God’s Tests

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The Lord your God is testing you to see if you love him with all your heart and soul. De u t e r o n o my 13:3 NLT

 

Christianity is not just a mind game played for entertainment—Higher Education is serious business! Life is a battery of tests designed to bring out our true colors.

 

God’s intelligence test determines our spiritual IQ; it indicates whether we are wise or just smart. As we learn his way, we become a new person from the inside out.

 

God’s practical test reveals how far we will go in obeying him. To make a passing grade, we must do more than ponder his Word—we must translate it into action in everyday relationships.

 

God’s authenticity test checks the sincerity of our love for him. To prove our love, we must devote our self to God 24/7. This essay question will take a long time to answer—in fact, it will take the entire course of our life. To give evidence of our genuine love—we must follow God closely, seek to bring other people to him, carry our cross daily, value friendship with God above all things, and keep our mind in tune with Truth.

 

God’s cross-examination demands the ultimate in introspection. Looking within, we can verify the authenticity of our faith. If Christ lives in us, we pass heaven’s most critical test. This is a true/false question—it demands an either/or response. Either we have Christ in our soul, or we do not. The final answer demands total honesty.

 

God’s daily quiz tests our motives. If we do what we should, we will enjoy the fulfillment of doing quality work for the right reason. There is no need to compare our work with others; it is only imperative that we follow Christ’s example and do our best for him. At the end of the day, that is all that matters.

 

God’s endurance test gauges perseverance through severity. Time educates for eternity by strengthening character. We are running in the Faith Marathon—we should not even think of quitting. We are students in Adversity University—we should never disenroll. Ignoring sideline distractions and focusing on Jesus is the wisest way to live. Start to finish, we can rely on the Spirit Wind for adrenaline. Holding on to the Lord for dear life, we will ultimately celebrate victory.

 

God’s final exam will inspect our life’s building materials. Fiery judgment will incinerate inferior work. Quality construction will shine brightly forever. We should do more than merely aim to survive—we should live so we will graduate with honors!

 

 

 

Pastor Johnny R. Almond

Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church

Friends on a Journey of Faith

 

One Nation Under Repair

2016-07-09 one nation under repair

 

“It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”  (Mark 7:20-23 NLT)

 

The picture above was taken last week by our youngest son, Brandon. His caption “One Nation Under Repair” is apt, in light of recent tragic events in our country. The flag at half-staff reminds us of grief at the loss of innocent lives. The scaffolding is part of the process of cleaning and repairing damage on the outside, but what happens INSIDE needs even more repair.

 

The shootings in Saint Paul, Baton Rouge, and Dallas have prompted the repeated statement that violence is not the answer to brutality and murder. Such generalizations do not address the source of evil. For that we must turn to the Master.

 

Jesus summarizes 13 actions and vices that defile a person, and teaches that they all emanate from the heart. He does not paint a pretty picture of human nature—depravity, unchastity, stealing, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, double-dealing, unrestrained sexual drive, envy, malicious misrepresentation, arrogance, senselessness. These bad habits of the heart corrupt and spoil life.

 

The condition of the heart is so important to God, that the word heart is mentioned nearly 1,000 times in the Bible. Our physical hearts are very important to us—our lives depend on our hearts, so we want to avoid heart disease. It stands to reason that we should be just as interested in avoiding the diseases of the spiritual heart.

 

During his time in the Gulag, Solzhenitsyn wrote: “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties, but right through every human heart. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil. If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

 

We should humbly recognize that our hearts are in daily need of repair. Repentance is the path to a clean heart. In the holy land of the broken heart—there is joy never felt in sin’s garbage dump; there is light never seen in dark, dingy places; there is peace never experienced in dens of iniquity; there are songs never sung in rebellious hearts.

 

We are all by nature sinful. The human heart, Jeremiah reminds us, is the most deceitful of all things and desperately wicked. In fact, no one really knows how bad it is. Billy Graham said, “The heart of every problem is the problem of the human heart. That is why Jesus said we must be born again.”

 

It is obvious, to any thoughtful person, that force or legislation cannot change the inner condition of the heart. Only Christ, the Sovereign of the human heart, can transform us.

 

Our nation is in need of repair—one heart at a time.

 

 

Pastor Johnny R. Almond

Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church

Friends on a Journey of Faith

 

The Choice

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Today I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse!    De u t e r o n o my 11:26 NLT

 
The sun is rising–bringing choices about the road we will travel. Decisions are incredibly accurate boomerangs. We are at a crossroads. So which will it be today—a dark alley or a magnificent boulevard?

 

Prayer or presumption? Faith in Almighty God or self-reliance? Zero accomplishment in our strength or unlimited capability in God’s?

 

Care or egomania? A lifestyle of sacrifice or of selfishness? Love in our heart was not put there to stay; love is not love until we give it away.

 

Purity or carnality? Will we fill our mind with heaven’s truth and loveliness or pollute it with hell’s garbage? Will we focus on ennobling excellence or imbecilic filth?

 

Understanding or criticism? Will we fret because we cannot shape others up morally, overlooking the fact we cannot change ourselves? Or will we wish the best for every person, hating only our own latent evil?

 

Composure or impatience? When we feel everyone passing us is an idiot, and those going slower are morons, we are out of line! God’s timing is perfect–wisdom slows down and obeys heaven’s speed limit.

 

Attention or preoccupation? Will we permit the Holy Spirit to conquer our inner space and teach us to love people who wander through our days? The surest sign of love is listening–how is our hearing?

 

Intentionality or wandering? Jesus went around doing good, but we often just go around. It’s high time we wrote our mission statement, and lived it.

 

Serenity or agitation? On high seas, the Master can still calm the waves. He will if we let Him.

 

Sensitivity or rudeness? Everyone has a silent struggle, unknown agony, unresolved dilemma, or unvoiced pain. To the extent we’re like Christ, we will be kind.

 

Self-control or profligacy? Addiction or liberation? There is no need to shuffle in chains–Jesus is the Key to thorough-going freedom.

 

It is a joy to catch boomerangs of thoughtful, wise decisions; it is a pain to nurse a bruised skull from foolish ones, made without thinking! If we make the right decisions, then sunset’s benediction will conclude a happy day.

 

 

Johnny R. Almond, Pastor

Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church–Friends on a Journey of Faith

Devotional based on Day 97 of Gentle Whispers from Eternity

A Prayer for America

american_flag_and_christian_cross_fascism_poster-p228576374643359694tdcp_400God of the nations,

How easy it is for us to decry downward spiraling moral trends in America. The majority ignores your commandments and lives by their own rules. Many worship their work, work at their play, and play at their worship. Most people in our country appear self-centered, pleasure-seeking, materialistic, and proud of possessions. Still known in the world as a superpower, Americans sometimes forget that “all the nations of the world are only a drop in the bucket, nothing more than dust on the scales” (Isaiah 40:15).

 

God of holiness,

How difficult it for us to be completely honest in admitting our personal shortcomings. We criticize other people for sinning in ways that we don’t. We harshly judge others for bad habits different from ours. We rarely take time to ponder the condition of our own inner being

 

God of justice and mercy,

Remind us again of your promise. If – a little word with big repercussions, the hinge on the door of blessing. My people – not unbelieving society, but your children by sincere faith in your Son. Called by My name – honoring your authority, pledging allegiance to the cross. Humble themselves – coming down where we belong,  acknowledging your Sovereignty. Pray – pouring our heart out to our Creator, Redeemer and Guide. Seek My face – yearning for your Presence more than the comfort of noise. Turn from their wicked ways – repenting of our evil, quitting our sins. I will hear from heaven – granting us an audience with the living God. I will forgive their sins – cleansing our hearts of iniquity. I will heal their land – curing the epidemic of individualism with the rewards of community, curing the disease of restlessness with tranquility, curing the sickness of rebellion with commitment to righteous living, curing the illness of fear of terrorism with trust in Your protection, curing the malady of anxiety with confidence in Your bright future, curing the disorder of chaos with calming assurance all will be well.

 

God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,

Though it sometimes feels everything nailed down in this world is coming loose, we believe You are the One who holds everything, including us, together.

Though we often sense our weakness, we trust your power to enable us to walk the high road.

Though nations are unsettled – European Union fragmenting, the Middle East torn apart by war, our country divided politically – we believe You will unite the world when the King of kings reigns from the new Jerusalem.

Though we’re aware of America’s goodness, we also acknowledge her flaws. Privileged to live in a great country, we look forward to your promise of a better country to come, a heavenly one.

 

God of our hearts,

Help us to be patriotic – loving our country and doing our best to improve her character.

Help us keep in mind we are citizens of heaven—investing in eternal treasures, keeping our eyes on the bright Morning Star.

Amen.

 

 

Johnny R. Almond

Pastor, Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church – Friends on a Journey of Faith

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity—Scripture Personalized

http://GentleWhispersFromEternity–ScripturePersonalized.com/

 

 

 

Victory Formula

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It is not at all because you are such righteous, upright people that you are about to occupy their land. The Lord your God will drive these nations out ahead of you only because of their wickedness, and to fulfill the oath he had sworn to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  DEUTERONOMY 9:5 NLT

 

Despite countless warnings against self-righteousness, we still sometimes have the nerve to take personal credit for spiritual conquests. Human egocentric arrogance is unbelievable. When we sense we’re making moral progress and we’re reveling in overcoming temptation, we may begin to feel we have reason to congratulate our self for what we have accomplished. I doubt if we have any idea how ridiculous we look when we strut with pride.

 

We should have learned by now that ego trips invariably end in crashes. Pride paves the road of self-destruction. A haughty spirit is black ice causing moral catastrophe.

 

The true reason for winning is not our righteousness, but Christ’s. Spiritual victory happens not because we are ever good, but because God is always God. We are not saved based on our labor, but our Savior’s love. God’s heart is filled with compassion for us, so He deals with us mercifully. Unfailing Love shelters us. God said He would always love us, and He will stand by His word. The cause of triumph is not our integrity, but God’s intervention; not our resolve, but God’s fidelity; not our strength, but God’s Spirit; not our smartness, but God’s wisdom; not our plans, but God’s Providence.

 

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob blessed them as they pulled up stakes, worshipfully obeyed, and dreamily struggled. God is also our God—blessing us in our moving experiences, joyful maturing, and visionary hoping.

 

Praise God publicly for His guidance and strength that enable us to live victoriously and win our battles with the evil one. We can depend on God to conquer adversaries occupying our promised land. Our Commander in Chief is on the front line battling for us. Without divine help, there is no way we could win. With heaven’s assistance, we cannot lose.

 

It is the highest wisdom to factor God into the equation of every situation we face in our life—“impossible” circumstances, “unsolvable” problems, and “endless” struggles. Here’s a good formula for celebration—Jesus + Any Problem = Victory.

 

Johnny R. Almond

Pastor, Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church – Friends on a Journey of Faith

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity—Scripture Personalized

http://GentleWhispersFromEternity–ScripturePersonalized.com/

This devotional based on day 96 of Gentle Whispers from Eternity

Book available at Amazon.com

A Christian Response to Violence

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” (Leonard Bernstein)

 

With yesterday’s awful news of the worst mass killing in American history saddening our hearts, my wife and I joined others in St. Paul’s Adult Masterworks Chorus in King George, Virginia, to rehearse the beautiful St. Cecelia Mass by Gounod. As we lined up to process into the sanctuary, I noticed this quote by Bernstein on a bulletin board. It struck me as a poignant reminder of eternal love, encouraging hope, and transforming faith.

 

In the shadow of hate, we can choose to sing the music of love. The killer was filled with hate and expressed it in an unspeakably horrible act of violence. Christians believe in the God who is love. We follow His Son’s example in “living a life filled with love” (Ephesians 5:2). There is no room for hate toward anyone. Love should guide our actions in relationship to every human being. God loves everyone—so should we.

 

In the valley of despair, we can choose to sing the music of hope. Recurring news of a killer attacking with an assault rifle has inclined some people to expect more of the same. Christians believe God has a plan—to bring heaven to earth in the return and reign of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We never lose hope because we believe “the future is as bright as the promises of God.”

 

In the downward spiral of cynicism, we can choose to sing the music of faith. Skeptics and pessimists view current events as a preview of terrorist acts making bloody headlines. Christians believe that one day, in God’s time, unsettled nations will be united under the sovereign rule of the Messiah. Christ is our peace in pandemonium, our calm in chaos, our courage in a dangerous world, and our confidence that at the end of life’s little day all will be well. We refuse to give in to cynicism, despite many signs that planet earth is the insane asylum of the solar system—because we believe the new Jerusalem will be deathless, painless, sinless, and tearless.

 

“My life goes on in endless song above earth’s lamentations; I hear the real, though far off, hymn, that hails a new creation.Through all the tumult and the strife I hear its music ringing. It sounds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing?”

 

Whatever happens in this crazy world, may God’s grace enable us to keep joyful music in our life—with intense love, beautiful hope, and devoted faith—until that glorious day we join the chorus of millions of the redeemed singing praises to the Prince of Peace.

 

 

Johnny R. Almond

Pastor, Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church – Friends on a Journey of Faith

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity—Scripture Personalized

http://GentleWhispersFromEternity–ScripturePersonalized.com/

Book available on Amazon

 

 

A Heart for God

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You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.

Deuteronomy 6:5 NLT

 

God is Love, not law. God is not interested in compulsive religiosity. He is unimpressed by punctilious rule keeping. His standing order is crystal clear—love Him with all we are. It is the highest wisdom to place our love for God above all—nothing could make our life sadder than a heart estranged from our Heavenly Father. God expects intensity in our love—half-heartedness is totally unacceptable!

 

Devotion is more than ideal—it is imperative. To avoid disappointment, we should refuse to give allegiance to counterfeit gods. To avoid heartbreak, we should refuse to give contemporary rivals a hearing. To advance in holiness, we should not be enamored by pleasure or fooled by the treadmill of advancing in social status. To find real joy, we must trade society’s dissatisfying lifestyle for Christ’s restful way and exchange our vicious cycle for His victory celebration.

 

We should love God with all emotions—being sincere in our feelings. If we consider love’s deepest meaning at Calvary’s cross, we will love our Savior more and prove our love by wholeheartedly obeying Him and affectionately serving Him.

 

We should love God with all our ego—being serious in our faith. The Holy Spirit sensitizes our conscience to distinguish good and evil. If we wholeheartedly love God, we will love the world through our personality and find ways to creatively serve Him.

 

We should love God with all our energy—being strong in our focus. Commitment to our Master will motivate us to use our vitality to demonstrate we have a heart for God. We’ll do more than announce to the world that we love God—we will prove it by our actions. The Almighty reinforces us with response-ability for responsibilities. If we surrender wholeheartedly to the King of kings, we can enthusiastically serve Him.

 

We should love God with all our education—being sharp in our fact finding. Ennobling our mind through daily Scripture intake changes how we think as we wholeheartedly think God’s thoughts. It does not take a great mind to be Jesus’ disciple; it does take all the mind we have. Realizing nothing could make our mind more distressed than to be of a different mind than our Lord, we will seek to intelligently serve Him.

 

God wants to be more than words to us—He wants to be intertwined with our innermost being. It is not far from where we are to where God is—He is nearer to us than our hands and feet; He is closer than our breathing. We do not reach God by traveling, but by loving.

 

The best way to live is to fall in love with Love and stay in love with Love. When we give God our heart, He gives us His.

 

 

Johnny R. Almond

Pastor, Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church – Friends on a Journey of Faith

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity—Scripture Personalized

http://GentleWhispersFromEternity–ScripturePersonalized.com/

This devotional based on day 95 of Gentle Whispers from Eternity

Book available on Amazon

 

 

 

Practice makes Perfect

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So be very careful to act exactly as God commands you. Don’t veer off to the right or the left. Walk straight down the road God commands so that you’ll have a good life and live a long time in the land that you’re about to possess.

Deuteronomy 5:33 THE MESSAGE

 

A trusting heart listens prayerfully to God’s laws, reads His Word very closely, and pays strict attention to timeless principles. Our ears must be open if we are to hear what our Lord has to say. Our heart must be open and receptive if we are to detect His voice.

 

A wise heart learns God’s rules, prioritizes study of the Book from Heaven, and reflects on the meaning of Christ’s teaching. Our mind must be open if we are to receive insight to interpret Scripture.

 

A committed heart lives by God’s Book. Not content with meditation only, the serious disciple obeys. Responding to our Lord’s instructions, we apply His Word to everyday life. When we translate orthodox beliefs into correct behavior, we write the finest translation of the Bible.

 

Sincere study of Scripture brings light into our dark world, wisdom into our searching mind, hope into our uncertain heart, life into your sagging spirit, and love into our relationships—provided we go beyond casual perusal and academic investigation to radical obedience. Here is the best Bible study plan: 1) read it over glacially; 2) think it through carefully; 3) pray it in earnestly; and 4) live it out practically. We prove our love by obeying Christ. He is present when we quote His lines.

 

Life is different from thinking about life. The relationships arena, not a philosophizing balcony, is where a heart for God is lived out. Fighting the good fight of faith is a far cry from donning spiritual armor and then awkwardly reclining in an easy chair.

 

Eons before we were born, God loved us and planned for us to ultimately become like Jesus. His Spirit charmed us to His heart. His compassion forgave our sin and made us His friend. He has charted a glorious destiny for us. We are His children, so He wants us to really enjoy life.

 

Even more than our personal happiness, our Father wants us to grow up. We are a subject in His Kingdom—and He expects us to live like it. To refine our character, God passes us through the crucible of tough times. Walking in Jesus’ steps is never easy—the path to glory is treacherous. Claiming to be acquainted with God, we are compelled to imitate Jesus’ lifestyle.

 

We are far from perfect—we need to keep practicing.

 

Johnny R. Almond

Pastor, Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church – Friends on a Journey of Faith

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity—Scripture Personalized

http://GentleWhispersFromEternity–ScripturePersonalized.com/

This devotional based on day 94 of Gentle Whispers from Eternity

 

 

 

Review for a New View

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The Lord your God has blessed everything you have done and has watched your every step through this great wilderness. During these forty years, the Lord your God has been with you and provided for your every need so that you lacked nothing. Deuteronomy 2:7 NLT

 

If we let God take care of our fortune, we can look around in gratitude. God has blessed us in our work. Insight, intelligence, and income are all heaven’s gifts. Our ambition and ability do not ensure wealth—God is the One who empowers us to make money. When we sit down to pay our bills, we have two choices—complain because we owe a lot, or celebrate because God gives us enough money to pay our debts. It might be a good idea to designate one day a year to get griping out of our system, and use all the other days for heartfelt thanksgiving. The Lord has blessed us spiritually in our work. Opportunities to serve God are a sacred trust—so we should work conscientiously and cheerfully, keeping in mind who our Supervisor is. It is wise to keep a Master “to do” list and put our heart into the Master’s service.

 

If we let God take care of our food, we can look within in praise. Our Father has blessed us in our wants. Because He has cared for us, we have never gone hungry. God has blessed us generously in every way—spiritually, emotionally, domestically, physically. Desirable gifts cascade like a river from His heart of love. El Shaddai is the Enough One. Heaven’s well never runs dry, so our cup constantly overflows. It is rewarding to put our energy into the number one priority of His kingdom.

 

If we let God take care of our future, we can look up in faith. God has blessed us in our wandering—guiding us through life’s maze, testing our character to see if we are serious about obeying Him. As we have journeyed through a vast desert, God has watched over us all the way. We may sometimes feel we are going in circles; but we should remember that though the Holy Spirit sometimes leads us around, He never leads us astray. Our Lord is always thinking about us and concerned about what aggravates us. Wherever we have lived, God has loved us. The faith road is not always easy, but it leads to the promised land of purpose and serenity. There are battles to fight, but we do not have to freeze in fear—Jesus will engage in combat right alongside us until we march in a victory parade down heaven’s High Street.

 

If we let God take care of our forever, we can look forward in joy. God is our Greatest Blessing. He is our Travel Companion every mile. He has made our heart His home and He will never move away.

 

Johnny R. Almond

Pastor, Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church – Friends on a Journey of Faith

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity—Scripture Personalized

http://GentleWhispersFromEternity–ScripturePersonalized.com/

This devotional based on day 93 of Gentle Whispers from Eternity

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hiding Place

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You must give the Levites six cities of refuge where a person who has accidentally killed someone can flee for safety.  Numbers 35:6 NLT

 

 

God is our Hiding Place from sin. If we got what was coming to us, we would be destroyed as quickly as a dandelion in a windstorm, but thankfully judgment is softened by mercy. God’s heart is a city of refuge. In Calvary’s shadow, we are home safe—the crossbeam stained with the Lamb’s precious lifeblood is an eternal storm shelter. Satan accuses us, but our Priest-Friend is also our Defense Counsel. Guilt will never get the best of us, if we nestle near our Father’s heart—we are inseparable.

 

 

God is our Hiding Place from the strategies of Satan. Resisting the Devil prompts him to leave us alone. When we wash our hands, that is cleanliness; when we purify our heart, that is godliness. The highest wisdom is to don sacred armor—truth belt to counteract hell’s propaganda, witnessing shoes to battle barefoot lethargy, faith shield to extinguish fiery arrows of temptation, salvation helmet to protect our thought life, and Holy Spirit Sword to combat the evil one. Armed and ready to fight sin, we can win!

 

 

God is our Hiding Place in the stress of life. If we ever feel we cannot take another step, God is our Resting Place. If burdens are about to crush us, we can take refuge in the sanctuary of His company and find relief from unbearable strain.

 

 

God is our Hiding Place in the storms of life. Walking the trail of tears, we find asylum in His companionship. Crying the blues, our Face-Healer inspires us to sing His praises. When scary waves on high seas threaten to engulf us, He keeps us from drowning in despair. In lonely nights, Jesus is our Night Light. Listening carefully, we hear the future melody of hope. Taking His hand, the Lord of the dance teaches us how to dance for joy.

 

 

God is our Hiding Place in the shadows of life. Inside Holy City limits, we will experience unlimited ecstasy. We will see Christ’s smile, and His name will forever preoccupy our mind. There will be no need for artificial light, because the Light of His Presence is always shining to illuminate the golden streets.

 

 

God is our Hiding Place whatever happens. Hiding in rituals is a poor substitute for hiding in our Redeemer. Hiding in thoughts is not as liberating as hiding in Truth. Hiding in defense mechanisms cannot match the liberation of hiding in Love. Hiding in legalism is destructive; hiding in Grace is delightful. Hiding in routine is not as rewarding as hiding in Reality. Hiding in the comfort of noise is the world’s way; hiding in Peace is the Christian’s. Hiding in our guilty past is a downward spiral of gloom; hiding in the promise of His glorious future is a staircase of joy. Hiding from God causes us to miss the blessed assurance of hiding in God.

 

 

Johnny R. Almond

Pastor, Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church – Friends on a Journey of Faith

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity—Scripture Personalized

http://GentleWhispersFromEternity–ScripturePersonalized.com/

This devotional based on day 92 – Book is available from Amazon