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.

Eyes of Compassion – A Story

Peter sat at the corner of the house, his head on his knees, arms on his head. His tears wouldn’t stop. The overwhelming sense of guilt. The Lord knew it would happen and even told him it would.

For three years he followed his Teacher – three years in which he witnessed miracles so extraordinary, so unique, so touching, that they were almost beyond belief. Blind could see, lame could walk, deaf could hear, sick were healed, dead were brought back to life. For three years he sat at the Lord’s feet. He heard Him speak with an authority that he never heard before from anyone else. He saw Him transform right before his eyes, shining brighter than snow, standing with Moses and Elijah. Oh, so many memories of that entire time now all seemed to flood his thoughts. And the more he remembered, the more he cried in anguish.

That particular night seemed to last forever. Peter really thought that he would be the one to never deny the Lord. Oh, he could fling a sword, he was prepared to die for Him. But to live for Him? To acknowledge Him before others? Peter’s mind went through the events of that night, minute by minute. The Lord was taken by so many soldiers, as if coming they were coming for a criminal and He was led to the house of the High Priest. Peter fled with the rest of the disciples, but followed Yeshua to the house. John was able to let him in. Peter watched and heard the interrogation going on inside, including the mocking, the beating, the spiting and the humiliation of the Lord. The King, whose kingdom was not of this world, was treated with less dignity than a slave. 

And then came the moment of truth when he was asked: “You were with Him, weren’t you?” “What are you talking about?” – his first denial. He thought that he can’t be found to be there; no one must know he was a disciple. “If they treat my Master this way, after all He had done…what will become of me?” Fear crept into Peter’s heart. He loved the Lord, but seeing Him now, not defending himself, not responding to the attacks, confused him. He did not understand. “You WERE with Him, you are Galilean”. Peter tried to deny again, swearing he did not know Yeshua. His second denial. “I just want to listen to what is going on inside…” he thought. A third time someone identified him as a disciple. This time, Peter cursed and denied – the third time. Suddenly, the cock crowed. Peter froze as he began to turn, almost without control, to look back inside the house. Yeshua turned His head and looked at him. Amidst all the mockery and beating, Yeshua knew exactly where to look. “Those eyes, He knows“, Peter said to himself. Remorse and anguish overwhelmed him, as he fled from the courtyard. 

Peter remembered the look in the eyes that looked at him. The more he thought of it, the more he realised those eyes were not filled with judgment or anger, but rather, compassion. Yeshua knew this would happen. 

Now, Yeshua is being led to the cross and there is nothing any of them can do. In the midst of the sorrow and anguish, Peter thought, “I must see Him, at least from afar, one last time“. He went and stood at a distance as he saw his beloved Lord carrying a cross on His bruised back, bleeding, unrecognisable from all the beatings and lashes the Romans inflicted on Him. Peter wanted to cry, but his eyes were already red from the tears shed over his own actions. He watched and followed, as they led Yeshua to the cross. There, he saw Miriam, Yeshua’s mother weeping, falling to the ground at the sight of her son, as the nails were driven into His hands and legs. “No mother should see her son die, not like this”, he thought. Emotions were raging inside of Peter, he felt as if he were in a dream, not being able to wake up. Suddenly, the sky went dark and people began to panic. He looked and saw a centurion thrust a spear into Yeshua’s side. That was more than Peter could bare to watch. He was broken. He was overwhelmed. He fled the scene.

A few days later, as he met with the rest of the disciples, no one mentioned what happened. They all knew. They had all heard Yeshua say it would happen. The pain they were all feeling was enormous, as if a member of their own family had died. Peter was beyond being comforted, as guilt lay heavily on his heart. Then there was a commotion and women shouting, “We saw Him! We saw the Lord!” The disciples were startled as a few women came bursting in the room, claiming to have seen the Lord. “He is alive, Yeshua is alive, just like He said!” Peter’s mind was racing. He quickly got up, John along with him and they ran towards the tomb where Yeshua was placed. Peter ran like never before, but John outran him. They made it to the tomb and it was empty, just like the women said. “He’s alive!” Peter tried to think. “What will He say to me? What will I say to Him? How can I face Him again after what I’ve done?”

A short time passed and the disciples were back in Galilee, fishing again, after more than three years of not fishing. It was hard work, but one that Peter enjoyed and gave him some peace. “Look to the shore!” someone yelled. Peter looked up along with the disciples. “It’s Yeshua!” Immediately, he jumped into the water and rushed to get to Yeshua, who had prepared a meal for them, some fish and bread. Peter didn’t say a word, he didn’t know what to say, what to expect. Yeshua asked him, “Do you love me more than these?” Peter looked into those eyes that stared into his.  Three times Yeshua asked him if he loves him. “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You”. Those eyes that were once filled with sadness and compassion now seemed full of love as Yeshua told him to feed His lambs, to tend and shepherd His sheep.

Something had happened. Peter knew it. Healing had taken place at that moment. The guilt and shame Peter felt earlier were gone. The Lord, His Lord, had not condemned him but, rather, welcomed him and showed him forgiveness, mercy and grace. Years later, as Peter was about to die for his faith, he understood. Living for the Lord Yeshua is the greatest sacrifice he could have done, and in his dying for the Lord, he knew he had completed the race.

© Hannah Kramer

Crossroads

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful (John 14:27)

I spent the weekend with some friends hiking and camping. It was a fun time, as well as sweet time of fellowship. After worship in the evening, some opened up about what they were going through in life, and a common theme that emerged was that many were at a crossroad. There were many decisions that needed to be made, some more important, some less important. Some of those decisions would affect their lives for the next several months, others for the next few years.

It was interesting how in a way we all reach a crossroad and, while we may know the general direction in which we want to go to, it’s the actual roads that need to be taken to get there, which are hard to choose. Sometimes, even the general direction is unknown.

I’m finishing my studies for a Master’s degree soon and am hoping to hand in my thesis in the next couple of weeks. It’s an exciting time, yet in a way both peaceful and frightening . I am glad to be finished with it, yet the road ahead seems a bit unclear. I am glad to have the extra time to do other things I need to get done or want to do. People keep asking me what my plans are for next year and what I want to do with my degree. Honestly, I don’t know. One friend described a decision she had to make for something she wanted to do during the summer. It would affect where she would live and work and it was hard for her to reach a decision. She half-jokingly said how easy it would be if God just sent her a note telling her what to do. I guess we all wish that in a way. It would be much easier to choose a job, studies, know who your spouse would be, where to go and what to do at every crossroad. Yet, God wants US to choose. Yes, He knows beforehand what and how we will choose, but He wants us to trust Him in the roads we take. After all, He didn’t create robots.

One verse that I remember learning as a child and which appears at the top of this post, was “let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid”. We all have concerns about the future, worries that we might take the wrong turn in the road, perhaps even fears. But God wants us to trust Him, not to be worried or afraid. I know this is easier said than done, but this is where faith comes in. My dad has a saying which exemplifies this perfectly: For All I Trust Him.

Whatever the crossroad you face right now, whether it is work, studies, having a spouse, traveling, or ________ (you fill the gap), know that God is with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He will show you which road to take. It may be before you reach the crossroad, or when you stand right at it.

Are you at a crossroad? If you were, what helped you decide what to do?

© Hannah Kramer

Seasons

“All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent.” (Isaiah 28:29).

In the third chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes, we are told by the wisest of men that there is a time for everything. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). It is probably the best-known chapter in the Book of Ecclesiastes, and is as relevant to us today, as when it was written.

As seasons come and go, we experience changes in nature. Yet despite the recurring seasons every year, no season is like another that year, or even like the season the previous year. Nor will the following year be exactly the same in its seasons, although the names for the different seasons remain.

So it is in the seasons of life. We have our Summers, Winters, Springs and Falls, yet each season is different. Spring this year may be completely different from spring of last year. And it is definitely not the same as winter.

As humans,  we have no control over the changing of the seasons and times, yet sometimes we wish we did. “If only I could fast forward to a certain time”, or “If only I could press ‘pause’ on the present”, or “If only I could rewind, just once”, and the like. We yearn to change things, either that were or will be.

We all have these moments, don’t we? We may be going through a rough time and wishing the cold blizzard would just pass and the newness of Spring would arrive, bringing with it sweet smells of fresh flowers – the change from April showers to May flowers. Or, we may be sweating in the blazing summer sun, working hard and wishing for a break, a change of some sort.

What about making the most and best of where we are now? Why not live in the season we’re experiencing, while preparing for future season?

Seasons are varied and I will address but a few.

Singleness. All too often, believers tend to relate to singles as being poor and miserable, just because they are single, especially if they reach a certain age. I think singles contribute to that quite a bit by the attitude they have towards the subject of marriage and singleness, especially if they are depressed by it or show desperation.

This could be a fruitful season in our lives to serve God and the brethren. Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians 7:32-36 that an unmarried person is concerned about the things of the Lord and how to serve him. This is a unique opportunity to serve where married people sometimes can’t. We should pray to use this time wisely, and not just wait for another season.

It’s time for believers to encourage the single people to serve, to show them that they are welcome as they are, that there is nothing wrong with them for being single, because there isn’t! It’s time to involve them as full citizens of the Kingdom and not as second-class citizens. God knows our hearts. He knows our desires, longings and dreams. He does have the perfect plan for each of us. We need to accept this season as a gift until he chooses to give us another gift.
God controls everything. It’s either we believe it or we don’t and how we relate to God’s sovereignty in this matter will determine us attitude in all seasons.

The gift of old age. “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness”.(Proverbs 16:31). Young people don’t always appreciate their elders. I don’t mean the leaders in our congregations, but rather those who are of older age and are mature in their thinking. We put so much emphasis on age. Why? It is not a factor of anything but of how long a person lived.

A common attitude, even among older people, is that the world belongs to the young. Does it really? Do our elders have no room or say anymore? Have they nothing to contribute? I believe they have much to give, much wisdom to impart, much love to show, if only given the chance. If only the young of age would seek it. We should not underestimate or judge older age, or any age, for that matter. A Titus 2 woman is an older and wiser woman, who is seasoned in life and can teach younger ones better than, perhaps, their own peers.

If you are young, do not despise old age or view it poorly. You have a lifetime of experiences to learn from. If you are older, you have a lifetime of experiences to share.

Loss and need for a friend. Going through a time of loss is difficult, particularly if it is experienced alone. Perhaps someone special is far from you and you long for the close friendship you had. This too is a season and it will pass. It’s not easy, but you do have one friend who does not change. He goes through all the seasons with you and is the same then and now. The Lord Yeshua. He is a friend that time and distance cannot overcome. Trust him. He can give you another human friend as well in time. Maybe now He wants you to learn to rely on Him first.

Whatever season we may be in now, we need to live in it and do our best to glorify God in it. We shouldn’t try to live in another season. But we can prepare for it, as the farmer plants seeds in anticipation of rain. After the rain, he reaps the harvest.

If you’re single, prepare yourself for marriage, yet serve as you can where God placed you today.

If you need a friend, pray for someone that both of you will be able to encourage and build one another. And ask God to show you if there is someone else who needs a friend. Maybe you can be that person.

If you’re older in age and feel out of the loop, pray to see where you can help others, perhaps who are younger, who need guidance. Be a Titus 2 woman (or Titus 1 man) and be a guide.

Try not to compare seasons. Every season in life, like each of us, is different. Try to encourage and build up others in the circumstances that they are in now. Encourage them keep to their eyes on The Lord and not on themselves. It will help us all to value the time we have now.

Be thankful in all seasons.

© Hannah Kramer