Look Up

“and My people who are called by My name shall humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Sky

We are living through extraordinary times. Nearly every corner of the globe has been affected by the coronavirus, with multitudes getting sick and many dying. Reactions to this pandemic have been varied. Some see it as no more than a conspiracy of sorts, a way for more government control and intervention in every day life. Others see it as a very serious plague, often panicking and buying as much food and supplies as they can in order to be ready for prolonged quarantine. Still others are somewhere in between, seeing the severity of the situation, but still trying to maintain a cheerful and positive outlook. After all, “A joyful heart is good medicine. But a broken spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22).

There is no doubt that many are suffering because of the situation. For some, even though they are healthy, they cannot risk visiting elderly parents or have the parents stay with them for fear of putting the parents at risk of getting sick. Social distancing is affecting many who want to see friends and family. So it is not just the illness itself that is causing pain, it is its social consequences of it as well. 

Much can be said about the implications of this virus on society. I am sure researchers of many fields will study it for years to come, be it the effects on economy, politics, social life, family dynamics (hey, many parents are learning to enjoy family time, while others don’t know how to cope with long-term, constant contacts with spouse and children) and so forth. But one thing I doubt will be the subject of many studies in the future is how people relate to God during this time.

There are several instances of plagues described in scripture. Most notable are the plagues with which God smote Egypt while Israel was enslaved there. Another, when God punished Israel after King David numbered the nation without receiving God’s command to do so. King David, when asked to choose which punishment to receive for his actions, chose a plague, because he said “Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man” (2 Samuel 24:14).  

We don’t know why this pandemic is occurring now, and I certainly am not saying God sent it. An important application for us though, is that when such events happened throughout Israel’s history, people turned back to God, The people’s repentance brought about healing. God gave His Word in the passage above, that if people call upon Him, He will heal their land. But there are a few things the people need to do first: (1) They need to humble themselves. How difficult that is these days, when people and nations fall into the trap of “me, myself and I”, giving themselves the glory and praise. (2) They need to seek His face – This comes only after realising we don’t have the power or the capability to deal with a situation and the answer is not found with us, but with Him. (3) They need to turn from their wicked ways. This is even harder to do. What are these wicked ways? Hurting others, mocking, stepping on others for personal gain, lying, cheating, pride and thinking we know better than God, killing innocents babies (a/k/a abortion), distorting God’s truth (also about his plan for marriage and families). The list goes on and on.      

In today’s world, it is difficult to change one’s ways, admitting they are evil and contrary to God’s will. How can we expect God to help us if we continue to do what He hates? If our nation, if our world, would only realise how far we have drifted from God, how we have insulted Him, turned our backs on Him and even denied He even exists. Despite all that, if the world would now turn back to Him – He is faithful and just to answer and forgive, and if He so chooses, to heal our lands. 

No human being has the power to stop this pandemic and we know the Lord’s “…mercies are great…”. Let us respond differently from all the incorrect responses above. Towards God, let us humble ourselves, seek His face, turn from our wicked ways and call upon Him. The results will follow, and healing will come, because God is not a man that He should lie. And towards man – this is the time to lend a helping hand, open our eyes to those in need and show grace and compassion. There is no restriction on those – even from a distance. 

Stay safe.

© Hannah Kramer

To give them beauty for ashes

“Awake, awake! Put on your strength, O Zion; Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city!” (Isaiah 52:1)

We sat and watched the ceremony. We watched the lighting of the beacons in remembrance of those who had fallen in the defence of Israel. We watched as the cameras focused on members of the bereaved families and heard their stories. We listened to women who lost their husbands, men who lost their sons, children who lost their fathers and families who lost mothers, sisters and daughters. The tears began to fall – a flow of tears for all those whose lives ended as a result of war and terrorism.

Last night at sundown began Yom HaZikaron, our National Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror in Israel. It started with a minute-long siren in the evening, when we stood in silence in honour of the fallen. It continued with another two-minute siren this morning. Cars stopped in the middle of the highways and on local streets and driver and passenger alike stood outside the vehicles until the siren ended. Schools and public places around the country had special ceremonies to make this special day. And through the evening, night and day, there were the of the 23,544 soldiers, men and women, who gave their lives for our freedom, so Israel could live in the land of its fathers, the land given to it by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob over 3000 years ago.

At sundown today, the country will go through what sometimes appears to be impossible transition, from sadness to joy, from mourning to celebration. The evening of of the end of Yom HaZikaron marks the beginning of Israel’s Independence Day, this year – it’s 69th.

Three score and nine years ago, this nation arose from the ashes of the Holocaust, its people coming from all corners of the earth, bringing with them a dream and a hope to forge a future that would help to overcome the past, a past filled with hatred against Jews, simply because they were Jews. Since its founding, Israel has been and remains under attack, engaged in a fight for her life. The attacks take many forms, but they have a common purpose – to remove Jews from this land and, sometimes, from every other land as well. Today, we remember those who struggled here, so that the living may endure and hold on to the land of promise.

As we mark the beginning of the 70th year of the Nation of Israel in her own land, we continue to pray for protection by God, who watches over the nation as the pupil of His eye. May we pray that He would watch over, protect and strengthen the soldiers who put their lives on the line daily for her, and for the day when Israel will replace her spirit of mourning for garments of praise (Isaiah 61:3).

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

Though the mountains quake

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46:1-3)

I sat and watched as the news broadcasted some of the funerals of soldiers who were killed during operation “Protective Edge”. There was one funeral in particular which shocked me and I’m still having difficulty comprehending it. The fallen soldier’s mother recorded her last conversation with him, before he went into Gaza. He told her that the soldiers were ordered to write a note to their family – just in case. Just in case they didn’t make it out alive. Just in case they didn’t have another chance to tell their family how much they love them, how much they are thankful for them. Just in case they didn’t get a chance to tell them how they felt about going in, maybe one last time.

The mother played the recording of the conversation just before her son’s body was lowered into the ground. Her son’s voice could be heard explaining where he wrote that note and where to look for it – just in case. She then read the note, where the soldier expressed his love and gratitude to his family, his parents and siblings. He went on to say how happy he was and that he fought well. He also said, that if they are reading that, it meant that his career was finished.

The very thought of a soldier having to write a letter like that makes me shudder. I didn’t know that our soldiers were given that order. Young people, some as young as 19, have to stare death in the face, have to write farewell letters to their loved ones – just in case. Many probably believed that those will be their last words.

At the time of this post, 33 soldiers have been killed during the week that our soldiers entered Gaza during Operation “Protective Edge”. Thirty-three men who were fathers, husbands, sons, brothers and friends. Hearts all over Israel ache over their loss, over their sacrifices and service to their country.

The situation here in Israel is hard. As the missiles continue, our soldiers continue to fight, so that I would have the freedom to write this post safely. All who read this are being asked to pray. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, pray for our soldiers now in Gaza and in its outlying areas. Pray for wisdom for the government to know what to do and to have the courage to do what is necessary. Pray that those who fight against Israel will know there is a God in Israel Who is fighting for her. Pray for the people in Gaza who suffer from Hamas, for the believers there who are amidst a leadership who seeks their death. Pray for Hamas that there would be repentance there and their love of darkness would be replaced with a love of light and life. Pray for the families of the fallen soldiers, that God would comfort them as only He can.

To the believing soldiers, I say: don’t give up. You serve as a soldier in two armies – the Israeli army and God’s army, which is even stronger and more powerful. Your commander knows your needs and cares for you. Continue to be a light where you are. Share the Good News of God’s love, mercy, forgiveness and everlasting life with your comrades in arms. It may be the only opportunity that they might have to hear the message. Some of you haven’t been home for a long time, more than you are used to. Your work cannot stop until it is finished. We know that you are tired, but He can renew your strength. We know that you grieve over friends who were killed and wounded. He is able to restore your soul and your joy. Trust in the Lord and lean on Him. He is with you in all your service and will see you through.

© 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