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Daily devotional

September 24 – God is a consuming fire

There fire will devour you… – Nahum 3:15a Scripture reading: Heb. 12:18-29 What a picture Hebrews gives us. Our God is a consuming fire. Nahum pictures fire as the judgment of God against a wicked city. Hebrews gives a contrasting image; the fire is purifying for all who are in Jesus Christ. Hebrews explains the contrast between the wicked, such as the Ninevites, and the people who believe in the Magnificent God of Blessing. Those who are warned by the Word of God and the prophets of the LORD and still refuse Him will face the sentence their sins deserve. It is the fires and agony of hell. It is not something Christians celebrate. Rather, this terrifying knowledge drives us as believers to worship God and appeal to Him for the salvation of many. Even Moses trembled before the Majestic Glory of God at Mt. Sinai. We too, as believers in Jesus Christ, realize the great perfection and purity of God and tremble before Him with adoration and wonder. Recognize Jesus Christ endured the fires of God’s just anger against sin. Jesus was punished so that the fires of God’s judgement would be fully spent and believers, therefore, walk with God in righteousness. This is a great and glorious reason for praising the God of all ages. He is just. He is pure. He is holy. Therefore, in view of the Excellencies of God, believers acknowledge the inestimable worth of God. Join with believers of all ages and offer acceptable praise with reverence and awe. Suggestions for prayer Pray that unbelievers heed the warning of judgment and find salvation in Jesus Christ and in Him with believers acknowledge the inestimable worth of God.

Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional.

Daily devotional

September 19 – Terrible wrath and greater mercy

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

Daily devotional

September 18 – Wait, there is still more

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

Daily devotional

September 17 – Prove it

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

Daily devotional

September 16 – Now is the day of salvation

Behold, I am against you, declares the LORD of hosts… - Nahum 3:5 Scripture reading: Nahum 3:5-7 and II Chron. 30:1-13 This, humanly speaking, may be one of the darkest and most humiliating degradations that will be inflicted on the Assyrians. All of us wince at the thought of having nakedness exposed. It is too indelicate to even think about. And the humiliation is compounded as those who are so shamefully exposed will also be pelted with filth. You can imagine what the reference “filth” means. Gross! We might be tempted to think that as the people of God, we are so much better than this. II Chronicles is a warning of how the people of God can forget Him. The people scorned and mocked the messengers of the LORD. In Luke 14 Jesus spoke the Parable of the Great Wedding Banquet. The audience was composed of Jewish people. They were confronted with the long-awaited Messiah, their deliverer, and they scorned Him and refused His invitation to be rescued from having their nakedness and their sins exposed. Yet, in Chronicles, it is reported that some faithful people humbled themselves and attended the Passover. In Luke 14 it is reported others, unexpected ones, were invited and tasted the banquet of the King. Revelation 5:9 celebrates the fact that at the Marriage Feast in heaven, Jesus, the Bridegroom, will have people from every tribe, language, nation and people represented. What a mighty God we serve. What graciousness is contained even in His warnings. Now is the day of salvation. Now is the day to repent. Now is the day to celebrate the great salvation given us in Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer Pray for teachers, student assistants, attendance monitors, principals, coworkers and coffee klatch friends that they will hear and receive the invitation of God. Give thanks to God for the rich salvation He has given you in Jesus. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 11 – The Lord’s Day restores clarity

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

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

September 9 – Powerful imagery foreshadowing the New Testament

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

Daily devotional

September 8 – Interesting name for the Lord: the Scatterer

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings… – Psalm 17:8 Scripture reading: Nahum 2:1-2 and Deuteronomy 31:30-32:12 The short lines and quick staccato phrases give a sense of urgency to these words. The prophet is declaring the sure work of the LORD, verse 1. When the Assyrian nation, whose capital is Nineveh, would invade and conquer a nation, they’d take the defeated people and scatter them throughout their empire. This is a terrible and effective way of breaking down resistance. There’d be no critical mass of people in any one area to regroup and rise up against their scatterer. Now, these proud people are going to be humbled. They will experience the very insult and defeats they’d inflicted on their enemies. Hear the taunts: Sure, man the ramparts—put your soldiers in the most strategic places—if you think that will make any difference. You can meticulously prepare for battle and still be thrown to the winds, never again to rise up in rebellion. This becomes a Name for God: the Scatterer. Through endless generations the Scatterer is undefeated. Why is the LORD doing this? He has linked His reputation and His glory to that of Israel. Anyone who touches Israel, touches the apple of God’s eye. You know how sensitive your eye is. Even the strongest man will crumble when something touches the pupil, the apple of the eye. The LORD will react, protecting His dearest people. Dear to Him for He has redeemed Israel at the cost of His own dear Son. Dear to Him because they are helpless to bring about their own salvation. They need their Redeemer, their Warrior-King. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that He considers His people as precious, as the apple of His eye; pray for the nations in rebellion against Him, those who will experience the scattering of judgment, that while there is yet time, may many repent and know the blessedness of belonging to Jesus. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 3 – A parade of God’s power

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

Daily devotional

September 2 – The Lord the Avenger

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

Daily devotional

Introduction to the month of September

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

Daily devotional

August 31 – The Bible ends with a menu

Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb! – Revelation 19:9a Scripture reading: Revelation 19:1-10 The Bible begins and ends with a menu. It concludes with the marriage supper of the Lamb and His bride, the church. The focus is on celebration: table, food, fellowship and joy of heaven. This message contrasts to the hopeless message of our world which says this life is all there is, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32). Believers, however, live in the firm hope of the crucified and risen Lord, Who will raise up His betrothed bride to join Him at the marriage supper. A great multitude first sings their “Alleluias!” For God’s judgment on the harlot (vv.1-5). This is followed by more “Alleluias!” The marriage of the Lamb has arrived (vv.6-9). His wife has made herself ready. He robes her in fine linen. The wedding song climaxes with a table. The first song in the Bible is a wedding song. When God, the Father, gave a bride to Adam, Adam sang a song. The Bible also ends with a wedding song. This hymn marks Christ’s victory over all His and our enemies. A celebration follows. In providing salvation from sin through His sacrifice on the cross, the Lamb earned an abundance all at His cost. At this table, fellowship with God, in Christ, will be full and complete: no more sin, no more crying, no more loneliness. He freely offers this table for all who call upon Him in faith. Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb! Suggestions for prayer In a world broken by sin, loneliness and despair, pray that Christ may give you the joy and song that comes with trusting in Him for salvation. Pray that God may use you to share with others the joy of fellowship, a table and song found only in Christ. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 26 – One table or the other, not both

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

Daily devotional

August 25 – Equally accepted by God

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

Daily devotional

August 24 – Joy overflowing from tables to tables

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

Daily devotional

August 23 – Word, table and mission

Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him... – Luke 24:30,31 Scripture reading: Luke 24:13-35 Two disciples are walking on the road to Emmaus. They think Jesus, having been crucified, is dead. While walking, the risen Lord Jesus joins them. “But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him” (v.16). They reminisce about Jesus and their hopes that He was going to redeem Israel. Their hopes are dashed. All along, they are thinking the One walking with them is a stranger. How can Jesus break through this blindness? Jesus leads them through a Bible study. “...He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (v. 27). The whole Bible speaks of Him. Only He can open our eyes to see Him and His glory. That evening, Jesus sits at the table with them. He breaks bread and gives it to them. Suddenly they come to know who He is. “He was known to them in the breaking of the bread” (v.35). At the beginning of history, man fell into sin by eating from the forbidden tree. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit, ‘the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Gen. 3:7). Here, the risen Lord Jesus breaks bread with the two disciples, “and their eyes were opened and they knew Him” (v.31). Jesus’ resurrection marks a new creation. By His Spirit, Christ uses his Word to open our eyes; He restores the table, and He sends us out on a mission to declare, “The Lord is risen indeed!” Suggestions for prayer Thank God for your pastor as He brings the word of the risen Lord Jesus. Pray that many may come to know Jesus through His Word. Let us pray that, with the gift of the Word and Bread, our hearts may burn within us and share His work in our lives. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 18 – Jesus calls and heals for the feast

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

Daily devotional

August 17 – The Bridegroom has come!

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

Daily devotional

August 16 – Eat what is good

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

Daily devotional

August 15 – The Lord’s banquet for all people

And in this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wine on the lees... – Isaiah 25:6a  Scripture reading: Isaiah 25 In this song of praise, the prophet Isaiah lifts up the glory and attributes of the LORD, our Redeemer. He praises Him for the salvation of His people and judgment of His enemies. The mountain of the Lord is Jerusalem, His people, the church. In verses 6-8, we hear the Lord’s promise to His people whom He saves from their sin, disgrace and reproach. In His grace, the LORD of hosts will reign among His people. She will be the place of the LORD’S banquet for all people. The feast consists of the best and choice food and drink. The LORD will remove the covering, the veil on the nations. This veil of sorrow is sin, misery and ultimately death. But He will swallow death. Then there is no longer cause for sorrow and mourning. By dying on the cross for sinners and rising from the dead, Christ swallowed up death in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54)! Jesus is the banquet for all people who trust in Him. From Him, the blessing of new life flows to all people. God’s promise is fulfilled in Christ today by His Spirit. God’s people look forward to the coming of the Lord Jesus again when the promises will be fully realized. Death is swallowed up “and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4). The Lord blesses us to be a blessing to all people. May you enjoy again, this Lord’s Day, the banquet in His house, His house for all nations. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to give you a heart to enjoy the banquet in His house this day. Pray that He may encourage you as you worship Him, hear His Word and fellowship with other believers. Sing Psalm 23, “The Lord’s My Shepherd.” Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 10 – Unending provision

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

Daily devotional

August 9 – A land flowing with milk and honey

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

Daily devotional

August 8 – A feast in God’s presence

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

Daily devotional

August 7 – Grace for grumblers

For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. – John 6:33 Scripture reading: Exodus 16:1-12 One month earlier, God’s people departed from Egypt. God graciously delivered them and was leading them to the land flowing with milk and honey. In the meantime, they are in the wilderness. There is a crisis, a food crisis. How are they going to get food? They begin to cherish their old life in Egypt. There they sat by pots of meat and ate bread to the full! They impugn God for bringing them out into the wilderness, killing them with hunger. This is more than a food crisis. It is a faith crisis. God is testing them and their relationship with Him. May they come to know Him, His love and grace, as they learn to depend on Him. God answers their charges by graciously providing, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you.” The Lord wants them to grow by depending on Him and by learning the discipline of trust. He emphasizes this through His gracious and miraculous provision of bread. He provides each day. Do not worry about tomorrow. Rest one day in seven. The Lord will provide. Trust Him. He brings you into a new pattern of life! God’s provision of bread in the wilderness points to His greater provision, Jesus, the true Bread from heaven! He gave His life as a sacrifice on the cross, even for grumblers. He gives life to all who trust in Him. That’s grace! Forsake your old life of grumbling. Depend on Him. He will graciously provide for all your needs. Suggestions for prayer Do you struggle with grumbling? Take it to the Lord in prayer. Ask the Lord to help you grow by depending more on Him and to grow in your discipline of trust, resting in Christ. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 2 – A disobedient eating

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

Daily devotional

Introduction to August: on feasting and fellowship

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

Daily devotional

July 31 – The Sojourner’s lasting hope

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

Daily devotional

July 30 – Sojourners resist the Devil

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him. – 1 Peter 5:8, 9a Scripture reading: 1 Peter 5:5-9 Being humble does not mean we are to be weak, timid or unengaged in the Christian life. The next exhortations make clear that humble servants are called to action: be sober, be vigilant, resist the devil! When we humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and know that He cares for us, He picks us up and enables us to resist the devil-only then. Do not try this on your own. The devil is not a plaything. He is your enemy, the accuser. He is pleased to devour you with lies that lure you into disobedience. And, when you fall, he is pleased to paralyze you with guilt and fear, “I can’t believe you did that, God will never forgive you!” “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). It’s not a matter of the flashy spiritual warfare tactics. You resist him, says Peter, when you are steadfast in the faith and stand firm with the Word of God. When you are tempted, you resist him when you go back to the Word and say, “It is written.” You stand firm in the faith when you draw near to God, cry out with prayer and supplication, casting all your cares on Him. These challenges are experienced by your brothers and sisters all over the world. But God is faithful. He has given us one another to encourage one another. He is the God of all grace! Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Suggestions for prayer Reflect on the schemes the devil is using as your enemy. Ask God to uphold and encourage you in His grace, to help you be steadfast in the faith. Pray for those who experience the same sufferings throughout the world. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 25 – Sojourners’ love covers a multitude of sins

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

Daily devotional

July 24 – Sojourners are serious about prayer

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

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

July 22 – Sojourners hope in their baptism

There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 3:21  Scripture reading: 1 Peter 3:18-22 The great, worldwide flood of Noah’s day was one of the most momentous events in history. In our passage, Peter also makes reference to the Great Flood and says it is a picture of what is promised to us in our baptism. Your baptism is that momentous. Just as believing Noah and his family were saved through water, your baptism now saves you. Amid all the challenges we face as sojourners in this world, it is a wonderful blessing to be able to answer the question, “How do I know I am a Christian?” In the same way the Reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin would have answered it: “I have been baptized!” We know of course that salvation is not the result of a ceremony. We know people can presumptuously rest in their baptism without resting in Jesus, by faith. Baptized people who remain unrepentant will drown in the waters of their baptism. It is not the ceremony, not the water, not the physical washing of dirt from the body. It is the answer of a good conscience; the realization that the answer is Jesus. Our appeal is to Jesus. In Jesus and by His resurrection we know the blessing of all that is promised us in baptism. There is something deeply comforting for us in all our struggles, and over against all our failings, to be able to say that my hope is not my righteousness, or in my efforts, but in the promises of God, signified and sealed to me in my baptism. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for your baptism. Use your baptism and take hold of everything God has promised to you and your children by it, taking hold of Jesus. Appeal to God for a good conscience, leading to blessed assurance and a consistent life. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 17 – Sojourners follow in Jesus’ steps

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

Daily devotional

July 16 – Sojourners endure hard things

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

Daily devotional

July 15 – Sojourners are free to serve

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

Daily devotional

July 14 – Sojourners abstain from fleshly lusts

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul. – 1 Peter 2:11 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:9-12 Peter has just reminded and encouraged his readers in the fact that they are chosen and precious to God. Beloved, he calls us. We are deeply loved. But that does not mean that the sojourning life is always going to be easy. In the life of the sojourner, we should expect serious challenge and opposition. Peter becomes very urgent here, I beg you, he says, to abstain from fleshly lusts. Stay entirely away from sinful desires. Any of us who know ourselves will know that the warning Peter gives is serious, urgent and necessary. Should we ever think that we have gotten beyond the need for this kind of challenge, we would be deceiving ourselves. Sinful desires must not be given an inch in our lives. They war against our souls! When we flirt or dabble with sin, and become more comfortable with unconfessed sin, our souls are in danger of being numbed and destroyed. I beg you, Peter says, take this seriously. Remember, you are sojourners. Remember who you are and where you are headed. Remember your purpose, to proclaim God’s praises in everything you do! It is not going to be easy. You can expect people may even begin to call your desire for obedience, evil. Don’t be surprised. Don’t be haughty. Don’t give up. Seek to do good. Keep proclaiming His praises. Be encouraged. It could very well be that God uses what others see and hear from you, to bring those people to glorify God too! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help you deal honestly with sinful desires in your life. Ask Him for persevering grace to live godly lives and to speak well of God even to those who may be speaking evil of you. Praise God that He will use even our witness to let the nations praise Him! Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 9 – Sojourners are born of the Word

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

Daily devotional

July 8 – Sojourners know Jesus’ blood is precious

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

Daily devotional

July 7 – Sojourners’ hope leads to holiness

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

Daily devotional

July 6 – News so good, even angels can’t get enough

Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you… things which angels desire to look into. – 1 Peter 1:10,12b Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:10-12 Have you ever been so excited about good news that you were sitting on the edge of your seat? Well, the good news of our salvation is something that has the angels on the edge of their seats. They can’t get enough of it. The angels have always been enthusiastic cheerleaders of God’s great work. When they witnessed God’s speaking the physical world into existence at Creation, they sang for joy! (Job 38:7). When Jesus was born, the heavenly host sang, “Glory to God in the highest!” (Luke 2:14). At Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension, they sing, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!” (Revelation 5:12). When one sinner comes to repentance, they rejoice with God in heaven (Luke 15:7,10). It is like they are sitting on the edge of their seats, waiting to see what happens next. Prophets in the past received a faint outline of what was to come. By God’s grace and by His Spirit, we have come to see the suffering and glory of Jesus in its full accomplishment! It’s like the difference between receiving a message by Morse code and seeing something in technicolour on an ultra-HD TV; only what we have come to know in Christ is even far, far more glorious. Jesus did suffer. He completed His atoning work. He is glorified! Now, by God’s Word and Spirit, we know that this hope of glory is ours. If even the angels can’t get enough of this, shouldn’t we also desire to look into this blessing more? Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the finished Word and work of Christ. Thank Him for the work of the Spirit in helping us to see and know the hope that is ours because of the suffering and glory of Jesus. Pray for a desire to know and appreciate this blessing more. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introduction to July – Hope for sojourners in exile

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

Daily devotional

June 30 – Remember your vows

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

Daily devotional

June 29 – The mystery of the one flesh

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

Daily devotional

June 28 – Leave and cleave

For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. – Ephesians 5:31 Scripture reading: Genesis 2:18-25 Christ’s love for His Bride, the Church is an unbreakable, inseparable bond. He allows nothing and no one to come between and destroy this union. So too, a husband is to leave his father and mother and be united to his wife in an unbreakable-inseparable bond. Literally, they are glued or cemented together. This speaks to both the unity and the permanence of the marriage union. What God has joined together let not man separate. With every marriage, God establishes a new Christian home where the husband is the head and the wife is his help-meet. Both husband and wife are no longer under the authority and responsibility of their parents, but they are now one! They are now inseparable. However, when parents refuse to let go and attempt to control or meddle in their lives, they are a hindrance to the bond of unity between the husband and wife. They are marriage breakers by not allowing the husband and wife the freedom or ability to fulfill their God-ordained roles in marriage.  So too, if a man fails to leave his parents, he not only fails as head of his home, but his wife is no longer appreciated as his primary help-meet. The unbreakable bond that binds husband and wife becomes unglued. Why? All because the husband has not left father and mother and cleaved to his wife. Leave and cleave is God’s standard for marriage. Suggestions for prayer Help couples to adhere to God’s standard to leave and cleave in order to maintain the unity and permanence of the marriage bond. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

June 21 – The duty of the Christian wife

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

Daily devotional

June 20 – A Spirit-filled Christian gathers for worship

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. – Hebrews 10:24-25 Scripture reading: Psalm 95 Will you be attending the worship services today? Why or why not? Already in the early church, there were those who neglected the gathering together to worship God on the Lord’s Day. Maybe you have a legitimate reason: health, infirmity, work of necessity. But what about the rest of us? As Spirit-filled Christians, let us take heed to the call to worship and not neglect the gathering together of God’s people today. Let us enter with joy as we receive the Lord’s greeting and depart with His blessing. Let us prepare our hearts in eager anticipation of partaking of the means of grace: the faithful preaching of the Word of God and the administration of the sacraments. Let us unite our hearts in praise as we sing unto the Lord. Let us offer up our prayers of thanksgiving and supplication. Let us rejoice in the promise of the gospel as we listen to the Law. Let us express our unity in faith as we recite the Apostles’ Creed. Let us give unto the Lord with liberality as the Lord has richly blessed us. True worship, worship in spirit and truth in accordance with the Word of God is pleasing unto the Lord, essential for the building up of our faith, and is necessary for the furtherance of the kingdom of God. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. Suggestions for prayer May God fill our hearts with the Spirit that we may long to worship the Lord our God. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 15 – Walk in wisdom

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

Daily devotional

June 14 – The challenge to children of light

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

Daily devotional

June 13 – Characteristics of children of light

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

Daily devotional

June 12 – Walk as children of light

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. – Ephesians 5:8 Scripture reading: Ephesians 2:1-10; 5:8-14 In verses 1-7, we are commanded to be imitators of God’s love. And now, in verses 8-14, we are commanded to be imitators of God walking as children of light. The apostle Paul begins by reminding these new converts of their former status, “For you were once darkness…” In chapter 2, Paul gives us a portrait of their former way of life prior to their coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ. They were alienated from God. They walked in spiritual and moral darkness. They not only walked in darkness, but they were darkness personified and loved the darkness. But now, by the grace of God, their former way of life is a thing of the past. Born again of the Spirit, their once spiritually dead hearts are made alive in Christ. God called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. GRACE has afforded them a new life!  Grace has set them upon a new road, with a new purpose and a new eternal destination to the praise and glory of God. On account of God’s marvelous grace and their spiritual transformation by the Holy Spirit, God now issues a command, “WALK AS CHILDREN OF LIGHT!  What were you – past tense? For you “were” once darkness. And now, what are you?  “You are light in the Lord.”  Therefore, “Walk as children of light!” Amazing grace! Suggestions for prayer Help us to realize just how amazing grace really is, that we are no longer darkness, but are light in the Lord, called to walk as children of light. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 7 – Walk in love

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

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

June 5 – Be imitators of God as dear children

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

Daily devotional

June 4 – Be imitators of God’s forgiveness

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32 Scripture reading: Matthew 18:21-35 Following the reading of the Law in our liturgy is the Assurance of Pardon whereby we are reminded that God is a merciful God, Who in Christ Jesus forgives us all our sins. As it says in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In like manner, we are commanded to imitate God by forgiving those who acknowledge and confess their sins and ask for our forgiveness. In all such cases, we must forgive. As in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, we who are the recipients of God’s mercy, who have been forgiven this enormous debt, must then also forgive others their relatively minor infractions committed against us. Forgiving others is most basic to imitating the very nature of a merciful and forgiving God. But then, we often find ourselves to be much more like the unmerciful servant in the parable. We’re unforgiving. We hold grudges. We seek revenge. We gossip and slander. And yet, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns us about such an unforgiving spirit “But if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  As Christians, we must reflect the forgiving nature of our forgiving God by forgiving others. Suggestions for prayer May we imitate the forgiving spirit of our Father in heaven Who in Christ so freely forgives us. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 30 – Worthy

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

Daily devotional

May 29 – Come see what I have done

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

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

May 27 – The Most High rules the kingdoms of men

That the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men. – Daniel 4:17 Scripture readings: Romans 13:1-7; Daniel 4:13-18 Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream is fulfilled soon after he receives it in order to send a message that the LORD is sovereign over all. There is a lesson for us in this as well. We learn, by way of contrast, that the fear of God is truly the beginning of wisdom and the greatest way to escape the foolish pride and arrogance of living in our own strength. Living a self-centred life does not always have the catastrophic consequences that it did for Nebuchadnezzar, but it does result in a drifting away from God and a distancing of oneself from His care and protection. Who needs protection or mercy if you are strong and right? This is the boast of our own sinful hearts until the Lord intervenes to make us appreciate again how much we need Him in our lives. He appoints kings and councillors and numbers their days. He designates the length of a kingdom’s duration and sets the borders of nations with an authority that our international governing bodies do not possess. Moses, in Psalm 90, reminds us that our regular petition to the LORD should be to, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” ”Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Jesus tells us in Matthew 5 and “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Let us learn from the LORD how He shows His favour to the lowly and gives grace to the humble who trust and believe in Him! Suggestions for prayer Teach us to number our days. Transform our hearts with godly wisdom and contentment. Humble us that we may receive Your grace. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 22 – Who will deliver you?

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

Daily devotional

May 21 – What was I supposed to do?

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

Daily devotional

May 20 – I did it my way

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

Daily devotional

May 19 – We live in the day when the stone is revealed

Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery. – Daniel 2:47 Scripture readings: 1 Timothy 1:16; Daniel 2:46-49 Think of the reaction of God’s people when they beheld the forces of Darius the Mede standing in the throne room that Nebuchadnezzar had occupied with such splendour and seeming invincibility! Suddenly, as foretold in the vision, the great Babylonian Empire had fallen. The believers would have realized that this first stage in this vision had been completed. Later, when the exiles beheld the sudden and stunning overpowering of the middle Persian Empire by the forces of Alexander the Great, they must have wondered, “Is the next stage in this vision now being fulfilled?” And then when the forces of Rome overtook the mighty Greeks, scattered their armies, and took all their lands, they must have realized, “We are now getting near to the day of the stone!” While the reaction of King Nebuchadnezzar in verses 46-47 is significant, what matters more for the LORD is that His people grasp His messages to them! This means that we are to rejoice and delight because we live in the day of the stone which has been revealed from heaven! As Sinclair Ferguson said, “We need to remember that this great kingdom belongs to God. It is indestructible, victorious, eternal, and it is universal.” “So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:6-7). Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would give you peace in your circumstances as you await the day when you will enter the Promised Land of rest for all of God’s people. Pray for contentment when God’s plans for you seem hard to understand or experience. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 14 – He removes kings and sets up kings

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

Daily devotional

May 13 – To His feet your tribute bring

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

Daily devotional

May 12 – Swept up in the wrath of the King

Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king. – Daniel 2:16 Scripture readings: Matthew 2:16-23; Daniel 2:12-16 Nebuchadnezzar was tired of the chattering of his enchanters, sorcerers and magicians. He was no longer interested in their vague methods of dream interpretation. He concludes that there’s only one more step to take. In his wrath, he commanded that all the wise men of Babylon and even the youths in the University of Babylon be destroyed. It’s a curious strategy that, under normal circumstances, would get him no closer to a solution to his dream problem. We know Daniel is in harm’s way. He tells the guard that he wishes to see the king who is spewing out wrathful commands and liable to kill anyone who upsets him. This is the moment that Daniel is chosen by God to go see the king. We wouldn’t plan it this way, would we? But then, we’re not God. We can stand in awe of God’s plan for His people – especially when we see how contrary it is to the things we would come up with on our own. In the verses ahead, Daniel will be given the words to speak so that he would be spared death. The marvel of the Gospel is that the Son of Man willingly laid down his life to endure God’s righteous wrath against our sin. Because of this, God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10). Suggestions for prayer Pray for the wisdom of this world to be revealed as foolishness. Pray for God’s love to drive away your fears. Praise Him for sending His Son to die in your place as a sacrifice and substitute for you. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 11 – Only God knows

Through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 3:10 Scripture readings: Ephesians 3:1-10; Daniel 2:8-11 Daniel was not the first person called to Nebuchadnezzar’s court. He was a good student, but he was not first on the list of dream interpreters in Babylon. After all, he was one of the Jews and not a sophisticated wise man or pagan sorcerer. Nebuchadnezzar’s terror because of the dream he received was amplified by his realization that his advisors were cheats, swindlers and liars. Whatever their dark arts, they did not have a way to bring him the truth. Normal dreams don’t provoke such a reaction, but this was no ordinary dream that Nebuchadnezzar received. The frantic search for truth on Nebuchadnezzar’s part brought him to a state of fear that positioned him to be ready, by the Lord’s doing, to receive the word of a young messenger from the Lord. In your life, the Lord works this way as well. While He doesn’t use dreams with you, He does awaken our consciences to truths about ourselves that we know only God knows! The fear this creates in our hearts is calmed by the message of God which He also is pleased to bring to us through His Word! Do you make time to learn from God’s Word each day? Do you seek answers to life’s questions in the Bible? When you face a fearful realization of guilt, do you know that your security rests in the Lord Jesus Christ Who is the Word made flesh so that He might deliver you from fear and death? Praise the Saviour! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the gospel to bring you greater comfort. Pray for a blessing on your meditation upon God’s Word. Pray for messengers to go out to the world’s rulers and the world’s lowliest inhabitants to bring these words of life! Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 6 – An object lesson for an exiled people

In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. – Daniel 1:20 Scripture readings: Psalm 66:16-20; Daniel 1:15-17 The whole reason that the people of Judah were in Babylon is that they had forsaken the way of God in exchange for the ways of the surrounding nations. Their lives were now a tragic example of what the judgment of God looks like. What should they do when their exile was a consequence of their unfaithfulness to God? The answer is simple. Be faithful to the Lord. Trust in Him. Believe that He can intercede and aid you in your distress. As the wise Teacher in Proverbs 3:5-6 taught Daniel and his friends, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.” The outcome of such belief in the LORD will look different for you than it did for Daniel and his friends. You probably won’t rise as high as Daniel did or become as strong a student as they managed to. Nonetheless, the simple commitment to live with integrity and the fear of God is the answer to the question, “What should I do in the midst of these hardships?” The Lord dramatically displayed His will to set apart His servants for His purposes in the life of Daniel and He continues to display His will in your life, as you serve Him with thanksgiving for the life you have gained in Christ Jesus. Suggestions for prayer: Ask the LORD to help you to find joy and strength in the midst of the trials you are going through. Ask the LORD to help you to remember that your faith is grounded in the finished work of Jesus Christ who has forgiven your sins and given you new life in Him! Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 5 – The fear of God in action

God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. – Daniel 1:17 Scripture readings: Hebrews 4:14-5:10; Daniel 1:5-17 The setup of the cultural assimilation project was completed by the end of verse 7. The young men of Judah would be persuaded to forsake their old god and old culture by living a life of comfort, culture, and advancement. They would take on their identities expressed in the names of the pagan gods Bel and Nebo which were woven into their new names. They would become good Babylonians. This is what makes verse 8 so awesome! The food and wine from the king’s table were linked with the religious rituals of the king’s gods and therefore Daniel and his three friends resolved to have no contact with it. The actions of these godly youths were to serve as an object lesson for an exiled people of what the fear of God looks like in action. Every time that this story is read of their refusal to participate in cultic religion, God’s people are shown what the fear of God looks like in action. Daniel and his friends stand in the godly fear of Noah in Genesis 6:8 and they foreshadow the righteous man, Jesus Christ, who would not turn aside to the left or the right or be defiled in any way. In the story of Daniel, a portrait of Christ emerges. He too was given a new name, Son of Man. He came to a worldly place, the world of sinners. He too was tested and tried in every way so that we might receive His unblemished and undefiled righteousness. Suggestions for prayer Praise God that He sent His Only Begotten Son into the world so that we might be saved! Pray that the LORD will build us up in the fear of God so that we will face challenges with godliness and wisdom. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 4 – Into the world

They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. – Daniel 1:5 Scripture reading: Galatians 1:3-10; Daniel 1:1-7 Welcome to the University of Babylon! As part of an assimilation strategy, King Nebuchadnezzar provided for the education of the prominent youth of the exiles from Judah so that he might strip away their foreign ways and bring them into service in Babylonian society. Daniel and his young friends were, in the plan of the king, going to be more valuable to his empire than the cups of gold and silver that he had taken from their temple. Their introduction to success in Babylon is the thing that would strip them of their past loyalties and family ties. They had no path to success in Jerusalem anymore. They had a clear path to success in Babylon if they followed the program of study and cultural immersion into Babylonian life. Youths of this age in Judah were supposed to be learning the Torah – the catechism of their people. Now their lesson book was being swapped for the catechism of the Chaldean empire and religion. These youth also had their Hebrew, God-fearing names replaced with Babylonian, false-god worshipping names. Yet, as we will see, we know the Lord is strong to save! We know He guards His servants who call on Him in prayer. We know He walks with us in this present evil age (Galatians 1:4) that He might deliver us at the appointed time. We see this in Daniel’s life and we can certainly see this in our own lives in this world as well. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the wisdom that begins with the fear of the Lord. Pray for discernment to see how the Lord’s Word speaks to the circumstances you are in each day. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 3 – Until sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet

Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. – Jeremiah 23:2-3 Scripture reading: Jeremiah 23:1-8; Lamentations 1:1-6 It’s alarming to think about the LORD’s perspective on the sins we commit against Him. We can’t escape the knowledge that our sins deserve judgment. God brought judgment upon the people of Judah because of their false worship and rebellion against Him. He did so by bringing the Babylonian army down upon them in three successive invasions. Every time that the Babylonians came, as God’s tool of justice against His covenant people, they took more of the Jews back to Babylon with them. This is how Daniel and his friends ended up in a city far from home in the midst of a pagan and prideful society. How could such a thing happen to them? They were just young men caught up in a calamity! Daniel and his friends ended up in Babylon because of other people’s sins. That doesn’t seem fair, does it? Well, it is no surprise that sinfulness and rebellion against God have consequences in our lives and we frequently experience the consequences of the sins of others. Yet, we must acknowledge our own sin before God and confess our need for His forgiveness. This was the intended outcome of the exile of God’s people: that they would all repent of their sinfulness and be reconciled to God. The warning of coming judgment must also stir our hearts to fully confess our sin to the LORD and to rejoice in the freedom He grants to us in Christ Jesus our Saviour! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would show you the seriousness of your sin and the richness of His forgiving grace to you! Pray for guidance as you endure hardships and strive to grow in holiness and godliness as you serve the Lord today. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 28 – Overflowing blessings

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.” - Psalm 23:5 Scripture reading: Psalm 23:5 The last phrase of this verse might be one that we run past as we recite or read this Psalm. Yet, the truth that our cup runs over is a beautiful one. All Christians, no matter how much they have suffered in their life, can say this phrase, “My cup runs over”. What is pictured for us in this phrase is that in the presence of the victorious king, the people at his table would drink with him and enjoy the spoils of victory. The wine-cup pictured here means so much more than simply enjoying victory. It is the cup of blessing. We are reminded that we get to drink of the cup of blessing because Christ drank the cup of God’s wrath. We are told here that Christ is not stingy with the wine, or with any of the blessings that flow from His heroic victory. The cup of blessing which we are given by Christ is overflowing. I urge you to think upon your own life. Can you not say that this is true?  No matter how much you have suffered, you can declare this with joy because you have Christ and all the eternal blessings that He gives to you. No one and no thing can take those blessings away from you. As a sure test, to see if you understand and believe just how blessed you are in Christ, ask yourself how joyful and thankful you are. Is the joy of Christ evident in your life? Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would fill you with joy as you come to a greater understanding of just how blessed you are in Christ. Pray Christ would use you to infect the rest of His church with that joy and thankfulness. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 27 – Anointed by Christ

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.” – Psalm 23:5 Scripture reading: Psalm 23:5 Turning our attention this time to the second phrase in this verse, we see a great blessing that is ours in Christ. We are anointed by Christ with oil. When we think of anointing, we often think of the anointed offices of the Old Testament: prophet, priest and king. Certainly, the idea of our being anointed as prophets, priests and kings is in view here. It was also customary to anoint favored or exalted guests at a feast. In this psalm, Christ is pictured as anointing us, favoring us and exalting us as esteemed guests at His victory feast, in full view of our enemies. Have you considered how much Christ values you?  Esteems you?  Even exalts you? Do you know that Christ, in saving you, has indeed made you little prophets, priests and kings, reigning with Him over all things?  As it is written in 2 Timothy 2:12, “If we endure, We shall also reign with Him” or also in 1 Corinthians 6:3, “Do you not know that we shall judge angels?”  This is not just something that is entirely in the future either, but Christ exalts us even now, to such an extent that Paul talks about our future being seated next to Christ on His throne as if it has already happened. Ephesians 2:6 says, “and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” . Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would help you to grasp how much you have been given in Christ and praise Him for it. Pray that as an anointed one of Christ, you would serve Him humbly and faithfully all of your life. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 26 – Our victorious servant King

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.” – Psalm 23:5 Scripture reading: Psalm 23:5 At this point in the psalm, the imagery changes from Christ being our Good Shepherd, to Christ being our Victorious Servant King. In the first line of this verse, the imagery is quite foreign to our 21st-century minds. In ancient times, when a king conquered an enemy city, he would have a huge victory feast in the royal banquet hall of that city. The king and all his generals and men of valour would sit around the table and eat the spoils of their victory, all in full view of the enemy king or governor and all their children, wives and officials. The conquered enemy would have to watch while the victor feasted. David here is saying that Christ has won the victory and set up a table for Himself to feast at, in full view of His enemies. Christ certainly has won for us a great victory by dying on the cross and rising again so that we sit in victory over sin, death, the world, and the devil. We are reminded of that great victory when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, where we are invited to the table of Christ and get to partake of the spoils of His victory. We partake of Him and are refreshed and enlivened after the struggles of fighting the enemy. How often do you meditate upon the victory that Christ has earned for you?  How often do you go to Christ, the Servant King, to be fed and nourished with the spoils of His heroic victory? Suggestions for prayer Pray for the Lord to refresh and nourish you with Christ and with all that He has obtained for you by His heroic victory on the cross and the open grave. Pray this for yourself and for all of God’s people. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 25 – Christ’s staff

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” – Psalm 23:4 Scripture reading: Psalm 23:4 The second instrument of comfort that David names is the staff. This is what we normally picture when we think of a shepherd holding a staff, that long stick with a big hook on the end of it. The shepherd’s staff was used to keep the sheep from running away or going astray. If the shepherd saw a sheep starting to wander or run away from the flock, he could reach out with his staff and hook the sheep around the neck and bring it back, close to himself. This too is a great comfort to us, for it describes the type of love our Savior has for us. He will always come after us and bring us back to Himself, keeping us safe as He leads us to our final destination. It is a comfort for us even as we are walking close to Jesus for we are reminded that even if we were to go astray Christ would go after us and draw us back. It is a comfort for us even when we go astray and we feel the crook of his staff gently or even painfully pulling us back. You don’t have to walk with Christ very long to know the feeling of his staff around your neck. Whether it is a gentle tug or a strong and prolonged pull as we try to run away, it is comforting to know Christ will always keep us. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would comfort you with His guiding presence and that Christ would always keep you near Him. Pray that Christ would continue to comfort all of His people, drawing them all closer to Himself. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 20 – Christ my daily provider

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.” – Psalm 23:2 Scripture reading: Psalm 23:2 Sheep are incredibly helpless and stupid animals. We probably have the image of nice white sheep that just graze in the field. We have these images in our minds because of pictures or movies. But anyone who has had to deal with sheep knows its intelligence level is only slightly above a turkey and quite a bit below a cow. Even goats are far more intelligent, tough and resilient creatures than sheep. Sheep need a shepherd and not just for when they are being attacked by wolves or have fallen into a deep ditch. Sheep need a shepherd even for the basic needs of life, food and water. This was especially true when David was a shepherd, for a shepherd would have to herd his flock long distances to find good pasture lands, wells or oases along the way, in the arid land of Canaan. This is a good reminder for us, that we don’t just need Christ when we are in trouble; we need Him all the time for even our most basic needs. We have a bad tendency to forget Christ when times are good and we feel like we have everything under control. Then when we are in trouble we cry out to Him. Do you realize that apart from Christ you can do nothing (John 15:5) and are nothing?  We need Christ all of the time, not just when we are in trouble. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would humble you to be more dependent upon Christ for all things. Ask for forgiveness for when you have forgotten your dependence upon Christ in the good times and ask for His help to praise and thank Him for His good gifts to you. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 19 – I shall not want

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” – Psalm 23:1 Scripture reading: Psalm 23:1 If Christ is our Good Shepherd it must be concluded that we shall never be in want. However, have we actually given that much thought?  Do we actually live our lives as though we believe that? The tenth commandment is one we probably skip across as we hear it read on Sunday. However, coveting is an incredibly deadly sin. In fact, if we covet, we are breaking every other commandment. If we covet, we do not want to worship God alone; we want to worship something else. We want to worship God with our money, our time, our resources our way, not God’s way. We want something that we think will satisfy us and make our name great, not God’s. We want to find our satisfaction in a person or a thing besides God. We want to be a god unto ourself to get what we want. We are going to hate and not truly love our neighbour, who has what we want. We commit spiritual adultery with what we want. We seek and desire to have what is not rightfully ours. We believe lies that if only we have this thing or this person, we will be fulfilled. Maybe we say, “Well good thing I don’t covet.”  Have you ever sought satisfaction in something or someone other than Christ?  Have you ever thought, “If only I had that, or could do this, then I would be happy?” If you have you are guilty. As Christians, we are to find our all in all in Christ. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord for forgiveness for when we have sought satisfaction in other people or things, rather than in Christ alone. Pray that the Lord would give us hearts that are content in all circumstances, being completely and entirely filled with Christ. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 18 – Yahweh is my Shepherd

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” – Psalm 23:1 Scripture reading: Psalm 23:1 Yesterday, we considered the significance of David using the personal name of God, “Yahweh”. We can trust in our God because He is the eternally sovereign One Who is covenantally faithful. This is important now as we come to the fact that Yahweh is our Shepherd. This verse has been consistently and rightly tied to Jesus' statement that He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11,14). Right at the beginning, David is declaring, and we with him, that Jesus, the covenantally faithful and sovereign God is the One that is our Shepherd. We will get to the various functions of a shepherd and thus our Good Shepherd as we go along. Here it is sufficient to consider that a shepherd is a leader of the sheep. In the days in which we live, we are learning just how important it is to have good leadership because we are surrounded by a lot of horrible leadership. Whether that is leadership in the government, sports teams, artistic productions and in churches, it seems that so many are either too power-hungry to care and love at all, or they are so passive and insecure that they refuse to stand for the truth. Having good leadership that is both loving and truthful is incredibly important. Let us thank God that Christ is the Head of His church and that He does lead us perfectly in truth and in love by His Word, in the power of the Holy Spirit, throughout all of life. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks to our Heavenly Father for giving us our Lord Jesus to be our Good Shepherd, leading us in truth and love. Pray that the earthly leaders Christ has given us in the church, government and various societal functions we attend would be godly. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 17 – Our covenantally faithful God

“The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” – Psalm 23:1 Scripture reading: Psalm 23:1 Psalm 23, placed between Psalms 22 and 24, is a wonderful reminder to us that as we dwell between the first and second comings of Christ, we are not forgotten. The Lord has not left us in this time to figure life out on our own or to live by our own strength. No! Rather, Christ is with us continually in this life as our Good Shepherd. Before we get to the LORD being our Shepherd, let us call to mind the significance of the fact that it is the LORD Who is our Shepherd. Whenever the Old Testament uses “LORD” for God’s name, the translators are attempting to differentiate between the name “Adonai”, which is translated as “Lord”, and “Yahweh”, which is translated as “LORD”. God never chooses a single word in the Scriptures carelessly. Every word is there for an important purpose. The fact that David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, chose to use the name “Yahweh” instead of “Adonai”, is significant. The name Yahweh is the personal name of God that not only communicates His sovereignty over all creation, but also His covenantal faithfulness to His people. Have you ever struggled to trust the Lord? My guess is that you have because we all have. In those moments of doubt, we must tether ourselves to this blessed truth, that our God is perfectly faithful to all of His covenant promises. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would cause us to trust Him more. Pray for yourself and for all of God’s people, that when we are filled with doubt, now or at some future time, the Holy Spirit will flood our minds with the gospel promises and strengthen our hearts to believe them. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 12 – The righteous acts of God

“He shall receive blessing from the LORD, And righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Your face. Selah” - Psalm 24:5 Scripture reading: Psalm 24:5-6 In these two verses, we are told that those who place their faith in King Jesus, will be blessed and shall receive from the Lord righteousness. The second line of verse five is not a reference to the imputation of righteousness which one receives from Christ by believing upon Him, but rather refers to the righteous acts of the Lord in keeping His promises of salvation to the believer. Could we, who believe upon the Lord Jesus, as we have been brought near to the throne of grace and dwell in the presence of God, declare anything different?  Truly we, the people of God, are blessed in every way as we think upon the salvation that has been given to us in Christ. “This is Jacob” or we might say, “This is we who seek the Lord.”  We are blessed. For we who have no right to ascend into the presence of God, have been ushered in by Christ. We who only deserve God’s righteous wrath for all eternity, have instead received His righteous grace. This section ends with a “selah,” which means stop and reflect upon what was just said. Upon such a glorious truth, we must stop and reflect! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the grace of Christ would be highly valued by you and the church. Thank the Lord for the blessing and salvation that He has freely given to you by His grace. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 11 – Who may ascend?

“Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully.” - Psalm 24:3,4 Scripture reading: Psalm 24:3-4 These two verses show us our deep need for Christ. As we considered yesterday, God is holy. Here we are presented with the question, “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?”  The answer is given in verse four, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully.”  In other words, He who is perfect may come into the presence of the LORD. That means none of us, left to ourselves, can come into the presence of God, for we have all sinned (Romans 3:10-18). But praise be to God, for He sent Christ as our only High Priest, who can ascend into the hill of the LORD and stand in His presence. It is the sure hope of all of us who put our faith in Christ alone, that we are justified in the sight of God. Our sin is taken away, for Christ did away with it on the cross and His righteousness is imputed to us. It is in this way, and only in this way, that we may ascend into the presence of the Lord. All other attempts or ways are like the Tower of Babel, which have no chance of working, and will only end in ruins. There is no room for pride; we must in humble faith come to Christ, for He is our only hope of ascending into the presence of God. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would strengthen your faith, so that you trust in Christ alone for your salvation, and remove your trust in yourself, or anything or anyone else. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 10 – The Lord is holy

“The earth is the LORD’S, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.” - Psalm 24:1 Scripture reading: Psalm 24:1-2 Psalm 24 is a Psalm that puts words to the joy and praise that we should have at the coming of the Messiah. It is a Psalm that can rightly be attributed to Christmas, the Triumphal Entry, the Ascension and the Second Coming of Christ. Lord willing, we will see this in the coming days. Verses one and two ground us in a never-changing truth which sets us up for the rest of the Psalm. If we were to summarize these two verses, we would say that the LORD is the King over all things. These verses show us the immensity of our God and just how awesome, majestic, holy and powerful He is. He is the Creator and Ruler over all things from the foundations of the earth to the birds of the sky. This leads us to the question, how do you view God?  When you talk to God in prayer, how do you speak to Him? Casually? Respectfully?  When you hear the Word of God, how do you hear it?  Do you listen intently and with awe?  Or do you listen to Him just like you do to everyone else?  These two verses are reminding us just how holy our God is. Yes, we are adopted into the family of God by Christ, but that does not mean that we should treat Him any less than holy. If anything it should mean that we see Him as more holy. Suggestions for prayer Pray for forgiveness for the times you have not respected the Lord as you should. Pray that God would show you His holiness and that you would have more respect, reverence and awe for Him. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 9 – It is finished

“They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has done this.” - Psalm 22:31 Scripture reading: Psalm 22:30-31 As we close out this Psalm, I want us to reflect on the joy that is so clearly seen in the second half. It started with the greatest of grief, suffering and agony as it prophesied the death of our Saviour. Yet, the second half of this Psalm is filled with praise. Why?  The Lord has answered. He answered Christ on the cross by raising Him on the third day, and thus, every cry for forgiveness we utter is answered. For as Christ died and rose again, so we are dead to sin and alive in Him (Romans 6:4). Think upon those last words of the Psalm, “That He (Christ) has done this.”  Those words are very reminiscent of Jesus’ final words upon the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). What joy should fill our hearts in knowing that our salvation is accomplished and secure in Christ. The joy-filled praise in the second half of this Psalm is almost palpable. Is this the joy that you have?  When you talk with others, and especially when you are sharing the truth of the gospel with others, would they sense real joy in your voice?  It is one thing to convey the truth of the gospel to others, it is another thing entirely to tell the gospel with joy-filled praise. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would fill you with the joy that can only be found in Christ and in the salvation He provides. Pray that the Lord would help you to communicate the gospel to others with true joy that leads them to glorify God. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 4 – He is risen indeed!

“You have answered Me. I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly, I will praise You.” - Psalm 22:21c-22 Scripture reading: Psalm 22:21-31 He is risen! He is risen indeed!  Having walked thus far through this Psalm and the account of our Saviour’s suffering, dying and His body being laid in the tomb, the words of verse 21 should vault us into great rejoicing, just as Mary Magdalene did when she saw Jesus on Easter morning. Read those wonderful words again, “You have answered Me.”  On Easter morning, the Father certainly did answer the prayer of Christ upon the cross. The Father raised Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, it is no wonder that verses 22 and following are full of praise and rejoicing. Certainly that Easter morning Christ was rejoicing, all of heaven was rejoicing, and though the disciples were slow to understand and believe, they eventually got there too. And so as we read this passage, we too should want to proclaim and sing the glories of our God. Christ is risen, brothers and sisters! Rejoice and sing: “Sin’s bonds severed, we’re delivered, Christ has bruised the serpent’s head; Death no longer is the stronger, Hell itself is captive led. Christ has risen from death’s prison, O’er the tomb He light has shed” (Praise the Saviour, Now and Ever: stanza 3).” Our prayers for salvation are assuredly answered because of that Easter morning. “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him (Christ); But when He (Christ) cried to Him (The Father), He heard” (verse 24). Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would fill you with joy in knowing that just as the Father answered the prayer of Christ, so our every prayer will be heard and answered. As you pray for forgiveness from your sins, for a clean heart, to be remade in the image of Christ and to be granted eternal life, you will be heard and answered for He is risen! Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 3 – Wait on the Lord

“But You, O LORD, do not be far from Me, O My Strength, hasten to help Me!” - Psalm 22:19 Scripture reading: Psalm 22:19-21b While originally these two verses were certainly a cry of David, this was also a cry of Christ upon the cross. On this day, between Christ’s death and His resurrection, we remember the prayer of our Saviour upon the cross. When Jesus cried to His Father, “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me?,” we see the perfect faith that Christ had, even as He suffered under the wrath of God for our sin, for Christ had to wait on His Heavenly Father. Christ had to endure dying on the cross, and even though His human soul was in heaven, He had to wait until Sunday. We maybe look at this and say, “Well, Christ only had to wait three days!  My suffering has gone on for years!” Let us remember two things: first, that Christ suffered more than we know during His entire life on this earth, and second, in the grand scheme of eternity, what is the real difference between three days and 80 years?. Dear Christian, think about this. Even our Savior had to wait upon His Father to be delivered from death and be victorious over it. Even He experienced what it was like to be a disembodied soul. Therefore, our Savior can perfectly sympathize with us in every valley, even death itself. Yet, He was raised in the speediness of three days for our comfort and benefit, as we will celebrate tomorrow. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would remind us of the patience of Christ, waiting to be delivered. Remember that we have a sympathetic High Priest in every single trial we face, but also the sure comfort of Christ’s resurrection. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 2 – See the love of your Savior

“For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me.” - Psalm 22:16-17 Scripture reading: Psalm 22:1-18 Today we remember the sacrificial death of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Psalm 22, David gives us the prophetic words of the suffering of our Lord on the cross. This is the Psalm that Jesus quotes while on the cross (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). The New Testament writers also use this Psalm to show how Christ’s death perfectly fulfills this prophecy. I encourage you to read the words of the first 18 verses of this psalm slowly. Let each phrase fall upon you like a hammer blow and resound like a church bell. Christ suffered in a way that is completely incomprehensible to us. The descriptions of the physical suffering of Christ in this Psalm and in the Gospels are horrendous enough, but nothing compared to what He suffered in His soul. On that cross, He suffered an eternities’ worth of hell for every sin of every saint. We cannot comprehend or understand what it means to suffer for one sin in that way. Today is called Good Friday because, for us who believe upon Christ, we will never have to experience any of God’s wrath against our sin. We experience His discipline and displeasure at our sin, sure, but never His wrath. See, brothers and sisters! See the love of your Savior, today and every day, as you think upon His willingness to go to the cross for you and suffer as He did. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks to our Lord Jesus for willingly going to the cross to die in our place. Give thanks that He was willing to suffer and be rejected by God that we might forever be received by Him. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 1 – Introduction to our study of Psalms 22-24

Hello, brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ. This month we are going to be considering three psalms. I would say three very important psalms, but then again all of the psalms are important!  In the month of April, we are going to be celebrating Good Friday and Easter and one of the psalms we are going to consider speaks to both of these redemptive events. One of the other psalms speaks to the event covered last month, the Triumphal Entry, and another event that we won’t get to in this month, the Ascension. The third psalm we will consider is probably the most well-known psalm of recent decades. Wonder what these three important psalms are?  Psalm 22, 23 and 24. These three psalms form a triplet. Many of the psalms are grouped together, for example, Psalms 1 and 2 are a couplet that forms the introduction to the Psalter. Psalms 146-150 form a quadruplet of grand doxology at the end of the Psalter. Looking at Psalm 22, you notice right away that this psalm prophesies the crucifixion of Jesus. It also anticipates and prophesies Christ’s resurrection. Psalm 24, on the other hand, anticipates the Triumphal entry, but ultimately, it draws our attention to the Ascension of Jesus as well as His final coming. Then, nestled between these two great pillars of Psalms, speaking of the redemptive work of the Messiah, is Psalm 23. Psalm 23 speaks to the Christian in the “right here and right now”. I have heard it said that Psalm 23 is overused. I couldn’t disagree more! It is a psalm that speaks to Christians where we are right now in redemptive history because of the death, resurrection, ascension and anticipated final coming of Christ Jesus. Therefore, not only do these psalms speak powerfully of the salvation we have in Christ and comfort we now have in Him, but these psalms are also inspired words to be used by us to glorify our Triune God for the great things that He has done. God’s wise plan “My God, My God why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me? And from the words of My groaning?” – Psalm 22:1 Scripture reading: Psalm 22:1-8 Today is the day in which we remember the Last Supper, the recounting of Jesus praying and His subsequent arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. It also happens to be April Fool’s Day, a day in which a lot of good-natured fun can be had playing pranks on those we love. Today, I want us to take this secular day literally for a second because we also see something very clearly in our culture. When the world looks at what Jesus is about to do, it looks foolish to them. As we think of the Garden of Gethsemane, question why Jesus would willingly give Himself up?  He could have easily gotten away before Judas found Him. Why would Jesus willingly give Himself to be crucified on a cross? Then, turning the attention to Christians, why would they believe that Jesus dying on the cross would atone for their sins?  All of this looks like foolishness to the world. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:23, 24, “But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  As we focus our attention on Christ’s sacrificial death tomorrow, have we considered it to be Divinely wise?  Do we see this as the most perfect and beautiful plan that could ever be devised for our lives and our salvation? Suggestions for prayer Let us ask the Lord to help us to see just how wise the plan of salvation is that Christ accomplished for us on the cross. Pray that the Lord would give us boldness to proclaim this salvation to a world that sees it as foolishness. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 27 – The call to faith

“To bring about the obedience of faith.” – Romans 1:5 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 We are to remember our Creator, to live by faith in Him! Solomon applies this call in three ways. First, live by faith in Him when you are young and throughout your life, because one day you will die (v.1, 6a). God, through Solomon, uses a poem to show us this. One day the silver cord is snapped. Second, live by faith in Him now because when you die your body turns to dust and your soul meets God (v.6b-8). Third, and the main point, live by faith because life is a vapor. All of life is controlled by God, so trust God and enjoy life. Do you like to read? Read with joy in God’s name, one day you will not be able to. Do you like sports? Play with joy in God’s name, one day you will not be able to. Do you like to worship on Sunday? Worship with joy in God’s name, one day you will not be able to. In other words, keep God in mind all the time. Remember what He has done for you, given to you, and promised you. Have faith in the Lord when you are young, in days of trouble, when the sun shines and when it is dark before the golden bowl is broken. Life is a gift from God to be lived for Him and enjoyed. He came to redeem us to enjoy Him and glorify Him. The gospel of Jesus, which God has given, is the way for us to have joy and faith. Suggestion for prayer Disparaging and worrying about circumstances in life is not wise. Pray God will give you the Holy Spirit’s fruit of peace and joy. Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 26 – The call to faith

“To bring about the obedience of faith.” - Romans 1:5 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 We have learned about God’s call to be joyful as we live in the fear of the Lord. In our text today, God calls us to live by faith too. God calls us to live by faith in Christ for salvation, but here, as God’s covenant people, He calls us to live by faith because life is vanity. But what does this mean? Vanity in Ecclesiastes does not mean meaninglessness. Life might seem meaningless, but it is not. Even the wicked are for the Day of Judgment. In this book “vanity” also does not mean emptiness. Life is not empty, though it might feel empty. Vanity in Ecclesiastes means life can seem empty and uncontrollable because it is uncontrollable by us. From our point of view, it seems that sometimes life is running away from us, or that all our work has brought nothing, or that trying our best is hopeless because we get it wrong anyway. We know life is a vapor; it appears for a little while and then it is gone. The whole point of Ecclesiastes is that we are not in control of our life, God is. All that comes is beyond our control; God has the whole world in His hands (Romans 8:28). Therefore, we are to remember our Creator all our days, living by faith in Him, trusting His Word. Jesus came to save us and bring us to the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5; 15:18), and this includes remembering God and His Word every day of our lives. Suggestion for prayer Pray God would help you seek first His Kingdom. Life is short, but it is a gift from God to be lived for Him. Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 25 - The call of joy

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” – Philippians 4:6 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 11:10 Our reading today is a call for young people to live in joy. Of course, we can apply it to all Christians. This verse is the Philippians 4:6 of the Old Testament. We could paraphrase verse 10 this way, “Soon you will turn to dust, so while you are able, get rid of vexation, anxiety, worry and anger.” When we are vexed, worried, or angry it’s because we don’t like the harsh realities of life under the sun. We are frustrated because we cannot control our life. Here, Christian, God directs us to banish all anxiety by faith in God. Be joyful for all that is in front of you. Relax and have some chips and dip. The Lord is in control (Matthew 6:25-34). So here we have this great charter of joy! All of us throughout our life are called to live a youthful joy. Now there are times we are called to mourn. See verse 8. It is better to go to the house of mourning than the house of mirth (Ecclesiastes 7:4). But the idea here is to enjoy the life God has given, even though mourning is part of it. Of course “youth and the dawn of life” do have their vanity. The time of youth, as well as old age, can be empty and transitory when lived in sinful lusts. But when we fear God and believe in God’s Son, we are enabled to enjoy life as we live by faith. Suggestion for prayer The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Ask God to teach you joy in every situation. Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 24 – Having joy in your youth (Part 2)

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:17 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 11:9 There are three great truths in verse 9. First, choose cheer when you are young! Be thankful for your parents, for your bike and the way you look. God’s word puts it this way because God knows how easy it is for you not to be happy. Life is not meant to be lived complaining. It is too short not to be joyful. Second, God says follow your heart and your eyes. WOW. Is this promoting the idea that if you feel like it, just do it, whatever it may be? Or if you see it and want it, get that credit card out? No! God throughout Ecclesiastes shows how wicked that mindset is. So, what does this mean? Well, think of the overarching message of the Bible, the story of God setting us free in Jesus Christ to enjoy life. Jesus gives life more abundantly than sin or Satan ever can. Yes, there are some things we cannot do. We cannot do the opposite of what the Spirit has written on our hearts, or offend people, or grieve Holy Spirit, but creation is left wide open for us to enjoy and do to the glory of God. Third, remember God’s judgment. (v.9b) Enjoying life does not mean leaving God behind and enjoying sin and pride. That is a lie of Satan. Enjoying life is following God and enjoying His way and this includes remembering God’s judgment. Living life for God means remembering 11:9b and 12:13 in the context of Christ. In Christ, we can be forgiven. Suggestion for prayer Confess your sin to God, and ask Him to help you do all you do to the glory of God. Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 19 – Serving others generously

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 11:2, 6 Today we explore Solomon’s second application of the principle in verse 1. The first is, with faith in God, take the risk of serving others. The second is, with faith in God, take the risk of serving others generously. Generous giving is what God means in verse 2a. Don’t stop at giving to seven people. Go on giving to eight, nine or eleven. Give to the utmost; be a river of generosity to others. The verse also says, “For you don’t know when a disaster may happen.” This means: be so generous that you give to people even before there is a need! You don’t need a crisis to give to others. We are told in Psalm 112 that the Lord Jesus distributes freely and gives to the poor. He does this all the time and in many ways, not to just seven, but to eight, to nine, to a million. He gives not according to good works, or status. No, Jesus gives generously even in the midst of the greatest disaster on earth, our sinfulness. Maybe we would die for a noble cause or even a noble person, but we wouldn’t take that risk for Adolf Hitler. But while we were wretched sinners Christ died for us! God in Christ did not hold on to His wealth and forget about us. He became poor so that we might be rich. And, He found His investment; He got His bread back! His people and His world are saved and will come into the eternal Kingdom of God. Suggestion for prayer May you make me a cheerful giver, giving even out of my poverty. (2 Corinthians 9:6-10) Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 18 – God’s giving grace

“He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you.” – 1 Peter 1:20 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 Why does the Lord encourage us to serve others in the language of, “take the risk"? First, in His grace, God confronts us in our sin. We generally think that loving others before ourselves is a losing game.We connive, rationalize, and jockey life so we come out on top. To give to others is often seen as risky business. Of course, godly wisdom practices stewardship, but we all know the self-justifications we’ve made for not helping a person, or not having children, or not sharing our time. Secondly, in His grace, God reveals Himself in verses 1-6. God in Christ cast His bread on the water before the foundation of the world! In Jesus, we see that God took the risk of living for others. He was a sower who sowed the Word. He knew not all the seeds would fall on good ground, but He sowed anyway. God Almighty is not like that foolish servant in the parable of the talents who wouldn’t risk losing his master’s money! No, God in Christ boldly worked for His kingdom and has brought back huge profits. God gave to Israel again and again even though He knew they would reject Him. Imagine, God gave Himself, for from this disobedient people, a virgin conceived and bore a Son. This Son of God served His people to redeem them. God cast His bread on the waters. When we are born again and trust in Jesus, we too take risks to count others more significant than ourselves. Suggestion for prayer Give thanks to God for His inexpressible gift of loving and serving us. Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 17 – Take the risk of serving others

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” - Philippians 2:3 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 We learn the principle in verse 1 is to be bold and take risks in serving the Lord. Over the next few days, we will learn the three ways Solomon applies this. First, with faith in God, take the risk of serving others. This comes out in the words “give,” and “sow”. Solomon beckoned us to do good (3:12), to work (3:22; 5:18; 8:15), and to please God (2:26). What does this look like? Live generously for others; take that risk and in faith do it. If you spend too much time figuring out if all the conditions are right, you will probably keep back love, friendship and sharing your life. God gave us life and love, our hands, our work, and our lot in life. We don’t know all that will befall us, but we are called to live it in the fear of God. Waiting for the time when everything will be predictable, risk-free and affordable before we give and serve others means we want to be God. However, only God is sovereign and we don’t know how He will work. But, Christian, still take the risk, sow the seed, and serve others. Go to work for your family, have children and spend time with them, sit down to talk with someone who is sad, adopt children, and love your spouse. Remember Jesus’ life of faith. He said, “The Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) Suggestion for prayer Pray for humility and to have the mind of Christ. Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 16 – A godly principle: take the risk of serving the Lord

“Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” - Romans 12:11 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 11:1 Having introduced chapter 11 yesterday, we begin explaining it in detail today. Solomon first states a principle in verse 1 and then applies it in three ways. Today we will learn the principle stated in verse 1. Notice the imagery. Casting your bread on the water seems a risky thing to do. Throw it out there and it will get waterlogged; you’ll never see it again. Yet, Scripture says, “You will find it after many days.” Not that you get it back literally, he is not talking about literal bread, rather it’s a call to be bold, to take risks. Verses 3 &4 give an illustration. When it rains, the rain falls on the earth, a tree lies where it falls, and the wind comes the way it comes because they follow God’s purpose. We can do nothing about when it rains, how a tree falls, or when the winds blow. The point is simple: because we don’t control nature, in life you have to take risks. Notice the call to take risks in verses 5-6. This time it is in light of God Almighty. Solomon is pointing out that God is in control, so we have to go forward by faith. He is sovereign and we don’t know how He will work, but we are still to boldly step out. What risk are we to boldly take? The passage makes it plain. (see v.2a; “sow” v.4a; v.6). Take the risk of serving God and giving to others. God will use you in people’s lives! Suggestion for prayer Pray the Holy Spirit will grant you boldness to serve the Lord today. Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 11 – Our much talking spoils many good things

“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” – Colossians 3:8 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 10:12-20 Over the past four days, we have looked at practical examples of how our foolish actions can outweigh and spoil wisdom (10:1). The last example is in v.12-20. Talking, talking, talking is foolishness. Wisdom says, “Let your words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2) If you gab, it will get you into trouble. Solomon illustrates this with political life. He and his court were given to the high life (v.18-19), but they always heard the criticisms and gossip because fools multiply words and sooner or later they got back to the king (v.14, 20). How can we slip up even though we know the wisdom which says, “Let your words be few?” By the slip of the tongue! By constant criticism even when you keep it to yourself or by talking on and on. Sooner or later a little bird tells others and you get into trouble. Of course, little birds cannot spread our words, but the point is sometimes we don’t know when to stop talking. We seem to be lost when we talk on and on. We think we can prove a point or assert ourselves with many words. No, we turn people off. Christian, live in the meekness of Christ. Don’t be critical or be a busy body with other peoples’ lives. Few words and kind words build unity in marriages, families and churches. Suggestion for prayer Pray you would love others better than yourself. Loving others keeps our mouths quiet. Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 10 – Our miscalculations spoil many good things

“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance.” - Proverbs 21.5 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 10:1, 8-11 It says in Ecclesiastes 9:18, “One sinner destroys much good.” This applies to all of us. Even though we might “know better” we can be foolish (throw a dead fly into the perfume of life), and make things difficult. We always need God! Ecclesiastes has been showing us this with practical examples. We look at verses 8-11 today. It is true; in God’s world wisdom helps us to succeed. Thinking through the costs, drawing the plans, mapping out projections is very, very helpful (Proverbs 21.5). How can we slip up even though we know this wisdom? Notice verses 8-10. By our miscalculations, our oversights, or lack of concentration, an entire project can be thwarted. We can dig a pit and fall into it. We get hurt on the job because we didn’t take the time to put our safety boots on that morning. Look at v.11. If the snake handler is wise, he will charm the snake before he handles it. If he doesn’t he will be bitten. A young man was taught to take care of his finances. But two months before the wedding he came across a deal too good to pass up. He bought into it, but it was a scam! Such a small thing, but it brought down so much. Miscalculations and oversights happen all the time. Proverbs 21:5 is true, yet, in this present life, we are not always diligent. Christ Jesus always was. He never miscalculated and He did God’s will perfectly. By His perfect work, we have forgiveness for our foolish miscalculations. Suggestion for prayer Give thanks to God for His unchanging love for you, even when you have miscalculated. Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 9 – Foolish leaders spoil many good things

“The greatest among you shall be your servant.” - Matthew 23:11 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 10:5-7 In this chapter, God is saying we do foolish things which can tear down the wise things we’ve done. The writer proves this point with four practical examples. The example today is in verses 5-7. Not all people in authority are wise! We might think prime ministers, presidents, conference speakers, or pastors with their PhDs are wise, able to teach, lead, and organize for the good of others. Sadly though, halls of power are often upside down. Ignoble people ride noble horses, while noble people walk the ground. People with great influence can often have selfish ambition in their hearts” (James 3:14), consequently spoiling countries, families and churches. How can we slip up even though we know this wisdom? By trusting people who are not trustworthy because we want what they have. For example, we go to a particular seminar or conference to learn the key to the Christian life, or how to be a better homeschooler. We trust so and so’s book; after all they are leaders. Yet, in the end, they didn’t bring the peace of Christ to us. They brought us to legalism or antinomianism, or we became self-righteous, or we gave our money to this candidate believing in him, only to hear he was a womanizer. Many times Christians have followed a “movement” only to find disappointment in the end. Christian, don’t follow any movement or man other than Jesus and His movement. Jesus and His truth never disappoint. Suggestion for prayer Pray for your pastor, elders, and deacons. Pray selfish ambition would not spoil them. Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

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