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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Shepherd with sheep
See below for background of this photo!

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"Knowing His Voice"

“His sheep follow Him because they know His voice" (John 10:4).

Those of us who use a computer regularly know the challenge of thwarting the many disgusting and malicious attacks that come our way. We need firewalls, virus detection, content filters, spyware protection, and junk email filters and so forth.

In spite of these types of preventive measures the attacks continue, similar to the spiritual realm, where our "enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour!" (1 Peter 5:8).  The attacks are often revolting and relentless in its attempt to capture our attention. My elderly aunt purchased a computer and began using email to communicate with family and friends but ceased using it due to the distressing content in unsought mail she was continually receiving.

Most have come across a method known as “CAPTCHA” which is an attempt to determine that the user is a real person filling out a form or making a comment rather than a machine. Here's sample Captcha

When I first saw these they were easy to read but apparently the malicious machines could read them also so now they use odd squiggly characters or in some cases a confusing background making them very hard to read, at least for this real human.

I can’t always read them so I use the audio “CAPTCHA” feature. When I first encountered this it was just a voice reading numbers that I was to type to verify that I was a real human. Now apparently some brilliant hack has developed a machine that can circumvent this so they masquerade the voice with many other voices. (click here for a sample).  You have to listen very carefully to detect the legitimate voice.
The other day as I was using this feature I considered a spiritual application even as I experienced the annoyance!  As I listened carefully for the numbers to be read among the babble of other voices I considered how much this was like listening for God's still, small voice in the midst of our noisy world.

Shepherd with sheepJesus uses a parable in John 10 that would have really connected to His listeners.  Many of them would have known the life of the shepherd and the rich Biblical literature that describes God as our Shepherd, first mentioned in Genesis and most familiar to many of us in Psalm 23.  Later in this context Jesus states that He is the "Good Shepherd".  However, the phrase I want to especially consider today is "They know His voice." 

One of the most important ongoing lessons of life is the ability to recognize and distinguish the voice of the Good Shepherd amidst the clamor of other voices!  These times call for great discernment.

We hear "His voice" in various ways; through His Spirit, in our personal reading and study of the Scriptures, through prayer, through the proclamation of His Word in our churches, through godly relationships.  But we have a choice regarding our response to the Shepherd's voice.  Really, it's a daily choice.

Do we choose to listen carefully and heed His voice, separating His voice among the many other voices that vie for our attention?  I would like to think this daily encouragement devotional is a little whisper, perhaps at an opportune moment such as a break at work.  Are you listening?  Do you know your Shepherd's voice?  Ponder this verse, "But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil" (Hebrews 5:14). Today, may we all indeed listen and heed His voice!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, as I walk in Your truths, give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your holy name and heed Your still small voice.  Help me to walk upright and live more by faith, less by sight as I choose to hear Your voice and follow Your commands.  Amen.

Today's suggested music:

In preparing today's message I consider one of my favorite songs titled "The Voice Of Truth" by "Casting Crowns."  Many of you have heard it.  Here's a rather low quality online audio version.

"But the Voice of Truth tells me a different story.
The Voice of Truth says 'Do not be afraid'.
And the Voice of Truth says 'This is for My glory'.
Out of all the voices calling out to me.
I will choose to listen and believe the Voice of Truth."

More info about "CAPTCHA" including samples.

Today's photo was on a website of David Fisher, a Canadian friend, who has written an interesting perspective on this topic titled "The Lord Is A Good Shepherd"

Feeding lambs
Lambs feeding in pasture near our home.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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