind its establishment. I doubt if the centurion was interested in having his name written on the cornerstone of the synagogue he built, or in having a plaque with his name on it that would be placed prominantly on one of its walls. There are others, of course, who also don’t consider themselves deserving of all attention and glamour, even though they might be the ones responsible for very helpful and meaningful things. This is not intended to say that credit should not be given when it is due. There is a time and place for everything. Yet the attitude with which one does things is critically important. The centurion didn’t help the Jews because he wanted credit and wanted to be patted on the back. He did it selflessly, seeing the need and doing what he can to meet that need.

As we serve in the fellowship, our attitude is also very important. Do we serve to be seen and heard and to receive the praise of men, or selflessly to serve the King? It is natural to want to be in the limelight. But, what about serving when others don’t see us and don’t know how hard you worked?

What is our attitude when we come to God in prayer? Do we list all the things we “did for Him” so He will answer our prayers because we are deserving? Or do we submit ourselves to Him because He is in authority and His will should be done, regardless and despite all we do or did?

The Lord Yeshua alone is worthy to receive honor, glory and praise. He has put us here so that we would acknowledge His authority and submit to it. He alone is the One Who will bestow honor on His servants at the proper time.

Tis mine to obey, tis His to provide

I am currently reading a book by Andrew Murray about abiding in Messiah. It is written as a daily devotional for the duration of a month. One of the things that left an impression on me is the statement: “Tis mine to obey, tis His to provide”. Murray elaborates on this in the succeeding devotions, but, in essence, the point is: We don’t need to worry about how we will be able to serve and do all that the Lord asks of us, because the strength and ability to do all these things, come from Him.

As I prepare for the new school year, these words have taken on an added meaning for me, especially in the context of “sowing and reaping” which have been in my mind since becoming a homeroom teacher. There was so much work to do during this week which filled up so quickly with meetings for the beginning of the school year. My mind has been racing with ideas for activities and topics that I want to share with my class. I hope these ideas will encourage them in their personal faith so that they will not only see their personal need for a savior, but also how they can grow in Him.

All this preparation can be overwhleming and may seem like a lot of work. But, when it’s all done, there is a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. Still, there is a danger of relying on all the work and effort we have done as teachers, as people, as workers in the field, hoping that the seeds that were planted, will not only grow but grow as we had hoped. I am reminded of an important fact, namely, that although we sow the seed, we are not the ones that make the seed grow. Our duty, is to work the field faithfully, knowing that this field, or whatever field we are working in, is not ours. It is His. So the growth of the seed is not our responsibility, it is His. Our responsibility is to sow and water, but it is God who causes the seed to grow and brings about the increase. He provides all that we need to work HIS field.

Another thing that I am learning is what I do with the field. Although my thoughts and ideas for my class seem to me to be good and useful, I still need to pray and see if this is what I God would have me do. Proverbs 19:21 says: “Many plans are in a person’s heart, but the advice of the Lord will stand.” We can have many plans in working a field and we should be diligent in our work and do it with joy and desire in our hearts. But, we need to always remember that the work we are called to do is in God’s field, so the work in it has to be accomplished according to His plan and will.

Working a field requires effort, consistency and faithfulness in all circumstances, both when things are fun and easy as well as when things are unclear, difficult and tiring. In all circumstances, God provides for us all that we need, to do that which He called us to do. Keeping that in mind helps us to rely completely on Him while laboring in the place where He has assigned us.

Whatever may be the field of your service, let us obey all that He asks us to do and remember, it is His to provide.

Friendship should not be taken for granted

It’s such a wonderful blessing to be able to share and pray with someone you know. It’s an even greater blessing when you trust that person and can call him/her your friend. 

I’ve come to appreciate the importance and value of the word “friend” and the need to use it sparingly. We have lots of acquaintances, but most of us have very few real friends. Being a “friend” makes an impact on the life of someone else, sometimes beyond what simple words can express. A friend is not one you necessarily talk to every day, or spend lots of time with. Rather, a friend is a person who “is there” for you, understands you, listens, accepts, prays, is one you can talk to freely and openly, someone with whom you can be yourself. Sometimes, you may not have talked together for a while, but once you do, it’s as though time and distance were of no consequence. This happened to me recently, when I spoke with a dear friend about some things at school and life. Just spending time together, especially in prayer, was very refreshing and encouraging. 

As I thought of this topic of friendship, I began to get a new appreciation of how precious it is that the Lord Yeshua called us, those who believe in Him, His friends. In John 15:15 Yeshua said “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, because all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you”. Isn’t that amazing? As we are His friends, He consented to reveal to us all that He heard from the Father. The Lord Yeshua chose us and appointed us to go and bear fruit so that whatever we ask the Father in His name, He may give us. It is interesting that this passage ends with Him commanding His disciples to love one another. Just as a friend loves at all times, we are to love one another. 

I’ve heard it said that if a person has five true friends in life, that is an incredible blessing. We don’t have many close friends. Sometimes, we feel that there is no one that we can even call a friend. But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, who is near to us and is alway available to us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. We can pray that God would bring us friends, who are friends indeed. He knows what we need and when we need it.

As important as it may be to have a friend, it is equally important to BE a friend to someone who needs a friend. By refreshing others, we are refreshed as well. Sometimes, being a friend requires “tough love”. But, if the love is genuine, God will prune us and enable us to bear much fruit for His glory.

To Clique or Not to Clique

Have you ever felt that what you see on social media isn’t real? If you know how social media works, you know almost everything you see isn’t really the way it is. But that is one side of things. The other side, which I got tired of seeing, is how prideful people are. I originally joined social media to see what friends across the ocean were doing, what was new in their lives, to see photos that were too heavy to send by email, to stay updated with them and with what was going on. As more people were added, I began to see the ugly side of social media. I understand the need to share things with others, to document seasons in life and have online memories to reflect upon later. But at some point, social media stopped being social. It became all about self. Look where “I” was, look at what “I” did, look who “I” was with, look at “my” accomplishments, look at how successful “I” am. Some of these posts also mention God and give Him thanks for what He has done. But, on the whole, when we look at all of them, who really gets the credit? Who really is honored? And what is the purpose of the posting?

Social media is a reflection of real-life attitudes. I never liked social cliques, and liked them even less when I saw them within the believing community. As a teen, finding close friends within the believing community was a challenge, because I always felt like an outsider, never part of a clique. But, by His grace, God always gave me close friends at different times in my life. Looking at people today, sadly I see these cliques continuing. Those “inside” often don’t see themselves as part of a clique, but that doesn’t change the reality. It’s great to spend time with friends and not to have to spend time with people who don’t make a positive impact on our lives. But sensitivity to others is diminished. Demonstrating love to others has faded. Most of us have experienced what it is like to be talking with someone, only to be interrupted by a third person who comes along, says “hello” and is warm towards the person I am talking to, but ignores me completely. Such behavior is not only rude and causes hurt. It demonstrates an unloving attitude towards the person now being left out of the picture. We can expect this from “the world”, but it is grievous when it is done within the Believing community. I wrote a few years ago in this post “When pride kicks in” how I felt that this type of behavior results from the failure, or refusal, to see others as beneficial to them, so they don’t see a reason to be kind or warm to them. Not everyone agreed with that, and I’m sure that some will not agree with what I say here. But, that is OK. The questions we need to consider then, are: Why do people behave like that? Why ignore one and be warm to another? Why invite all except for one?

I am not saying that we need to be close with everyone. That goes contrary to human nature. I am not close with everyone in my congregation, but I make the effort and try to be warm and kind to others, even those I don’t know. I don’t always succeed at that. Still, knowing what it is like to be left on the “outside”, I try to welcome those who are new or alone in the fellowship. Social media only reflects what we see in reality, the pride of life, calling others to pay attention to the citadel of self. I do have an Instagram account, as you may have seen on this blog, but it is a business account, not personal. I believe that if there is something important for me to share with others, I will do so with people I can truly call “friends”. Not social media friends. It’s not wrong to share things on social media. But when we do share, we need to ask ourselves why we want to share what we share.

I want to encourage us all to keep our eyes and hearts open to people around us, especially those in the faith. Let us pray that we can genuinely show sensitivity to others, to act as Messiah would act, to think as He would think, to speak as He would speak. Loving my neighbor as myself can only be done from the inside out. I know that I am not there yet, but I press on, knowing that the work He began in me will be brought to completion. A handful of the followers of the Lord Yeshua turned the then-known world upside down – all without computers and smart phones. Their “social media” was their testimony about the Lord. What is ours?

Reflections of an Unexpected Year

The lives of most people on this planet have been changed by events of this past year – a pandemic, repeated lockdowns and isolations, businesses opening and closing (some permanently), schools conducting classes online, then in person, then back online and back in person, but with restrictions. Holidays were allowed to be celebrated with immediate family only, then larger groups were allowed to meet again. Congregations conducted services online, then in person with restricted numbers. You name it and somehow, in some manner, our lives concerning it were affected

We are used to making decisions and plans based on what we are doing or expect to be doing, where, how, when and with whom. We plan not just for tomorrow, but for next month, next year and even further in the future, in anticipation of the expectations of our lives. In 2020, all of our plans and short-term goals changed. Some paused and reflected on the truth of the statement in James 4:13-15 – “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. For you are just a vapor that appears for a little while, and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” The past year gave us a hard taste of that reality. Yet, despite grasping the wisdom available to us in the Scriptures we rely on our own understanding and try to carry on with our lives. Instead of being thankful for what we have been given, we get weighed down by the cares and concerns of this world often forget to say “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that“.

Many times we do pause to see what the Lord desires for us to and we take a step in one direction or another, based on His leading. But then, questions often creep in causing us to conclude that what we planned doesn’t seem possible. I know what it is like trying to figure out the next step, the when, the how, the where, while wanting all my questions to be answered immediately, so I won’t have to worry about them later. During the past two years, I chose to focus entirely on my soap and candle business, along with translation work, and it all was going well. Then, along came the Covid pandemic and many things seemed to come to an abrupt halt. I prayed again about going into teaching, as I had my teaching certificate from a few years ago, but never formally pursued teaching at a school. There were too many unanswered questions about what such a change in direction would require from me. I applied to one school I that I had previously considered and was accepted. I was also offered to be a homeroom teacher, which I agreed to. But, this job required me to move cities, find an apartment, attend a different fellowship, as well as many other decisions. Even though I didn’t have all the answers, I firmly believed this is what God wanted me to do. So I knew He would work out the details. And He did. Everything started to come into place in its own time. This doesn’t mean there weren’t hard moments in teaching, in relocating, in changing day-to-day involvements. Things I expected to go one way and went the other way. But I knew that despite it all, I was and I am where God wants me to be.

It is an almost incredible comfort to have this assurance of being where God wants you to be and doing what He wants you to do. As I talk with believers about this past year, most of them also express that their lives are different today from what they expected it to be. I always try to encourage others to walk through the door that God opened for them. He doesn’t make mistakes. They may not see how it will work out, but we serve a God Who sees the end from the beginning, Who opens doors no one can close, and closes doors no one can open. We can rest in Him and be confident that He sovereignly guides us through all the changes we experience in this life.

There is a nice saying I heard from a movie called “Overcomer”, which says: “Your identity will be tied to whatever you give your heart to”. It is true. Our identity is in Messiah, no matter where we are, what work we do, where we serve at or the things we have a talent for. If our heart is on a certain job we are hoping for, a person, a skill we have or a place we are in, and those things change, will who we are change as well? If we give our heart to God, Who never changes, not even in a pandemic, we will stand firm when the world is shaking, because He is the source and the place of our identity. There is always much for which to be thankful. Are we?

© Hannah Kramer