Bible Reading: Romans 12:1-21, Psalm 143:10

It is an understood truth, that as years go by, a person should be growing up and maturing in some way.  In eighteen short months, my daughter has gone from motionless to sprinting around the house.  She has also gone from a milk-only diet to enjoying many different types of food.  Her vocabulary is just now starting to grow.  I love watching her progress and grow up.  But imagine with me for a moment, if ten years from now, my daughter still spoke like her eighteen-month-old self.  That is a problem!  Her life should look vastly different ten years from now, and vastly more different twenty years after that.  That is the process of growing up and maturing. 

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Our faith in Christ is no different.  Our daily lives should be growing and maturing to look more like a child of God every day.  Growing and learning how to live like a Christian is a process we call sanctification, which essentially means to growing in holiness and godliness.  In Romans 12:2, Paul uses the word, “transform”, to talk about the believer’s life.  He writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”  What is to be gained through this transformation?  That you will know what the will of God is, and that you will know, “what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

We may think, “That is all well and good, but can you help me see what that truly looks like?”  That is a mature question to ask, as we all need to know how to take something that is real and true in our hearts and minds, and then apply it to our body and work.  Paul knows this, and so he writes down what are some signs of solid Christian character.  He says that we should use our strengths and gifts to serve others, hate what is evil, rejoice in hope, patient in tribulation, and strive to outdo one another in love and service.  There is a genuine love for Christ and others that forms as you mature in your faith.  Do you see this kind of growth and maturation in your life with Christ?

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Call to Action: Psalm 143:10 says, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God!  Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!”  To grow in godliness, you must know God, and spend time in His presence.  The world demands a large amount of our time, energy and life, and we often do not question what it demands.  However, we far too often question the demands God makes of us.  Memorize Romans 12:21, which says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  The world may try to control your time, but you can overcome that by giving your time, energy, love and heart to God and His people.  Find a way to plug into the church and serve.  If you see a place you can do good for someone, do it.  As you surrender more of your life to God, He will work in you to show the world the marks of a true Christian.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, this world demands so much of us.  Teach us to say “No”, to the world’s demands, and “Yes”, to You.  Work in us to know your will and teach us how to be godly men and women in this world.  May all our good serve to overcome the evil in this world and bring honor and glory to You.  We love you, Father.  Amen.

AuthorLarkin Sumerlin

Bible Reading: John 1

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Years ago, I saw a skit performed that made me rethink who I was claiming to be.  I called myself a Christian, but this skit challenged my identity.  In the skit, the man was pretending to be Satan, and he was challenging you to complete the sentences he was speaking.  He began a popular song lyric that myself and the crowd easily finished for him.  He challenged us to recite three different phone numbers with the area code and was stunned that we could recall thirty individual numbers so quickly.  Then he offered up a quote that none of us could complete.  He looked at us confused.  What caused his confusion?  Well, the quote was from the Gospel of John, and was a quote from Jesus Christ Himself.  How could an assembly of Christians complete a secular song lyric, recall three different phone numbers, but could not finish a verse spoken by our Savior?

This skit has stuck with me and challenged me to become familiar with the life and words of my Lord.  All believers should desire to grow closer in relationship to Christ.  Our faith, knowledge and love should be growing and maturing day after day.  Your faith in God should look much different than it did at the first.  But I must ask you the question that skit left me asking myself: How much do you really know the Savior of your soul?

When we look at John 1, we get a beautiful, poetic description of who our Savior is and what He came to do.  Jumping through the entire chapter, some of the descriptions given are: the Word, the true light, the only Son from the Father, the One through whom grace and truth come, the Lamb of God, the Son of God, the Messiah, the King of Israel.  In one Gospel chapter, we get a full picture of who Jesus is.  The message is true and worth our full attention: to know Christ and have your life centered on Him, you must learn about Christ and His life.  Where can we learn these things?  Through reading the accounts of the life of Jesus Christ over and over again.

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Call to Action:  It does not take much time to read a chapter of the Bible.  Not many chapters take more than a page and a half.  How would your relationship with Jesus change if you at least one chapter from any of the four Gospels every day, for the rest of your life?  Today, you read John 1.  Tomorrow read John 2, and keep this up until you finish John’s gospel.  Once you’re done, move on to Matthew, and then Mark and Luke.  When you have completed all four, start again!  We know song lyrics, phone numbers, and meaningless trivia because we constantly have it filling up our minds.  Instead of using temporary, worthless things to feed your mind, instead, fill your mind with the Word of God.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, teach us to weigh and measure the value of what we take into our hearts and minds.  Show yourself as the most valuable and incomparable treasure our lives can receive.  I pray that all of us who claim your name would become familiar with who You are and what You did.  May we become so knowledgeable of your life, that our lives begin to reflect yours.  Help us in this we pray.  Amen.

AuthorLarkin Sumerlin

Bible Reading: Matthew 13:44-46

J. R. R. Tolkien penned the well-known saying, “Not all those who wander are lost.”  People have used this quote for various reasons over the years, especially after the Lord of the Rings movies were produced.  I do not disagree with Tolkien’s meaning of the quote, but instead choose to direct it into the spiritual realm. 

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Spiritually speaking, if your soul is wandering and searching for truth, you are lost and without a firm foundation to stand on.  There is no sense of peace, joy or belonging to one who wanders around seeking life, truth and meaning.  As I read the two parables from our Bible reading, I imagine someone who is wandering around and is searching for something.  The person in the field may be looking for a place to call home, or could possibly be trying to clear their mind and work through a problem they are having.  Whatever the reason for the wandering, this person finds their self in a field, and they unintentionally stumble upon a great treasure.  This treasure is not ordinary, worldly riches, but greater than anything the world has ever seen!  All of the burdens and cares of their heart and mind melt away in the presence of this magnificent treasure.  Its beauty and glory is so great, that they run to sell all that they have in order to buy the field and enjoy this treasure as their own forever.  This wanderer was lost, but now is found.

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In the second parable, I imagine someone struggling with their place in this world.  They feel as if they have fallen behind the rest of the people, and are looking for some kind of spark to give their life meaning and purpose.  All of the things in the market seem ordinary and unfulfilling.  All of a sudden, our wanderer sees a pearl that is greater that appears to be more valuable and precious than anything the person has ever seen.  What is crazy, to my mind, is that nobody else seems to notice this pearl.  They continue to wander past it, and it does not strike them as precious.  But our wanderer is touched by its beauty and majesty, and goes off to sell all worldly possessions in order to obtain this priceless pearl.  Again, we have a lost wanderer who has been found by something greater than this world.

Call to Action: In the beginning of your life, to some degree, you were a spiritual wanderer.  You lived and moved in this world, and you were looking for purpose, fulfillment, peace and joy.  You may have tried to find these things in people, possessions and experiences, but they were lacking.  You may have even added troubles, stress and anxiety because of your wandering, and ended up even less satisfied by this world.  But one day, Christ found you.  Jesus Christ is a priceless, magnificent treasure that would cause all wanderers to have peace and be still.  Christ alone gives your life and existence meaning.  Christ alone can make you truly fill loved and joyful.  It is only in Jesus Christ that your life has a meaningful purpose.  However, He has said that you must sell all you have in order to have the abundant life He offers.  You must surrender your life to this world and serve Him only.  Here are some questions to consider and discuss with your family and friends:

          -  What does it look like for you to “sell everything,” in order to obtain Christ?

·         - Is Jesus Christ worth you selling everything for?

·          - Have you sold it all in order to have Him?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to know and understand what it means to sell everything to have the precious treasure of your Son, Jesus Christ.  I pray that you would teach us all how to be Yours, and Yours alone.  Give them the wisdom and strength they need to a person and family of God.  Amen.

AuthorLarkin Sumerlin

Bible Reading: Psalm 107; Proverbs 1:7

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When I first moved to Birmingham, the thing I dreaded most was traveling around the city.  When you look at a map of Birmingham, it looks so complicated and difficult to navigate.  When you are used to two-lane country roads, and move into one way streets and multiple interstate exits and merging points, it is a massive life transition.  Despite the tangle of roads on the map, Birmingham is actually a fairly simple and beautiful city to live in.  In observing the picture of the map of Birmingham, and then comparing it with this skyline snapshot, it is hard to imagine they are the same city.  There is a way in which these two are linked, and do not make sense without the other.  On one hand, if you never experienced the city, then the map my terrify you, or appear so difficult that you do not want to get involved with it.  On the other hand, without the map, you can never experience all of the beauty and opportunities the city has to offer.

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I think this a good analogy for how our relationship with God works.  There is an aspect of knowing God through studying His Word and all of the terrific works He has led people to produce concerning Him and His Word.  Studying the Bible, biblical languages, and theology helps us to form a road map of who God is.  This map is of course not perfect, but a dim, not-yet-fully-revealed map through which God teaches us about Himself.  The other piece of this relationship is experiencing God.  To be in an active relationship by which God is answering prayers, opening doors, transforming your heart and mind to that of Jesus Christ.  There are moments stored away in our memories of times we knew and experienced the reality and love of God for us and for His creation.  We have felt Him tug on our heart, or speak to our minds something to do or know.  Experiencing God forever changes us, and we are never the same.  Much like the map and city are linked, knowing about God and experiencing God are also linked.

When we read psalm 107, we are given stories of people experiencing God and also growing in their knowledge of Him.  They are lost and wandering in the desert, but God leads them into a city to call home.  Some were prisoners to darkness due to their rebellion and sin, but God, “brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart.”  Others were fools to the ways of God, but He sent His Word to instruct them.  Some were even traveling on the sea and were in awe of creation, but when the creation turned into a storm on the sea, their awe turned to terror.  God then quiets the storm, and their awe moves from creation to Creator. 

To experience God must be linked to knowing God.  If you have one and neglect the other, you end up in troubled waters.  A map without experience leads to legalism, like that of the Pharisees.  They knew about God, but they did not know God in a real, experiential way.  On the flipside, if you experience God but never set your heart and mind to seek Him and learn about Him from His Word, you can be led into strange places and miss Christ altogether. 

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Call to Action:  We should never neglect knowing or experiencing God.  We grow in our knowledge by reading and studying His Word.  This can be done at home in your own quiet time, and also should be done in a group Bible study of some kind.  Our knowledge should draw our hearts closer to Him, in which we experience Him more.  We go deeper into prayer, and our minds become like Christ’s.  Set your heart to training in godliness, which entails growing in knowledge and experience of God.  May He lead us in how to do both for the glory of His name.  Amen.

AuthorLarkin Sumerlin

                                                                                  Bible Reading: Daniel 1; Psalm 101

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A very well-known story and a favorite of most believers is the story of Daniel.  In the very first chapter, we see this young man taking a stance for God in the midst of a troubling time, to say the least.  We see in the opening verses of the book that God has given Judah into the hands of the Babylonians.  The Babylonians have taken the people captive, as well as taken treasures from the temple of God.  This must have a heartbreaking and troublesome time for Daniel, but it only gets worse.  We see in verses three and four that King Nebuchadnezzar has a plan for some of the men of Judah.

“Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace.”

Daniel and others from his home will now be indoctrinated into the ways of Babylon.  They will learn the language and philosophy of Babylonians life, and they will eventually be made to dress, walk, speak and act like royal Babylonians.  This would entail a lot of training, three years worth according to verse five.  In this training, the faith and righteous lifestyle that God’s people and grown up in and followed was to be totally compromised, even defiled.  It is here where we begin to favor Daniel.

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            In Daniel 1:8, we read, “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”  Daniel was resolved to not defile himself.  He was determined that he would not do anything that would make him ceremonially unclean.  He wanted to continue to live in a way worthy to approach the temple of God and worship.  We will finish this story next week, but I want us to pause and think about what Daniel has done in this moment.  Had he surrendered to his circumstances, he could have possibly excelled in his training and been set for a life of service and comfort in the palace of the king of Babylon.  Babylon was a world power, and did not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.  Rather than ride waves of Babylonian lifestyle, Daniel has determined to maintain integrity and cleanness; his desire for righteousness exceeds his desire for temporary peace.

            I must ask, are we as resolute in our faith?  This world constantly beckons us to compromise our integrity of faith, and live in a way lower than God has called us to.  We must remember that we, as Christians, have been called to holiness, and there is no lower standard that we should aim for.  We are called to be holy as our Lord is holy.  Are you willing to be “defiled” in order to have more comfort in this world?  Or are you determined to stand and fight for faith in all areas of your life?

Call to Action: Can you confidently pray the words of Psalm 101:2-4?  Can you say, “I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.  I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.  A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil”?  There are a lot of things we have allowed to exist in our lives that we need to remove.  There is much that we tolerate that we should eliminate.  Will you be as determined as Daniel to not be defiled?  I pray we would all take a stand for righteousness and holy living.  May God prepare us and strengthen us to shine our faith as bright as a city on a hill.  Amen.

AuthorLarkin Sumerlin

Bible Reading: 1 John 2:1-6; Galatians 5:1; Philippians 1:6

It is no secret that the Christian life should be free from sin.  Once we have professed faith in Jesus Christ and repented of our sins, our lives should be lived for the glory of God.  Although we all believe this to be true, we all still sin.  Not one of us is perfectly holy and righteous, and we all must continue to live a life of repentance and faith in Jesus.  We may feel very saddened by this to the point that we feel that God can no longer forgive us.  This is especially true if you are trying to overcome an addiction of some kind.  Thankfully, God’s Word is always drawing us closer to Him and teaching us of His great love and mercy.  John the apostle writes in his letter that he is writing these things, “so that you may not sin.”  But John, having spent time with Christ, knows that believers still stumble.  In light of that, he writes, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 

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When we sin, there should be guilt and sadness that follows.  However, this guilt and sadness should bring us to repentance and seeking God, not turning further away from Him.  We know that God is working in us to make us more like Himself, meaning we decrease in sin and increase in godliness.  We must also realize that this is a process.  In Scripture, we see even among the apostles, that their faith and actions slowly transform as they grow in Christ.  Peter denied Jesus, but is later restored through his love and repentance for Jesus.  We fight against sin with all our strength, but should we fall, we are not doomed once again.  To be a believer is to trust in Jesus Christ for your salvation.  As you trust in Him, you begin to become more like Him.  As your faith grows, your life should imitate Jesus more and more.

Consider this for a moment: if Christ died to save you from your sins, why would the rest of your life depend upon you being sinlessly perfect?  We are unable to earn God’s love and salvation, but He freely gives it to us as a precious gift.  Do not forget this gift, but treasure it!  Galatians 5:1 reminds us that, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”  You have been set free from sin thanks to Jesus.  Should you fall, do not look to yourself for help and rescuing, but look again to the One who saves and rescues. 

Call to Action: Your life in Christ is constantly growing.  We should always be striving and working to honor God with our lives.  We do this by reading and applying His Word, and obeying His commandments.  We show love and mercy, we seek justice, and we walk humbly in the path of Jesus.  When you stumble and fall, do not refuse or hide from His grace, but seek it and cling to it.  Every day, whether we stand or fall in faith, we should be clinging to God for all things.  He has placed His Holy Spirit within the hearts of His children, and He never abandons them.  If you have fallen into sin, repent and seek Him.  He is faithful and just to forgive those who seek Him with their whole heart.  Do not doubt or grow weary, but take confidence in the hope-filled verse of Philippians 1:6, which says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  He will never stop growing and maturing your faith, and He will finish what He started.  Rely on His grace and love for you, and cling to Him all the day long.

AuthorLarkin Sumerlin

Bible Reading: Matthew 19:16-26; Psalm 119:97-105

Although it is a popular story that many of us know, it is always good to revisit the story of the rich, young ruler in Matthew 19.  In the story, a young man who has great wealth, possessions, and prominence in his community, approaches Jesus and asks an important question: “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?”  His desire is for eternal life, but it is how he seeks it which is the problem.  This young man is seeking to earn his way to eternity because that is what he has been taught.  He may have learned clever sayings like, “God helps those who help themselves,” and taught that God only approves of those who do good works.  When Jesus presents the young man with the commandments of God, the young man claims to have followed them all, and he asks what he still lacks.  I wonder why he thinks he lacks?  This young man is doing one of two things when he approaches Jesus with these questions.  He is either seeking affirmation and approval of a good teacher, or he does not feel secure in his good works.

I don’t know about you, but I can relate to both of these motives.  There is a sense in which we all just want to know how we are doing.  Is the way we are living pleasing to God, or is He disappointed in us over something?  What should I change for Him to be proud?  I just want God to be happy and smile on me from Heaven, so what should I do?  Even when we do something good, we may wonder if it was good enough.  We may not word it this way, but sometimes our actions and hearts are asking God, “What do I still lack?”

The lesson learned from this story is a matter of the heart, not a matter of works.  We learn that God does care about what you do and how you are living in this world, but He cares more about your heart for Him.  God does not forget or overlook the fact that we are sinners.  We must remember that the beauty of the Gospel is that while we were still sinners, Christ came and died for us.  The blessings of God are not necessarily material blessings, although all things come from Him.  All of the blessings God gives to us, every single one of them, big and small, are meant to impact our hearts. 

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Call to Action: Do you know that God loves you?  Do you believe that with all of your heart?  If so, then do not wonder or worry about what you are lacking.  In Christ, you have all that you need.  He hasn’t just given your freedom and life, He has given you abundant freedom and life!  We can have peace in knowing that salvation, life and peace does not depend on us and our good works, but fully on Jesus Christ alone.  It is Christ who saves you and promises you eternal life.  Rest in Him.  Rely on Him.  When you are resting in the salvation and love of your Heavenly Father, your good works and life will naturally flow from it.  Consider the words of psalm 119.  As he reads and learns God’s Word, he is not excited that he has found the key earning salvation.  He is excited and praising God because God has revealed Himself to him and delivered him from sin.  Find your joy and prosperity in Jesus, and not in this world.  Salvation and peace are not possible for any man or woman to achieve.  But all things are possible with God.

AuthorLarkin Sumerlin

Bible Reading: Psalm 89; Luke 2:1-14

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Psalm 89 begins, “I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.”  Is there a more powerful and true statement for this Christmas season?  As the children of God, Christmas means much more to us than the rest of the world.  We are the most blessed people, because our God has loved us enough to send His Son to save us from sin!  89:15-18 says, “Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face…For you are the glory of their strength…For our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel.”  This psalm is describing the people of Israel, but this also beautifully describes us as well.  We know how to shout praises to our God, and we know the joy of walking in His light.  Although we are weak because of sin, we are given strength from God, and He is our shield of protection.  Our lives are saved because of the love our Heavenly Father.

The love of God is hard to express sometimes.  When you are overwhelmed by His presence and care for you, it is difficult to find the right words to say.  See how God describes His love and care for His people in 89:28-29 – “My steadfast love I will keep for him forever, and my covenant will stand firm for him.  I will establish his offspring forever and his throne as the days of the heavens.”  The reason we can sing of God’s love forever is because He loves us forever.  God is faithful and true, and His love never fails nor changes.  He loves you now and forever, and He showed that in His willingness to send Christ to die on the cross.  When we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate the birth of our Savior.  God sent the gift of His love in the form of a baby in Bethlehem.  He will not go back on this, nor will He forget it.  God’s love for us is seen in the manger, and upon the cross.

I want us to see this today because there is so much happening in this world that makes us forget God’s love.  With so much wickedness and sin surrounding us in the world, we need all of the reminders of God’s love we can get.  We are far too quick to forget the amazing love of God.  Israel knew their share of misfortune and persecution.  Due to their sinfulness and idolatry, they were captured and led off into exile.  Even when God brought them back, many still turned back to their sins.  It is in the midst of these trials, persecutions, and hard times, that Ethan writes psalm 89.  He remembers God’s promises and God’s faithfulness as he observes the hard times.  He prays for God to remember His promises and fulfill them.  As He prays and cries out to God, he finds peace in knowing God is faithful and never fails His people.  In the peace of God, we are able to end our prayers the same as psalm 89 and say, “Blessed be the Lord forever!”

Call to Action:  As we remember the birth of Jesus Christ, I hope we all are able to sing of His love.  The amazing love God has shown to us maybe hard to put into words, but we must never forget it!  No matter what circumstances you are living in right now, the love of God is the shield and strength you need.  Take time to remember the faithfulness God has shown to you, and remember the hope of salvation He has given to you.  I pray that you all have a wonderful Christmas, and that the love and peace of God fills your hearts and your homes.  Merry Christmas, and God bless you all and your families.

AuthorLarkin Sumerlin

Bible Reading: Psalm 126

When you stop to consider the chain of events that Christmas sets in motion, it is humbling to see all of the great things God has done for humanity.  Romans 5 teaches us that at the right time, Christ was born in order to save the ungodly.  That’s us!  We were ungodly sinners that were in need of redemption, and God sent His Son to earth in order to save us.  This is our heart’s dream come true!  As the opening verse of Psalm 126 says, “we were like those who dream.”

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When you think about the birth of Christ, and what that means for us as the people of God, doesn’t 126:2 become a reality for you?  Does your mouth fill with laughter at the arrival of the Savior to earth?  Are their shouts of joy on your tongue due to the life of Jesus?  Do you truly realize the great things God has done for us?  More than any of other people group in the world, Christians should be glad and overflowing with inexpressible joy.  Galatians 4:4-5 tells us, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”  This gives us reasons to shout for joy and worship with our hearts filled with love and thanksgiving to God.

At one time, our sin had us filled with sorrow and gave us many reasons to weep.  But since God has sent Christ to the earth to save us from sin, we have reasons to celebrate.  The Lord has done a great thing for His people!  He has taken care of our greatest need.  We were captured and arrested by sin, but God sent Jesus to be born, live and die on the cross, so that we could be released and set free.  We have received the greatest Christmas gift in the form of the baby of Bethlehem.  God has done a great thing for us, His people.  Christmas is a time to celebrate and shout for joy at what God has done.  I pray that the joy of Christmas would fill your heart to overflowing, and that your home would be filled with the peace and love of the Lord.  He has done a great thing for us, and we should celebrate accordingly.

Call to Action: Christians need to remember how to celebrate God.  We can get excited for a football game, a birthday party, or a wedding, but why can’t we get excited to go to church on Sunday?  Our churches should be filled with celebrating and shouts of joy.  Who has something to celebrate more than being saved from your sins and becoming a child of God?  There is no greater gift or reason to be glad.  With Christmas all around us, we are focusing on the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Make this Christmas one of celebration.  Read the Christmas story with your family, and spend time praising and thanking God for the miraculous gift of His Son.  When you attend church, do not sit idly by, but worship God for the great things He has done.  You have a reason to celebrate, so celebrate with all of your heart!

AuthorLarkin Sumerlin

Bible Reading: Psalm 85

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God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  Our Lord never changes, and He is always faithful to be and do what He has claimed He will be and do.  As we read Psalm 85, we see that this community prayer moves from past to present, and then looks to the future, and does all of this through the lens of God’s faithfulness.  In 85:1-3, the people are looking back on what God did for them during a time when they had been sinful and wicked towards God.  God forgave their iniquity and, “covered all their sin.”  The sinfulness of Israel had brought about God’s righteous wrath and anger.  God’s wrath is righteous because of what it accomplishes.  When God displayed His wrath on sin, it brought the people to repentance.  They pleaded with God to return to them, forgive them, and restore them to good standing with Him.  God, being faithful to the promises He had made to Israel, did forgive them and cover all their sins.  God is faithful and just to forgive the sins of His people when they seek Him with their whole heart.  In light of God’s faithfulness and mercy, Israel continues their prayer. 

In 85:4-7, they are repenting and seeking God for forgiveness and help.  When I read and think on these verses, I think of how repentance should work.  Whenever I have done something wrong and seek to apologize to another person, I often get scared.  Why?  Because they may not forgive me.  When we cause pain on others, we have no guarantee they will be able to look past the hurt and restore our relationship.  But when we repent to God, and seek forgiveness from the, “God of our salvation,” we can do this confidently.  There should be confidence in prayer, not because of our prayers, but because of Who we pray to.  God is always holy, loving, faithful; God has promised to never leave or forsake His people, and He will restore them when they truly seek Him.  It is with the confidence of who God is that Israel prays, and it is with this same confidence we pray.

With this confidence, the psalm looks forward to the future.  What do they see?  They see God speaking peace to His people and teaching them His ways, thus turning away from sin.  They see His salvation coming near, and His glory dwelling among them.  They see steadfast love and faithfulness meeting, and righteousness and peace kissing.  The anticipate God’s faithfulness springing up from the ground, and His righteousness raining down from the sky.  They have faith that God will do what is good, and He will lead them in His ways; they believe with all their heart that God will bring peace.

Call to Action: We are reading Psalm 85 in light of the Advent season, and looking at God’s promises for peace.  In history, God did return and restore Israel, but God’s plan was to restore all of His people in the entire world to Himself.  How did He do this?  By sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to be born to the virgin Mary, live a perfectly righteous life, suffer a sacrificial, atoning death, and gloriously resurrect.  All of this was done for the salvation of all who would believe in Jesus.  Truly, in Christ, God promises and gives peace.  This year, take hold of this peace that God provides in and through Jesus.  As we saw last week, the peace and salvation of God should be received with both joy and humility.  Pray and seek God with confidence, because He has promised to hear the prayers of those who seek Him with their whole heart.  Do not get swept up in gifts and feasts, but become consumed with the gift of God, which is Christ, and be filled to overflowing with the peace He provides.  God has promised peace, and He is faithful to give it in abundance to His people.

AuthorLarkin Sumerlin