Following the Sound of God's Voice

The eyes of a newborn baby will instinctively follow the sound of the people she knows. While in the safety of the womb, she grew to hear and recognize her mother's and possibly her father's voice. Similarly for us, we are invited to listen and remember the sound of the Voice who lovingly formed us. Jesus reminds us to return to that womb-like place of the Father's compassion - where we are fully known and loved - and literally hear God's heart as we listen to the words.

John 10:22-30 (NLT)
It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication. 23 He was in the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
25 Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. 26 But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
What did you hear as you listened to the text? Did a word or phrase stand out in particular?

Meditate on this word, phrase or picture. Is there more God wants to say to you?

Place yourself in this conversation. Who are you? What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What do you want to say to Jesus? What does he in turn say to you?

Savor any consoling words or pictures God gives you. Simply rest in God’s presence.

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When We Want To Truly Hear

When we want to truly hear we can ask any question and give ourselves permission to wait for the answer. Mysteriously, God's Spirit in us helps us know when we hear that answer. We can wonder what those temple guards heard Jesus say, which compelled them to refuse a direct order from the chief priests. Who were those guards guarding?
This recorded dialogue offers us a front row seat to observing a religious system. It is teeming with a mixture of sublime, subversive and controlling questions. Notice the questions and the freedom surrounding them. Stay curious and allow the conversation to intersect with your own life and story.

John 7:45-53 NLT
When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
46 “We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded.
47 “Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. 48 “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? 49 This foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them!”
50 Then Nicodemus, the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. 51 “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked.
52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself—no prophet ever comes from Galilee!”
53 Then the meeting broke up, and everybody went home.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What caught your attention as you listened to the text? A word, a phrase, an image? Have a conversation with Jesus about what you heard.

Was there a particular feeling you experienced as you listened to the story? Bring that feeling into your prayer. How do you need Jesus to meet you in that feeling?

This text is full of questions. What do you notice about them? How do they affect you?

Be still and savor any consoling words or pictures in your prayer with God.

Who Are You?

Who gets to name us?
Which voices and perspectives define our name and the core of who we are?

John the Baptizer lived for some time in the wilderness, which in Hebrew literally means that place where we go to hear God. There John grew in learning how to listen and recognize God's voice. John's voice and life continue to guide us in learning to listen and recognize the voice of Jesus. In our own places of wilderness we too come to listen for the Voice who knows our true name.

John 1:19-28 (NLT)
19 This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” 20 He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.”
21 “Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?”
“No,” he replied.
“Are you the Prophet we are expecting?”
“No.”
22 “Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?”
23 John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah:
“I am a voice shouting in the wilderness,
    ‘Clear the way for the LORD’s coming!’”
24 Then the Pharisees who had been sent 25 asked him, “If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?”
26 John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. 27 Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.”
28 This encounter took place in Bethany, an area east of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing.

For Reflection and Prayer:

What did you hear as you listened or read the text? Did something particular catch your attention? Bring it into conversation with Jesus.

Give yourself room for the word to affect you. What are you feeling or sensing? Gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus.

As you come to the end of your prayer, savor any consoling words or images as you rest in the Lord.

How Do You Hear God's Voice?

The Lord's voice can become a powerful force in our lives - not in a fear inducing, paralyzing or threatening way - but in a gloriously transformative, healing and liberating way.
Can we imagine that learning to listen and hear God's voice could bring such depth of life, wholeness and peace?
Or be as simple as slowing and quieting enough to listen?
To pay attention?
Or to even believe that using our own voice can be one of the means to discern God's voice?
Pause again today, to listen...

Psalm 29NLT

Honor the Lord, you heavenly beings[a];
    honor the Lord for his glory and strength.
2 Honor the Lord for the glory of his name.
    Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
3 The voice of the Lord echoes above the sea.
    The God of glory thunders.
    The Lord thunders over the mighty sea.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is majestic.
5 The voice of the Lord splits the mighty cedars;
    the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf;
    he makes Mount Hermon[b] leap like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord strikes
    with bolts of lightning.
8 The voice of the Lord makes the barren wilderness quake;
    the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord twists mighty oaks[c]
    and strips the forests bare.
In his Temple everyone shouts, “Glory!”
10 The Lord rules over the floodwaters.
    The Lord reigns as king forever.
11 The Lord gives his people strength.
    The Lord blesses them with peace.
Footnotes:
29:1 Hebrew you sons of God.
29:6 Hebrew Sirion, another name for Mount Hermon.
29:9 Or causes the deer to writhe in labor.

For Reflection and Prayer:

What word, a phrase, image, or feeling affected you as you listened to the text? How did it affect you? Bring this into your prayer with Jesus.

This text is rich in metaphor and imagery. Does one metaphor in particular reflect a place or season of your spiritual journey now?
Does God have more to say to you about that season or place? Do you have more to talk over or say to God?

How does God’s voice come to you? Sound to you? How do you discern God’s voice from other voices?

A Soft and Tender Heart

In our listening through the good news of Mark, we listen to the words of Jesus, both the ones easy to hear and the ones we may be tempted to pass by quickly. This text reveals the nature of our hearts.

As I leaned in to listen to Jesus' heart, I heard the following:

Come and hear.
All of you, listen.
Your willingness to come to me,
your willingness to hear me,
your willingness to listen, that is to act on what you hear,
these are the signs of a soft and tender heart.
Let me continue to heal your heart, so that you do not need to act out of a defended heart which hurts yourself and others.
Keep coming to me, hearing and listening to me above the noise of the crowd.
I will transform your heart. You cannot transform your heart, solely of your own will. I am the one who gives you the desire, will and power to obey what you have heard.
Keep coming to me.
Apologize and make amends when you act out of your hard heart.
Return to me. I will make your heart soft.
I love you.
You cannot do this transformation apart from me.
Keep coming.
Keep hearing.
Keep listening

Stop trying to fix the outside and allow me to transform the inside.

Listen in for the voice of Jesus for yourself today. What is he saying to you?

Mark 7: 1-23 (NLT)
One day some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. 2 They noticed that some of his disciples failed to follow the Jewish ritual of hand washing before eating. 3 (The Jews, especially the Pharisees, do not eat until they have poured water over their cupped hands, as required by their ancient traditions. 4 Similarly, they don’t eat anything from the market until they immerse their hands in water. This is but one of many traditions they have clung to—such as their ceremonial washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles.)
5 So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.”
6 Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,
‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
7 Their worship is a farce,
    for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’
8 For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”
9 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. 10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. 13 And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”
14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.”
17 Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. 18 “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? 19 Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)
20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

For Reflection and Prayer:

As you listened to or read the text, was there a word, phrase or image which stayed with you?  Be still with them for a while. Ask Jesus about them. Is there more that Jesus says to you?

Reflect on your spiritual traditions, practices and rhythms. Which ones increase greater love and compassion within you towards God, yourself and others?
Make note of the ones that are most life-giving for you.

Are there traditions, practices and rhythms which drain life out of you? What fruit do you notice from them? Bring these into a prayer dialogue with Jesus. Is he inviting you to let go of any particular tradition or practice?

Invite Jesus to look with you into your heart. What do the two of you see? Spend some time surrendering/releasing what you are unable to fix to Jesus. Then turn your attention to where you notice softening, new growth and life. Welcome it. Nurture it. Return to it. God is at work!