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Daily devotional

April 15 – Christ our mighty warrior

“Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle.” - Psalm 24:8

Scripture reading: Psalm 24:8

In the previous verse, those who are with the coming King, are calling out to the gatekeepers to open the gates so that the King of glory shall come in. In this verse, we have the response of the gatekeepers, “Who is this King of glory?”  The answer that comes is beautiful and comforting. We read that the LORD is strong and mighty and specifically mighty in battle. This may sound a bit strange; maybe we don’t think of Jesus as being a mighty warrior. Yet, this is exactly how He is described here. This, of course, is what He was prophesied to be all the way back in Genesis 3:15. He would be the One Who would crush the head of the serpent.

Christ is also described as such in Psalm 2, where it is said that He will break the nations that have risen up against Him like pottery smashed with a rod of iron. In Revelation, we have visions recorded for us, of Jesus having a two-edged sword coming out of His mouth and of Him riding upon a white war horse (Revelation 1:16; 19:11). This is not the Jesus that is proclaimed in many churches or certainly by many in our culture. Jesus is seen more like a kitten than like Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia. Yet, this is the Jesus Who we need, the Jesus who will defeat all of our enemies and give us a great victory.

Suggestions for prayer

Pray that the Lord Jesus would destroy all the works of the devil and that He would continue to plunder his house, saving many unto eternal life. Praise our Lord Jesus Christ for all that He has saved us from by dying on the cross.

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 8 – Proclamation to the next generation

“A posterity shall serve Him. It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation.” - Psalm 22:30 Scripture reading: Psalm 22:30-31 As we reflect upon the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ in this Psalm, we see that it comes to an ending with a strong emphasis on telling the next generation of the salvation of the Lord. This is maybe not how we would expect this Psalm to end. However, as is all of God’s Word, it is certainly perfect, isn’t it? As a helpful test to see how important the salvation of Christ is to you, ask yourself how much you desire to teach the next generation about Christ. There are churches that have a hard time finding enough people to teach Catechism and parents who leave the teaching of the Scriptures to the church and/or school. If the gospel of Christ is important to you, then you will declare it and recount it to your children, your grandchildren, and the children of the church. If you are not diligent in prayer and proclaiming the gospel to the next generation, it must conclude that the gospel of Christ is not very important to you and not something over which you really rejoice. You do not have to do big things, you don’t even have to be a Catechism teacher. But you should, in daily life, strongly desire to share the gospel that means so much to you. Suggestions for prayer Pray for a heart that deeply values the gospel of Jesus and loves all people, a heart that wants to share it with everyone, including the next generation. Pray that the children in your family, church and community would come to a saving faith in Jesus. 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 7 – Christ’s saving reign

“All the ends of the world Shall remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations shall worship before You.” - Psalm 22:27 Scripture reading: Psalm 22:27-29 As we approach the end of this Psalm, we see what a glorious ending it is. How glorious it is to reflect on the realities of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. We read in verse 27 that God will gather to Himself, in Christ, a people from every tribe, tongue and nation (Revelation  5:9). Not only this, but Christ, in being raised, has overcome the entire world (John 16:33). As we see in verse 28, the LORD’s reign is over all the nations. Everyone is under His dominion, however not all will be saved. Yet, the saving reign of Christ extends not only to all the ends of the earth, but also to the rich, the poor and the dying. When we consider the death and resurrection of Christ, we should be in awe and wonder at not only the sufficiency and effectiveness of Christ to save, but also the extent to which Christ’s salvation is spread. It is not limited to one family or one group of people, but as was promised to Abraham, “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would continue to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth and that He would be pleased to use us for that end. 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 31 – God’s judgment day

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” - 2 Corinthians 5:10 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 12:14 At the end of Ecclesiastes, we come face to face with God’s end-time judgment. It is the conclusion we want to hear after hearing that life is a vapor uncontrollable by us. Fearing God and walking in obedience is man’s core purpose. Thus, we are glad God is the judge. There is comfort in God’s judgment. Why? First, our sins were judged by God in Jesus Christ. They are forgiven so now as Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24). Christ has delivered us from the judgment of God in taking that judgment for us. Second, we see the comfort of the judgment seat of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. For those in Christ, it will be a public declaration of sins forgiven and a time where our deeds of faith will be rewarded. Of course, those works are His works in us, but He gives us the rewards. Thirdly, there is the comfort that the wicked unrepentant sinner will be judged. God is just. It will not be well with the wicked. The conclusion of Ecclesiastes is that life is a vapor, but that God keeps life a mystery to us and brings us what He wills, so that we might receive His grace and that in grace, we trust in and live by His Word through life, unto eternity. Suggestion for prayer Pray God would keep us in the church to hear His Word so we will remember He is our 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 30 – The conclusion of the whole matter: keep God’s commandments

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” – John 14:15 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 12:13b The new life Christians live in the Holy Spirit is the life of the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5). Ecclesiastes reminds us of this in v.13, “Fear God and keep his commandments.” Fearing God and keeping His commandments go hand in hand. Faith in the Lord leads to love for the Lord and love for the Lord leads to obedience (1 John 5:3; John 14:15, 21). Fearing God includes loving God. One key purpose of Jesus’ salvation work is that we would be saved to obey Him forever (Romans 14:9). Because Christ is our Saviour, He tells us the first and second commandment is our righteousness so that God’s law is fulfilled in us. We are also now learning obedience, and being transformed into the image of Christ, Who is our obedience. Which commands do we obey in the Lord? The commands given in Ecclesiastes to enjoy life in God’s name and trust in God. The other commandments include God’s law written on our hearts by the Spirit (Hebrews 10:16) and the fruits of the Spirit. Suggestion for prayer Ask God to help you love Him more and more every day. 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 23 – Having joy in your youth (Part 1)

“I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” - 1 John 2:14 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 11:7-10 In chapter 11:7-10, Solomon highlights the command to live in joy by repeating that life without God is “vanity, vanity.”(v.8b; v.10b). However, living in God’s grace and the fear of God brings a life of joy. Solomon has taught us that living wisely in the fear of God means living in joy. At the conclusion of each of the previous sections in Ecclesiastes, joy has been commanded and God calls us to joy at the end as well. First, Solomon affirms life in all its fullness in v.7. Light is a metaphor for being alive. The living are in the light of the sun, so enjoy them all your years. Of course, how long you will live, the success of your work, how many children you have, what illness will take your life, and all aspects of your future are out of your control, so be joyful while you are young for many dark days will come when you are older (v.8-9). Second, Solomon affirms that the young should live in joy. Verse 9 startles us. Is Solomon being ironic or is he giving a wise principle? The context shows he is giving us a wise principle. Matthew Poole put it this way. “This is serious advice to this purpose: seeing life is short and transitory, improve it to the best advantage, take comfort in it whilst you may, only do it with moderation, and the fear of God.” When we are young we should fear God and live cheerfully. Suggestion for prayer Rejoice in the covenant God has made with our children. Pray they would fear God and enjoy all He gives to 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....

Daily devotional

March 22 – Remember the overarching message of Ecclesiastes

“O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all.” - Psalm 104:24 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 5:18-20; 11:7-10 To rightly understand the light, joy, freedom, and the “walking in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes” described in Ecclesiastes 11:7-10, we must first remind ourselves of the overarching message of Ecclesiastes. We should not think the evil in this world is this world. Creation and life are God’s gifts and He has come to forgive us our sin to free us to live for Him in this world and enjoy this world. Ecclesiastes points this out over and over again. Solomon sings the praises of work, wife, feasting, drinking wine, generosity, funerals and births. As well in our passage, we see joy all life long, youth, following one’s heart, and removal of vexation from life. Does this seem too physical, too un-spiritual? It is not. Yes, this world is filled with evil, tyranny, disaster, the uncontrollable future and futility in work. There is no pretending in Ecclesiastes. Sometimes, for some more than others, life is not rosy. However, faith teaches us that life is a gift from God to be lived for Him and enjoyed. He came to redeem us to enjoy Him and glorify Him which includes calling nothing unclean that He has called clean. The grace in Christ and the guidance of the Spirit teaches us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, not to renounce the blessing of God. Jesus came to set us free from sin to enjoy God and all His good gifts. Suggestion for prayer Give thanks to God for your health, for your family, for music and for good things. 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 15 – Jesus gave abundantly; let’s do the same

“Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” - 2 Corinthians 8:9 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 Recall that we are in the last section of Ecclesiastes (ch.9-12). Ch. 1-8 tells us of the awesome sovereign ways of God. God is in control of life, therefore we fear God and trust him. Ch.9-12 give us, “this-is-what-it-is-to-live-by-faith” points. In chapter 9, we read that life is better than death because the living can live by faith in God, have hope and comfort from God, and enjoy God. In ch.10, we discover that wisdom is superior to foolishness, but no one is perfectly wise all the time so Christians must keep living by faith. Today, we start uncovering chapter 11:1-6. To help us grasp its main message, recollect the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31. She was a risk-taking, entrepreneurial person. She saw possibilities in property, crops, in her husband, her children and she didn’t let the fear of winter or too many children stop her from giving generously. She gave because she feared the Lord! She lived by faith in the awe of God, and this caused her to see possibilities. She cast her bread on the water and was a blessing. Our text teaches God’s children to go ahead, cast your bread on the water, taking the risk to live by faith in God and giving generously to people around you. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and being boldly generous and copiously good to our neighbors is a basic part of living by faith in Jesus! Yes, it’s risky to follow Jesus, forgive and love people, but it is Christ-like. The forever-cautious, the forever-burying-gold-coins-in-the-ground so as not to lose anything are anxious, selfish people. Jesus Christ was not selfish. He left heaven and gave generously so we could be saved. Suggestion for prayer Help me Lord to count the cost of serving You and help me to be willing to give all for You. 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 14 – Boast in Jesus who is our wisdom

“Asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom.” - Colossians 1:9 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 10:1; 12:13; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 Ecclesiastes chapter 10 has been our study this past week and we have learned that God, more than mere wisdom, is the hope of our life. God knew this so He sent us Jesus Christ Who is “the power of God and wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). Here is the third application from Ecclesiastes 10. Wisdom is better than foolishness, but we need more than mere wisdom for living, we need God in our lives. God comes to our lives in Christ and when He comes wisdom comes too! In the New Covenant gospel, we have the promise that we will be given wisdom, or to put it another way, we will be given the mind of Christ. This wisdom is not yet complete in us, but it has begun to be formed in us who are Christians. Christ has risen, the Holy Spirit has come, and with His coming at Pentecost has come wisdom. Read Acts 2:17-21. Is this not wisdom? Read Ephesians 5:15-18. This is possible in the gospel. Remember Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. This is now a reality in Jesus Christ. Yes, this wisdom is not perfect in us yet. We will be perfect at the resurrection, but wisdom has started to be formed in us. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31) Suggestion for prayer Pray for the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, so you may know the hope to which God has called you. 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....

Daily devotional

March 8 – Rage spoils many good things

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” - Ephesians 4:26 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 10:1-4 Yesterday we read of the blessing of wisdom, but in our fallenness, none of us is perfectly wise or appreciates wisdom all the time! We should imagine that the wisdom we might have gained in life, would make us powerful and protect us from all mistakes and slip-ups! In chapter 10, God tells us to turn away from the false, self-righteous idea that a wise person will have a trouble-free, perfect life. Even wise people do dumb things which bring trouble into life. Our Father warns us of this in verse 1! We can do foolish things which can tear down the wise things we’ve done. No matter how wise we might be, we still slip up; we can still be foolish, so we need God! The writer proves this point with four practical examples. Let’s look at the first one in verses 1-4 Being calm and self-controlled in volatile situations, especially before authorities is wise. Fools are inclined to pride and think hot-blooded protest will work. But wisdom says in verse 4, don’t be angry before authority, be calm and self-controlled. How can we slip up even though we know this wisdom? By being a hot-head. Politicians, parents, or pastors in their anger can blow their top. Lack of self-control is the fly in the perfume that makes the perfume stink. As Christians, we know this, yet we often fall. All of us always need the forgiving and sanctifying grace of Jesus. Suggestion for prayer Forgive me, Jesus, when I blow up before others. 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 7 – The treasure of wisdom

“Wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.” - Proverbs 8:10 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 9:16-17; 10:2, 10, 12 This Sunday, let’s remember that wisdom is better than might and the words of the wise are better than the shoutings of an unwise ruler. Why is this true? Because scripture tells us. The wise have knowledge about what kind of words to say and when to say them. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11). Wisdom enables people to get things done. The man in v.13-15 got things done. Wisdom can help a person in a tight spot and enables a person to get along with others. Foolish people always seem to live a life of drama because they don’t know how to listen and get at the real issue, whereas wisdom inclines a person to truth (10;2a), helps one to succeed (10:10b), and makes a man’s words winsome (10:12). Wisdom is helpful because it also admits that life is complex; that there is black and white, as well as grey, and that which is good, better, and best of all. Well, biblical wisdom helps us discern the best way through the complexity of life. Simply living wisely is living in the Spirit; being enabled to get things done, love people, use your God-given skills, enjoy the gifts of God properly…and to fear God, asking in every situation, “Will this glorify God?” Suggestion for prayer Ask God for wisdom in faith believing (James 1:5-8). 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 6 – Jesus is wisdom from God to save us

“Christ Jesus, who became to us the wisdom from God...” – 1 Corinthians 1:30 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 9:13-10:20 Today we start studying chapter 9:13-10:20. Please read it over two times. This section drives us to fear God and live by faith in Him. It does so by telling us that we should not think that the wisdom we might have from books, seminars, and even Scripture or preaching, makes us powerful and protected from all mistakes and slip-ups! Yes, wisdom is better than foolishness, but even the wisest of us slip up – we always need to trust and fear God. Wisdom is superior to foolishness, but no one is perfectly wise all the time, so Christian, keep living by faith. Let’s begin with chapter 9:13-18. Wisdom is a great thing. Notice the story of verses 14-18. The enemy, with its power, was ready to decimate the city. No one knew what to do! Yet, in the city, there was a poor, yet wise man who knew what to do. From verse 17 we learn that by his wise negotiations he delivered the city. Wisdom is better than might and it helps us to navigate through life. Tomorrow, on the Lord’s Day, we will describe the benefits of God’s wisdom. But for today, remember Christ is our wise Man; He is the wisdom of and from God. Christ has the might and truth to deliver us from our enemies and sin. Suggestion for prayer Ask God to teach you the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom. 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 1 – Introducing our study of Ecclesiastes 9-12

Earlier, my devotionals explored God’s message from Ecclesiastes chapters 1-7. The devotional meditations for March 2021 will continue our readings in Ecclesiastes, particularly Ecclesiastes chapters 9-12. Before we begin let’s remind ourselves of the author of Ecclesiastes, its overarching themes, and the general outline of the book. Solomon, by the inspiration of the Spirit, wrote this book. He is the son of David, king in Jerusalem (1:1, 16). The title means “the Preacher” or “one who assembles.” Solomon was an assembler of the people (12:9-11). Near the end of his life (around 930 BC), he assembled the people together to hear Ecclesiastes! Wisdom, joy, the fear of God, the sovereignty of God, and repentance are the overarching themes. Therefore, Ecclesiastes preaches Jesus to us. After all, Jesus is the wisdom and joy of God who sovereignly rules, and is the reason why people repent of sin to live life with meaning. Welcome back to Ecclesiastes “...but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” – 1 Peter 2:25b Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 9:1-6; 12:9-14; 1 Peter 2:21-25 Ecclesiastes can be divided into four distinct sections. 1 – Chapters 1-2 Life without God is vanity. However, life lived in Christ brings meaning and joy. In God, wisdom, pleasure, knowledge, and possessions are gifts to enjoy for God’s glory. 2 – Chapters 3-5 The overarching theme is: God is sovereign over our lives. Our lot in life is His will for us (3:11a, 17b, 22; 5:2b, 18-19). 3 – Chapters 6-8 Life brings us face to face with tragedies. Solomon speaks about evil and the wicked (6:1,2, 7:15, 17, 25; 8:3,5, 8, 10-11, 13-14). However, God is sovereign over all and we do not always know why he allows what happens to us. (7:14, 25-29; 8:17). The conclusion to which God drives us is in chapter 8:10-17 – the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. 4 – Chapters 9-12 This is the section we will study this month. Notice chapter 9:1. “But all this I laid to heart, examining it all.” “All this,” means all the breadth and depth of human life. All the awesome sovereign ways of God spoken of in chapter 1-8, he has lain to heart. Now he gives some concluding, “this-is-what-it-is-to-live-by-faith” points. These come from what he has said and drive us to confess the life of faith described in chapter 12:13-14. The conclusion is: live by faith in God, and though life is not always explainable, God can be trusted through it all…Christ is our One Shepherd to guide us so rejoice and live by his Word. Suggestions for prayer Pray we would examine life and understand we must live it by faith. 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

February 28 – The consummation of God’s mission for His glory

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away - Revelation 21:1 Scripture reading: 2 Peter 3:8-13 Today is again a Sunday. Earlier we saw that every Sabbath day was meant to remind Israel that the reason for her existence was that she was called to participate in God’s mission for His glory by making Him visible on earth through being people and places where heaven and earth meet. We also saw that the Sabbath was a guarantee that God would one day reach this goal. One day, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is now hidden in the glory of the Father, will suddenly appear in glory and usher in the eternal Sabbath rest in the kingdom of God where humanity and creation will be transfigured by being glorified into the likeness of the resurrected and glorified Christ. Before this, God will first come in judgment with a cosmic fire that completely destroys the old heavens and the earth with all its unrighteous works. Once the heavens and earth are completely destroyed, God will usher in a new heaven and earth, according to His promise, where righteousness will dwell. Thus, the continuity between the old creation and the new creation lies in God’s faithfulness to His mission for His glory to make all things new. God’s mission for His glory, which began with the creation of the world and humanity, will then continue for all eternity as a new humanity participates in this mission for God’s glory by making the mutual glorification that takes place in heaven, visible on earth by being people and places where heaven and earth meet. On earth as in heaven! Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His faithfulness to His mission. Thank Him that every Sunday is a guarantee that His mission for His glory will reach its goal in a new heaven and new earth where He will be all in all. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

February 27 – Christ living in us and God’s mission

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. - Galatians 2:20 Scripture reading: John 15:1-11 When God fulfills the promise of the new covenant by circumcising our hearts and filling us with the Holy Spirit, it is no longer we who live, but Christ Who lives in us. Just like a vine reproduces its own life in its branches, so Christ reproduces His life of glorifying the Father in our lives when we, through faith, clothe ourselves with Him, through the Holy Spirit. Participating in God’s mission for His glory by making God visible through having Christ live in us with His Spirit will lead to a cruciform or cross-shaped life. This involves denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Jesus. In losing our life and following Jesus, we will find it in His death and resurrection. However, this will lead to a participation in the sufferings and death of Christ. Participating in God’s mission for His glory by making God visible on earth through having Christ Jesus live in us with His Spirit, will also lead to a resurrectional life that bears witness to the resurrection of God’s new creation. This resurrection life of God’s new creation is a manifestation of the wholeness of a life of love for God and one’s neighbour. However, like leading a cruciform life of daily putting off the old self in Adam, leading a resurrectional life of daily putting our new self in Christ will involve participating in the sufferings of Christ. Yet, these sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). Suggestions for prayer Praise God for the blessing that Christ now lives in us with His Spirit when we put Him on through faith. Ask your heavenly Father to help you consider it a joy to suffer together with Christ. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

February 26 – Christ pouring out the Spirit and God’s mission

Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. - Acts 2:33 Scripture reading: Acts 2:1-13 Having been born by and anointed with the Holy Spirit, having offered the Father the sacrifice of His life and death through the Spirit, having been vindicated by the Spirit when He arose, having ascended into heaven through the Spirit and been exalted at the right hand of His Father, Jesus received from His Father the promise of the new covenant Spirit. He poured this Spirit out on the church on the day of Pentecost as the climax of Israel’s history and of the history of His life. Jesus had promised that He would ask His Father to send Israel the Spirit. He commanded His disciples not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait to be baptized with the Spirit as the fulfilment of the promise of the Father. Obedient to this command, the disciples remained in Jerusalem where, with a group of about 120 people, they devoted themselves to prayer. When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all in one place. Suddenly, they were baptized with the Holy Spirit and all began to proclaim the mighty works of God in different languages as the Spirit enabled them. This symbolizes the incorporation of the nations into Israel, participating in God’s mission for His glory. Peter explains that by participating in Christ’s prophetic ministry from heaven, the promise of the new covenant, where in the last days God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh. Was fulfilled. This outpouring of the Spirit is the climax of Israel’s history and the history of Jesus’ life before He returns. Suggestions for prayer Praise your heavenly Father that Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and ask Him to daily fill you with the Holy Spirit so that you can faithfully participate in God’s mission for His glory. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

February 21 – Christ’s sacrifice of His life and God’s mission

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father - John 14:9 Scripture reading: Luke 4:1-13 Having identified with Israel when He was baptized by John and having been anointed with the Spirit when He rose from the water of His baptism, Jesus continued to identify with Israel by offering the Father the sacrifice of His life, through the Holy Spirit as Israel’s substitute and representative. This began by His being led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days where He was tempted by the devil with regard to His relationship with Himself, the world and God. In being tempted for forty days in the desert, He is repeating, in Himself, Israel’s temptation in the desert for forty years and Adam and Eve’s temptation in the Garden of Eden. However, where Adam and Eve and Israel failed, Christ, as the faithful Adam and true Israel, passed the devil’s temptations in the power of the Spirit. Having passed the devil’s temptations in the power of the Spirit where Adam, Eve and Israel had failed to pass them, Jesus proclaimed the good news of the coming kingdom of heaven in the power of the Spirit, and demonstrated this by healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead in the power of the Spirit. Moreover, He perfectly kept and embodied the law of love in the power of the Spirit. As such, Jesus participated in His Father’s mission for His glory and made His Father visible on earth by surrendering His life to His Father and thankfully offering Him the sacrifice of His life through the power of the Holy Spirit. Suggestions for prayer Thank your heavenly Father that Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law of love for you and that what Jesus has done for you He now wants to do in you through His Holy Spirit as you put Him on through faith and abide in Him. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

February 20 – Baptized with the Spirit and God’s mission (2)

...And the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased… - Luke 3:22 Scripture reading: Luke 3:21-22 Jesus was not only baptized with the Holy Spirit in order to be empowered for His mission as Israel’s true prophet, priest, and king. He was also baptized with the Holy Spirit because He would baptize all flesh with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. In His baptism with the Spirit, He permanently possessed the Spirit. As such, He is God’s beloved Son with Whom the Father is well pleased. Having a family of sons and daughters, who are permanently filled with the Holy Spirit, who participate in His mission for His glory by making Him visible on earth, is what God always wanted. This is why He created Adam and Eve in His image. This is why He commanded them to participate in His mission for His glory by commanding them to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. They were to have dominion over creation, ruling together with Him as kings and taking care of creation together with Him as priests. In doing so, they would spread the life of Eden over the whole earth. This is why He embarked on a redemptive mission for His glory by promising to defeat sin, death and the devil and make all things new (Genesis 3:15). This is why He chose Abraham and Israel to participate in His mission for His glory as His treasured possession and make Him visible to the nations by being His kingdom of priests and a holy nation. This is why He chose you. On earth as in heaven! Suggestions for prayer Thank your heavenly Father that He adopted you in Christ to one day be fully filled with the Holy Spirit so that you can make Him visible on a new earth. Thank Him that He has given you the first instalment of the Spirit so you can begin to make Him visible to those around you. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional.  ...

Daily devotional

February 19 – Baptized with the Spirit and God’s mission (1)

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him. - Matthew 3:16 Scripture reading: Matthew 3:13-17 Having been conceived and born by the Spirit, Jesus grew and became strong in the Spirit. Moreover, He was baptized by John in the Jordan. Because Israel had failed to participate in God’s mission for His glory by making Him visible on earth, John calls them to repent and be baptized with a baptism of repentance or else face the fire of God’s coming judgment. Christ, however, identifies with Israel and is baptized just like Israel in order to fulfill all righteousness, even though He, as the true Israel, does not need a baptism of repentance. In doing so, as God’s beloved Son, He publicly and officially becomes Israel’s substitute and representative so that Israel can be freed from the curse of the law and can finally fulfill its role of bringing the blessing of Abraham to the nations, by making God visible on earth through being people and places where heaven and earth meet. Having identified with Israel as their substitute and representative, Jesus was also baptized or anointed with the Spirit when He rose from the water of His baptism. Whereas being anointed with oil in the Old Testament symbolized being publicly consecrated for being a prophet, priest, or king and being empowered for these tasks by the Holy Spirit, Jesus is publicly consecrated and empowered for His task as Israel’s prophet, priest, and king directly by the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, Jesus will fulfill His mission in the power of the Holy Spirit. Suggestions for prayer Thank your heavenly Father that, because you share in the anointing of Christ, you participate in His ministry of prophet, priest, and king, and in doing so, you participate in God’s mission for His glory. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

February 18 – Conceived and born by the Spirit and God’s mission

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God. - Luke 1:35 Scripture reading: Luke 1:26-38 God began to fulfill the promises of the new covenant by having Israel return to the Promised Land. However, because He did not circumcise their hearts, the generation that returned was no better than the generation that had been sent into exile. Because they too resisted the Holy Spirit, they were not the theatre of His mission for His glory making God visible on earth by being people and places where heaven and earth meet. So, God demonstrates His faithfulness to the creational purpose of His mission for His glory and His promise of a new covenant where He would make Israel into a new creation by sending His own Son in our flesh as Israel’s substitute and representative to be this theatre of His mission for His glory. In order to make Israel into a new creation by circumcising their hearts and filling them with the Holy Spirit, God’s Son needs to be conceived and born through the Holy Spirit. For even though the Son possessed the Spirit as the eternal Son of the Father, in order for Him to fill or baptize Israel with the Spirit, He also needs to possess the Holy Spirit as a human being, because as the holy, incarnate Son of God, He will baptize Israel and those who are grafted into Israel through faith with the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, the Son of God took on our flesh through the Holy Spirit so that, as the holy, incarnate Son of God, He could baptize or fill with the Holy Spirit. Suggestions for prayer Thank your heavenly Father that Christ was also able to baptize His people with the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to open your eyes to where you may be resisting the Spirit. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

February 13 – God’s mission and the failure of his covenant with Israel 

And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. - 1 Samuel 8:7 Scripture reading: 1 Samuel 8 As God predicted, the failure to keep His covenant, soon became a reality in the Promised Land. Not only did Israel fail to drive out all the Canaanites, their life soon resembled the life of the Canaanites. Repeatedly, we read, “And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals.” They abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, Who brought them out of Egypt. They went after and bowed down to other gods, from among the gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger” (Judges 2:11-12). By the end of the book of Judges, Israel became like the nations and the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. We see the same failure when Israel demands a king like all the nations. Although when God made His second covenant with Abraham, he promised that kings would come forth from His descendants (Genesis 17:6, 16), Israel demands a king. They reject God as their king. When God grants Saul as Israel’s first king, Saul also rejects God as his king. Because he rejects God as king, God rejects him as king. This constant failure to keep God’s covenant leads to the bankruptcy or failure of God’s covenants with Israel. This, in turn, leads to the uncertainty of whether God can still use Israel in His mission for His glory by bringing the blessing of Abraham to the nations and making God visible on earth through being people and places where heaven and earth meet. Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father to show you whether you are serving any other gods in your life. If you are, ask Him for forgiveness and renewal of life. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

February 12 – God’s law and God’s mission

Moreover, I gave them statutes that were not good and rules by which they could not have life… - Ezekiel 20:25 Scripture reading: Psalm 19:7-14 Yesterday, we saw that God predicted that Israel would fail to keep His third covenant with them because their hearts were not circumcised. Today, we see that Israel would also not be able to keep this third covenant because the commandments He gave them were not good, nor could they give life. Elsewhere in Scripture, we read that God’s commandments are good. For instance, the psalmist writes that the law of God is perfect, pure, and true. He also writes that the law of God revives the soul, makes wise the simple, enlightens the eyes. Consequently, God’s law is to be desired more than gold and is sweeter than honey. God’s law is all of this and more because it shows Israel how to participate in God’s mission for His glory, by bearing witness to the glory of God’s perfect life through living a life of love: love for God and love for one’s neighbour. However, the law does not give the power to keep God’s commandments. In this sense, they are not good and do not give life. Accordingly, Israel’s failure to keep God’s law placed them under the condemnation of the law. Suffering the consequences of their disobedience, clearly laid out in the law, Israel, in exile in Ezekial’s time, reflected on God’s judgement in their lives. This reinforces why God needs to circumcise the people’s hearts so that they can experience the goodness of His law through the obedience of faith. Suggestions for prayer Praise God about the goodness of His law. Thank Him that Christ has delivered you from the condemnation of the law and that the Holy Spirit enables you to fulfil the requirement of the law as you abide in Christ. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

February 11 – Circumcision of the heart and God’s mission

And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. - Deuteronomy 30:6 Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 30:1-10 Yesterday, we saw that God made His third covenant with Israel, a new generation committed to participate in God’s mission for His glory. This was to bring the blessing of Abraham to the nations by making God visible on earth through being people and places where heaven and earth meet. However, this new generation is no better because their hearts were just as uncircumcised as those of the previous generation. To participate in God’s mission for His glory, our hearts need to be circumcised. This means that just as physical circumcision removes a piece of flesh from a male’s foreskin, so spiritual circumcision removes the ways of the flesh from our hearts. Because the first generation of Israelites had not done this, most of them were not allowed to enter the Promised Land. When God made His third covenant with Israel, He predicted that they would be just like the first generation. Accordingly, they would not be able to walk in His ways, keep His commandments, and obey His voice and experience the blessings of living in covenant with God. As a result, they would experience the curses of the covenant as well as the ultimate curse of exile from the Promised Land. Yet, precisely because God is faithful to the drama of His mission for His glory, He offers His people hope by promising to come to the rescue of His mission for His glory and one day bring His people Israel to repentance by circumcising their hearts and restoring them to the Promised Land. Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father what you may need to be circumcised in your heart if it is hindering you from walking in His ways, keeping His commandments, listening to His voice and thus participating in His mission for His glory. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

February 10 – God’s third covenant with Israel and His mission

These are the words of the covenant that the Lord commanded Moses to make with the people of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant that he had made with them at Horeb. - Deuteronomy 29:1 Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 26:16-29 After 40 years in the desert, a new generation of the people of Israel is standing on the threshold of the Promised Land. However, this new generation is no better than the previous one. Both had rebelled against the Holy Spirit (Psalm 106:33), grieved the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 63:10-14), and resisted the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51). This leads to the uncertainty of whether God can still use this new generation in His mission for His glory. Moreover, in addition to having Joshua lead them instead of Moses, the situation of the new generation in the Promised Land will be a different one than their situation in the desert. In order to deal with this uncertainty and new situation, God once again demonstrates His faithfulness to His mission for His glory and comes to the rescue of this mission by making a third covenant with Israel on the Plains of Moab. With this covenant, as He had done to Abraham (Genesis 17:7), God commits to be Israel’s God, that Israel would be His treasured possession whom He would set above the other nations, and Israel would be His holy people. With this covenant, Israel commits to walk in God’s ways, keep His commandments, and obey His voice. In doing so, Israel commits to participate in God’s mission for His glory and bring the blessing of Abraham to the nations by making God visible on earth through being people and places where heaven and earth meet. On earth as in heaven! Suggestions for prayer Thank your heavenly Father that He is your God, the God of your congregation and that His Spirit enables you to commit to walk in His ways, keep His commandments and obey His voice. Ask Him to strengthen your commitment. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

February 5 – The blood of the covenant and God’s mission

And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” - Exodus 24:8 Scripture reading: Exodus 24:1-8 Keeping God’s covenant as His treasured possession that functions as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, will involve Israel keeping God’s commandments and statutes (Exodus 20-23). To impress upon the people His holiness and the required holiness of living in His presence, God manifests Himself to them in a powerful display of His majesty and holiness (Exodus 19:16-25). When Israel keeps God’s covenant in this way, she will not only increasingly learn what participating in God’s mission for His glory entails, she would also concretely bear witness to the surrounding nations what that involves.  Essentially, it involves a life of love, living for others as God lives for others (Matthew 22:37-40). God’s covenant with Israel is formally ratified in Exodus 24. After telling them all of God’s commandments and statutes, the people agreed to keep them. Having offered sacrifices to God, Moses threw some of the blood of the sacrifices on the altar, symbolizing God’s presence, and some of the people, symbolizing their willingness to participate in God’s mission for His glory. The people again repeat their commitment to be God’s treasured possession by being a kingdom of priests and a holy nation through keeping God’s covenant. In doing so, they formally agree to be God’s means to bring the blessing of Abraham to the nations by being a people and a place where heaven and earth meet because they bear witness to the glory of God’s perfect life by living a life of love, i.e. Living for the other. Suggestions for prayer When you publicly professed your faith, you publicly promised to participate in God’s mission for His glory. Ask your heavenly Father to help you keep your commitment. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

February 4 – The theatre of God’s mission for His glory

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. - Exodus 19:5-6 Scripture reading: Genesis 12:1-3; 1 Peter 2:9-10 God called Abraham and Sarah to make a complete break with their past, leaving behind everything dear to them, and go to the land that He would show them. He wanted to use them to deal with the problem of sin in the world caused by Adam and Eve, by having them bear witness to the glory of His loving presence to one another and to the world around them, by being people and places where heaven and earth meet. On earth as in heaven! God’s two covenants with Abraham were demonstrations of His faithfulness to this purpose. Before God makes His covenant with Israel as a nation, He explains what kind of a nation Israel will be if they keep His covenant. They will have the status of being His treasured possession among all people, meaning they will be a people with whom He has a valued and special relationship for the sake of the other people in the world. As a treasured possession, they will function as a kingdom of priests, who will mediate the presence of God to the nations by making Him visible through being people and places where heaven and earth meet. As a treasured possession, they will also function as a holy nation, that is a nation set apart from the other nations and consecrated to God as the theatre of God’s mission for His glory. In doing so, God wants to use them to bring the blessing of Abraham to the nations. Suggestions for prayer Thank your heavenly Father for the privilege of belonging to His treasured possession, meant to be the theatre of His mission for His glory by bearing witness to His perfect life by living in His presence. Ask God to show you where you may need to make some changes in your life. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

February 3 – God comes to the rescue of His mission

....And I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, – Exodus 3:8 Scripture reading: Exodus 3:1-12 When God made His covenant with Abraham, He said, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions” (Gen. 15:13-14). After 400 years, God appears to Moses and tells him that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Implied in this revelation is that He remembers His covenant with Abraham. He shares with Moses that He is going to rescue His people from Egypt and bring them back into Canaan. After ten displays of His majesty and power in Egypt, and a display of this same power in leading His people through the Red Sea, God brings them to Mount Sinai where He makes His first covenant with them. God’s covenants with His people are not independent and unrelated to each other, but update previous covenants to new situations. God’s first covenant with Israel updates His covenants with Noah and Abraham to the new situation of Abraham’s descendants becoming a nation. Suggestions for prayer Thank your heavenly Father for His faithfulness to His mission for His glory that He will one day rescue us from this broken world and bring us into the new creation of a new earth. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

February 2 – God mission for his glory and his covenants

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant… - Exodus 19:6 Scripture reading: Exodus 19:1-6 I’m sure those who are married have not forgotten their marriage vows. Perhaps, as a groom you made a vow like this: “I solemnly declare to take to myself and acknowledge as my wife _______. And I promise that I will, with the gracious help of God, love, honour and maintain her, live with her in the holy bonds of marriage according to God’s ordinance, and never forsake her, so long as we both shall live.” As the bride, you made a similar vow. Why are vows necessary? Why not solemnize a marriage without vows? Well, vows are necessary because of the fall into sin. Before the fall into sin, there was no need for formally bonded relationships, because there was no uncertainty in them. After the fall into sin, all sorts of uncertainty crept into relationships. Because of the fall into sin, we make covenants with each other. We seal these covenants with an oath in the presence of God and each other. God Himself also makes covenants with humanity and His people. Why would it be necessary for God to make covenants with human beings? This is necessary because of the fall into sin. Because of the fall into sin, there is often uncertainty in the relationship between God and us. And so, God finds it necessary to formally guarantee His commitment to us as well as His commitment to His purposes for us and His world. This is also the reason why He makes a covenant with Israel. Suggestions for prayer When you feel uncertainty in your relationship with your heavenly Father, ask Him to take it away by having you focus on His commitment to you, signed and sealed with baptism, that He will provide you with everything good and protect you from evil or turn it to your benefit. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

January 28 – God is unchangeable

For I am the LORD, I do not change: therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. - Mal 3:6 Scripture reading: Mal 3:1-7a God does not change, that is God in His being is never increasing or decreasing. His being, attributes and will are unchanging. Coming closer to the end of this month, we are confronted with ongoing change. What a comfort to know that everything about God never changes! God is completely dependable; He is stable like a Rock, while we are more like the ever-changing waters of the ocean. A.W. Pink shows how comforting this really is, "However unstable I may be, however fickle my friends may prove, God changes not." If He varied as we do, if He willed one thing today and another tomorrow if He were controlled by caprice, who could confide in Him? But all praise to His glorious name. He is ever the same. His purpose is fixed, His will is stable and His word is sure." And what is even more comforting, is that when we are in Christ by faith, our salvation doesn't change either! Malachi shows that despite the fickleness and fraud of God's people, God is faithfully and patiently inviting their repentance; that's why they are not consumed. James, in 1:17, shows that every truly good gift comes from the Father of lights, with Whom there is no variableness or shadow of turning. We all know shadows are turning all the time as our planet keeps moving, but God never changes.  Through Christ alone, THE greatest Gift of all, God provides true stability for our lives! Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His unchanging character and wonderful dependability. Pray that knowing Him as such would translate in great and unwavering trust and stability in our lives. Rev. Pieter van der Hoek has been serving the Heritage Reformed Church of Burgessville since 2017. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

January 27 – God is glorious

...so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God. - 2 Chronicles 5:14 Scripture reading: 2 Chronicles 5:2-6:2 The word glory in the Old Testament is a word that means weightiness. In the New Testament, it has more the idea of brilliance and splendour. So, when we say that God is glorious, we mean His splendour and beautiful brilliance shines from His whole being, including His honourable reputation. In our text, the glory of God fills Solomon's temple. This was not the first time that God appeared to His people in His Shekinah glory cloud. Every time God appeared, it was a weighty and serious matter as the priests did not even dare to enter the temple, because He is so majestically glorious! In the New Testament, knowing God and being in His presence was weighty and serious (Hebrews 12:28-29). However, now we experience God's presence and glory through Jesus Christ. Paul shows that the glory of God shines in our dark hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). That's how our bodies become temples of the Holy Spirit in which God is worshipped and glorified (1 Corinthians 6:19). Contrary to our expectation, being filled with God's glory is often accompanied by personal weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9) or suffering for Christ's name (1 Peter 4:14)! That makes living for God's glory still weighty and serious! Nonetheless, our comfort and hope are that the Lord of hosts will be like a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty to all believers, one glorious day! (Isaiah 28:5). Suggestions for prayer Pray that God's glory and presence with us will be our greatest concern and comfort in life and that we don't think mistakenly that His glory is not with us when we are weak or suffering. Rev. Pieter van der Hoek has been serving the Heritage Reformed Church of Burgessville since 2017. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

January 26 – God is beautiful

One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple. - Psalm 27:4 Scripture reading: Psalm 27 Although the fact that God is beautiful might be strictly speaking more of an experiential reality than an attribute of God, it still shows us something of Who God is. We could say that God's beauty is an offshoot of God's goodness and/or holiness. For not only did God create our physical universe in such a way that everything sparkles with unique beauty, but especially in worship we are expected to worship Him in the beauty of holiness. The deep longing of David is to be close to God, for he knows that when we are intimate with God we experience the loveliness and comfort of His glorious character. We can study God's character factually, but this verse calls us to know Him with our whole being, both mind and heart experiencing His favour, His closeness and relishing in His loveliness. How important for us to know this experiential reality! So, let's ask ourselves today, "Do I know this experiential reality in which God is lovely, desirable, and beautiful to me?" If not, is it perhaps because we are not seeking Him with singleness of heart and focus? Ask Him to be close today! If we do, then let's praise God and let's treasure His beauty! God promised one day believers will see the King (our precious Lord Jesus) in His beauty with our very eyes (Isaiah 33:17). Now we see Him only by faith, but then we will see Him face to face treasuring Him in His temple forever (1 John 3:2). Suggestions for prayer Moses asked the Lord to show His glory. Let us ask today for God to show His beauty to our hearts. Thank God for the hope of the Gospel for all believers, who will one day see Jesus, the King in His beauty, face to face. Rev. Pieter van der Hoek has been serving the Heritage Reformed Church of Burgessville since 2017. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

January 25 – God is perfect

Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. - Matthew 5:48 Scripture reading: Matthew 5:37-48 Jesus never shied away from confronting us with God's perfect moral standard. In this text, He requires perfection. The reason for this, according to Jesus, is because your Father in heaven is perfect! Think about it, God is complete, faultless and totally sufficient in every aspect of Himself; His Being is perfect. His ways, words, laws, and desires are perfect. His knowledge and wisdom are perfect. He is impeccable! One of the glorious ways in which God's perfection is shown is that He patiently allows rebellious sinners to enjoy His generosity. He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and the unjust. Even when they try to fault God, their attempts tragically show they are blinded to the glory of God's perfection. That's because they are blinded to the glory of God's Son and to their own imperfections. God's powerful remedy is opening our eyes to the glory of Christ, the only Mediator our High Priest. Hebrews states about Him, "For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; (…)  for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself." (Hebrews 7:26-28). Christ offered Himself up for rebels, such as we are by nature. Will we by the power of His Spirit, mirror His generosity towards rebellious and blind sinners around us? Suggestions for prayer Pray that you and I may reflect more of God's perfect character through the power of His Holy Spirit living in us. Rev. Pieter van der Hoek has been serving the Heritage Reformed Church of Burgessville since 2017. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

January 20 – God is merciful

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

Daily devotional

January 19 – God is patient

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

Daily devotional

January 18 – God is good

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

Daily devotional

January 17 – God is love

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

Daily devotional

January 12 – God is all-knowing

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

Daily devotional

January 11 – God is every-where present

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

Daily devotional

January 10 – God is sovereign

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

Daily devotional

January 9 – God is all-powerful

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

Daily devotional

January 4 – God is triune

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

Daily devotional

January 3 – God is Spirit

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

Daily devotional

January 2 – God is simple

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

Daily devotional

Introduction to the month of January

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

Daily devotional

December 27 – Christmas decoration

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

Daily devotional

December 26 – Jesus, our Emmanuel

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

Daily devotional

December 25 – Joyful at Christmas

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

Daily devotional

December 24 – The Christmas sun

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

Daily devotional

December 19 – Christ’s suffering

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

Daily devotional

December 18 – Christ, our King

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

Daily devotional

December 17 – Christ, our priest

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

Daily devotional

December 16 – Christ, our prophet

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

Daily devotional

December 11 – The Christmas light

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

Daily devotional

December 10 – Happy Hanukkah

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

Daily devotional

December 9 – Christ’s sacrifice

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

Daily devotional

December 8 – Never too dark

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

Daily devotional

December 3 – Joseph’s obedience

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

Daily devotional

December 2 – Preparing the way

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

Daily devotional

Introduction to December’s devotionals

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

Daily devotional

November 30 – A story that demands a response

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

Daily devotional

November 25 – A cliff-hanger

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

Daily devotional

November 24 – The Gospel for big brother(s)

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

Daily devotional

November 23 – Big brother today

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

Daily devotional

November 22 – I want your stuff, not you

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

Daily devotional

November 17 – Party time!

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

Daily devotional

November 16 – Restoration

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

Daily devotional

November 15 – Humility

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

Daily devotional

November 14 – The Father’s heart

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

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

November 8 – Reckless, restless living

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

Daily devotional

November 7 – Into a far country

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

Daily devotional

November 6 – The Father’s response

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

Daily devotional

Introducing November’s prodigal devotions

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

Daily devotional

October 31 – Faith without works is dead

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

Daily devotional

October 30 – Loving the brother

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

Daily devotional

October 29 – Following Jesus brings joy

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

Daily devotional

October 24 – Making disciples starts at home

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

Daily devotional

October 23 – The basis for living as disciples

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

Daily devotional

October 22 – Jesus' love of his people

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

Daily devotional

October 21 – The Father's love of the son

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

Daily devotional

October 16 – Striving for the maturity of Christ

…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. – Ephesians 4:13 Scripture reading: Ephesians 4:1-14 The apostle gives three reasons for the gift of pastors to equip us for ministry. First, to reach the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Second, that we become mature and third, that we reach the whole measure of the stature of Christ. As one body we are to follow Christ, becoming like Him, until we are exactly like Him. Through continual and mutual submission to the Word preached, we become of one mind and heart with Jesus and each other. A sign of an immature faith is holding on to grudges, refusing to forgive. This is not being childlike, but childish. Another sign of immaturity is to be easily led by the dramatic and charismatic. Young children are easily led by emotions and are tossed about by every new fad that comes along. This should not characterize the church. Using daily ordinary activities such as prayer, Bible reading, worship, sacraments, and acts of kindness, we are to follow Christ. Grounding ourselves in truth, in Jesus, we are to remain faithful, reflecting His character to the world. We are to do this as individuals, but also as a church. Mature Christians, knowing their own shortcomings, always correct their emotions and actions by the standard of Scripture and always forgive others according to the standard of Christ. Thus they always work toward unity of heart and mind in the church, so that as a body we reflect the fullness of our awesome Saviour. Suggestions for prayer Pray that as Christians we increasingly reflect the character of Jesus in our relationships with each other and towards the world. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 15 – United in ministry

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. – Hebrews 10:24 Scripture reading: Hebrews 10:19-25 We have seen that as believers we are called to ministry jointly with other Christians. Christ has organized us in His church for this purpose, that we may encourage each other in doing good, including in worship. Genuine religion is, of faith, serving the Lord in ministry to others. James says: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27). Galatians 6 reminds us we have a duty to gently restore sinners. We are to be attentive to the needs of others in order to encourage them. We all have a duty to comfort the distressed, show hospitality, gather in the lost sheep and pray for one another. Romans 15 says that we who "are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak… to please his neighbor for his good, to build him up." This follows the pattern of Christ Who did not please Himself. One way to encourage others is to be faithful in worship. We know what it feels like to worship in an empty church. When you decide not to worship, think of how your absence might discourage others. 1 Corinthians 12 reminds us that we all have gifts to use for the upbuilding of the body. As part of the body, we must seek the welfare of the whole body, not just ourselves. This is part of our joint ministry. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you are filled with a concern for ministering to the needs of others, particularly those who are straying. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 14 – The purpose of ministers

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus....preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. – 2 Timothy 4:1-2 Scripture reading: 1 Timothy 4 Ministers are pastors or shepherds. Together with the elders of the church, they are to equip the people of God for ministry. Ministers do this primarily through two means: the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments. God's Word feeds us since it reveals to us the living Word, namely Jesus Christ, who is the bread of life. 1 Timothy 4 teaches us that a good preacher uses the Word to expose false teachings and points to the truth. The Word is like a sharp double-edged sword, that penetrates to our deepest parts to expose our sins and expose us to the light of Christ. Thus Paul teaches Titus (Titus 1:9) to encourage living in accord with sound teaching so that no one will malign the Word of God, but rather be led to glorify God. It is not an easy task to reprove, rebuke and exhort with complete patience and teaching. Thus it is crucial that pastors continually pray for themselves and the people under their charge. We should constantly be keeping them in prayer that they may faithfully bring the word and so equip us for ministry. Because of their work, ministers are often the recipients of criticism. Because they are sinful they often fail. Forgive them and love them and let them know that you do. Enable them to do the work of ministry with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no blessing to you (Hebrews 13:17). Suggestions for prayer Pray for your minister that he may faithfully bring the Word.  Pray that you might have a teachable spirit. Pray also for missionaries. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 13 – Called to ministry

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ… – Ephesians 4:11-12 Scripture reading: Ephesians 4:1-12 We all need the proper tools to do our work. Yet all the tools in the world do not help us if we do not know how to use them. Our children also need to know how to use the tools we give them. We not only give them Bibles, but we teach them how to use them! Every Christian is given a gift (gifts) to be used for the Lord. We need to learn how to use it (them). This is why we were given the apostles and prophets (the Bible), evangelists, pastors, and teachers. They are to equip us for ministry, teaching us how to be faithful ministers using the gifts God has given us. Many think that ministry is something ministers and missionaries are called to and that as church members, they are just to be ministered to. This is out of step with what the Spirit says in these verses. We have a joint ministry. We all are anointed to build up the church, helping fellow Christians and bringing in the lost sheep so that the church increasingly becomes one. If you are not engaged in this ministry in some form, you must repent of your sin and begin to fulfill the ministry to which the Spirit of God is calling you. While all are gifted, we all need each other in order to be built up, to grow in grace and truth. We must be active in our mutual ministry. Suggestions for prayer Pray for courage to use your gifts to build others up and to fulfill your ministry. Pray for your pastors and elders that they may help you in your ministry. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 8 – Made for praise

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 2:4-5 Scripture reading: Ephesians 2:1-10 It is a marvelous blessing to be gifted with faith and to be united to Christ and His people in His church. But we may not just sit back and say, 'We have it good!' We are saved and united to bring praise to God. This was His purpose from the beginning. In Exodus 19:6 God declared His intent to make His people a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. Isaiah 61:6 echoes this when He says, you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God. In Revelation 1:6, glory and praise is given to God by those who have been made a kingdom and priest to serve His God and father. The purpose of a temple is worship. We are not united simply to be saved, but to do good works of praise (Ephesians 2:10). Hebrews 13:15 says, Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name. God unites us as a temple, in order to glorify Him, to praise Him. Some day all believers will be united in praise. The New Jerusalem will consist of believers from all nations and times united in praise. Our worship services are but a foretaste of this. Although far from perfect, when we feed on the pure Word of God and allow ourselves to be shaken, shaped and renewed, as we come to Christ, we are being united to bring Him glory and praise. Suggestions for prayer Pray that believers will devote themselves to worship God and give Him glory. Pray that you may discover ways to give God glory in daily living. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 7 – A living unity with Jesus

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 2:4-5 Scripture reading: Ephesians 2:1-22 We have considered this verse for several days. Have we noticed the living and dynamic nature of the church? As we come implies a process. Also, notice the phrase are being built. Then notice the phrase like living stones. We are not church simply because of a death on a cross. We are not united because in the past we made a confession. Our unity is not in a past event, but a present reality, or rather, a present relationship. We are still coming, still being built up. We are living stones. As we learn more about Jesus, as we follow Him, we become like Him and become more united with each other. If you are married, your unity with your wife is not just (I hope) based on a past wedding date. It is something ongoing, something enjoyed and worked at. So with Jesus. We are His bride and we want to know and enjoy Him more and more. We are not just coexisting until He comes again, but we are being built up as we strengthen our relationship, exercising our faith in Jesus.  As we love as He loves, forgive as He forgives, we grow in unity as a body of believers. Jesus is the living stone. As we come to Him, His life fills us; in Him, we grow and bear fruit. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. In Him, we are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for the living fellowship you have with Jesus. Give thanks for the beauty of a church growing in holiness and in numbers. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 6 – Rejected, but precious

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 2:4-5 Scripture reading: John 1:1-13 Yesterday, we saw that Jesus is the foundation of the church. It is in coming to Jesus that we are united to form the church. Peter, however, says that He was rejected by men. In John 1, we read that He came unto his own but His own received him not. Many Jews did not receive Him as the promised Saviour. This is also true of all people. Unless moved by the Spirit of God, we do not believe in Him. Romans 1 teaches that there is no one who seeks after God, no, not one. Many today take offense at Jesus. He is a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. They stumble because they disobey the message (see v.8).  The Jews rejected salvation through Jesus because they pursued salvation as if it were by works (by the law) (see Romans 9:32). We preach ...Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). Although many reject Him, He is chosen by God. From before the foundation of the world, Jesus was the chosen Redeemer, and although despised and rejected by men, He is God in the flesh, full of grace and truth. He now reigns in glory to bring us to glory. To know Him is to be forgiven of sin and given newness of life. Suggestions for prayer Pray that Jesus may be preached and that sinners might come to repentance and faith in him. Pray that your faith might be strengthened. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 5 – The Church's one foundation!

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 2:4-5 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:18-1 Peter 2:5 Many see the church as a voluntary organization of believers for encouraging one another in Christian living. They do not see it as a living and struggling organism, the growing body of Christ, the temple of God. 'As you come to him … you are being built into a spiritual house.' These words demonstrate a dramatic shift. The Jewish people thought the law was the cornerstone of God's people, but here we are directed to Jesus as the rock on which the church is built. God had promised that He would lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation, who gives security for believers, but judgment for those who rejected Him. God, Himself would be that stone (Isaiah 28:16ff). In Acts 4, Peter tells us Jesus is the stone the builders rejected which has become the cornerstone (Psalm 118). 1 Corinthians 3:11 says, No one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. A cornerstone is crucial in a foundation, uniting two walls together. The point is, that in our relationship with Jesus, we are being built up together as a spiritual house. The church is built of those blessed by the Spirit with faith in Jesus. He is the one and only Saviour given to men through whom we can be forgiven and restored to fellowship with God. In Jesus, we are united together and are being built into a spiritual house of worship. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you continue to grow in your relationship with Jesus and thus your unity with other believers. Pray that unbelievers may come to Jesus and enjoy unity with Him. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 30 – Crucifying the flesh and keeping in step with the Spirit

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. – Galatians 5:24-25 Scripture reading: Galatians 2:15-21; 5:16-25 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). This is what is true of those who have faith in Christ. We are no longer in union with Adam. We are in union with Christ, our Second Adam. When He died, we died. When He rose again, we rose again. Therefore, we are no longer under the curse of the law. Instead, we have God’s eternal blessing in Christ and have received the promised Spirit (Galatians 3:13-14; 4:4-7). The Spirit is now producing His righteous fruit in our lives, and, “against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). In light of these things, Paul says that we who belong to Christ crucify our sinful desires. Like a crucifixion, sanctification is a process of killing our sin, which is painful (cutting out idols of the heart), progressive (imperfect in this life), and guaranteed to be completed (perfected at death or when Christ returns). On the flip side is new life in Christ, by the Spirit, “If  we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” This is a military image. The Spirit is like our drill sergeant and we are soldiers who are to keep in step with His commands. Through the means of grace (Word and sacraments) let us follow His lead to our promised land in the new heavens and new earth, where we will see Christ and be like Him! Suggestions for prayer Thank God that He graciously redeemed you in Christ from slavery to sin, death, and the devil and gave you His Spirit. Pray for more Christ-like fruit by the Spirit and thank God that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (Philippians 1:6). Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 29 – The fruit of the Spirit is self-control

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls…– Proverbs 25:28 But the fruit of the Spirit is…self-control. – Galatians 5:22-23 Scripture reading: Romans 6:1-14; 8:1-4 Proverbs 25:28 says that a person who lacks self-control is like a city without walls. Why is that a problem? In those days, a city without walls was vulnerable to enemy attacks. So too, unless a person learns, by God’s grace, to master his/her lusts, temper and all sorts of evil inclinations,  he/she will be vulnerable to attacks from the world, the flesh, the devil and will be overrun and destroyed by the dominion of sin, which ultimately leads to death. But thanks be to God that, for those who have faith in Christ, God graciously delivers them from both the guilt and bondage of sin (Romans 6:11-14; 8:1). By the Spirit they have the fruit of self-control. What is self-control? Self-control is like a wall of defence against our sinful desires that wage war against our souls. J.V. Fesko describes it this way, “Self-control is the ability to deny ourselves the indulgence of our sinful desires even when no one can see us, even when no one can know our thoughts. Self-control is ultimately the ability to be controlled, not by the sinful self, but by the Holy Spirit.” We need to learn self-control in every area of life: eating, drinking, sex, thoughts, emotions, leisure time, work, and more. Even something good can become idolatrous if we overindulge and lack self-control. Let us walk by the Spirit and we will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). Suggestions for prayer Do you struggle with self-control? Thank God that Christ never lacked self-control and redeemed you from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13). Pray for more self-control and look forward to the day when you will walk perfectly by the Spirit! Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 28 – The fruit of the Spirit is gentleness: Christ-like gentleness

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench. – Matthew 12:20 Scripture reading: Matthew 11:25-30; 12:15-21 The power and gentleness of God are supremely revealed in the person and work of Christ. Jesus said: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). People found rest in Jesus’ presence. This is one of the marks of a person who is gentle. Do people get nervous and tense up in your presence or are they calm and relaxed in your presence? People could rest in the presence of Jesus Who was gentle and lowly in heart. Matthew 12:20 says, “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not quench.” The bruised reed and smoldering wick is the person who has been hurt in some way, either due to his/her own sin, the sin of others or the harsh circumstances of life, and is barely hanging on by a thread. That kind of person could find healing and hope in Jesus’ presence. His words and actions would not be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Rather they would bind up the broken-hearted. You see, the same Jesus Who could calm the storm with His almighty power could also calm the troubled soul with His powerful gentleness. Are your words and actions powerfully gentle towards others? Suggestions for prayer Repent of harsh, abrasive, inconsiderate thoughts, words and deeds. Reflect on the following Scriptures and pray for the Spirit to give you Christ-like gentleness (Proverbs 15:4; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 1 Peter 3:15-16; Titus 3:1-2; Galatians 6:1; James 3:17). Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

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