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Hear the Voice of God!

Craig L. Ghislin, C.S., Glen Ellyn (Bartlett), IL
Posted Monday, December 28th, 2009

 

 

Hear the Voice of God!

 

 

 

 
Metaphysical Application Ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson: God
For study during the week of December 28-January 3, 2010
Prepared by Craig L. Ghislin, C.S. of Glen Ellyn, IL [bracketed italics by Warren Huff]
 
[Editor's Note: The following application ideas for this week and the Possible Sunday School Topics that follow are offered primarily to help CEDARS campers and staff (as well as friends) see and demonstrate the great value of daily study and application of the Christian Science Bible lessons year-round, not just at camp! You can sign up to have them emailed to you free -- in English by Monday each week, or by each Wednesday you can get a FREE TRANSLATION in French from Pascal or in Spanish from Ana. SIGN UP at www.cedarscamps.org/newsletters]

Have you ever heard the voice of God?  What did it sound like?  What did it feel like? This week's Lesson describes the voice of God in many ways, from thunder, to trumpets, to a still whisper.  I have felt like God was directing me throughout my life and sometimes I even heard audible directions in English telling me exactly what I needed to do.  I often thought of these communications as angel messages from God.
 
While angel messages are pretty special, it still seems like with a message, there is still some separation between the giver and receiver.  Once in my life I felt that there was no intermediate messenger, but that God was directly speaking to me.  I was alone in my office. I don't remember what I was praying about, but I know I was dealing with some pretty tough issues.  Suddenly, to my astonishment, I felt what seemed like a great, booming pulse of sound projecting right through my chest and out into the room.  It was so deep and pure that I can hardly describe it.  There were no words, just this massive, single beat.  But along with it was the simple message that "everything would be all right."  That was it.  But it was the most comforting, serene feeling I've ever had.  I was completely at peace and knew that God was with me and with everyone I knew.
 
Some might say that was thunderous.  Others might call it a "still small voice."  But whatever it might be called or how it is described, it was without question to me, the voice of God.
 
So as we explore this wonderful topic of God in this Lesson-Sermon, think about how God speaks to you.  What does it take to get your attention?  Are you willing to follow the leading of that voice?
 
Golden Text
How can anyone accurately describe something that is essentially a spiritual event?  All we can do is use images that we are familiar with.  Jesus spoke in parables to make his teachings comprehensible to his listeners.  Many writers and poets in ancient times equated the power of God's voice with thunder.  Do you remember how you felt the first time you were aware of the thunder?  I do.  I was around four or five years old and thought the world was coming to an end.  Oddly enough, I was told not to worry because that sound was God bowling in heaven!  Well it did sound a bit like a bowling alley, but a whole lot more powerful.  The ancient people had no particular explanation for thunder.  The Abingdon Bible Commentary tells us, "There is here suggested...a primitive sense of awe which the mysterious thunder always awakens in men's hearts.  No other physical phenomenon made so deep an impression upon the Hebrew heart as thunder."
 
This powerful voice is "full of majesty."  The word translated as "majesty" also means, "magnificence, splendor, excellency, and glory (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible).  Whatever image we might use to describe the voice of the Lord, it is definitely something that demands our attention.
 
The Responsive Reading continues the description of God's absolute authority.  His strength is such that the order established by God cannot be moved.  The floods of chaos threaten to disrupt God's harmonious order, but "His rule guarantees that the world will not be overwhelmed by cosmic or political catastrophe" (The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible).  Most CedarS campers spend some time in the wave pool at Big Surf Water Park.  They enjoy getting tossed about by the waves and sometimes play the game of trying to stand up against the oncoming surf.  In the open sea it's a lot harder to combat the waves, and as we learned a few years ago, a tsunami can have devastating power.  But God is even more powerful than that.  He is unstoppable.  In fact, there are many testimonies in the Christian Science periodicals relating instances of divine protection from threatening nautical storms.  Whether we face actual or metaphorical storms in our lives, God's awesome, majestic power is bigger than anything else.  In fact, God's power is the only power there is.
 
Section 1: "I Will Listen for Thy Voice" ["Feed My Sheep", Hymn 304]
To use another CedarS reference, when facing the high-ropes course, campers are asked to step out of their comfort zone.  They don't need to force a huge leap, but they are encouraged to stretch the envelope a bit.  The net result is that when a challenge is either attempted or completed, the camper learns that he or she can do more than they thought they could and emerge from the exercise with a feeling of accomplishment and dominion over their fears.
 
In ancient times it was almost unheard of for people to travel very far from home.  Of course there have always been explorers, but very few and far between. The Lord of the Rings fans might recall Sam's realization as he left the Shire that his next step would take him farther away from home that he had ever been.  That could have been similar to how Abram might have felt as he headed off to a new place (B-2).   In citation B-1 from Joshua, the people are confirming their choice to follow God by "agreeing to be absolutely and exclusively loyal to him [God] in the future" (Abingdon). Abram, or Abraham, as he is eventually called, had an even bigger task than we might expect.  He wasn't going to a particular place or following a map.  He was breaking with the past and going in an entirely new direction.  Figuratively, Abram was also breaking with traditional beliefs about God.  He was leaving behind the beliefs he had inherited and was establishing a higher level of obedience to the one God.  His actions paved the way for an entire nation and future generations to follow (B-3).  The command to "be thou perfect" means, "be always conscious of my presence" (Dummelow).  Abraham receives a new name as the result of his covenant with God.  God also reveals Himself as El Shaddai-God Almighty.
 
Mrs. Eddy acknowledged that the patriarchs of the Scriptures spoke consciously with God (S-1). This communication is not through sound waves, but through the senses of Soul (S-2).  Abraham is defined spiritually as "fidelity" (S-3).  Fidelity, from the Latin fidelitas, means faithfulness, careful observance of duty, or performance of obligations.  Abraham's wasn't a blind faith.  It was based on his spiritual understanding.  This understanding comes directly from God.  It isn't the result of human reasoning or intellectual proficiency; "it's the reality of all things brought to light" (S-4).  So if you haven't actually heard God speaking to you yet, don't be disappointed.  As we grow in spiritual understanding, we will hear God through spiritual sense and we'll understand every word.
 
Section 2: The Voice of God's Law
According to Abingdon, the psalmist believed that the voice of the Lord, or the thunder, was the force that split the lightning bolt into forks (B-5).  The root of the Hebrew word translated in our version as "flames" means to gleam or flash, like a sharply polished blade, or point of a weapon (Strong's).  This is again, a pretty commanding description of God's power.  The Ten Commandments, given to Moses were an affirmation of the covenant between God and Abraham.  God had spoken to Moses out of the midst of the fire.  The people below saw the mountain filled with lightning and thunder.  In Deuteronomy 4:12 it's pointed out that there was no similitude or personage talking to Moses, only a voice.  This voice revealed the Ten Commandments (B-7).  The covenant, or agreement, between God and men is ratified by mankind's obedience to divine law.  ["I am the Lord there is none else" Hymn 444 by Desiree Goyette is a fun new hymn in the Hymnal Supplement and is another that goes very well with this lesson. (B-7)]
 
Our Leader saw in the commandments a deep significance.  When followed, they keep us focused on the true nature of God.  Their practice rebukes all materialistic worship and support a spiritual understanding of the Almighty (S-7, S-8).  They also teach us how to interact with our fellow beings.  Following the commandments expresses the desire to be good and godlike.  It is an "unceasing prayer" (S-9).  Our daily struggle to fulfill our moral obligations to mankind shows our progressive understanding of the "divine character."  As God's image, man must reflect Him.  But this takes consecrated effort on our part (S-10).  Abingdon's summation agrees with our textbook.  It says, "The revelation was spiritual, demanding a spiritual response.  Let Israel take heed not to corrupt this spirituality and themselves by any materialistic representation of Jehovah; let Israel keep clear of all heathenish practices-such as the worship of graven images and the host of heaven."
 
Section 3:  Does God Speak through Acts of Nature?
As time moves on, the prophets of Israel advance in their understanding of God's true nature.  The association of God with forces of nature was prevalent in ancient times, and in many ways still is.  Storms and natural disasters are often termed, "acts of God."  While the seemingly unlimited forces of nature are representative of God's unstoppable power, it is the unshakeable stillness of peace that gives an even clearer image of God's gentle presence (B-9).  Abingdon sets forth the idea that God's absence in the potent forces of nature might serve as "a warning to Elijah not to identify Jehovah too closely with these natural phenomena..."  The "still, small voice" may have been intended "to guide Elijah to higher and purer planes of prophetic intuition."  Dummelow agrees that though the elements were impressive, and appeared to be agents of God's power, "none disclosed Him as convincingly as the peaceful calm that followed the tempest.  It awakened and blended with the prophet's conscience; and he came to realize the true value of patience and forbearance in the furtherance of the divine purposes, as compared with the violence which he himself had displayed in his conflict with idolatry."  This refers to his confrontation with the prophets of Baal that caused him to flee from Jezebel in the first place.
 
Mrs. Eddy points out that the "still small voice" is "as when a lion roareth" (S-12).  I've only heard lions roar in zoos.  But there is no wondering why they call them the king of the beasts.  Their booming roar is heard throughout the entire facility.  I can only imagine how imposing it would be to hear one in the wild.  The voice of God is calling, and it's up to us to listen to it (S-13).  As the prophets achieved a progressively more spiritual understanding of God's nature, we are individually rising above material views too.  The psalmist promises that the angel of the Lord camps about us (B-10).  These angels are God's thoughts coming to us, as we need them.  They lead us away from everything material and guide us to the "Principle of all good" (S-14, S-15).  If you find yourself in the presence of imposing material evidence, you can find that place of calm and hear the "still, small voice."
 
Section 4:  The Voice of the Lord Blesses Our Mission
Whether anyone around him heard the voice or not, Jesus got the clear message at his baptism that he had a divine mission to fulfill (B-12).  And fulfill it he did!  He taught, preached, and healed more prolifically than anyone before or since.  He acted on divine authority and often worked with those generally thought of as societal pariahs (B-15).  Like the prophets before him, he broke with the old ways of doing things and introduced a more vibrant and practical worship of God.  Jesus didn't do these things for his own glorification, but for the glory of God. Upon Jesus' reaffirmation of commitment to his mission and the commandments, there comes a voice from heaven.  The gospel records that those standing by also heard something, though to many, it was imperceptible (B-15).  Dummelow writes that everyone hears the voice, but only those for whom the message was intended can understand it.
 
Jesus is our highest example of one who heard and obeyed the voice of God.  The heavenly voice authorized his mission at his baptism and confirmed it throughout his career.  Jesus responded with action.  He taught by demonstration (S-16).  Jesus represented the voice of freedom from all sin, sickness, disease, and death.  He showed us the divine nature and lifted us higher (S-18).  The Christ-like understanding of man is still speaking with authority today.  Our traditional, cultural, and medical ways of thinking shackle us to the ills we suffer.  But, the voice of divine Science echoes Jesus' divine authority, and acts on the same power (S-20).  This divine voice frees us from all the chains of sickness and sin.  God tells each one of us that we too, are beloved of the Father, and that He is well pleased with us.  [Like we do at camp, you can impart to those you love this sense of being cherished and needed for a divine mission  by tucking them in each night with the message of "Thou art my beloved Son (or Daughter), in whom . . . (God and we are) well pleased." (B-12, Mark 1:11)]
 
Section 5: The Voice of God Keeps Us Safe
"The waters" referred to in B-16 are not the seas, but the storm clouds (Dummelow).  We all face stormy situations once in a while.  Sometimes they are metaphorical, sometimes not.  In the early parts of this Lesson the thunder and lightning represented the power of God before which mankind stands in awe.  But in this section the storms are threatening.  As mentioned earlier the tsunamis in Asia a few years ago had a devastating effect.  Additionally, New Orleans and the southern United States suffered greatly from Hurricane Katrina.  [Many prayed for our friends in the Philippines a few months ago when excess rain and floods threatened them and their homes and churches.] We are faced with adverse and unusual weather conditions in many parts of the world.  Some people today ask, "How can God let these tragedies occur?"  Others feel that there is no God at all and that there's nothing we can do about severe atmospheric conditions.  Paul's journey was fraught with danger.  They were starting the voyage later than they should have and quickly ran into rough seas and what amounted to hurricane-like conditions.  After having taken on a lot of water and dumping as much cargo as they could to stay afloat, they hadn't seen the sun or the stars in days.  Without means of navigation, they were lost and depressed.
 
Paul might have been depressed too, but above the shrieking winds and violent waves, he heard the voice of an angel telling him everything would be OK.  They might lose the ship, but no life would be lost.  After two weeks they finally glimpsed land.  They found themselves in shallow water and feared they might run into the rocks in the darkness.  They cast the anchor from the back of the ship so they wouldn't flip over.  When the time was right they cut loose and headed for shore.  The prow hit the rocks and stuck fast, while the rest of the ship was ripped apart by the waves.  Everyone obeyed the centurion's orders and all 276 on board were saved.
 
Part of Paul's insistence that the voyage take place and his assurance that they would all survive was supported by his sense of mission.  Like Jesus and the prophets before him, Paul too, had heard the voice of God.  Nothing could dissuade him from carrying out his divine purpose.  In life we too, will encounter storms, and if we are sticking to our mission, our divine purpose, we too, will ride the wave safely.  Note that it is a bit counterintuitive to cast the anchor from the back of the ship, but it made perfect sense at the time.  Also, they cut their anchor at just the right time.  When facing difficult conditions, there may be times we need to cut loose from the past and head into what appears to be an imminent demise.  We may lose our vessel, but as long as God is directing our way, we will come out victorious.
 
Mrs. Eddy points out that the superiority of spiritual over physical power is the central fact of the Bible (S-21).  God holds the "wind in His fists" and there is no power opposed to God (S-22).  She too, notes that we will face storms in our stand for Truth.  I just love this image-"the higher Truth lifts her voice, the louder error will scream, until its inarticulate sound is forever silenced in oblivion" (S-24).  Error's scream is nothingness.  Let it scream.  It's doomed to oblivion.  Error screams in vain and is forever silenced.  God's voice thunders and is heard.  Our Leader speaks with authority when she writes, "No power can withstand divine Love" (S-25).  Wow!  Now that's just awesome.
 
Section 6: Hearing the Lord through His Wondrous Works
If the point isn't clear yet, it's mentioned one more time-"God thundereth marvelously with his voice" (B-20).  To John, God's voice is like a trumpet blast (B-21).  Thunder or trumpet, God's voice is noticed and heard.  All the majesty, wonder, and glory of creation is His (B-22).  God's word expresses His nature in creation.  All creation is the result of His awesome word (B-23).  When you consider creation, do you stand in awe of it?  Do you recognize God as the supreme Creator of all?
 
Mrs. Eddy describes John's vision and understanding of Jesus' mission as "divinity embracing humanity" (S-27).  That's a comforting image-the Creator just enfolding creation and everything corporeal just disappears.  When God speaks, it's done.  In fact, the whole of creation is the unfolding of spiritual ideas and this is all taking place in Mind, in God (S-28).  The world of the senses seems to be constantly talking to us in an attempt to drown out the creative voice of Truth.  But it just can't do it.  As we stop listening to the incessant chatter of material sense and tune in to what God is saying and doing, we will eventually see nothing but God's word in action (S-29).  Ultimately, we hear the voice of God, because God is our Creator.  All sense testimony supposedly comes from outside us, and then our senses receive it and interpret it.  But the voice of God and the testimony of Spirit come through divine revelation.  It's not scholastic, but inspirational (S-30).
 
So what does the voice of God sound like to you?  Can you hear it with the material senses?  Or do you discern it through an ever-increasing awareness of God and the magnificence of His creation?  Stand still and listen.  What does it say?

[This weekly Metaphysical Newsletter is provided at no charge to the 1,200 campers and staff who were blessed this summer at CEDARS--as well as to thousands of CEDARS alumni, families and friends who request it, or who find it weekly on our website.  But, current and planned gifts are much-needed to cover the costs of running this service and of providing camperships for such inspirational opportunities.  Your support is always tax-deductible and welcomed--but this year and month your help has been especially needed and appreciated! Thanks to many precious donations, we have just met our goal of raising $25,000 by year-end for "Maintenance Musts!" So CedarS will soon receive a $25,000 Matching Challenge Grant!   Needed repairs that were started can now be finished.  Two ongoing needs are to raise significant dollars to underwrite camperships and to care for our large herd of horses. "Adopt the Herd" donations will be matched!
To make a tax-deductible donation-which may be better tax-wise for you to do yet in 2009:
1) Write a check payable to CedarS Camps and mail it to the office: 1314 Parkview Valley, Manchester, MO 63011; or
2) Call Warren or Gay Huff at (636) 394-6162
to charge your gift using a Visa or Mastercard or to discuss any short-term or long-term gift of securities or property that you are considering; or
3)
CLICK HERE RIGHT AWAY TO SUPPORT CEDARS WORK with an online gift using PayPal.com, which can be funded using a Visa or Mastercard account.]

[Camp Director's Note: This sharing is the latest in an ongoing, 9-year series of CedarS Bible Lesson "mets" (metaphysical application ideas) contributed weekly by a rotation of CedarS Resident Practitioners and occasionally by other metaphysicians. (To keep the flow of the practitioner's ideas intact and to allow for more selective printing the "Possible Sunday School Topics" come in a subsequent email.) This weekly offering is intended to encourage further study and application of ideas in the lesson and to invigorate Sunday School participation by students and by the budding teachers on our staff. Originally sent JUST to my Sunday School students and to campers, staff and CedarS families who wanted to continue at home and in their home Sunday Schools the same type of focused Lesson study, application and inspiration they had felt at camp, CedarS lesson "mets" are in no way meant to be definitive or conclusive or in any way a substitute for daily study of the lesson. The thoughts presented are the inspiration of the moment and are offered to give a bit more dimension and background as well as new angles on the daily applicability of some of the ideas and passages being studied. The weekly Bible Lessons are copyrighted by the Christian Science Publishing Society and are printed in the Christian Science Quarterly as available at Christian Science Reading Rooms or online at eBibleLesson.com or myBibleLesson.com. The citations referenced (i.e. B-1 and S-28) from this week's Bible Lesson in the "met" (metaphysical application ideas) are taken from the Bible (B-1 thru B-24) and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy (S-1 thru S-30). The Bible and Science and Health are the ordained pastor of the Churches of Christ, Scientist. The Bible Lesson is the sermon read in Christian Science church services throughout the world. The Lesson-Sermon speaks individually through the Christ to everyone, providing unique insights and tailor-made applications for each one. We are glad you requested this metaphysical sharing and hope that you find some of the ideas helpful in your daily spiritual journey, in your deeper digging in the books and in closer bonding with your Comforter and Pastor.]

Enjoy!
Warren Huff, Camp Director      director@cedarscamps.org      (636) 394-6162

[P.S.S.T.-After closet-time listening*, launch your New Year with *spontaneity & *courage!]
Possible Sunday School Topics for the
Christian Science Bible Lesson for Dec. 28-Jan. 3, 2010: "God"
prepared by Merrill Boudreaux, ST. Louis, MO
 
P.S.S.T. Golden Text (GT) and P.S.S.T. Responsive Reading (RR):
What forms do you think the voice of God takes? 
Look up the definition of "Angels" in Science and Health, p.581:4. 
How can one prepare to receive or hear these messages? 
Look up the 4 Bible passages for "prepare ye the way of the Lord" as indicators of how one might prepare to receive the angel messages: Isa. 40:3, Matt.3:5, Mark 1:3, Luke3:4.
*Look up the definition of "wilderness" in Science and Health, p.597:16.
Look up Hymn 2 in the Christian Science Hymnal to see other ways the voice of God is heard and the results of listening to it.
 
P.S.S.T. Section 1: 
Read the message provided to Abram (Abraham) in B-3.
Read Hymn 224 as a correlation to this Bible message. 
What are the promises made to Abram and in Hymn 224? 
Look up the definition of "inspiration." What role does inspiration play when listening for the voice of God?
 
P.S.S.T. Section 2:
Who are the Children of Israel? See Science and Health, p.583:5.
What is the covenant God made and makes with the Children of Israel?
Have students state the Ten Commandments. What does Mary Baker Eddy say in Science and Health about the First Commandment? See S&H 340:16.
What is the result of listening and adhering to this commandment?
 
P.S.S.T. Section 3:
How is Elijah in this section, B-11, representative of listening for and to God's voice? What was the result?
Read Hymn 192 as a possible statement as to how Elijah might have prayed.
 
P.S.S.T. Section 4:
Once again Jesus singled out an individual whom others shunned. Read the story of the woman in B-14.
Read Hymn 431 in the Hymnal Supplement as what might have been in the heart/thought of this woman. What qualities did this woman express to be willing to reach out to Jesus? 
See also S-17 as to the result using God's voice in Christian Science to affect one's body, just like the healing of the woman in this section.
 
P.S.S.T. Section 5: "The voice of the Lord is powerful;" B-16.
Even when we are troubled, persecuted, or distressed, the voice of God calls to us. What did the voice of God say to Paul and the centurion in this section - B-18? What was the result?
Read Hymn 236 as indication of another result for the voice of the Comforter at hand. 
*Ask students to share examples of courage of which they have heard or of which they are aware.
 
P.S.S.T. Section 6: 
Where was John when the revelation came to him? Where is the island of Patmos and why was John there? He was exiled there, or under house arrest, and could not leave. What did this wilderness or solitary place afford him?
*You might think of this island as John's closet. See S&H 14: 31-6, for Mary Baker Eddy's statement of the benefit of this kind of closet where one can hear God's voice.
Read Hymn 160, Mary Baker Eddy's poem "Satisfied", as a wonderful closing statement of God's voicing promises that will be kept.

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