OK, I have always admitted to being numerically challenged, but this is ridiculous… I find myself still writing 2019 in my diary! And if that’s not bad enough… sometimes I’m not even sure what month it is!

No, I’m not losing my memory, I just feel overwhelmed by all that has been happening lately. It seems like every since Thanksgiving my life has been one big rush from event to event, with life lived somewhere in between. I wish I could say that every moment has been filled with value-lasting moments and no regrets – but that would be lie. The truth is, sometimes I feel so flooded with the to dos, that I just don’t want to do anything except veg out with a good book or a game… but then bad habits are formed, and suddenly the rush and hurry is my own fault.

My mother used to joke that she wrote a paper in university on the art of procrastination and turned it in two weeks late. However, her professor was not impressed. But now, I’ve put off the procrastination, and am finally sitting down to write.

If the past couple of months are any indication, personally, nationally, and worldwide, this is going to be an eventful year. I wish I could say it will be a better year, but I believe, thinking of the New Year, the best I can pray for (and not wish) is that God would grant peace and grace to those who are His, and use the events around us to open doors to share the only true hope for humankind – the hope of grace, forgiveness, and eternal life through the work of Jesus.

My take on the new peace plan

Between the coronavirus and Trump’s new peace plan, one thing is clear: if ever any of us needed wisdom from above and peace for every situation – it is now. When I heard the new peace plan I didn’t know if I should laugh or just ignore it. The terms are so far out of the realm of reality as to not be believed. However, if we ever wanted a proposal that could potentially prove to the world that Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) do NOT want peace, this is the one to prove it. Note I said Hamas and the PA. That is because I believe the Palestinians actually do want peace, the problem is their leaders, rhetoric, and dangers they face personally if they even hint that maybe working together with Israel could be good. On the Israeli side, the map is so full of holes (literally), that it makes us feel like Swiss cheese – good for a sandwich, but not for a nation.

The Coronavirus

I could be wrong, but the coronavirus might just beat the ratings for viewers – the fear is real. Yesterday, on the off chance that I might meet with Chinese people recently arrived from China, I went to buy a face mask. The pharmacist told me they were out, and that the factory was also empty. A new shipment of more expensive masks was due on Sunday, but she thought they’d be sold out pretty quickly. I was surprised, and she said that Israelis has been buying up masks ever since they heard about it. The news in Israel has been sketchy. An article three days ago mentioned that someone had been hospitalized, but it wasn’t yet known if they had the virus. Nevertheless, face masks are now in hot demand.

The Chinese community in Israel has also been impacted. Several students had gone home for the Chinese New Year. Now we don’t know if they will be able to return in time to start classes. Other Chinese people have gotten in to Israel through indirect flights. While they are NOT from Wuhan, there have been cases in their home cities. With no clarity as to how it really is spread and what symptoms to look for, there have been many concerns. Chinese people in Israel are buying face masks in the 1000s – to keep a few for themselves and mail the rest to China where supplies are rapidly dwindling.

Initially, many of the students were worried about the virus, but as they prayed together, and sought the Lord, they saw a wonderful door to share. They have now begun helping Chinese students starting to return to Israel – providing them with supplies, face masks, and going shopping for them, while the returnees maintain a self-imposed two-week quarantine.

They are also using this opportunity to witness to other students on campus – by giving them free face masks (just in case), but reminding them they have nothing to fear if they belong to God.

Fear of death is terrorizing the people of China

I don’t know if you’ve seen the videos of news coming out of China, but the truth is – the entire nation is in the chains of fear because of the virus. While the number of deaths have been relatively few, and mostly only in older men, people are terrified that they will get the virus –and die. The real problem is not the virus – but the fear of death.

There are several new Chinese doctors at the hospital I work in. They arrived at the beginning of the year and I’ve had unusual opportunities to get to know them. It has been a wonderful experience, and has led to my sharing my lunch break with them. One doctor, Xu (not his real name), sat with me on Sunday and shared his concerns with me about the virus.

As we talked about who, realistically could catch the virus, vs the odds of them dying, he agreed that much of the fear was an overreaction. I proposed to him that it was because of the fear of death. He nodded his head solemnly and agreed. We had the opportunity to discuss why in depth, and he agreed, that his people are not taught to believe in an afterlife, no one knows what will happen.  No one wants to die…

The conversation continued, and I finally had a chance to share that for me, the whole feeling was different. He asked why, and I shared that I am not afraid to die. He had already been in my English class once, and attended the Chinese Church another time, so he knew what I believed. As I explained to Xu what Jesus has done for me, and how my life is in Him, that I was 100% certain I would be with God when I died, Xu was clearly deeply moved.

Sunday, I have plans to meet with another doctor for lunch, and where she sits, others are sure to join. I am amazed that the Lord would open such a wonderful door, and that they are continuing to talk with me, and share their thoughts with me – something highly unusual for these men and women who have never been exposed to the gospel before.

God’s sovereignty in sickness and in health

Sick or healthy, we belong to God, and God remains sovereign. Sometimes He heals, amazingly so, and people are brought to the Lord. But more often, I have seen Him give people the grace to walk through illness… and that has often been a more powerful testimony.

Many of you know that I have had serious struggles with my back and knees. The doctors wanted me to undergo surgery – a knee replacement – back surgery… in the end, I underwent three months of intense physical therapy, and learning new exercises and movements. I need to exercise regularly to maintain my muscle strength, but by God’s grace, surgery has been postponed – I hope permanently.

Today I went out for lunch with my Godson, Matan. The restaurant was not accessibility-friendly – 10 steps just to get in, but if needed the restroom, a steep flight of some 30 stairs! Before we left, I climbed the stairs, and then walked back down – without a cane. Matan was amazed.  What happened? A lot of prayer and a lot of hard work.

Sovereignty and cooperation

Whether it’s doing my physical therapy, wearing a face mask, or seeking to love my enemies… these actions reflect different ways I cooperate with God for His will. None of these are guarantees that my back will feel better, that I won’t get the coronavirus, or that my enemy won’t kill me. But they are reasonable actions I can take to help protect myself, and then leave the rest in God’s hands. He is sovereign, but I need to cooperate with Him.  

Sometimes when people ask me if I’m afraid to live in Israel, I say, “No. I’m safer here in Israel in the center of God’s will than anywhere else outside of His will.” But His will isn’t just about where I am, but what I do, and how I life – it’s in the depths of my heart and in my thoughts, that one knows but me – and Him.

Cooperating with God isn’t always easy

I don’t know about you, but for me, that has always been the hardest part of living. Living in Israel is relatively easy. I love it here. No, for me, the biggest struggle is the little things – cooperating with God and His sovereignty. The really little things, like getting up on time, like not getting angry at the bad driver in front of me, like not playing a game for two or three or five hours, like being patient and kind at work – in every situation. Nope, those are the things I struggle with.

I’m not upset about Trump’s peace plan. I think we have the whole political picture wrong. Ultimately, politics will never usher in world peace. Only God can, and eventually will, do that. I’m truly not afraid of the coronavirus – the worst it could do is give me an early entrance to my true home. My fears are pettier and more self-centered.

I will always need my Savior

And that is why I will always need my precious savior Jesus. As I read in my Bible, I never cease to be amazed by what God has done for me. These verses, which I just happened to read last night during my bedtime reading, sum it up perfectly. How thankful I am for my Savior Jesus, who is praying for us. In Him is my forgiveness, and my hope, now, and beyond death.

If a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?”

If anyone does sin, we have an Intercessor with the Father—Jesus Christ the righteous.  He is the atonement for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world. God set forth Jesus as an atonement, through faith in His blood, to show His righteousness in passing over sins already committed. Through God’s forbearance, He demonstrates His righteousness at the present time—that He Himself is just and also the justifier of the one who puts his trust in Jesus.

He is gracious to him, and says ‘Deliver him from going down to the Pit—I have found a ransom;’

What then shall we say in view of these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? It is God who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? It is Christ, who died, and moreover was raised, and is now at the right hand of God and who also intercedes for us.

1 Sam. 2:25 | 1 John 2:1-2 | Rom. 3:25-26 | Job 33:24 | Romans 8:31,33,34