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?

Piercing a Mother’s Heart – A Story

“Years ago, I was told it would happen. Shortly after He was born. I didn’t understand it then and it’s hard for me to understand it now,” she thought to herself in the midst of her seemingly endless flow of tears.

It was a pain the likes of which she never felt before – sharp and piercing, as though a sword had gone through her. “My son, my son”, she cried, as she looked up at Yeshua, nailed to a cross, blood flowing from His head, His arms, His face. She could hardly recognize Him, and seeing the son of her womb in His present condition, was unbearable. “Aunt Miriam”, John called out, as he grabbed hold of her to prevent her from falling to the ground. 

A lifetime passed in a moment. Thirty three years earlier, Miriam was taking care of things around the house and preparing things in anticipation of her upcoming marriage to Joseph. “Joseph should arrive later today to visit, maybe I’ll prepare his favorite meal as a surprise, he’s working so hard…”. Suddenly, Miriam heard someone calling her name. She thought everyone in the family had gone out and didn’t expect anyone to come. When she turned and saw him standing there, his appearance so bright and radiant. She wasn’t scared, she had a sense of heavenly peace as she looked at the person speaking to her. “An angel!” She never saw an angel before, but there was no doubt, one was now in her home and talking to her. As Miriam listened to the words of the angel, she felt an increasing joy well up within her accompanied by an expectation to know more. “But, how will this be?” As the angel explained everything to her, all Miriam could think of was “I am the Lord’s servant, may your will be done as you speak”, and that was all she said. She thought her heart would burst from excitement and joy.

“Wow, I can’t wait to tell Joseph. What will he say, what will he think? God, I trust you in this matter, please let Joseph believe me and give him the joy and expectancy for this wonderful news”. 

Miriam began to prepare dinner, but all she could think about what the presence of the angel and what he said to her. She still can’t believe it. When Joseph arrived, her excitement bubbled over. “Joseph! I am So happy to see you!” Miriam ran to him and cupped his hands in hers. Joseph had a puzzled look on his face, wondering what all the excitement was about. “My dear Miriam, I am so happy to be here too,” Joseph said lovingly as he looked at his young fiancée. “Is that what I think it is?” Joseph asked as he drew near to the kitchen table. He smiled as he saw his favorite meal, and smelled the spices. “Oh…yes, it is”, said Miriam. “You work so hard and I wanted to encourage you today”. Joseph washed his hands and sat down to eat, but he hardly took a bite when Miriam began sharing her news. “What?!” Joseph said, staring at her, trying to understand what she was saying. “But, Miriam, how? OK, I heard what you said, but really?” Joseph had a hard time believing her. His mind started to race. “She couldn’t have…could she? I thought she was faithful, that she loved me…is she telling the truth?” Miriam stood and looked at Joseph, begging with her eyes that he believe her. “I need to go home Miriam, I need time to think”. “But Joseph…” she started, “let me be, Miriam, I need time to think, to pray … to understand”.

That night Miriam sat and prayed fervently. “God, I trust you. You chose me to carry the child that the angel spoke about, but to raise him, I need Joseph with me. Please, speak to him, let him believe me. I know that if he doubts, so will others. So will my family, my sister and parents. God of Abraham, keep me in your hands and protect me, guide me”.

Miriam wasn’t the only one praying fervently that night. So was Joseph at his house. “God, she is so young, perhaps her heart was led astray? Maybe I should send her away quietly so as not to put her to shame, I still love her and this sounds so unreal”. Jospeh felt sadness as the decision began to come together to send his beloved Miriam away, so she would not be found pregnant out of marriage. 

Miriam began to feel the changes in her body. She knew she was pregnant, just like the angel said she would be. She needed to get a handle on all of this and decided to visit her relative Elisheva for three months, all the while continuing to pray that God would give Joseph a trusting spirit.

“Joseph, Joseph, fear not…” Joseph ran to Miriam’s house the morning after she returned. He had no moment to lose. “An angel appeared to me last night Miriam”, he said, “and told me everything, I am sorry I didn’t believe you. We must get married sooner than planned Miriam, I will make all the arrangements”. Miriam thanked God quietly in her heart as Joseph spoke to her, holding her hands in his with love and understanding. It seemed to her like another time, another world.

As Miriam gazed on her son hanging on the cross, she recalled these events, and remembered how she and Joseph had fled to Egypt because Herod sought to kill her son. She recalled how not long before that, shortly after giving birth to him, she and Joseph went to Jerusalem to make the sacrifices for the first born son. As she cradled her little one in her arms, stroking his cheeks and gently touching his hair, an elderly man named Simon approached them. Despite the passage of the years, she never forgot the words he said and what he told her personally, “and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Miriam didn’t know what to make of it at the time, but she kept those things in her heart.

As the years went by, she saw Yeshua grow and at the age of 12, she thought she lost him somewhere in Jerusalem. But, after three days of being “missing”, he told her and Joseph that He was about his father’s business. Again, Miriam added this to the things she kept in her heart.

Miriam knew all this time, since before Yeshua’s birth, that He was special. She could accept that he is the promised Messiah. But she did not expect to see him die. What mother would?

As Yeshua began doing miracles around the land and calling His disciples, she thought, “Maybe, just maybe, now he will establish the kingdom. Oh, if only Joseph were alive to see him now. How proud Joseph was of Yeshua, how he loved him as his own”. But, just as many began to follow Him, opposition to Yeshua also started to grow. And, with the passage of only three short years since He began to minister, the Sanhedrin sought to kill her son, just as Herod did when Yeshua was just a baby. “Why won’t they listen to him? Why do they hate him?” It hurt her to see her son being rejected.

So many memories went through her mind, as she stood the entire six hours at Golgotha, watching her son, wanting to yell at those who mocked him and laughed at him. As news of Yeshua’s arrest the night before spread quickly, Miriam had no time to lose. “I must see him, I must get to him now”. She could not make it through the crowds at Pilate’s court, all she could do was stand outside and shudder as she heard people cry “Crucify him! Crucify him!” The shouts became a deafening roar. “Come, aunt, let’s get away from here”, John urged, trying to move her gently. Miriam didn’t want to leave, but she knew there was no point in staying there. 

As Yeshua was being led to the cross, she got her first sight of Him, and nearly collapsed. “My son! What have they done to my son?” He was beaten, scourged, spat upon, bleeding, he could hardly carry the wooden beam on his own from all the pain. At the side of the road where the crowd gathered, her body shook with every strike of the hammer on the nails that pierced the hands of her son. Then, one more, as the nail pierced his feet.

She couldn’t look upon Him. It was too painful. This was her son, her first born. “Woman”, she lifted her gaze as she heard His voice. She saw Yeshua talking directly to her. Her heart began to race as she listened to her son’s last words to her. “This is your son”, referring to John who stood next to her. She looked at John, who was truly like a son to her. And then they both heard Yeshua say, “This is your mother”. It was understood, John took care of her from that point on with the love of a son.

The agony and emotional pain that Miriam felt that day was as unbearable as it was indescribable. Simon’s words to her so many years earlier, which were not understood then, were understood now. An invisible sword pierced her heart just as the Roman nails pierced the flesh of her son. The pain began when she saw her son being mocked and opposed by the religious leadership and she thought she would die from the pain when she saw Yeshua on the cross. And then it was over. But, the pain remained, pain and agony that only a loving mother could feel at the death of her first-born son. “How? Why? But, the angel said …. I don’t understand. How could this be. Yeshua, Oh, my son, Yeshua. What I wouldn’t give for me to die instead of you.”

Several days later, Miriam heard from Yeshua’s disciples that He has risen from the dead. “Could this really be true?” By now, she had gone through the memories of those historic days and of her own life. She had come to realize that indeed, as she looked at Yeshua on the cross, she was looking at her son. But, she saw Him. He IS alive. Death couldn’t hold Him. And now, for the first time, she understood that this child that she delivered came to deliver her. He was her son. She will always be His mother. But, more than a son, He is now her Lord and Savior, through what He accomplished on the cross. That is how she looked upon him from that point on. Her heart was pierced by the sword when He was put to death on the Cross. But, the agony of the Cross turned to joy inexpressible, as she was given a new heart and a new life…in her son. 

© Hannah Kramer

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

A Crown of Joy

 “Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away” Isaiah 51:11

I attended a young adults conference last week. It was a sweet time of fellowship with dear friends, a time for laughter, learning and worship well into the night.

The focus of the conference was God’s love. More specifically, it dealt with how God loves you and me and the implications of that to our lives. It is always good to be reminded of how God loves us. Have you truly considered that thought and begun to cry out of gratitude and love for your savior as a result? There were times I was so overwhelmed by God’s love me, my heart overflowed with joy and all I could do was cry from thankfulness.

From conversations during and after the conference, I know there were others who were touched as well by what we learned. We needed to be reminded that God loves us with an everlasting love, a love that transcends human love – a love that would never fail us and that we can lean on.

Some of those I spoke with had recently been through disappointments from people. Their hearts were hurt and only the Lord can reach out and heal the pain and comfort them. As we spoke, we were reminded that we are but vessels of clay, and that even if we get bruises and scars, we were Fashined by the Potter, and He would not let us get crushed.

I thought of the Song “Who Am I”, by Casting Crowns as I pondered on the events of the conference. I remembered a verse someone once shared with me, which greatly encouraged me. So I shared it with you now (at the top of this post). I encourage you to listen to the song and to consider that verse and, if you are going through a time of trouble, doubt, fear or uncertainty, be assured that He longs to adorn you with a crown of joy to replace the sorrow. It is not because of who we are, but because of what He is, a God of love. Not because of what we are, but because of who He is, Our God.

© Hannah Kramer

Who Am I – Casting Crowns

Interceding with Compassion

“And He saw that there was no man, And was astonished that there was no one to intercede; Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, And His righteousness upheld Him” Isaiah 59:16

I returned from a two-day youth conference Saturday night. It was such a special time, getting to see people I haven’t seen in a while, as well as meet teens from all over the country.

The theme of the conference was “transparency”, a subject which concerns all of us, but which was particularly applicable to the youth. The speakers exhorted them to be transparent in their walk with the Lord Yeshua, to reflect the light of the Lord and be honest in their spiritual life – with God and others.

As counsellors we noticed that there is an increase in the boldness the teenagers and soldiers have, in sharing their faith. They are not ashamed of what they believe in and actively share their faith with others, knowing well the price they could pay (and some do) for doing so. As some increase in boldness, others still remain hesitant.

Reflecting later on the events of the first day, the verses in Jude 22-23 came to mind: “And have mercy on some, who are doubting, save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh”. While there are many who are bold and courageous in their faith, as counsellors we always emphasize that there are others who need to be pulled out of danger, like a girl I talked to who had a non-believing boyfriend. We talked about the slippery-slope dangers regarding compromise and relationships with non-believers. We continued our conversation the next day and as the conference drew to a close, she expressed a desire to meet together, although it would require travel (she’s from a different city). May that opportunity to meet be soon.

We prayed during our counsellors’ meeting that morning, as we did throughout the conference, for ways to help the youth, without pushing them away and for wisdom in all our conversations with them.

The last message of the conference focused on Isaiah 60, verse 1: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you”. Suddenly I realised the exhortation to arise and shine for your light has [already] come, is a direct continuation from chapter 59, where it says people looked for light yet there was darkness – darkness of deeds, of injustice and lack of truth. Yet, the Lord would save by coming with His glory. Arising and shining must be done in relation to all these things and more and, when doing so, the glory of the Lord reaches us. The person or nation in this case must act because God has already acted and has done His part to shine His glory on the nation.
It seemed relevant to the previous discussion with this girl.

It was a relatively full conference. There were many teens present whose love for the Lord Yeshua was evident. And, there were others there who claimed to be saved, but who had little or no understanding of what it meant to have a relationship with the Lord. As for the latter, the answer for “snatching them from the fire” seemed clear – we needed to intercede for them, to have compassion and mercy on them, while encouraging them to seek the Lord and to draw close to the Throne of Grace.

Many counsellors this past weekend were people of compassion and they were fervently praying for the teens, both during the conference and privately when at home and serving them at their congregations. Yet, there is much work that needs to be done and, sadly, the workers are few. This weighs heavily upon my heart and others as well, and I solicit your prayers for the youth and teens in your own communities. Today’s generation faces a multitude of challenges and temptations in a spiritually dark world. It is becoming harder to live “transparently”. But, it needs to be done.  “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even His enemies to be at peace with him.” (Prov. 16:7). May we extend ourselves beyond our comfort zones and reach out, however we can, to those who are being prepared to carry the mantel of responsibility. And may the Lord help us to be so transparent in our walk with Him that others would see right through us and see Him in us.

A Love Story Written in Heaven

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11)

“So…how old are you? Oh…ok”; 

“That person just broke the age barrier. Now she’s old” (said of a 30 year old); 

“I’m getting old” (said a 29 year old); 

“And you’re not married yet?!”; 

“Those poor single and old people” (said of those over 25)

I went to a conference two months ago, which discussed the topic: “Being a Godly Man and Woman”. The turnout of people was amazing and the discussions were very good. The topics of being single, yet satisfied, and what it means to be godly, as a single or a married person, were discussed. 

Some of the things that came up for discussion among the young people were sobering; others disturbing. Many expressed despair from being pressured by family, friends, work and generally their surroundings, about getting married. They were in their mid- to late- 20’s, some already in their 30’s, and the pressure for some became unbearable and they resorted to entering into relationships with people from the world who showed interest in them. Some said that if they wouldn’t be married by a certain age (like 30), they would die (meaning, they could not look beyond that age for a meaning in their life and could not see or plan for their future beyond that). 

We should rejoice at every age, not frown upon it. Life itself is a gift from God and every age is one that can be used by God for His glory, if we allow Him do so.

The message in the conference was clear: whether you are single or married, you are special in God’s eyes and He has a unique plan designed for you from before the foundation of the world. Marriage does not make you more or less of a complete person in Messiah Yeshua. 

The expressions at the top of this post have been made by many and heard by many more. I think it’s time we change our lingo. Enough treating unmarried young people (mainly women), as poor, old and miserable creatures for being older than a certain age and single. To those who are unmarried young adults – stop treating yourselves and others like that. It does not build up our brothers and sisters in the Lord, but has a discouraging effectDid you ever think that God might have a different plan for those people than what you may think“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). 

I know people who were married at 19, others who were married at 30 and still others who married close to 40 and even 50. Each one is happy and would not trade a moment in their lives for what God gave them, when He did. 

Two days ago, I turned 28. I have single friends for whom I pray for that God would bring a spouse. And when I see a friend getting married, I rejoice for answered prayer. I didn’t expect to still be single, but I know God has a plan and a purpose for this time. I don’t know what it is, but I do trust Him for it. 

God gave me a loving family for which I am eternally grateful, wonderful friends who, with just a small note or word, can make my day. God wrote my love story and it is still being written. He gave me my prince charming, my Lord Yeshua, who’s love I wouldn’t trade for the world. If He chooses to bring me a husband, I know it will be in His time and place. He is the centre of my life and I am able to rest in His love. 

If you are single and reading this, be encouraged. God is writing your love story, and if you trust Him to complete it the way that He wants, it will have a truly happy ending.

© Hannah Kramer

No greater love

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13)

What an incredible sight it would have been if we were able to see The Lord Yeshua immediately after His transfiguration on the mount.

Think about it. He became whiter than snow, radiating the glory of God, majestic and full of splendor, as a king should look. If others had seen him like that, they probably would have rushed to crown him on the spot as king. After all, people were expecting a king to come and save them, a man who would deliver them from the Roman oppression, just as they sought a king to rescue them during the time of the prophet Samuel. Surely, the Lord Yeshua as he appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration fit the bill for majesty. He chose to reveal Himself at that time only to three of his disciples and to two more men – Elijah and Moses. But, it wasn’t a time to talk about the rule and the reign of the King. The Lord’s discussion with Elijah and Moses focused on His coming death. So often, we want the joy without the sacrifice that enabled it.

But still, it would have been such a sight to see Him in His glory. Even Matthew had a difficult time explaining His radiance and said “His face shone like the sun and His garments became as white as light” (Matt. 17:2). What a privilege it was for Peter, James and John. Yet, The Lord Yeshua chose toforego for a season His heavenly glory to take on the form of His creation and become as a sin offering for us. If he had chosen to end his ministry on earth right then and there, we would have remained dead in our trespasses and sins, with no eternal hope, no certainly of salvation and no intimacy with God, forever.

Such an act, of putting aside His honor and becoming despised, of putting aside His glory as Creator to take on Himself the form and penalty of the sinful creation, all turn enemyship into friendship, a friendship that caused Him to lay down His life for us.

The Lord Yeshua made the blind see, the deaf hear, the mute speak. His sacrifice on the torture rack of the cross enabled people to become free from slavery to sin. By His stripes we were healed, by His death, we were made alive, when He rose from the dead, we were raised with Him and were seated together with Him in the heavenly places. While He was in His glory, we would have wanted Him to be King over us. Yet, when He was willing to suffer for our sakes as a man, when the crowd was given a chance to free Him, they shouted – “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” They recognized no king except Caesar. Their excuse: “We will not have this man to rule over us.” I tried to imagine the crowd shouting. After everything that He had done up to that point, they chose to reject Him and send Him to the cross. He could have exercised all of His prerogatives of Lordship, but instead, He forgave everyone who called for His death and He went to the cross to die for them … and us.

What could have prompted such a willingness to die for those who hated Him, mocked Him and called for His death? Only His amazing love for the Father and for us. His love was so great that  while people mocked and laughed and challenged Him to come down from the cross, He asked God to forgive them.

The Lord Yeshua’s whiter-than-snow garments were replaced by blood-stained garments, so that you and I will have a way made clean to approach God, personally and intimately. He has clothed us with garments of salvation. How amazing is that?

The King of Kings and Lord of Lords is also the Lord of Love, Who has chosen to love me and you despite our actions, despite all we have done and said and even thought. He lifted us from the miry clay, caused us to stand on solid ground, took our filthy garments and replaced them with garments of righteousness.

While reading a biography of Spurgeon, one quote, in particular, stood out and caused me to shudder as I read it. Here is a part of it:

“There was a day, when I was walking, it came to mind, forever engraved upon my memory, where I saw this Friend, my best, my only Friend, murdered. I stooped down in shock, and looked at Him. I saw that His hands had been pierced with rough iron nails, and His feet had been rent in the same way. There was misery in His dead countenance so terrible that I scarcely dared to look upon it. His body was emaciated with hunger, His back was red with bloody scourges, and His brow had a circle of wounds clearly made by thorns… I said within myself, “Where can these traitors live? Who are these that could have smitten such a One as this?… Oh! What jealousy, what revenge I felt! If I might but find these murderers, what would I not do with them!… At last I put my hand upon my breast. ‘I have you now,’ said I, for lo! He was in my own heart; the murderer was hiding within my own bosom, dwelling in the recesses of my inmost soul. Ah! Then I wept indeed, that I, in the very presence of my murdered Master, should be harbouring the murderer; and I felt myself most guilty while I bowed over His corpse”. (Spurgeon C., “Heroes of the Faith” 1997).

The Lord Yeshua was willing to die for us. Are we willing to live for Him? He loves us more than anything. Do we love him more than anything?

He is my king, my “Prince Charming”, who swept me off my feet and lifted me up all the way to heaven, to sit alongside Him. Another human love may follow, but my first and most precious love will always be for my Savior.

 

Dare to be a Gaius

It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it” (3 John 3)

Last week I returned from a visit to a country that is almost half way across the world from here. My friend was getting married and I went there to celebrate with her.

It was a beautiful time, filled with fun and sweet fellowship. I enjoyed spending time with my friends, whom I hadn’t seen in a long time, talking and going out for coffee. The wedding was beautiful. It was a special time

As I prepared to leave, saying “good-bye” was harder than ever. I felt like I was leaving my family behind. When I think about my time there and the way I was welcomed, I thought of Gaius.

The name Gaius was a popular name at the time the letter was written, so it is not easy to say exactly who Gaius was. All that is known for certain is that he was an Elder in a congregation and that the Apostle John loved him. We also know of his character. John addresses the third epistle to Gaius and testifies to his character as well as to Demetrius’ character from what he heard from others.

John wrote that Gaius was faithful to the truth and that he walked in truth. He was faithful to brothers and sisters in the Lord, even to total strangers! John encouraged him to send these brethren on their way in a way that honors God and to show them hospitality.

Gaius was able to walk in the truth, because he was first faithful to it. But. first and foremost, he was faithful to God and to his commands. This, in turn, enabled him to be faithful to others. His actions truly spoke louder than words! He had no need to testify for himself, because others did it for him. Those who came to his congregation, friends, acquaintances and even total strangers  were welcomed in the same manner. He showed hospitality and demonstrated The Lord Yeshua’s love for all. We are reminded of the correct order of things from the believers in Macedonia. “And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us” (2 Corinthians 8:5). To the Lord first and then to the brethren. This is foundational and a good principal to apply in our lives. We can serve others, because we have bowed the knees in prayer before the Lord.

I’m sure that we’ve all been to meetings or events where everyone, except us, knew everyone else. We felt awkward and out of place. Have you ever visited a different congregation, where you didn’t know many people? How about a youth group where you are the “new person”, or you were just there for a short while and you probably wouldn’t see those people again? I have. And I’ve seen others in that position as well. Sadly, I’ve seen newcomers sit alone and hardly communicate with anyone, even in a large group. The tendency of most people, myself included, is to greet and socialize with those we know and feel comfortable with. It’s not easy leaving our comfort zone. But Gaius did. He welcomed total strangers, because he saw them as members of his family in God. He “made the effort” to make the brethren feel at home and related to them with brotherly love and kindness. In short, he extended himself to others.

Do we welcome the brethren? Would we welcome a total stranger into our homes and give him/her a place to stay for a while? “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). Hospitality is a gift we all can cultivate. It takes a willingness on our side.

In addition to hosting others, we can help others by going an extra mile – delivering food to a family that is sick or needy, driving someone who has no means of transportation to get somewhere, helping someone to move, helping to clean, and the list goes on and on. Going the extra mile is something I am still learning to do. It is a way of showing love for our “neighbour”. Not helping when we can is simply being “self”-ish, which does not reflect Christ’s love. There is, indeed, much that we can learn from Gaius.

But, John emphasises the godliness of his character by comparing it to the character of Diotrephes, who was the complete opposite, who received no one and put people out of the church.

Am I a Gaius? Are you? I truly desire to be. I want to be one whose faithfulness and love reflects the character of God. I want to reach out and greet those who sit alone, aside from the crowd, or in the middle of a crowd. I want to share the Lord Yeshua’s love, so that others would glorify God glory because of his work in me.

The people I stayed with during my trip reminded me of Gaius. They acted out what they said they believed. They showered me with love and warmth and made me feel as part of their home and family.

Lest we get the wrong impression, Gaius was not perfect. None of us are. But we all strive to be like The Lord Yeshua, the perfect One, who is the best example of all. He left his comfort zone, to make complete strangers, even His enemies, his own.

Will we dare to be a Gaius?

© Hannah Kramer

Where has the love gone?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

A friend of mine published her first album, featuring songs written and arranged by her, accompanied by a few more friends, who sang and played. One of her songs especially touched my heart. As my friend introduced that song, she mentioned she hadn’t seen many songs (at least in Hebrew) that spoke about love. There are, of course, songs about the Father’s love for us and our love for Him, but there are very few songs about brotherly love, if at all. What she said struck me and I suddenly realized that she was right. I have been pondering this issue for a while now, even before she introduced her song. I was at an event where we sang some worship songs at the beginning of the event, and one song was how we love the Lord Yeshua, because He first loved us. Then this thought came to mind: We can’t love each other, brother and sisters in Messiah Yeshua, unless we first love Him.

Seems kind of obvious, right? We are commanded to love one another, as the Lord Yeshua loves us. Easier said than done. Why is it then that there aren’t many songs about brotherly love? Is it perhaps because our brotherly love may be lacking? Maybe it’s easier to say we love the Lord than to say we love our brothers. In both instances, love would need to be demonstrated. We know we often fail the Lord, but He is always ready to forgive. Not so with the brethren. Perhaps, it’s easier to love those who are closer to us, or those who are easier to love. Why is it that we don’t greet every believer warmly, with brotherly affection? Why is it we can walk by people we fellowship with, serve with and even grow up with, and not say ‘hello’, and genuinely inquire how they are doing? Where has all the love gone? Did it ever really exist in the first place?

It is very disturbing to see such incidents. Yes, I, too, at times greet only those with whom I am close and those whom I know better. But, I do try my best to greet everyone, even if we have differences of opinion, or theology or if we just aren’t the best of friends. I am troubled when believers gossip and put down fellow believers. I am saddened at seeing people being regarded so highly that it creates a form of elite amongst us. Where has the love gone?

My friend’s song about brotherly love mentions “If any of us stumbles, we will restore him with the spirit of meekness.” (@aperfectheart). How often do we do that?

In order to raise each other up, in order to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galations 6:2), we must first rid ourselves of pride. The following verse reads “for if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (verse 3). Are we too proud to do that?

There is a song that I grew up with, which I remember always. It’s from “Psalty the singing song book”. Some of you may know it. Here is a clip of the song –

Make me a servant – Kids Praise 4:  

It’s so easy to talk about passages like 1st Corinthians 13 and emphasize again and again that this is what love is and that we should love each other. Yes, it is a great description of what love is and yes, we should love like that. But, saying it is not enough. I believe that the love we are supposed to demonstrate towards one another has gotten cold. And, in some instances, it’s cold, it’s almost freezing. Oh, we know how to love when it comes to our friends, particularly to those who us love in return. Or, to those who are beneficial for us. We can care, help and be warm and friendly. But, when we have no particular need of someone, yes, no need, we often have a tendency to disregard them. Just like any object we might have and don’t need. Instead of treating our brethren like humans, we tend to treat them as objects; we either need them or we don’t. And our attitude towards them reflects that and it changes along with that. Instead of warmth and help and love, we get, or give, a cold shoulder and demonstrate apathy.

As those called by and who believe in the God of love, who loved us while we were yet sinners, we cannot and must not be this way. When we truly love the Lord Yeshua, His life and love in us are enable us to love one another. God cares deeply about our relations as brothers and sisters. So much so, that a man cannot bring his sacrifice before Him until he has made peace with his brother (Matthew 5:21-26).

The Lord Yeshua humbled himself and washed the feet of His deciples, even the feet of Judah, whom His knew was going to betray Him. What a love He had and demonstrated in real time! We are commanded to follow His example. Can we wash the feet of those we dislike, don’t get along with, even – hate? Once we take the towel and start washing sore, dirty, filthy feet, and tending to wounds, we learn humility pretty fast. Imagine cleaning those feet with love. How tender and caring the cleaning would be, and how precious to the one receiving. Imagine how you would feel if someone you didn’t get along with and maybe can’t stand the sight of, took a towel and washed your feet, treating them with love and care, until all the wounds were gone and they were soft and clean.

The attitude with which I come to wash my brothers feet is important. If I have resentment towards him, my face will show disgust and repulse at washing his feet, especially if they are full of blisters. But when I love my brother, through the love of Messiah Who is in me, though there may be blisters, I will want to tend to them. Here lies the difference. Lest we tend to think in a box, the washing of feet is not only physical. It also has to do with helping to remove the filth of the world which affects all of us daily, whether we are conscious of it or not. A hand on a shoulder, a word in season, a smile and an offer to come alongside, a telephone call or email saying “the Lord brought you to mind and I just prayed for you and want to know how you are” can be as much of a healing and comforting blessing as a physical foot-washing.

Love is part of fruit of the spirit (Galations 5:22). Notice the rest of the passage – “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other” (23-26, emphasis added).

Godly love does not seek its own glory and is not competitive. It helps us encourage one another to run the race with diligence and not to give up. When we truly love, we pray for one another and seek the other’s good. When we truly love, we reflect the presence of the  Lord Yeshua in us. He is not ashamed to call us brothers. Are we?

I want to leave today you with this poem by Ruth Harms Calkin, called “I Wonder”. It touched my heart and pray that it will yours.

© Hannah Kramer

I Wonder – by Ruth Harms Calkin

You know, Lord, how I serve You 
With great emotional fervor
In the limelight.

You know how eagerly I speak for You
At a women’s club.

You know how effervesce when I promote
A fellowship group.

You know my genuine enthusiasm
At a Bible study.

But how would I react, I wonder…
If You pointed me to a basin of water
And asked me to wash the calloused feet
Of a bent and wrinkled old woman

Day after day
Month after month
In a room where nobody saw
And nobody knew

When pride kicks in

“But let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 09:24)

Whenever I hear people share about their ministry or give testimonies, I start to pray that they will not mention themselves too much, so that a resonating “me, me, me” will not fill the room. I enjoy hearing people share these things, but at times there is a tendency to focus on ourselves, accompanied by saying “it is for God” every so often. The focus changes and then without notice, the words that come out from our mouth are “I did”, “I accomplished”, as if all that has been done was by our own wisdom and strength.

Not too long ago, I came across a situation like that, And then it hit me. I felt disgusted by the blatant pride that others were exhibiting. But, more than that, I was disgusted with myself. Why? Because all of a sudden I had a close look at my very own Pride. I will not get into detail, but I did realize my pride in thinking I knew more and that I could do better. Imagine looking at yourself in the mirror, truly seeing yourself … thoughts, feelings, emotions and everything on display before your eyes. I had to realize and perhaps feel for myself how God hates pride once I saw it myself and felt the disgust.

Usually, it is just the opposite. We can’t stand pride when we see it in others. But, somehow, we seem to tolerate it when it comes to ourselves. We think we deserve it and, therefore, it is acceptable.

Pride and envy often seem to go hand in hand. What do I have to be proud of? Have I accomplished anything by my own strength? Have I saved anyone? Have I a position and status achieved by none other than – me? Have I a right to say “I am an example for you”? No. All that has been accomplished in my life is by God’s grace and that alone. All that I am is by his grace alone. If I have shared the Gospel with someone and that person believed, it is God that saved. Not me. Any role or position that I or you may have is, again, by God’s grace. Paul said “follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). I hope to be such an example that others could see Christ in me as they look at me. Yet even then, will I boast? “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2).

James wrote that Elijah was a man like us and we see by his life that, indeed, he had feelings like us. Perhaps the most famous story about him is the miracle om Mt. Carmel. Yet what happened after that? Elijah ran for his life and even asked God to take it. When he arrived to the cave (1 Kings 18), he told God that there were no more people left who worshipped God, only him. Had he forgotten that Obediah hid prophets and told him so before the miracle on the mountain? Maybe, just maybe, mixed up with his depression, there was a touch of pride there, that God had to show Elijah in order to prepare him for the future. God spoke to Elijah in the still small voice, not in fire or wind or storm. And then, He reminded him that He left 7,000 knees which did not bow to Ba’al. Elijah was a prophet that was chosen for that time in the history of the Jewish people, yet he was not the only one. Do we sometimes feel as though we are so special that no one else can do what we do? Yes, God called Elijah especially for the job, but it was not because of who he was or what he has done, but because God chose him to do so. Elijah learned humility in a cave, in order to go to the bottom of the mountain. He would later be placed on the top of another mountain in a special time in history. Elijah was on Mt. Hermon along with Moses, the most humble person and with our Lord Yeshua, Who humbled Himself even to death on the cross. Pride could not stand in the Lord Yeshua’s presence.

Unfortunately, there are those who take pride in themselves for many reasons. We like the flattery and compliments from those around us. It is so important to us that everyone knows that was my idea, my doing, the credit should go to me. Even when we are right and the “credit” does go to us, will we boast about it? Is our name so important to us? My dad always tells me “when you take care of God’s name, He will take care of yours”. Status, positions, money, academic degrees and being part of the right “clique” are only some of the things people pride themselves in. And when pride kicks in, love is kicked out. Pride becomes an obstacle to prevent us from truly loving the Lord Yeshua and our brethren (more on that in the next post).

Pride is one of the things God despises (Proverbs 8:13). We should remember to give God the glory and honor, and not only say it in words, but to confirm it in our hearts first and turn in our actions.

What have we to boast in but in our Lord Yeshua? “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galations 6:14).

© Hannah Kramer