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.
“Hello, Jesus,” Joseph whispered, his eyes glistening with tears.
He held in his arms the Promise of Israel. His whole body trembled with joy and relief over the days’ events. Fearing he would drop the babe, he kissed his forehead and placed him back in the manger.
Mary stirred. “Joseph.”
“My beloved one, you have a beautiful son,” he said. “How do you fare? Is all well?”
“Everything is fine, my darling. However, I think I shall sleep a thousand sleeps tonight,” she yawned. “Does my father know yet that he has a grandson?”
“Indeed I do!” Heli announced as he and Rebekah re-entered the stable. “In fact, the birth announcement has already been proclaimed.”
Puzzled, she looked at him. “Proclaimed?”
“Throughout Bethlehem – in every inn apparently.”
“Abba, how could you have done that so quickly, when I have just given birth?”
“Actually, you already have visitors – or rather Jesus does. Are you up to seeing them, Mary? I know you are tired, but they have quite a story to tell you.”
Mary and Joseph exchanged curious glances. “Visitors … proclamations? I am already intrigued,” Mary said as she struggled to sit up. “Tell them they may come in.”
Quietly, the shepherds shuffled into the warm, cozy stable. As soon as they saw the baby in the manger, they fell to their knees in worship. Mary watched them in silence, struck numb by the sudden clarity of who the baby in the manger was. I just gave birth to the Son of God. Blessed be the Lord!
She looked around the stable. What a contrast. Cows, goats, and sheep surrounded her. She sat in a bed of hay while the king of the world slept in a feeding trough at her side. And wonders of wonders, shepherds were kneeling in the hay worshipping her son. She looked at Joseph who had also fallen to his knees. What a night. What joy! Her heart overflowed with thanksgiving for Yahweh’s provision and she wept with happiness.
After reading Jeremiah 2 today, I was struck with grief over the heartbreak in God's voice as He asked the Israelites, "Why? Why have you forsaken me?" This entire chapter moved me, starting with what God remembered about His people. As we often look back on the "good ole' days" God too looked with fondness at how things used to be. Just listen to Him reminisce:
“I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, the love of your betrothals, your following after Me in the wilderness, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord, the first of His harvest. All who ate of it became guilty. Evil came upon them,” declares the Lord.
Israel was holy to the Lord, the first of His harvest. This was supposed to be the people in whom God would entrust the privilege of telling the world all about Him. They were to be an example to the nations on how to live holy lives dedicated to the Lord and in turn share with the world all they knew about the God of creation. But that didn't happen. Instead, they made the inheritance God gave them an abomination and they defiled the land (Jeremiah 2:7). The priests of Israel who were supposed to know the Law, didn't even know God. The rulers transgressed against God and Israel's "prophets" prophesied for false gods instead (Jeremiah 2:8). They exchanged the glory God gave them for idol worship. They forsook God and worshipped only what they created with their hands.They were the only nation at that time to throw away one god for another (Jeremiah 2:11). How horribly sad! How could they do that to God? How could they forsake the One who loved them so much He gave them everything?
Before we hasten to judge these people to whom God gave every good thing, let's look at where the church is at today. I fear we aren't much better. As Israel was enticed towards foreign gods and the pleasures they offered, they lost their reverence or fear of God. As the church seeks to make itself more compatible with the world by becoming seeker-friendly, we too are in danger of losing our fear of the Lord.
For example, many well-known Christians and churches have relaxed or changed their stance on gay-marriage. Rather than believing that God's Word never changes and that God also never changes, they have opted to ignore Scripture that condemns homosexuality in favour of man's approval. Their fear of God punishing them for their disobedience is superseded by their fear of man's disapproval. Other preachers have also exchanged God for a god that is more palatable. He is the prosperity god. This god cares so much for his children that he would never let them get sick or be poor. Everything is positive and good with this god and nothing negative ever happens to them. If it does, then these preachers blame the believer, claiming it is probably a hidden sin somewhere in the life of that individual. Prosperity preachers don't believe God uses sickness or calamity to teach valuable lessons. They don't believe being poor is a place God would have them, they simply won't accept that God might work that way. If they did, then their whole belief system would be pointless. Their faith is not in the God of the Bible, but in the god of this world.
Then there is the belief in some churches today that people have to feel comfortable in order to even step through the doors. Seeker friendly churches have removed the pews and replaced them with theatre seating. The pulpit has been replaced by a stage with proper lighting and sound. The foyer might even have a cafe that is welcoming and which provides a less-threatening atmosphere for first timers. I see nothing wrong with doing these things. But this casual approach to making people feel welcome, also brings with it a casual approach to God. You will not find fear of God in modern churches today. The word fear in Hebrew is yirah and has a wide range of meanings, one of which is reverence and awe. Yes, we are to fear God in the sense that if we do wrong it will not go unpunished, but we are also to be filled with reverence and awe. Hebrew4Christians.com says, "Yirah includes the idea of wonder, amazement, mystery, astonishment, gratitude, admiration and even worship (like the feeling you get when gazing from the edge of the Grand Canyon). The "fear of the Lord" therefore includes an overwhelming sense of the glory, worth, and beauty of the one true God."
Is this what we find on Sunday mornings? I have been to churches where the seats have drink holders, because often the congregation will bring back a coffee to sip on while "worshipping" God or listening to the sermon. Is this how we should approach a holy God? Some churches I've visited have limited the worship to two songs only, followed by a skit and the sermon. Why? One minister explained it to me like this, "We are trying to attract new people to the church. So we want them to have a good time so they will come back. But if we bog them down with songs they don't know or have lengthy prayers or sermons, we may never see them again." Once again the focus is not on reverencing God or worshipping Him, but on what "feels good".
We have done the same thing with our worship songs on Sunday morning. Worship teams have replaced the choir. The sound is turned up to excruciating levels, so that the elderly are forced to plug their ears or wait outside until the "worshipping" is done. Choruses have replaced hymns and now the congregation sings feel good tunes that have no depth and are repeated over and over again to create a sense of euphoria in our worship times. It's the same technique rock stars use to get their audiences worked up and involved with their music. Is this how Christians should worship God?
It is because we have relaxed our stance where music is concerned that we end up with blasphemous acts on Sunday morning like the Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey from Rick Joyner's Morningstar Ministries. This is not reverencing God, but ridiculing His Holy Spirit.
By trying to appeal to the world around us, Christians are unfortunately becoming more like the world by chasing after false gods or concepts that have crept into the pulpit and pushed God aside. I fear, like the Israelites in Jeremiah, the Lord will say to us, "Why do you go around so much changing your way" (Jeremiah 2:36)?
EDIT: God is never changing and stays the same. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. But the world is changing and I understand why the church wants to adapt to the changing times and attitudes of the day. Music is a great way to reach a lost soul. But when we take on a more "worldly" approach to come before God (i.e. Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey) we lose the reverence and fear of God that is needed in the church today. We need to remember that the building we go to each Sunday is where we go to corporately worship a Holy God. A church that is trying to adapt to the changes in the world and its value system, is a church that is trying to change God and is in danger of apostasy.