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.

By His stripes

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5)

I have been reading a lot lately about different oils, especially essential oils. It’s been a joy to learn about their different uses, how they are harvested and then produced to make a lovely oil that can be used at home. What caught my attention during this study were two very special oils – Frankincense and Myrrh. These two oils are very well-known for several reasons: First, because they were two of the three gifts (along with gold) given to the Lord Yeshua as a gift by the Magi and Second, they have tremendous health benefits. They were both used as perfume, incense and medicine. In addition, myrrh has analgesic effects. Knowing this, the verse in Mark 15:23 suddenly seemed amazing to me. The Lord Yeshua refused to drink myrrh mixed with wine, a very bitter drink, as he hung on the cross, so as not to dull the pain and his conciousness, demonstrating his willingness to endure the pain of the cross fully, even while He despised the shame (Heb. 12:2). This fulfills the prophecy in Psalm 69:21 “They also gave me gall for my food and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink”. Both oils have been very famous throughout history and at one point, they even surpassed gold by price and value. These two oils, along with gold, were regarded as gifts fit for kings during ancient times. The classic interpretation as to why these particular gifts were chosen to be given is that gold symbolizes kingship, since it is associated with richness; frankincense symbolizes priesthood, since it was used for sweet incense (Exodus 30:34-38) in the Temple and the rising smoke symbolized our prayers ascending to heaven (Rev. 8:3-4), while myrrh was used for a multitude of things, including perfume and for anointing the dead. However, another reasonable interpretation is that frankincense symbolizes worship and myrrh symbolizes priesthood, as it was used to anoint the priests in the temple. The Lord is our eternal High Priest, who “always lives to make intercession for us” (Heb. 7:25).

Frankincense is a form of gum (secretion) from a very small tree, known as the Boswellia tree. In order to harvest the gum, the tree is either lashed or it’s periderm is cut repeatedly in order to produce a flow of resin from the tree. The resin falls down looking tear shaped, starts out white and then turns a yellow-amber color. The resin cannot be produced during winter, since the Frankincense can be easily damaged by rain. That is why the lashing and cutting of the tree begins at December, and the harvesting reaches its peak in April.

Another interesting fact about the tree is its very unique ability to grow … out of solid rock! Amazing! The tree is able to withstand harsh weathers and environments that are unrelenting, and its attachment to rocks prevents it from being torn away during violent storms.  No one is able to explain how these trees attach themselves to the rock. All they know is that the root of the tree grows to a disk-like shape covering the rock so the rock appears to become part of the tree.

Myrrh is also a gum, but it is produced by the Commiphora tree. Like Frankincense, the Myrrh tree is small and grows in rocky terrain. It is small and has low, thorny shrubs. But, in order to bring out the resin, which like the Frankincense, also is tear-shaped, it must be  struck or bruised repeatedly.

All this “information” seemed  kind of dry at first. But, what fascinated me was the fact that both trees have to be bruised, cut and stripped of their outer bark, so that the inner resin, the gum that is used to make the oils later on, could flow forth. The more they are bruised, the easier the flow of the resin. Knowing this, I thought of the passage at the top of this post. The Lord Yeshua was afflicted, bruised and cut for me and for you. His blood, like the resin of these oils, flowed from his body, to makeatonement for our sins. The resin that those trees produce as they are bruised is sticky. It brings forth not only amazing fragrances, but incredible healing properties. Similarly, The Lord Yehua’s blood covers and cleanses us from all sin. “And by His scourging, we are healed.” (Isaiah 53;5, emphasis added)  The peak-time for the harvesting of the Frankincense is in April, which would be somewhere around Pesach (Passover), the holiday during which The Lord Yeshua was bruised and wounded for our transgressions, then crucified to complete the work which the Father had given to Him. This leaves me at awe at what He has done, being willing to shed His blood for the forgiveness of my sins. Praise the Lord!

“And walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:2). The Lord Yeshua gave Himself as a sweet-smelling savor before God the Father, and “leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place”  (2 corinthians 2:14), and makes us a fragrance to God.

I was also amazed that both trees grow in dry areas, yet are capable of producing such wondrous, healing resins. This reminds me of another verse – “In a dry and weary land where there is no water, thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory” (Psalm 63:1-2). And the Frankincense being attached to a rock! Yet, no one know how that is done. The Lord Yeshua came down to earth as a man, leaving His heavenly form, and being fully God and fully man, was capable of accomplishing the work on the cross. He is our solid rock, and if we cling to Him, making Him “our root”, even the fiercest and most violent storms won’t be able to move us.

I hope this encourages you as it did me. Realizing what the Lord has done for us should keep us thanking Him and desiring to give our best and most precious to Him. Bless the Lord by Whose stripes we are healed!

© 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.

 

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