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

The counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation

Hi,

I am sharing something my brother wrote regarding the coronavirus. Translated from Hebrew and shared originally in the young adults group.

WhatsApp Image 2020-03-16 at 19.21.21

Sadly, this past weekend’s hard storm in Eilat left massive destruction in the coral reef. Not only did it damage scientific projects, but it damaged the beauty and richness of the animals dependent on the reefs for their lives. 

“For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Romans 8:22). This is a harsh and painful reminder of the consequences of sin that has entered the world. Like creation, we too, await the day when we will be free from destruction, illnesses and death in the world.

“…’Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?’” (Mark 4:41). The Lord Yeshua is in control over everything, over natural and super natural forces, including coronavirus 😷. He has the power to restrain and stop and on the other hand, do nothing if He chooses so. “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.” (Psalm 33:11), and as Job said: “‘I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted’ (Job 42:2).

We love to be in control and know what is going on. I think that somewhere the coronavirus shattered this illusion and reveals to us the reality that we aren’t really in control…We can’t go wherever we want, for some of us, work and studies are stopped, there is a lot of sadness, anxiety and so forth. No doubt that the year 2020 is a very interesting and challenging one! I believe the coronavirus is teaching us to look at life with proportion, at things that really matter.

How interesting that at the first young adults’ meeting this year, we spoke about how our faith is exercised in the most challenging and difficult times of our lives. Is it not during difficult times that we should place our trust in the Lord Yeshua? As you noticed, we don’t have fellowship gatherings now and we have heard countless times how the Body is not a building. We don’t need a special place to gather, pray, read or even worship! Let’s remember to be a light in this dark time: to allow others to pass us in line at the supermarket, to be with self restraint and patience with everyone, to ask others in the faith (and not only in the faith) how they are doing and to seek opportunities to show God’s love.

Have a blessed week and remember: “Cleanse your hands, you sinners” (James 4:8)  🧼 🙌🏼

© Nati Kramer

Picture by Nati

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

Gotta work at it!

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1st Corinthians 10:31)

I decided to take a short break from talking about the present situation in Israel to discuss something I have been learning recently.

I work as a teacher in a Community Center and have a wide age-range of students. This month, I taught mostly in Summer School with the goal of helping to equip some of the students for the coming academic year. During this month, but especially during the last week, I had to deal with several disciplinary issues, which prevented some students from learning, or from enjoying the process of learning. Some of the things I learned in the process are relevant to almost every field of endeavor.

1 . Do we go to work or do we go to work?

One of my former teachers once commented: “Many people today go to their work place every day, but do they go there in order to work?” I asked myself that question this week. I can probably say without doubt that most of us who work do so in order to receive an income. When we decide what type of work we want to do, we make a choice: we choose it because of the income, or because we enjoy doing that type of work. Some choose both reasons and are doubly satisfied.

I love working with children and I love teaching. But, I don’t like having to discipline, even though that responsibility comes with the job. This past month, I felt more like a baby sitter than a teacher. I went to my work, but instead of going to work and looking forward to working with and investing my time in the children, I would wait for the clock to reach the hour that marked the end of the work day. Oh, I did put in a lot of time and effort, seeking to make class fun for them, but as I started the day, I quickly found myself waiting for it to end, so that I wouldn’t have to deal with their behavior problems.

I saw my co-workers behave the same way. They came to “do the hours” and go home, some even wished to skip the hours altogether and just get paid. I love my job, but like many others who love their jobs, I discovered that for a host of different reasons, it is easy to switch modes sometimes and go about the routine of work, and just do what I needs to be done, without having my heart in it.

Have we ever stopped long enough to ask why we go to work? Do we seek to just finish what we need to do or go because we want to, and enjoy it? Do we go to actually work, or just go to our place of work to do what is necessary there?

2. Do we pray for the people we work with?

As I mentioned above, I had to deal with a lot of behavioral problems the last few weeks. Admittedly and shamefully, I hadn’t been praying for the students I taught. I did pray before going to work that I would do well each day. But, the focus was on me, not on the children. From past experience, when I did pray for my students, not only did they do well academically, but also behaviorally.

Prayer is not some kind of magic formula that when expressed makes everything instantly better. No, it is a powerful means that helps me to line up my will with the will of God. Often prayer is neglected in matters we deem to be too insignificant for our Heavenly Father to be concerned with. Yet, I learned that when I pray for my students, I am, in essence, saying to God: “You know these kids. You know what they are like and You know how I want to positively affect them. Please help me to be a tool in Your hands and please control their behavior and their desire to learn.”

When I remember that God cares more about them than I do, that I cannot do anything on my own strength that will have eternal value, that I can trust Him in all things at all times, my work becomes easier and more enjoyable, both for me, as well as for my students. All I need to do is surrender my work and the circumstances of my work and work place to God.

The same is true for our colleagues. They may not realize it, but they really need our prayers. We need to pray for opportunities to share the Gospel with them, as well as for their salvation. It is amazing to see how God turns enemyship into frienship when we pray for others.

3. Do we make the effort to have some quiet time?

I worked mostly in the mornings this month and came home exhausted. I realized that a lot of the time and effort that I put into finding teaching material and fun activities for the kids could have been used more wisely and effectively. My “quiet time” with the Lord took a back seat compared to the time I put into work-related things.

When I reviewed the things I learned this month, I realized that it was crucial to set my priorities right, as they would determine the attitude with which I go to work, whether or not I pray for the people I work with and how I handle time.

I believe it all boils down to this question: For whom do we do all that we do? A lesson my mom taught me, which can be applied to every area of life, is this: If we do something for ourselves, in our own strength, we will burn out quickly and get tired very fast. If we do it for God and in His strength, according to His will, we may become tired as we work, but we won’t tire of the work.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23)