Whisper Day 23: God Calls Isaiah

The Power of a Whisper Reading Plan
Day 23 Reading:
Isaiah 6:1-8

Here Am I, Send Me by Amanda Jolley

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. – Isaiah 6:1 (NRSV)

Observation
Isaiah is overwhelmed by the grandeur and power of his encounter with God. In the presence of God’s holiness and glory, Isaiah sees himself as unworthy and unclean. His humble confession is answered with divine cleansing. God then issues a call to action, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah responds, “Send me.”

I usually stop reading at verse 8. The passion and courage of Isaiah’s response is inspiring. Cue the music. Fade to black. The End. Reading further I realize God’s mission for Isaiah is incredibly painful and difficult. The people have not listened and will not listen. They will receive the consequences of their choices- destruction and exile. In time, God grace will bring forth life from the stump which remains.

Application
I am struck by how Isaiah’s call to action differs from the calls of Moses and Jeremiah.

Moses and Jeremiah
Their encounters with God are solitary and rather quiet. They hesitate to accept, making excuses about their speaking skills. (Moses makes many additional excuses) In response, God supplies what is needed to fulfill the call. God uses their names. God’s attention is clearly focused on them.

Isaiah
Isaiah’s call is far from solitary and quiet. I imagine it would be like standing in the middle of awe-full, holy circus: blindingly colorful and bright yet filtered through a milky veil of frankincense, so loud every sound rattles your bones. How could he think, breathe, let alone speak? Isaiah confesses and is cleansed by a terrifying angel bearing an equally terrifying coal. Isaiah is self aware in response to his spectacular encounter with God, but it doesn’t come across as an excuse or hesitation. God’s call hasn’t even been made yet. When it is made, God doesn’t look at Isaiah or mention his name. God sends the call out across the heavens, available for anyone to respond. Isaiah makes the courageous decision to draw God’s attention again, “Here am I; send me!”

Prayer
Lord of Hosts…Holy… Spectacular… Awe-full…
Who am I that you would notice me?
That you would cleanse and forgive?
That you would ask for a messenger… a helper?
That you would accept my willingness to serve?
Your consideration only increases your glory.
I marvel at your grace.

For a devotion on the call of Moses, click here

For a devotion on the call of Jeremiah, click here

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For more information on the Power of a Whisper campaign or for a copy of this reading plan, click here

As you read, you are encouraged to use the SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here or use the simple instructions provided in the reading plan itself.

I look forward to reading your comments and to all that Jesus will do in you and through you as you learn to better listen and respond to God’s
whispers in your life. – Lisa <><

PS- For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Whisper Day 22: Just Say the Word

Centurion by Jason R. Dunn

The Power of a Whisper Reading Plan
Day 22 Reading:

Matthew 8:5-13; Isaiah 58:6-12

Day 21 of the Whisper Reading Plan is set aside for worship and rest.

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
The centurion replied to Jesus, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. – Matthew 8:8 (NIV)

Observation
Jesus raises up the unnamed Centurion as an example of great faith. In one translation, it says Jesus “marveled” at the centurion’s response, a reaction that is found nowhere else in Scripture regarding Jesus’ impression of a human being’s faith. This man had massive faith. Unwavering faith. The huge surprise of this story is that this faith is found outside the expected place- in a Gentile warrior for the Roman oppressors.

The Centurion has been awarded worldly power and position, yet approaches Jesus with great humility. He recognizes his position with the governing authorities does not name his position with the ultimate Authority, God.
I do not deserve to have you come under my roof (v. 8.)
I am a man under authority (v. 9)

Jesus taught his followers to love their enemies, to pray for those who persecute them, and to do good to those who mistreated them. The kingdom of God advances not with weapons, but with kindness, grace and mercy. He did not hesitate to hear the Centurion’s plea and was willing to enter his house.

Likewise, the Centurion is willing to cross enemy lines- social, economic, and racial lines- to see his servant receives help. The Centurion commands his troops and household, yet approaches Jesus with a servant heart. He seeks Jesus not for himself, but for his servant. The Centurion recognizes the value and humanity of this person even though his culture does not.
My servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering (v. 6)
I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” (v. 9)

The Centurion has been raised to mistrust foreigners and foreign gods, yet approaches Jesus with great trust.
But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. (v. 8.)

Application
Even with all the stumbling blocks placed before him, the Centurion still cultivates a just-say-the-word faith in Jesus. This depth and maturity of faith is available to all who follow Christ. I have no excuse except myself for falling short of this.

Every time I read the account of the centurion’s faith, I am nearly physically arrested by the desire to follow Christ like that. I want his influence to affect the entirety of my life—my values, my relationships, my vocabulary, my finances, my agenda, my physical health, my decision making, my political ideology. I want Jesus’ ways to permeate who I am across the board. More than any other desire of my heart, I want to be a just-say-the-word type of disciple, from this moment until my dying day. – Bill Hybels, The Power of a Whisper

Prayer
Just say the word, my Jesus
Just say the word
No illness is beyond your healing
No brokenness beyond your redeeming
No power above you
No person outside your embrace
Grant me a faith that is worthy of Your goodness
Your compassion
Your supremacy
Your welcome
That I may trust and respond as my brother the Centurion
Just say the word, my Jesus
Just say the word

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Click here for a powerful prayer entitled I am Not Worthy by Steve Garnaas Holmes based on Luke’s version of this story, Luke 7:1-10.

For more information on the Power of a Whisper campaign or for a copy of this reading plan, click here

As you read, you are encouraged to use the SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here or use the simple instructions provided in the reading plan itself.

I look forward to reading your comments and to all that Jesus will do in you and through you as you learn to better listen and respond to God’s whispers in your life. – Lisa <><

PS- For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Whisper Day 20: Abraham and Isaac

The Angel Prevents the Sacrifice of Isaac by Rembrandt van Rijn

The Power of a Whisper Reading Plan
Day 20 Reading:
Genesis 22:1-19

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” – Genesis 22:1 (NRSV)

Observation
This story is sometimes referred to as the sacrifice of Isaac; in other places it is called the sacrifice of Abraham. It is one of the most powerful and disturbing stories in all scripture. God instructs Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his long awaited child of promise. Isaac was to be the first of a great nation; of countless descendants. “Like the sand on the shore…like the stars in the sky… a blessing to the nations” God said. How would this happen if Isaac was dead? Abraham does not seem to question. He moves forward with purpose, obedient, full of faith and resolve.

Isaac asks about the offering for worship, and Abraham replies, “God will supply the lamb.” (verse 8.) Is his voice strong and confident or does it crack and catch with emotion? Does Abraham wonder if Isaac is the lamb God has provided? We do not know. What else was said? Again we do not know. The two fall silent as the altar is built, Isaac is bound and laid upon the wood.

Rembrandt’s portrayal of the climactic moment is especially poignant. Abraham’s one hand exposing the neck of his beautiful, innocent teenager, wearing only the clothing of an infant; the look of surprise on Abraham’s face as the angel grabs his other hand, releasing the knife. Abraham has passed God’s awe-full test. Abraham proves his devotion to God surpasses all else in his life.

Application
Three times Abraham says, “Here I am.” (verse 1, 7, 11) He is fully present to God and to Isaac; quick to listen and quick to respond. The stress of the situation does not distract him.

Prayer
Mighty God, what will you ask of me?
How will you test me?
In that moment I pray I will be found worthy.
That I will know beyond all doubt the command is from you.
And in that knowing, I will trust you
Hand steady
Mind focused
Ears tuned to your next command
Here I am

Day 21 of the Whisper Reading Plan is set aside for worship and rest.

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For more information on the Power of a Whisper campaign or for a copy of this reading plan, click here http://pastorblog.cumcdebary.org/?p=2120

As you read, you are encouraged to use the SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here http://www.lifejournal.cc/ or use the simple instructions provided in the reading plan itself.

I look forward to reading your comments and to all that Jesus will do in you and through you as you learn to better listen and respond to God’s whispers in your life. – Lisa <><

PS- For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page. http://pastorblog.cumcdebary.org/?page_id=1529

Whisper Day 19: Hannah's Prayer

Hannah’s Prayer © Durga Yael Bernhard. Used by permission from the artist. http://durgabernhard.com/

The Power of a Whisper Reading Plan
Day 19 Reading:
1 Samuel 1

I encourage you to seek out and patron today’s featured artist, Durga Yael Berhard, her children’s books and her beautiful artwork, including today’s piece, Hannah’s Prayer. – Lisa <><

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.” – 1 Samuel 1:20 (NRSV)

Observation
Elkanah has two wives, Peninnah who bore him children and Hannah who has no children. Peninnah is cruel to Hannah, while Elkanah tries to be loving and supportive. (Though he sticks his foot in his mouth in verse 8.) Hannah desperately desires children, so she throws herself before God in fasting, weeping, and prayer. She makes a vow to God that if she bears a son she will offer him to God’s service. She is so distraught, that when Eli the priest observes her prayers he thinks she is drunk. She defends her actions and Eli offers his support and blessing. Later Hannah conceives and fulfills her vow, bringing little Samuel back for Eli to train and raise.

Application
This is a difficult passage for me. Hannah and I share experiences- wife, mother, victim of verbal abuse, desiring to follow God faithfully. Her pain reminds me of those times in my life when I haven’t understood God’s plan. When I have seemed insane because of the desperation.

At first glance, God seems as cruel as Peninnah. Peninnah is obviously cruel with her taunts, yet God seems equally cruel to shut Hannah’s womb. Is God the cause of every barren womb? If we say yes, then it is an easy jump to say God is the cause of every barren and hopeless situation, of every disease and disaster.

I do not believe this. I believe we live in a broken world with several causes of trouble. Some are tied to God’s gift of free will, the consequences of our own choices and/or the consequences of other people’s choices. Some situations are the work of the evil one and some come from the general state of brokenness found in living between Eden and Heaven. It’s consistent with God’s character to bring birth out of barrenness, hope out of hopelessness, but I’m having trouble with the idea of God causing the barrenness to begin with. Was the closing of her womb a special case because God had a special plan? Was it merely a misunderstanding of God’s timing? Did Hannah have to pray in order to nudge God’s memory and resulting action?

This leads to the second difficult question. Why does God answer Hannah’s prayer with a child while so many other prayers for children receive a “no” answer? Is it because she is more faithful? (as seen in her fervent prayers) She doesn’t doubt? (as seen in her attitude change after her encounter with Eli) Is it because of the bargain she makes with God to give the child over to God’s service? In fact the bargain might not be a bargain at all, but rather an illustration of Hannah’s faithfulness since all first born are to be the Lord’s. God does not request anything of her, yet Hannah makes the vow and sees it through. She brings her precious toddler to Eli, a man who has failed miserably in raising his own children.

I know God is not genie awaiting magic words, nor is God’s favor bought with promises or acts of great sacrifice. Yet, I am left with many questions.

There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light.
– Barry Lopez

Prayer
Lord of Hosts, there are so many things we do not understand. Our lack of understanding does not diminish your goodness or your power. Help us to follow you even when the situation is desperate and the way unclear. Build in us a faith that seeks you boldly and honestly, that will persevere in the midst of disrespect and ridicule. Teach us to stand and to defend our faith when others question and misunderstand. You are our only hope and salvation. We need you near. Amen.

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For more information on the Power of a Whisper campaign or for a copy of this reading plan, click here

As you read, you are encouraged to use the SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here or use the simple instructions provided in the reading plan itself.

I look forward to reading your comments and to all that Jesus will do in you and through you as you learn to better listen and respond to God’s whispers in your life. – Lisa <><

PS- For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Whisper Day 18: Retreat and Response

Dance of Life by D. E. McDermott

The Power of a Whisper Reading Plan
Day 18 Reading: Mark 6:30-46

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. – Mark 6:30-31 (NRSV)

Observation
The disciples come to Jesus following a time of intense teaching and service. He responds by calling them to a time of rest. When they return, Jesus is moved by compassion for the crowds who have gathered. This is followed by another time of teaching (serving the Bread of Life). The disciples are also concerned for the crowd, encouraging Jesus to dismiss them for dinner. Jesus turns this moment into an opportunity for miraculous service (serving bread for the body to 5000+ from a few loaves and fish). After this, Jesus calls the disciples again to a time of rest. He also rests himself.

Application
The Christian life moves back and forth between retreating for prayer, worship and rest and heading out to share, teach and serve. Time away with Jesus gives us his heart- a compassionate heart, a servant’s heart. We must be well fed spiritually in order to feed others.

Prayer
Jesus, we hear you calling…
rest… serve…
pray… share…
worship… teach…
back and forth
retreat and response
like the waves on the seashore
like a old fashioned fan on a spring day
like breathing
move us to move with you
perfect in us the rhythm of faithful living
Amen

For a devotion based on John’s version of the feeding of the 5000, click here
http://pastorblog.cumcdebary.org/?p=926

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For more information on the Power of a Whisper campaign or for a copy of this reading plan, click here http://pastorblog.cumcdebary.org/?p=2120

As you read, you are encouraged to use the SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here http://www.lifejournal.cc/ or use the simple instructions provided in the reading plan itself.

I look forward to reading your comments and to all that Jesus will do in you and through you as you learn to better listen and respond to God’s whispers in your life. – Lisa <><

PS- For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page. http://pastorblog.cumcdebary.org/?page_id=1529

Whisper Day 17: Peter and Cornelius

Unity in Diversity by Seexeng Lee

The Power of a Whisper Reading Plan
Day 17 Reading: Acts 11:1-18

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us.
– Acts 11:12 (NRSV)

Observation
In Acts 1:8, Jesus told his followers that they would be his “witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” However, there were major stumbling blocks to the expansion of the Gospel beyond Judaism. Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews, literally “a person of another race”) could not be in deep relationship with one another because Gentiles were understood to be outside the covenant and a source of ritual impurity. For example, Gentiles did not practice the ritual food preparation and eating habits Jews did, so they could not eat together. Some of Jesus’ Jewish followers began to wonder if a Gentile must first become a Jew (including following the lifestyle) in order to then become a Christian. This story makes it clear that God’s answer to this question was, “No.”

The Holy Spirit moves through Peter (a Jew), Cornelius (Cornelius, a Roman centurion and thus a Gentile), and the Jewish believers in Jerusalem to bring God’s answer and a great work- Jews and Gentiles will come together as one congregation under the leadership of Jesus Christ. These whispers and their responses are radical game changers for the first Christians. The concerns about eating together and being in each other’s homes are abolished.

God’s message and confirmation come in different ways, yet all along the way is confirmed by the Holy Spirit. Peter receives this understanding through three visions and by seeing the Gentiles experience what he experienced. Cornelius receives through an angel and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The believers in Jerusalem receive through the power of testimony.

Listening for the voice of the Spirit, for the inner voice, involves an act of holy obedience. The word obedient comes from the Latin word audire, which means “to listen.” Listening well goes beyond intellectual activity. Wholehearted listening requires bringing our whole self — body, mind, heart, and spirit — into the act of listening.
– Karla M. Kincannon, Creativity and Divine Surprise

Application
God’s whispers can lead us to radical life changes.

Prayer
Holy One, what changes do you desire to make in me? I am open. I am listening. Come in whatever way you deem is best for me to understand. Make your will known. Make your desires clear. Confirm them by your Spirit. I will do my best to respond, knowing your grace and strength are with me every step of the way. Through Christ my Lord I pray for the glory and honor of your Name, for the expansion of your will and salvation throughout the earth. Amen.

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For more information on the Power of a Whisper campaign or for a copy of this reading plan, click here

As you read, you are encouraged to use the SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here or use the simple instructions provided in the reading plan itself.

I look forward to reading your comments and to all that Jesus will do in you and through you as you learn to better listen and respond to God’s whispers in your life. – Lisa <><

PS- For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Whisper Day 16: Be Still

Stillness by Pamela Alderman

The Power of a Whisper Reading Plan
Day 16 Reading: Psalm 16; Psalm 46

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.
Psalm 46:10

If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit which is life and peace. In that stillness you will know what His will is. -Amy Carmichael

Observation
Three times the Psalmist reminds us that God is present, our refuge and strength. (vs. 1, 7, and 11) The awesome power of God delivers us from trouble: from disaster (vs. 2-3) and from attack (vs. 6, 9)

Application
In the midst of trouble, my last instinct is to be still. My mind races to find a solution. I scurry about trying to fix things and control things. God invites me to cultivate stillness as my first instinct.

Prayer
Cleansing breaths are incorporated into this prayer as a means to help us slow down and clear away the distractions that keep us from deep communion with God.

Breathe in…. Breathe out…

God, my Refuge, my Strength,
grow in me the discipline of stillness

Breathe in…. Breathe out…

Help me to seek stillness first
at all times and in all circumstances

Breathe in…. Breathe out…

Bless me with
a mind still as a calm pool
a spirit still as a warm sunbeam
a soul still as a sleeping babe
my being completely at rest in you

Breathe in…. Breathe out…
Rest in God’s presence…

For a devotion based on Psalm 16, click here

For quotes on silence, click here

For an original hymn test entitled Be Still, Remember, click here

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For more information on the Power of a Whisper campaign or for a copy of this reading plan, click here

As you read, you are encouraged to use the SOAP Method for keeping a spiritual journal, as taught at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii. For more information on this simple and powerful way of engaging the Word of God, please click here or use the simple instructions provided in the reading plan itself.

I look forward to reading your comments and to all that Jesus will do in you and through you as you learn to better listen and respond to God’s whispers in your life. – Lisa <><

PS- For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.