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Daily devotional

November 28 - The assembly assembled

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly1 of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” - Hebrews 12:22-24  Scripture reading: Revelation 7:9-17 What a day of rejoicing that will be! The saints of God from all times and places gathered in one multitude in the presence of God and the Lamb, lifting up their hearts and voices in loud cries that adore the God of our salvation. What a day of rejoicing that will be! Our weekly worship is a foretaste of that and we should experience it as heaven on earth. It is a microcosm of heavenly worship. We gather with the saints in the presence of God to declare His glory. Of course, the saints are not yet the saints made perfect. Of course, our worship is still tainted by sin. Of course, our vision of God in all His Triune glory is still not as sharp as it will be. After all, we now see by faith; then, by sight. Of course, we come to corporate worship from lives that are marred by living in this sin-cursed world. What we experience each Lord’s Day is not exactly what we will experience. However, it is the closest experience we have to what the saints will one day experience when Christ returns in all His glory. That should make us cherish the weekly assembly of the saints. That our experience now differs from what we shall experience then, should make us long for the coming again of our Saviour when He will finally usher us into the presence of God and say, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the joy of corporate worship. Remember in prayer the saints scattered throughout the world who will one day be gathered together with us before the throne of God. Pray that the Lord Jesus may come quickly so that we may worship God in perfection.

Reverend John van Eyk has served as Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta since 2017.

Daily devotional

November 23 - Devastation and deliverance

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” - Luke 24:46-47  Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 28:15, 52-57; 2 Kings 6:24-7:1 It is an unpleasant story. The siege is bad enough with all of its fear-inducing characteristics. It’s compounded by the resultant famine. But even that doesn’t capture the devastation. That comes in the story the woman told the king about the horrific experience with her son. Here we see the destructive power of sin in high definition. Sin is ugly, grotesque, hideous, a monster. And sin will not tell you that. Satan is not going to alert you to its gross ramifications. Only someone who loves you will do that. And in this passage our loving God is warning you to kill sin before sin kills you and those dear to you. What makes things so infuriating was that this situation was avoidable. As Deuteronomy 28 pointed out, this was a judgement from God upon His rebellious people. Repentance would have changed everything. It appears that the king had begun to repent (there was sackcloth under his robe), but he didn’t follow through. There is no real brokenness for sin as having grieved their holy God. It seems that he is just bothered by the consequences. He blames Elisha and, like his mother Jezebel, threatens to remove Elisha’s head from his shoulders. But in the midst of the devastation, don’t miss the promise of deliverance. The siege is going to end and prices will go down. Isn’t that unexpected? But that’s always God’s way. He offers deliverance from the devastation of sin. May that revelation of His grace lead us all to repentance. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to open our eyes to see the horrific, destroying power of sin so that we might turn from it to the Lord of grace and mercy. Reverend John van Eyk has served as Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta since 2017....

Daily devotional

November 22 - Sweet revenge

“Let all the house of Israel, therefore, know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” - Acts 2:36-38 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 6:15-23 Sometimes the Lord brings deliverance through His people’s actions. Think of David against Goliath. Sometimes it is through prayer. That’s what happened here. Elisha prays and the enemy is subdued. Then something surprising happens. Elisha leads them to the king of Israel and rather than being destroyed, a great feast is prepared for them before they are sent home. It is a foretaste of the Gentile inclusion in the Church when the gospel comes. It is also an illustration of how God has commanded us to treat our enemies. More than that, this story shows us the way God, in Jesus Christ, settles the score with His enemies. In this time of grace, God repays their evil with good. Think of how Jesus prayed for His killers’ forgiveness while on the cross. And how Peter, His ambassador, offers forgiveness to those who had Jesus’ blood on their hands. Don’t you love that about the gospel? We are God’s enemies and the Lord Jesus shows us hospitality instead of hostility as He welcomes us to feast on Him and with Him. Of course, this isn’t the only way God deals with His enemies. If His offer of grace and kindness is spurned, He will punish, and all the more severely because of that rejection. God’s revenge. Is it possible to think about God’s revenge as ‘sweet revenge’? I don’t mean that He takes malicious delight in judging His enemies. What I mean is that His way of paying back evil is by giving good. And that is sweet revenge. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we would be dumbfounded and astonished by the surprising grace of God in Jesus Christ. Reverend John van Eyk has served as Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta since 2017....

Daily devotional

November 21 - Our worship leader

“Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.” - Hebrews 8:1-2  Scripture reading: Hebrews 2:1-13 Today we gather for worship. As a holy convocation (Leviticus 23:3), we assemble in the presence of God. Do we grasp the glory of what is going on? Understanding what this passage tells us about the presence of Christ in our worship should both humble and excite us. First, the Lord Jesus is the One Who leads us into the presence of God. It must be Him because we have no access on our own. Verse 13 tells us that He comes into God’s presence and that He comes together with those whom He has brought into God’s family by the new birth. Christ leads us into the presence of God. Second, verse 12 tells us that Christ is the One Who sings with us. The Lord Jesus, as He gathers with His people, sings the praises of His God. Isn’t it a wonderful thing to think that Jesus leads us in God’s praises? Third, verse 12 tells us Christ is the One Who preaches to us. The Lord Jesus, as He gathers with His people, tells of God’s name to His brothers. When the Word of God is faithfully preached, it is the Lord Jesus Who is preaching. Jesus Himself mentioned that His Church is gathered into His sheepfold as they listen to His voice (John 10:17). There really is nothing humdrum about our public gatherings. Christ, the ascended high priest, gathers with us to lead us to God, to sing with us and preach to us. Who would want to miss such an assembly? Suggestions for prayer Pray that we would cherish the blessing of corporate worship and have a sense that our worship leader, the Lord Jesus Christ, is amongst us.  Reverend John van Eyk has served as Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta since 2017....

Daily devotional

November 20 - Seeing with our ears

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” - Psalm 119:18  Scripture reading: 2 Kings 6:8-19 To the king of Syria’s thinking, the only person standing between him and victory over Israel was Elisha. Remove him and victory was his. This particular episode is a single battle in the great war between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan, and this is the same strategy Satan would later use against Christ. Take Christ down and victory was his. That’s why all the forces and strategies of Satan are unleashed against our Lord. Unsuccessful in that, Satan continues to fight against the believers, the soldiers of Christ. We might not see him, but he is the one behind all the trials and temptations of our lives. It isn’t only the invisible Satan we must see. Like Elisha’s servant, we need the Lord to open our eyes to see the power and victory of God. As the servant saw the mountains full of horses and chariots, we need to see that “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). We need to see the unseen victor Who shall one day be the undisputed Lord of lords. We need to see the unseen enemy and the unseen victor. How do we see the unseen? It’s not the optometrist we need, but the audiologist. We see through our ears. We learn of the schemes of our enemy and the victory of our God in Christ as we listen to the reading and preaching of the Word of God with ears that have been opened by the Spirit of God. Suggestions for prayer Remember to lift up your Pastor as tomorrow he enters the pulpit to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ. Pray that you will hear and be encouraged by the recounting of the wonderful works of God. Reverend John van Eyk has served as Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta since 2017....

Daily devotional

November 15 - Raging against the remedy

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God . . . For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” - 1 Corinthians 1:18, 21  Scripture reading: 2 Kings 5:4-14 Naaman’s leprosy plays a dual role. It is a providential problem that leads him to seek help. It is also a picture of humanity. We are all sick, and helplessly so. In the providence of God, Naaman’s servant girl sends him to Elisha. Through a messenger, Elisha tells him, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” At this Naaman becomes incensed and rages against the remedy. Why? In a word: Pride. Naaman was a great man and thought that Elisha would honour him by speaking to him himself rather than through a messenger. He wished to be recognized as someone special. Naaman was a rich man and wished to purchase his remedy. Elisha makes no reference to his wealth. The remedy was an assault on human intelligence. How does washing in the muddy Jordan remove leprosy? And, as a commander, Naaman didn’t like being told what to do. Naaman, in his pride, resists God's grace, as do we all. Thankfully, God was determined to save him. Through another unnamed servant and through grace in his heart, Naaman was conquered by God and ‘he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God.’ Pride is our natural inclination as sinners and pride rages against God’s remedy, to our own hurt. For us to be cleansed, God must humble us by His Spirit so that we embrace the foolishness of the wisdom of God. Has He done that for you? Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His pursuing and irresistible grace. Ask Him to continually humble us and others so that we might gladly embrace His remedy for sinners in His Son, Jesus Christ. Reverend John van Eyk has served as Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta since 2017....

Daily devotional

November 14 - Assembly required

“Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire.” - Exodus 19:17-18 Scripture reading: Psalm 87 ‘The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.’ The Lord loves it when believers spend time with Him in private or when families gather in their homes to read His Word, sing His praise and seek His face in prayer. But the Lord especially loves it when His people gather together as the assembled saints to worship Him. We know this from Psalm 87:1 and also from the great deliverance of God’s people from the bondage of Egypt. If He desired only private or family worship, Israel could have stayed in Egypt. But He delivered them so that they could, as an assembled people, publicly declare His glory. He met with them as they gathered in His presence. In fact, this day at Mount Sinai came to be known as ‘the day of the assembly’ (Deuteronomy 9:10). And from the Hebrew word for assembly we get the English words church and congregation. This is why the Church has, throughout the ages, gone through great pains to gather for worship. Sometimes they gather in freedom with the protection of the State. But often they have had to worship publicly despite government objection. Just think of China and the house churches and the Covenanters and their gathering on the moors of Scotland.  God loves public worship. And since God loves it, so should we. We should spare no effort to assemble with the saints for the declaration of God’s glory. What’s more, this is the clearest foretaste of our eternal occupation. Suggestions for prayer Remember those saints who assemble for worship in the face of opposition. Ask that God would enable us to ‘extol Him in the congregation of the people, and praise Him in the assembly of the elders’ (Psalm 107:32). Reverend John van Eyk has served as Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta since 2017....

Daily devotional

November 13 - Great but...

“For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” - 2 Corinthians 4:11-12 Scripture reading: 2 Corinthians 4:7-12; 2 Kings 5:1-3 Naaman was a great man, but he was a leper, a picture of humanity. Favored by God, but with a malignant stain. We are also introduced to a little girl. Unlike Naaman, she is a believer in God and, upon hearing of his plight, sends him to the prophet of the Lord in Samaria. You might think that this girl, afflicted by sorrow at the hand of her master, might be vindictive and rejoice in his suffering. But in Jesus-like fashion, she seeks his blessing. How ought we, like our Saviour, to pursue the blessing of even our enemies? The providence of God stares us in the face in the lives of these two characters. Both Naaman’s success and leprosy are from the sovereign Lord Who orchestrates all things. Naaman’s providential problem will eventually lead to his prosperity. Were it not for this unwanted intrusion in his life, he would have continued to live and die infatuated with himself and forever ignorant of the God of all grace. What about the providence of God in the girl’s life? It might seem less kind. God’s providence was distressing as He wrenched her from her family and brought her to her captor’s home. In His providence, the Lord is shaping her life to be like the Lord Jesus’ life; she is disadvantaged for another’s advantage. Perhaps this is a good window into the hardships you are experiencing. Is God seeking another’s good through your pain? Are you willing to embrace this mode of God’s working and share in the sufferings of Christ?  Suggestions for prayer Pray for a compassionate heart for those afflicted by the malignancy of sin that we might point them to our Saviour. Ask for God’s blessing as His people gather for the hearing of His Word and the praising of His Name. Reverend John van Eyk has served as Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta since 2017....

Daily devotional

November 12 - Give us this day our daily bread

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” - John 6:35 Scripture reading: John 6:1-14; 2 Kings 4:42-44 What a tremendous encouragement it must have been to the prophets to see this man from Baal Shalishah come with 20 loaves of barley bread and some heads of new grain, not just because they were hungry, but because there still was a believer who honoured the Lord with his first fruits. The fellow came from Baal-Shalishah, evidently a place where Baal was treasured. You wouldn’t expect that, would you? What a wonderful reminder that God always has His people, even in unlikely places. But if the man was generous, God was even more so. The man’s gift was inadequate, but God used it much like Jesus used the young boy’s inadequate supply of bread and fish to feed the multitude. Despite his protests, the servant gives it to the men to eat; they ate and had some left. God doesn’t just give enough grace to scrape by. He has provided the Bread of Life, and whoever comes to Christ shall not hunger. Indeed, from His fullness we receive grace upon grace (John 1:16). For sin there is abundant cleansing; for weakness, abundant strength; for discouragement, abundant hope. There is no limit to the grace of God in Jesus Christ. What do you need grace for today? A guilty conscience? Temptation? Weakness? There is grace available — loads of it. Ask Him for it. After the feeding in John’s gospel, the people exclaimed: “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” (John 6:14). Indeed. And as the hymn says, “More than all in Him I find.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that the God of all grace would give us the humility to ask Him for the grace we need. And pray that the world might know that a Prophet has come to offer Himself for hungry souls. Reverend John van Eyk has served as Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta since 2017....

Daily devotional

November 7 - Saved to worship

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Let my people go, that they may serve me.”’” - Exodus 8:1 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:1-12 In verses 9-10, Peter gives us a short synopsis of who we were, what we have become, and the reason God has made us what we are. We were in darkness, alienated from the people of God, under God’s condemnation because of our sin. But God, who is rich in grace, has done a wonderful thing. In mercy, He has sovereignly called us to Himself and enfolded us in His covenant people. Peter highlights the continuity of the New Testament Church with the Old Testament people of God by naming us what God in Exodus 19 named Israel. We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession. And then we’re told why we have been made what we now are. It is so that we ‘may proclaim the excellencies of him who called out of darkness into his marvelous light.’ We have been saved that we might worship God, that we might meditate on His goodness, recount His mighty acts of redemption and praise Him for it. We are tempted to think that salvation is all about us, that it is only for our blessing. Thankfully, it is a blessing to us. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. But we ought to remember that we came into the world for God and for the honor of Christ. All things were created by Him, through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16). And redemption serves the same purpose as creation: for the declaration of the excellencies of our God. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would open your eyes to His glorious majesty and grace and give you a heart that overflows with praise and adoration. Pray that for your fellow believers as well. Reverend John van Eyk has served as Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta since 2017....

Daily devotional

November 6 - Helper of the helpless

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” - 2 Corinthians 8:9 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 4:1-7 What difficulties this nameless woman faces because of the debts her evidently poor husband left her with, which threatened slavery to her sons. Yet, it is clear that he was rich toward God. He feared the Lord and, as one of the sons of the prophets, publicly identified himself with the Lord’s cause. It was likely because of this devotion that his widow is left in such extremity. Though there should have been a social safety net in Israel, she is reduced to nothing and her two sons are about to be enslaved by the creditor. She turns to the God of all grace. At first glance, this is striking because, in a sense, she sees God as part of her problem. You catch a hint of this in her complaint in v. 1. Her husband feared the Lord and yet, despite that, the creditor was coming. Yet, what else can she do? To whom else can she go? She cries out to the Lord. And He answers and supplies her out of the riches of His glory. I mentioned that someone should have helped her. There was biblical legislation to provide for the needy, particularly, the widows and fatherless. Apparently, no one does, so God Himself comes to the rescue. He has also done that in Jesus Christ to ransom us for Himself. And if He takes care of that need, can we not trust Him to care for all of our other ones too (Romans 8:32)? Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would supply every need of ours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus and that we would trust Him to do so. Pray that your Pastor might preach the unsearchable riches of Christ tomorrow for your joy and progress in the faith. Reverend John van Eyk has served as Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta since 2017....

Daily devotional

 November 5 - More than we ask or think

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work in us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” - Ephesians 3:20-21  Scripture reading: 2 Kings 3:13-27 The two kings finally meet up with Elisha. One goes in faith, the other in fear. The Lord promises water. Additionally, He promises victory. It is like the Lord says, “Ask Me something that will really show My glory.” God is all about putting His glory on display. Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity. You may be discouraged at your trials and wonder why there are ruts in your path. Be of good cheer. God is displaying His glory in your need, and what else would you rather see? The chapter describes God’s undeserved generosity to His people. Aren’t you surprised by His kindness? You should be. Israel wasn’t serving Him faithfully, yet God was generous. This passage highlights the gospel goodness of the Lord. Blessing depends on who we are with. Elisha would have had nothing to do with Jehoram except that Jehoshaphat was with him. Because of King Jesus’ presence with us, God has everything to do with us. This is highlighted in v. 20 when it says that the water came at the time of the morning sacrifice. This is why we pray for blessing in Jesus’ name. Blessing depends on the sacrifice of God’s Son. Mesha’s despicable sacrifice of his oldest son (v. 27) is recounted. It was a sacrifice to Chemosh, the Moabite god, hoping that he would turn the battle in Mesha’s favor. What kind of god is that? Our God is so different. He doesn’t ask for our sacrifice so that His wrath can be appeased. For that He sacrifices His own Son. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His undeserved favor to us in our Lord Jesus Christ. Ask Him to enable us to see His glory. Reverend John van Eyk has served as Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta since 2017....

Daily devotional

November 4 - The revelation of trials

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” - Romans 15:4 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 3:4-12 Mesha of Moab became sheepish about paying Israel tribute. So, he rebelled. Jehoram musters Israel and invites Jehoshaphat to join him. Evidently, the king of Edom was compelled to join. The three kings hope to attack through the Desert of Edom. After seven days, they run out of water, a very bad thing to have happen in the desert. Notice the response of Jehoshaphat and Jehoram, particularly as they are contrasted with each other. The same situation confronts both. Jehoram responds in despair and fear, accusing the Lord (v. 10). Jehoshaphat has faith. He turns to the Lord and wants to hear His word (v. 11). Difficult circumstances don’t cause our heart to act in a sinful way; distress reveals our heart. The "real you" shows up when things aren’t going well. It is no wonder that Jehoram despairs. He has a guilty conscience. Though he mentions the Lord’s name, he doesn’t know Him. It is possible to think that you are on good terms with God until a trial in your life comes. Then you begin to think harshly of God and accuse Him. Your ‘faith’ is shown for what it really is, a sham, as you cower in fear. Jehoshaphat’s faith turns him to the Lord. He wants to hear from his God. This is the experience of the child of God. The Lord comforts His people in their distress and ministers to them through His word. Has the word of God ever brought you solace and comfort in a time of trial? Suggestions for prayer Thank God for trials that enable you to see the sins that you harbor so that you might seek the grace that both forgives and transforms. Thank Him for His Son Who always trusted the Lord. Reverend John van Eyk has served as Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta since 2017....

Daily devotional

October 30 – Confessing our sins one to another

Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. – James 5:16 Scripture reading: James 5:16-18 It is not just the elders' position to deal with sins in the community of God’s people.  It is each Christian’s responsibility and privilege. One of the loveliest things we can do for and with each other is also one of the hardest things that we can do for and with each other. That is confessing our sins to each other. It is hard because it causes us to be vulnerable in front of each other. But when brothers and sisters can do this, it is like glue in the relationships. It also can bring great healing to hurt relationships, but only when it is done through prayer as brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ. Only through faith in Jesus Christ can we pray for the ability to confess sins and for the ability to hear confessions of sin without gossiping or judging. Only in faith in Jesus Christ can we pray for the ability to forgive and forget the sin and pray to understand and believe in forgiveness based on Jesus’ finished work. To sincerely pray these prayers takes faith. James tells us that Elijah, a sinful man like us, had this kind of faith. Therefore it is possible for us also to earnestly pray, trusting God will give us what we need to confess our sins to one another and be blessed by doing this. Elijah prayed and things happened. May we pray for this to happen more and more in our lives. Suggestions for prayer That we would have the confidence to confess our sins to one another and be communities that are blessed by doing this. Pastor Richard Bultje is a United Reformed missionary and pastor in the River of Life church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Pastor Richard and his wife, Yukyung moved to Niagara Falls in November 2012 with their three children Calvin, Isaiah and Gloria. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 29 – Is anyone among you suffering?

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises – James 5:13 Scripture reading: James 5:13-15 In life, our emotions are often up and down. In both cases James encourages us to go to the Lord; to pray when we are suffering and to sing praises to God when things are going well. For only the Lord can truly alleviate our suffering. When things are going well, it is a gift from our Lord, for every good and perfect gift is from our heavenly Father. At times it is hard to pray when things are very disturbing. Therefore our heavenly Father has given us leaders, elders, and pastors to help in these areas so that when we are sick or struggling we can call the elders or pastor to pray with us. The oil that James talks about represents being set apart for the Lord. So the elder who comes to pray is also to encourage the sick saint to know that they are set apart for the Lord, and that despite the illness or struggle they are having, they are right with the Lord. Telling us that the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick emphasizes that when the elder comes in faith as an under-shepherd of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are to see that his prayer has meaning to help the sick person first of all in his/her relationship with God. The elder’s prayer is to help the sick saint to know that he/she is well with the Lord despite their sickness, and if they have sinned, he/she is forgiven through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer That we would see the need to pray when we are suffering and sing praises to the Lord when we are cheerful and seek the help of the elders when this is hard. Pastor Richard Bultje is a United Reformed missionary and pastor in the River of Life church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Pastor Richard and his wife, Yukyung moved to Niagara Falls in November 2012 with their three children Calvin, Isaiah and Gloria. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 28 – Being steadfast in the Lord

We consider those blessed who remain steadfast – James 5:11 Scripture reading: James 5:11-12 When we think of or read about those who have remained steadfast in the Lord, we may ask, “Am I able to stay steadfast in the Lord?” But we must remember that these people could only do so because of the compassion and mercy of the Lord. God worked in them despite themselves. James gives the example of Job. How did he remain steadfast? It was only because there was a steadfast relationship between him and God. Satan had said Job only worshipped God because things were going well in his life. Satan said to take away everything from him and then he would disown and turn from God. Job was confused, upset, and even angry at God but never did this. Job continued to call out to God because his steadfastness was based on God’s steadfast love for him. As we deal with the struggles around us, may we continue to know God’s compassion and mercy to us in Jesus Christ, so that we can continue to be steadfast in our lives. The one way James says we are to be steadfast in our relationship with our Lord is letting our “yes” be yes and our “no” be no. We live in a world where people’s words mean so little because they do not see that they do all things before the face of God. We are called to show our Lord and the world around us that our vows and promises mean something because of the steadfast love of our Lord in our lives. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would work in us in such a way that we would be steadfast in our commitment to live for Him in each area of our lives. Pastor Richard Bultje is a United Reformed missionary and pastor in the River of Life church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Pastor Richard and his wife, Yukyung moved to Niagara Falls in November 2012 with their three children Calvin, Isaiah and Gloria. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 27 – Being patient with our brothers and sisters

...the judge is standing at the door – James 5:9 Scripture reading: James 5:9-10 Living in this world with all its brokenness and pleasures, we, as Christians, can often think differently in how we are to conduct our lives day to day. We may see other Christians possessing goods and doing things we deem unwise, and wonder if they are really living for the Lord and His Kingdom? We cannot say they are sinning, yet question their loyalty to the Lord. In doing so we can easily grumble and judge our brothers and sisters in the Lord. We may think they are not doing enough for the church and for the Kingdom of God or that they have it easy while I am suffering in my service to the Lord. But if there is no sin we can see, we must leave it with the Lord, who as the Judge standing at the door, is also watching us. Being at the door means He is close at hand and will take care of it in His time. This is what the prophets of the Old Testament had to do regularly. They preached the Word of the Lord and then had to wait on the Lord. They had to be patient, trusting that God would bring about His purposes through His Word. We must be patient as we deal with each other as God’s children. Speaking God’s Word to each other in love without grumbling or judging does not mean we give up on discipline in the church. Rather, it is done with patience, not grumbling or judging, but of love. Suggestions for prayer That we would have patience with each other, trusting that the Lord is at the door. Pastor Richard Bultje is a United Reformed missionary and pastor in the River of Life church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Pastor Richard and his wife, Yukyung moved to Niagara Falls in November 2012 with their three children Calvin, Isaiah and Gloria. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 22 – Knowing and reacting to the jealous love of God

He yearns jealously over the spirit that He has made to dwell in us – James 4:5b Scripture reading: James 4:5-10 The fact that we are human beings with spirits should cause us to see that we are special in God’s sight. But this special position also means we have unique responsibilities as humans. He created all human beings to be in a worshipping and serving relationship with Him. This is why James says God yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us. As God sees us worshipping and serving our pleasures, our occupations, or the idols of our days, He yearns jealously for our hearts and souls. In His jealous love, God, out of grace, sent His Son to redeem us and bring us back into fellowship with Him. Therefore, God humbles or changes our hearts so that we will admit we have wayward hearts and will plead for God’s forgiving love. James describes what this humbling before God looks like. It involves submitting to God’s Word but also resisting and fleeing from the devil and his schemes. In calling us to clean our hands and purify our hearts, James is really calling us to run to Jesus and live in the joy of His salvation. There must be a deep mourning about our sinful nature, and all the wickedness we are capable of. We also need to weep over the actual sins we have done in our lives. All this should cause us to be humble before our Lord, seeking His grace. The wonderful thing about doing this is that our Lord Jesus Christ will lift us up in the joy of His salvation. Suggestions for prayer That we would humble ourselves before our LORD knowing that He will exalt us, in the joy of salvation. Pastor Richard Bultje is a United Reformed missionary and pastor in the River of Life church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Pastor Richard and his wife, Yukyung moved to Niagara Falls in November 2012 with their three children Calvin, Isaiah and Gloria. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 21 – Friendship with the world makes one an enemy of God

whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. – James 4:4 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:1-2 As Christians, we still deal with the fact that we are sinners and so quarrels and fights among us happen. James tells us that they happen because our passions are at war within us. We too easily fall into concentrating on our wants and our pleasures rather than serving Christ and His kingdom. In times of war, when soldiers are fighting the enemy and protecting their country, their personal wants and pleasures are seen as less important. When we are on a mission to honour Christ’s name and to promote His kingdom, our personal wants and pleasures will be less important and thus quarrelling and fighting will be minimized in our churches. In our world today, where personal pleasures and wants are emphasized, James is telling us to swim against the culture; otherwise, murderous thoughts, words, and quarrels will happen because we won’t get what we want. When our prayers are based on our wants and pleasures and not on the honour of God’s name and His Kingdom to come, we might say we love God but in reality, we really love the things of this world more. When the things of this world become our dearest things, we will try to use God to get what we want. When we do this, James says we make ourselves out to be an enemy of God. James is warning us not to be sucked into friendship with the world, desiring what the world offers, and so forsake our first love and greatest treasure: God our Saviour and Lord. Suggestions for prayer That our wants and desires would be for God’s honor, His Kingdom and doing His will and not on the things and pleasures of this world.  Pastor Richard Bultje is a United Reformed missionary and pastor in the River of Life church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Pastor Richard and his wife, Yukyung moved to Niagara Falls in November 2012 with their three children Calvin, Isaiah and Gloria. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 20 – Godly wisdom produces peacemakers

A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. – James 3:18 Scripture reading: James 3:14-18 In today’s passage, James contrasts two types of wisdom. Having bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in one’s heart allows one to climb in worldly status but shows they are not right with God. If you believe that through faith in Jesus Christ, you already have the best possible position in the universe as being a forgiven child of God, you would not need to have jealousy or selfish ambition. Wherever selfish ambition and bitter jealousy exist, we will see disorder and every vile practice. That is why these things are called earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. They go against what a child of God should have in their hearts. Only in remembering what we have in Jesus Christ can we seek wisdom that is pure, peaceful, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. We are content and joyful in the salvation Jesus has graciously given only when we can take root in this wisdom. When one believes in Jesus as Saviour, He becomes that person’s wisdom so they will want to be more like Jesus. James concludes by pointing out that when we seek to be peacemakers in this broken, sinful world, we will increasingly be who God declares us to be through faith in Jesus Christ: the righteous conduit through which God blesses others. Suggestions for prayer That God would work in us such wisdom as we trust in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour so that we would more and more sow a harvest of righteousness. Pastor Richard Bultje is a United Reformed missionary and pastor in the River of Life church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Pastor Richard and his wife, Yukyung moved to Niagara Falls in November 2012 with their three children Calvin, Isaiah and Gloria. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 19 – The wisdom of meekness

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. – James 3:13 Scripture reading: James 3:13 Many think being wise is having intellectual ability or having the ability to persuade others of their ideas. James lived in a world where being wise was equated with the ability to become rich or powerful‒to be self-reliant. To be humble or meek was considered to be unwise and foolish. Today, many still think in this way, and talk of a self-made man who is able to push his way to the top. Even those who display arrogance and pride are often praised and emulated. We as Christians can fall into this worldly way of thinking, wanting to be impressive in other’s eyes. James tells us that if one wants to be wise from God’s perspective, it must be shown in not promoting one’s rights, career and desires.  He calls this the meekness of wisdom. It is the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who did not press for his rights and desires but laid down his life for others. This meekness of wisdom does not make one a coward or passive but comes from a firm confidence that you are a child of God, which frees you from being overly anxious or self-promoting. In the meekness of wisdom, we no longer live for self but for the honour of God’s name, for Christ’s Kingdom, and for obedience to His revealed will, the Bible. Suggestions for prayer That being beloved children of God through faith in Jesus Christ we would not be anxious or self-promoting but show the meekness of wisdom in our works. Pastor Richard Bultje is a United Reformed missionary and pastor in the River of Life church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Pastor Richard and his wife, Yukyung moved to Niagara Falls in November 2012 with their three children Calvin, Isaiah and Gloria. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 14 – Mercy triumphs over judgement

So speak and act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. – James 2:12 Scripture reading: James 2:8-13 In today's passage, James shows us all sins are equally wrong before God. This is true because all the commandments instruct us to love God and our neighbour. All our neighbours, both far and near, have been created in God’s image and we are therefore commanded to love them, even our enemies. Loving our neighbour is like loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. In going through a few commandants as examples, James wants us to admit our failings in respect to them. In doing so, we will have a different way of looking at our brothers and sisters in the Lord when they sin. James says we are to speak and act as those who are judged under the law of liberty. Since we cannot keep the law properly ourselves, we are not to speak and act as if we are perfect and without sin. We are God’s forgiven children not because we are righteous in ourselves, but only through God’s grace in Jesus Christ. For this reason, we should seek to keep the commandments out of a thankful heart because of God’s ongoing mercy to us. This should cause us to have mercy when approaching a brother or sister who has sinned. Instead of making quick judgements on others, let us remember God made His judgments on us with mercy. In this way, we will show that mercy does triumph over judgement. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we would show in our relationships that mercy has triumphed over judgement. Pastor Richard Bultje is a United Reformed missionary and pastor in the River of Life church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Pastor Richard and his wife, Yukyung moved to Niagara Falls in November 2012 with their three children Calvin, Isaiah and Gloria. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 13 – Showing no partiality as God’s children

My brothers show no partiality as you hold the faith in Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. – James 2:1 Scripture reading James 2:1-7 In today’s society, many admire prosperous people as opposed to the needy. James tells us that those who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are not to look at others in this way. He gives an example of two people entering a worship service, a wealthy person and another wearing rags. There could be a tendency, James writes, that we pay special attention to the rich man and ignore the one in rags, hoping he would slowly drift away. When we do so, we judge with evil thoughts. By making this distinction, we are saying the one is worthy to be in the household of God, while the other is not. Worthiness then is based on worldly standards, not on a person’s faith in Jesus Christ. James reminds us that a person who is poor in the world can be rich in faith and heir to the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Throughout the Bible, we see that God has a special interest in the poor and we must have that same attitude. If a politician or a rich man comes to a service we are not to treat them any more special than a homeless person. They are both image-bearers of God and both need the good news of Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we would not look at people from a worldly perspective but with the eyes of Christ. Pastor Richard Bultje is a United Reformed missionary and pastor in the River of Life church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Pastor Richard and his wife, Yukyung moved to Niagara Falls in November 2012 with their three children Calvin, Isaiah and Gloria. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 12 – Pure religion before the Lord

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world. – James 1:27 Scripture reading: James 1:26-27 In our world today, many claim to be religious or spiritual. During the time James wrote this letter, many people claimed to be religious. He uses the word religion to indicate how a person worships the Lord. James emphasizes that for one’s religion to be real, it must affect a person’s everyday life. He tells us, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that if we claim to be religious, but do not bridle our tongue, our religion is worthless. If you come to church to worship and honor God with your words but are careless in your speech, God does not see your religion as worshipping Him or honoring His Name because it does come from a heart that has been changed by the good news of Jesus Christ. When a person trusts that Jesus has washed away their sins, and that they are pure before God, they will worship God and give offerings not only on Sunday, but will seek to help others throughout the week. They will not only guard their speech, but keep themselves unstained from the world. Instead of seeking the fleeting pleasures of this world, they will be people who find comfort and joy in serving the Lord every day. Suggestions for prayer Pray that our religion would come from a thankful heart that seeks to please our Lord and bless our neighbour with our tongue and actions. Pastor Richard Bultje is a United Reformed missionary and pastor in the River of Life church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Pastor Richard and his wife, Yukyung moved to Niagara Falls in November 2012 with their three children Calvin, Isaiah and Gloria. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 11 – Praying with thankful hearts

Do not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. – Philippians 4:6 Scripture reading:  Philippians 4:4-7 Today is a special day in which Canadians can reflect on the harvest and the preservation of our nation. We are blessed in that we can give thanks no matter what situation we find ourselves in, whether we had a great harvest, or whether the year was more difficult because of a pandemic. Christians always have a reason to be thankful. Paul wrote the book of Philippians from a prison cell, uncertain whether or not he would be executed for proclaiming Jesus as Saviour and Lord. He wrote to a group of Christians who were poor in the eyes of the world and persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Yet, Paul called them to rejoice in the Lord because they had Jesus in their lives and thus had the greatest treasure a person can have. Do you see that when you know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, you have the greatest gift of all? In their difficulty, Paul also called them to make their prayers and supplications with thanksgiving. They were called to ask for relief from their troubles with thankful hearts trusting that nothing in all creation could separate them from God and His love. As beloved children, God loves us when we come to Him with our requests, but He calls us to do this with thankful hearts, trusting that nothing will ever separate us from Him. Suggestions for prayer Ask that we bring our requests with a thankful heart this day and always. Pastor Richard Bultje is a United Reformed missionary and pastor in the River of Life church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Pastor Richard and his wife, Yukyung moved to Niagara Falls in November 2012 with their three children Calvin, Isaiah and Gloria. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 6 – The crown for those who are steadfast under trials

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial. – James 1:12 Scripture reading: James 1:12 The world often persuades us that one is important if he/she obtains earthly riches. In the midst of this, one is asked whether or not satisfaction is found in Christ and what He has done for you. The rich can face the test of holding onto their wealth too tightly as if their identity is in possessions. The world around us promotes the idea that vehicles, houses or abilities set one off from the rest. When we have the latest of these or grow in our abilities in various ways, we think life is good. The test is, what is more important in your life? Is it physical riches, your talents or the relationship you have with God through Jesus Christ? James calls us to remain steadfast in the midst of these tests. For the poor, it is to be content in who they are in Jesus Christ. For the rich, it is to live for Jesus Christ and not for the riches and abilities they have. For both, the test is whether Jesus is the real treasure in their life that motivates and directs them. James makes a promise for all who are steadfast in showing that their relationship with God is their treasure and motivation. They will receive a crown better than the wreath an athlete gets at the Olympics. They will be congratulated by Jesus Christ at the finish line of their lives with the crown of life, with an eternity in paradise where all the disappointments, sadness and times of loneliness will be gone and replaced with eternal bliss and happiness. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we would keep our eyes on Jesus our Saviour and so be steadfast in our love for Him, in the midst of the trials in this life as we wait for the crown of life. Pastor Richard Bultje is a United Reformed missionary and pastor in the River of Life church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Pastor Richard and his wife, Yukyung moved to Niagara Falls in November 2012 with their three children Calvin, Isaiah and Gloria. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 5 – True riches

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation. – James 1:9 Scripture reading: James 1:9-11 Yesterday we discussed the need to pray for wisdom to deal with this broken world. As beloved children of God, we must pray with the exalted portions of faith we have been given. James goes on to tell us we need to do this whether we are rich or poor. A poor person can sometimes think, "Woe is me, I have nothing, I mean nothing.” But James says if anyone has faith in Jesus Christ, even if they are lowly in worldly standards, they should boast in their exaltation, not in who they are in the world, but in who they are in Christ. No matter what your worldly status is, in Christ, you are part of the exalted family of God. You should not be proud of who you are in yourself, but proud of who you are in Christ, for then He gets the glory. Some Christians are rich in the things of this world. There is nothing wrong with worldly riches, but they can make a person think more of earthly wealth than heavenly treasures. Therefore the rich should see their wealth as temporary. They should see that true exaltation comes from humiliation, admitting spiritual poverty and knowing that true and eternal riches only come through faith in Jesus Christ. Just as flowers of the field will eventually be scorched by the sun and die, so man’s riches will fade away. When people humbly admit poverty before God and plead for mercy based on the finished work of Jesus Christ, they will be truly exalted. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we would see that in Jesus Christ we have an exalted position that no money can buy and no poverty can take away. Pastor Richard Bultje is a United Reformed missionary and pastor in the River of Life church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Pastor Richard and his wife, Yukyung moved to Niagara Falls in November 2012 with their three children Calvin, Isaiah and Gloria. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 4 – Praying for wisdom

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. – James 1:5 Scripture reading: James 1:5-8 Many think that having wisdom means possessing knowledge. The Bible defines wisdom as knowing and doing something about it, in a way that is pleasing to God. Knowing God as the holy and almighty God Who hates sin should cause you to go to Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. That is wisdom. Our passage today comes just after James told us to count it all joy when we meet trials. Now he tells us that if we lack wisdom dealing with trials, we should ask God Who desires to give generously. If we wonder why this difficult time has come to our lives, we are to ask God for the ability, not to just know what to do, but to live with the trial in a way that trusts and honors God. To do this we have to have faith that God loves us and will not give us anything beyond what we can bear. If we doubt that God loves us, we will be like a wave on the sea going up and down with the circumstances of life. If we look at the circumstances in our lives to validate God’s love for us, we are not believing in Jesus Christ. If this is true, James says, we will never receive wisdom to deal with trials as children of God. This calls us to put our faith in Jesus Christ as proof that God loves us even in the midst of trials. Only then we can pray that God will give us what we need. Suggestions for prayer Pray that in the midst of the trials we are facing we will keep our eyes on Jesus, the proof of God’s love to us, so that we will have the ability to stand up under our trials. Pastor Richard Bultje is a United Reformed missionary and pastor in the River of Life church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Pastor Richard and his wife, Yukyung moved to Niagara Falls in November 2012 with their three children Calvin, Isaiah and Gloria. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 3 – Blessed through trials

…and let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and compete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:4 Scripture reading: James 1:2-4 For Christians it should always be a joyful thing to go to church, read God’s Word, sit under the preaching and praise God together as God’s people. But in the last year we have not always been able to gather together as we desired. This was a trial God allowed us to experience. God’s heavy hand was on our world and Christians also felt the sting of this hardship. James, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us that we should count it all joy when we meet various trials. The effects of COVID have been a trial. Not only could we not go on holidays and visit loved ones, but we also could not worship in the same way. James tells us that we should count it joy when we meet trials, even the kind that comes from a virus. Why should we count these trials with joy? God uses them to test our faith to produce in us steadfastness, trusting God whatever the circumstances. God tested us this past year with COVID. He wants us to believe He did this so that steadfastness would grow in us and that we would be able to trust God with increasing dependence on His love. In believing this we have to admit that we need to grow in this steadfastness so that we can count it all joy when we face the next trial. Through these trials God is perfecting us so that we will hold on to Him in faith lacking nothing, no matter the circumstances. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we would see and believe that the trials our Lord brings us through, will produce in us an ever-increasing steadfastness to trust our Lord’s love for us. Pastor Richard Bultje is a United Reformed missionary and pastor in the River of Life church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Pastor Richard and his wife, Yukyung moved to Niagara Falls in November 2012 with their three children Calvin, Isaiah and Gloria. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 28 – Evil restrained

There is no easing your hurt; your wound is grievous. All who hear the news about you clap their hands over you. – Nahum 3:19 Scripture reading: 2 Thess. 2 The prophecy spoken by Nahum is like a battle-strike on the enemy, who hit, and now punch-drunk from the force of the blow will die. There is no healing possible from this wound. The word of the LORD was sent and it will accomplish its purpose. In this case, the prophecy will serve both to put an end to the evil of Assyria and to call to repentance all the other nations that hear of Assyria’s ruin. The LORD will restrain unceasing evil. In every generation, in every age, it is the LORD Himself Who restrains evil. He limits the power and influence of a prince, a noble or a nation so that it is the glory and majesty of our God which are revealed to be unrivaled. Lawlessness and wicked deceptions serve to separate the believers from those wicked ones who merely seem to believe and from those vile offenders against God whose actions are obvious to all. In Old Testament times, believers saw God enthroned above the cherubim, leading out His angel armies and mighty hosts against which no power could stand. Today, followers of Jesus Christ, know the cross has disarmed all of Satan’s demonic activity. Our confidence is not in political parties or human efforts. It is by the grace of God, magnificently demonstrated in Jesus Christ, that believers take our stand. By His Spirit, He will establish us in every good work and word. While the wicked clap hands over their ears in horror, the righteous shout the praise of God’s victories. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that evil is restrained; pray for the further restraint of evil that the glory of God may rise up over our lands. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 27 – Undershepherds of our Shepherd-King

Your shepherds are asleep, O king of Assyria; your nobles slumber. – Nahum 3:18 Scripture reading: Ezekiel 34:1-16 Nahum’s prophecy is eloquently layered for New Testament Christian readers. The first layer is the warning that the people of Assyria ought to be the primary concern of the King and nobles. Ezekiel prophesied the duties of the king and nobles. Most important is that such shepherd leaders keep in view their accountability to the LORD of Heaven and Earth, to Whom all men must give an account for their actions. The second layer of this prophecy reminds the people of the LORD of the high calling they have to honor the LORD their God. In calling out the wickedness of the Assyrians, the people of Judah are not to gloat over an enemy’s fall into ruin; instead, they are to examine their own conduct. By the time of Ezekiel, the Assyrians had already been defeated. What a stark warning this should have been for the leadership in the household of faith to stay true to the LORD as shepherd-leaders. As New Testament Christians we read these words and are reminded that Jesus is our Good Shepherd (John 10). He has sought out the people of the LORD and He has bound up the wounded. He has fed and refreshed the lost sheep. We read these words and are reminded, wherever the Spirit of the LORD has placed us, we serve as under-shepherds of Jesus Christ. We raise our families to know and obey Him. If we are single, in whatever capacity God has given us charge of, we make His Name known in acts of service. Suggestions for prayer Pray to be faithful in your role as an under-shepherd in the kingdom of Jesus, the Good Shepherd and for the leadership of your city, your region and nation, to live in view of their calling before God. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 26 – The Prince who cares

Your princes are like grasshoppers, your scribes like clouds of locusts settling on fences in a day of cold—when the sun rises, they fly away; no one knows where they are. – Nahum 3:17 Scripture reading: Proverbs 23:1-11 Blessed Sunday to one and all! Remember the first day of the month, when I noted that the LORD is urgently calling out, like a mother concerned for the welfare of her child who is running into danger? The prophet is speaking these words, terrible as they are to hear, as an urgent, final appeal for the people of the Assyrian Empire to repent. God the Father is faithful, in contrast to the faithless, self-serving princes and ruling class. In a day of calamity and darkness, the princes of a nation must show compassionate leadership. Those who enjoy history might remember when King Edward the VIII abdicated the throne of England. His unpopular brother, George the VI, was thrust, unwillingly, to the throne. When World War II saw the bombing of London, King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth, toured the devastated areas. The population of London grew to love their monarch. This is a sharp contrast to Nineveh. When troubles started brewing in the Assyrian Empires, the princes enriched themselves and fled. The scribes and educated people grabbed what they could and ran. Therefore, they’re referred to as locusts. Locusts eat every green plant; when a land is devastated, locusts take off and go onto the next green area to devour. What a contrast we have in Christ Jesus, the High King of Heaven, Who laid down His life for His people. The King of Heaven guides His people and leads through trials and troubles to the way of salvation. His Word is our guide. His Spirit communicates His nearness. Suggestions for prayer By the Spirit offer up prayers of praise and adoration, worship and thanksgiving to God for all His rich blessings so extravagantly revealed in Jesus Christ. Pray for those who because of persecution and government oppression are unable to openly gather for worship. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 25 – Wealth and your citizenship in Babylon or Jerusalem

You increased your merchants more than the stars of the heavens. The locust spread its wings and flies away. – Nahum 3:16 Scripture reading: Rev. 18:4-8; Rev. 18:11-17 The Bible depicts two cities, the cities of righteous Jerusalem contrasted by wicked Babylon. The Assyrian Empire and her great capital of Nineveh are prophesied over, and part of the promised ruin will be the fleeing merchants. Like Babylon of Revelation, the riches of Nineveh had multiplied. Their fine products were taken as plunder from enemies, some of it from nations subjugated whose resources were pillaged to increase the wealth of the Assyrian empire. All of it added to the wicked and godless pride of the nation which had forgotten the mercies of God poured out on her a century earlier. Merchants can hear rumors from distant lands with which they trade, learn information from wealthy clients and can be like a barometer of what is about to happen. Nahum prophesied the merchants and their wealth would, like locusts, fly away to greener pastures where food is plentiful. They see the coming disaster faster than the leaders and the population. Upturns and downturns of the marketplace should not cause Christians to fear. Every earthly kingdom, every rich empire, like Babylon of Revelation, will one day be thrown down into ruin. The holy city of Jerusalem, where the righteous, those made clean by the blood of Christ at the cross, will flourish. Christians live knowing the kingdoms of this world must be made subject to the reign of Jesus and so will experience marketplace instability to remind the merchants and people that God, the Father, alone is the source of all that is lasting and good. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Spirit of God to help you examine your motives with regards to your financial planning and wealth management. Are you seeking the lasting Kingdom, the New Jerusalem, and using your money, much or little as it is, in service to Jesus our King? Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 20 – Ripe for picking

All of your fortresses are like fig trees with first-ripe figs—if shaken they fall into the mouth of the eater. – Nahum 3:12 Scripture reading: Heb. 2:1-9 Perhaps it is because I am not a farmer, nor have I lived where fig trees grow, that what is described in our text today was basically meaningless to me. I have learned it is difficult to determine when figs are ripe. Those that are on the ground quickly rot. Those that are on the tree should not be plucked because their ripeness is not easily discerned. The best way to gather figs is this: spread out a large cloth around the base of the tree and shake the trunk of the tree. The ripe figs will readily drop onto the cloth. The Assyrians are now ripe for plunder. At the lightest touch of their enemies, they will fall. The enemy is described as the “eater”. With hardly any force or effort, the nation will fall into destruction. Perhaps by now you are getting a bit weary of all these references to plunder, ruin and destruction? I know writing these devotions has been a bit of a challenge because of the repetition. Then I realized how stubborn my own heart was. When I was a child, my parents would say to me, “If I have told you once, I have told you a thousand times, don’t do that!” Like the Assyrians, and like children, we need to hear the repeated warnings of God in order that we will not drift away in our sins, but will be redirected towards His mercy, and in view of His mercy, serve Him with our whole heart, mind, and strength. Suggestions for prayer: Offer up to God in prayer where in your life you are drifting and needing to heed God’s warning to repent and stay true to Him in all you do and say; also pray for those among your family and friends who need to hear the message not to drift. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 19 – Terrible wrath and greater mercy

Yet she became an exile; she went into captivity; her infants were dashed to pieces at the head of every street; for her honored men lots were cast, and all her great men were bound in chains. – Nahum 3:10 Scripture reading: Ezekiel 33:1-20 The hammer blows continue to fall on Nineveh as the prophet of the LORD declares the terrors that will come to her. But isn’t this Sunday, the day people are supposed to celebrate the LORD and focus on His love? Why read such despicable things? Remember the warning of God is meant to be merciful. Those who hear His words of coming judgment can repent. Also, the warning is clear—as Thebes, also known as No-Amon, famous for being unconquerable, fell to the Assyrians, so too the Assyrians and their capital, Nineveh, will fall. But the description of infants dashed to pieces, surely that is not righteous?! It is what the Assyrian army inflicted on those they conquered. It was all part of the campaign of “shock and awe.” So terrible was the assault of the Assyrian army against its enemies that those defeated would shudder to remember it and refuse to rise up in rebellion. Now, with the same cruelties they inflicted against their enemies, these things will happen to the Assyrians. Why declare these things on a Sunday? Because the LORD our God has rescued us from His wrath through Jesus Christ. Though our sins should have risen as stench to His nostrils, we are, in fact, named the fragrance of Christ—His righteousness is ours. We live in a land that murders babies in the womb. Seniors and those who are ill can be crudely dispatched, and it is named “euthanasia”. As those who are redeemed, we urgently call others from the judgment that is approaching. Suggestions for prayer Thank the LORD for the greatness of His salvation and urgently pray for our land. May the Word bring great repentance and waves of people seeking His mercy. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 18 – Wait, there is still more

…you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering. – Isaiah 51:17b Scripture reading: Nahum 3:11; Luke 22:39-46 There are two very apt illustrations used in this verse. Perhaps you have heard the expression “punch drunk”? That is when a boxer has been hit in the head, not hard enough to knock him out, but hard enough to disorient him. There is another level of meaning as well. It may be that the people of Nineveh, if they do not repent, will drink the full cup of God’s wrath and they will be drunken and finally destroyed by it. Secondly, the illustration in this verse is that people will go into hiding. There is some ambiguity in the meaning of the original language. Perhaps it means soldiers will go off and hide themselves in fear. It might also mean that this mighty empire will be hidden by the sands of time. Only archaeologists will ever uncover the existence of this once mighty nation. They are an object of scorn and derision for all who pass by. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just before His arrest, Jesus prayed that the cup would pass and that He would not have to drink it. This cup is what is referred to in Isaiah 51:17, the cup of God’s wrath, the cup of staggering. Jesus Himself will take the blows we deserved. He was punished, though He was completely innocent. Jesus was scorned—so terrible was the mocking that any others who faced it would have gone into hiding. Glorious is Jesus, our Redeemer-King; great is the salvation He brings to all who believe. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the LORD Jesus Christ; thank Him for the clarity of our new life and blessing of living by the power of the Spirit. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 17 – Prove it

See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant. – Jeremiah 1:10  Scripture reading: Nahum 3:7-9 and Jer. 1 Prove it. Isn’t that a common reaction people have when confronted with the Word of God? Nahum came to the Assyrian nation with a prophesy so dire you can almost anticipate the arms-folded, hostile response of “prove it”. Interestingly, the LORD anticipates the hard-hearted response and gives His credentials. The Egyptian city of Thebes was strong with many moats and rivers which might make it seem impossible for an army of foot soldiers to conquer. What happened? This powerful city was thrown down by the Assyrians. Even though Thebes could call on strong warrior nations like Egypt and the trading partner nations surrounding her, the Assyrians conquered them. The point is, if a seemingly strong, well-defended city can come crashing down, on what are the Assyrians basing their boasts? No nations are standing with them. No other lands would assist them. The passage from Jeremiah gives the Word of the LORD which ‘proves it’. It is the LORD Who plants a nation or uproots it, the LORD builds up a city or destroys it. Many times, in Scripture, such events were foretold before they happened. What a lesson this is for us. Some of us place our hope in a particular political party, or a gifted orator, or Christian coalitions for change. The lesson from history is clear: God is the ruler of nations. Every nation, political leader, and government will be judged by the High King of heaven: Jesus. He has proved His right to judge. He has proved Himself the only, everlasting King. Suggestions for prayer Praise God that history will come to its fulfilment in Jesus Christ; pray for the eyes of faith to see the work of the LORD. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 12 – Haughty lion thrown down

Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered. – Revelation 5:5 Scripture reading: Nahum 2:10-13 and Rev. 5 In a British museum, you’ll find a carved Assyrian stone lion: 15 tons and fierce. The lion is at the base of a large, imposing pillar. Assyrian warriors paraded war prisoners past such lions to intimidate and humiliate them before the royal court. Nations bringing tributes from far off lands had to pass by these lions before giving their lavish gifts to the king. The lion was the symbol of Assyrian power. Now the lion’s den of Assyria will be plundered by the LORD. The tearing lion will be hungry, desolate and ruined. The Assyrian lion will be completely defeated. The nations which had trembled in fear when a messenger of Assyria rode out to declare war against them, will find they are no longer the prey of Assyria. Assyria is fallen and great is her ruin. The LORD of hosts is greater. To name the LORD as the LORD of Hosts is to emphasize His power, His angel armies, His great command of all nations and all history. No one can stand against Him. The book of Revelation depicts Jesus as the Lion of Judah. He is the Great King, Overlord above every ruler of all nations, throughout all generations. Jesus is a conquering, tearing lion. Not one of His enemies can stand against Him. Even today, all who disregard the warning of Nahum will find God to be ferocious. All who turn to Jesus, confessing their sins and hating their rebellious ways, will find  in Jesus, the Lamb of God, Who has taken away their sin. Suggestions for prayer May our nation’s leaders bow before the Lion of Judah. May our lands turn to Jesus. Ask the Spirit to show you the attitude of your own heart. Are you humble before Jesus—is He, for you, the Lamb of God Who has taken away your sins? Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 11 – The Lord’s Day restores clarity

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. – Psalm 73:24 Scripture reading: Nahum 2:4-9 and Ps. 73 Confusion. If asked to summarize these verses in a single word, that is the word I’d choose. A mighty people, once the haughty plunderer of nations, is now thrown down. Instead of orderly waves of chariots going out to battle, panicked charioteers are independently trying to save themselves. Some are protecting their possessions. Some remember they are supposed to be soldiers and they see to the defences of the city, but courage is draining away. Soldiers are melting away. Riches are carried away. It is as if the city, overflowing with pomp, wealth and power, is draining like a bathtub with a pulled plug. How long had the people of God hated the Assyrians and yet been jealous of their wealth? How long did they envy the armies which once swept across nations and desired the gains of gold and silver? It is easy to fall into the trap of admiring the rich and powerful. It is tempting to think, as the Psalmist does, that they never have any problems, “Until I went into the sanctuary of God, then I discerned their end” (Psalm 73:17). Tomorrow is the LORD’s Day. We are reminded that all mighty armies and seemingly unassailable kings and tyrants answer to one Master. As the people of LORD worship, the decrees of God are confirmed, proven in Jesus Christ. The Spirit helps believers to see there is only One eternal power and He is our strength and portion forever. Our God brings order to the confusion of our lives. Suggestions for prayer Have you been envious of others and their successes? Confess it before the LORD; ask that the LORD of power will give you insight into His sure promises which one day will result in the open exaltation of Jesus Christ before Whom every knee will bow. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 10 – Believe it or not, judgment is on its way

For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. – I Thessalonians 5:2 Scripture reading: Nahum 2:1-3 and I Thess. 5:1-11 How was the message of terror broadcast through the streets of Nineveh? Was the message received with awe and seriousness? Perhaps there was a mocking tone that accompanied the report relayed to the King of Assyria. “Oh no, an army is coming against us! Ha ha ha.” The prophetic words are brutal. The shields of the mighty men coming against Assyria (whose capital city is Nineveh) are red. It is an indicator they are covered in the blood of their defeated enemies. No one will be able to withstand the onslaught of this army. The spears are cypress—perhaps meaning they are symbols of power. Or it might mean there are as many spears as there are trees in a cypress forest—such a great number of them will be coming to terrify and overthrow. From our vantage point in history, Christians know the words of the LORD are true. Though the Assyrians ignored the clear warning of the LORD, the judgment fell exactly as it was prophesied. As we read Nahum, we know and believe that the words of our Warrior God are true. The warning to Nineveh is a warning to us as believers also. Be faithful in your loyalty to King Jesus. Day by day, live for His glory. The Day of the LORD will come as a thief in the night, at a most unexpected time. Live in security, knowing no matter how vile and evil the days are, the LORD is brandishing His strong spear of judgment; victory for our King is near at hand. Suggestions for prayer Believers encourage one another with the truth that Jesus is not neglectful; He will return and claim us as His own and bring judgment on the wicked; pray for holiness in your own life which should accompany such a promise of the Lord’s salvation. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 9 – Powerful imagery foreshadowing the New Testament

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. – John 15:4 Scripture reading: Nahum 2:1-2 & John 15:1-13 The interplay of two names for the people of God is significant. It is easy to read a passage and miss this. In our short verse the elect are called Jacob and then Israel. When you read Genesis, you learn that Jacob is a sneaky deceiver. Though he is of the chosen line which will lead to Jesus, he is not an honourable person. Just before Jacob, now married and the father of many children, returns from a distant land to his parents, he encounters a stranger who wrestles with him. The reader learns this is a striving with God. Jacob’s name is changed by this encounter. The LORD calls him Israel. This means he strived, or he wrestled with God (Genesis 32:22-32). Why does this matter? When a person encounters God, the LORD of heaven and earth, he will be changed. Some, like the people of Nineveh, hear and ultimately reject the revelation of God. Others, like Jacob, are transformed by the encounter. Israel will be restored in majesty and Nineveh will be a pruned branch destined for destruction. Though earlier generations had responded to the word, the nation has ultimately rejected the Vinedresser. The New Testament reveals Jesus Christ as the true vine. Those who reject Jesus prove this by their words and life, and are cut off and burned. Those who believe in Him are grafted into Him. They may experience hardship, a pruning, but this will be for greater fruitfulness. The greatest evidence of fruitfulness is love for God and love for one another. Suggestions for prayer Thank God, our Father, for His attentiveness and mercy so that His people bear fruit; pray for our nation, that her leaders may heed the warning to be fruitful for the glory of Christ our True King. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 4 – Where is Elkosh?

So that you are not lacking any gift, as you wait for the revealing of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end. – I Corinthians 1:7-8 Scripture reading: Nahum 1:1 and I Corinthians 1:4-9; 26-31 What do we really know about Nahum of Elkosh? The location of his hometown is unknown. Was he one of the deported people, a displaced person in Nineveh anointed by the Spirit of the LORD to daringly proclaim this warning? Was he part of Galilee, the region of Northern Israel that constantly had invaders running through it? He’d be part of the despised of Israel – those people – who’d intermarried with foreigners. Some think he was from Judah; that is the opinion of many scholars. Reflecting on this man’s ministry leads me to think he is incredibly brave. Think of it. If he were one of the deportees, his bold testimony about the downfall of Nineveh would amount to treason. No doubt the enemy would want to silence him. If he lived in Galilee, then others from Israel might mock him as a hick from a backwater town. If he is from Judah, he might be despised by the people from the other ten tribes, who were so oppressed by the Assyrians. When the LORD takes hold of a man or a woman, He calls this person to serve Him, regardless of the consequences. When the LORD our God raises you up in Jesus Christ, He gives the Spirit so that you can serve with holy boldness. Know this, being a servant of the LORD comes at a cost. You may feel nameless. God knows you intimately. Jesus is your Ruler; therefore, your true citizenship is in heaven, where Jesus is. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His Spirit’s work compelling men and women to serve in difficult places; bless God for the call He has placed on your life and the Spirit He gives so that in all circumstances you can call on the Name of Jesus. Pray for seminary professors who have the awesome task of training up the next generation of leaders. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 3 – A parade of God’s power

When he ascended on high he led a host of captives… – Ephesians 4:8 Scripture reading: Nahum 1:3-5 and Ephesians 4:1-17 Why do nations have military parades? To show the power of that nation’s army, tanks, and artillery to the world. It has in it an implicit threat, a dare to anyone who might consider advancing against them. Nahum is presenting the LORD of Hosts and verbally parading His power. The purpose is to get the attention of these warlike people who are feebly standing up against a power about Whom they have no concept or understanding. Desert dust storms are a real threat. It is reported that hundreds of millions of tons of dust are blown off the Sahara Desert each year—let that sink in. The violence of a sandstorm stops armies and causes the most hardened person to rush for cover. This is the power of the LORD our God. Mountains quake before him—those immovable pillars of rock of massive stature seem so impervious to any threat. These dance before the steps of the LORD. He rebukes the sea. All it takes is a word from the LORD and even mighty rushing waters are held back. The credentials of the LORD are well-known on this. Think of Exodus, where the LORD parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21ff). Dearly loved people of God, when the world and its powers threaten you, be reassured that this LORD of power and glory rides the heavens to bless those who, in Christ, turn to Him. Yet, His power to curse is real, gathering against all who hate Him. Today, as He parades His power to bless, humble yourself before Him. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His mighty acts of power and His salvation; ask for help and strength in the areas of your life where you feel weak against the power of the enemy. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 2 – The Lord the Avenger

The LORD is a jealous and avenging husband. – Nahum 1:2 Scripture reading: Nahum 1:1-3 and Isaiah 54:1-5 There is an expression out there that perhaps you are familiar with: “There is no fury like the fury of a woman scorned.” Have you heard of it? You can now pipe up and say, “Actually, there is a fury that is greater than that!” Nahum, speaking on behalf of the LORD, explains why the LORD’s fury is infinitely greater. Several translations capture the reason for the great fury of the LORD – the key is the original language which names the LORD as an avenging husband. This makes sense. There are many places in the Bible where the LORD describes Himself as the husband to His people, His bride. You can read Ezekiel 23 or Hosea, yes, the whole book of Hosea which is a prophecy describing the way in which the people of God chase after idols and other gods that are no gods; therefore the LORD calls this whoring, adultery of the worst kind. You might object and say this was so long ago – I mean the prophet, Nahum, ministered more than 2500 years ago! True. The warning is still as fresh as the day it was delivered. The LORD is faithful in and to every generation. As He called His people to repentance with the words of Nahum, so He calls us, as His people, to be faithful to Him. In fact, Revelation depicts the marriage feast of the Lamb, Jesus Himself taking the Church as His bride (Revelation 19:6ff). What a glorious picture that is. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the Spirit of God to give you a deeper and fuller understanding of what it is to be the Bride of Christ and to be faithful to Him in all things; and for all of us, single or married, to encourage one another in faithful living which is devoted to the LORD our promise-keeping God. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introduction to the month of September

Nahum is a book that is likely not too familiar for many readers. To be honest, I can’t recall ever preaching from this book. It is a regular practice of mine to read through the Bible each year, so this short, prophetic book is one I have read fairly frequently. When I was approached to prepare the devotions for the month of September, I immediately knew I wanted to explore this book. Through His prophet, Nahum, the LORD of all nations, is renewing His claim over the people of Nineveh. The LORD is calling His people to return to Himself, while there is yet time. He is calling for them to make a fresh start. About fifty to perhaps a hundred years before the time of the prophet Nahum, the prophet Jonah spoke to Nineveh. The people heard Jonah and repented. Now, so many years later, the LORD raised up another prophet to speak and warn this recalcitrant people. To me, September is a time for fresh starts. Students start the school year. Workers return to sharper focus of work after the refreshment of vacation times. It seems to me September is a time of new government initiatives and programs. In view of these things, it made sense to me to encourage you, the reader, to listen to the message of Nahum and consider making a fresh start in your walk with God. The Lord is jealous for His people “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God.” – Nahum 1:2 Scripture reading: Nahum 1:1-3 Suppose a momma sees her child walking towards danger. Momma will shout, slightly frightening the child, who had not perceived the danger. The words of warning are critically necessary so that the child can be kept from harm. Nahum is like that, broadcasting the shouted warning of God, the Compassionate, to a warrior people who are rushing headlong into destruction. A century earlier, the LORD had sent the prophet Jonah to Nineveh. That reluctant prophet did not want to share the mercies of God with a cruel nation that had conquered so much of the known world. Yet, at his five-word call to repentance, the whole nation, from the king on the throne to the lowest servant, put on sackcloth as a sign of humility and fasted, praying to God for His mercy. The nation of Nineveh has made a hard turn away from the LORD. She has returned to her sinful ways and is heading towards destruction that is complete and total. The LORD is described as “Jealous” because He is calling His people back to Himself—calling them away from their sinfulness. He longs for them and would rescue them. Dear reader, have you experienced the mercies of God in the past? Have you seen His great care and love poured out? Then these words are for you, today. God is jealous for your whole-hearted attention. In Christ, He made the way open to Himself. Hear this warning and turn to One Who is jealous for your whole heart and mind and strength. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Spirit of God to show you where you might be wandering from God, the Compassionate One, Who is jealous for your whole heart. Pray for renewed love and faithfulness to Him. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 27 – Eating and drinking to God’s glory

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31 Scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 Like the church in Corinth, the church of our Lord Jesus Christ today lives and works among neighbors, friends and even family members who worship false gods or idols in temples. They have their meat shops in the market places. But also, out of love and respect, they will invite Christian friends to their homes for dinner. The wise approach as followers of Jesus, in either scenario, is not to ask questions. “Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake….” (v.25). Likewise, at the table in his home, you are free to eat whatever he serves you. Don’t ask where it comes from. “But if anyone says to you, ‘this was offered to idols,’ do not eat it” (v.28). If the host is saying this, do not eat. You must not jeopardize your witness to Christ. But if it seems that the weaker brother or sister in Christ, one sitting at the table with you, is saying this, even then you should not eat. You must not exercise your Christian freedom in a manner that causes a fellow believer to sin. Your freedom may be lawful, but not helpful. Use your freedom in Christ in a loving way. Exercise your freedom in a way that will build up fellow believers in their faith. What you eat does not matter, but avoiding offence does. In this way, we are eating or drinking to the glory of God. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we may exercise our freedom in Christ in a way that does not harm the faith of the weaker believer. Pray that we not jeopardize our witness and yet show love for those who do not know Christ. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 26 – One table or the other, not both

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. – 1 Corinthians 10:21 Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 32:15-18; 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 Corinth was a religiously diverse city. In the congregation of Corinth, there were members who came out of idol-worshipping families. They were brought to faith in Christ, but many of their extended family members were still worshipping false gods. The temptation is real for new believers to participate in the idol feasts. Their new commitment to Jesus is often challenged by family and friends who want them to participate in their temple feasts. In their relationships with friends and family, Christians are not to compromise their commitment to Jesus. This also means not participating in idol feasts. By participating, one identifies himself with idols and demons. Christians must not participate in the Lord’s Table and in the table of demons. True, an idol is not real; it is not a god at all. But demons are real. Those who worship idols have fellowship with demons. By faith, you belong to Christ and to a new family. He does not want half of you. He wants the whole of you because He gave Himself for you. You would not want to make God jealous, would you? Peter Leithart writes, “History is God’s work of rescuing His bride from the table of demons to bring us to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” At the Lord’s Table, we share in proclaiming our faith in Christ Who shed His blood for our sins. By eating the bread, we share in the body of Christ. In Christ, we are united to Him and to one another. Suggestions for prayer Perhaps you struggle with participating in both the Lord’s Supper and idol feasts. Pray for God’s grace and courage. He gives to those who ask! Pray for those you know who struggle with this. Ask the Lord for wisdom to encourage your brother or sister in Christ. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 25 – Equally accepted by God

...for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. – Galatians 2:12 Scripture reading: Galatians 2:1-16 Antioch was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire. It consisted of many nationalities and religions. Antioch was one of the first places where the good news of Jesus was preached to the uncircumcised, the Gentiles. Many Gentiles from different backgrounds believed in Jesus. The new believers formed a church which became the base for the apostle Paul’s missionary travels. In one situation, the apostle Paul resisted the apostle Peter to his face. Why? Because Peter, by his actions, left the impression of a two-tiered membership in the church. There were the noble Jews who believed in Jesus, and then... Well... There were the others who believed in Jesus. Peter had enjoyed fellowship with the Gentiles and ate with them. But when a group of Jews came from Jerusalem to visit Antioch, Peter withdrew and separated himself from the Gentiles, for fear of what the Jews would say. The rest of the Jews started playing along with Peter in his hypocrisy. Even Barnabas, Paul’s helper, was carried away by the lie. The apostle Paul sets Peter straight with the truth of the gospel. Men and women, no matter the background, are justified by faith in Christ. All who believe are fully accepted by God and are accepted equally. At God’s table, He removes all ethnic and social barriers in our fellowship in Christ. Is this so in our fellowship and at our tables? Are we living by the truth of the gospel? Suggestions for prayer Thank God for how He continues to gather His church out of all nations. Pray that God will remove residual pride we may have because of our social rank or birth. May God help us to express this in our fellowship with one another. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 24 – Joy overflowing from tables to tables

So continuing daily in one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart. – Acts 2:46 Scripture reading: Acts 2:22-47 Union with Christ, in His death and resurrection, manifests itself in the joy of the forgiveness of sins and the renewing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This joy of belonging to Jesus is expressed here in verse 42 by ‘continuing steadfastly’, joining with other believers in hearing and learning God’s Word together, in fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in praying together. “In the breaking of bread together” indicates believers continued steadfastly in the sharing of meals, including the Lord’s Supper. Imagine the thrill of partaking of the Lord’s Supper which Christ had instituted about two months before. Do we experience this joy when we come to the Lord’s Table? Verse 46 also indicates that the joy in Jesus overflows from the Lord’s Table to the tables in the homes of fellow believers. In sharing their meals together, “they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.” The joy of forgiveness overflows in the sharing of goods, but also of the table. What an attractive reflection of God’s rich hospitality toward us in Christ! In our sad and joyless world, this joy is winsome. Take note of verse 47, “and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” The ascended Christ summons us to join the feast! He gives the joy of forgiveness and of His Holy Spirit to all who believe. God promises that the “parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water…” (Isaiah 35:7a). Suggestions for prayer If you belong to the body of believers, thank the Lord for adding you to His body. Pray for courage to encourage others who say they believe but are not members of the body of Christ. Pray that this joy of belonging may manifest itself practically in our lives. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 19 – Eating and being filled

So they all ate and were filled. – Mark 6:42 Scripture reading: Mark 6:30-44 God’s people are in bondage to their sins. Here we witness a large exodus of people from the cities to the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. They now enter into the wilderness. Jesus is the new Moses who leads them out of Egypt to Himself in a wilderness area. This is a new Exodus. As Shepherd, Jesus is moved with compassion so He teaches them (vv.30-34) and feeds them (vv.35-43). They need guidance. Their teachers have not been teaching them the Word nor pointing them to Jesus. The people have become confused and so lost. Jesus confirms His teaching with a miraculous sign of multiplying the five loaves of bread and two fish. This is not just about filling their bellies. This sign points to Himself, the Bread of Life. He is the Bread from Heaven, the Provision of life to Whom the manna in the wilderness pointed. Eat the food He provides and you will be filled. Jesus fully satisfies. He feeds thousands and there is no want. By His Word, He transforms our desert into a place of life and refreshment. Praise God for the presence and power of His Spirit. He promises a fuller and even greater feast to come in the Promised Land. The disciples gather twelve baskets, symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel and the church, under the care of one Shepherd, Jesus. Jesus is the proof of God’s love. Are you dealing with anxiety, depression or fear? Turn to Christ. He is the Bread of Life. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for giving us a Shepherd Who truly cares and loves, Who gave His life for us. Pray that, in all our anxieties and fears, we may learn to put our trust in Christ Who is the Bread of Life. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 18 – Jesus calls and heals for the feast

How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners? – Mark 2:16b Scripture reading: Mark 2:13-22 Tax collectors were a hated and despised group of people. They served the Romans to collect taxes from the Jews. Many were cheaters and often very belligerent. It is said that if a Jew saw a tax collector, he would spit on the ground and turn his head. They were expelled from the synagogue and were a cause of disgrace to their family. As Jesus walks along the shore of Galilee, He sees Levi, the tax collector, that hated individual sitting in his booth. Jesus turns to him in order to make him one of His disciples calling, “Follow Me!” Immediately Levi leaves everything behind, gets up and follows Jesus. There is no man happier than Levi. He throws a feast in honor of Jesus in his own home. Many of his associates, tax collectors and sinners, join the feast with Jesus in Levi’s home. Levi wanted them to know, trust and love this wonderful Saviour and Lord Who found him. He is the Physician Who forgives and heals. The scribes and Pharisees, the hair-splitting legalists, find Jesus’ activity questionable. “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus eats with sinners because He came to forgive them their sins. Today, in the church, Jesus continues to fellowship with forgiven sinners. What a privilege to eat and drink at His table. Who gets to sit around your dinner table so that you can share the love of our wonderful Saviour Who found you to feast with Him? Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His hospitality toward us in Christ, forgiving us and receiving us in His house. Pray that Jesus’ love for sinners may change us to love those we naturally despise and that He may open our hearts to them and eat with them. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 17 – The Bridegroom has come!

And Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” – John 2:7-8 Scripture reading: John 2:1-11 Jesus honors marriage. He shows this by attending the wedding in Cana of Galilee. But at this wedding, He also performs His first sign and manifests His glory. He is the Bridegroom who has come to wed His sinful people. He shows this by bringing out their real need. The guests run out of wine at the wedding feast. In response to Mary’s concern, Jesus says, “My hour has not yet come.” What does having no wine have to do with Jesus’ hour having not yet come? His hour points to His atoning death on the cross for sinners. He is more than just Mary’s son. He is the Son. The Father sent Him to reconcile sinners to God through His sacrifice on the cross. Feasting and joy follow! Six pots, filled to the brim with water are changed to wine. This shows the fullness He brings. The Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ, to the brim. He fills to the full. He is the fulfillment, the seventh! The age of wine has come; the feasting, the joy of forgiveness of our sins in Christ and the fellowship with God through His suffering and death for all who trust in Him. As with Jesus’ disciples, may we see beyond the sign itself and see Him, His glory and believe. By trusting in Christ, this eternal joy is yours. The Bridegroom has come, the feast has begun, “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9)! Suggestions for prayer Thank God, that in Christ, He cleanses you, adopts you and clothes you as His bride. Pray that in your daily struggle against sin and in your trials, you may not lose focus on Jesus, the wine of the kingdom. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 16 – Eat what is good

Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. – Isaiah 55:2b Scripture reading: Proverbs 9:1-6; Isaiah 55:1-7  We are told by our physicians to "eat what is good." We say the same to our children, “Now, listen, eat what is good. Stay healthy.” The LORD, the physician of our souls, exhorts us, “Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good…” What is good food and drink? The water, wine, milk and bread He freely offers. Come to the waters! Come, buy and eat. Come buy wine and milk without money, without price. It’s a compelling call to accept, by faith, the salvation He offers you in Christ. Don’t delay. His call is urgent if you want to live. Come! It’s free. Jesus paid the price for this food by shedding His blood on the cross for sins. Now He freely offers this food as a gift. He truly satisfies. Consider a life outside of Christ. You spend your money and expend your labor, but none of it truly satisfies. It’s "no-bread" at all. Your life is not full but empty. You toil and labor and you do not eat what is good. Rest in Christ who toiled and labored for the food He freely offers. It begins with listening to Him, to His Word. Put away your sinful and toilsome ways. Come, believe. Then you will eat what is good. Indeed, “Let your soul delight itself in abundance.” This is the secret to a spiritually healthy life. Jesus says, “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord may bless you by giving you a greater thirst for Christ and for eating what is good. Ask that your delight may be in the abundance He offers and to bring the required changes in your life to feast on Him. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 11 – Bringing life into the world of death

Serve it to the people, that they may eat. 2 Kings 4:43b Give it to the people, that they may eat. – 2 Kings 4:41b Scripture reading: 2 Kings 4:38-44 God’s people find themselves in the context of famine. His judgment is upon them because of their unfaithfulness to Him. Yet God mercifully sends the prophets, Elijah and Elisha, to bring His message of repentance, urging their return to Him. To live apart from God is death. The famine shows that. One of the sons of the prophets scavenges the field, looking for edible ingredients for their pot of stew. He gathers herbs and also a lapful of wild gourds which he slices into the pot of stew. They serve it, not knowing they had gathered poisonous gourds. They eat, and cry out, “Man of God, there is death in the pot!” After Elisha puts flour in the pot, there is no harm. In this miracle, God confirms that His Word brings life into a world of death. God reverses the curse. Likewise, how could twenty small loaves of bread feed one hundred hungry men? In such adverse conditions, a God-fearing man gave from the first and best he had. He did not have enough, but God blessed and multiplied it. They ate, having some left over. The calling of the church is to bring the message of life into our world of death. Christ heals. He multiplies His blessings. He sets the table in our midst. Jesus is the life. Jesus says, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you” (John 6:27). Suggestions for prayer Pray that we may grow more hungry for the food that endures to everlasting life. Pray that our world, which lies in the grip of death, may clearly see the life of our risen Lord Jesus in the church. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 10 – Unending provision

For thus says the LORD God of Israel: The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth. – 1 Kings 17:14 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 17:1-16 The land flowing with milk and honey now turns into a dry wilderness. There is a famine. Worse yet, there is a famine of the Word of God. The LORD sent His prophet Elijah to the northern kingdom, Israel. She had rejected the Word of the LORD. The people of Israel were worshipping other gods, like Baal, the sky god, to provide the clouds, the rains and the crops. They expected a strong economy while rejecting the God of heaven and earth! During this famine, the LORD blesses Elijah by sending him to the Brook Cherith. There He marvelously provides for him through ravens which brought him meat and bread. When the brook runs dry, the LORD sends His prophet to a Gentile widow in Zarephath, Sidon, even though there were many widows in Israel at that time (Luke 4:25). God’s Word finds a place where it is welcomed, outside of Israel. This simple widow had no more bread, just a little remaining flour and oil. She was preparing the last meal for her son and herself. Yet, wherever the Word goes and is received, you see life, blessing and a table! God chose to bless the home of this foreign widow. The bin of flour was not used up. The jar of oil did not run dry until the day the LORD sent the rains on the earth. In our land of many gods, will we find our shelter under God’s Word and seek our endless provision in Christ? Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s mercy on His church as we see the famine of the Word in our nation. Pray that His church may seek the true bread, find the blessing of endless life in Christ and be a blessing to the nations! Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 9 – A land flowing with milk and honey

You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey. I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples. – Leviticus 20:24 Scripture reading: Leviticus 20:22-26 There are many references in the Old Testament to the land “flowing with milk and honey.” This is an agricultural metaphor picturing the abundant fertility and richness of the land of Canaan. This was the Promised Land, the inheritance, which God promised His people. God saves His people not only from something, but also to something. When He rescued His people from the life of slavery in Egypt, He did not leave them in the wilderness. He brought His people into the land flowing with milk and honey. It is a picture of Eden. It also points to the reality of the new creation to come. They had a taste of it in the wilderness. The manna tasted “like wafers made with honey” (Exodus 16:31). In Jesus our Saviour, Who died and rose again from the dead, you also have a taste of it! If you trust in Christ, He has saved you from your old life and brought you into the promise of a new creation! This shapes how we live out our faith today. How so? Your life of faith is no longer to be shaped by the world and its futile ways. It is now shaped by the glorious promise of the new creation to come. You no longer belong to the nations. You belong to God. “I am the LORD your God.” How are His promises (“You shall inherit . . . I will give”) encouraging you in your journey of faith toward the promised land? Suggestions for prayer In light of many temptations and distractions, ask God to help us to keep our focus on the inheritance to come. May we faithfully serve Christ all our days. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 8 – A feast in God’s presence

But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank. – Exodus 24:11 Scripture reading: Exodus 24:1-11 It is the third month since God delivered His people from slavery in Egypt. His people are at Mount Sinai in the wilderness. A special event takes place on this mountain: a wedding. The holy God, in His love and grace, weds His sinful people formally, entering into an intimate relationship with them. The wedding service continues from Exodus 19-24. The LORD reminds His people of what He has done for her (Exodus 20:1-2). He gave Himself for her. He calls His people to give herself to Him by faith, expressed in love and obedience (Exodus 20-23). How does she respond? “I do! All the words which the LORD has said we will do!” (24:3). But a blood sacrifice is essential for God to wed His sinful people. The blood of Jesus is pictured in the sacrifice of the oxen. Moses sprinkles half the blood on the altar; the other half he sprinkles on God’s sinful people. Without blood, this marriage cannot take place. The wedding ceremony ends with a feast in God’s presence. Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy elders see God, not His face lest they die, but His feet. They see Him, the Holy One, exalted on His throne. Yet God’s forgiven people eat and drink in fellowship with Him! Do you have peace with God through Christ, Who shed His blood for sinners? God justifies sinners by faith in Christ. In His fellowship with us this Lord’s Day, may we, by faith, anticipate the marriage feast to come. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that we may feast in His presence, Sunday by Sunday. May God keep us from growing cold in our relationship with Him. May we always prize it. As you prepare yourself for corporate worship, sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 3 – Jesus’ obedient non-eating

But He answered and said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” – Matthew 4:4 Scripture reading: Matthew 4:1-11 Adam, in his rebellion, ate of the forbidden fruit through the instigation of the devil. In Matthew 4, we meet the Christ, the second Adam, the promised Saviour, not in the garden, but in the wilderness. He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. The wilderness is everything opposite of what the garden was. It is barren. The wilderness is not a picture of life and communion with God. Our Saviour, God’s Son, was sent into the wilderness on our behalf. He fasted forty days and forty nights. He was hungry. The tempter offered Him bread, saying “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” As the second Adam, Jesus’ obedience to the Father is tested on behalf of Adam’s race. Will He, like the first Adam, give in to Satan’s temptation? We need a second Adam who will undo the disobedient eating of the first Adam. He must not eat. He must also be willing to take the punishment on the cross for the rebellion of the first Adam. Christ answers with God’s Word! “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Through His death and resurrection, Christ obtained the victory for all who believe in Him. A feast follows. He sets a table with bread and wine. You have Christ and His Word, to overcome temptations. He gives you His food to strengthen you in your battles. Suggestions for prayer What temptations are you currently facing? Bring these before God. Pray that, by His Spirit, He will give you strength to resist and overcome, trusting His promises. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 2 – A disobedient eating

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” – Genesis 2:16-17 Scripture reading: Genesis 2:8-17; 3:1-6, 15-19 The generosity of God and His promise of life precedes His commandment. Our hearts are warmly rekindled, reading of the generosity of our gracious Host. Man was free to eat of every tree of the garden. Genesis 2 exudes God’s overflowing, self-giving love and fellowship with man in the garden. But the LORD God also tested man’s love and obedience to Him. He commanded man not to eat from the forbidden tree, “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Sadly, in Adam, we chose to disobey, willfully choosing to believe the lie of Satan. Satan made it sound like God was very stingy, placing an unreasonable demand on man, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’” Eve makes God’s word more severe by adding her words, “...Nor shall you touch it…” Satan then blatantly contradicts God’s Word, saying, “You will not surely die.” Then “the woman saw... Took... Ate... Gave... And he ate” (v. 6). God keeps His Word, “For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Pain, alienation and death mark our world. But the light of God’s promise breaks out in Genesis 3:15. God graciously sets out to restore life and fellowship through His Son. He bore the death sentence for our disobedient eating so that all who believe in Him may sit at His table again! Suggestions for prayer Pray that God’s love and grace may motivate us to flee from disobeying Him and continually trust in His Son Who came, fulfilling God’s promise to crush the head of Satan. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introduction to August: on feasting and fellowship

I recall the words of one of my professors at seminary about how the Bible speaks so much about food and feasting. I never forgot those words. Serving as missionary-pastor, largely among family-based cultures who have immigrated from the East, the rich “eastern hospitality” brings us to the theme of food and feasting for this month. God’s people have more reason than anyone in the world to feast! Table, food, fellowship and feasting is covenantal. These are practical expressions of covenant, of living in a right relationship with God and of a new life in Christ lived in the power of His Spirit. Our hospitality is an overflow of God’s hospitality toward us. In His hospitality toward us in Christ, God opens His home to us with His Word and His Table. “Singing” is uniquely Christian. But “feasting” is also uniquely Christian. Why is it that the family of Christ, more than any other, has reason to feast and celebrate? Because in Christ, God defeated death, sin and Satan. Feasting follows victory. In Christ, we live among defeated, though real enemies. We live in the sure hope of the full victory to come when Christ returns. Feasting also marks fellowship. God is reconciling a people to Himself, in Christ, and to one another into one body, a people from every nation, tongue, language and people. The Bible begins and ends with a menu. The joyful gospel note is that He prepares “a table before me in the presence of my enemies. . . “ (Psalm 23:5). The Bible begins with a menu And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.” – Genesis 1:29 Scripture reading: Genesis 1:26- 2:3 God ends the sixth day of creation by setting a table for man. The climax of the six days of creation is God’s gift of food. God creates man and He then offers him food. “See, I have given you…” A table is set for him. He provides the menu: “every herb that yields seed... And every tree whose fruit yields seed…” Creation shows that even an unfallen man was dependent on God for His provision. God is good. He is generous. But above all, in His gift of food, He, the Triune God, desires to share His love and His fellowship with man. He shows us that life and sustenance come from Him alone. God also desires to strengthen us so that we may carry out our callings to rule over the earth and subdue it for His glory. We eat so that we may serve Him for His glory. We are dependent on Him entirely for life and sustenance. This is what God wants us to see when He says, “I have given you…” Our food comes from His hand. “To you it shall be for food”. It’s His gift. God finds pleasure and delight in giving. He says, “See!” Or “Behold!” We find true satisfaction when we hunger for Him, the One Who opens His hand to satisfy our desires. On this Lord’s Day, may our worship inspire us to serve Him this coming week. Our appropriate response, each time again, is to give heartfelt thanks to Him. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we may grow in our dependence upon Him. Pray that we do not give ourselves to worry, but give ourselves to Him by trusting Him to provide for our daily needs. Sing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 31 – The Sojourner’s lasting hope

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. – 1 Peter 5:10 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 5:10-14 Peter wraps up his letter with an encouragement of hope, not a mere wish, but a joyful promise. The God of all grace will perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. And God will get all the glory! He is the God of all grace and of every grace. Because He is our God, we know that from Him it is always grace. Through every circumstance, in every trial – all grace! Nothing but His tender and loving care, nothing but His working all things for our good and His glory. His all-sufficient grace is more than enough. Yes, you will have suffered, but only for a little while. The God of all grace has all of it under control. His is the glory and the dominion forever. The work He has begun in you, He will faithfully complete. He will establish you. He gives solid footing and promises that we shall not be moved from this confidence. Nothing will snatch us from His hands. We are weak, but He is strong. He will provide the strength we need to be the people He calls us to be. In all the dangers, toils and snares we are called to face as sojourners in exile, and over against all of our anxious cares, He promises to settle us, to ground us on His firm foundation. He will get all the glory. We are left with that great confidence. We are sojourners in exile, but we need not fear. We have living hope in the sovereign, loving God of all grace, in Christ. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for all the grace you receive from Him, in Jesus. Try to count the ways. Praise God for the hope and stability He gives you. Pray that He may equip you to live so He gets all the glory! Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 26 – Sojourner hospitality

Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. – 1 Peter 4:9 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 4:7-11 Hospitality ought to set us apart as Christians. It takes work and will put us on the stretch. That is why Peter has to urge that it be done, “without grumbling.” How discouraging it would be to be a guest at someone’s home and get the sense that they really wished they didn’t have to take time for you. They sense that, “I have more important things to do, but since you’re here anyway, here’s a sandwich.” We need to remember, as aliens and strangers, that we are living in exile. We are homeless outsiders who have found our true home in the household of God, and out of gratitude, we want others to know that blessing. The word Peter uses for hospitality here is literally “the love of the stranger.” Do not forget that by nature you too were once a stranger to God’s covenants of promise. That is why it can be said that the pattern of hospitality in our lives expresses the heart of the gospel. Putting ourselves on the stretch in love will mean we seek to find ways to open our homes to one another, but also to those who are still strangers to God’s covenants of promise. We break bread together, open the Word together, pray together and have fun together. We are showing what grace-based, Christ-centered fellowship is. We have received much from God. By the grace of God, when everyone seeks to use what they have been given to minister to others the blessing is rich, and God gets all the glory. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that you have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Pray for a spirit of rich gratitude in order that you may use what you have been given for the love of others, even those who are strangers to God’s covenants of promise. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 25 – Sojourners’ love covers a multitude of sins

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 4:7-11 For the Christian, love must take priority. As he continues to encourage sojourners in their care for one another, Peter writes, “Above all things, have fervent love for one another.” When he speaks about fervency here, he is speaking about its intensity in action. Think of a horse stretching towards the finish line. What is envisioned is, love that puts us on the stretch for one another, a willingness to put ourselves out for one another. Think of the lengths to which Jesus has put Himself on the stretch when He gave Himself for us on the cross. One of the most challenging ways we are put on the stretch is in the demand that our love should cover a multitude of sins. Peter is not talking about a cover-up as such that sins are never dealt with. It is something far more glorious. Its roots are in the blessing that by God’s grace, through repentance and faith, our sins have been atoned for (covered) by the precious blood of Jesus. When we know the blessing of Jesus’ covering, then out of love, we also want others to know it. Sometimes that will put us on the stretch because some sins against us hurt very, very much. We must remind ourselves of the blessing of our own covering. A body of fervent loving sojourners is not a place for fault-finding, where people delight in uncovering pesky details of each other’s struggle with sin. Fervent love means our greatest joy is to see sin covered by the blood of Jesus. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the blessing and privilege of worship where you could be assured again of the blessing of sins covered. Pray that you may be put on the stretch in loving action toward others. Pray for God’s grace to be a cover-er of sins, pointing to Jesus. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 24 – Sojourners are serious about prayer

But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. – 1 Peter 4:7 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 4:7-11 Are you serious about prayer? Many of us struggle with the reality that our prayer life is not what it ought to be. The concern is not that we should be more eloquent, or more disciplined and have a routine. We want to be serious and watchful! Peter must have been reflecting on his own failings at prayer. Jesus agonized in prayer, then three times found his three closest disciples sleeping. How could he forget Jesus’ disappointment, “Simon (Peter) are you sleeping?” (Mark 14:37). Jesus was so agonized in prayer that He sweated drops of blood. Peter, James, and John could not even take it seriously enough to stay awake. Thanks be to God; Jesus has gone to the cross! Now we can come boldly to the throne of grace. We have a new eagerness and urgency. The end of all things is at hand! All God’s glorious purposes are coming to wonderful fulfillment! We are living in days that require serious attention to prayer. Being serious and watchful in our prayers means we are wide awake to the needs in our day. We know we do not have the strength to be the people God calls us to be apart from His blessing. Like Jacob, we need to wrestle with God to hold Him to account for all that He has promised. We need to be alert and awake to the challenges of our day, to be serious about the needs of God’s people and have a passion for God’s glory – the end of all things! Suggestions for prayer What are the things you are watchful about, and what are the things you need to be more watchful about? Pray about them. Ask God to give you a spirit of prayer and supplication as you rejoice to know the end of all things is at hand. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 23 – Sojourners are ready to do God’s will

...that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. – 1 Peter 4:2 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 4:1-6 When we think about what Christ has suffered for us, we find a new eagerness to say, “I am done with sin!” By nature, we were soft on sin. In our selfishness, we were committed to a life of ease and sinful, selfish pleasure. It was easy to slip into ways of living that were not good. But it was never helpful. It has not been God-glorifying and it has not been good for us. We want to say, with Peter: “Enough!” We need to arm ourselves with the mind of Christ. It was always Christ’s commitment to do the will of His Father. We must arm ourselves with Jesus’ mindset. That will take effort and resolve, but because of Christ’s glorious work, it becomes something we want to do, and by God’s grace, are able to do. It will also mean there will be those who think you are weird, and who will wonder, “Hey, why don’t you run with us in these wicked ways like you used to?” It will not be easy. Arming yourself with the mind of Christ means you will think of what you have received in Christ and think of who you have become, in Christ. Judgment is coming. Knowing this puts a different perspective on our lives and those who may taunt us. Those who taunt us are in danger. There should be no joy and no pride over them. That is why the gospel is preached! They need the gospel just like you did, and they need to hear it from you. Suggestions for prayer Ask yourself, have I had enough of sin? Ask God to arm you with the mind of Christ, with joy in what He has suffered for you, and with a readiness to do His will. Pray for grace to speak gracious gospel words to those who think it strange of you. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 18 – Sojourner wives are precious to God

...rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. – 1 Peter 3:4 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 3:1-6 The traditional, Biblical understanding of marriage between one man and one woman is considered odd today. But by God’s grace, a joyful obedient understanding of Christian marriage remains a significant part of our witness to the world. When it comes to sojourner wives, Peter speaks encouragingly here of submission. It is a concept that has fallen out of favor today, but Peter speaks of it as a glorious opportunity for Christian women to be Christ-like. It is also something they are enabled to do, in Christ. There is no hint at all that women are inferior to men. Men and women have both been created in God’s image. Also, in our redemption in Christ, we are heirs together of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7). Peter is not condoning any sort of harshness or abuse. Neither is he recommending marriage of Christians to unbelievers; God clearly forbids that. Peter addresses a situation where marriage has already taken place, then perhaps only the wife was converted after the marriage. God can use her quiet confidence in Him and gracious, respectful conduct toward her husband for his conversion! In the gospel, her joyful reverence for God takes away any sense of inferiority. She fears God, not her husband. She is concerned for God’s honor, not about what people think. Though God is not opposed to physical beauty, she does not make that her focus. She would rather turn hearts to Jesus than turn heads toward herself. By God’s grace in Christ, she knows she is precious in God’s sight. Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s blessing on the gospel preached throughout the world today. Pray for our marriages. Pray that because of the gospel, our marriages may give clear testimony to the world of how precious we are in the sight of God, by His grace. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 17 – Sojourners follow in Jesus’ steps

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps. – 1 Peter 2:21 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:21-25 Have you seen a little child trying to follow a parent at the beach, wanting to place his feet in each of the footprints? Sometimes it can be quite a stretch! That is a picture of what Peter says is the calling of sojourners: to trace the steps of Jesus Himself. Talk about big shoes to fill! Jesus is, of course, more than our example, He is our Saviour! Praise the Lord! But in accomplishing our salvation, He has also left us an example. And, because of His suffering, it is an example we can actually follow. By His death and resurrection, Jesus enables us to die to sin and to live for righteousness. He enables us to stretch and to commit ourselves to the service of God. So, even when others may make fun of us for living the Christian life, like Jesus, when we are reviled, we will not revile in return. We were weak and straying sheep, but by God’s grace we have returned to Jesus. If anyone knew how huge a blessing it was to be returning to Jesus, surely it was Peter (Luke 22:32). We too may live in the bold confidence that this loving Saviour has become the tender shepherd of our souls. Nothing will snatch us from His hands. He goes before us and with us as He leads the way. It makes you want to be like Him in the way you face challenges. It makes you want to stretch and take big steps for Jesus. Suggestions for prayer Thank Jesus for what He did for you on the cross. Thank Him for being with you and leading you in paths of righteousness. Ask Him to help you take big steps forward as you seek to follow in His steps. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 16 – Sojourners endure hard things

For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully… But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. – 1 Peter 2:19, 20b Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:18-21 Many whom Peter addressed were slaves. Without approving slavery as a way of life, Peter seeks to equip his readers to live as Christians where they are. Most of us can relate to the challenge of having to experience hard things – in life generally, or specifically in our work. It is not that we should never work for change, but how do we respond with endurance when hard things happen? The sojourner should never take the approach – “I give as good as I get.” The sojourner is mindful of God. He learns to ask: Where is God in this? What does God say? How will God help? It would be understandable if you were having a hard time at work because you were lazy, or mouthy, always late for work, or known for doing shoddy work. See to it that doesn’t happen. Since you know God and His grace, when you mess up, own up to your failings. But how can you persist in doing good when you are doing your best and still receiving a hard time? Prayerfully seek to live conscious of the presence of God. Think about Jesus, what He endured for you on the cross. Remind yourself that He has redeemed you, you are His! As you respond, ask God to help you follow in Jesus’ steps. Do it for the Lord. Trust that He will help you through this. God sees and cares. He will teach you about your need for Jesus and His grace, and He will help you. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help you endure hardship, to carry out your work, and to live your whole life mindful of Him. Thank God for what Jesus has done for you on the cross. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 15 – Sojourners are free to serve

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men — as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. – 1 Peter 2:15,16 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:13-17 Peter continues to flesh out the importance of doing good before a watching world. Do it as those who are free! By God’s grace, we are free from having to earn our salvation, free from guilt, and from the ruling power of sin in our lives. We are free from worrying about what other people think, or what the world is going to do to us. We are free from being selfishly concerned about ourselves. We are free from being enslaved to the lie that we are going to have our best life now. We are free to live and love. But, we are not free to live as we please nor sin. We are free to serve. Do not live as those who have no time for the world around them. Do not think yourself above the laws of the land: love your city, your region and your country. Submit yourself to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake. Obey the speed limit, pay your taxes, be a model citizen, seek to be a blessing to your neighbor – for the Lord’s sake. That means you honor God when you honor people and when you submit to the government in all things lawful. It means when you know you are being asked to do something God forbids, you are free and required to stand with God. But remember that it also means that your humble, grace-filled posture can be used by God for the silence and salvation of those who still need to know Him. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for all the ways you are free in Jesus Christ. Ask Him to help you to use your freedom to be a servant, to live as a good citizen for the silencing and salvation of unbelievers. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 10 – Sojourners desire the pure milk of the Word

...as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby. – 1 Peter 2:2 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:1-3 We have seen how the beginning of our spiritual lives comes by the Word, through the gospel preached to us. If we want to grow in that life, that is also something God works by His living and abiding Word. Have you ever seen a baby who is desperately hungry for its mother’s milk? Babies can get very passionate about this desire! And that is the picture Peter gives here of our need as sojourners. Amid the battles and challenges of life, where sometimes the biggest enemy is our own sinful flesh, sojourners hunger with the passion of newborn babies for the pure milk of the Word. Do not be like some people who misapply Peter’s emphasis. The point here is not that there is something praiseworthy about remaining immature as a Christian, only wanting milk and not solid food. That’s embarrassing! (Compare to Hebrews 5:12). We are not being encouraged here to remain as weak and helpless babies in our Christian walk. Sojourners want to grow! And sojourners want to get rid of sin in their lives: all hatred, lies, superficiality, and sinful talk. If we know ourselves well, we will know these are demanding tasks that work up an appetite. So, we hungrily crave more and more of God’s Word. And, in the Word, as our hungry souls are refreshed in looking to Jesus, we taste again and again that the Lord is gracious. It tastes like more! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to give you a passionate hunger and thirst for His Word and for the grace we taste, in Jesus. Pray for the passion of a newborn babe, as well as the growing maturity of one who cannot get over the blessing of God’s grace in Jesus. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 9 – Sojourners are born of the Word

...having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever. – 1 Peter 1:23 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:22-25 Peter continues to unpack for us, sojourners, some details of what the call to holiness entails. Sojourners obey the truth. By the work of God’s gracious Spirit, we take hold of the truth and want to live according to it. Peter says this comes to expression in our loving one another fervently with a pure heart. The reason we want to do this and the reason we can, is because we have been born again. That means the seed of life that has been implanted by God’s Spirit through the gospel is incorruptible, or imperishable. It cannot and will not die. We’ve probably all planted seeds and been disappointed when they proved useless, dead, or rotten and never germinated. Not so with the life God gives through the gospel. We didn’t give life to ourselves when we were born the first time. We don’t give life to ourselves when we are born the second time, either. It is life that comes from above and it will never die. The seed God brings to life in you has been planted and is being watered by the living Word. He has done that through the preaching of the gospel. If you have taken hold of the gospel, believed the good news, obeyed the truth through the Spirit and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of your soul, you can be encouraged in your call to holiness and love. God has given you life. You have the life that you need. By God’s grace, you have what it takes. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the new life He gives through the gospel. Thank God for the gospel that is preached to you. Pray that those who do not have this life may also know this blessing. Pray that it will show in fervent love for others. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 8 – Sojourners know Jesus’ blood is precious

… with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. – 1 Peter 1:18,19 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:17-21 Peter urges that throughout the time of our sojourn on earth, we should live in fear. That must not be misunderstood. He is not suggesting we need to live in dread, terror of God, or in a panic about what’s going to happen next. He has assured us that, as sojourners, we can live in joyful hope! The fear of God he is talking about is better understood as a reverent sense of awe. Too often, we forget. The awe is lacking and it shows in aimless living. So, how can we maintain reverent awe? Peter says it comes from a continual sense of grateful amazement about what our Saviour has done for us in shedding His precious blood. Say you receive two chocolate cakes. One, casually picked up at the store, no big deal; the other, equally as delicious, from your young child who put everything into making it. Which is more precious? Our salvation cost Jesus everything. He gave His lifeblood. As a lamb without blemish or spot, He was perfectly suited to be the Saviour of sinners! This was not something we could ever have earned, or bought, even with all the gold or silver in the world; it was obtained for us at the infinite cost of the blood of the Son of God. He loved you and gave Himself up for you! Never get over this! Always remember and be amazed! By His precious blood, He has saved us from sin’s guilt and power. Sojourners who are amazed by His grace will never be aimless. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the precious blood of Jesus! Ask Him to help you to know this blessing with a sense of awe, always. Thank God for redeeming you from aimlessness and ask Him to help you live for Him with purpose and reverent awe. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 7 – Sojourners’ hope leads to holiness

...but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:15,16 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:13-16 After assuring us with the riches of the blessed hope that is ours as sojourners by God’s grace to us, in Jesus, Peter arrives at the inevitable call to holiness: Be holy, because God is holy. So, be like God. Not so easy, right? The bare command leads either to despair in the defeated recognition, “I can’t!” Or, it leads to arrogant, self-confident Pharisaical pride that says, “Of course, look at me!” But, as a bare command, this call to holiness actually is unattainable for us. Thanks be to God, it never comes to us in Scripture in that way. In the Bible, the call to holiness always comes in the context of hope. Hope leads to holiness. As sojourners set apart from sin and devoted to God, we want to be holy as God is holy. But we have probably learned the hard way that holiness is not attained by our seeking to do more and trying harder. Peter encourages us that it comes by setting our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Do you want to be holy? Remind yourself of the grace God has shown you in Christ. Rest in that. Take your stand again in that. Then you can be forward-looking in hope. You know there will always be more grace. It’s that hope that gives us an eagerness, willingness and the ability to want to be like God. Pray it will show in grace-filled, hopeful lives that set you apart. Suggestions for prayer Reflect on whether the call to holiness causes you to despair, or to boast. Ask for God’s grace to overcome both. Thank God for the holiness that is ours in the Holy One (1 Corinthians 1:30). Pray for growth in hope-filled holiness and pray that it will be seen. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 2 – The sojourners’ living hope

has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. – 1 Peter 1:3b Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:1-4 When people say, “I hope so,” they are typically speaking of a faint hope, or something not certain at all. But Christian hope, the hope of sojourners, is not like that. Though we do not yet see and touch everything we hope for in Christ, we have the blessing as a sure and certain hope. It is a living hope. We can think of situations where people’s hopes have died. Dead hope is not hope. It is terribly sad. A lot of people are going nowhere. And we need to pray that we may be deeply sympathetic to the hopelessness that surrounds us. As sojourners, we have been given a living hope. It is a vibrant, thriving, lasting and certain hope. It is living because it comes from the living, thriving, loving, Blessed Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is so happy to be God, so thrilled to give life. He delights to pour out His abundant mercy. He gives life to our dead souls! We who were dead in sins and trespasses, without hope and without God in the world, have been born again and given new life and a living hope. This blessing is sure and lasting because it is ours through the life of our resurrected Saviour, Jesus. It is because He lives that we come to share in the blessing and certainty of His life. Remember, that in a world of darkness and hopelessness, we have been given a living hope. It is ours to enjoy and to share! Suggestions for prayer Is your hope alive? Ask God to give you great joy in the hope we have in Christ and to make us beacons of hope amidst the darkness. Pray earnestly for someone you know who is struggling with hopelessness, that you may encourage them in living hope. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introduction to July – Hope for sojourners in exile

When you think about your life in this world, do you ever feel like a fish out of water, or that you stand out like a sore thumb? Are you ever surprised by the fiery trials the Lord chooses to bring your way? Do you get overwhelmed with how it seems that more and more the world looks at us and thinks we Christians are strange? Are you ever shocked by how the world wonders why we just cannot go along with the flood of sinful changes that are drowning our culture today? Do you feel as though we are entering into a new era of exile? But do you desire with all your heart to stand up and stand out by being ready to speak to all about the hope we have been given? Take heart, pilgrim, we have been given a message of hope! We find it wonderfully summarized for us in the inspired words of 1 Peter. Peter, a man who knew all about failure and opposition, was once blundering and proud, but as an eyewitness of Christ’s majesty, a recipient of His restorative grace, also became someone who knew a thing or two about God’s grace and hope. Peter writes to pilgrims, aliens, exiles and strangers who are dispersed throughout Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). They are sojourners who can live by grace with strong hope because as sojourners they can live with the assurance that they are on their way to an incorruptible inheritance with Jesus that is reserved in heaven for them and does not fade away. The relevance for us today, as sojourners living in exile in a post-Christian culture, should be obvious. We are given a message of hope – a living, lasting and secure hope. Let us dig into this hope together and pray that we may be encouraged, as well as equipped to share it with others!  Grace for sojourners Grace to you and peace be multiplied. – 1 Peter 1:2c Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:1-2 The life of a Christian, a pilgrim, a sojourner is not always easy. There are trials, opposition and the challenge of being perceived as different. Peter begins his letter to sojourners with grace. Grace to you and peace! Peter had come to know through hard and blessed experience that his salvation and place as the Lord’s servant was all because of grace. He was amazed by grace and could not stop talking about it. Peter’s tone will be a tone of grace. We come to know ourselves as God’s sojourners – by grace! The loving and gracious plan of the Father, the powerfully gracious work of the Spirit to make this blessing real in our lives, and the obedience and sprinkling of Jesus to give us peace with God – is all undeserved grace. We rest in the obedience and sacrifice of Jesus once and for all – that too is grace. And, as we continue to struggle against sin, we continue to take refuge in the blood, passion and death of our Saviour. That is enduring grace! In Christ, we are chosen by God and precious. We have also been chosen for such a time as this and for these struggles. As elect pilgrims, we have been chosen to be sojourners. That too is grace. Living in exile will not always be easy, but God’s grace is more than enough. The grace God gives us and the peace we enjoy, as a result, is a blessing that is multiplied. God is not cheap with His grace. His grace abounds. Blessed be God! Suggestions for prayer Reflect on the wonder of God’s grace in your life. Count the ways you experience God’s grace and ask Him to help you talk to others about it with a tone of grace. Pray that you will always begin with and return to a deep appreciation of grace. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 30 – Remember your vows

Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. – Ephesians 5:33 Scripture reading: Ephesians 5 And now, having just stated the “more” to marriage, that God instituted marriage to mirror the covenantal relationship between Christ and His Church to the praise and glory of God; Paul now offers a final concluding summary. Husbands love your wives and wives respect your husbands. Husbands remember your vows: “I, ___________, take you, __________, to be my wife. I promise before God, and all who are present here, to be your loving and faithful husband. I will love you and give myself up for you, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in riches and in poverty, in sickness and in health. I will serve you with tenderness and respect, and encourage you to develop the gifts that God has given you, and never forsake you as long as we both shall live.” Wives remember your vows: “I, ____________, take you, __________, to be my husband. I promise before God, and all who are present here, to be your loving and faithful wife. I will love you and submit to you, as the church loves and submits to Christ. I promise to be true to you ... and never forsake you, as long as we both shall live.” May we all, as believers, submit to one another out of love for Christ, as imitators of God! Suggestions for prayer May God of His grace and through the power of the Holy Spirit help us as husbands and wives to fulfill our marriage vows as imitators of God to the praise and glory of His name. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 29 – The mystery of the one flesh

For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. – Ephesians 5:31-32 Scripture reading: Genesis 2:18-25 God not only created Eve from Adam’s rib, but God officiated the very first wedding ceremony when He walked Eve down the aisle, as it were, and presented her to Adam. God created a woman to solve the problem of Adam’s loneliness, “It is not good that man should be alone.”  God created a help-meet for Adam to fulfill the cultural mandate “Be fruitful and multiply...” The concept of “one flesh” is more than the emotional and physical aspect of marriage between husband and wife (although it includes that). The “more” is described in verse 32 “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”  The more” of the marriage union is to reflect the oneness, the intimacy of the marriage of Christ and His Bride, the Church. Already from the dawn of creation, God instituted marriage not only for the propagation of the human race, the furtherance of the kingdom of God, or even the enrichment of the lives entering this state, but the “more” of marriage. Marriage is a symbol of the union of Christ and His Church. Therefore, marriage is a mystery because it reveals something far greater. God instituted marriage between one man and one woman to reflect the covenant relationship between Christ and His Church. Marriage is therefore ultimately for God’s glory! Whether single or married, is this true of our view and goal of marriage? Suggestions for prayer May our view of marriage reflect the covenantal relationship between Christ and His Church to the praise and glory of our God. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 24 – The duty of the Christian husband

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also the loved the church and gave Himself for her. – Ephesians 5:25 Scripture reading: Ephesians 5:22-33 Not only has God ordained the husband to be head over the wife, and the wife to submit to her husband, but God now commands, “Husbands, love your wives.”  Notice how the respective commands given to husbands and wives are vastly different. Wives are commanded by God to submit and respect their husbands (vv.22,33). Men on the other hand are commanded by God to love their wives. In a culture where to love often means little more than romance and sex, or is reduced to mere sentimental or pleasant feelings, the Bible’s definition of love shows love’s true God-like quality and permanence. Love as defined in Scripture reveals a most significant character of God Himself “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” What is love? Well, the Bible’s definition of love is expressed simplest and best in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 where we read, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”  Husbands, let us heed God’s command, “Husbands, love your wives” so that not only will our marriages be blessed, but let us do so to the praise and glory of God. Suggestions for prayer Help husbands to love their wives not as the world defines love, but as defined here in the Word of God. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 23 – The model of the Christian wife’s submission

Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. – Ephesians 5:24 Scripture reading: Colossians 1:9-18 As much as a husband’s leadership should be characterized by Christ’s love for His Bride, the Church, a wife’s submission is to be modeled after the Church’s submission to Christ, Who is the Head of the Church. Christ through His Word and Spirit, lovingly leads and directs the Church, His bride. In her humble and quiet submission, she is a beautiful testimony of a godly and virtuous woman. She is a wonderful testimony to her children, her church, and the community of the marriage of Christ and His Church. She brings honor to her husband, to her family, to her church, and most importantly, she brings honor and glory to her Lord! And when the Church refuses to submit to her Head there is no blessing. In the same way, when wives refuse to submit to their husbands the resistance will wreak havoc in the marriage. The marriage becomes dysfunctional. It is not blessed. Where there is a power struggle there will be no peace, no unity, no harmony, and no blessing of the Lord. In the end, everyone loses, the husband, the wife, the children, the church and society. As one author noted, “And the love that binds this man and woman in marriage is a magnificent love because it portrays something magnificent - `as Christ loved the church’ and `as the church submits to Christ.” Suggestions for prayer May our wives walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing unto Him. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 22 – The manner of the Christian wife’s submission

Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord. – Ephesians 5:22 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 3:1-6 A wife’s submission to her husband is not conditional upon whether her husband is a nice guy, or that he loves her sacrificially and as lovingly as Christ loves the church. No, her submission is first and foremost “as to the Lord.”  She submits in all things lawful because she wants to be obedient to God’s Word in her role as a wife. In her submission to the Lord, she honors the Lord in her marriage and for His glory. But then, how is submission possible under adverse conditions, with a difficult or unloving husband?  HOW? – Well, the key to her submission is “AS TO THE LORD!”  It is in humble submission “AS TO THE LORD” that she, as much as depends on her, maintains peace within the home. A godly woman will accomplish much more by her loving submission and service to her husband than by her constant complaining, nagging or fighting. A godly wife who submits to her husband does so first and foremost in submission to the Lord. In so doing, she and her household are blessed and God is glorified! Suggestions for prayer That the manner of a wife’s submission may always be as to the Lord; and that in so doing she brings honor and glory to God. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 21 – The duty of the Christian wife

Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord. – Ephesians 5:22 Scripture reading: Ephesians 5:22-33; Proverbs 31:10-31 The duty to which God calls Christian wives could hardly be stated more clearly than what we read here in God’s Word, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord.”  Sadly, for many, even within the church, this seems outdated and even offensive. But properly understood, submission does not mean the wife is in any way inferior to her husband. She is not to submit because of any moral, spiritual or functional deficiency. Rather, her role of submission is defined by virtue of the fact she was created by God for man as his companion and help-meet. We have a beautiful portrait of a godly wife serving as a help-meet in humble submission and service to her husband in Proverbs 31. We read of a wife who is very competent, thrifty, intelligent, resourceful, caring and loving in her service to her husband. She is certainly not a servant or maid to wait upon her husband, hand and foot. She is certainly not a doormat on which to be trampled. A loving and wise husband appreciates the wife God has provided for him and utilizes his wife’s God-given gifts and the resources which she contributes to the marriage to complete him and to compliment him. And what is the result? “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” Suggestions for prayer May wives find their joy and fulfillment in marriage as they heed the command of the Lord to submit to their husbands. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 16 – Be fill with the Spirit, not wine

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit... – Ephesians 5:18 Scripture reading: Proverbs 23:29-35 The Bible does not condemn the occasional drink in moderation. Rather, what is condemned is excessive drinking to the point of drunkenness. Why do people overindulge? Some get drunk to fit in with those of the world, but in doing so they alienate themselves from God. Some get drunk thinking it will make them happy when it only brings an artificial happiness. Some get drunk to escape reality and the problems of life when in fact, it provides only a temporary escape. Some get drunk in an attempt to drown the sorrows or sins of the past only to compound their sin and misery. Every picture of drunkenness in the Bible is a picture of sin and misery. Sadly, alcohol addiction is a real and increasing problem in our Christian churches and families. Rather than getting drunk or resorting to some other kind of addictive habit such as drugs, self-harm, pornography, sex, etc... God’s Word commands us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. As one author noted, “Be filled is passive, not active”. It is not something we can do. God must do it. But we are responsible to seek that state of fullness.”  People who become drunk are ruled by the bottle unto ruin. People filled with the Spirit are ruled by the Spirit unto a life of blessedness to the praise and glory of God. Suggestions for prayer Pray for those with addictive, destructive habits. Pray to be filled more and more by the Spirit to live a Spirit-filled, God-honoring and glorifying life in dependence upon the Spirit. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 15 – Walk in wisdom

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:15 Scripture reading: Ephesians 5:15-21; Psalm 1 Commanded to be imitators of God, we are now being commanded to watch how we walk, not as unwise men, but as wise. As the elect of God, redeemed in Christ, born again of the Spirit, every step must be consistent with who we are as dear children of our heavenly Father. We do not walk in the ways and wisdom of the world. We do not subscribe to the false ideologies of ungodly men. Rather, as Christians, every step in life is made in submission to the Word and will of God. Every step is made with the intention to fulfill our created purpose, namely to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Yes indeed, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). Psalm 1 calls such a man who walks in the wisdom of the LORD “blessed.” But notice the urgency, “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”  Redeem the time means to buy back the opportunity to love and serve Christ and His Church. We are to do it now because the number of our days here on earth are short and the days are evil. Given the times in which we now live, let us pursue wisdom, God’s wisdom, that we may reflect the wisdom of God in our daily walk as His dear children, as living witnesses for Christ until He comes again. Suggestions for prayer May God by His Spirit lead us and guide us in our daily walk with Him. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 14 – The challenge to children of light

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. – Ephesians 5:11 Scripture reading: 1 John 1:5-10 God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. Therefore, as beloved children of God, we are now commanded not to have any fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Paul has already mentioned some of these deeds of darkness earlier in chapters 4 and 5. Therefore, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”  Light and darkness are incompatible. How can we bear witness for the God of light when we ourselves walk in darkness or engage in the deeds of darkness or even associate with them? Such hypocrisy ruins not only the reputation of those claiming to be Christians, but gives occasion for unbelievers to blaspheme the God of light and brings shame upon the name of Christ and His Church. Notice, the command in verse 11 has a second part “but rather expose them.”  The deeds of darkness must be exposed. We are not to be silent bystanders. Why? As it says in verse 14, that those asleep in the deeds of darkness must be called to repent of their evil ways that they may turn and live. It is our hope and prayer that sinners engaged in the unfruitful deeds of darkness may come to know the saving grace of God through Christ Jesus; that they too may be light-bearers of the God of light to the praise and glory of His Name. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we may more and more put to death the deeds of darkness and walk in the light as imitators of the God of light. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 13 – Characteristics of children of light

For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth, finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. – Ephesians 5:9 Scripture reading: Ephesians 5:8-14 What are the characteristics of this walk as children of light? They are defined here as: goodness, righteousness and truth. The first characteristic “goodness” has to do with moral excellence, benevolence, the act of willing and sacrificial service for others. Goodness is the outward manifestation of the spiritual condition of a Spirit-transformed heart. The second characteristic “righteousness” has to do with right or moral living. It means to know the right, to love the right and to walk in all righteousness. Those who are made righteous by the imputed righteousness of Christ are commanded to live righteously, Corum Deo, before the face of God.  The third characteristic “truth” has to do with honesty, trustworthiness and integrity. It means to know and to love the truth of God’s Word. We must learn to distinguish truth from what is false, good from evil, using God’s Word as our absolute standard of truth. We must not only exhibit these characteristics as children of light, but we must continue to grow in them “finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” What better place to do so than by gathering together to worship God on this, the Lord’s Day?  What better place to do so than to be under the faithful preaching of God’s Word. As we manifest these fruits of the Spirit, we bear resemblance to the heavenly Father Who is our light and our salvation. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we may more and more exhibit the fruit of the Spirit and be encouraged through the preaching of God’s Word to walk as children of light.    Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 8 – Walk in love as Christ also loved us

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. – Ephesians 5:2 Scripture reading: Philippians 2:1-11 How much does Jesus love us? He humbled Himself leaving the place of glory in heaven, not only to dwell among sinners, but He took upon Himself our human nature, sin excepted. He was despised and rejected by men, beaten, scourged, spat upon, crucified, endured the wrath of God, died and was buried all for the sake of our salvation. He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement for our peace was upon Him. And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He offered up the supreme, the all-sufficient sacrifice pleasing unto the LORD. How can we even begin to grasp the magnitude of the love of Christ toward us sinners? We simply can’t. And now, to us, as dear children of the Father, in Christ, as those redeemed by Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, the command is given, “Be imitators of God.” Love as the Father loves - sending His Son. Love as the Son loves – sacrificially, by laying down His own life to give us life, abundant life, now and in eternity. See in the love of the Son, the love of God the Father for us. Wow! What a standard! May others see God’s love through our love, a sacrificial love, following the supreme example of Christ Jesus our Saviour. Suggestions for prayer Help us to love others as God, in Christ, loves us. Help us to see that lovelessness is a sin from which we must repent. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 7 – Walk in love

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. – Ephesians 5:2 Scripture reading: 1 John 4:7-21 Here, in verse 2, we are commanded by God to walk in love. Do this! Walk in love! Be imitators of God by your walk in love. What does the love of God look like? We are told in 1 John 4:9-10, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. And this is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  And now, having defined love, we are given the command in verse 11, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  We are not to love as the world loves, but rather, we are to love as God has manifested His love toward us undeserving sinners. His love is one of self-sacrifice and self-denial. But notice as well, the command in verse 21, “And this commandment we have from Him: that He who loves God must love his brother also.” Here again, we are to walk in love!  How can we readily identify the children of God? By their God-like love toward others! Suggestion for prayer Pray for the Holy Spirit to create in us a pure heart, a heart that truly loves God and expresses this God-like love toward our neighbor. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 6 – To be imitators of God presupposes we know God

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. – Ephesians 5:1 Scripture reading: Romans 10:14-21 To be imitators of God, as dear children, presupposes that we know God. We cannot become more God-like apart from gaining a deeper and richer appreciation of the person and work of our God. We cannot imitate someone we don’t know. We come to know God through our family devotions and through our personal reading and studying of God’s Word. But are we growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord our God?  Are we making the time in the busyness of life to better know our God? OR, are we perhaps too busy, like Martha, tending to the daily necessities of life that we supposedly have no time to be more like Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus to listen and learn from His Word? Today is the Lord’s Day. Today we gather together as God’s covenant people to worship our God. A central part of our worship is to sit under the faithful preaching of God’s Word. The Word preached directs us to God’s wonderful work of redemption in Christ Jesus our Saviour. The Word, through the work of the Spirit, informs us and transforms us to be imitators of God. As one author put it, “We pray that God will also use our preaching to produce such a knowledge of God’s will that others will live to please him and will produce spiritual fruit, resulting in an ever-growing knowledge of their God.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will continue to call and equip men to faithfully proclaim the Word of God. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 5 – Be imitators of God as dear children

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. – Ephesians 5:1 Scripture reading: Romans 8:12-17 We’ve all heard it said, “Boy, he’s a spitting image of his father.”  Or, “The apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.”  We use these kinds of expressions to communicate the idea of just how much a child is a mirror image of his or her father or mother. There are certain characteristics, mannerisms, attitudes and conduct so similar to that of the parents that there is no case of mistaken identity. But then, can that also be said of us as children of our God, “He is a spitting image of his Father in heaven?” Can it be said of us that we are a mirror image of our heavenly Father? Can it be said of us that our characteristics, our attitude, and our conduct are so similar to that of our heavenly Father, that there is no doubt that we are dear children of our Father? Can it be said of us – I see the family resemblance. Adopted by grace through Jesus Christ, we are dear children of our heavenly Father and must no longer live as those belonging to the world, but rather, we are to live as members of the household of faith into which we have been adopted. There is to be no case of mistaken identity that we are dear children of our Father! Suggestions for prayer As dear children of our heavenly Father may we more and more be imitators of God Whom we are privileged to call “our Father.” Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 31 – Our beautiful King and Saviour

He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen. – 1 Timothy 6:15-16 Scripture readings: Daniel 4:1-3, 36-37; 1 Timothy 6:13-16 We have spent a month bumping up against the worst impulses of a human king like Nebuchadnezzar. We have seen what arrogance and pride does to a man and his kingdom. The ugliness of sin has been on full display. The stubbornness of his heart’s corruption has shocked us. In the midst of this, God’s faithful servants have stood firm in the Word of God and trusted in His promises. How? By trusting in the LORD and believing in the Anointed One Who delivers our bodies from the grave and our hearts from the condemnation of sin! Cherish this truth, dear readers, that you are graciously called to love a wondrously different King! You are promised blessing from the King of Kings! He is the unwavering and unflinching Shepherd Who acts out of His perfection and the fullness of His mercy towards you. “Take heart,” He reminds us, “for I have overcome the world!” It does not matter what the plots of our adversaries are when we have the Lord of Hosts on our side! Our brother in Christ, the Apostle Peter, encourages us that “Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” So, together let us worship Him as we joyfully sing, Beautiful Saviour, Lord of the Nations, Son of God and Son of Man! Glory and honour, praise, adoration Now and for evermore be thine! Suggestions for prayer Saviour, like a Shepherd lead us, much we need thy tender care. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 30 – Worthy

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. – Revelation 4:11 Scripture readings: Revelation 4:8-11; Daniel 4:34-37 The change of Nebuchadnezzar’s heart yielded an uncompromising proclamation of the dominion of the Most High. He broke out of his madness when he blessed the Lord and praised Him. What a moment! In the words of the king which Daniel likely composed for distribution to the peoples in his kingdom, the king made known that, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” He utters true words that we, by faith, are moved to assent to and share with him. The question of the truth of his heart is a subject of considerable dispute because tragically there did not appear to be any further fruits of repentance in Nebuchadnezzar. He drops out of the story at the end of chapter four and we don’t have any further record of him. But we can ask this question of ourselves: do we live with faith in the face of God’s coming judgment of the mighty and the lowly? The LORD has decreed that He is coming again to judge the living and the dead. In Luke 18, Jesus Christ asks, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Be sure that you are trusting in Jesus, the Lamb of God who has been provided for you and enables you to live with confidence as you await the coming judgment Day! Suggestions for prayer Help us Lord to walk in true repentance and obedience! Deliver us from temptation. Make our hearts abound in thanksgiving for Your mercies and love! Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 29 – Come see what I have done

Seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. – Daniel 4:32 Scripture readings: Psalm 66; Daniel 4:28-33 The words of Psalm 66 are a great instruction in the fear of God as the Psalmist teaches us, “Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man... He rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations-- let not the rebellious exalt themselves.” In the utterances of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4, we find him speaking in counterfeit claims about his importance and place in the world. He declares that he is responsible for the great things around him. He composes a counterfeit psalm to exalt himself. It didn’t go well. As the LORD had warned through His servant Daniel, the king was abruptly cast down and turned into a bestial madman for the span of seven periods of time. However, the truth of God’s message is underscored further in the fact that the king’s position isn’t usurped by one of his rivals during his madness, but instead, by the Will of God, the king returns to his throne after his madness. That in itself is sufficient proof that the Lord directed this whole affair to make plain His truth. Therefore, “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer” (Psalm 66:17-19). Suggestions for prayer We praise you our Holy Father for graciously providing us with a Mediator Who was judged in our place. Graciously open the hearts of our loved ones so that they may know that you are LORD and that You will save all who call out to You in faith. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 28 – Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God

Break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity. – Daniel 4:27 Scripture readings: Daniel 4:19-27; Micah 6:8-16 Many years before confronting Nebuchadnezzar through the vision of the chopped-down tree, the LORD sent Micah to warn the Israelites that they were also in grave danger of being cut down. Why? They also were acting with wickedness, violence, and pride. The LORD sent messengers to them – as He later did to Nebuchadnezzar – and yet they would not listen. Daniel, as a servant of God, anointed with the Spirit of the prophets, brought word to the king with clear examples of what repentance unto everlasting life looks like. Similarly, we find in Proverbs 3:7-8 the instruction to, “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” After all that they had done, the LORD was still willing to grant His forgiveness to those who had turned against Him and forsaken His Word, including a pagan king like Nebuchadnezzar. But the LORD’s instructions to the king went unheeded and he preferred to do what was opposite to what the LORD had told him to do. When you remember who you are in Christ, you can marvel that the LORD does bring about a work of transformation in your heart so that you do become more ready to act with love and less inclined to hardheartedness and tightfistedness towards your neighbours. He has shown you what is good and He will guide you in that path as you walk with Him! Suggestions for prayer Gracious Father, we ask You to embolden us as Your witnesses in a world that constantly rejects You and Your Word. Sanctify us by Your Spirit. Make us ready for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 23 – The fiery furnace and the fiery Presence

It shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. – Acts 2:21 Scripture readings: Daniel 3:18-25; Acts 2:1-21 Today is Pentecost and we marvel at the contrast between the fiery furnace that was kindled by Nebuchadnezzar in order to kill and the fiery presence kindled by the Spirit of God in order to make alive! Nebuchadnezzar’s fire sought to stamp out the servants of God while the Holy Spirit’s fire anointed them for the bearing of testimony to the nations! Nebuchadnezzar’s fire sought to stop the mouths of those who claimed, “Our God is able to deliver us,” while the Holy Spirit’s fire brought the power of God to a multitude who went forth proclaiming “Our God has delivered us through the man Who was crucified!” Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace was made powerless to harm by the presence of the Son of Man, while the Holy Spirit’s fiery presence in Jerusalem was made possible by the presence of the Son of Man Who was risen from the grave! The Son of Man interceded to save Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in an early preview of His great act of salvation, which the Apostle Peter proclaimed so powerfully to all who would listen on the day of Pentecost. The testimony continues to go out about Jesus Who was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Praise God for redeeming you from the powers of sin and death. Rejoice in the Lord’s goodness to you! Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 22 – Who will deliver you?

If you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands? – Daniel 3:15 Scripture readings: Daniel 3:8-18 The challenge for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is that their lives depended upon their response to Nebuchadnezzar’s blasphemous reproach of their stance, against his directive to worship his golden image. Would they blaspheme God or would they defy Nebuchadnezzar? Interestingly, in this account, we don’t know what the rest of the community’s response was. It may be that many did bow while others tried, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, to abstain from this act of false worship. In any case, we know that the Lord can forgive even such blasphemous worship. The Lord has a will and a way of delivering a man like Naaman who had fallen before the gods of his peoples until he learned of the Lord’s instructions to him. The Lord could forgive those who had fallen into various forms of idolatry. And yet the Lord was calling on His people to consider well the example of these men. In Daniel 7, the saints are warned of the dogged persistence of the kingdom of darkness to wear down the resistance of God’s people. This is why the LORD gives us the whole armor of God to withstand these attacks. As Calvin reminds us, from the beginning, “The Church of Christ has been so constituted that death has been the way to life and the cross the path to victory.” Even to die a fiery death is not the worst thing for us – for we have been joined to the Son of God who has died for us! Suggestions for prayer Pray for relief for those who are being persecuted under unjust rulers. Pray for joy in the face of hardships. Pray that the LORD would teach us the way of full obedience to Him. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 21 – What was I supposed to do?

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? – Matthew 8:35-36 Scripture readings: Daniel 3:4-12; Matthew 8:28-34 We see the very heart on display which the Apostle Paul talks about in Romans 1:22 of the wicked “claiming to be wise” yet “they became fools”. For it is only a fool that says, “The thing that the Lord has revealed to me, I will defy. In fact, I will double down on it by forcing all the peoples in my tribe, and in my city, and among all the nations to stand and bow before this declaration of warfare on God’s plan.” Nebuchadnezzar wanted a crowd of witnesses to join him as he proclaimed that, “What the Lord has said, shall not come to pass.” We must know how this turns out. Pride does not go unpunished. There is no excuse just because we find ourselves in a crowd engaged in the same defiant activity. The circumstances in your life where this occurs are less dramatic than the display in Daniel 3, but the call to take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Christ continues to require the courage that is on display in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The Apostle John made this need for courageous conviction plain in his letter to the church, “We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” Suggestions for prayer Pray for courage to follow Jesus as a witness of His love and truth. Pray for discernment to understand the subtle occasions for compromise in our lives. Pray for those who are being intensely persecuted. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 20 – I did it my way

Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. – Daniel 3:6 Scripture readings: Daniel 3:1-7; Revelation 18:1-8 What did the head of gold from the earlier vision go and do? He built an entire statue of gold! He made it plain that he was rejecting the message and rebelling against it. He is signalling to all who will listen, “Why should I be just the head if I can erect an image that exudes wealth, power and significance from head to toe?” The great image of Nebuchadnezzar’s own making was a billboard declaring his newfound disagreement with the prophecy of Daniel’s God. Had he taken the Word of God seriously, he might have built a statue with a golden head and explained to his people, “Look, there is another king who is coming and we must prepare ourselves for what lies ahead.” Nebuchadnezzar’s gold-plated display of defiance against the LORD symbolized his desire to allow no kingdom to destroy his dynasty. The fact that it occupied the site where the Tower of Babel was once constructed only adds to the irony of what he is attempting here. Today we are still in need of the Lord’s clear warning in Psalm 2 where we read, “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, ‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.’” Today we are to remember that the LORD is in no way threatened by the forces of evil in this world Suggestions for prayer Pray that the LORD would grant you joy in the face of opposition from the world. Thank Him for being patient with you in your weakness. Ask Him to give you a renewed resolve to serve Him without compromise. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 15 – Facing certain death

This man does not deserve the sentence of death, for he has spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God. – Jeremiah 26:16 Scripture readings: Jeremiah 26; Daniel 2:25-30 When Jeremiah brought the word of the LORD to Daniel’s predecessors in Judah before the exile, there were many who spoke against him to denounce his message of the judgment of God against their sins. They sought to have him killed for bringing the truth to God’s covenant people. Astonishingly, Daniel received a better reaction from the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar than Jeremiah received from those who had been given the Law and the Prophets and the covenant signs. Nonetheless, while King Nebuchadnezzar was more receptive to Daniel because of the intensity of his fear of the vision he’d received, he still challenged Daniel by asking, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” Daniel testified that the bankruptcy of those who said, “There is no one who can interpret your dream” was matched by the supremacy of the God in heaven Who reveals mysteries about “what is to be.” This God of heaven continues to send out messengers who have come to us with words of life so that you would sincerely believe and trust in Christ Who was crucified by those who rejected Him, but embraced by those who cherish Him. Therefore, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Suggestions for prayer Pray for a readiness to daily take up your cross as you follow Jesus. Praise God for bringing you His Word today. Ask the Lord to open the hearts of those who refuse to embrace Him as their Saviour. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 14 – He removes kings and sets up kings

He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him. – Daniel 2:22   Scripture readings: Psalm 2; Daniel 2:17-24 Daniel believed that the LORD would deliver him and his friends from the anger of Nebuchadnezzar. We read that he told his friends to join him in seeking, “mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed.” He prayed to the true God and the LORD answered! He received the truth about deep and hidden things. As Daniel says in verse 23, the simplest summary of the vision of Nebuchadnezzar, is that the LORD removes kings and sets up kings. Our God is so great that we can not only bring our needs to Him, but we can also know that even the things we are not even aware of in this world, are all known to Him. So when we confront the hardest burdens, we can follow in the path of the faithful who cry out to the LORD above Who hears our petitions and answers our requests. When our prayers are answered, we do well to see the faith-filled response of Daniel in the psalm he composes as an act of worship in verses 20-23. The moment Daniel receives the answer, his first thought isn’t to rush out to Nebuchadnezzar, but instead, his first impulse is to worship the LORD of Lords. Our God is always delighted to hear our response of thanksgiving and joy after He grants us our requests, chiefly in Christ. The prayer of gratitude is the greatest expression of praise to the LORD! Suggestions for prayer Give thanks to the LORD for His revelation to you of the Way, the Truth, and the Life! Pray that you would further understand His Will in changing and challenging times in your life. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 13 – To His feet your tribute bring

May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! – Psalm 72:11 Scripture readings: Psalm 72:11-19; Daniel 2:17-23 Today is Ascension Day as we remember and celebrate the triumphal ascension into heaven of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:1-12). He is seated at the Father’s right hand and He is continuing to minister to us as our intercessor, friend, and deliverer! The joy we have, in this time of earthly absence, arises from the knowledge of what wondrous things the LORD has done for us! Jesus, the Lamb of God, has made full atonement for our sins and is now seated as our High Priest Who has offered the sacrifice for sins, so that He might secure a righteous peace for His Church to enjoy through all eternity. Ascension Day also served as a beginning of the final part of Jesus’ heavenly ministry of bringing all things to their fullest end. His Word goes out to the ends of the earth in these last days. What is the consequence of His ascension? The declaration of Psalm 2:10 is clear: “O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of this earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” Daniel’s response of thanksgiving to God in verses 20-23 echoes the Psalmist’s declaration of coming judgment against the kings by means of the stone described in the vision Nebuchadnezzar received. Praise, my soul, the King of heaven, to His feet your tribute bring! Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, who, like me, His praise should sing? Praise the everlasting King! Suggestions for prayer Praise our Ascended Saviour Who ever lives and makes intercession for us! Pray for patience and readiness of heart as we await His Second Coming! Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

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