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.

Breaking Down the Catch-Phrases

I have come to realize recently how much believers use catch-phrases. We share them as memes, as pretty pictures on Facebook or simply as quotes on WhatsApp. If someone sends a catch-phrase to us, we might even go “Yes! Amen! How true!” and so forth. We may be very well-intentioned as we do that.  But do we ever stop to consider what these expressions really mean and what we really think about them?

Let’s stop for a moment and contemplate the meaning of just a few of these catch-phrases and examine them in light of God’s Word. I’m not saying all of them are wrong. Some, in fact, hold very encouraging truths. But when we just go “Amen” for every one without thinking about it, even how it affects us or applies to our lives, our thoughts tend to revolve around the catch-phrase and not around the Bible. I’m sure we can all come up with an example or two, in the different areas of our lives. 

You’ve probably heard things like – 

“Waiting for God to show up.”

“God did it again.”

“Our hearts should break over what breaks God’s heart”.

Or in things related to marriage – 

“A woman’s heart should be so hidden in Christ, so that a man should seek HIM first to find it.”

“Looking for a Boaz/Looking for a Ruth”

“Looking for a proverbs 31 woman!”

And so forth.

We can delve into each of these in a separate post. I certainly have done my share of using catch-phrases or thinking along the lines of some of them. However, I have come to realise that some of them not only aren’t true, but are un-Biblical expressions. For example: “Waiting for God to show up.” That is an un-Biblical statement. God is always present. The question is whether we are aware of His presence or acknowledge it. Just because we don’t always have things done our way or get the outcome we want, doesn’t mean God isn’t there or that He is not in control. We need to be careful not to turn God into a puppet, where our wish is His command. The same is true for “God did it again!” So God did it only if it’s the way we expect it to be done? He is in control and loves us, so He does what is best for us, not what we want. He deals with us according to our needs, not our greeds (also a catch-phrase).

“Our hearts should break over what breaks God’s heart!” – Are we really ready for God to purge out of hearts those things that break His heart? God is holy and we have a long way to go to fully understand what it takes to conform our hearts and minds to His holiness. Do our hearts break over the evil all around us? Our considerations of what is evil and what is impure fall far short of His. Do we REALLY desire for God to break our hearts over all of the sins in the world that break His heart? He is too holy to even look upon sin. Do we indulge ourselves in it and try to justify why our standard is better than His? Or is this just another nice catch-phrase in a song or part of our daily communications with one another in an effort to display holiness?

What about “Looking for a Boaz/Looking for a Ruth” or “Looking for a Proverbs 31 woman”? What do we mean by those statements? Do we really think that there is another Biblical Boaz or Ruth somewhere “out there”? There was only one Boaz and only one Ruth. The Proverbs 31 woman is not Mrs. Lemuel, but a description of an ideal woman, whose characteristics are to be aspired to. Can we desire and pray for our spouses to be like Boaz, like Ruth, like the woman described in Proverbs 31? Absolutely! We can pray that our spouses be like them – people who are first and foremost, born again and who love the Lord with all their heart. We need to have a correct understanding of what it means to fear the Lord – to have an awesome reverence for Him. If we draw closer to the Lord, He will draw closer to us. We will develop a love for His Word and a desire to study it to show ourselves approved and able to rightly divide the Word of Truth. We need to cultivate a Godly work ethic and encourage our spouses in the areas of their involvements, to encourage them in the Lord and to build them up, without using catch-phrases and, certainly, not those that are un-Biblical.

There is so much more to say about this matter. We use words to communicate, but words have meanings and we should consider them before we join the masses and use meaningless catch-phrases. May God grant us wisdom to discern “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, [that our minds might] dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8). If we do, our expressions will be more Biblically based.

© Hannah Kramer

When answers the heart

“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” Ezra 7:10

This has got to be one of the busiest months I’ve had in a long time. In addition to my studies and soap business, I’ve been preparing for a community fair where I will have a display table for my soaps. In addition, I have at least one conference every week, sometimes even twoYes, do mean EVERY WEEK this month. And it’s only mid May 🙂

Last weekend, I attended a young people’s conference, where we briefly talked about Nehemiah. I say briefly because this book is so so rich and full of things to learn and talk about, that one day of sermons was not enough. I feel we barely scratched the surface of the treasures this book has to offer. The speakers talked about how we can all be Ezras and Nehemiahs, in that we can all be people who can lead in the placewhere God put us – among believers or among those in the the secular world. Then they asked what we had on our hearts that we would want to see happening in our land.

I don’t believe we are all called to be an “Ezra” or “Nehemiah” in the sense that every person will hold a public, on-the-front-line position. But, I do maintain that each and every believer has a unique role in building the body of Messiah, so that it would a praise to the LordBoth “Ezra” and “Nehemiah” had a heart for their work. But first and foremost, before their work, they had a solid faith in God and belief in what God wanted them to do.

Back to the conference  Thinking about the question that was posed, my initial thought was to see the nation circumcise their hearts (spiritual circumcision), in accordance with various passages in Scripture (for example Deut. 30:6, Jer. 4:4). Then thought about what Ezra and Nehemiah actually did. One of my favourite verses is the one at the top of this post, about Ezra preparing his heart for the Lord. He prepared his heart to seek the Lord. How amazing is that? Thinking about it, I realised one must have his heart circumcised (the preparation) prior to seeking the Lord. This allows for seeking the Lord with all our hearts, which would allow Him to be found by us (Jer. 29:13-14). After all, the matter of the heart is heart of the matter.

There are many gifts in the Body, all meant to build, encourage and strengthen the Body. Some exercise their gifts upfront”, while others do so behind the scenes. The calling to get the work started is something the Lord lays on people’s hearts. Just as He laid it upon the heart of king Cyrus to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, so today God awakens His people. In that sense, we are all called to be an Ezra or Nehemiah and answer God’s call. But, not everyone follows through and completes the work assigned, even after a good start.

Yet, just as Ezra was awakened by God, he also prepared his heart to know the Lord intimately. That is something I wish for myself and I know many others do as well – to prepare to seek the Lord, to do it, to rise to His calling and encourage others to be obedient to Him. And this causes me to wonder: when our hearts are stirred by the Lord, how will we respond?

© Hannah Kramer

Keep your eyes on God

“He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord favors those who fear Him, those who wait for His lovingkindness”. (Psalm 147:10-11)

How easy it is to look to man, to view some people as perfect, wishing we were like them, at times idolizing them and then being disappointed with ourselves for not being like them, How easy it is to expect people to be perfect. And then, when we see their flaws, we become disappointed with them, for not meeting up to the standards we think they should stand up to, or the standards that we set up.

I went mith my mom to a women’s meeting, where she was asked to speak on “Parenting and raising up children”. Among some of the things that came up as she taught was the dire need to teach the children and youth to know in Whom they believe in and why, and to realize the importance of fellowship. The women shared that the youth in that particular congregation was almost none existent. The members of that fellowship have teenage children, but the problem is that they no longer want to come to fellowship. This poses a serious concern for the future of that congregation. The women shared that it wasn’t always this way. It is only in recent years, after this generation saw conflicts and inconsistencies between what the people said and what they did that the problems began to arise there. The parents and friends that they trusted and followed for so long, left them broken, upset, confused and doubting.

Disappontment from people! I’m sure everyone has experienced it at one time or another. I certainly have. We see people behave in ways we don’t understand and we become upset at them, sometimes even very upset. It can even result in our becoming upset with God. Why? Is it because deep down, we expect them to be perfect? Maybe. Perhaps we have an expectation that believers should be perfect. Well, that’s not the case. Our faith doesn’t make us perfect and flawless. We err, we make mistakes, we don’t always do things right. But, for the most part, we’re trying to do what is right. As human beings, we won’t be perfect until we meet the only One who is perfect, our savior, the Lord Yeshua. We are still in the process of being conformed to His image and likeness. But, this transformation cannot done by us in our own wisdom, or by our own strength. It can and will be accomplished only by the Holy Spirit working in us.

So why do we still become disappointed from people? Maybe the question should be, “Why do we look to people?” I have expectations from people. I expect that when they need to do something, they’ll do it. I expect that when something needs to be dealt with and taken care of, that the right thing will be done by the right people and in the right way – regardless of circumstances or what people say or do.

Being disappointed is natural. There is nothing wrong with it in and of itself. However, the problem lies deeper, in where we set our eyes. I have heard of people whose disappointment in people resulted in them leaving the fellowship of believers and then turning away from the faith. Disappointment can come from how believers talk, how they relate to one another, judge one another, patronize one another and because they gather in exclusive “clicks”. I recently heard of a young man who is still in high school and dating non-believers. When he went to a youth camp once, he was so repulsed by the behavior of the youth, he decided to look to the world for friendships. He said that the girls he dated behaved more civilized than those who claimed to be believers. Do you see the danger of setting your eyes on man? It can make you decide that because believers act a certain way, they reflect what God is like and then anger and frustration are turned against God.

It is okay to have expectations. But we need to set our eyes on God and keep them there. We need to push forward and fight the good fight of faith for God. He will never disappoint you. The teenagers from the beginning of this post have set their eyes on people. They were hurt and they had a right to feel upset and disappointed. But, if the basis for their coming to fellowship was people, then the basis was wrong and unstable to begin with. Congregation fellowship should bring about growth in faith, hope and love (Heb. 10:22-24). That’s why we should encourage one another not to forsake being in fellowship.

Keeping our eyes on God can also help us in our behavior towards others. Do we seek to please man, do we want others to see “how good we are”, or “how talented”, or do we want to be “part of the group”? Or, is my motivation to please God, to revere Him, and wait for His lovingkindness? In both situations, when people are the ones we look to, what eventually happens is comparison. I compare myself to someone else, either because I want to be like them – or I want to be better than them. Both are wrong, since the only one we should desire to be like is Messiah Yeshua. And we need to be like Him. We need to be careful not to compromise on Biblical principles and to conform to what the world tries to mould us into. God doesn’t accept us because you’re popular, successful or good looking. He accepts us because of our faith in the blood of the Lord Yeshua that was shed for us. We are His workmanship and He made us for His glory.

If we are still looking to people today instead of looking to God, we need to change the focus of our attention and the direction of our eyes. As the prophet Micah said: “But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me”. (Micah 7:7).

© Hannah Kramer

Feeling God’s heart

“…my heart is turned within me, my compassions are kindled together” (Hosea 11:8).

I recently watched a movie called “Time Changer”. Although it is not a Hollywood quality production, it was well made and very moving. It dealt with the changing times, how society has changed for worse, morals are no longer rooted in God’s word, and believers are living in apathy. The plot, in short, so as not to spoil it for whoever wants to watch, is about a professor who writes a book in which he claims morals do not need to be explained according to God’s word. Meaning, stealing is wrong just because it’s wrong, but no need to say it’s wrong because God says so. A colleague of his sees a problem in such education, and sends him over a hundred years into the future. There, this professor sees the deteriorating society, how believers compromise over the truth, and more than that – when he is invited to go to a movie with a group from a church he visited, he is shocked when the name of The Lord is blasphemed on the screen. He runs out to try to stop the screening of the film and is viewed as crazy. When he conveys his feelings to the people from the church, they think he is legalistic and say they could have gone to worse movies. “It’s not that big a deal, it is only a movie”, they said. The movie goes on and the man is seen praying and feeling deep sadness over what his culture has become.

This man’s feelings, depict on the screen, what many prophets have said throughout the Bible, especially what Hosea said and felt.

Hosea was told by God to marry a harlot. Now this woman might have already been one when Hosea married her, or she might have become one after their marriage. Either way, Hosea suffered much from her behavior. He had a child from her, and then she conceived and gave birth twice more. Some scholars say it is possible the last two were not Hosea’s children, but a result of her prostitution. The Bible does not specifically say if that is the case. However, we can imagine that he might have wondered at times if they were, particularly if she conceived at the times she was out in the streets, betraying him.

How did Hosea feel? In the rest of the book, God describes the nation of Israel as one that had betrayed him, hurt him and turned her back on him. He has reached out many times with loving arms, yet Israel has chosen the idols and other gods instead. Hosea knew all too well the feeling God was conveying – a husband longing for his wife to return to him, willing to forgive her, hurting when others mock her, and wishing to wipe away her tears and disgrace.

Hosea felt God’s heart and his own heart was aching. In chapter 11, verse 8, we read God says “my heart is turned within me, my compassions are kindled together”. Here, God plainly shows His aching heart.

Our Lord Yeshua called out to the Jews of the time in Matthew 23:37-39 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’.” The Lord Yeshua’s heart was going out towards his people, full of compassion. Praise God for never leaving the nation of Israel and for loving the people whom He called with an everlasting love!

Do we feel God’s heart? I don’t know how many of us can say we know how Hosea felt. But do we care about what God cares? Do we love what he loves and hate what he hates? I know I still have a way to go to fully understand and feel as God does about things around me. I compromise, saying at times “it’s only a movie”, or “there isn’t anything we can do to change that”, or “it’s just a show”. But, what if we as believers stopped compromising and being apathetic and started acting as salt should act? Stopping corruption and deterioration. What if we said blaspheming on the screen is wrong and we didn’t go to see a movie just because that is in it, if we didn’t watch a show with homosexuals, even if it’s a reality show, because it is giving them a platform and showing it is okay and normal to do what they do? What if a movie is about other gods – is it still just a movie? What if we stopped compromising on the way we dress, the language we use, the attitude we have towards one another, the way we interact with each other? What if we showed more love, compassion and reflected God’s love to our brothers and sisters in Messiah Yeshua?

What if we were different and started to make an impact? I’m not perfect, and do not claim to be. I am a work in progress. But, for a long time, I have had this feeling – what if I felt God’s heart? What would change first of all in me? And then, what can I do to change society around me? Do I ache as I see mockery on the streets, in schools, on screen? Do I long for my people to return to the loving hands of God, who’s heart is turning within him?

The man in the movie was called legalistic. That is not the question here. It is whether or not we follow God’s word. Period. I pray that I will feel God’s heart. That requires drawing closer and closer to him. I want that. And I hope that we as a nation, the nation of Israel, will return to the loving arms who raised them, and call out to our Lord Yeshua and that the church will strive to keep itself as a pure bride, without blemish, waiting for her groom.

© Hannah Kramer