The Voice For Our Benefit

The Father speaks another time to the crowd surrounding Jesus. Again it is difficult for the people to trust or discern the source of the voice. It might be easy to assume that the people in this text should have recognized and understood the voice from heaven. Instead, let us consider how we hear, discern and trust the voice of God. A willingness to pay attention and listen, a biblical understanding of the love and grace of God, prayerful reflection and conversations with wise, spiritual friends and mentors can help us discern what God is saying to us. What voices are you currently listening to? Where is God's voice leading you into the light?

John 12:28-37 NLT
Father, bring glory to your name.”
Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, “I have already brought glory to my name, and I will do so again.” 29 When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken to him.
30 Then Jesus told them, “The voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. 32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate how he was going to die.
34 The crowd responded, “We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?”
35 Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. 36 Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.”
After saying these things, Jesus went away and was hidden from them.
37 But despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe in him.

For Reflection and Prayer:
If something captured your attention - a word, a phrase, an image - let this simmer in you and allow the Spirit to expand its meaning for you.
Notice any place of consolation or desolation that you experienced as you listened to and allow the Father to minister to you there.
What touches you about Jesus in this word? Talk it over with him.

print pdf

Called By Name

Most of us can recall the sound of our name being called as a child - by a loving or frustrated parent, a delighted grandparent, a patient or anxious teacher, an exasperated sibling or playmate, an inspiring or demanding coach. Each call out told us something about our self. Were we welcome, delightful, acceptable, worthy or capable in that moment? Did that calling compel us to respond in trust and courage to that voice?
Listening for the voice of Jesus will ask us to examine how we hear him call us by name. Is the voice of love, hope and life calling us forward?

John 10:1-10 NLT
“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! 2 But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”
6 Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, 7 so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. 9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Listen  In a comfortable, quiet place, slowly and carefully listen to or read the Bible passage. Notice any words or phrases or images that seem alive to you at the moment. Allow yourself to stop and hold them in your heart before God.
 
Meditate  Repeat the words or phrases slowly to yourself. Or linger with the image. Allow them to interact with your inner world of memories, ideas or concerns. Ask yourself what meaning they may have for you.
 
Conversation  Share what you are discovering with the words and/or images and how they touch your heart with Jesus. Ask Jesus what the Father is saying to you through this prayer time.
 
Contemplate  When words or pictures are no longer needed, allow yourself to rest on Jesus’ lap. Feel the strength and tenderness of the Father’s love for you. Allow it to pour into your heart and fill you up. Linger here, resting in God’s compassionate care for you.
 
Cooperative Action  Ask Jesus to show you what the Father wants to do from this prayerful reading time with you. If you desire it, ask him to cause that change to happen by the Spirit’s power and your obedience working together from this point.

Listen To Live

Steeped in the love of the Father, we are strengthened to listen and enabled to become truth tellers and truth hearers. Each time we pause to listen, we hear words which are filtered through our interpretation of the tone of voice, the context in which they are spoken and our trust of the intent behind the voice. How do we check out if what we are hearing is true? This text gives us clues to how we can bring prayerful discernment to our filter of what we are hearing. Which words (tone, content, intent) lead to abundant life? and which words bring destruction and death?
Before you listen to these words of Jesus, become quiet and still before the Father and allow his love to meet you as you are. When you have found a re-connection to his love, begin listening to these words of his Son.

John 5:24-30NLT
 “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.
25 “And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. 26 The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son. 27 And he has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man. 28 Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, 29 and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment. 30 I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will.

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.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

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?

What Do We Usually Do?

Steeped in this text, we witness the typical form and pattern of life effectively lived apart from God. Thinking they are powerfully in control, the Jewish ruling elite make perfectly executable plans. Pontius Pilate, the appointed governor, leads and decides without pausing to pay attention to his own discomfort and dis-ease with the decision before him. As much as we want to blame all of them for the horrible treatment of Jesus, we can see our own similar patterns of behavior. If we are truly honest with ourselves...

we make elaborate plans without consulting God;

we disregard certain information, often living on autopilot, doing what we always do while not paying attention to the signals of new information, or the prompting of the Holy Spirit within;

we chose to satisfy the "crowd", either consciously or unconsciously, and betray the Still Small Voice within.

Perhaps God is inviting us to consider giving up old patterns of doing what we usually do and allowing the Spirit to do a new thing in us.

Mark 15:1-15 (NIV)
Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.
2 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”
5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.
6 Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. 7 A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. 8 The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.
9 “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
12 “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
13 “Crucify him!” they shouted.
14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.


For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, a phrase, image, or feeling that stood out to you as you listened? Bring it into your prayer with Jesus. Try drawing your prayer if you are so inclined.

What do you notice about ‘making plans’ in the text? How do you ‘make plans’? What have you noticed when you invite Jesus to ‘make plans’ with you? Talk with him about it.

Perhaps crowd pleasing, or people pleasing is a temptation for you as you make decisions. How is Jesus guiding you in discernment as you face choices?

Be with Jesus in this story, either at a distance or by his side. Just be with him.