Your mighty vessel flounders in the heavy eastern gale.
You are shipwrecked in the heart of the sea!
EZEKIEL 27:26 NLT
Babylon became great—but boasted of its greatness, and perished.
Greece grew strong—but trusted its strength, and disappeared.
Rome conquered the world—but worshiped itself, and toppled.
Tyre thought it had it made—international trade made it rich—
then arrogance swelled their head and shriveled their heart.
Their ship of state was a magnificent vessel—the envy of the world.
But that ship of state wrecked on the rocks of self-reliance.
Any nation that acknowledges My lordship will be blessed—
any nation that refuses to bow the knee will be cursed.
Your own nation may be known as a superpower,
but all the nations are a drop in the bucket compared to My power.
Your country may have a reputation for technological sophistication,
but all nations are less than nothing to Me—froth on the sea of life.
An autopsy of a failed nation always reveals the growth of pride.
Hubris in the heart of a nation is a wrecking ball that will destroy it.
Strutting on the stage of history is a sure way to trip and fall.
Carrying on business without God results in moral bankruptcy.
It all begins with you.
Do not imagine you can do wrong without weakening your country.
Do not downgrade the positive effect you can have by a noble example.
Do not think you have no influence over your nation—you certainly do!
If you obey My commands, you will set the pace for your family.
If your home reflects My love, you will encourage your neighborhood.
If your community honors My law, they will model fairness for your city.
If your city respects My ways, they will inspire your state.
If your state aims for justice, your nation will grow in righteousness.
If your nation is righteous, your world will take notice of a better way.
It all begins with you.
(c) Pastor Johnny R. Almond
Day 285, Gentle Whispers from Eternity
A lot has been written on social media recently about sermon plagiarizing – preaching someone else’s sermon, although one of my preaching professors told us if you preach another’s sermon it is called plagiarizing, but if you combine parts of several sermons, it is called research. My pastor-father used to say, “When better sermons are written, I’ll preach them.” Sometimes they were and sometimes he did. A friend began his Chapel sermon at Southwestern Seminary by saying, “If you like this sermon, you can get a copy afterwards in the library. Look under Spurgeon – Charles Haddon.” A faculty member preached a sermon in Chapel and a few months later preached the same sermon in a church pastored by a Seminary student. In the meantime, the student preached the professor’s sermon in his church. The church members were upset, thinking the professor stole their pastor’s sermon. All this to say, show me a preacher who doesn’t occasionally use someone else’s sermon material, and I’ll show you a preacher who may have another problem. I always told my Seminary want-to-be preachers how to use someone else’s material: (1) The first time you use it you say, “Dr. Crawford said . . .” (2) The second time you use it you say, “It has been said . . .” (3) The third time you use it, you say, “I’ve always thought . . .” By then it is yours. I also told them that if they were going to use my material, at least improve on it. One student tried to justify his plagiarism by quoting a verse out of context, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippines 2:4). Many years ago. my pastor preached a sermon that was familiar to me. Following the service, I went by my office and pulled off the shelf a book of sermons by Dr. R. G. Lee and found the sermon that I had just heard. I could have made copies and handed them out at the next church business meeting before making a motion to terminate the pastor, but I chose not to do so. I don’t mean to attempt to justify sermon plagiarism. After all, there is that biblical verse that says, “Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” says the Lord, “who steal My words every one from his neighbor” (Jeremiah 23:30). I just think it is not a big enough deal over which to terminate someone. Here’s another verse that applies – “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone . . .” (John 8:7). And another verse – “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Preach on!
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
“Look! I will break the bow of Elam, the main element of their strength.”
JEREMIAH 49:35 MLB
I destroyed Elam’s “atomic bomb”—the thing they trusted in most.
They felt invulnerable, immune to being hurt—they were dead wrong.
It is the same with all nations—strutting across history’s stage leads to a fall.
I hate pride more than anything else; My fury targets and attacks it.
Self-sufficiency inevitably fails—I am the Only Reliable Homeland Security.
Trusting in military might?
I took Elam’s weapon of choice and broke it over My knee.
I will snap spears in two and burn chariots with fire,
bringing an end to all combat ravaging the earth.
Strategies of superpowers will not succeed without My blessing.
Nations depending on armies to save them are misplacing their trust—
only God of the Angel Armies can offer true protection.
Trusting in your own wisdom?
That is not wise because human scholarship is flawed and limited.
Smart-alecks have more to learn than they can possibly imagine.
To mature in understanding, mine the timeless wisdom found in Christ.
Trusting in your physical strength?
I alone never faint or tire; I alone can energize the worn out.
Even young athletes become exhausted and quit the race;
but those who seek Me discover fresh strength to continue.
In My grace, you can accomplish what self-sufficiency never can—
soar higher than mediocrity, run faster than temptation,
and walk farther than faintheartedness.
Trusting in your riches?
If you are not banking on eternal wealth, you will go bankrupt.
If you are not investing in spiritual treasures, you will miss heaven’s best.
At death, you will leave all behind except the wealth of your character.
America says it trusts God; here is the critical question—do you?
You cannot speak for all the country, but you can get a word in for Me.
You cannot choose for the entire nation, but you can decide for Me.
You can depend on Me—so never declare your independence from Me.
(c) Pastor Johnny R. Almond
Day 279, Gentle Whispers from Eternity
The difference between envision and vision is that envision sees or imagines something within the mind, and vision sees something as if it was true. When I was young we had no TV, so I listened to The Lone Ranger and baseball’s Game of the Day on the radio. While I could not see the action, I could envision the scenes and events in my mind. In the long run, I think it helped me be a person of vision. Once you start seeing something in your mind, you start seeing how it can happen, then you take steps to make it happen, and the real value of vision is to make things happen. Futurist Joel Barker said, “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” Vance Havner said, “The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs.” I’ve always tried to envision things in my mind, then share my vision with others, so together we can get things done. My long-time boss, W. F. Howard once said, “If you hang around people of vision, some of it will rub off on you.” If what I envision can “rub off” on others, then I feel satisfied and successful. The writer of Proverbs wrote, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained (Proverbs 29:18, NASB). I like “The Message” paraphrase, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves.” So, happy envisioning today, and if you can’t envision, “hang around” some folks who can.
Albrecht Durer Praying Hands
What a day of crushing trouble! What a day of confusion and terror
the Lord, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, has brought upon the Valley of Vision!
ISAIAH 22:5 NLT
In overwhelming discouragement, I am your Inspired Enthusiasm.
In bone-tired weariness, I am your Welcome Rest.
In paralyzing fear, I am your Liberating Faith.
In dark despair, I am your Bright Hope.
In horrifying terror, I am your Quiet Peace.
In heartbreaking sadness, I am your Heavenly Joy.
In baffling perplexity, I am your Uncommon Wisdom.
In irritating frustration, I am your Supernatural Patience.
In egocentric arrogance, I am your Authentic Humility.
In dull apathy, I am your Passionate Purpose.
In loud tumult, I am your Silent Tranquility.
In midnight crying, I am your Praise Song.
In heartless self-absorption, I am your Compassionate Kindness.
In recurring sin, I am your Sustaining Grace.
In mournful death, I am your Eternal Life.
In lonely darkness, I am your Night Light.
In sincere repentance, I am your Total Forgiveness.
In penitent brokenness, I am your Absolute Healing.
In authentic humility, I am your True Honor.
In spiritual poverty, I am your Lavish Riches.
In intense difficulty, I am your Persevering Endurance.
In desperate situations, I am your Divine Help.
In excruciating moaning, I am your Relieving Morning.
In heavy tasks, I am your Enabling Poise.
In crazy pandemonium, I am your Incomprehensible Calm.
In relational clashes, I am your Understanding Smile.
In hesitant dilemmas, I am your Energizing Courage.
In deepest gloom, I am your Highest Glory.
In emotional valleys, I am your Ultimate Vision.
(c) Pastor Johnny R. Almond
Day 267, Gentle Whispers from Eternity
employing a “Prohibition Era” strategy will never eliminate abortions.
But how much decline could be seen if the 380,000 Christian congregations each mobilized as a #PrayerCareShare movement?
•Prayer~ for people by name and need.
•Care ~ for practical and financial needs.
•Share ~ the invitation of the Gospel to be part God’s compassion community.
Could we rescue tens of thousands unborn babies?
Hundreds of thousands?
This is not oversimplification if we put as much trust in the potential of the acts of the Holy Spirit filled Church as we do the power of legislation.
Even the most restrictive law will never eliminate abortion. That should be no surprise, but that should also not be our only hope.
Those who are crying out, advocating for the unborn, should do so because they have been bestowed a divine calling.
But everyone has a calling to express God’s love with personalized prayer, hands-on care, while looking for Spirit-prompted-opportunities to share life transforming good news.
Are we preaching-to-the-choir but not equipping them to be advocates for life with those they live, work, play with?
Has our commitment to legislation made us partner with the wrong crowd? Have political alliances compromised our witness?
Does a culture that worships tolerance perceive our message as merely a thirst to control (tell women what they are not
permitted to do) rather than as our passion to advocate for not-yet-born lives (by providing safe, support-based alternatives to terminating pregnancy)?
Has our commitment to this righteous cause become infected by a spirit of self-righteousness?
Are we fooled into believing our nation can be freed from sin if we create legislative and judicial edicts forbidding such action?
Will we remember that the weapons of our warfare include love expressed through kindness, grace and forgivenes, sacrifice and generosity, hospitality; also speaking truth in love. Never letting evil defeat us, but defeating evil with good.
May God revive the Church as we choose the life of loving and committing ourselves and our churches to God.
“Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your (not yet born) descendants might live!
You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him.
This is the key to your life.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20
The LORD himself will choose the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel – “God is with us.”
ISAIAH 7:14 NLT
You are not alone, though you sometimes feel lonely—I am with you.
When you are unsure which way to turn, I am your Wonderful Counselor.
When you are feeling weak-kneed, I am your Mighty God.
When your life is falling apart, I am your Everlasting Father.
When you are frazzled by pandemonium, I am your Prince of Peace.
When you feel like you have made a fool of yourself, I am your Wisdom.
When you are burdened by your sinfulness, I am your Righteousness.
When you are struggling with impurity, I am your Holiness.
When you are chafing under sin’s shackles, I am your Redeemer.
When you are trying to break bad habits, I am your Liberator.
When you are needing companionship, I am your Greatest Friend.
When you are puzzled by life’s complexity, I am your Guide.
When you are wondering if you will survive difficulty, I am your Faith.
When you feel like singing the blues, I am your Jazz.
When you are tired in My work, I am your Energy.
When you are feeling guilty, I am your Defense Counsel.
When your heart is aching, I am your Comforter.
When you are disappointed, I am your Consoler.
When you are in peril, I am your Helper.
When fiery arrows of temptation are aimed at you, I am your Shield.
When you are on high seas, I am your Captain at the helm.
When you are riding an emotional roller coaster, I am your Seatmate.
When perplexing cares crowd your mind, I am your Center of Gravity.
When worry about needs steals your sleep, I am your Shepherd.
When the night seems interminable, I am your Light.
When your situation is uncertain, I am your Anchor.
When you are on sinking sand, I am your Solid Rock.
When despair threatens your soul, I am your Melody of Hope.
When tears soak your pillow, I am your Dawn.
When current events depress you, I am your Bright Morning Star.
When you feel a little down, remember your Greatest Blessing—God.
(c) Pastor Johnny R. Almond
Day 262, Gentle Whispers from Eternity
If you fail under pressure, your strength is not very great.
PROVERBS 24:10 NLT
High-pressure situations give you a chance to experience My grace.
Trouble is good for you—if you get to know Me better in the process.
It is not a question of if, but when trouble will come your way.
When it does, you will unravel if you depend on your own ingenuity.
The Empowering One living within you is your Secret of survival.
You are ready for anything the world throws at you in His strength.
Attempt to steer your own course when you encounter high seas,
and your small boat will be demolished on the rocks.
Let Me have the helm, and you will celebrate tranquil harbors.
Grace-less, you cannot do anything; grace-full, you can do everything.
Rely on My omnipotence—I will see you through any emergency.
When you are exhausted, focus on Jesus and you can finish the race.
I have been managing the universe for eons, without fainting.
I have untiringly directed intergalactic traffic patterns, through all time.
When you are tired and worn out, My strength is still available.
When your energy is depleted, Mine is undiminished.
Though you are weary, you do not have to give up if you trust Me.
Adversity University graduates honor students.
Frightening thunderstorms paint beautiful rainbows.
Tough situations develop uncompromising character.
Crises prove your mettle.
Running the Faith Marathon trains you to persevere.
Stress keeps kites flying high in the air.
Headwinds lift wings to get aircraft off the runway.
A crucible transforms crude ore into pure gold.
Coal under pressure changes into diamonds.
Grace under pressure leads to glory.
(c) Johnny R. Almond
Pastor, Hull's Memorial Baptist Church
Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity
After the large group of disciples deserted him Jesus ministered only in Galilee for some time. He did not go at all into Judea because the Jewish hierarchy were threatening to kill him. With the Feast of Booths at hand Jesus went back to his childhood home in Nazareth. There he found his brothers and sisters and their families gathered. His oldest brother, Joseph, welcomed him.
“Jesus! We are glad to see you. We are preparing to go to Jerusalem for the feast and were expecting to see you there.”
Jesus said, “I sent my disciples on to Jerusalem with their families. I think I would rather stay here where it is quiet.”
His brother James said, “We have been talking about this, Jesus. You need to go up to Jerusalem. We hear that you are doing amazing miracles. We still cannot figure out how you could have produced wine when they ran out at that wedding in Cana. Some people are saying you turned the water in the stone jars into wine.”
Joseph said, “Listen, if you really do these things, you need to go where your followers will see what you do. No one who is trying to become prominent should work in secret.”
Jesus answered, “You don’t understand the situation. Timing is crucial for me. The time is always right for you. The world cannot hate you. Your lives reflect the world around us. The world hates me because everything I do and say testifies that their works are evil. You go on to the feast. I am not going up to the feast with you. My time has not yet fully come.”
After the rest of the family left Jesus began to pray. After a few moments he heard someone talking outside the house. He went to the door and saw his mother and his youngest brother talking to his Aunt Susanna and her son David. As Susanna and her son turned to go Jesus stepped out to meet Mary and Simon.
“What is happening? Why have you not started for Jerusalem?” Mary sent Simon into the house with directions to get some things.
To Jesus she said “We were all meeting at the synagogue to travel together. And Susanna's son Jesse arrived with a donkey cart. That meant we could take a few more things for the journey. Susanna and David returned for a skin of wine. And I came back for some blankets and a round of cheese. Are you sure you won’t go with us to the feast?”
“No, mother. I cannot go until the timing is right.”
“I suppose I understand, son. But you said your time had not yet come at the wedding feast. And God still honored what you did.”
“I know mother. But I would not have done anything then without my Father’s prompting. I am afraid my brothers did not understand that at all.”
“I know, son. They never understood your motivations. Your father and I have not always understood. But your brothers and sisters were not shown God’s plan by an angel as Joseph and I were. It was more than your brothers could understand, when you stood in the synagogue and said the prophecy of Isaiah was being fulfilled in you. It is difficult for them to believe the brother that they have known all their lives came from God.”
Jesus nodded his understanding. “Be assured that my Heavenly Father is speaking to them. In time, they will come to believe.” As They were talking Simon came out of the house loaded down with blankets, and Susanna and David came back along the road.
Mary put her hand on his arm and said, “It is not for me to say, but I think God’s time for you is very near. You must pray about coming to the feast in order to be ready when your time does come.” Jesus said goodbye and returned to the house to pray.
After a while, he too arose and started north on the road to Jerusalem. He did not join a group for the journey. He entered the city secretly to observe what was being said. The people were all whispering about him. But no one dared speak of Jesus openly because the chief priests and rabbis were so angry.
Some of the people were saying, “He is a good man.”
Others said, “When the messiah comes will he show us more signs than this man?”
Still others argued, “It doesn’t matter how many miracles he does, he is leading the people astray. Don’t all of our leaders oppose him?”
This story was based on certain things in John 7:1-13.
Father, the world hates us more and more as we draw nearer to You. Help us be sensitive to Your timing and your prompting in our lives.
Amazon Author Central page.
Teach the wise, and they will be wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn more.
PROVERBS 9:9 NLT
Admit to Me recidivistic foolishness—then resolve to be rid of it!
Reverse evil—and learn to live life in all its fullness.
Repent—and you can rejoice.
Stand in awe of Me—and begin to grasp true understanding.
Learn the ABCs of wisdom by getting to know the Holy One.
Keep running the Faith Marathon—hang in there and never quit.
At the finish line I will welcome you to the house Wisdom built.
Be mature enough to be open to suggestions and counsel of others.
Learn an important lesson—you do not have a monopoly on wisdom.
You do not know all the answers—or even all the questions!
So do not strut around like a know-it-all—you still have a lot to learn.
Keep these two truths in mind—there is a God, and you are not Him!
My sea is greater than you can navigate on your own.
Your boat is too small to survive life’s storms.
Lean on My omniscience—learn to trust the Captain at the helm.
Three basics taught in kindergarten still apply in graduate school—
1) Uncompromisingly practice what is right;
2) Compassionately be kind toward everyone you meet;
3) Humbly conduct yourself in the light of My Presence.
I have hidden all timeless wisdom in the heart of My Son.
Cherish Him as your very own Teacher—apply His principles daily.
He is near to My heart—live with love and you will be too.
Listen to your Master’s voice—learn from Him how to live wisely.
(c) Pastor Johnny R. Almond
Day 252, Gentle Whispers from Eternity
I have a long-time friend and colleague who recently tested positive for COVID and pneumonia. He is currently hospitalized in the ICU area of a major hospital. When I talked with him, he shared with me that he told his Dr. that hundreds of people were praying for him. Then he asked the Dr. if he knew this Jesus, to whom people were praying? It reminded me of a day several years ago, when my wife was about to undergo a very complicated, and serious surgery. I explained to the Surgeon that as a Seminary professor, I had hundreds, perhaps thousands of former students – ministers and missionaries – praying for him from all over the world. There followed several interesting conversations. Last week I purchased gift cards to give to special people this Christmas. When the cashier gave me the cards, I realized they were “Happy Birthday” cards rather than “Merry Christmas” cards. I called it to her attention and she offered to make a correction. My response was simply never mind, since on Christmas, we celebrate Jesus’ birthday. A brief, but significant conversation followed. This is what we do. We look for every opportunity to bear witness, as we are instructed in 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be ready to give a defense . . . for the hope that is in you.”
Let every living, breathing creature praise God! Hallelujah!
PSALM 150:6 THE MESSAGE
Book One concludes with a doxology of unending praise—God alone is worthy of everlasting praise.
Book Two concludes with a doxology of unparalleled praise—God alone does glorious and miraculous things.
Book Three concludes with a doxology of unquestioning praise—God alone merits absolute worship.
Book Four concludes with a doxology of unrestrained praise—God alone deserves wholehearted devotion.
Book Five concludes with a doxology of universal praise—God alone inspires creation to heartfelt adoration.
With the trumpet of triumph, the harp of holiness, the lyre of love, the tambourine of thought,
the dance of delight, strings of serenity, and cymbals of celebration—give tribute to the LORD.
Someday all living beings in the cosmos will sing praises to the Lamb.
Until then, honor God by the way you think, speak, and behave.
The only perfect musical note produced is made by running water—heaven’s universal praise will sound like that!
The mighty crescendo of praise to the Savior will rise and swell—uniting the international chorus of people
singing the praises of Jesus.
You will see Christ face to face.
You will hear His voice welcoming you home.
You will celebrate forever living in heaven on earth.
Heaven's never-ending love story is an unfinished symphony you hear now as “a foretaste of glory divine”
Holy Spirit gifts cheer you on in every phase of your journey,
composing a melody of grace notes as a prelude to heaven.
As the overture of God's kindness in time fades away, and you step across the threshold of eternity—
you will at last hear notes of the first movement clearly.
And when from death you’re free, you’ll sing and joyful be, And thro’ eternity you’ll sing on (American folk hymn).
(c) Pastor Johnny R. Almond
Day 250, Gentle Whispers from Eternity
According to David Kinnaman (President, Barna Group) up to 20% of churches may not re-open following the COVID pandemic.
Churches have been closed but some are now re-opening.
Will the churches and their congregation survive?
Pastor’s confidence is declining.
Only small numbers are returning as the churches re-open.
This may be due to the continued risk of COVID infection.
Or it could reflect a seismic shift in church attendance.
What is happening?
Many churches transitioned to on-line services when they could no longer meet face-to-face.
But some churches did not have the equipment or know-how. Their services came to a halt.
Some church members did not have the technology to view services on-line.
- Cut-off from their church, maybe doubting their faith, and possibly cut-off from God
Members enjoying the convenience of on-line services may not wish to return to “church normal”.
Many churches did not receive donations during closure even for on-line services.
Many church members have lost employment and struggle to make any contributions.
But when we think of COVID and its impact on the church, where does our mind go next?
Are we fearful for our personal situation - our health, lives, families, jobs, finances?
Are we worried about our church - continuation of congregational services?
Are we concerned about vulnerable individuals - their physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing?
Or do we go immediately into intercessory prayer to our loving God - the one who is in control?
How does all of this interact with faith and commitment?
Much depends on what the flock is trusting in as the “wind of COVID testing” blows on them!
What is their personal faith based on?
What did the church teach them to trust in?
It’s easy to feel blessed by God in the good times when everything is going well.
But COVID has disrupted everything; businesses have failed; unemployment has grown.
Churches teaching a false prosperity Gospel are likely to figure highly in church closures from COVID.
Churches where the Gospel has not been clearly preached are likely to be among them.
Hypocritical churches which failed to support vulnerable people during COVID may also close.
Churches that failed to disciple their flock may lose many of their sheep.
And individual’s faith will be tested: will they run from God or cling to God?
That will depend upon how well they know, trust, and love the true God of the Bible.
It depends on how clearly the true Gospel of Jesus Christ was previously preached to them.
Whether spending regular time with God in Bible reading and prayer is part of their redeemed life.
COVID is indeed a time of testing for the flock (church).
Will the flock continue to stand? (Mt 7:24-27)
Is it correctly founded on faith in Jesus Christ? (1 Cor 3:11)
Has the flock been discipled to weather the storms of life? (1 Cor 3:12-13)
Does it expect and use trials and temptations to develop perseverance? (Jas 1:2-4, 12)
Will the flock remain united during this time of testing, or will the sheep wander off?
Post-COVID, will the flock return to “normal”, or a new normal?
Will the church’s mission in the world be set-back, or find new opportunities in the “new normal”?
Read how some are actively planting new churches during the pandemic.
“The early church had no building, no money, and no political influence. And they turned the world upside down.” - J D Greear
And they were persecuted.
So what are we doing wrong?
#ItSeemsToMe...COVID Pandemic Exposes Church Identity Crisis
"The church is a building."
Not in the holy scriptures. Not to the earliest Christ -followers,
But the mind of everyone who hears or reads or speaks the word, "church" produces a mental image of a building. We go to church. We build a church. We meet at the church.
And this tragic truth is ubiquitous despite the reality that you and I know "church" refers to people; a "called-out" community of faith. This mistake persists even though we teach and preach that throughout the Bible, the people of God are identified as an assembly, a body, a family, a household. We the people, are the Church; not the building.
Yet, our incorrect use of the term has become indicative of the way we experience church. In a building. Watching a platform-centered program formatted by a select and very small team of experts. Persons gifted in public speaking, singing, instrumentation, creative arts, technology. An audience, often listening in a space called an auditorium.
Congregations are designed, regardless of denomination or tradition, to reset every seven days. Small groups may meet at varying times. All may be invited to a prayer meeting during the week. But a church that cannot regroup, face-to-face, on a weekly basis has not been prepared nor does it have in place systems for connecting and communicating in case of an unprecedented emergency. Such as a pandemic that forces the closure of large group meetings or events for an extended period df time.
Church, as we know it, is designed for the members/attenders to be in their seats, not scattered into the streets.
Our unprecedented virus-crisis is exposing how our understanding of the word "church" has actually become a description of how we function. In a building. Listening.
My fear is many pastors are uncertain of how to shepherd the flock that does not return weekly to the room where they receive inspiration and instruction. I wonder if church leaders are rethinking how to motivate and mobilize the people of God without calling them together into a facility? Can we hope Christ-followers are daily, on their own, leaning into the spiritual disciplines of worship, prayer, scripture, service?
Simply making plans (and there are plenty to be made) to merely reopen church, may actually be a step backwards. The desire to return to what was once considered normal, as comfortable as that sounds, may prevent us from an opportunity for "church" to "be transformed by the renewing of our minds" (Romans 12:2)
The Church is experiencing an identify crisis. We are in need of a new architectural-nomenclature that prompts an image, less on building (noun) and more on building (verb). Less on the meetings led by the professionals and more on the movements of the people of God into their neighborhoods and across their communities. Form and function must expand. Systems and strategies must be reimagined.
The danger of this virus-crisis is no longer limited to a physical disease that is causing tens of thousands of deaths. Every sector of family and society are being effected: the economy (local business, national retailers, multi-national corporations), education (schools at every age and degree level), health care (from hospitals to adult care centers), entertainment (cancelled concert tours to social distancing at the movies to empty sports stadiums).
We are watching these sectors scramble to adjust in order to keep from going out of business. In the process, they are designing different systems of operating, offering new and different options better suited to serve their customers or clients with radically different daily routines.. Curbside service. Working from home. Online education. Grocery delivery. Voting by mail. FaceTime Family game nights (with cousins across the country).
Staying in place is pushing us to rethink how we shop, work, learn, and connect socially.
My fear, is for the congregations that will be satisfied to reopen, hoping, maybe even praying, those who do return will be happy with what was.
Will we discover many people who identify as Christians unable to function without their regular Sunday gathering or weekly face-to-face group? Worse yet, will we see the disappearance of many who choose not to return to former weekly routines? "Done" joining the Nones? Have pastors adjusted by convening leadership (online or social distanced) to pray into the unknown new normal? Have the shepherds made personal (phone, email) contact with their members/attenders to simply listen to them share their needs and fears; their spiritual discoveries? Have church leaders called the church to weekly or daily prayer? Has anyone formatted their Sunday/weekend online service to include interaction (questions, prayer, interviews, testimonies), or are the people of God pretty much on their own?
May we not be too busy pursuing what it takes to survive at the expense of praying into what can be done in order to actually thrive. The Church is led by the Lord Jesus Christ, our redeemer. We must not be content to pray little prayers, begging God to simply help us stay in business. We should be thanking the Lord he can take what is meant for evil and not just make it better but turn it into a greater good. We should be asking the Holy Spirit to open our minds and hearts to new schedules and systems, objectives and opportunities.
To reopen without a fresh reimagining of what it means to be church quenches the renewing work of the Holy Spirit, who is ready, willing and able to transform us to perceive our new normal as a new chapter in the mission and ministry of the Church. Five hundred years after the Reformation, we find ourselves in the midst of what may one day be called the Transformation.
None of this demands a revision of theology. Our biblically based beliefs remain intact, but with a renewed fervor to bring fresh discernment and wisdom to how we apply scriptural truth to our calling, our mission. For such as time as this, the Spirit may lead us to pursue a radically different vision, or to resume our pursuit of ministry but in a radically different way.
Our faithfulness to the scriptures does not demand an equally high allegiance to the methods we have used to live out that mission. In fact, to refuse to review and renew is the beginning of becoming mechanical, stuck on previously effective methodology, imprisoned in a comfort zone, at the very time we have the opportunity to build a "church" that is movemental.
It Is Critical We Commit NOW To #ReimagineCHURCH...
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusts in Thee.
Isaiah 26:3 MLB
Recently a popular comedian commented on the liftoff of astronauts bound for the International Space Station: “They left earth—good choice!” Sometimes life almost feels like more than we can take—the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, uncertain future, economic distress, America in turmoil, worries about COVID-19 spiking, peaceful protests turning violent.
I’ll never forget an anonymous quote someone gave me years ago: “Refuse to be discouraged by the many signs that planet earth is the insane asylum of the solar system.” Indeed! It seems at times that the whole world is going crazy. God gave humans brains—why don’t people use them? Is reason not better than rage? Why can’t folks protest without vandalism? Will our nation survive all this? Will we ever learn from history?
As Christians, we want to do the right things. We can and should pray for our president, governors, mayors, law enforcement personnel, and fellow citizens. We can and should check on our neighbors and ask if they need help during these unprecedented times. We can and should stay in close contact with our family and
do what we can to stay close to them. And we can and should ask the Lord to give us wisdom and grace to show compassion to all, remembering Plato’s advice—“Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
In the “eye” of a hurricane, the center area of the storm—winds are mostly calm. In the midst of pandemonium, there is peace for the trusting heart. Trusting the Prince of Peace, let’s KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.
Pastor, Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church
Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity
Strike up the music, beat the tambourine, play the melodious harp and the lyre;
blow the trumpet for the new month, for the full moon, for our feast day!
PSALM 81:2-3 TNJB
I am your Vital Strength.
When you feel like giving up, I give persevering courage—
so you can keep on keeping on.
O to grace how great a debtor daily you are constrained to be (Robert Robinson,
“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”).*
I am your Power.
Outsoar mediocrity—outrun temptation—outwalk lethargy.
I am your Victorious Success.
When you are on the verge of losing the battle with sin—
I inspire you to purify your heart.
I am your Purity.
You are prone to wander from the God you love.
Let My goodness, like a fetter, bind your wandering heart to Me.*
I am your Visiting Support.
When you are burdened by the taxing cares of life—
I invite you to trade your struggle for My serenity.
I am your Peace.
Praise My name—you are ﬁxed upon it, Name of My redeeming love.*
I am your Vision in the Storm.
When you think nobody is listening, and you are frazzled by stress—
My theophany sets your heart at rest.
I am your Paraclete.
I am the Fount of every blessing—I tune your heart to sing My praise.*
I am your Veritable Supply.
When you are afraid you are about to run out of critical necessities—
I reassure you by supplying everything you need through Christ.
Give Me your heart, let Me seal it for My courts above.*
I am your Provision.
Meditate on My generosity—let music and gladness ﬁll your soul.
I am your Vivacious Song.
When you are down-in-the-mouth for no particular reason—
I give you a melody that puts a spring in your step.
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.*
I am your Praise.
On your journey toward heaven, I am your Traveling Music.
(c) Pastor Johnny R. Almond
Day 221, Gentle Whispers from Eternity
Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee.
Psalm 55:22 KJV
“This too shall pass” is not found in the Bible. It’s in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Scripture does offer comfort and encouragement by expressing this truth in different words.
“It came to pass” appears thousands of times in the King James Version. One man testified, “When I’m pestered with trouble and difficulty, I pick up the blessed book of the living God, and I never read very far before I come across those words ‘It came to pass.’ Then I say ‘praise the Lord! I’m glad it didn’t come to stay, it came to pass!’” Though a misinterpretation of the literal meaning, truth he celebrated instills hope in hearts going through hard times.
The apostle Paul was inspired to write, “Our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever. So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now, rather we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NLT).
Though life is pleasant in many ways, sometimes we “walk in the midst of trouble” (Psalm 138:7). Yet difficulties are parenthetical—they’ll all be behind us when we live in a tearless, painless, deathless, sinless place.
Gracie Allen wrote “Never place a period where God has placed a comma.” Troubles we endure now will soon be history. Glory will make us forget gloom. Paradise will eradicate pain. All creation will celebrate total freedom, alongside the redeemed.
We should not let winter freeze our hope—spring’s just around the corner. When God’s New World Symphony is debuted, the universe will stand to its feet in thunderous applause.
In his book The Passing of the Night, Robinson Risner, senior POW in Vietnam, recounts seeing a single blade of grass through a crack in his cell wall that sustained him for months. If we treasure the promises of God, faith will sustain us as we travel rough roads.
“Well get through this together” is something we hear frequently during this COVID-19 pandemic. There’s comfort in shared frustration, but we have a Helper infinitely better than other humans. To get through this, we can do better than a DIY approach—we can draw nearer to God in prayer and find strength and courage. After this unnerving time has come to pass, we will praise the Lord for helping us. We might even say to one another, "I'm glad it didn’t come to stay!”
(c) Johnny R. Almond
Pastor, Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church
Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity
It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.
PSALM 77:10 NRSV
Crying to a Good Source is a sincere quest.
Hold nothing back—let your tears ﬂow freely in My Presence.
When you are in deep trouble, reach for the Most High God.
Pray all night long, if you feel the need—I bless desperation.
You need My Presence more than sleep—only in Me can you rest.
I hear your problems.
Urgent faith consoles you in life’s search.
Contemplating a grievous situation raises serious questions.
The diﬀerence between your sad now and your happy then hurts.
The good old days seem to never repeat themselves.
Your heart aches pondering the apparent absence of My love.
Heavy questions bother your mind and burden your soul.
Never forget—the Comforter will not leave you.
Never doubt—the Encourager will not orphan you.
Never fear—the Advocate will not forget you.
Never worry—the Sovereign will not fail to take good care of you.
I heal your pain.
Ultimate focus changes life’s suﬀerings.
Considering a Great Savior results in serene quietness.
Preoccupying your mind with My love tranquilizes panic.
I am the Good Shepherd—follow Me to heavenly peace and quiet.
“No pain, no gain” encapsulates more truth than you can imagine.
There are no rainbows without rain.
You could not appreciate calm without weathering storms.
You would not celebrate spring if you did not shiver through winter.
You would never know the thrill of dawn without lonely nights.
There could not have been a resurrection without a cruciﬁxion.
You could not walk golden streets if Jesus had not walked the Via Dolorosa.
Hard times strengthen character—tears cleanse the soul.
Coal under pressure makes diamonds—trouble puriﬁes the heart.
I give you historical perspective and hopeful prospects.
Unseen footprints carry you through life’s storms.
(c) Pastor Johnny R. Almond, Day 220 Gentle Whispers from Eternity
While this quarantine is difficult for people all over the world, it is not quite as hard on writers. I do not simply mean that people need our reading material to fill the time. Writers need solitude to write. While many of us have had to learn to write in the midst of the hubbub, it always helps to be alone. This doesn't mean that we are not going stir crazy like everyone else. But this is an opportunity of which we must take advantage. Since most writers support ourselves with day jobs, you may find that you have more time to write than ever before. That is true even if you're having trouble paying the rent.
This is also an important time for a Christian to develop the character and the depth of your soul as a writer. I actually began this nearly a year before the pandemic broke out. The quarantine is a good opportunity to continue what I have begun. I am memorizing the Bible like never before. I do not memorize to have important things to quote in my writing or to impress my friends at church. I memorize Scripture so that God will plant His mind, His insights, His character in me. The mind of Christ is essential for growing as a writer.
I am going through the New Testament taking an entire week with each chapter. I read the whole chapter every day for a week. Each day I memorize a portion of that chapter, usually getting the entire chapter memorized in a week. I start by reading over the first verse of the chapter until I can say it. Next, I read over the second verse until I can say it. Then I go back and read both verses together and go on to the third verse. If I am working on 1 John, two or maybe three verses will be all I need to memorize each day. If I am trying to memorize a chapter, say early in Luke, with over 60 verses, I need to memorize more each day, and I often take a little more than a week to memorize it. After I have memorized a chapter, I review it every day for two weeks. This way I am working on three chapters of Scripture all the time. To review the passages, I use the same process as my memorization. I read the first verse in the passage over until I can say it. Usually the second day I have to memorize it all over again. I go on from there to the next and then the next. I often stumble over verses I have been reviewing for weeks. If I think I am in some kind of competition, I will be discouraged. But this is between me and God, and I trust Him to be working in my life as I spend the time with Him.
I do not have a photographic memory. I could not begin to quote verses that I memorized 6 months ago without reviewing them again. But in the process of memorizing and especially reviewing, God's Spirit works on my heart. He uses His word to plant Himself in me. Although I am writing something that tends to consume my time and thoughts, I am convinced that Scripture memory is my most crucial task in these days.
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