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Beginning and Ending the Year with the Word

     Another year has just about come to an end, the curtain has closed on yet another 365-day span in our lives. Maybe the year has brought plenty of good times, maybe plenty of difficult times, and maybe somewhere between the two; but one thing we can be thankful for looking back is how God has sustained us through thick and thin. Heartaches such as broken relationships, the constant toll of chronic illness or suffering, the loss of loved ones, or the unending battle of battling against sin: God is ever faithful to His children, because He cannot be anything but. Isaiah 35:10 states, “And the ransomed of the Lord will return, and come with joyful shouting to Zion, with everlasting joy upon their heads, they will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”
     With the Word of God as “A lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psa.119:105), knowing that God`s word is truth (John 17:17), and that if the One who wrote the book is holy (Rev.3:7), then the book written by Him must be holy as well (Rom.1:2). Did we delight in His Word last year? Did we cherish His word last year? Did we abide in His Word last year? Through all our difficulties last year, our lives find that these challenges test, reveal, and make character. We see the truth in His Word just that, “For it is God who is at work in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil.2:13). As in the Lord's supper we look back to remember, and we look forward and rejoice, so can we look backward on this year and see God’s guidance everywhere we have been and look forward to having a more God-like character, a more Spirit humbling attitude, and a more Christ-like obedience to our Father God.
     Can we see any more of Christ’s beauty in our character? Can we see any more of Christ’s truth in our minds? Can we see any more of Christ's love in our hearts then we had one year ago? He speaks to us through His revealed word, the Bible. Some have had the greatest sorrow of their lives in the last 12 months, lips have quivered, and many tears have fallen. This all does drive us to Him and makes us much less self-reliant on ourselves. Those who walk in darkness and light in our lives, He remains with us for “darkness and light are alike to You” (Psa.139:12).
     As we look back over the last stretch of 12 months, can we see His continual forgiveness of our sins when we have confessed them? Can we see the grace that is within us be His grace that has always been sufficient for us? Can we see our unchanging Friend's love that surpasses knowledge? And can we feel that omnipotent arm of His that went uninterrupted through all we went through this year? We can surely agree with the words of the hymn writer, “God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.”
     Remember that you may hope, and hope because you remember. With the Holy Scriptures in our hearts, minds, and spirits, commentator Alexander Maclaren states, “Like men with brains in your heads, you might find out where it was that you were most open to attack, what it was in your character that most needed strengthening, what it was wherein the devil caught you most quickly, and might so build yourselves up in the most defenseless points.”
     Using the Scriptures, we can accomplish a closer walk with Thee. “Walk by the Spirit so that you will not carry out the desires of the flesh” (Gal.5:16). Reading the Word to know the mind of the Spirit, praying to God to know the will of the Spirit. To be holy, we must continually be afraid of entertaining sin. We would not willingly entertain one in our house who had a deadly plague. The word of God has a remedy, a cordial, instructions for keeping our hearts. English Puritan John Flavel states, “Furnish your hearts richly with the Word of God, which is the best preservative against sin. Keep the Word, and the Word will keep you. As the first receiving of the Word regenerated your heart, so the keeping of the Word will preserve your heart.” Let us be like the church in Philadelphia in Rev.3:8, “You have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” We must know His word if we are to keep His word. The great Prince of Preachers Charles Spurgeon states, “I wish my brothers and sisters that during this year you may live nearer to Christ then you have ever done before. Depend upon it, it is when we think much of Christ that we think little of ourselves, little of our troubles, and little of the doubts and fears that surround us. Begin from this day, and may God help you. “
     Isa.66:2: “But to this one I will look, to Him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembled at My word.” This is the one who will get God's attention, a humble and contrite spirit. One who trembled at the Word of God, not by the fear or threats in it, but who has a Holy reverence for it, receives it, and abides in it. Not that it is the word of man, but what it really is, the Word of God. Contrite means something like a spirit that is broken, crushed, or deeply affected by sin. It stands opposed to a spirit that is proud, haughty, self-confident, and self-righteous. And Jesus stated, “That man should not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” as He states in Deu.8:3.
     Have you a plan to read the Word in 2024? If we do not aim at something, we will hit nothing. Start from the beginning and read right through if you wish. There is a memo in every week’s bulletin to help you with this. Or find another plan out there that breaks up a little of various parts of the Bible each day. Live as your Creator intended you to live and grow. The Word is life transforming. Be saturated with it, Christ-exacting with it, and God-honoring by it. And live it out one moment at a time. I will close the year with this: Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Let us all do that together this year!

Happy New Year to You,
Elder Randy Slak