The Mystery of 2015

We face this every year.  December winds down as not just a new month, but a new year looms. The prevailing mood on TV talk shows, in magazines and on radio is one of hope, of anticipation; a sense of ‘Surely next year will be better than this one.’

But it’s all a mystery – really.

We don’t know.  We don’t know what 2015 will bring.  We may fantasize, project, opine and even plan.

But we don’t know – not for sure.

There is One who does but in His wisdom He doesn’t tell us everything ahead of time.  And it’s better that way for many reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity for us to grow in FAITH.

As I look around today’s tired world, it seems to me that more than a decline in morals, more than a deterioration of the family unit, more than the agony of brutal wars is the tragic and devastating devaluation of FAITH across societies.  In the short few years of one generation, a creeping secularism has invaded a previously Judao-Christian society that was the America of my parents’ generation and my grandparents’.

When FAITH in God is weakened and even denigrated, moral values and ethical standards crumble.  This is why well-meaning and well-funded social organizations staffed by hard working volunteers lament meager results.

As we step into 2015, my prayer for the two countries of which I am a citizen is this: as a society may we find our way back to the God of our Fathers, may we hear His voice more clearly and follow His ways more nearly.  May our faith grow as we feed our spiritual hunger with the truth of His Torah, His Words of Life.

Much of what will happen in the world during the coming year may be beyond our individual control.  The mystery of 2015 is not what will become the “big news” of televised broadcasts.  The real mystery of 2015 is what will happen within us during the coming year? That IS very much in our control.  It’s our choice – to seek God or not.

At this time next year, may all of us be closer to the ultimate destiny of all mankind: to be a clear reflection of the goodness and greatness of God for that in fact is the purpose for which He created us: to be an expression of His likeness to those around us.

I wish you every blessing for the new year,

Sophia Bar-Lev

Hanukkah – Where are the miracles today? December 2014

The miracle of Hanukkah that we celebrate each year serves to remind us that as much as we get caught up in the mundane and the daily, we have a wonderful God Who is delightfully independent of earthly circumstances!  In the midst of utter destruction and chaos in Jerusalem in the days of the Maccabees, God showed up, provided the needed oil supernaturally and the faith of a people was renewed.

happy-hanukkah-imageYou see, we may think that the ‘miracle’ was the multiplication of the oil.  It was, to be sure, but a greater ‘miracle’ was the renewal of faith within the hearts of the downtrodden and defeated people of Israel.

As we approach Hanukkah this year, I’d like to suggest that our contemporary society is suffering, not so much from an economic downturn or disturbing scandals in high places around the world, but from a widespread weakening of FAITH in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  He hasn’t changed; we have.  The principles that guided the lives of our past heroes have become muddled in the modern mind.

Faith is NOT pretending that something exists when it really doesn’t.  Faith is not some mental game; or a crutch for the weak. The dictionary defines FAITH as:

1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.
3. Loyalty and allegiance.

Can you “see” the television signals coming into your home?  They exist, they are just unseen realities yet you and I have “faith” that every time we press the button, that television will come on and the images will appear.  However the television in your family room doesn’t generate those images.  They were already ‘out there’. You’ve just tuned in to them.

God is the same – always and forever.  He is broadcasting all His power and all His blessings 24/7.  God’s transmitter is never broken: our receiver is the problem.

Faith – true biblical faith – is confidence in the trustworthiness of God. It is the stabilizing foundation for a productive and inspiring life.  His mercies are new every morning, the psalmist wrote.  Great is His faithfulness.

Hanukkah is not about oil; it’s about renewing our faith that before we even turn to Him, He has already provided what we need.  The minute we start looking for ‘logical proof’ or ‘material evidence’ we deal a death blow to genuine faith.

Hanukkah begins Tuesday evening, December 16th and continues through December 24th.  Can we dedicate these eight days to meditating on God’s goodness and His faithfulness as displayed for us in the pages of the Scriptures?

Hungry to see miracles like the people we read about?  Miracles follow relationship; they don’t create it.

Feed your soul from His Word and let your faith be renewed and enlarged.  Tune in to His transmitter and let the message of Hanukkah carry you into 2015 with a deeper relationship with your God.