Bible Reading: Philippians 4:10-20; Matthew 7:24-27

If you have ever seen an infomercial, you know what it is like to realize you, “cannot live,” without the advertised product.  How did we ever remove stains from clothes before OxyClean came into our lives?  How did we ever exercise without a Bowflex treadmill?  How did we sleep before Serta got into the mattress business?  Product marketing is designed to make us think we have fallen behind the times, and they encourage us to catch up and live in the now!  There are so many things in today’s culture that make us feel discontent and unsatisfied with the things we already have.  Therefore, many of us fall into the trap of thinking, “If I just had blank, then I would be good.”  However, we all have come to learn that with everything we get, we always desire a little more.  I heard a story about a time when John D. Rockefeller was asked, "How much money is enough money?" He replied, "Just a little bit more."

Being a missionary, Paul knew what is was like to go without many conveniences.  As he is closing out his letter to the Philippians, he thanks them for all the help and aid they have given him.  There were times the Philippians would have done more if they could, but circumstances kept them from doing so.  Paul does not hold this against them, but uses this moment to teach them one last, very important, lesson.  There will be times the Philippians, indeed all people, will find themselves living with very little, and at other times they will have an abundance.  At some times, you will go to bed hungry, and at other times you will have more food than you can eat.  Some moments you will be flying high and abounding in every good thing, whereas at other moments you will be brought low and in need.  Such are the ups and downs of life.  The important truth to remember in whatever place you find yourself:  God never changes.  Your circumstances may vary, but God stays the same.  Knowing that God is faithful to forgive us, redeem us, lead us, perfect in us, and love us, we find strength to keep going.  You can endure all things because of the strength you have in Jesus.  Christ is more than enough for every place and time in life.

Application:  If Jesus is all you need to have a full and abundant life, then you can stand firm through the noise and distractions of our world’s marketing.  Because you have found the strength to withstand the storms of trends and popular viewpoints, and because your life is built on the rock-solid foundation of Jesu Christ, you will never be shaken or moved.  Keep Jesus as the focus of your heart and the thoughts of your mind and live in the satisfying fulfillment that only He can give.  Always remember that with God you have everything you will ever need.  Be content in this life knowing that blessings and riches beyond your imagination await you in eternity with our Heavenly Father.  As Paul writes in Philippians 4:20, “To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for being all we will ever need.  You have graciously given us salvation from sin, and the hope for eternal life with you.  Help us to be content with ou and all that you give to us in this life.  May we never desire anything more than you.  We love you, Heavenly Father.  Amen.

Posted
AuthorLarkin Sumerlin

Bible Reading: Philippians 4:1-9

It is no secret that the best way to remain faithful to anything is to enjoy it.  We remain faithful in our marriages because we enjoy being married to our spouse.  Our favorite meal stays our favorite because of how much we enjoy eating it.  Everything we love, we love because of the joy it brings.  In a much deeper sense, our relationship with God works similarly.  In Philippians 4:1, Paul encourages the believers to, “stand firm thus in the Lord”, and a few short sentences later Paul calls for them to also, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”  Rejoice means to show joy and delight in something or someone.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to rejoice in something that you do not love.  The two, loving and rejoicing, go hand-in-hand together.  Therefore, any Christian who stands firm in the Lord would also be a Christian that loves and delights in God.

It makes so much sense to our minds, but we often get distracted and lose sight of our love for God.  These distractions come in the form of temptations to sin, tests and trials, and witnessing and hearing about all the wickedness occurring in the world.  When dark, wicked and sinful thoughts cloud our minds and hearts, we struggle to rejoice, which leads to us struggling to stand firm in the Lord.  Paul, knowing this, also encourages us as Christ-followers to think on the things of Christ.  In 4:8-9, Paul teaches the Philippian Christians to think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praise-worthy.  With minds that are constantly being renewed by the good things of God, hearts being transformed by the love and joy found in Jesus, and strength to stand firm in the Lord always, we will be filled with and surrounded by the peace of our God.

Application:  What is the normal focus of your mind?  What is your typical demeanor towards life?  Would people describe as someone who is rejoicing in the Lord always?  Our hearts and minds can easily become burdened or distracted in our constantly busy days.  Satan loves to tempt us to sin, and he often tries to lead us off the straight and narrow path of God however he can.  Practically speaking, one of the best ways to fight against this is to remove things that take your heart and mind to wicked things and replace them with things that lead you to focus on godly things.  If Facebook leads you into a downward spiral, then delete Facebook.  If the news causes you to be negative and get angry or confused with God, then turn off the news and open His Word.  We are too quick to make excuses and allow bad things to exist in our lives, when we should make more of an effort to fill our lives with the things of God.  It may sound extreme to remove social media, television or internet from your life, but your soul is worth the cost.  What will it take to fill your heart and mind with the things of God?  Implement those changes, and start living a life of rejoicing, faithfulness and peace.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you know us inside and out.  You see and know are greatest strengths and weaknesses, and yet you never stop loving us.  Help us to remove the sinful and wicked things from our lives, and to not fall victim to the excuses and lies Satan tries to distract us with.  Help us to walk in Your ways only.  We love you, Father.  Amen.

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AuthorLarkin Sumerlin

Bible Reading: Philippians 3:12-21

There is a point in every Christ-follower’s life when their faith became theirs.  It could’ve been from a young age, or older, but there came a time when it because their faith in Jesus, and not the faith of their parents.  Throughout Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we read a letter to a church.  A church is made up of the people, but no matter the number of people they are still one church.  When we come to Philippians 3:12-21, although written to that one church, it hits home to us as individual believers.  We all have arrived at faith in Jesus, and we will all receive the same reward of eternal life with our Heavenly Father, but our journey to get here has been different.  Some grew up in a Christian home, some in an abusive home, some in a good home that was empty of religion.  Some Christians are set free from addictions, whereas others have not faced many hard times or struggles.  For some, life has been blessed and has no complaints, where others have a had a very hard life. 

Whatever your journey was to this point, it cannot be your focus.  Our past is what has shaped us into who we are today, but it does not define us.  We remember the past, but we are not controlled by it.  We can look back and see the hand of God guiding us, but this should be used as motivation to keep going forward.  Knowing God guided you earlier in life boosts your confidence that He is guiding you now and will continue to.  Our past has a way of distracting us, slowing us down, or holding us up altogether.  As Paul writes, we too should be, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead”.  You are who you are because of your past, but your future is determined by your choices.  Going one step further, your choices will be determined by your heart.  Last week we looked at Jesus Christ being the true treasure of heaven, and how we should treasure Christ above all things.  It is Christ who has redeemed you from your past sins and given you the hope of a glorious future.  Keep your eyes forward and run the race of faith.  Let the redemption of your past drive you forward to Jesus.

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Application:  Our testimony is important because it shares with others what Christ has done in us.  It is possible to share your testimony without being swallowed up by the past.  Any time you think back to what you used to be, make sure you bring those thoughts to who you are now in Jesus Christ.  Satan would love to trap us in the past and cause us to swerve from the path God has for us.  Our enemy would love to discourage our faith or tempt us back to our former lives of darkness.  He is clever and crafty, so watch out for this trap in the past.  Be in prayer daily and spend time thanking God for the salvation He has worked in you.  Thank Him and seek Him for that continued work in you.  Forget what was behind you and press on to the salvation you have in Jesus.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank you for setting me free from the sins of my past.  Thanks to Jesus, I am set free from the guilt and shame, and I have been given a future filled with hope and love.  Please give me the strength, wisdom and courage to press on and never turn back.  Strengthen my faith so that I will always be pressing on to the prize and hope I have in your Son and my Savior.  I love you, Father.  Amen.

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AuthorLarkin Sumerlin

Bible Reading: Philippians 3:1-11; Matthew 6:19-24

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A battle that every believer fights is the battle for treasure.  We live in a culture that has placed so much value on wealth, career status, cars, fashion, electronics and social media influence.  The difference between two seemingly identical shirts can be a trademark logo and $100.  We race to get the newest version of our phone, only to realize it is not much different than the last one.  We are quick to treasure the latest and greatest things, but these treasures soon turn out to be vain, empty and outdated.  This battle is nothing new but has been a battle in the heart of all people since Adam and Eve.  When we read Philippians 3:1-11, we this battle as Paul reflects on his earlier life. 

Paul had the dream set-up.  He was a member of the right family, in the right tribe, and had all the skills to be a successful Pharisee.  He was smart, well-trained, and zealous for his position.  He was advancing faster and further than any of his peers.  Paul had all the treasures anyone could want…until he met Jesus.  Once Paul was confronted by the resurrected Christ, his life was forever changed, and what he treasured most was transformed.  Suddenly, worldly status, wealth and fame were meaningless when compared to the glory of Jesus Christ.  His eyes were opened to truly see what was most valuable.  His heart of stone was turned to flesh, and he believed in Jesus.  The treasure he had in this world began to rust and fade away, because Paul had found the most precious treasure, the Treasure of Heaven, Jesus.

Application: More and more people are finding worldly treasure superficial and unfulfilling.  However, even if all the world realized the emptiness of these treasures, they will remain unfulfilled until they realize the greatest treasure the world has ever known.  As Christians, we are aware of the battle for our heart and soul, so we are constantly focusing ourselves on Jesus.  In Matthew 6:21, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  We must daily watch over our hearts to make sure our treasures are not being confused.  This world can be distracting, and sin is crouching nearby and ready to take us.  Peter warns us that Satan is like a roaring lion seeking to devour the unaware child of God.  Keep your soul awake and your heart focused.  The only treasure worth storing in your heart is the Treasure of Heaven, and His name is Jesus.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please help me to keep my heart focused on you.  Transform my mind by your Holy Spirit so that I will know and comprehend what is the greatest treasure.  Keep me safe from idols and all things that would lead me astray.  By your strength, O God, I will stay awake and alert over my soul.  I love you, Heavenly Father.  Amen.

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AuthorLarkin Sumerlin

Bible Reading: Philippians 2:19-30; John 13:31-35

In our journey through Philippians, we come to the part of the letter many us speed over or ignore altogether.  Why would we really concern ourselves with the travel plans and business of two men close to 2,000 years ago?  But when we do this, we do miss some great truths and lessons that we need to be the people of God.

In these eleven verses, we see that two men are on their way to Philippi: Timothy and Epaphroditus.  Timothy is Paul’s protégé, of sorts, and Paul has great confidence in Timothy’s abilities and passion for Christ.  Also, Timothy seems to be, “genuinely concerned,” for the Philippians, so Paul sends Timothy in his place.  The second man, Epaphroditus, has a much deeper meaning in coming.  Epaphroditus is the messenger and minister that the Philippians sent to serve and helping during a time of need for Paul.  Epaphroditus willingly left his home, family, and friends to serve as a missionary for and with Paul.  While on this mission, Epaphroditus became very ill.  So ill, that Paul notes that Epaphroditus was, “near to death.”  God in His mercy spares and heals Epaphroditus, but word of his sickness had reached the Philippians.  They were concerned for their own, and their hearts and prayers went out to him.  Paul is sending Epaphroditus home to be welcomed with joy and honor for his service of the gospel.  This was likely a wonderful and celebratory homecoming. 

This is the kind of love and genuineness we should expect among Christians.  Is this how you respond when you have a guest speaker comes to church?  Are you excited to hear what God is doing in and through them in the place He has sent them?  Are you joyful when a believer returns to your church to testify to the work God has been doing?

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Application:  As the people of God, we must demonstrate love for each other.  Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  There are so many ways we must apply this, but let’s look at in the church specifically.  We must stop being in such a hurry.  Show love to one another by sharing your time and attention.  Don’t settle for superficial pleasantries but give of your heart and mind to truly talk with fellow believers.  Also, take the step to be more transparent.  Don’t feel like you must give your life story but know that it is safe to be open about struggles and hurts you experience.  All believers face struggles more often than we care to share.  But we can show one another the love and grace by being open and honest at times.  If we all come together to slow down and be real believers together, the church will become a place of safety and love, and that will show the world that we are God’s children.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for all the things you call and equip us to do in this world.  Help us to be loving to one another and share this life together.  May we not be afraid to be who you made us to be, and may we show love to those who share with us.  Transform us inside and out to be your people so that our love will show the rest of the world that we belong to you.  We love you, God.  Amen.

Posted
AuthorLarkin Sumerlin

Bible Reading: Philippians 2:12-18; Matthew 5:14-16

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“You are the light of the world.”  This is what Jesus told to His disciples.  Not that they will be lights one day, or have the potential to be lights, but that they are the light.  As Christ-followers, a part of our new life and identity in Jesus is to be a light in a world filled with darkness.  To do this takes commitment to God and discipline to follow Him.  This is what I believe leads Paul to write in Philippians 2:12 for believers to, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”  I used to wonder why fear and trembling was involved since Christians had been saved from sin and death.  The reason Paul uses these two words is not because of the danger of sin, but due to the holiness of God.

As Christians, we are the born-again children of God, and everything we do has His name attached to it.  Therefore, your words and deeds show the world our Heavenly Father.  My first youth minister used to always say: the only Bible some people will ever read is you.  That is a huge responsibility!  Living as lights for Christ in this world should not be taken lightly, but humbly and seriously.  We have been given a new life that is covered by the covenant promises of God, and we must be sure not to waste it. 

Application: The way we carry ourselves must be innocent and blameless of all evil.  We should not be known as gossips and grumblers, but as peacemakers and servants.  We live in the midst of a, “crooked and twisted generation,” and it is among them that we must shine as lights.  This is not so they will look at us, but our shining light is meant to point people on the path to Jesus.  As a Christ-follower, do not preoccupy yourself with worldly wealth and material possessions, but focus on being pure and without even the slightest blemish of wickedness.  We must be a people that are, “holding fast to the word of life,” and not live out our faith in vain.  Make God the first and greatest priority of your life, even if it means you will be poured out for the sake of others.  To live as a light for God, no matter what circumstances come your way, you are always found to be rejoicing in the salvation, love, grace and mercy of God.  Fix your hearts and minds upon Jesus and live as lights for Him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for removing the darkness of sin from my life and making me to shine as a bright light for you.  Protect me from sin and selfishness and teach me how to live and shine as a godly light for all to see.  May my life be bright for your glory.  I love you, Father.  Amen.

Posted
AuthorLarkin Sumerlin

Bible Reading: Philippians 2:1-11

One of the hardest things to do in life is putting others before yourself.  We have so much we have to take care of in our own lives, that putting other’s needs before our own can be very frustrating.  As we begin Philippians 2, we read that Paul is encouraging Christians to be united and loving towards each other.  As Christ-followers, we work for peace with all people, but especially with fellow believers.  We should not be trying to climb the spiritual-ladder by stepping on and over others but should be encouraging and helping others to climb.  If anything, we should assist others to grow in their faith and gifts, even if it means promoting them over ourselves.  This is not only difficult, but opposite to what the world teaches and models for us.  That is why we cannot look to the world for guidance, but we must look to Jesus.

Paul reminds us of the example Jesus set for us, and it really helps us find perspective.  If there was ever anyone worthy of praise and honor in this world, it was Jesus.  After all, Jesus made all things (John 1:3), so all things should be worshiping Jesus.  However, when Jesus enters the world, He did not come with majesty and glory, but He came as a humble servant.  He came to serve, not to be served.  Paul reminds us that Jesus is equal with God but lowered Himself to become a man.  Even more so, Jesus was willing to die for the sins of the world in humiliating fashion upon the cross.  This is the humble obedience to the Father that we see and learn through our Savior, and this is the example we should follow.

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Application: Is it difficult for you to see others getting opportunities, even at church?  Are you able to celebrate the blessings of God in the lives of others?  It can be difficult to do because we tend to magnify the areas we lack instead of the areas others gain.  We must look to Jesus Christ daily as our example to follow.  As we seek to imitate Jesus, we learn to look to the Father, learn His will, and we obey God’s will.  God’s will is for us to love one another and build up each other’s faith and gifts.  We should be stirring up goodness, not trouble.  Pray for God’s help in humility, look to the example set by Christ, and love and serve others by counting them as more significant than yourself.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to walk the straight and narrow path of Christ.  This fallen world tempts me to go astray, but I seek you for help and strength.  Teach me your ways, O God, so that I may honor and glorify you with my life.  Thank you for all you have done, are doing and will do.  I love you, Heavenly Father.  Amen.

Posted
AuthorLarkin Sumerlin

                                                                                  Bible Reading: Philippians 1:18-30

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Last week, we focused on living for Christ and not for ourselves.  How would our lives change if we lived by the motto, “To live is Christ, to die is gain”?  To continue from this thought, this week I want us to key in on another phrase found in 1:27.  Paul writes, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ”.  To live as Christ, we must act in a way that is worthy of Him.  As a church, Paul gives a few practical ways we do this: standing firm in our faith in Christ, being united in our thoughts and actions to promote the gospel, and to be courageous together in the face of opposition.  The people of God, though made up of many individuals, is meant to be untied as one people under God.  You and I are members of the Church, and we have individual responsibilities to live worthy of God and His gospel.  We can discuss specific matters, but we must realize that our individual responsibilities are never far removed from our church responsibilities.

As an individual believer, how can you live worthy of the gospel of Christ?  One way is by abstaining from sin.  If there is anything in your life that is not pleasing and disobedient to God, or could lead someone away from Christ, then you must remove it.  Not only are we removing wicked things from our lives, but we are replacing them with godly, pure and good things.  Instead of selfish ambitions, Christians strive to do charitable works.  Instead of stealing, we freely give.  Instead of bitterness and revenge, we forgive and work for peace.  Instead of lust and adultery, we promote faithfulness and purity.  Every word we speak and thing we do should reflect the life and love of our Savior.  We proclaim to the world that we belong to God, so how we carry ourselves reflects on God.  When the world around you observes your life, they draw a picture of your Savior.  As they draw that picture, humbly strive to show them the amazing love and grace of our Heavenly Father.

Application: Merriam-Webster dictionary defines worthy as something having value, or something that has merit and honor.  The competitor who spells all the words correctly is worthy to be called the Spelling Bee Champion.  Paul tells us to live our lives in such a way that we are worthy of being called a child of God.  Make no mistake, Paul is not telling us to earn God’s love and salvation.  We know from Scripture that we do not deserve and cannot earn salvation, but it is a precious gift from God.  As God’s redeemed sons and daughters, our lives should be entirely devoted to living for God and making Him known.  His love and salvation has impacted us so deeply, that we cannot help but live for Him.  Living a life worthy of the gospel cannot be faked but flows from a genuine and sincere heart.  As you fall in love with Jesus, walking worthy of the gospel will occur as His Spirit works in you and through you. Seek Him daily through His Word and in prayer and let the Spirit of God grow your love for Jesus and transform your life from the inside out.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the salvation and love you have given to us.  There is nothing in this world greater or that could ever compare to you.  Help me to live a life worthy of the gospel, and may my life reflect you to the world around me.  I love you, my Lord and my God.  Amen.

Posted
AuthorLarkin Sumerlin

Bible Reading: Philippians 1:18-23; Psalm 34

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I may only be speaking for myself on this, but have any of you ever felt tension between enjoying life and enjoying God?  Does it ever feel like you must choose one over the other?  I think it is good to enjoy the life we have.  God has given us life, and He desires for us to be cared for and fulfilled.  However, God calls us to surrender our lives fully to Him.  God does this because He knows this is the only way we can truly be fulfilled.  This is a major hindrance to nonbelievers, and if we are honest, to us as believers at times.  We are torn between living life to the fullest and living life for Christ.  God tells us that these two are the same, but we fail to see how.  When sin entered and infected the entire world, it tampered with how we view life.  All of us, even the most selfless and humble, have a self-centered view of life.  We may wonder, “how is my life making a difference?” Even some of our most other-centered thoughts focus on how we live.  “What can I do to establish my families future?”  “How can I make this world better for the next generation?”

When Paul looks at his life and purpose of it, he calls it, “fruitful labor”.  His focus is on producing fruit, which Paul himself cannot do.  No person can plant an apple tree and make it grow apples.  We can care for the tree, but only God can produce fruit.  The message here is: as you live, rely on God for your life, your family, your work, your focus, your provision, your everything.  When life is lived this way, death is seen as a precious gift, because you will be with Jesus, and that is far better. 

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Application:  How would adopting this passage as your mindset for life change your marriage?  How would it change your home?  Your work?  I think there is much joy and peace to be had in this kind of living.  To stay with the farming analogy for a moment, many say this kind of work is rewarding.  Rewarding does not mean easy but gives a sense of joy and fulfillment that not much other work can.  Likewise, making our life to reflect Christ will not be easy at times, but will be rewarding.  That reward will be seen in our homes, in our jobs, in our churches, and in all the world where God’s people are.  That reward is the joy and peace of knowing and experiencing Jesus.  To know in your heart and mind that you lack nothing because in Him you have everything.  With thankful heart, worshiping minds and compassionate hands, we will live for God every day.  When we do this, I truly believe that it will be far better than the life we have lived to this point.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, you are the best thing we have ever experienced or known.  You know our hearts and minds are prone to wander, so we pray asking for you to keep us focused on You.  Only you, O God, can make our lives full.  Make us full, Lord, and may we glorify you in this life you have given us.  We love you.  Amen.

Posted
AuthorLarkin Sumerlin
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Bible Reading: Philippians 1:12-18

In our first post of this series, we focused on the good work God is doing in and through His people.  In all the various stages of life we go through, God has things for His people to be doing.  The works may not be apparent to us, but there is a reason for the places and seasons we find ourselves.  We have Philippians 1:12-18 as an example for how to use your season of life for the glory of God. 

Paul has been thrown into prison, but he tells his brothers and sisters at Philippi not to be concerned.  How could Paul say such a thing?  Because his imprisonment has, “really served to advance the gospel”.  Paul is in chains and not receiving the best treatment at the hands of the guards, but he has made Christ known throughout the entire imperial guard and all his fellow prisoners.  He was arrested for preaching the Gospel, and what is he doing in prison?  Preaching the gospel!  They cannot seem to silence this man who loves Jesus, and God honors the words that Paul speaks.

Paul is not ignorant to the fact that some are trying to prosper in his imprisonment.  They are trying to cash in on the gospel and gain a following and fame from their, “ministry.”  As they seek to outdo Paul, they are selfishly trying to build themselves up.  Where this would greatly annoy anyone of us, Paul is just happy that Christ is being proclaimed.  Regardless of the motives of the minister, if the name of Christ and His Gospel is being proclaimed, then there is reason to rejoice.

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Application: There is a reason for the season of life you are in.  Regardless of whether the season is good or not, the reason is to make Christ known in how you live.  Are you facing trials and struggles?  Proclaim the gospel in it.  Are you a favorable season of peace?  Proclaim the gospel in it.  It is hard to not look at others whose lives may be in a better place than we currently are, but what we learn from this passage is clear: if Jesus Christ is being made known, then we have reason to rejoice.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I know You are never far away from me.  You walk with me through every season.  You are the Good Shepherd who leads over hills and through valleys all my days.  Regardless of my season of life, help me to proclaim Christ.  May my life reflect Your goodness and love.  I love You, God.  Amen.

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AuthorLarkin Sumerlin