There is a higher throne

People disappoint. We have all experienced that kind of disappointment. We have certain expectations of people, think we know them and maybe even regard them as close friends. And then something happens that not only surprises, but disappoints us. And, the worst thing about the situation is that the people who did the offending or who disappointed us didn’t even realise that they did something wrong or improper, or failed to do what was reasonably expected of them.

Why is that? I think people often tend take others for granted, especially if it’s someone that they have know for years, or that they’re close to. Sadly, it is so easy to do and, if we’re honest with ourselves, we will admit that we all fail in that respect. One moment those people need you and are close to you. At another time they don’t and you aren’t beneficial to them now.  What would cause such a shift in relationships? The answer could be multi-faceted. Certainly, pride could blind them from saying so or even from realising it. But, they expect that when they need you again, you will spring into action for them. I think we’ve all experienced that? I certainly have – on both sides of the fence. At those times, when I am on the receiving end of the offense, I try my hardest to understand how this person could behave like this. I often find myself saying that I shouldn’t expect from people to behave in one way or another, so that I wouldn’t be disappointed when they don’t. But I think that attitude is wrong. People are not perfect and no matter how hard they try to be good, human nature is corrupt and, as a result, it will disappoint. The only questions are “when” and “under what circumstances”?

We have a tendency to exalt people and place them on a pedestal, even those we consider friends. But, shouldn’t we look to a higher throne – the throne on which the King of Kings sits, Who knows how we feel as people, as human beings. He knows how weak we are. We disappoint other people, but we sadden Him more by our sinful behaviour. I choose to look to Him who will never let me down, instead of to people. He knows our frame and despite our sinful nature, He longs to be gracious to us. At this season, we need to remember: our redemption is closer today than ever before. Let’s focus our eyes on the higher Throne, because He Who loves us with an everlasting love is seated there.

© 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

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

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

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