Wednesday, July 14, 2010



Yesterday I spoke of how important it is to hear and listen to the voice of Jesus, the Shepherd, rather than rely on a series of clichés or even your favorite passages of Scriptures by taking them out of context.

So, how do you hear the voice of Jesus? I want to offer 5 essentials to prepare you for hearing and listening to the voice of Jesus:

FIRST-Immerse yourself in the Scriptures. Read, reread and meditate on the Scriptures as you would a love letter, not a research paper. Always search for Jesus wherever you are reading, not getting sidetracked with anything else. Remember it's the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law. This was the mistake the religious leaders who confronted Jesus made and He was continually correcting them. They were so wrapped up in Bible memory and organizing the Scriptures into doctrinal systems that they missed Jesus in the process.

It is fascinating to me to think about what the Scriptures were that were around when Jesus was working with His disciples. It was the Law or Torah, the Writings, which included the Proverbs and the Psalms and then the Prophets. When Jesus was confronted and tempted by the devil in the wilderness, Jesus quoted Scripture to resist the evil one. He quoted verses out of Deuteronomy. Then we see Jesus walking with two disciples on the road to Emmaus and He did something that blows me away. In Luke 24:27 it is recorded: He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Jesus walked them through the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms in order to open their minds about Himself.

Then Philip had a very special divine appointment with the Ethiopian eunuch who was reading the scroll of Isaiah in his chariot. In Acts 8:35 it says: Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. Philip used the Old Testament to teach this interested official about Jesus.

SECOND-Be aware of the Jesus themes throughout the Scriptures. In order to seek Jesus in the Scriptures, especially the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, look for the major themes about Jesus there. For instance, there is the theme of the glory or the Shekinah glory-the visible presence of God-throughout. Beginning with the presence of God in the Garden, the burning bush, the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day that led the children of Israel through the wilderness, the star of Bethlehem and then Jesus is the ultimate Shekinah glory-the visible presence of God-on earth. Check out the many times the Angel of the Lord or the Angel of Jehovah appeared in the Old Testament. Most think this was actually Jesus. The theme of the Messianic deliverer of those who are surrendered to be His people is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. The theme of the suffering Servant, the Son of Man and the Son of God is embodied in Jesus and clearly presented in the Gospels. Jesus was the uniquely born one-the holy one of Israel-born of a virgin by the Spirit of God.

Jesus fulfilled and gave meaning to every mark and letter of the Mosaic Law. Jesus fulfilled every longing of the heart of the Psalms-to dwell among us. And, Jesus also fulfilled the many Messianic prophecies. The Scriptures all speak of Jesus and find their culmination in Him, so look for those themes that find their way to Jesus.

THIRD-Count on His wisdom. If you are seeking to hear and listen to the voice of Jesus, ask for His wisdom as you live your life the best you can. In one of the early writings of the New Covenant-the book of James-there is a very insightful passage: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Those who doubt should not think they will receive anything from the Lord; they are double-minded and unstable in all they do. (James 1:5-8) I ask for wisdom every day and sometimes many times a day and I count on it as I make decisions, wanting to hear the voice of Jesus as I move through the day.

FOURTH-Be sure to seek Jesus within the context of a few. One of the most important ways for you to hear the voice of Jesus is to operate within a supportive community. It's learning to practice the "one anothers" in the name of Jesus. Remember, it's when two or three are gathered together in the name of Jesus that Jesus will show up and make His presence known. When this happens, you will recognize and hear His voice.

FIFTH-Discipline yourself to listen when you pray. When you pray, don't just do all of the talking and asking; take the time to listen for an answer. This seems so simple, yet it is very difficult to do. It takes some painful discipline to sit quietly and listen.

You will find these 5 essentials to be most helpful as you seek to hear the voice of Jesus in times like these.

There is one more thing that seems vital in hearing and listening to the voice of Jesus. It may be the most critical dimension of all! In John 6, Jesus was asked: "What must we do to do the work of God?" Jesus answers this most simply with: "The work of God is this: TRUST THE ONE GOD HAS SENT." Or, simply put: learn to trust Jesus with everything-your security, your family, your business, your future-everything! When you have the courage to trust Jesus with everything, believe me, you will hear and listen to what He has to say. This is the ultimate expression Jesus is looking for as you learn to respond to His most revolutionary words ever: FOLLOW ME! I think Jesus is saying to each of us: "Can you hear me now?



The world is in a funk and the spirit of depression is in the air. It's everywhere! I sense it no matter where I go-parties, dinners, at religious gatherings, breakfasts, coffees, riding on the airplane, at the car wash, in the neighborhood and at family events. The depression of the day is financial, yet to most people this is not the worst problem. The worldwide financial crisis is horrendous and affects all of us, but it serves to reveal even deeper and more menacing problems and stressors.

So, where do you turn in times like these? What is it that you can hang on to, when you find yourself saying, "Why?", "Why me?" or "Why Now?" How do you obtain a sense of guidance?

You can turn to clichés, yet moral maxims are confusing. One of my favorite teachers, Bruxy Cavey, started me thinking on how fickle modern clichés actually are: · Better safe than sorry OR nothing ventured, nothing gained. · Absence makes the heart grow fonder OR out of sight, out of mind. · Look before you leap OR he who hesitates is lost. · If at first you don't succeed, try, try again OR don't beat your head against a brick wall. · Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today OR don't cross that bridge until you come to it. · You're never too old to learn OR you can't teach an old dog a new trick. · Many hands make light work OR too many cooks spoil the broth. · The early bird gets the first worm OR all good things come to those who wait. · Birds of a feather flock together OR opposites attract. · The pen is mightier than the sword OR actions speak louder than words. · Some things need to be untied and not cut OR others need to be cut and not untied.

Clichés and moral maxims are only descriptive, not necessarily prescriptive or guides for life. You can use these clichés to excuse or rationalize anything you want to do.

So, what about turning to the Bible? Not necessarily. The Bible gives specific guidance to a specific people in a specific context and is not an instruction for you to apply literally for you in a different situation. Not just flipping open the Bible. It's not a matter of click, drag and drop it into your situation today. To take a "proof-text" or your favorite Scriptural promise and to count on this for your guidance from the Lord may not be the best thing to do. There's something more to be learned here. There is a better way to obtain guidance.

If your approach to guidance is to use what we call "proof-texts" to find your guidance, you may find the wrong guidance, not fatal or maybe not hurtful, but not precisely appropriate-what God intended. For instance, early in the Gospel of Luke Jesus tells His disciples not to worry about carrying their wallet or packing their clothes or planning for what they might eat. If you tried to apply this as a disciple of Jesus today, you won't get very far-to anywhere. Later on in Luke Jesus tells the disciples to pick up their wallets and clothes.

Or, when Jesus said the Holy Spirit would come to His disciples and bring all things to their remembrance, this is not for us to apply today. He was speaking to them in a specific context at a specific time, so that they could write down the words He spoke.

The Jabez prayer has some terrific insights in it, yet to pray it as a spiritual charm or to specifically apply it to you right now, today, just may not be what the Lord has in mind. Apply the principles, but don't claim them as your promise from God.

Or, take the popular passage used by Christians to pose a challenge to our country: If My people who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. This is not for the USA or any other nation today, but was specifically given to Israel in a particular context. Again, there are some good application principles here, but it is not there for us to hang on to for specific guidance to our situation so that God will do with us the same thing He did with Israel.

In Jeremiah 31 we have an insight into the difference in the way God works with people today versus the way He did in the past. Listen to it: "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. This is essentially the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant God has made with mankind. Principally, God is spirit and must be worshipped and related to in spirit and in truth.

You can turn to the written code of Scripture, but there is a whole new way that is not like the rules set up in the Old Covenant. It is a new covenant that is not written down, but operates inside out from your minds and hearts. Instead of the Law of Moses, today we are to live under the law of Christ.

The Ten Commandments have become most highly regarded out of the Old Covenant. All are good, but Jesus transformed them. Remember when Jesus was asked to state the greatest commandment? It didn't come out of even the big 10 and He couldn't give just one. You see, obtaining guidance when your back's against the wall will not come out of a written code, but is relational with Jesus.

You see, the "word" became flesh; the "word" did not become a book or more words or a system of beliefs or doctrines. Our guidance comes in relationship with a person-Jesus.

Paul had a strong opinion about this when he shared his experience with the Philippians (3:4-14). He said: If others think they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

So, where can you get the guidance you really need from the Lord? This guidance can only be found in your relationship with Jesus. You know Him and know what He wants. We would rather have a good Bible verse or rule to follow, but Jesus doesn't want it this way. Jesus reveals this kind of dynamic when He says, "My sheep hear and know my voice." So, are you getting to know Jesus better and better? And, are you listening to His voice? Why would Jesus say this is true, if it weren't? Why does Jesus refuse to give a code or a passage from the Law when asked to present the greatest of all the commandments. It's because He was giving to us all the relational answer we need to hear-"Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself."

GUIDANCE. Take the word GUIDANCE and you have the answer. It's G-U-I-DANCE. Or maybe you could say it this way: G-God, U and I DANCE. GOD, YOU AND I DANCE TOGETHER in a personal relationship with Him through Jesus and Jesus will guide our lives.