Geography and Gratitude

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Sea of Galilee Sunrise

 

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Give these instructions to the Israelites: When you come into the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as your special possession, these will be the boundaries.’” (Numbers 34:2 NLT)

 

Providentially, God engineers the lay of the land to develop our spiritual maturity. In all possible coordinates, He lavishly provides for His children.

 

In the desert, God is our Delight. We can be cheerful even in wilderness meanderings. We can survive any situation, relying on our Travel Companion.

 

At the Dead Sea, God is our Life. Satan is a thief out to steal hope, kill joy, and destroy enthusiasm—his pleasure is our pain. But God’s purpose is peace. When we walk through life’s dark valleys, if we gaze beyond towering mountains we can envision the bright future God promises.

 

At Scorpion pass, God is our Praise Song. Unbelievers call such locations “God-forsaken,” but we have learned better. Wherever we live, maintaining a thankful attitude is God’s will for all who love Christ’s name. In stressful environments, Jesus teaches us how to sing.

 

When life’s sea is wide and our boat is small, God is our Captain. The Mediterranean need not intimidate us. On the coastline of “impossible situations,” we can count on accomplishing infinitely more than we dare pray or dream. In stormy waters, our Savior keeps us on an even keel.

 

At the Sea of Galilee, God is our Teacher. Mount Hermon’s melting snow flowed into and out of a harp-shaped lake, reminding us that God wants us to receive and distribute grace. If we think getting makes us happy, we should try giving!

 

At the Jordan River, God is our Joy. Rivers of living water cascade through our trusting heart. Thrilling convictions of unseen realities flow through our innermost being.

 

At Jericho, God is our Victory. God conquered that “invincible” city for Israel, and He captivates us to march in Christ’s triumphal procession. By faith, we can claim the territory heaven has assigned us and win our battles even before they are fought. God gives us a guaranteed conquest formula—Jesus + Any Problem = Victory.

 

If we find it difficult to be thankful for the topography, we should remember God is the Land Lord. Our Father knows what is best for us, so we can trust Him and be humbly grateful. Whatever our address, God is our Home.

 

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 91 of Gentle Whispers from Eternity
Book available at Amazon.com

Radical Religion

fire on altar

“Phinehas, son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites by displaying passionate zeal among them on my behalf.”  (Numbers 25:11 NLT)

 

Christians should be zealous for heaven’s sake. Zeal without knowledge is a runaway horse; on the other hand, knowledge without zeal is a dead horse. A live wire improperly grounded and insulated is dangerous; but a dead wire cannot conduct light, heat, or energy. Immobility gets people nowhere. Indifference makes God want to vomit. Sincere faith does more than just fill our mind with ideas—it permits God’s ideas to possess our mind. Opinions, like suitcases, can be carried around and easily set aside; but convictions carry us around. If we let the Holy Spirit Dynamo stir our soul to live passionately, some people may ridicule our goings-on and label us fanatics; but we should not let our critics’ lack of excitement stifle ours. It’s time we quit sleeping in! It’s time we listened to heaven’s wake-up call! It’s time we let the Fire in our heart melt the lead in our feet! Loving the Lord with all our mind will keep us awake.

 

Christians should be zealous for holiness’ sake. We should never imitate Balaam, who was more interested in money than mission. We should refuse to emulate Zimri, who flagrantly violated God’s orders and disregarded His law. It would be foolish to copy the Israelites by allowing ourselves to be seduced by the Devil’s wiles, compromise with culture, descend sin’s slippery slope, and commit spiritual prostitution. It is the highest wisdom to submit to our Sovereign Lord and let Him change the way we think so we can transcend the slavish thinking of majority opinion. If we are like Phinehas, we will be like God—hating sin. Inspired by the indwelling Holy Spirit, we will run from half-heartedness. Serving the King of kings, we will avoid laziness and whistle while we work. Loving the Lord with all our strength will keep us busy.

 

Christians should be zealous for God’s honor. His Presence within creates enthusiasm without. Burning and shining lights never turn into icicles. An inner Flame blazing within our heart glows on our face, makes us intensely alive, and motivates our good works. We should not make mediocre plans—we should aim for the stars! Loving the Lord with all our soul will keep us excited.

 

Christians should be zealous for God’s house. Jesus got angry at sin—so should we. Passion for the Temple caused him to bound loan sharks from the vestibule of his Father’s house turned shopping mall and unplug their cash registers. We should expel everything from our inner being inappropriate for one named after Christ. We should upend shiny, reflective tables of narcissism. Loving the Lord with all our heart, we will keep on.

 

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 89 of Gentle Whispers from Eternity

 

 

 

More than Words

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“God is not a man, that he should lie. He is not human, that he should change his mind. Has he ever spoken, and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through”  [Numbers 23:19 NLT]

 

 

I’m sure you’ve noticed that our wordy world is filled with many basically meaningless messages. Media verbiage is rampant 24/7. God has the Word we really need—creative, illuminating, forgiving, gracious, and authentic.

 

 

In contrast to human dishonesty, God is the heart of reality. We cannot depend on erroneous proclamations, but the Book from Heaven is our lodestar. Grass of popular opinion withers, and flowers of human insight fade, but God’s Textbook never needs revising. Galaxies will melt into nothingness on Judgment Day, but timeless lessons are here to stay. God is not just talking—He means every word He says. The Bible is more than words—it is eternal wisdom. There is more than grammar in the Spirit-breathed book—God is between the lines. The Bible is the only book whose Author is always present when we read it. As we draw near God’s heart—searching beyond paper and ink and syllables—we can sense His Presence. To live honestly, we must always tell the truth.

 

 

Unlike human deviation, God is the God of fidelity. We cannot depend on elusive philosophical ponderings, but God’s predetermined thoughts are absolutely reliable. God Will Always Be Who He Has Always Been—He has always loved us, and He always will. To live decisively, we must quit wavering back and forth and make up our mind to believe God’s Word and honor Him with every dimension of  our life.

 

 

Different from human declination, God is the God of follow-through. We cannot depend on evasive plans, but God’s decreed transaction is our final and absolute answer. God never speaks without acting. To live truthfully, we must follow through on our word—doing what we say we will do.

 

 

In distinction from human deception, God is the God of the future. We cannot depend on empty pledges, but God’s destined time is our complete assurance. God’s invisible clock keeps perfect time—Truth will materialize when He landscapes earth with righteousness. False advertising disappoints, but God is our Trustworthy Anchor, brightening the future. The Living God has spoken in the Bible; He means every word He says, and He will keep every promise. To live purposefully, we must make our devotion more than words.

 

 

 

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 88 of Gentle Whispers from Eternity

 

 

 

The Source of Music

joyThere the Israelites sang this song: “Spring up, O well! Yes, sing about it!” (Numbers 21:17 NLT)

 

Ancient Hebrews were healed by a trusting look at a stinging serpent on a pole—we journey toward real life as we gaze in faith at God’s Son on a cross. If we get depressed and impatient because of life’s difficult score, our Savior teaches us how to sing. Jesus is our Salvation from sin, our Strength for the struggle, and our Song in sadness.

 

Whatever our situation, we are never in a God-forsaken place! We can sing even in the desert if we delight in the Master of Melody. The Lord satisfies our soul with a perpetual spring of joy even if we should feel like hanging up our harp.

 

The world cannot match heaven’s sweet air. The siren song of transient pleasures cannot compare to the symphony of infinite joy. The Holy Spirit in our innermost being inspires a rousing victory march. In God’s perfect timing, we will join in an international praise song to the King of the universe—until then, we can stay in step with the Spirit cadence with an optimistic spring in our step. We are dust, but God is Infinite Power—we will not fall out of the ranks if we depend on the Almighty to reinforces us to battle sin and win. Marching in Christ’s triumphal procession, we are honored to sing a glorious strain in harmony with the church triumphant.

 

The Lord composes a brand new chorus for us every morning. By grace, we can sing out a fresh carol in His honor each day we live—offering an original and creative melody to our listening audience. There is no reason we should ever communicate boredom with a repetitive singsong chant.

 

Our Father’s promises compose a visionary anthem that sustains us in chaos and loneliness. The keynote of heaven’s hopeful music inspires nocturnal melodies. In the shadowlands of time, we listen for the melody of eternity—banking on God’s promise of heaven on earth materializing at sunrise.

 

Fear cannot mute grace notes written in our heart by faith. In anxiety-producing circumstances, God’s unfailing care sings a ballad of courage to our soul. In discord, God’s calming peace is our Background Music. In overwhelming responsibilities, the Lord hums a heavenly tune in our ear so we can keep calm and carry on. How can we keep from singing?

 

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 87 of Gentle Whispers from Eternity

A Better Idea

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“You will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea.”  (Numbers16:28 NIV)

 

Our idea is prestige, but God has a better idea—purpose.  By providential brush strokes, God is painting a masterpiece on the canvas of our circumstances to unveil His grace to the world. With heaven’s help, we can put spiritual adolescence behind us, refuse to be treated as Egypt’s adopted child, and grow up.

 

Our idea is sinning for pleasure’s sake, but God has a better idea—suffering for His Name’s sake. It is foolish to revel in earth’s transient thrills; it is the highest wisdom to travel the harder, higher path. Christ agonized for us; so we should agonize for Him.

 

Our idea is accumulating more stuff, but God has a better idea—investing  in lasting treasures. Linking happiness to things is insane. Dividing allegiance between God and money is impossible.

 

Our idea is fear, but God has a better idea—faith. There is no need to tremble before the pharaoh of hell. We can exit Egypt and travel heavenward, persevering by focusing the eyes of our heart on the Invisible King. When storms rock our boat, we should not panic that we might drown—Jesus still  hushes the sea to sleep and calms frazzled nerves. The Spirit Wind will guide us to a tranquil harbor.

 

Our idea is selfishness, but God has a better idea—service. To be a star for Jesus, we must be a servant. To truly live, we must give.

 

Our idea is comfort, but God has a better idea—a caring heart. Emulating Christ’s example, we will live a life of love.

 

Our idea is carnality, but God has a better idea—Christlikeness. Hammer blows sculpt us into His image. Pain precedes perfection.

 

Our idea is materialism, but God has a better idea—mission. Regarding disgrace for the Messiah’s sake of greater value than Nile stock, we strike out for the desert with our oheart set on the Promised Land.

 

With all our mind, we should learn God’s ideas. With all our soul, we should internalize God’s ideas. With all our heart, we should value God’s ideas. With all our strength, we should activate God’s ideas.

 

If we let God think His thoughts through us, our ideas will begin to look a little bit like His.

 

Pastor Johnny R. Almond

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

This devotional is based on Day 86 of Gentle Whispers from Eternity

Blog http://GentleWhispersFromEternity–ScripturePersonalized.com/

 

 

Memos from the Master

cross - sunset

 

 “You must make tassels for the hems of your clothing and attach the tassels at each corner with a blue cord. The tassels will remind you of the commands of the Lord, and that you are to obey his commands instead of following your own desires and going your own ways as you are prone to do.”  (Numbers 15:38-39 NLT)

 

God encircles us with many object lessons designed to charm us to His side. If we are wise, we will pay close attention to the memos He posts:

 

The cross of Jesus—preaching heaven’s free pardon of our sins, singing of mercy in the maze, inspiring endurance when we are tempted to abandon our mission.

 

The Book from Heaven—jogging our mind to review our Master’s blueprint for life, raising sights above mundane trivia to eternal realities, keeping us from sin.

 

The Indwelling Holy Spirit in our heart—an Infallible, Built-in Guidance System to keep us on target morally.

 

Beautiful, magnificently designed earth, sun, moon, and stars—a billboard publicizing our Father’s sovereignty, awesome power, and loving care.

 

Our spouse and children—signs of God’s love, solving the problem of loneliness.

 

Challenges and responsibilities of our work—reminding us of Providence in guiding us into avenues of service honoring the Name above all names.

 

The church—a loving family, encouraging us to activate good deeds and avoid unholy living in light of Christ’s imminent return.

 

A table loaded with delicious food—illustrating God’s ability to always provide more than enough to meet our every need.

 

History—a rearview mirror reflecting tragic consequences of rebellion against God, chronicling Hebrew recalcitrance and prompting us to learn from their mistakes.

 

Heaven help us to see with our heart—so we can marvel at encompassing traces of grace from the God who loves us, go beyond pondering His memos to conscientiously follow His cues, avoid distraction by the ten thousand lures of the evil one, and stay faithful to the God we love.

 

 

Pastor Johnny R. Almond

Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church; Fredericksburg, Virginia

This devotion based on Day 85 of Gentle Whispers from Eternity

Blog http://GentleWhispersFromEternity–ScripturePersonalized

A Different Spirit

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Panorama Overlook

Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

 

“Because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.” (Numbers 14:24 NIV)

 

In a dark world, the hearts of Christians are illuminated by pure radiant light. The demonic spirit of the age advocates and applauds sexual immorality, violence, quarreling, selfish ambition, bigotry, envy, and drunkenness. In stark contrast, when believers permit the Holy Spirit to control our lives, God makes all the difference in the world in the way we interact with people.

 

The Holy Spirit gives a different spirit of love—we live sacrificially, not selfishly.

The Holy Spirit grants a different spirit of joy—we sing, and do not mope in sadness.

The Holy Spirit blesses with a different spirit of peace—we are serene, and do not sigh.

The Holy Spirit furnishes a different spirit of patience—we are steady, not stormy.

The Holy Spirit supplies a different spirit of kindness—we are sincere, not sarcastic.

The Holy Spirit confers a different spirit of goodness—we share, and do not snub.

The Holy Spirit bestows a different spirit of faithfulness—we are single-minded, not spiritually schizophrenic.

The Holy Spirit provides a different spirit of gentleness—we are sensitive, not severe.

The Holy Spirit reinforces with a different spirit of self-control—we are sane,  not simpleminded.

 

Beyond the reach of change and decay, there is a beautiful Promised Land waiting for all who hear the beat of a Different Drummer—and stay in step.

 

 

Pastor Johnny R. Almond

Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church; Fredericksburg, Virginia

This devotion based on Day 84 of Gentle Whispers from Eternity

Blog http://GentleWhispersFromEternity–ScripturePersonalized.com/

 

Easter – The Day That Changes Everything

easter

 

“Thou art the Sun of other days, They shine by giving back thy rays.”   (John Keble: The Christian Year)

 

“’Dear woman, why are you crying?’ Jesus asked her. ‘Who are you looking for?’ ‘Mary!’ Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, ‘Rabboni!’ (which is Hebrew for ‘Teacher’). Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, ‘I have seen the Lord!’   (John 20:15, 16, 18 NLT)

 

The sight of the stone rolled away from the tomb entrance, the folded linen cloth, the absence of the corpse—none of these moved Mary to thoughts of resurrection. The riddle of Jesus’ disappearance remained unsolved.

 

“They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him.” Her logic is faultless. Dead bodies do not just disappear—someone has to move them. We live by laws of motion and mechanics. Science, reasoning, and perception are based upon the familiar and predictable; only what has happened before can happen now—or so we think.

 

Then Mary hears the One who had been certified as dead call her by name. Like the voice that shatters glass, the voice of Jesus shattered her world—calling her forward to new possibility and a new future.

 

“Rabboni!” (my very own Teacher) she cries out to Jesus. Then she communicated this too-good-to-keep-to-herself good news to the world. She did not shout, “I have seen the empty tomb and that proves Jesus is alive” The empty tomb never proved anything. The greatest argument for the Resurrection is personal encounter with the living Lord.

 

If something very real had not occurred on that strange, confused morning, there would have been no church, Christianity, or New Testament. Some still attempt to reduce Jesus’ resurrection to the coming of spring bringing life to the dead earth, or the rebirth of hope in the despairing soul. Some suggest these are the miracles that the Resurrection is all about, but they are not. In some way these things are miracles, but they are not this miracle—the central miracle on which the entire Christian faith pivots.

 

Konrad Adenaur, post WWII chancellor of West Germany, remarked, “If Jesus Christ is not alive, then I see no hope for the world.”  Because He is alive, we are filled with hope that our living Lord will one day solve intractable problems politicians, scientists, philosophers, economists, and warriors have for generations been unable to deal with.

 

Have you seen the Lord with heart sight? Have you heard him call your name? Have you fell at his feet and called him Rabboni?  Is Jesus your very own Teacher—leading you to see timeless truth. Is Jesus your Defense Counsel—defending you from guilt? Is Jesus your greatest Friend—letting you enjoy the pleasure of his company? Have you received his blessing, “Peace be with you”?

 

“There in the ground His body lay, Light of the world by darkness slain: Then bursting forth in glorious day Up from the grave He rose again! And as He stands in victory Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me, For I am His and He is mine – Bought with the precious blood of Christ. No guilt in life, no fear in death, This is the power of Christ in me; From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny. No power of hell, no scheme of man, Can ever pluck me from His hand: Till He returns or calls me home, Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.” (“In Christ Alone” by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty)

 

Johnny R. Almond

Pastor, Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church; Fredericksburg, Virginia