How do we learn to have faith? Is it acquired through osmosis by being part of a Christian family? Is it something that grows over time? How do we grow in faith? More importantly, how do we instill our faith in God, in our children and other family members?
I don't know why, but my study of Jeremiah seems to be having a theme that centers around false teachers and bad politicians, and yet this is not the theme of the study I'm following. I believe I already mentioned I'm following Kay Arthur's study on Jeremiah, titled Listening to God in Difficult Times. And I am once again amazed as to what God is showing me. True, the people in Jeremiah's time were not listening to God at all, but it was their complete and utter disregard for God and His ways that made it impossible for them to hear Him. This is why He sent Jeremiah. To warn them of their wickedness.
I am currently looking at Jeremiah 8 and today while reading, I paused and reflected on several different verses that got me thinking about Joel Osteen and his power of positive thinking and the false prosperity gospel he preaches. I also kept hearing in my head that song from the Lego Movie called "Everything is Awesome". I have talked about false doctrines and false teachers before, and in my book He Who Has an Ear I even have a chapter on who the wolves in sheep's clothing are today. But today, a series of verses seemed to strike a chord with me about these types of preachers who preach that everything is awesome, and the Christians who listen to them and accept what they are saying without checking their bibles first to find out if it's truth, are doing themselves no favours.
You shall say to them, Thus says the Lord: When men fall, do they not rise again? If one turns away, does he not return? Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit; they refuse to return.
In the verses above, God is lamenting that the people of Jerusalem fall or backslide and never return to Him. They refused to hold onto His laws and obey Him and instead they worshipped other idols. The false beliefs and practices they clung to made them feel good, but they did not honour God and were not believing or practising their faith as God intended. But because they were so entrenched in their new beliefs and believed that it was okay to practice idol worship and worship God at the same time, they refused to repent and return to God and His ways.
I have paid attention and listened, but they have not spoken rightly; no man relents of his evil, saying, ‘What have I done?’
Today's false teachers have not spoken rightly. They have not relented of their evil but have encouraged others to follow them in their false beliefs. They have discarded God's Word which calls sin, sin and have instead opened their arms to the approval of immorality and man's opinion. They have encouraged the people they lead to treat God like a genie in a bottle, who is there at our disposal, ready to grant our every wish. The mantra of Osteen is to think positively if you want good things to happen. In other words, if you believe it enough, God will make good things happen for you. And just like Jeremiah's people, Christians who do not know the Word of God are blindly following these wolves in sheep's clothing and are plunging headlong towards a spiritual battle where they will have to make a choice - believe what feels good, or accept that the only way to God is through repentance and confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.
Even the stork in the heavens knows her appointed times; And the turtledove, the swift, and the swallow
This holds true for the church today. Many Christians have a misinformed belief that revival is coming to the church and a "new wave" of God's Spirit is about to move over the land that will revitalize the church in general. But the Bible predicts that the end-time church will be wracked with apostasy. This is coming true before our eyes as we see one prominent church leader after another rejecting God's Word in favour of man's opinion and a "feel good" Gospel that tickles the ears. God's people do not know or realize that judgement is about to come upon them!
“How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord,
The "wise men" of Jeremiah's day were the scribes and priests. They believed that it was okay to worship God and idols and they spread these lies by manipulating God's laws. They told the people they would go unpunished, and as these verses indicate, they probably wrote down these lies and added them to God's laws. But what does God say about them? He says, they have rejected the word of the Lord and there is no wisdom in them.
Again, this holds true for false teachers and preachers today who have rejected God's laws for their own wisdom. Worse, they write books about their false doctrines that sell thousands of copies and deceive everyone who reads them into believing their words come from God.
From the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely. For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly
And here we come to the crux of the matter. Preachers and Christians in general who proclaim peace when there is no peace. Who shout from the rooftops about the power of positive thinking - of believing and claiming. One of Joel Osteen's lies is, "If you want a shift to occur, you've got to think positive." In his newest book, The Power of I Am, he encourages his readers to use God's name - I AM - (Exodus 3:14) in a blasphemous way. He couches his words with life-affirming thoughts that are always focused on the positive. Negative things in life are, according to Joel, not from God. He rejects sickness, suffering and in a recent Sunday morning telecast he even rejected growing old and putting on weight as something that could simply be changed by saying, "I am not old. I am not overweight. I am young and I am thin." This is not biblical! If it were then the Apostle Paul would be, according to Joel, the worst sort of Christian because he says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that God's "strength is made perfect in weakness." And he continues in 2 Corinthians 12:10-11 by saying; "Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
What Joel is preaching and writing about is a lie from the devil. The Bible does not teach that if we believe it enough or say it in a certain way something good will happen. God is not Santa Claus! That's like Dorothy clicking her heels together three times and wishing she were back in Kansas. So what does God say about people like Joel and the people who "trust in Joel" rather than in God? He says He is going to judge the church.
1 Peter 4:17 warns us: "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?" His words were prophetic, because it would not be too many years after he wrote them that the Temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed in A.D. 70. But this verse still applies to the church today, because if you as a Christian are mixing false doctrines with the Word of God then you are doing exactly as the people in Jeremiah's day.
The foundation of your faith should not be based on false promises, good feelings and positive thinking. Your faith should be built on the Rock of Jesus Christ and the Word of God.
If it isn't, you are on shaky ground my friend. If you have turned your ear from listening to the true Gospel and instead have forsaken it for the teachings of false prophets and liars then you are no better than the people of Jeremiah's day. They wanted to believe that everything was awesome and God would never allow them to suffer because they belonged to Him and all He wanted was the best for them. Well guess what? This is what false prophets are teaching today. They don't want to believe that when God comes again it will be in wrathful anger and judgement. And they don't want to believe or preach that the church will be the first one judgement is going to be executed upon. Instead they want to cry out, "Peace! Peace! Revival is coming. Get ready for a fresh outpouring of God's Holy Spirit to move over the land."
If you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour and have trusted in his atoning sacrifice, then rest assured you are saved from God's condemnation. However, if you have added to your foundation with false beliefs, you will not escape God's correction, which, as Jeremiah's people discovered, feels a lot like punishment.
Joel Osteen and those in the Word of Faith movement want you to believe that sickness, tragedy, bad finances, etc. are all of the devil. They want you to rebuke all these bad things. O Christian, that is Satan talking. When bad things happen to us, it is God saying, "You need a course correction in your life. Now listen up!" Sometimes that tragedy can be too much to bear. It might mean the loss of someone you love. I understand that pain. It's hard to fight through the grief to see if God is trying to tell you something. But more often than not, even the death of a loved one can lead us closer to God. We may even have something tragic happen to us physically, but again whatever happens in this life does not happen without God's knowledge. He always has a plan and a reason. Joni Eareckson Tada knows that first hand after a diving accident in 1967 left her a quadriplegic. But God used her in a mighty way despite her disability.
Have you forsaken God's Word? Are you putting more trust in celebrity preachers? To listen to preachers who expound on all things positive, is a dangerous thing. It's time to come away from these people now. Stop giving them the glory (and your money) and return to God. If you have been deceived by the likes of Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn and anyone else in the Word of Faith movement, then repent and return to the Lord before it is too late.
This week I am starting a new thing I like to call Monday Meditations. I invite you to add links to your website/blog that are devotional in nature, so that we might all encourage one another. Today's meditation or devotional is a poem I wrote some years ago during a time when I was purposely being quiet before the Lord. Rather than coming before Him with all my worries and prayer requests, I deliberately sat still and just listened - waiting for Him to speak. This poem is the result of that time of quiet reflection.
If I close my eyes and remain perfectly still
will I be able to shut out the noise of the day?
The barking dog across the street?
My neighbour's children yelling?
The drone of the dishwasher?
Be STILL and know that I am God.
How can I be still enough to hear You, O Lord?
My mind is always racing.
Thoughts pop into my head,
random ideas that beg to be chased down.
I am still, but there is too much noise.
How do I HEAR you O Lord?
Do I keep repeating Your name like a mantra?
Will humming work, or scented candles?
Do I search the Scriptures looking for signs
that You are speaking only to me?
How do I HEAR you?
BE STILL and know that I am God.
Is it in the waiting?
How long do I give you before You will speak?
One hour? Two?
I have waited, yet I do not hear.
BE STILL and know that I am God.
I stepped outside and my ears were overwhelmed
with noise from cars, children, dogs and lawnmowers.
It is hard to focus inside my house.
It is equally hard outside.
And then I heard You.
A still small voice.
A gentle breeze that caressed my face.
The leaves rustling in the trees,
blowing a sweet sound of praise.
A sunbeam piercing through a cloud,
landing on my face with a warm, gentle kiss.
Subtle touches that fill my heart
till it is close to bursting with joy!
No audible voice, but a presence that is unmistakable.
It is not the stilling of my mind or the sounds around me
that enable me to hear you.
I hear You because I have pursued You
and You love to be pursued.
So, I will seek you in the morning and in the evening.
I will talk to you throughout my stress-filled, noisy, busy days.
And I will hear You because
I am Your child and You are my God, my Father, my Saviour.
“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)
Please share your devotional website/blog links below. Let us encourage one another in the Lord.
people. I shudder to think of how I once made my best friend sit down at the dining room table and read the Bible aloud with me. I was 17, and a first-class idiot.
We had just moved to a new city for the fourth time (my parents moved every year during my highschool years) and I knew no one. The friends I did pick up along the way were a mixed bunch. Some liked to party and drink (a lot) and others were the same way, only they called themselves Christians because they believed in God and had "youth group meetings" and "Bible studies". I couldn't actually differentiate between the two groups as far as their lifestyles went, so I joined those who liked to study their Bibles like me, because I was pretty sure my unsaved friends were getting sick of me always talking about Jesus. But, much to my dismay their belief in God was only that. They believed, but they weren't about to change their lives for Him. Some of them did, but the majority just kept on partying and drinking. I began to think it was okay to be like I was before I knew Jesus, so I would read my Bible, learned lots of stuff, continued to share with those who didn't know the Lord and yet - not make an impact on anyone. Why? I was still living as an unsaved person. Taking my cues from the "Christians" around me.
I didn't know what being "born again" actually meant.
Then, one day I finally met a different kind of Christian. Someone who was committed to God in all aspects of their lives and I started taking my clues from this person on how a Christian was supposed to behave. Unfortunately, I didn't realize, due to my young age and my lack of Scriptural knowledge, that this person was too legalistic and I became afraid to speak my mind or do anything really, without feeling judged for it. I continued to read my Bible, discovering new insights and comparing Jesus' life to how people behaved at my church. But kept these insights to myself. And I became horribly confused on why Jesus' life and attitude were so different from my fellow church goers.
By the time I met my husband I had already begun a singing ministry. I had decided to continue with my Bible studies and voice my discontent through my songwriting. When we relocated and found a church home we inadvertently stumbled into the most legalistic church I'd ever been in. And I felt smothered. People would actually chastise me for raising my hands while singing worship songs. Oh, my! I was not only feeling smothered, I was becoming depressed. For a long time (at least a good 15 years) I would "learn" what it meant to be a Christian from critical, judgemental people. People who were quick to think the worst about you, would spread gossip and lies behind your back and basically do everything Jesus had explicitly told them not to do.
I began to hate going to church.
I buckled down, continued singing and ignored those who "hated" my exuberance during worship. And finally new people began coming to my church. Christians who showed me the love of God and accepted and encouraged me in my walk with the Lord. They prayed with me, loved me and encouraged me to study my Bible, because it was through my Bible that I would truly learn what God was like and what He expected from me. This was when I began to grow in the Lord.
And I began to change.
It took a while, I'll admit, before I started to change. I had been so long with critical people that my spirit had become damaged. But I finally began to morph into the person I was when I first came to know the Lord. Someone who loved the Scriptures and wanted to dig deeper into them, letting the wisdom of God change me from the inside out. I finally began to accept that my quirkiness was something God built into me and I shouldn't have allowed others to silence me.
My love of Scripture and the desire to share what I learned was a gift God had given me when He first filled me with His Holy Spirit. And all the stuff in between (life in general with all its ups and downs) had all been God ordained. My incurable disease, my loss of my singing voice, a fall down a flight of stairs that left me disabled, cancer scares and more - all of it - was to help me grow and change into the person I am now. Someone with faults. Someone God has forgiven and is using despite those faults. A sinner saved by grace.
My mother in-law was a very wise woman. She once told me never to place your trust in people, because people will always let you down. Place your trust solely on the Lord. Let your Bible and God be your influencers. I'm glad I finally listened to her.
So, what about you? Where are you in your journey with God? Are you letting the Holy Spirit lead you, or are you letting other people determine who you will become?
“The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26, NKJV)
The above verse is probably the most familiar verse in the Bible. On Sunday mornings in many churches it is the final benediction or blessing before people leave the service. On the Sabbath (Saturday) in synagogues around the world, this particular blessing is also used as a way to end the service. However, it doesn't stop there, but is also carried on into the home. For example, on Friday night when the Sabbath starts, parents say this blessing over their children. Today, Jews who are in attendance for morning prayers will have this blessing said over them by the rabbis.
Do you remember when Spock would say, "Live long and prosper" when addressing someone in the Star Trek universe? Leonard Nimoy (the actor who played Spock) was Jewish, and it was from the rabbis in his synagogue that he first saw the sign of the spread fingers. In fact, he told a story where, as a young boy, he was admonished never to look at the rabbis while they were saying this prayer. Why? According to Jewish tradition, the Divine presence would shine through the fingers of the priests as they blessed the people, and no one was allowed to look out of respect for God. Interestingly, the symbol of the spread fingers is the letter Shin in the Hebrew alphabet, which is the first letter in Shaddai (El Shaddai means the All Sufficient God) and it is the prayer above where the priests/rabbis would spread their fingers.
But what is so special about this blessing in particular? This blessing is said in Jewish traditions a number of times. For example, besides being used as a benediction, it is used during Jewish weddings when the couple stand under a chuppah (a canopy), where they would be blessed by their parents or the rabbi in attendance. It is also used during the circumcision ceremony (brit milah) when a baby boy is eight days old. So there are many ways the blessings is used, but it began with a command from God to Aaron (Moses brother) that it was to be a blessing from God said over the people of Israel. Originally, it was said only by the priests (the kohanim) of God, but nowadays it is accepted that people will use it as a blessing on their loved ones.
So let us look at this verse closely, because I want you to be able to grasp the important significance of such a blessing. One thing I want to stress is that the priests were not giving their own blessing. This was a blessing from God Himself. The priests/rabbis were merely the means in which to transmit this blessing. This is confirmed by the verse immediately following the blessing. "So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them" (Numbers 6:27).
There are three parts to this blessing:
The Lord Bless You and Keep You
What does it mean "to bless"? The word bless in Hebrew conveys the idea that our weaknesses are strengthened by God's strength. In fact, the root word for bless is barukh and means to kneel, or humble ourselves as an act of adoration. So in our weakness we kneel before God and He blesses us, or strengthens us through His mighty power. The blessing above when said as a benediction at the end of a service is meant to convey the idea of sending us out into the coming week with the strength of God resting on us. To accomplish what we cannot do on our own, because we are weak.
Most Hebrew prayers begin with Barukh atah Adonai, "Blessed are You Lord," which reminds us of God's power and strength, at the same time humbling ourselves before Him. So, Numbers 6:24-26 does not mean that God is humbling Himself, it means He is imparting His strength to us by passing on His blessing of strength. And the first verse goes further. Not only is God blessing us with His strength but He is "keeping" us within His care. 'Keep' in Hebrew is shamar and means to "keep, watch over, guard or protect." So these first words of blessing from God mean, quite simply, that God is blessing us with His strength and watching over us. This does not mean we will never experience tragedy. It simply means God's eye is upon us, watching over everything we do and blessing us as we carry out His work here on earth.
The Lord Make His Face Shine Upon You, and be Gracious To You
The Lord said in Exodus 33:20 that no one could look at Him at live (survive). So what does it mean when He wants to "make His face shine upon us"? This is an incredible statement from the God of creation to His children. 'Face' in Hebrew is paniym and it has a variety of meanings, like "favour, countenance, presence or person". So in this blessing from God, He is making His presence or favour shine upon us. God's Holy Spirit, is an ever present light within our hearts that searches out and knows us intimately. Nothing can be hidden from Him. 'Gracious' in Hebrew is chanan and means "to show favour or mercy." So, the second half of this blessing is God bestowing His light or presence upon us and showing us His mercy or favour.
The Lord Lift up His Countenance Upon You, and Give you peace
The same word for face is also the same word for countenance. So what is the difference here? Picture a father lifting his child up into his arms and gazing lovingly upon him. That is what God our Father is doing here. He is lifting his face, his countenance upon us with that same kind of love. And what does a father who loves his children want for them above all else? Peace, contentment, joy, good health. This blessing from God is an amazing example of how He views His children. How can anyone who believes in God therefore, not reciprocate with complete adoration and praise to the One who blesses us so freely? The next time you hear this benediction in church let the importance of who this blessing is from wash over you. It is not just something the minister or priest says as the end of the service. This is a blessing from God above, meant for His children. Receive it with joy and thanksgiving and take it with you throughout the week, remembering that God will never leave you, nor forsake you. You are His child and He loves you very much.