by Pat Russell
“God with Us” – Gospel Readings from Matthew and Luke.
Pastor Bruce Spear, Christmas Eve
The two names of Jesus that Pastor Bruce talked about were Yeshua (or Jeshua) and Emmanuel. “Yeshua,” meaning “He saves us from our sin,” helps us with our resistance and lack of gratitude toward God. “Emmanuel" meaning "God with us,” is best seen through His blessings in nature and in our relationships, particularly His direct and personal relationship with us.
We can have a “conversational relationship” with God. What does a conversation with God look like in your life? Are most of your prayers asking for something? Your conversation with God might look like your conversations with others which could be good or bad. Spend some time stepping back from your conversations with others looking at how you communicate. Is this how you communicate with God? If it is different, why? How might you change your prayers to make them more like a conversation?
In a conversation, it is important to recognize the tone and content of the other’s voice. We get very good with this within our families, but how can we recognize the tone and content of God’s voice? Here are some thoughts from Jan Johnson, author and retreat speaker…
Recognizing the Tone and Content of God’s Voice
TONE: Recognizing the voice of God requires that we know the spirit of God’s voice. Dallas Willard writes, “Is [the tone of God’s voice] slow or fast, smooth or halting in its flow, indirect or to the point? A voice may be passionate or cold, whining or demanding, timid or confident, coaxing or commanding. This is . . . a matter of personal characteristics that become tangibly present in the voice. [God’s voice] is a spirit of exalted peacefulness and confidence, of joy, of sweet reasonableness, and of will for the good” (p. 177 of Hearing God).
The tone of God’s voice flows from God’s character, which is love. Even when the tone of God’s voice is bold or firm, it still flows from God’s character of love: patient, kind, not bragging or prideful, not rude or self-seeking, not easily irritated; keeping no record of wrongs; not delighting in evil but rejoicing with truth (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Unlike us, God knows how to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
The tone of Jesus’ voice in particular comes from one who grew up hearing God’s voice every day of his life: The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.
A simple self-test is to read aloud what God has said in Scripture. What tone do you read it with? Does that tone reflect the character of God? If not, try rereading it aloud until it does. This is quite intriguing to do. Test yourself with the phrases below or others that come to you.
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:2-3).
You might also try Isa 43:1; Matt 5:23-24; Matt 5:37; Matt 5:46; Mark 9:19 from the October Institute session; Mark 10:42-45; Luke 4:18-19; Luke 21:34-35.
This material on tone comes from Session 4 of Learning to Hear God by Jan Johnson. Indications of the Voice of God come from a lecture given by Rev. Peter Lord of Titusville, Florida and are further detailed in his book, Hearing God.