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Daily devotional

January 25 – God is perfect

Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. - Matthew 5:48 Scripture reading: Matthew 5:37-48 Jesus never shied away from confronting us with God's perfect moral standard. In this text, He requires perfection. The reason for this, according to Jesus, is because your Father in heaven is perfect! Think about it, God is complete, faultless and totally sufficient in every aspect of Himself; His Being is perfect. His ways, words, laws, and desires are perfect. His knowledge and wisdom are perfect. He is impeccable! One of the glorious ways in which God's perfection is shown is that He patiently allows rebellious sinners to enjoy His generosity. He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and the unjust. Even when they try to fault God, their attempts tragically show they are blinded to the glory of God's perfection. That's because they are blinded to the glory of God's Son and to their own imperfections. God's powerful remedy is opening our eyes to the glory of Christ, the only Mediator our High Priest. Hebrews states about Him, "For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; (…)  for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself." (Hebrews 7:26-28). Christ offered Himself up for rebels, such as we are by nature. Will we by the power of His Spirit, mirror His generosity towards rebellious and blind sinners around us? Suggestions for prayer Pray that you and I may reflect more of God's perfect character through the power of His Holy Spirit living in us.

Rev. Pieter van der Hoek has been serving the Heritage Reformed Church of Burgessville since 2017. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional.

Daily devotional

January 20 – God is merciful

Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy. – Micah 7:18 Scripture reading: Micah 7:14-20 Micah the prophet, was called to expose the sins of the people. As a good lawyer, Micah thoroughly prosecuted the people of God on the Lord's behalf. He confronted their despicable sins: fraud, hypocrisy, greed, injustice, extortion and lying. But as is often the case, God's people did not want to budge. He tells them judgment will come if they persist! Yet, Micah does not leave God's people hopeless. In the last verses of his prophecy, he focuses their attention on God. He reminds the people by asking a rhetorical question, "Who is a God like You?!" If you come and confess your sin and humble yourselves before the Lord, know there is no God like ours! He pardons iniquity. He passes over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage. To those who truly know Him through faith and ongoing repentance, He does not retain His anger forever! He forgives like no one and nothing else! Completely and comprehensively! Why? Because our God delights in mercy! He is full of steadfast love and faithfulness. He keeps His side of the covenant, even when His people break their side of the covenant, by their wicked sins! They may return, trusting that He is not stingy, nor reluctant but happy, delighting to forgive their sins. Why? Because of what Jesus did on the cross. It pleased God to bruise Him, and delight in mercy towards repentant sinners. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that He, for Christ's sake, delights in mercy. And let's be humbly grateful that God found pleasure in bruising His precious Son, in order to show us how expensive mercy really is to Him. Rev. Pieter van der Hoek has been serving the Heritage Reformed Church of Burgessville since 2017. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

January 19 – God is patient

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. - 2 Peter 3:9 Scripture reading: 2 Peter 3:3-13 God is patient! The fact that this world still exists in spite of all the wickedness that takes place, shows God's patience. Our smallest sin is infinitely despicable in God's eyes. This shows God's patience because our sins are committed against the infinitely high and holy Lord God. The fact that the Lord forgives His children even when at times we still fall into sin, failing to honour Him, shows God is patient. This world will one day end with judgement. Glory is awaiting all who trust the Lord Jesus Christ. A world on which righteousness dwells is promised to all who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity. Mockers, on the one hand, say, "Why didn't God fulfil His promise yet." Believers, on the other hand, stand in awe, "How can God tolerate so much sin?" Peter reminds us that the Lord is not slow to fulfil His promises. Peter writes, But the Lord is patient! He is not willing that any should perish. God is still bringing in the lost. He will continue to bring sinners to gracious repentance until the end, because He is patient! He assures us that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked! If you think God is ready to give up on you, remember His patience! If you think you are beyond hope and your sin too great, remember God shows His patience so that you come to Him in repentance. Remember, God is slow to anger! Suggestions for prayer Pray for awe for such patience with yourself and our dark world. Pray that we would not lose sight of God's amazing patience, but that many would come to repentance. Rev. Pieter van der Hoek has been serving the Heritage Reformed Church of Burgessville since 2017. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

January 18 – God is good

So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God." - Luke 18:19 Scripture reading: Luke 18:18-30 Jesus challenged the rich young ruler because it looked as if this man wanted to be commended by Him. If I call Him good Teacher, he thought, Jesus might call me good too. This man knew nothing about Jesus' perfections because he was puffed up about his own. He felt he was doing surprisingly well. This happens when we are blind to the spiritual nature and inflexible standard of God's law. The law is good, because God is good. And the law reflects God's character. "Everything that can be genuinely defined as good, is in some way, a reflection of God's character" Brad Hambrick wrote. When Jesus asks, "Why do you call me good?" He is not asserting that He is not good, but is testing to see if this man has any idea how good He really is and whether this man understands Who He really is. Jesus says, "No one is good but One, that is God!" We all know Jesus is God and therefore He is good! He alone kept the law perfectly. When Jesus confronts the rich young ruler with real goodness, gaining true riches in heaven instead of treasures on earth, this man went away sorrowful because he did not understand his covetous heart. Would you have stayed and followed Jesus? Or does all the goodness of this world eclipse the true goodness of God in your life? If so then you are no different from the rich young ruler. Oh, that you would have eyes to see God's goodness today! Suggestions for prayer Pray that God's goodness in our lives would not be eclipsed in any way by our inflated view of our own goodness. Instead pray that we would know God's goodness, through Christ our perfect law keeper. Rev. Pieter van der Hoek has been serving the Heritage Reformed Church of Burgessville since 2017. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

January 17 – God is love

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. - 1 John 4:16 Scripture reading: 1 John 4:7-21 Many define love as a warm and fuzzy feeling. Is that true about God's love? No, God's love is about an unwavering commitment He has in His own blessed being, from eternity. God's love is visible in everything He does! Love starts in Himself; The Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father, in love through the Holy Spirit. God's sheer love motivated Him to create. His overflowing love poured into all of creation. It's God's love that motivated Him to make such a glorious world, such perfect creatures, able to enjoy and share His love. Tragedy struck when God's love was rejected in our Fall. Think about God's just wrath over sin; it's actually our rejection of His eternal, overflowing and fully satisfying love. Yet, sin did not stop God from loving sinners, verse 10 says, "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins." Or, as in Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Jesus' death, bloody sacrifice, perfect obedience to His Father's will, are all manifestations of God's love to loveless sinners. God's love is still first, "We love Him because He first loved us" (vs. 19). And His love in us cannot but be poured into other lives, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (vs. 11). Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will relish more in God's love shown in creation and Christ and that His unfathomable love might motivate you in everything you do today. Rev. Pieter van der Hoek has been serving the Heritage Reformed Church of Burgessville since 2017. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

January 12 – God is all-knowing

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! - Psalm 139:17 Scripture reading: Psalm 139:11-24 We finite creatures never stop learning, unless we are too proud to learn anything new. But think about it, "There is no limit to what God knows, and there is nothing He needs to learn!" The Psalmist shows us that dark and light do not make a difference to God. Nothing escapes His knowledge. For Him, the night shines as the day! He does not only know the universe in its endless complexity, the greatest marvel is that He knows us! When you and I were created and formed, nothing escaped His attention. He knew us in the most perfect way. When His Almighty power shaped our unformed substance, there was nothing that escaped His attention. Indeed, How great is the sum of God's thoughts! God's knowledge of us, should make us honest and repentant before God, like the Psalmist, who says, "Search me, O God, and know my heart… and see if there is any wicked way in me, lead me in the way everlasting." Let's never forget, He knows what you do at school, at your job, whether doors are open or closed, whether you are behind your screen, or behind another machine. He even knows your and my thoughts, anxieties and sins. He knows us, sees us, even when we might think nobody sees us. This is only comforting to us when we know and trust Christ's saving power and Christ's knowledge of us. Then we say, "How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!" Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His thoughts toward you, that He knows you. Pray you may learn more of His thoughts toward you in Christ, and that His thoughts might become ever more marvelous and precious to you. Rev. Pieter van der Hoek has been serving the Heritage Reformed Church of Burgessville since 2017. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

January 11 – God is every-where present

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? – Psalm 139:7 Scripture reading: Psalm 139:1-10 The Puritan Stephen Charnock, wrote, "Innumerable worlds cannot be a sufficient place to contain God; He can only be a sufficient place to Himself." That's the reality of God being everywhere present! He is in constant touch with the universe He created. He is present on our planet, in the sky, in space, in heaven and in hell. But still, God is greater; He is beyond everything created. We realize that God is not present everywhere in the same way. In hell, for instance, He is present with His judging power and in creation with His upholding power. Yet, there is nothing better than His special and favourable presence with us when His hand leads us and His powerful right-hand holds us. In the Old Testament, God was present through His Shekinah glory cloud filling the tabernacle. But in the New Testament, that glory cloud hovered over His Son, as He came to be graciously and truthfully present with us when He pitched His tabernacle among us (John 1:14). After Pentecost, His glory cloud still fills His temple, God's people. Through His Spirit, we can daily enjoy His favourable presence. God's Spiritual presence is so rich. He visits us when we are lonely, showing us our comforts in Christ. How we need a greater sense of His presence! Not just for our comfort, but especially in moments of temptation, so that we would say with Joseph, "How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" Suggestions for prayer Thank God for Jesus, Who is God with us! Pray that you may be reminded of and comforted more by the presence of God's Holy Spirit and that His presence would guard you against sin and temptation, today. Rev. Pieter van der Hoek has been serving the Heritage Reformed Church of Burgessville since 2017. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

January 10 – God is sovereign

For the Lord is our Judge, The Lord is our Lawgiver, The Lord is our King; He will save us. - Isaiah 33:22   Scripture reading: Isaiah 33:13-24 Our government has a division of powers. Generally, a person is not a judge, lawmaker and prime minister or president all at once. Sinners who have all these three tasks, generally end up dictators. Not so with God! When we say God is sovereign, we mean He has all authority. He is our righteous Judge, Who decides, based on His tailor-made laws, how everything should be ordered in His Kingdom, for His glory and for our good. None can resist His will; none can do anything He has not ordained. Our problem, since our Fall in Paradise, is that we are law-breakers by trade; we have rebelled against His rule in our lives and He must judge us for our sins! Our Lord as Judge, Lawgiver and King will never make mistakes. He will be perfectly righteous and just. Abraham was certain, when he said, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25). The short answer is, "He will!" Yet, our King, Lawgiver and Judge is also perfectly merciful! Our text shows He will save us! Salvation is through Christ, Who had God's law perfectly written on His heart. He is able to save lawbreakers! Jesus Himself, Who has all authority in heaven and earth, died on the cross and rose again and can therefore pardon rebels like us. Jesus will judge! Because He was treated as the criminal and traded places with Barabases (cf. Luke 23:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21), He liberates us through His glorious Kingship! Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His sovereign justice and mercy! Thank God for Christ and the Gospel. Pray that you will enter His glorious Kingdom by faith and that He will write His law upon your heart today (Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 10:16), ruling you by His Holy Spirit, until you see Jesus as your Savior and Judge. Rev. Pieter van der Hoek has been serving the Heritage Reformed Church of Burgessville since 2017. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

January 9 – God is all-powerful

Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing. – Isaiah 40:26 Scripture reading: Isaiah 40:25-31 Just consider for a moment, God created 400 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy alone. And as far as we know, there are probably 125 billion galaxies in the universe. In this text, we are invited to look up and consider, not just the incredible number of stars, but especially the Creator Who counts each one of them, and more astonishingly has names for each of them! (cf. Psalm 147:4). Now, the creation of stars shows God's incredible power! But let's not forget that they are just a fragment of God's power on display in creation. He also created everything else, from the tiniest molecule to the greatest mountain. He is All-powerful! Are we able to measure the waters of this world in the hollow of our hand? Are we able to weigh the mountains in a balance? (Isaiah 40:12). God is! He didn't grow weary or faint when He created everything. Nothing can ever wear out His strength! Let us be astonished about His All-mighty power! The truth is, nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). That doesn't mean that He will do everything we want. We know He does everything for His glory and our good. Still, it does mean that He can, if He so desires, do everything we ask for. The fact that you and I feel weak or weary doesn't hinder Him in the least! He is able to renew our strength. Let's wait upon Him in prayer (vs. 29-31 cf. Ephesians 3:20). Suggestions for prayer Let's keep in mind that when we pray to God, that nothing is too hard, too complicated or too strong for Him. But at the same time let us submit to His powerful will for our lives. He does all things for His glory and our good! Rev. Pieter van der Hoek has been serving the Heritage Reformed Church of Burgessville since 2017. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

January 4 – God is triune

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen. – 2 Corinthians 13:14 Scripture reading: Matthew 3:13-17 The fact that God is Triune, is strictly speaking not an attribute. However, we cannot know God properly when we don't understand that God is Three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet truly One God. Our minds again are stretched when we think about God as Three and yet One. We often distinguish His blessed Persons, for instance, when we say that the Father chose His people from eternity, the Son came and redeemed sinners like us by living, dying and rising from the dead, and that the Holy Spirit comes and lives in us, changing and transforming us. And yet, these three Persons are One God! Salvation is of the One, Only True and Triune God! When we think about and pray to, or meditate about God, it is easier to do so One Person at a time. But an important question to ponder is, "How should we understand God's Tri-unity?" Jonathan Edwards, a great Puritan theologian, probably understood this best. This is what he believed about the Trinity: God the Father is God in an absolute manner, while the Son is generated by God's self-understanding or idea about Himself, and the Holy Spirit is His infinite love that freely flows to Himself. How glorious God is! He knows Himself perfectly in His Son, and He loves Himself perfectly in the Holy Spirit! And this is the God Who has been pleased to love and know us through His Son, in the powerful love of the Holy Spirit! Suggestions for prayer Praise God for being Triune, relational in Himself, knowing and loving Himself. Pray that you may know Him better and love Him more, as your loving Father, blessed Savior, in the satisfying fellowship of His Holy Spirit. Rev. Pieter van der Hoek has been serving the Heritage Reformed Church of Burgessville since 2017. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

January 3 – God is Spirit

God is Spirit: and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. - John 4:24 Scripture reading: John 4:15-26 We all have both a body and a spirit. There is something invisible in each one of us. We see that most strikingly when a loved one dies. The body is still there, but the spirit is not. How tragic and devastating is the result of sin. So, death, among other things, teaches us for a fact that we all have a spirit. In our text, God says that He Himself is Spirit. He is pure Spirit. He doesn't have a body. Yet, He shows Himself to us. How is that possible? Through His Word, we read about glorious appearances to both sinners and saints. When still in Paradise, God's Spirit spoke directly to Adam's spirit. This glorious, intimate and spiritual connection was ruined by our Fall into sin. As a result, by nature, we are all spiritually like a dead, lifeless body. But God came to restore our lost relationship! How? At Christmas, God, Who is eternal and a pure Spirit, took upon Himself a body, taking the place of guilty and spiritually dead sinners, ultimately by experiencing forsakenness of God. That's how we can have an intimate relationship with God again. Now, He speaks to us through His Word, by His Spirit and we pray to Him again. But most amazing is that, in salvation, our glorious God dwells with His Spirit in every believer! That's the only reason why you and I can worship Him, in spirit and truth. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for being a Spirit, who through Christ and His Holy Spirit is able to communicate to our spirit. Pray that the Lord will nourish your spiritual relationship with Him today. Rev. Pieter van der Hoek has been serving the Heritage Reformed Church of Burgessville since 2017. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

January 2 – God is simple

And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation." - Exodus 34:6-7 Scripture reading: Exodus 33:17-23 & 34:5-7 Perhaps you have never heard about the fact that God is simple. However, in order to know God, it is important to understand what this means. It doesn't mean that God is unintelligent or foolish, of course, nor does it mean that it is easy to understand God. So, when we say that God is simple, we mean that He is not the compound of all His attributes. In our text, God is not partly merciful, partly gracious, partly longsuffering, partly good and that all these different attributes partly make up God. God is not merely good, instead, He is goodness Himself. He defines goodness, grace and mercy by His perfect and undivided Being! He is entirely loving, entirely merciful, entirely just, and so forth. Therefore, we can legitimately say that His goodness is His love, His love is His mercy, His grace is His justice and His love is His holy jealousy. God's grace and mercy in forgiving our iniquity are not in opposition to, or of lesser importance than the fact that He visits sinners and does not clear their guilt when they continue in sin. Knowing this will minister either comfort or conviction to our soul, depending on our relationship with God. It's difficult to wrap our minds around this concept. This is His glory! His justice, righteousness and holiness are in no way opposites to His mercy, grace and love! God is one simple or united, perfect Being, full of blessedness! Suggestions for prayer Worship the Lord for His undivided Being and pray for an undivided heart to serve Him. Rev. Pieter van der Hoek has been serving the Heritage Reformed Church of Burgessville since 2017. 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 January

What a blessing it is to be able to begin another year together! For many of us, new beginnings can be unsettling. We don't know what this year will bring. We might have a sense of anticipation, or perhaps as we think ahead or look around, we might have a sense of foreboding. How we need, therefore, to turn our gaze upward to God! As Jeremiah 9:23-24 shows, our natural inclination is to find security and stability in our own wisdom, might or riches! That wouldn't be a good beginning of the New Year! When we trust in these things, our sense of foreboding is not surprising. These things are a rather shaky foundation for a New Year. What then do we need? The answer is not overly complicated. It is this: we need to know our God! In the same chapter, Jeremiah answers that question for us when he says, "But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD." When you and I know our God, we have a solid beginning for the New Year. So for this first month, we would like to behold our God! That is, we will consider His glorious attributes and Who He is. This month's theme is taken from the very first words of the Bible: "In the beginning God…" Only when God is first in our lives, we will have a good beginning of 2021. January 1 – In the beginning, God In the beginning God… - Genesis 1:1a Scripture reading: Genesis 1:1-2 & Psalm 90:1-2 Can you think about nothing? Completely nothing? That's hard, isn't it? To think about eternity, when there was no time, there were no clouds, no water, no plants, no animals, no planet and no people. But as our text shows, in the beginning, there was nothing except for God! He has always been there. He has no beginning and no end. Before there was anything, there was nothing else but God. But even that is more than we can wrap our minds around. Who is God? We cannot see Him or touch Him. And yet He is there! He's always been there. When we begin a New Year, it is very important to know that God was there before anything else was.  He has been there from eternity. Everything that we see around us and that happens to us comes from God's eternal mind. Apart from Him, we cannot even lift a finger. Apart from Him, we cannot go into a New Year. Apart from Him, we would have reason to be full of fear about what could happen to us in 2021. But Jesus tells us that not a hair can fall from our head without the will of our heavenly Father. Paul shows the Athenians that in Him we move and live and have our being. Because God is, therefore we are! Therefore, remember what will happen to us is determined in God's eternal mind from eternity. Nothing in life is happenstance, because God is! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that God's Word is teaching us that nothing this coming year will happen outside His control. Pray that the knowledge of God would more deeply influence what we do and think. Rev. Pieter van der Hoek has been serving the Heritage Reformed Church of Burgessville since 2017. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

December 27 – Christmas decoration

For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. – Isaiah 53:2 Scripture reading: Isaiah 53 Many homes and churches are decorated at Christmas with beautiful plants. Poinsettias are pretty and popular. Christmas trees fill the air with fragrance. Are such decorative plants mentioned in the Bible? You know that the answer is “no.” The prophet Isaiah, however, does mention a plant in connection with the coming Messiah, The plant is not named. It is only described in our text as a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground. Through the words He gave to the prophet, God is teaching us that the birth of His Son was the start of the struggle of His ministry, the way a young plant struggles in dry ground. The beauty of Jesus Christ in His person and ministry was not outward. His was an inward beauty of soul, a majesty of the spirit. By earthly standards there was nothing to attract people to the Lord Jesus. Two days ago we celebrated Christmas. Who is Christ to you? What attracts you to Him? The glitter of Christmas decorations and majestic music bring some to a once-a-year service, but now that is over. For Christians, however, the true and lasting “decoration” at Christmas, spiritually speaking, is a struggling young plant, a root out of dry ground. It represents the suffering of the Lord, His humility, His willingness to offer Himself as our sacrifice. Jesus has come! Make sure that above all else you desire Him. May He alone be the focus of your heart and soul at worship this Lord's Day. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to work in the hearts of those who attended a Christmas service that they may respond to the Gospel. Give thanks for churches that focus on Christ and not on decorations. Be a living member of such a church. Rev. Gregg V. Martin has pastored a total of five congregations in three Canadian provinces since he was ordained in 1977, and also served for more than seven years in Latin America as a missionary. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

December 26 – Jesus, our Emmanuel

... and they shall call his name Emmanuel (which means, God with us). – Matthew 1:23b Scripture reading: Matthew 1:18-25 When babies are born they need to be given a name. Some parents choose a family name, a Bible name, or just some name they happen to like. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, it was different. Joseph already knew the name the Child was to receive. That name was “Jesus,” which means saviour. Yet, this holy Child received another name too, Emmanuel, according to the prophecy that God had given to Isaiah centuries before. It is a name which means “God with us.” Yesterday, we celebrated the birth of our Emmanuel. He entered this world as God come down to us. The Saviour joined himself to His creatures, who needed Him. This is the miracle we celebrate at Christmas. With joy, we acknowledge that we have a divine Saviour Who knows us and sympathizes with us because He shared life with us. He shared fully in our human existence. All this is true not just for the years long ago when Christ walked this earth. It is true today. The fact has not changed. Our Lord and Saviour is “God with us.” He is with us, with you and me, to forgive us, to encourage us, to listen to our prayers, to care for us, and to comfort us. The Gospel tells us that the baby born in Bethlehem, the son of Mary and the Son of God, is God with us. He came to bless us and save us. May that be for you the lasting message of Christmas, a treasure in your heart. Suggestions for prayer Make it your prayer that you and those around you will know by faith the great, lasting comfort we have in believing that Jesus is our Emmanuel. Pray that others will come to know Him too. Rev. Gregg V. Martin has pastored a total of five congregations in three Canadian provinces since he was ordained in 1977, and also served for more than seven years in Latin America as a missionary. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

December 25 – Joyful at Christmas

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” – Luke 2:10 Scripture reading: Luke 2:1-14 On Christmas Day our hearts should be ready to receive a full, overflowing experience of JOY. That was the angels' message. God sent His Son to save His people. What could be more joyful news than that? May this news of hope, of God's plan of salvation, bring joy to your heart today and in all the days to come! It is news for all the people. You can share that joy. Whether you are young or old, rich or poor, all those who come to the Lord in humble faith are welcome to share this joy, because according to the plan of God, the message of salvation in Jesus Christ has gone out and is going out to all the peoples of the world. Humbly respond to the Spirit's call to faith and you also will share in the blessed joy which fills the hearts of God's people today. The angels' message declares, "Fear not!" In a world filled with perils, terrorist violence, disease, pain and death, how is it possible to live without fear? We Christians can live with joy in our hearts, with confidence in God's care because we have heard and believed the Good News. True, lasting joy comes, not with a pile of presents, not with decorations, not with big dinners, but the real joy of Christmas was revealed by the angels, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Let the good news of the Saviour's birth fill your heart with lasting joy. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the glad tidings of Christmas will fill your heart with joy. Ask the Lord to help you share that joy with others around you. Pray for the cause of missions, so that the message of salvation will go out to all the peoples. Rev. Gregg V. Martin has pastored a total of five congregations in three Canadian provinces since he was ordained in 1977, and also served for more than seven years in Latin America as a missionary. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

December 24 – The Christmas sun

But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. – Malachi 4:2 Scripture reading: Malachi 4 Spiritually, the human race is in darkness. Sin has darkened human understanding and, by nature, people do not recognize God or respect His law. Yet, God is gracious and merciful. On the first Christmas, when the Virgin Mary brought forth her Son, the prophecy of Malachi 4:2 was fulfilled. The dark night of sin was pierced by shining rays of heavenly light. Jesus, the Sun of righteousness was born. His divine light dispels the ugly darkness of sin. Just as exposure to sunshine is needed for our physical health, so we need the Sun of righteousness to shine upon us for our spiritual health, even as the prophet declared that the Messiah shall rise with healing in its wings. By His birth, ministry, death and resurrection, Jesus heals the souls of His people. He gives light and life. May your soul feel that healing power! However, the joyous sunshine of Christ's presence is only received by those who fear my name. As you prepare for Christmas celebrations of tomorrow, are you among that number? Is your heart filled with reverence for God and gratitude for all He has done? It is only those who kneel before the Lord in faith, who will feel the warmth of the Sun of righteousness. May Jesus, that Sun, dispel the darkness of your sin and heal the brokenness of your heart and life, so that Christmas Day will be bright with the Light of the World, Jesus, the Sun shining upon your soul and filling your life with His great light. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to help you see your need of light in the darkness of this sinful world. Pray for wisdom to seek the light of the Sun of righteousness. Rev. Gregg V. Martin has pastored a total of five congregations in three Canadian provinces since he was ordained in 1977, and also served for more than seven years in Latin America as a missionary. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

December 19 – Christ’s suffering

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin. – I Peter 4:1 Scripture reading: I Peter 4:1-11 For most people, Christmas is a happy time of year. Yes, there are those who are lonely, struggling or sad, but for the majority it would seem to be a festive, joyful season. Secular people are happy with their parties and presents. Christians find joy in the Gospel message of peace on earth; good will towards men (Luke 2:14). Today let us give a thought for the Lord Jesus Himself. He was born to be the Lord's suffering servant. His task was to carry our sin all the way to the cross, where He died in agony, the righteous for the unrighteous. The Apostle Peter calls this to our attention in our text, where his inspired words declare, "Christ suffered in the flesh." The holy Son of God took on human flesh in order to suffer for us in the flesh. Now the Apostle calls upon you to live as a Christian, as one who by faith has ceased from the condemnation of sin, by sharing the same way of thinking. We are to live a sacrificial life for Christ, Who suffered so to redeem us. Let us come to Christ, who suffered as the Lamb of God and let us have in our hearts the desire and intention to follow Him in a life of sacrifice, so that we can sing with the hymn writer Charlotte Elliot: Just as I am: poor, wretched, blind; Sight, riches, healing of the mind Yea all I need, in Thee to find O Lamb of God, I come, I come. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to reveal to you more and more the ways in which you can, in thankfulness, offer to Him your whole self as a sacrifice of praise. Offer a prayer of gratitude to the Saviour, Who suffered so to save you. Rev. Gregg V. Martin has pastored a total of five congregations in three Canadian provinces since he was ordained in 1977, and also served for more than seven years in Latin America as a missionary. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

December 18 – Christ, our King

...there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom is one that shall not be destroyed. – Daniel 7:13-14 Scripture reading: Daniel 7:1-14 The child, so humbly born in Bethlehem, is our king! The wise men recognized this and Herod feared this. Christians rejoice in this. Though this world is in rebellion against Christ and the powers of this world rage against the Lord, His kingdom and His people, nevertheless, in fulfillment of this prophecy given to Daniel, the Lord Jesus, having accomplished His ministry, now reigns in heaven. He rules His church and the day shall come when every knee will bow to Him in heaven and on earth. For God's Old Testament people, in Babylonian exile, the future kingdom of the Son of Man was a shining beacon giving hope to Daniel and all those who looked ahead to the coming of the Messiah. By faith, Daniel's hope was in his kingly Saviour. In these often violent and difficult days in which we live, may our hope be in Christ, our King, Who sits on heaven's throne at the right hand of God the Father. He will return, as He promised, and bring in the glorious fullness of His Kingdom. Jesus was born to be our King. To Him belong dominion, glory and an eternal kingdom. What joy this truth brings to our hearts! When by God's election we are called to be servants of the King, we gain a wonderful confidence. Jesus rules. Jesus leads. May our hearts be filled with hope. Trust the prophetic promise. The child who came into this world in Bethlehem's stall will return with power and glory to usher in His everlasting kingdom! Suggestions for prayer Pray that Jesus be the king of your heart and life. Ask the Lord to show you ways in which even now you can do your part as His servant in building up His kingdom on earth, the church. Rev. Gregg V. Martin has pastored a total of five congregations in three Canadian provinces since he was ordained in 1977, and also served for more than seven years in Latin America as a missionary. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

December 17 – Christ, our priest

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned- every one- to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. – Isaiah 53:5-6 Scripture reading: Isaiah 53 According to the command of God, Old Testament priests offered sacrifices, symbols of the need to atone for sin that so offended the Lord. All fallen humanity has sinned; now something must be given to cleanse us before we appear at the judgment throne of God. A priest, an intercessor, is needed to offer such a sacrifice. Who is that priest? What is the sacrifice that God accepts? The animal sacrifices of Old Testament times, offered up by Aaron and his descendants, could not atone for sin. They were symbols of what was needed. The Christmas account marks the start of God's great work, sending His Son into this world to be our great High Priest, our Intercessor, and the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). God Himself provided the priest and the sacrifice, His beloved Son. If the world around us gives a thought to Jesus at Christmas, it is one of cloying sentimentality. All it sees is a cute baby, as pictured on so many Christmas cards. Christians, however, know that Jesus was born to be our great High Priest. His task was to offer to God the Father the perfect, atoning sacrifice, His body and blood upon the cross. We need no earthly priest like the Israelites of old. We need no further sacrifices, because Jesus paid it all at the cross. God grant us faith to lovingly appreciate the redeeming work of Jesus, since through His sacrifice we are saved. Suggestions for prayer Seek the Lord's pardon with a prayer of confession and of trust in the cleansing power of Jesus' sacrifice. Pray for the conversion of those who think earthly priests can still intercede for them. Rev. Gregg V. Martin has pastored a total of five congregations in three Canadian provinces since he was ordained in 1977, and also served for more than seven years in Latin America as a missionary. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

December 16 – Christ, our prophet

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. – Deuteronomy 18:18 Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 18:15-22 At Christmas, our thoughts naturally turn to the miracle of God's Son, born of the Virgin Mary, an infant lying in a manger. This, however, is but the start of Jesus' earthly ministry. We rightly celebrate His birth, but we must not neglect to meditate upon the whole of His ministry. He was born to be our chief prophet, in fulfillment of the prophecy given in Deuteronomy 18. In His prophetic office, Jesus fulfills the Scripture. God's people need a prophet because we need a message from the Lord.  A prophet's task is to bring God's people the Word of the Lord. That Word is the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. As the Son of Man, Jesus was like us, His brothers, sin excepted. He shared our human experience and anointed by the Spirit, He proclaimed the message of salvation, which is our great need as fallen human beings. The child born in Bethlehem was sent by the Father to preach the good news. No wonder so many in His own day were amazed at the power and authority of His message. Today, our souls are transformed by His powerful Gospel. Be reminded at this season that God sent His only begotten Son to be our chief prophet. His message is for us, you and me, His brothers. It is exactly what we need, the good news of redemption through His birth, death and resurrection. Believe His message! Seek none other. His Word, that Gospel of salvation, stands firm forever. Let us praise God for that. Suggestions for prayer Pray for an increase of faith to believe fully and sincerely the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Pray for wisdom to live out that faith today and every day. Rev. Gregg V. Martin has pastored a total of five congregations in three Canadian provinces since he was ordained in 1977, and also served for more than seven years in Latin America as a missionary. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

December 11 – The Christmas light

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5 Scripture reading: John 1:1-18 How dreary these dark December nights would be without all the glowing Christmas lights! The bright lights are an appropriate symbol at Christmas and the Apostle John calls this to our attention in our text. Jesus is the Light shining in the darkness. Human hearts and this world are dark with sin. Worldly people, deceived by Satan, see everything as grey. They dismiss personal sin as small mistakes and try to ignore its brutal power. Enlightened by Scripture, Christians can see that this world is in utter darkness and human hearts are by nature in complete darkness without Christ. The joy of Christmas is that God sent His Son to shine in the darkness. Though sin, Satan, the world and the evil filling human hearts are deadly strong, the power of the light of Christ is far stronger, and the darkness has not overcome it. Reflect on the spiritual assessment of our text, namely, that the world and our own sin cannot frustrate the work of Christ, our Saviour, sent by God the Father to fill the hearts of His people with the joy of spiritual light showing us the way to salvation. Instructed by God's Word, let us flee the darkness and come to the Light which will never cease to shine. As we see the Christmas lights glow all around us, let us lift up our hearts to the one, true Light, our divine Saviour, whose birth we celebrate. Jesus was born to set us free from darkness, born to give us the light of life! Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to shed the light of His Word, the light of the saving power of His Son upon your path of life. Pray for strength to walk each day in that light. Rev. Gregg V. Martin has pastored a total of five congregations in three Canadian provinces since he was ordained in 1977, and also served for more than seven years in Latin America as a missionary. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

December 10 – Happy Hanukkah

At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. – John 10:22,23 Scripture reading: John 10:22-39 Today, our Jewish neighbours begin their celebration of Hanukkah, also called the Feast of Dedication or Festival of Lights. We read in John 10 that Jesus was in the temple at Hanukkah. This Feast was a yearly reminder to the Jews that after the Greek King Antiochus Epiphanes defiled the temple, the Jews, in 165 BC, were able to recapture Jerusalem and rededicate the temple. To relight the candlestick they needed consecrated oil, but that would take eight days to process. The Jews said that by a miracle the candlestick burned for eight days with only enough oil for one day. That is why light is the symbol of this feast. What has all this to do with us? John was inspired to include the fact that Jesus was in the temple at the Feast of Dedication. This should call to our minds and hearts that God sent His Son, Jesus, Who came to the temple and declared, “I am the Light of the world” (John 8:12). This should remind us of God's faithfulness in providing the light of life in a world made dark by sin. It should remind us to hold fast to God's covenant promises as He fulfills them completely. Through them, we find spiritual strength to confront the darkness of Satan and the world. Through faith in Christ, the Light of the world, we find saving strength. May the perfect light of the Saviour shine upon us forever. Suggestions for prayer Make it your petition that God will prosper the work of Christian missions among the Jewish people. Pray that the Gospel light will shine brightly in your heart and home. Rev. Gregg V. Martin has pastored a total of five congregations in three Canadian provinces since he was ordained in 1977, and also served for more than seven years in Latin America as a missionary. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

December 9 – Christ’s sacrifice

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. – Galatians 4:4,5 Scripture reading: Galatians 3:23-4:7 Christmas marks the occasion when the Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary and took on human flesh. As such, He experienced temptations, physical weakness and pain. His birth is the start of His life of suffering and obedience to the Father's will. The heart of that obedience was that Christ was born to be our sacrifice for sin. Such a sacrifice is essential for us because our sins alienate us from God and His love, and it is needed to satisfy God's righteous justice. In the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son. Because our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to live under God's Law in perfect obedience and because He willingly offered Himself on Calvary's cross, when we come to Him through the Spirit's gift of faith, He forgives our sin. As forgiven sinners, God receives us for the sake of His Son. This is possible because God sent His Son to be our perfect sacrifice. Those who truly celebrate Christmas acknowledge this fact and rejoice in it. While so many around us indulge themselves in a merely sentimental, secular Christmas, for Christians it is different. As one who once was condemned by your breaking of God's Law, prepare your heart for a true celebration of Christmas by knowing you need salvation and every day you need a sacrifice for sin. Prepare for Christmas by depending on Christ alone to satisfy your need and to make you, through Christ's sacrifice, a child of God by a gracious adoption! Suggestions for prayer Pray for a humble heart that acknowledges your spiritual need. Thank God for His marvellous love in sending His Son to meet your needs. Rev. Gregg V. Martin has pastored a total of five congregations in three Canadian provinces since he was ordained in 1977, and also served for more than seven years in Latin America as a missionary. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

December 8 – Never too dark

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. – Isaiah 9:2 Scripture reading: Isaiah 9:1-7 At this time of year in North America days are short and nights are long. Many people brighten the darkness with beautiful light displays. For most, such lights are merely decoration, but Christians know that light is a powerful, Biblical symbol at Christmas. Darkness is a picture of despair; today many walk in spiritual darkness. Isaiah, inspired by God, recognized this spiritual darkness which is the result of sin. Who were the people walking in darkness? Gentile sinners? Yes. These words of prophecy, however, were directed at God's own people, because the people of Judah had placed themselves in darkness due to their rebellion against God. Today, this prophecy speaks to us. We must beware of the darkness that can come upon us if we fail to believe and live in obedience. God would not have His people live in darkness. That is why He sent His Son to be the Light of the world. It is a blessing beyond price that we, who live in a sin-dark world, can come to that Light by the powerful working of the Spirit. The apostle tells us in Ephesians 5:8, "For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light." Those who walk by faith in Christ know the joy of walking in the light. May the light of Christ shine upon you at this season and always. Seek God's gift of spiritual light, so that the saving grace of the Lord will shine upon you! Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to shine the Gospel light upon you and your loved ones by helping you to be faithful in Scripture reading, prayer and worship. Pray that the Lord will provide you with opportunities to share that light. Rev. Gregg V. Martin has pastored a total of five congregations in three Canadian provinces since he was ordained in 1977, and also served for more than seven years in Latin America as a missionary. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

December 3 – Joseph’s obedience

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife. – Matthew 1:24 Scripture reading: Matthew 1:18-25 In our modern celebration of Christmas, Joseph seems to have disappeared. He is in the Gospel story and in many manger scenes, but his place in the blessed event seems overlooked or forgotten. Why? Satan has filled our modern world with the sin of rebellion. When we read the Christmas story, Joseph appears as a man of obedience, the opposite of rebellion. The Lord called Joseph to his part and Joseph obeyed. It seemed that all the forces of the world conspired against Joseph to impel him to disobey the bidding of the Lord's angel. Why should he give up his legal right to divorce Mary? Why should he go through all the emotional turmoil of dealing with this unexpected turn of events? Yet, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. He took Mary home and protected her. He established a family and home into which the Son of God was welcomed. Such an example of wholehearted obedience is not popular in our sinful, rebellious age. Through His Word in Matthew 1, the Lord is calling us to respond as people of faith, who hear the Gospel message and respond with faith, but also with obedience. How do you plan on celebrating Christmas? God calls each of us to be a witness to our own family and to a watching world. Your obedience to the Lord, when others see you actually do what the Lord commands, is a powerful witness. May that witness shine brightly this Christmas season and always! Suggestions for prayer Pray for inner spiritual strength for yourself and your loved ones that your witness will be strong and bright this Christmastide through practical acts of obedience to the Lord's will. Rev. Gregg V. Martin has pastored a total of five congregations in three Canadian provinces since he was ordained in 1977, and also served for more than seven years in Latin America as a missionary. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

December 2 – Preparing the way

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways. – Luke 1:76 Scripture reading: Luke 1:67-80 Big events require preparation and Christmas is no exception. The first Christmas was no afterthought of God. He had His divine preparations. As part of that, God sent the Archangel Gabriel to Zachariah, the priest. In the temple, where Zachariah was performing his priestly duties, Gabriel gave him a message. He and his wife, Elizabeth, were going to have a son, John, whose task would be to prepare the hearts of the people to receive the Messiah. John's message was a call to repentance. The heart that is prepared for Jesus is a repentant heart. None other will do. John's message was gracious, true to his name which means “the Lord is gracious.” He was preparing the people to receive God's gracious gift, His Son, Who would earn forgiveness for His people through His death and establish forgiveness in the power of His resurrection. John did his work. He preached about sin, repentance and forgiveness. The way was prepared for Jesus by His cousin, John the Baptist. Today we are called to prepare a way for the Lord. How? We must be prepared to show those around us, by word and deed, that Christmas is a remembrance of God's great gift of His Son. God also calls us to prepare personally by receiving into our hearts, by faith, the Lord Jesus Christ. Only a person who truly trusts by faith that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour is really prepared to rejoice in the glad celebration of Christmas. May you, by grace through faith, be well prepared. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you and those around you will prepare for your Christmas celebrations with a focus on our need to repent and on the power of Christ Jesus to forgive. Rev. Gregg V. Martin has pastored a total of five congregations in three Canadian provinces since he was ordained in 1977, and also served for more than seven years in Latin America as a missionary. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introduction to December’s devotionals

As one might expect, the focus of our attention in this month of December is the incarnation of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. There is no end to the blessing of reflecting upon the great gift of God the Father, namely, His beloved Son, Whom He gave to us for our salvation. Most of us live in places where, sadly, those around us celebrate a merely secular Christmas. We must confess that all too often we can get caught up in the hectic, almost frantic, pace of such celebrations, which are the sole object of attention for our neighbours, co-workers and friends. How important it is, then, to make sure that on a daily basis our attention is fixed on the true meaning of Christmas, the holy birth of Jesus, our Saviour. It is my hope and intention that by delving into the Scriptures day by day throughout this month of December, we can lift up our hearts heavenward and nourish our souls by reflecting upon the true meaning of Christmas. May this daily devotional, together with personal prayer and public worship, help us to praise and thank God for sending us His Son. Have a blessed Christmas! Rejecting Christmas He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. – John 1:11 Scripture reading: John 1:1-18 The Christmas rush is already in full swing. All around us, people are frantically busy purchasing presents, planning parties and decorating their homes as they prepare to celebrate a secular Christmas. Santa, not Jesus, is the main character for them. Parties, not worship, are their priority. As Christians, we view this with sadness and we might quickly say that such folks are rejecting the true meaning of Christmas. Our Scripture reading speaks of a rejecting of Christmas, but not by the secular multitudes. Our text says, "He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him." As we begin our month of devotions, I urge you to reflect on this. Remember that at the first coming of our Lord, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes and the leadership of God's Old Testament people rejected the Saviour with devastating consequences. The shepherds and the wise men rejoiced in Jesus' birth, but the vast majority of people did not, even though they claimed to be awaiting the Messiah. We, many of us, know the promises of God. We share in the life of the church. What a shame it would be if we rejected the very truth of Christmas by failing to crown the Prince of Peace as Lord of our lives. It can happen. Years ago, at the actual event, Jesus came, and His own people did not receive Him. Today, let us receive Him by faith as He truly is, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Lord and Saviour! Rejoice, for the Messiah has come! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Holy Spirit will work in your heart and the hearts of those around you and that as the Christmas season begins, your focus of attention will be on the gift of God, Jesus, Whom you are to receive humbly by grace through faith. Rev. Gregg V. Martin has pastored a total of five congregations in three Canadian provinces since he was ordained in 1977, and also served for more than seven years in Latin America as a missionary. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 30 – A story that demands a response

He who has ears, let him hear. – Matthew 13:9 Scripture reading: Luke 15:1-3,11-32 Earlier, we noted that Jesus told parables to surface the heart condition of listeners and demand a response. His stories got under people’s skin. They hit close to home… and hearts. How has the Master Storyteller spoken to your heart this month? Has anything gotten under your skin? Has any part of the story hit close to home or your heart? How have you identified with Little Brother or Big Brother? How is Jesus calling you to respond? Maybe you need to confess your sin. Maybe you need to confess that you’re in a pigpen, far from home. Maybe you need to confess that you want your Father’s stuff, not Him. Maybe you need to confess that you do not share His heart for the lost. Maybe you need to confess that you’re so locked in your self-righteousness, resentment, pride and insecurity that you are unable to join the party. Pray, “Father, forgive me.” Believe the gospel. Believe that your True Big Brother took your place to die the death you deserve. He removed your guilt before the Father. Believe that your True Big Brother took your place as the perfect Son, to live the life you should have lived. Your Father credits Christ’s righteous record to you. He receives you as His precious child. Finally, Jesus calls us to share His heart for the lost. He calls us to go out with Him into the messy places of this world, to seek the lost and lead them home. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the ways He has spoken to your heart in Luke 15. Ask Him for grace to respond to what He has said. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 25 – A cliff-hanger

“It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” – Luke 15:32 Scripture reading: Luke 15:31-32; Jonah 4:1-11 The father has said to Big Brother, “My son, I love you and want you at the party. I don’t want you to miss out on this celebration of amazing grace. The lavish grace I’ve poured out on Little Brother is for you too. Will you receive it?” “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad,” his father says, “for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:32). Does your heart rejoice at the miracle of amazing grace?  Do you love to see the spiritually dead come to life? Does it thrill you when the lost are found? Does it, even when it means sharing a pew with people who don’t know how to behave in church? Does it, even when it makes church life complicated and messy? This story is a cliff-hanger. It ends with Little Brother inside and Big Brother outside. It ends with one who had turned from God and the church, now filled with the joy of the Lord in worship. It ends with the established church member far from his Father, trapped in self-righteousness, resentment, pride and insecurity. The story ends with Big Brother at a fork in the road. It ends with Jesus’ listeners at the same fork in the road. Like the prophet Jonah, they must decide, “Will we join the party? Will we embrace the purpose for which our Father redeemed us – partnership in His mission to rescue the lost?” Will you? Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His amazing grace. Ask Him to help you join the party and embrace your purpose in His family. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 24 – The Gospel for big brother(s)

And he said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” – Luke 15:31 Scripture reading: Luke 15:31-32; Ephesians 1:3-14 The father’s answer reveals His heart for Big Brother too. “Son, you are always with me and all that is mine is yours (Luke 15:31). First, he calls him “Son” even though Big Brother rudely refused to call Him “Father”. This points us right back to the gospel of Christ that big brothers need to internalize. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Big brothers tend to believe and behave like servants rather than sons in the family of God. Whatever their official doctrine, they aim to earn God’s approval and blessings. This leads to pride, insecurity and resentment in our relationship with God and others. We need to remember that, through faith in Christ, we are God’s children! In Christ, our Father not only offers us a covenant relationship. He also lavishes on us His covenant resources. “All that is mine is yours,” our Father says (Luke 15:31b). Big Brother had groused, “These many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends” (Luke 15:29b). But that young goat, and everything else on the estate, was already his, by grace! Augustus M. Toplady summarized it well in How Vast the Benefits Divine. “How vast the benefits divine which we in Christ possess! We are redeemed from sin and shame and called to holiness.” Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the “benefits divine which we in Christ possess.” Ask Him to reassure you of your identity as His child. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 23 – Big brother today

“You never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came… you killed the fattened calf for him.” – Luke 15:29c-30 Scripture reading: Luke 15:28b-30; Jeremiah 17:5-8 Who is Big Brother today? He is the church member who says, “I’ve served and sacrificed, but you haven’t _________.” She is the church member who resents a little brother’s joy in the Lord. He is the church member who looks down on the person beside him in the pew and says, “Thank God I don’t have his issues!” (Luke 18:9-12). She is the church member who feels resentment slowly replacing her joy as she serves. She feels unloved and unappreciated by God and others. She needs to step back awhile to find her identity and worth in her Father’s love, not in her performance. He is the critic quick to point out what is wrong with the church but cannot see or celebrate the wonderful things God is doing in people’s lives. She is the member who resents the pastor for spending too much time with little brothers. He rewards himself with pornography because he sacrifices so much to serve God and others. Big Brother is the church that does not share our Father’s heart for little brothers. Do you see yourself above? Our greatest need is to know the gospel of Jesus deeply in our hearts! The more we see ourselves as great sinners, the more humility replaces our pride. The more we see Jesus as our Great Savior, the more confidence replaces our insecurity. The more we rest in our Father’s radical love for us, the greater is our freedom to love, enjoy and serve God and others. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for revealing to you Christ in the gospel. Pray that the gospel might take deep root and bear fruit in your life. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 22 – I want your stuff, not you

“Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.” – Luke 15:29b Scripture reading: Luke 15:28b-30; Philippians 3:3-11 Big Brother is rude to his father. He does not address him as “Father.” Instead, he says, “Look here, you!” His outburst reveals how he really feels about his father in the relationship. “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends” (Luke 15:29). The upshot: “I’ve slaved for you, but what have you ever given me? Instead, you give the good stuff to my messed-up brother who did nothing to deserve it.” Little Brother and Big Brother were the same in one important way. Both wanted their father’s stuff instead of fellowship with him. They just took different paths to get it. Little Brother took the rebellious path. Big Brother took the religious path. Big Brother is the church member who insists “I am justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.” However, his heart theology drives him to earn God’s blessings through external obedience. Then, when God doesn’t meet his expectations or answer his prayers, he says, “Look! All these years I have slaved for you, but you didn’t ________.” How might you fill in that blank? Might this, in part, explain the unwelcome anger and resentment that arise in your heart? Let’s go back to the gospel. “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20b). Suggestions for prayer Thank our Father for His free, unearned gifts of forgiveness, righteousness and adoption. Ask Him for grace to enjoy Him and those gifts. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 17 – Party time!

And they began to celebrate. – Luke 15:24b Scripture reading: Luke 15:22-24; Isaiah 25:6-9 Redemption calls for celebration! The Bible is full of parties, complete with lavish feasts to celebrate the mighty acts of God in redemption. For Israel, God prescribed three annual feasts to celebrate His mighty acts of redemption and restored fellowship with His people (Leviticus 23:4-8,15-22,33-43). The Bible describes the restored kingdom of heaven as a great feast (Isaiah 25:6-9; Matthew 22:1-10; Revelation 19:6-9). Jesus said, “I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). Jesus knew how to party. He once noted, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Matthew 11:19a). Does our gratitude and joy for God’s grace in Christ spill over into celebration? Do we experience the Lord’s Supper as a joy-filled feast in fellowship with our Triune God? Do we share our Father’s heart, a heart that celebrates the salvation of lost people? Our world is a dark, despairing place. People attempt to escape through destructive, degrading parties. We need to befriend them and invite them into our feasting and fun. Let them know we are Christians by the way we party. May our parties point them to Jesus, our Reason we can celebrate. Many find themselves cut off from their former friends and party scene when they come to Christ. We need to include them in our sanctified celebrations. Let’s show them how to party for real. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for one or two blessings you are grateful for today. Ask Him to fill you with contagious joy. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 16 – Restoration

“Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.” – Luke 15:22b-23 Scripture reading: Luke 15:22-24; Revelation 7:9-17 Now we reach the third “but” of our story. Little Brother has just begun his prepared speech (see Luke 15:18b-19). “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” He is about to add, “Treat me as one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:19b), but the father cuts him off. The father’s exuberant, extravagant reaction makes clear that he has no intention of demoting his son to servant. He restores him to sonship. He replaces Little Brother’s rags with an impressive robe. He now stands cleansed and clothed before his father, forgiven and accepted. Our Father cleanses repentant sinners in the blood of Christ. He then clothes us in Christ and His righteousness. This was already our Father’s heart for His lost children in Genesis. “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skin and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). He puts a signet ring on his finger. This gave Little Brother signing authority over the estate. It restored his decision-making power in the family. Little Brother had just blown one-third of that estate. Yet his father trusts him to manage the estate again! Our Father, too, restores us to our kingdom calling in His family. Finally, there is great rejoicing! The mother of all parties erupts in celebration of the lost son’s return. “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). Suggestions for prayer Thank our Father for lavish grace that restores us in His family. Pray that you might experience the liberating power of the gospel in your own life. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 15 – Humility

And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ – Luke 15:21 Scripture reading: Luke 15:21; James 4:8-10 Stunned by his father’s welcome, the son speaks. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” This is humility. To humble yourself is to lower yourself whereas our default is to raise ourselves. We put ourselves on the throne in place of God. We say, “I am Number One. What I want is Number One.” We need to lower ourselves before God. “But I struggle with low self-image, even self-hatred,” you say. “I already feel low.” True enough. May God deliver you! But when we feel badly about ourselves, we tend to be self-absorbed. We focus on ourselves and our happiness over God and others. Even in self-hatred, we are on the throne. We humble ourselves when we lower ourselves from our thrones to bow before God. We humble ourselves when we turn our focus from self to Him. We humble ourselves when we admit that our self-exaltation makes us unworthy of His grace. We humble ourselves when we marvel at His undeserved forgiveness. Then we rejoice in our exalted position as children, loved and valued by our Father. How does humility respond to the gospel? Elizabeth Clephane states it beautifully in Beneath the Cross of Jesus: “And from my smitten heart with tears, two wonders I confess: The wonders of His glorious love and my unworthiness.” “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6). Suggestions for prayer Praise God for “the wonders of His glorious love.” Pray for humility. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 14 – The Father’s heart

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. – Luke 15:20b Scripture reading: Luke 15:20b; Psalm 103:6-14 “But…” This beautiful word introduces the shocking contrast between the father’s heart and what the son deserves. This father never stopped loving his son. Every day, he watched and waited at the gate for his lost son. Then, one day, he spotted him in the distance. At this point, a string of verbs describes the father’s response. Like ocean swells, they roll over us (and the son!) in quick succession. The father “saw-felt-ran-embraced-kissed. How undignified! How embarrassing! No self-respecting father would have behaved this way back then, especially toward such a son. The father’s heart moved his feet. First, he felt compassion. Then he ran to his son. The Greek verb translated “felt compassion” is related to the Greek word for “guts” or “intestines.” Compassion is a deep-in-the-gut mercy that moves one to act. It was this same deep-in-the-gut mercy that moved our Father to pursue us in His Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us, and bring us home. When you return to the Father to confess your sin and seek His forgiveness, how do you think He receives you? Does He roll his eyes, sigh, and reluctantly receive you? No. He welcomes you warmly. He delights in you as His child. Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV) describes the Father’s heart for his children who return home: “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you with his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Suggestions for prayer Thank our Father for the compassion that moved Him to send His Son to pursue us. Ask Him to give you that same heart of compassion. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 9 – The end of the road (Part 1)

And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. – Luke 15:14 Scripture reading: Luke 15:14-16; Psalm 130:1-8 Little Brother blew through his fortune. One day his bank account bottomed out. To make matters worse, famine struck and jobs were scarce. He hit rock bottom. He landed a job with a local farmer, feeding his pigs. Pig farming is an honourable vocation today but Little Brother grew up in a first-century Jewish home under the Law of Moses. Pigs were not kosher; they were unclean. Distinctions between clean and unclean in the Law of Moses had a purpose. They reminded God’s people that He had set them apart from the world and its sinful beliefs and practices. He had set them apart for His redemptive purposes. But Little Brother had plunged into uncleanness long before he was knee deep in manure. Proximity to pigs drove that point home. Worse yet, he didn’t make a living wage. The pigs ate better than he did. Today, too, people hit rock bottom. In desperation, they do things they wouldn’t have dreamed of before: binge drink, settle for abusive relationships, steal from loved ones, or isolate from everyone. They spiral into shame and despair. Maybe this is your story. Corrie ten Boom said that no pit is so deep that God’s love is not deeper still. Jonah ran from God and hit rock bottom – the sea bottom. Yet God heard his cry and rescued him (Jonah 2:1-10). Jesus died for us in the deepest of pits to rescue us from ours! Cry out to Him to forgive and rescue you. He will. Suggestions for prayer Thank Jesus for suffering in the deepest of pits to rescue us from ours. Pray for someone who has hit rock bottom or is about to hit rock bottom. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 8 – Reckless, restless living

Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. – Luke 15:13 Scripture reading: Luke 15:13; Jeremiah 2:11-13 Today is the Lord’s Day. Jesus calls us to set this day aside to rest and be refreshed in fellowship with Him and one another. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We need all the help we can get! Our hearts quickly turn from our true Source of rest to find rest in other things and people. This leaves us restless. We all chase rest apart from God. Little brothers just do so in more obvious, dramatic ways. They usually leave the covenant community to do so. The younger son “took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living” (Luke 15:13b). Who is Little Brother today? She is the estranged sister who did not show up for mom’s funeral. He is the church member behind bars for molesting a child. She is the sister who comes out as gay, then marries her lover. He is the son who moves in with his girlfriend. She is the young woman who has an abortion, then slides into addiction. He is the child who returns from college ‘woke’, but wandering. She is your friend who is bitter toward the church. He is your friend, Mark, who became Mallory. As you read the previous paragraph, what surfaced in your heart? Compassion? Something else? In our Father’s eyes, we are all little brothers who need Jesus, our big brother, to bring us home. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His offer of rest in Christ. Ask the Lord to help you rest, be refreshed and rejoice in His presence today. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 7 – Into a far country

Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. – Luke 15:13 Scripture reading: Luke 15:13; Joel 2:12-14 Little Brother pocketed his cheque and packed his belongings. Then he left home. He went far from his father and brother. He “took a journey into a far country” (Luke 15:13b). Here he was free from the identity and expectations assigned to him by his home, synagogue and community. Here, no one knew him. He could define his own identity and chart his own course. He could escape the voices and visuals that reminded him of his father’s God. Or so he thought. You need not be physically far from home to be spiritually and relationally far from home. Little Brother is anyone who is spiritually and relationally no longer at home with God. Maybe you are Little Brother. No matter how far you are from home, you are not beyond your Father’s reach! With the psalmist, cry out, “From the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint… let me dwell in your tent forever!” (Psalm 61:2a,4a). He will hear and forgive you. He will rescue and receive you. Maybe you have little brothers in your life right now. Do not stop praying for them. Do not stop caring for them. The Holy Spirit can do in their hearts what you cannot! As church communities, we may also need to do some soul-searching before God. Have we thrown up any stumbling-blocks before the little brothers among us? Have we contributed to a distorted image of their Father that has formed in their hearts? Suggestions for prayer Thank God that no matter how far we wander, we are never beyond His reach. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of “little brothers” in your life. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 6 – The Father’s response

And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. – Luke 15:11b-12 Scripture reading: Luke 15:11-12; Romans 1:18-25 Little Brother might as well have slapped his father’s face. “Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me” (Luke 15:12a). In other words, “Father, I want your stuff, not you.” The father could have refused. Instead, “he divided his property between them” (Luke 15:12b). The Father said to his son, “Your will be done. I will hand over to you what you want. I will also hand you over to what you want.” In Romans 1:18-32, Paul describes God’s judgment on those who turn from Him to idols. The passage states that he ‘gave them up’ to their desires. He said, “I will give you what you want… and the misery that follows.” This is a chilling thought. What is the end of the road for those God hands over to their desires? It is hell. In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis puts these words into the mouth of his mentor George MacDonald: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says in the end, ‘Thy will be done’.” What about you? Are you clinging to an idol or sinful pattern you refuse to confess and surrender? Is your heart saying to Him, “I value this more than you.”? God may give you what you want… and the misery that follows. But thank God that He uses our misery to drive us into His arms of mercy! Run to Him. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the ways He gets our attention to turn us from sin. Ask Him to deliver you from any idol or sinful pattern that He reveals to you. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introducing November’s prodigal devotions

Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son is well-loved for good reason. However, the title reveals that our primary focus tends to be on the younger son. We call him prodigal because prodigal means “wastefully or recklessly extravagant” (Dictionary.com) and the younger son blew his money in reckless living. In The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith, Timothy Keller points to the father as the main character. Keller calls the father prodigal for the recklessly extravagant way he lavishes his love and grace on his two sons. Keller’s book has influenced my work here. In this parable, Jesus draws our attention to both sons. He invites us to see ourselves in one or both sons and to see that both were lost and needed the father’s prodigal love to bring them home. Finally, as Keller has noted, the parable points us to the lavish love of our Father and to Jesus as our True Big Brother. We don’t want to lose the forest for the trees. This parable has three main points, built around its three main characters and their conduct. The Younger Son represents those who leave the covenant community for the world but repent and return to their Father. The Older Son represents those who are inside and even lead the covenant community, but whose hearts are far from God and react negatively to the father’s prodigal grace in Christ. The Father represents our Father in heaven Who pours out His prodigal grace and love on lost children to return them home. With parables, we must be careful not to press every detail to find a deeper, spiritual meaning. I hope I haven’t fallen into that trap! My aim is simply that this story and its details prompt us to: consider the dynamics of our own hearts and communities today, bask in the wonder of our Father’s prodigal love for us in Christ, and join our Father and True Older Brother in pursuit of the lost as those who share His heart. Tax collectors and sinners Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. – Luke 15:1 Scripture reading: Luke 15:1-3,11-32 Tax collectors and sinners: Israel’s God had welcomed them into His family as infants. They grew up hearing God’s Word. They knew what God had done for His people but they had walked away from God and the church. They had not darkened the synagogue door in years. They were cut off from God and the covenant community. The tax collectors had Roman government jobs. Their supervisors assigned them a territory and a sum to collect. It was up to them to levy surcharges to cover their costs and supplement their salaries. They abused their power to fleece their people. Others despised them as traitors. The “sinners” had drifted away from God. They immersed themselves in the surrounding Greco-Roman culture. They partied hard, slept around and embraced pagan ideas and customs contrary to God’s Word. They turned from their God, the fountain of living water, and dug for themselves broken cisterns that could hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13). A great chasm separated the tax collectors and sinners from the pulpits where God’s Word was proclaimed. The same is true in our society today. Many, cut off from Christ in our culture, grew up in churches or can trace their lineage to Christian ancestors. Maybe one of them is your son or daughter and you feel it deeply. The gospel proclaimed in pulpits is still the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). Who will cross the chasm to enflesh that gospel among the tax collectors and “sinners”? Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the gift and power of the gospel. Ask God to use you and your church to proclaim and embody that gospel among the lost. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 31 – Faith without works is dead

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? – James 2:14 Scripture reading: James 2:1-17 This month we have thought about the work of Christ in uniting His people in His church for holy worship and service. We are called to live in fellowship with God and each other, showing the love of God to all. Ongoing Reformation requires that we examine all areas of our living, including how we treat others. We must not only get the gospel right, but gospel living right. All too often, believers are guilty of favoritism. We can easily ignore those we disagree with, those of another color or race, those of a different cultural standing or lifestyle. We judge by sight even though we know we cannot see the heart. Thus as Christ loved us and sacrificed Himself for us while we were yet sinners, so we must love and give ourselves for others, even obvious sinners and people who are different. Later in the chapter, James speaks of wishing others well, but never taking any action to resolve their needs. Faith without deeds is useless. Martin Luther, over 500 years ago today, acted for the common man in a way that transformed the church. He taught that salvation was not by works, but faith. He did so knowing that this faith must be proved true by works of love and mercy toward all people. The reformation begun is not yet complete. Today we must devote ourselves to the love of Christ, seeking the ongoing reformation of the church until we reach the full stature of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer Pray for a blessed day of worship and praise. Give thanks for the return of the church to the Scriptures and pray that today also the church might be reformed by Scripture to be the perfect body of Christ on earth. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 30 – Loving the brother

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart… – 1 Peter 1:22 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:17-25 Christians are those who, forgiven of sin and clothed in Christ's righteousness, have fellowship with the Triune God. As God is perfect love, we are called to love one another deeply from the heart. This is because our love for one another is an expression of the common fellowship we have in Christ. The acid test of the love we profess for God is how we relate to others. Sadly this is an area of one of the greatest failings of the Christian church. Not loving each other as Christ loved us (forgiving us and sanctifying us) has produced much sorrow and division in the church and great skepticism in the world about the claims of Christ. Yet the love of Christ in us can bridge great differences of views and customs. Think of this searching statement of John: We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brothers. He who does not love his brothers abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and … no murderer has eternal life abiding in him (John 3:14ff). We cannot excuse a lack of love for sinners since Christ's love was extended to us while we were sinners. We are to love even our enemies! Love that is only for "good" people and not for sinners, does not reflect Christ's love, Who was the Just dying for the unjust to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). We must love deeply, from the heart. Suggestions for prayer The church needs reforming in the area of Christian fellowship and love for others. Pray for increasing love among brothers in the church and for lost sinners. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 29 – Following Jesus brings joy

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. – John 15:11 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:3-9 Many criticize Christians for their lack of joy. This might stem from not keeping the love of Jesus before us so that living for Him seems more like law-keeping rather than enjoyment of Him and His purposes. Joyful Christians are those who keep Jesus as the focus of living, working, playing, worshipping, and loving. They rejoice in Jesus and have no confidence in their own goodness, for they find their life in Jesus, not themselves. Thus they can rejoice always (Phil 4:4). Of course, some people are by nature melancholic. This is a challenge for them. They need to continually be reminded of the beauty of Christ and the hope of salvation in Him. This is an antidote to their discouragement and depression. Admittedly, our joy will always be tempered by sin's presence. Too many yet live for self, for this life. They can get very passionate about such things, but always find an emptiness. We were made to glorify God and enjoy Him. Apart from this, we will remain unfulfilled and lack joy. We must die to ourselves and find our life in Christ. The less we focus on self and the more we focus on Jesus, the more we experience His Joy. This is why Jesus calls us to follow Him, so that our joy may be complete. Focus on His love and saving grace, and you will be able to rejoice more fully, despite all difficulties (See 1 Peter 1:6-8). Suggestions for prayer Pray that you and all God's people may be filled with joy daily. Pray that in everything our focus today may be on Jesus. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 24 – Making disciples starts at home

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4 Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 6:1-9 Parents are the first to instruct and train their children. Fathers, in particular, are singled out as responsible for this. Note the two words. Discipline and instruction imply a focused purpose, not a casual approach. Think of how a coach operates. He instructs players about plays and moves, makes them practice them over and over again (training), encouraging and admonishing them to excel. So parents are to instruct their children and train them. Parents are to teach them about God and Jesus. Tell Bible stories so that they can see God and Jesus as revealed in them. Teach them how God has provided salvation in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and how by His Word and Spirit He transforms them. Explain the sacraments to them. Teach them about the place and necessity of the church. Teach them how the righteousness of Christ is ours. Teach them how the world is passing away and that Christ is making all things new. Give them the vision of the coming of the new heavens and earth. Such things are foundational to holy living and such instruction begins at home, not at church or school. This is to be constant. Deuteronomy 11:19 says You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. At all times! For example, your reaction when you hit your thumb with a hammer speaks volumes about your love for the Lord. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you can be a faithful parent, or that parents you know can be faithful in training and instruction. Pray for children to know and love God. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 23 – The basis for living as disciples

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. – Deuteronomy 6:4-5 Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 6:1-5 The book of Deuteronomy is basically a long sermon reminding God's people how they should live in the kingdom they are being given. Central to kingdom living are two things revealed in the verse above. The first is the basic Jewish Confession, Hear, O Israel, The Lord (Yahweh) our God, the Lord (Yahweh) is one. This confession takes some central truths about God and unites them in a confessional statement. Who is God? What has He done? What is He like? He is the Lord (Yahweh), the God who redeemed His people as He promised. He is the one and only God. He is our God! If we are going to be disciples of Jesus, we need to ask these questions about our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The answer is crucial if we are to keep the second part of the text, namely, to love Him with all our being. This pattern is consistent throughout Scripture. God tells us about Himself as He reveals His great works. He also illustrates His love before He asks us to love. Thus it is important to keep God and His plan of salvation clearly in our minds if we are going to fulfill His command to love Him, to follow Him, to be like Him! So this is the pattern for making disciples. Speak of God, who He is, what He has done and what He is doing. Then call people to believe and, denying themselves, to follow Him in love, keeping His commands. Suggestions for prayer Pray for guidance in reading and studying Scripture, that you may come to know God. Pray for the Spirit to shape you to be like Him, loving God and others as He has loved you. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 22 – Jesus' love of his people

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. – John 15:9 Scripture reading: Ephesians 3:12-21 As the Father loves the Son, so the Son loves His disciples. He loves them with the same quality of love - as deeply and selflessly and purely. In love, Jesus sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24). Jesus promised us when He left that He would be with us until the close of the age. In Hebrews 13:5, He reiterates the promise, I will never leave you or forsake you. So sure is that love that we need not fear anything, but can simply rest in Him. Hebrews 13:6 says: so we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? John 15:13 says, Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. Never doubt His love. Romans 5:10 says if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Jesus reigns in glory and works in everything for the good of those who love Him. Paul prays that we might grasp how vast the love of Christ is, Whose goal is to save us completely. He is coming again for us, to take us home, that we might enjoy eternal fellowship with God. The love of God, which sent Jesus to take away the guilt of our sin, is sufficient to do far more than all we ask or imagine. Rest in His love! Suggestions for prayer Pray that you understand the depth of Christ's love and His desire to save you completely. Pray that you may love others as deeply. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 21 – The Father's love of the son

For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. –  John 5:20 Scripture reading: John 5:19-24 The love of Jesus is rooted in the love of the Father for Him. Love motivated the plan of salvation, a plan that would result in ultimate glory for each other. Love motivated the Father to send the Son into the world. The Father spoke of His love, saying, This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him! (Mark 9:7). God took great pleasure in Jesus. At the time of Jesus' baptism, God said,  You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased (Mark 1:11). This love remained even on the cross, as God poured out His wrath on Jesus. It was love that sent Jesus to the cross to bear the curse. On the cross, Father and Son are united in restoring sinners to eternal fellowship with God. In so loving the world that He gave His Son, the Father did not love His Son any less. It was love at every point that worked salvation: love of sinners, love of the Son, love of perfect justice and righteousness. The love of the Father spoken of here is not one of pity or compassion, but of pure delight. It is the love of heaven where there is no misery to pity or show compassion to. It is the love that enjoys the company of the other. The Father's love through Jesus to His people is also a delight. Jesus showed compassion for us in going to the cross because He delighted in those He would redeem. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may be able to grasp the width, length and depth of Christ's love (see Ephesians 3:17-19). Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....