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Daily devotional

November 11 – The road home (Part 1)

But when he came to himself, he said… “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him,Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.’” – Luke 15:17a,18

Scripture reading: Luke 15:17-20a; 2 Corinthians 7:8-12

He had been a prince in his father’s house but now he is a peasant, barely surviving in a pigpen. He’s on the road to destruction. There is only one exit ramp off this road. It is called repentance.

For Little Brother, repentance began “when he came to himself.” It began when he came to his senses. One day, it dawned on him, “I got myself here, but I don’t have to stay here. I have a home and a Father to go to. There I will have plenty to eat.”

Two things keep us in prisons of our own making: pride and shame. Pride says, “I’d rather starve among pigs than admit I was wrong and grovel for mercy”. Shame says, “How can I show my face after what I did?”

Repentance, however, says, “I will arise and go to my father.” This is faith in the loving and merciful heart of his father. Repentance says, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants”. This is humility. Little Brother knows he has wronged his father and it grieves him. He knows he doesn’t deserve mercy. He will be grateful with the crumbs of his father’s grace.

Are you stuck in a prison of your own making? Are pride and shame keeping you there? Will you use the exit ramp of repentance to reconcile with your Father and others?

Suggestions for prayer

Thank God for the way His Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see our sin and our Savior. Pray for the gift of repentance.

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

November 5 – I want your stuff, not you

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’” – Luke 15:11-12a Scripture reading: Luke 15:11-12; Psalm 73:23-28 “There was a man who had two sons.” So begins our two-part story. Part One focuses on the father and his younger son. Let’s call him “Little Brother”. Little Brother tells his father to give him his share of the inheritance His share was one-third since the oldest received two-thirds of the inheritance in ancient Israel. Likely, the younger son’s third of the estate was tied up in assets. The father would have to liquidate a third of his estate to free up the cash his younger son demanded. More to the point, a slap in the face would have hurt less than the son’s demand. The younger son did not want to wait for his father to die to get what was coming to him. He wanted it now so he could get away from his father and enjoy the good life apart from Him. In short, he did not want his father. He just wanted his father’s stuff. Imagine a young woman engaged to a young man. She invites him for dinner. She spends all day preparing a gourmet meal. She can’t wait to spend time with him. He shows up right on time but then, to her horror and hurt, he demands two plates to go. He whisks those dinners out the door to enjoy with another woman. This is often how we treat our Father in heaven. We crave His presents more than His presence. In our prayers, we seek His hand and not His face. Suggestions for prayer Thank our Father for His daily kindness and generosity. Ask Him to forgive you for the times you value His gifts over Him, the Giver. 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 4 – Storytime with Jesus

And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man received sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: – Luke 15:2-3 Scripture reading: Luke 15:1-3; Hebrews 4:12-13 When the Pharisees and scribes grumbled against Jesus, He didn’t respond with rebuttal or rebuke. Instead, He told them stories. When rebuttals or rebukes come our way, we tend to throw up our defenses to deflect them. Stories, however, often bypass our defenses to engage our hearts. Jesus was a master of such storytelling. Jesus’ stories had a way of getting under people’s skin and often struck a nerve with His listeners. They hit close to home… and hearts. Listeners found themselves identifying with one or more of the characters. By the end of the story, the heart issues addressed in the story were clearly their own. That’s why Jesus’ stories sparked strong reactions. The stories Jesus told were parables. Their purpose was to surface the spiritual heart condition of listeners and demand a response. Who would receive Him and His message? Who would resist? In the coming days, we will listen to Jesus tell the third story of His trilogy. Listener beware! Storytime with Jesus is dangerous. His words may pierce your heart, like the scalpel of a skilled surgeon, to expose assumptions, attitudes and even animosity to God and His Word that you would rather not face. For this we will need grace to listen with open and humble hearts. Grace to pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there is any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24). Suggestions for prayer Thank our Triune God for the way His Word exposes our hearts. Pray the prayer of Psalm 139:23-24. 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 3 – “Godly” grumblers

And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” – Luke 15:2 Scripture reading: Luke 15:1-2; Matthew 9:9-13 A caricature is a drawing that exaggerates a feature on your face – say, your nose or ears – to make you look ridiculous. We caricature the Pharisees and scribes in our minds, then roll our eyes at them. However, the Pharisees and scribes treasured the Bible in a world that trashed it. They copied it carefully. They struggled to preserve the ancient faith in a culture that undermined it. They called God’s people to trust, love and serve Him as those set apart from the world. With Isaiah, they said, “Depart, depart, go out from there, touch no unclean thing…” (Isaiah 52:11a). With James, they might have said, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:4b). Today, too, our culture’s worldview is infecting the church. The Pharisees and scribes would say, “Maintain social distancing. Separation is the key to reformation.” Jesus did not practice social distancing. He welcomed the tax collectors and "sinners" into His life. He spent time with them. He accepted their dinner invitations and enjoyed their hospitality. That’s why the Pharisees and scribes grumbled about Him. In their view, He put Himself and the church at risk for spiritual infection. They had forgotten God’s vision and heart for the lost. God saves and sets us apart from the world so that the world might be drawn to Him through us. How will this happen if we practice social distancing? Does this involve risk? Yes. But Jesus overcomes those risks. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that He saved you and set you apart from the world. Pray for wisdom to be in the world yet not of the world so that others might be drawn to Christ through 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

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 28 – Keeping Christ's commands

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in His love. – John 15:10 Scripture reading: 1 John 2:1-6 Jesus calls us to abide in His love. He is not vague about what this means. Jesus quickly and clearly pinpoints that love is a keeping of His commandment. As He loved His Father and did all that His Father required of Him, we are to follow Jesus, doing all that He commands. The way to enjoy Jesus and His love is to walk in His footsteps. Our good works do not earn for us salvation, but by walking in Christ's ways we enjoy the fullness of life He gives us. We are to give ourselves wholeheartedly to Him. As the Psalmist says, I delight to do your will, O my God, and your law is within my heart (Ps. 40:8). This verse sums up the heart of Christian discipleship and devotion. Jesus is the focus of our love, and His will is our delight. This is not some cold, rigid law-keeping, but an enthusiasm for Him and His perfect will and plan of salvation. When we embrace God's perfect will the result is a growing experience of remaining in the love of our Saviour. Jesus doesn’t just tell us to do as He says, but as He does: As I have kept my father's commands. In following His example of love, our love grows, so that it is ever deeper. In this loving obedient devotion, our joy is made complete. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you may follow Christ in obedience to His word. Pray for a deeper love and joy in His ways, His great plan of salvation. 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 27 – Motivation for pure living

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died… – 2 Corinthians 5:14 Scripture reading: 2 Corinthians 5:9-15 If we know ourselves, we know how hard it is for us to change our ways. Our passions and desires are strong. We want to have things our way. We love our personal sins and do our best to redefine them in ways that make us feel comfortable with them. We may be told that our sin is wrong, but we learn not to take such rules so seriously. It takes more than merely being told something is wrong or being warned of the consequences of our ways, to be motivated to follow Jesus in holy living. The law of God, with all its warnings, cannot change our hearts. The gospel alone can make our sin odious and holiness delightful. The way the gospel does this is by revealing the love of God in Jesus. Paul says the love of God compelled him to reach others with the gospel because he knew that all must appear before the judgment seat of God. Jesus died so that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died for us. Jesus, in John 15, sets His love before us as a motivation for bearing fruit and then calls us to remain in His love. We are to live in the awareness of God's love, letting His love overwhelm us and then out of that love to love God and others. His love compels us to reach out to others that they might also enjoy His love. Suggestions for prayer As Christ died so that we might be made pure, pray for a life of purity in thought, emotion and action. Pray for a heart 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 26 – It takes disciples to make disciples

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. – Deuteronomy 6:6 Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 11:1-19 We read in Deuteronomy 11:18  Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. If we are to lead children in the Lord's ways, we must be walking in them ourselves. Example speaks volumes! We must know Him and what He has done if we would love Him and follow Him with full hearts. If we instruct children by just giving them laws and morals, then they have no incentive to keep them. But when they see us in love following Jesus, thankful for what He has done, they are inclined to follow. Receiving rules without knowing Jesus is slavery. In knowing Jesus and loving Him, we find that His yoke is easy, His burden is light.  Let children see this in us! Many parents think that loving their children is giving them things they couldn't have as kids. But children would rather have the loving leadership of parents. If we want children to follow us, they must see that we love them. So with God. If we want our children to follow Jesus, they must see His love and forgiveness. They must see us loving as He loves and forgiving as He forgives. Seeing His love in us, they will walk in those ways too. Proverbs 22:6 says, Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you might love God more and be a more faithful disciple, being examples of love and faith to others. 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 20 – Remaining in Christ's love

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. – John 15:10 Scripture reading: John 15:1-17 A flower picked will die. Anything severed from its source of life will die. This is a vital spiritual lesson. Jesus calls Himself the vine and believers the branches. He gives life. Jesus says that the Father is glorified in our lives bearing fruit, showing us to be disciples. Jesus says that apart from Him, we cannot do this. In Him, we can bear much fruit, the fruit of a life of praise. We have seen earlier this month that this is the purpose for which we were created and are saved. We live in a world that inhibits spiritual growth. Jesus tells us that following Him will bring hardship (John 16:33). So He reminds us of His love so that we might love one another, encouraging each other to follow Jesus. Interestingly, He tells us in v 9, As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Jesus' love is rooted in the Father's love. God, Himself is love. Between Father, Son and Holy Spirit there is perfect love and harmony. They are one in passion, vision, and purpose.  The reason Jesus was so focused on His work was because He shared the same vision of redemption and glory as His Father had. He obeyed His Father perfectly and calls us to the same obedience, with the same passion. Once we know His love we will want to remain in His love. Thus we follow Jesus' words, for they are life abundant and eternal. Suggestions for prayer Pray for a love that reflects the love of Jesus for His Father, so that we will follow Him just as He perfectly obeyed His Father. 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 19 – Renewing our minds

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2 Scripture reading: Romans 12:1-10 Today we begin a new week of work. If we are Christians, we should be unique in the way we approach our work and various activities. It is important to think on these things because otherwise, we will simply do things the way the world around us does them. Our work and thoughts will then be conformed to this world rather than focused on the kingdom that Jesus is bringing in by His Word and Spirit. So we must set our minds on the purpose for which God made us and for which God saves us, which is ultimately that everything be brought into submission to Jesus for God's glory. Whether you go to school, a worksite, work at home, or are on vacation, how can you submit your activities to Jesus and bring God glory? It takes a whole new mindset. We must be willing to follow Jesus' teaching and example. It means we have to take ourselves out of the centre of our thoughts and plans and put Christ there. When Jesus came, He came proclaiming the kingdom of God. This required repentance, that is a change of heart and mind to put God's glory as our utmost goal. We all have abilities that are to be used for the sake of others in service to Christ. It is only when we view everything in light of the purposes of God, that we can begin to discern what is good, acceptable and perfect. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would rearrange the way you think so that He is the focus of your affections, work, studies, play - everything. Submit in everything to 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 18 – United in prayer

…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel – Ephesians 6:18-19  Scripture reading: Ephesians 6:10-20 Today is a worship day. So we sit under the preaching of the Word, fellowship with God's people in the sacraments, lift our voices in song, and unite in prayer. Prayer is an essential part of Christian fellowship and worship. We pray as individuals, but in worship, we pray with united heart and voice as one body. Prayer is speaking to God, laying our hearts before Him so that He knows our needs and desires. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 says: I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. The church's prayers are never to be simply self-focused. We are concerned not just for ourselves, but that the cause of the gospel be advanced. Thus we pray for political leaders, that we may have peace in which to live godly lives and to speak the truth with love toward others, making disciples. So we pray for those who do not know Christ, but are yet bound by sin and its consequences, that they too may know the peace we enjoy in Jesus. And we also pray for each other, lifting up our praises, needs and desires to our God. Prayer is a primary way in which we communicate our love and thanksgiving to God for all He has done. Make sure today to pray with and for the church and for all people. Suggestions for prayer Pray for ministers today. Pray that all believers may gather for worship. Pray that all sinners may find forgiveness and rest in Jesus' forgiving grace. Pray for those in authority over us, that they receive wisdom. 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 12 – Grateful praise-worthy living

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. – 1 Peter 2:9 Scripture reading: Ephesians 2:1-10 Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving Day today. Christians will above all thank and praise God for calling them out of darkness into His wonderful light. We do so best by speaking of Him and showing Christ's character in our living. In the Old Testament, we read that God redeemed a people in order to bring praise to His name. In Jeremiah 13:11, God says: I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the LORD, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory. This God-centered focus should be ours. Often we fall into the trap of thinking about our success, our honour, our benefits, even in times of worship and praise, yet God's purpose for all of our living is His glory. When we forget this, our witness is poor and God's name is not glorified as it ought to be. Today is a day for prayer and song, for speaking to others about the greatness of our God. Salvation is not simply for our welfare and pleasure, but that we might serve God and witness for Jesus. We have a natural tendency to conform to the pattern of life around us as Israel did. We need to discipline ourselves to live holy lives reflecting God's character. As kingdom citizens, we are aliens and strangers here. Focus your living on Jesus, abstain from selfish desires to living holy lives for our Saviour's praise. Suggestion for prayer Give thanks for all of God's blessings, above all the wonderful life we have in Jesus. Pray for a Christ-centered focus in all you do. 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 11 – A peculiar people

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. – 1 Peter 2:9 Scripture reading: Psalm 135 Today we consider the phrase a people belonging to the Lord. This phrase is based on Old Testament language as in Psalm 135:4. Some versions use the phrase a peculiar people; peculiar not in the sense of strange, but because God has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. He made us His own, to be light in this world. Thus we are different from all other peoples. You find this idea in Exodus 19:5 where God says, now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. All the earth belongs to the Lord, but believers are special to Him (peculiar, treasured). The Old Testament often refers to God's people this way. Malachi 3:17 calls those who serve the Lord, His treasured possession; there God is speaking of those who would yet come to Him. The church is God's treasured possession because we have been bought by the blood of Christ. He loved us so much that He sent His Son to die to remove the guilt of our sin. As you gather for worship today remember how the sacrifice of Jesus has brought us to God. All who confess their sins and believe in Jesus as their atoning sacrifice are His special people, His treasured possession. Jesus is coming again to take us to be with Him forever. Treasure Him who treasures you! To God be the glory! Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for all God's people, His church. Give thanks that He forgives all our sin and calls us His children. Pray for a heart that treasures Him who treasures us. 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 10 – A holy nation

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. – 1 Peter 2:9 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:1-12 In this text, the church is defined as a holy nation. A nation is a group of people combined by common laws and government, privileges, obligations and customs. Jesus Christ is our King. We are to live by His Word. We have privileges such as freedom from sin and freedom to enjoy fellowship with God. We have common traditions (worship, devotions, sacraments). We have a passion to welcome new citizens to the kingdom. Our citizenship is in the heavenly kingdom of Jesus. We are a holy nation - that is, one set apart, consecrated to bringing glory to God in this world. We seek His kingdom and righteousness first of all. Zechariah 14:20-21 foretells this kingdom where: HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the LORD's house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the LORD Almighty. Indeed, our clothes, cars, tools, homes, cell phones, pots and pans are set apart, holy to the Lord. We are holy to the Lord. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. (Romans 14:7). Whatever we do, whether in word and deed, we do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17). We must use our citizenship in this world for the advancement of Christ's heavenly kingdom, to bring praise to Him. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we use all we are and have in service to Jesus. Pray that we may be ambassadors for our King, calling all people to faith. 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

October 4 – Gathered for praise

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. – Acts 2:42  Scripture reading: Acts 2:37-47 Today Christians gather for worship. Worship and praise are our primary duty. Public worship stands at the heart of daily service to God. When in Acts 2 the Spirit applied the gospel to the hearts of the hearers, they responded by uniting together with other believers for worship. They devoted themselves to the apostle's teaching, that is, to hear how Jesus fulfills all of the Old Testament and is the only Saviour and Lord. Around this searching of Scripture, they united in fellowship, prayer and sacraments. These are the basic elements of worship. In Acts 2:46, we see how eagerly they devoted themselves to this with glad and sincere hearts. The indwelling Spirit united them for worship in the Word and sacraments. Today we tend to minimize such ordinary activities. We want to dwell on the experiences of faith. Yet it is more crucial for us to hear about Jesus and how all Scripture focuses on Him, calling us to follow Him. This stress of the early church on the Word and sacraments is something we must regain. All too often we forget the crucial nature of worship and the need for such fellowship in the Word and Sacraments. A Spirit-filled church will be a Word and worship focused church. To praise God as He desires, we need to know Him as He reveals Himself to us. Devote yourself to such worship and fellowship in a church where Jesus is faithfully preached and the Triune God wholeheartedly worshipped. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will bless the preaching of His Word today. Pray that you and the church will be devoted to faithful praise and worship. 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 3 – To God be the glory

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen. – Romans 11:36 Scripture reading: Romans 11:30-36 One rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation was Soli Deo Gloria (To God only be glory). On reading the Scriptures in the original language, the reformers discovered that God's glory is a major theme of Scripture. God is the creator of the world. He made us to enjoy him and glorify him. The Westminster Confession of Faith says that the primary purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. God's eternal plan for us, not only in our creation but even in our salvation (we were brought out of darkness into His light to declare His praise) is to show His glory – even our eating and drinking is to be for the praise of His name. To glorify God is to show forth His excellence. His love is perfect and we praise Him for that! His justice is absolute and we exalt His justice. His mercy is pure, His compassion knows no bounds. He provides all we need, so His care is complete, even in the middle of adversity. His grace is always sufficient. To glorify God is to show His perfection and praise Him for it. It is easy to talk about things we think highly of. After the Patriots' last Super Bowl comeback victory, everyone had to praise the skill of Tom Brady and his team. They glorified him! This is something we were saved to do concerning our God and Saviour! Speak of His excellent deeds and character! Suggestions for prayer Pray that God enables you to see and believe the mighty works of God and that you can glorify Him for them. Pray that you come to enjoy Him in all His excellence! 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 2 – Our God reigns

And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church. – Ephesians 1:22 Scripture reading: Ephesians 1:15-23 The sovereignty of God over all of life is something we should treasure and meditate on often. The hairs of our head are numbered (Luke 12:7) so that not one falls without His knowledge. He works in everything for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). He works to preserve the church He purchased with His blood, and He will lose none of those who were given to Him by His Father (John 6:39). His sovereign grace is so comforting. Since we are born dead in our sins and trespasses, we must be born again (by the Spirit) if we would see the kingdom. This is God's gracious act. Jesus is the author and finisher of our salvation (Hebrews 12:2). While we were enemies of God, Christ died for us! Now that He reigns in glory, how much more shall we not be fully saved by His life (Romans 5:10). This sovereign grace is such that He even controls the minds and decisions of kings and directs nations in a way that accomplishes His purposes. Nothing in all creation can ever separate a believer from God. Since He is king over all of life, we must submit all of our living to Him for His glory. Not just Sunday worship, but everything is to bring praise to God. Since we so often fail in this, we may be comforted that God will yet accomplish His purposes. His Kingdom will come, His will be done! Suggestions for prayer Praise God for giving Jesus all authority. Praise God that Jesus is working in everything for the salvation of His people. Serve Him as your Lord! 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 27 – Let us consider how to stir one another up to love

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works… encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:24-25 Scripture reading: Hebrews 10:19-25 When we are called to worship on the Lord’s Day, we are not only called to draw near to God, we also are called to draw near to God’s people. Because Christ first considered us in love, we are called to consider one another in love. As you draw near to your brothers and sisters in Christ today, consider, is someone doubting? Is someone discouraged? Is someone struggling with sin? Is someone grieving? Is someone not there? Consider what your brothers and sisters are going through, and consider how to stir them up to love and good works. In order to do these things we need to diligently attend to the means of grace in corporate worship, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some.” We need the public means of grace and we need each other. We need others to stir us up to love and good works, and we need to stir up others to love and good works. Furthermore, we need to be, “encouraging one another.” How can you encourage others as you gather for worship today? Just your presence alone is an encouragement to others. Singing with all your heart is an encouragement. Listening attentively to the preached Word is an encouragement to your pastor. Telling others you are praying for them is an encouragement. How else can you be an encouragement? Let us be, “encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will make you an encouragement to someone today as you gather for worship. Pray that you would be stirred up to love and good works. 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 26 – The fruit of the Spirit is gentleness: the gentleness of God

But the fruit of the Spirit is…gentleness. – Galatians 5:22-23 Scripture reading: Isaiah 40 George Bethune once said, “Perhaps no grace is less prayed for, or less cultivated than gentleness…seldom do we reflect that not to be gentle is sin.” When is the last time you prayed for more gentleness? When is the last time you repented of not being gentle? But what is gentleness? It’s not shyness, timidity or fearfulness. A lot of people think of it in those terms and view it as a weakness. R.C Sproul rightly points out, “Gentleness does not preclude the possibility of strength but presupposes it.” Gentleness is power under self-control. Jerry Bridges notes that “Gentleness is illustrated by the way we would handle a carton of exquisite crystal glasses: it is the recognition that the human personality is valuable but fragile and must be handled with care.” The opposite of gentleness is abrasiveness and arrogance. We see in Isaiah 40 that God is both the all-powerful God Who created and sustains the world and the God Who speaks tenderly to His people (40:1-2). “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in his arms; He will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (40:11). The Psalmist declares, “Your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.” The best teachers have a good balance of power and gentleness, toughness and tenderness. This is why Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, is the greatest teacher of all! Suggestions for prayer Confess your sins of not being gentle in your thoughts, words and deeds. Pray for the Spirit to work Christ-like gentleness in you towards others. 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 25 – The fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness

But the fruit of the Spirit is…faithfulness. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Lamentations 3:22-23; Hebrews 6:13-20 We live in a world of broken promises. But thanks be to God we belong to a promise-keeping God Who is always faithful to His covenant promises to us in Christ (Hebrews 6:13-20). And if you trust in Christ, God has promised you that He is your God and that He will never leave you nor forsake you, but will pardon all of your sins forever, protect you from all of your enemies, and provide richly for you in Christ in this life and the life to come. He is unswervingly You will see this with your own eyes when Christ returns. But now, we walk by faith in God’s Word. His Word is absolutely honest and utterly dependable. How should we live in light of God’s faithfulness to us in Christ? In gratitude for God’s steadfast love and faithfulness we walk by the Spirit in faithfulness. Faithfulness includes being loyal, honest and dependable. It means, following through on your commitments, letting your “Yes” be “Yes” and your “No” be “No.” Where have you been flaky? In what relationships have you been a fair-weather friend? Where have you been dishonest? What commitments is God calling on you to follow through? Where you have failed, confess your sins and walk in faithfulness. God is faithful to forgive and to sanctify you by His Spirit (1 John 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). Suggestions for prayer Sing and meditate on the words of the hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” or “How Firm a Foundation.” Pray that God would produce the fruit of Christ-like faithfulness in you 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 24 – The fruit of the Spirit is kindness and goodness

But the fruit of the Spirit is…kindness, goodness. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Ephesians 2:1-10; Titus 3:4-8 Kindness and goodness are often used interchangeably in the Bible. We’ll consider them together. Kindness and goodness flow out of patience. Kindness and goodness are the positive manifestations of patience. In the words of Gordon Fee, “The Spirit not only empowers us to endure the hostility or unkindness of others; He also enables us to show kindness to them, actively to pursue their good. If longsuffering means not to “chew someone’s head off” (see Gal. 5:15), kindness means to find ways of binding up their wounds.” This is motivated by the fact that God not only withholds wrath from us, but also shows eternal kindness and goodness towards us in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-7). Jerry Bridges describes kindness as, “a sincere desire for the happiness of others; goodness is the activity calculated to advance that happiness.” How can you show kindness and goodness to those in your home? At church? At work? In your neighborhood? To your enemies? “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). If you are weary of doing good, remember God’s kindness and goodness to you in Christ. In Christ, God’s kindness and goodness toward you are saving, merciful, life-transforming, generous and eternal (Titus 3:4-7). If God has been so kind and good to us in Christ, let us walk by the Spirit in Christ-like kindness and goodness toward others. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Spirit would make you sensitive to the opportunities in your family, church and society to show kindness and goodness. Pray for the Spirit to enable you to walk in those good works, “which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10). 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 19 – The fruit of the Spirit is peace: peace with God and peace within

Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… – Romans 5:1 But the fruit of the Spirit is…peace. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Romans 5:1-11; Philippians 4:4-9 Peace within and peace with others flows out of our peace with God. Apart from Christ, our biggest problem is that we are under God’s just condemnation and almighty wrath (John 3:16-18, 36). God is at enmity with you and me (e.g. Psalm 5:4-6; 7:12-13). That’s the bad news. But the good news is that if you repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, God forgives you and declares peace to you in Christ (Galatians 1:3-5). For those who believe, Christ bore the wrath of God on the cross in our place, fully satisfying God’s justice. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins…” (1 John 1:9). If we have faith in Christ we have peace and reconciliation with God (Romans 5:1, 9-11). We need not fear His wrath, for as John Newton once put it, “justice smiles and asks no more.” This glorious declaration of peace with God in Christ is the ground of our peace within. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Through the promises of God’s peace in Christ and through prayer, the Spirit produces the fruit of inner peace. “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5-7; see also John 14:26-27). Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Spirit would assure you of the promise of peace with God in Christ and grant you inner peace because of it. Sing the great hymn of the faith, “It Is Well with My Soul/When Peace Like a River.” 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 18 - The fruit of the Spirit is joy: the joy of glorification

But the fruit of the Spirit is…joy. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: John 16:20-24; 1 Peter 1:3-9 As we saw yesterday, Christian joy is rooted in the forgiveness of sins in Christ. Christ was, “delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Even more, “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 4:25-5:2). Christian joy is also rooted in the glories of the age to come which cannot perish, be defiled, or fade away (1 Peter 1:3-9). There is nothing wrong with rejoicing in blessings such as a wedding, the birth of a child, a new job, a Mozart symphony, etc. But ultimately our joy is in the glory that awaits us. Jesus said, “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). The joy of the age to come will far outweigh the sufferings of this present evil age (2 Corinthians 4:17; Romans 8:18). We are able to endure the sufferings of this age because the Spirit dwells within us and gives us a foretaste of the joy of the new heavens and earth, promised in God’s Word (Revelation 19:6-8; 21:1-4). The sufferings of this age are like the pains of a woman in labor. At times the pain is intense. But as a woman endures for the joy that awaits when the baby is born, so too we press on for the joy that awaits us when Christ returns (John 16:20-22). Suggestions for prayer Pray Ephesians 1:3-14 and rejoice that you have been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Rejoice that it’s a gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). 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 17 – The fruit of the Spirit is joy: the joy of justification

But the fruit of the Spirit is…joy. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Psalm 32; Philippians 4:4 Sadly, too often, Christians lack joy in their life. But the Apostle Paul exhorts us, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). As Christians, joy ought to be a characteristic of our life. Others should know of our joy in the Lord. Jesus said that one of the reasons that He came is so that His joy may be in us and so that our joy may be full (John 15:11). But what is Christian joy? Joy is not so much happiness or elation that is rooted in temporary pleasures or present circumstances in this world. Rather, Christian joy is rooted in the good news of the Gospel. Paul doesn’t simply say, “Rejoice!” or “Rejoice in your circumstances!” Rather, he says, “Rejoice IN THE LORD.” The Spirit produces the fruit of joy in our lives when we prayerfully meditate on the joy of the complete forgiveness of all of our sins in Christ. “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered…Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity…Be glad IN THE LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:1-2, 11). Our justification by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone is the ground of our joy in the Lord. Even more, “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2). Tomorrow, we’ll consider how the Spirit gives us joy in the hope of glory. Suggestions for prayer Rejoice that you are forgiven of all your sins in Christ and are clothed in His righteousness through faith alone as a gift of grace! Sing Psalm 32 if you have a Psalter. 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 16 – The fruit of the Spirit is love: the test of love

But the fruit of the Spirit is love… – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Ephesians 1:15-20; 3:14-21 Sometimes we have a counterfeit love. This is where we love others not for their intrinsic dignity and worth, but for how they make us feel or what we can get from them. As we saw yesterday, love is sacrificial and selfless, patterned after the cross of Christ. But love doesn’t come easy to us because bearing a cross isn’t easy and our sinful nature wants to turn us in on ourselves. Some people are also difficult to love. But when love doesn’t come easy, it tests our love. Do we really love as Christ loved us? Do we love this person, even when it’s difficult, or do we only love them when they make us feel good or we get something from them? There are times where relationships can be so extremely harmful that we need to remove ourselves from them. But in most relationships our tendency is to bail too soon, right when the opportunity to truly love arises. Martin Luther put it this way: "Whenever you are angry with your brother for any cause, repress your violent emotions through the Spirit. Bear with his weakness and love him. He does not cease to be your neighbour or brother because he offended you. On the contrary, he now more than ever before requires your loving attention." Where do we find the strength to love when it’s difficult? As we saw yesterday, it’s a fruit of the Spirit produced in us through prayer and meditation on the cross. Suggestions for prayer Sing and meditate on the words of the great hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” Pray for the Spirit’s immeasurable strength to love others, even when it’s difficult (Ephesians 1:15-20; 3:14-21). 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 11 – The fruit of the Spirit: general observations

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy…patience, kindness…1 Corinthians 13:4, 6 Love is patient and kind…rejoices. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Before we look at each aspect of the fruit that Paul mentions, it’s worth noting a few general observations. First, it is important to note that it is all one fruit. Paul doesn’t refer to his list as the fruits of the Spirit (plural), as if they are distinct from one another and you can have one without the other. Rather, Paul speaks in the singular and refers to it all as the one “fruit of the Spirit.” As we move on to joy and peace and patience, we are in one sense still talking about love and vice versa. We can see the close connection of the fruit in 1 Corinthians 13 when Paul says that love IS patient (a fruit of the Spirit). Love IS kind (a fruit of the spirit). Love rejoices (joy is a fruit of the Spirit). We are talking about the one fruit of the Spirit when we talk about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are like different facets of one diamond that we behold from different angles. Second, like the list of the works of the flesh (see September 6), this is not an exhaustive list. There are more aspects to the fruit of the Spirit than the nine virtues that Paul mentions in Galatians 5. We certainly could add humility, compassion, forgiveness and other virtues that the Spirit produces in us. All these virtues grow together in us as the one fruit of the Spirit. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would produce more of the fruit of the Spirit in your life, conforming you to the image of Christ. Thank God that, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (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 10 – The fruit of the Spirit: produced in us

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5 Scripture reading: John 15:1-17 Yesterday we heard about Christ’s fruitfulness for us. Today we learn about Christ’s fruitfulness in us. We deserve to be judged for our unfruitfulness (the works of the flesh, Galatians 5:19-21). But thanks be to God that Christ bore the judgment in our place! (Galatians 3:13). When we repent and believe in Christ, God forgives all our sins and credits the fruitfulness of Christ to our account. Even more, we receive the promised Spirit from the moment we first believe (Galatians 3:14). And now, that same Spirit Who bore good fruit for the Father, in the ministry of Christ for us, bears His fruit in our lives as we abide in Christ through faith (John 15:1-5). You see the secret of bearing fruit in the Christian life is not a self-help manual. Nor is it looking to the law for the power to obey. The law cannot give you the power to obey. It can only give you guidance on how to truly love God in gratitude. Only the Spirit can produce His fruit in your life. You need an inward heart renewal, which is a blessing promised in the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27). If you want more of the Spirit’s fruit in your life, you must be nourished by God’s Word and the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper). The Word and sacraments point you to Christ, and the Spirit uses these means to transform you into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Suggestions for prayer Meditate on Christ’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as revealed in the Word and sacraments. Pray that the Spirit will conform you more into His image and produce Christ-likeness in your life. 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 9 – The fruit of the Spirit: Christ’s fruitfulness

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him… – Isaiah 11:1-2 Scripture reading: Isaiah 11:1-5; 27:6; 32:14-17 Yesterday we saw Israel’s unfruitfulness. Today we learn more about how Christ is True Israel, Who bears fruit pleasing to the Heavenly Father. In Isaiah 11, we find that One will arise from within Israel, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit” (v. 1). And He is fruitful because He is anointed with the Holy Spirit (vv. 2-5). The justice and righteousness that Israel failed to produce in Isaiah 5 would be produced in THIS faithful Servant. And not only righteousness, but also the fruit of faithfulness, peace, and joy (Isaiah 11:5; 32:17; 51:3; Galatians 5:22). And this True Israel would be so fruitful that one day the whole world would be filled with good fruit (Isaiah 27:6). This is because He will pour out His Spirit on His people (Isaiah 32:14-17; 44:2-4; 45:8). This is the work of Christ for us. He is fruitful so that we might be fruitful unto God. He was anointed with the Spirit at His baptism and God the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” He bore fruit for God that was perfect, that yielded good wine, wine that has no blemish, no sour or bitter notes and has a perfect finish. And yet, He became like wild rotten grapes for us. Our unfruitfulness was imputed to Him. He was judged in our place, forsaken, so that we would never be forsaken by God. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the fruitfulness of Christ on your behalf. Rest and rejoice in the good news that God will never leave you nor forsake you because of Christ. 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 8 – The fruit of the Spirit: Israel’s unfruitfulness

My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill…and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes…Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is… – Isaiah 5:1-2 Scripture reading: Galatians 5:22-23; Isaiah 5:1-7 Most Christians today are familiar with this passage on the fruit of the Spirit. But few are aware of the significance of this passage in light of the Old Testament. Just as there is an Old Testament background to what it means to “walk by the Spirit,” so too there is an Old Testament background to Paul’s language of “fruit of the Spirit.” In Isaiah 5:1-7 we see that God redeemed Israel as His beloved bride from slavery in Egypt. He mercifully rescued and married her when no one wanted her. He provided for her and protected her.  He gave Israel His law for how she was to live as His people in gratitude for her deliverance from Egypt. But when God looked at His vineyard, what did He see? Instead of good grapes they produced wild grapes that are of no use for wine, but only for producing vinegar. God was looking for the fruit of justice and righteousness, but instead, they produced bloodshed and an outcry. They were unfruitful. Thus, they came under God’s judgment. Israel is a microcosm of all of fallen humanity. Apart from Christ, none of us are any better. The works of the flesh taint our record. But the good news is that True Israel would one day come in the person and work of Christ and bear the fruit of the Spirit perfectly on behalf of His chosen bride, the church, made up of Jews and Gentiles who have faith in Christ. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that Jesus is the True Vine (John 15:1). Rest in His completed work on the cross for you. Abide in Him by faith and pray for the Spirit to unite you with Christ and His life-giving benefits more and more. 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 3 – Walk by the Spirit: led by God’s word

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. – Galatians 5:16 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:22-2:3; 2 Timothy 3:14-17 So far we’ve seen that to walk by the Spirit means that we are free in Christ from the curse of the law and free in Christ to obey God’s law in the Spirit’s strength. To walk by the Spirit is to be led by the Spirit (v. 18), walking in His strength and following His guidance. But where does this strength and guidance come from? Does it just happen to us? No. Both the strength and guidance come by the Spirit through the means of grace, the Word and sacraments, and through prayer. We must pray for the Spirit’s strength to obey God’s law, revealed in the Spirit-inspired Word. We must pray for the Spirit to use God’s Word to expose the lies of the world, the flesh and the devil. And we must pray that the Spirit would conform us more into the image of Christ as we behold Him by faith in the Word and sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper). The Spirit ordinarily works through these means. To be led by the Spirit is to be led by God’s Word. To walk by the Spirit is to walk by God’s Word. The Spirit and the Word go hand in hand. Therefore, if we want to walk by the Spirit we must be a people of prayerful meditation on God’s Word. God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). Let us walk by the Spirit according to God’s Word! Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His Spirit-inspired Word. Pray that the Spirit would draw you into God’s Word daily and especially in corporate worship on the Lord’s Day. 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 2 - Walk by the Spirit: led by the Spirit

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. – Galatians 5:16 Scripture reading: Isaiah 63:11-14; Nehemiah 9:19-20 Yesterday we began to see how Paul has in mind the exodus of Israel when he exhorts us to “walk by the Spirit.” Israel’s freedom from Egypt foreshadowed our greater freedom in Christ from the curse of the law, the power of sin and the tyranny of the devil. Indeed, freedom in Christ is a key theme of Galatians (e.g. 2:4; 3:13; 4:5; 5:1, 13). This is why it is often referred to as “The Magna Carta of Christian Liberty.” But there is more to the story with Israel and with us. God didn’t just free the Israelites from bondage to Egypt only to leave them to themselves to roam wherever they wanted. Rather, once He liberated them He then led them by His Spirit (Isaiah 63:11-14; Nehemiah 9:19-20). So too, God liberates us in Christ and leads us by His Spirit as pilgrims in this world. In other words, we are not left to ourselves to fight against sin and the devil in our own strength. Rather, we have been given the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit Who enables us to walk in God’s ways (Ezekiel 36:25-27). This is what it means to walk by the Spirit. It means we are not only free in Christ from the curse of the law but we are also free in Christ to obey God’s law in the Spirit’s strength. Therefore, let us walk by the Spirit! Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Pray for the Spirit’s strength to turn from the desires of the flesh more and more and to obey God’s law in gratitude for Christ. 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 introduction: the Vine, and the fruits of the Spirit

The fruit of the Spirit is not a coconut, as one children’s Sunday school song puts it. I’m sure you all know that! But it’s a fun song for memorizing the list of nine virtues that Paul mentions. You are probably also familiar with the topic of the fruit of the Spirit to some extent. But this month we’ll meditate more deeply on Galatians 5:16-25. We look forward to exploring some of the lesser-known Old Testament background on the fruit of the Spirit as well as the background to Paul’s exhortation to “walk by the Spirit.” We’ll also see how it connects with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ Who is the True Vine and the Last Adam, Who has been raised from the dead and gives the promised Spirit of life to His people (John 15:1; 1 Corinthians 15:45). My prayer is that through this study we will come to better understand the Bible’s teaching on the fruit of the Spirit and marvel at the unity of the whole Bible on this topic. Even more, it is my prayer that we will actually grow in the fruit of the Spirit during this study; that we will be equipped to grow in maturity in Christ throughout the Christian life for the glory of God and the good of others. As Jesus put it, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8). Also, on Sundays throughout this month we’ll be meditating on Hebrews 10:19-25 and how it calls us to worship God. September 1 – Walk by the Spirit: freedom in Christ But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. – Galatians 5:16   Scripture reading: Galatians 3:13-14; 4:4-7; 5:16-18 Why does Paul say walk by the Spirit? Why not, “live by the Spirit” or “seek the Spirit”? It’s because Paul pictures the great redemptive event of the Old Testament, namely the exodus. Remember that Israel was in bondage to Egypt and the Pharaoh. That bondage was a picture of our bondage to the curse of the law, the power of sin and the tyranny of the devil. As Paul says earlier in Galatians, “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed…Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods” (Galatians 3:23; 4:8). You see, Christ set us free from those things by being born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law so that we might no longer be slaves but sons (Galatians 4:4-7). Paul’s point is that when we look to Christ by faith, we are freed from the bondage of the curse of the law, justified in God’s sight and are adopted as God’s own dear children. And so, we have the greatest freedom of all in Christ that the exodus of Israel foreshadowed. What does this have to do with the exhortation to “walk by the Spirit”? We’ll answer that in tomorrow’s devotional. For now, rest and rejoice in the remarkable freedom that you have in Christ by grace alone through faith alone. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the freedom you have in Christ from the curse of the law, the power of sin, and the tyranny of the devil. You’ve gone from slavery to sonship, from wrath to riches! 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

August 31 – Trust the psalms of God

I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. – Psalm 52:8B Scripture reading: Psalm 52 We started with Psalm 1 and the comparison between the good and the wicked man. We sang from Psalm 50, the words of God Who calls us to right worship and living. He promises curses upon the wicked and blessings for the good man. In Psalm 51, we repented because of the renewal that the creation of a new heart and pure spirit brings. Then we sang from Psalm 52, “Do not take God’s mercy for granted; see the foolishness and destruction of the wicked. Trust in God.” Some of the verses of these Psalms make us cringe just a bit. Let us trust that these songs are given by God, Whose love is steadfast. We are coming out of darkness into light. He is bringing us from the destruction of wickedness and into the blessings of obedience that we may live and prosper like a tree planted beside the living waters—like a green olive tree. These songs sing about our God, Who is God with us and in us. But we also sing to minister to one another, always with thanksgiving in our hearts. Singing the Psalms, we love God and our neighbor as ourselves. Let us never forget God’s love to us in the One Who is the olive tree, yet hung on a tree that we may know the love of God. Sing of the faithfulness and trustworthiness of the LORD. Trust in the steadfast love of God forever. Suggestions for prayer Pray for joy to sing of all the Psalms of God, trusting His inspired words as being the excellent, right and true things that we and the whole world need to hear. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 26 – Evil men and the love of God

Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man? The steadfast love of God endures all the day. – Psalm 52:1 Scripture reading: Psalm 52:1 How great is God’s love? How enduring and amazing! If God always is, then love always is too. We can trust in that. It is that love that helps us understand what wickedness is all about. It helps us understand the absolute foolishness, not only of the deeds of wicked men, but their utterly empty understanding about life. When we think of the love of God in Christ Jesus, that the Father so loved us that He gave His only Son for us, we begin, at least in part, to understand the love Paul wrote about in I Corinthians 13. The wicked man cannot grasp this. He does what he does because he rejects the love of God. He exalts himself. He wants to make himself great. He speaks as if he were great. But he is completely deceived. We need only to look back at men like Stalin, or Hitler who thought they would build lasting kingdoms. But the mighty have fallen and their dominions are no more. What of us? Do we understand this? Is there some sin we cling to? I suppose we would know enough to not brag about our sins. Sometimes we do. We can revel in our past, forgetting that we ought not to remember the sins of our youth. The love of God is pure. Let our lives and love be genuine too. Let us seek wisdom. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we will see the evil in us, around us and in our leaders and neighbors, praying that they will repent and find the love of God. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 25 – Singing the truth about God

The righteous shall see and fear – Psalm 52:6 Scripture reading: Psalm 52 Have you walked through a forest after a strong wind has blown? You can see a big old tree toppled over; its roots are exposed. David compares wicked Doeg to that tree. Doeg killed the priests of Nob who helped David. David makes clear that all the wicked, like Doeg, will taste the judgment of the LORD. It is good to be reminded that God is forever and always God. He is the great King, as we have seen from Psalm 50 and merciful as we have seen from Psalm 51. But let us not take that mercy for granted. It is good to think about the end of wickedness and folly. The conclusion is the tumbling down of the wicked. That covenant theme presented by Psalm 1 runs its course. If we love God, we are like the green and verdant tree that lives in the House of God. We, who live in the wonder of the work of Christ, have good reason to believe that God forgives, so let us trust God to order our lives and set the direction of our paths. If we love God, we will live by His commandments. Then we will bear those fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:21,22). If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). Then our God will be honored and perhaps our neighbors will be won to the good life. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we will respect God and His desire for our lives, for His glory, and the blessing for the lives of our loved ones, neighbors and selves. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 24 – Singing about our restoration to worship

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. – Psalm 51:8 Scripture reading: Psalm 51 What if God did not come to David and simply left David in his sin? Would David have returned to God? Would he have written Psalm 51? Would David have looked so fondly for the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ? I cannot help but think about Paul teaching us that all things work together for the good of those who love Him. God, the Father, can take the darkest stain and wash it out white in Jesus’ blood. He makes the broken sinner whole. The God who comes in judgment moves in grace so that we can experience the blessings of full salvation and worship. Psalm 51 is the sinner’s song to answer to Psalm 50. Here are the words of a broken spirit and a contrite heart. I think my best prayers have been when I was searching and crying out for God in the utter depth of misery. It was like when blind Bartimaeus cried out to the Son of David for mercy—there was no other hope. These are the inspired words of response. We sing to an angry God offended by empty worship. Yet, these words cannot be ours until we have suffered and sorrowed over our sins. Then we run to God and, when He forgives us, we worship and adore Him. In Christ’s resurrection, we have a new life, clean hearts and a renewed spirit! Psalm 52 will lead us to a song of trust and assurance. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we will no longer be conformed to the things of this world, but be renewed in the transformation of our minds to do the good and pleasing will of God. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 23 – Singing to bless the Church daily

May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem. – Psalm 51:18 Scripture reading: Psalm 51:18-19 Do you think that we sometimes take worship for granted? Pure and spiritual worship can only happen when God is busy with His people. Our Father must discipline His children, so that they turn to Him and love Him. Sometimes that means He allows some grave sin in our lives in order to drive us back to worship Him. When David was at his worst with Bathsheba, he still went to worship with guilt hanging around his neck. He knew that he was fooling himself. But it was God He had offended. The wonder of it all is that unlike Saul, God did not abandon David. I think about that often. God did not abandon me, either. He could have. He had the right. It is by grace that I am saved and forgiven. Grace inspires us to keep the law of God for worship. Do you find yourself in this scenario? We who know our sin and forgiveness, love God. We want to live better lives. We want our worship to be authentic. That is our desire for the churches we attend too. Let us be in prayer today for the Church of Jesus Christ. Israel prayed that the LORD would prosper Zion. We pray for the blessings upon the Church. May Jesus Christ be praised, not only in Word, but with hearts clean and pure. Then the curses of the covenant that we warned one another of singing in Psalm 50, will be turned to blessings and peace. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will bless our churches and the Church around the world, so that our worship will be good and pleasing to Him. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 18 – Singing a confession about ourselves

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. – Psalm 51:3 Scripture reading: Psalm 51:3-6 It is perhaps the most challenging thing that we must do as human beings. Indeed, it is difficult to admit how very sinful we are. David is not all that surprised that he fell so far. He knows what he is. He confesses that truth. You and I need to admit that we sin because we are sinners. We were born sinful and as the Heidelberg Catechism puts it: prone to hate God and my neighbor. (QA 5) There are two difficulties in being entirely honest about ourselves. They are comparing ourselves with others and finding excuses. We can add to that, the fact that confession brings shame. Now, the Lord in His faithfulness does not punish us each time we sin and so it seems like there is no immediate repercussion for sins. Then we feel safe until the bottom falls out, our life is in shambles and it looks like there is no way out. Sin may mean a loss of dignity or the breaking of a relationship and then we feel remorse. But remorse is not repentance. We need to get to that place of complete humility, like the tax collector in Jesus’ parable (Luke 18). We, with David, must see that we have offended and rebelled against God. When we can finally admit who we are and how we have offended God, we can repent. Then we will experience the mercy of God to us in Christ Jesus. Suggestions for prayer Pray to be able to be honest with yourself and what you have done. Pray to trust that God will hear you and bless you if you ask for mercy from a place of humility and to rest on His grace. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 17 – A song begging for mercy

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. – Psalm 51:1 Scripture reading: Psalm 51:1-2 David asks for mercy. How does he even dare? David knew he had fallen, but God is great and glorious. David has nowhere else to go with His sin. He believed that God’s love was more powerful than his sin and so he, as the sinning saint, cries out to God. His words ought to become ours. Have you ever done something so wrong that at least in your own eyes, you felt like God would forsake you? Then Satan has you and accuses you. You dirty rotten sinner! There is no hope for you! But the wonder is that, by faith, like David, we can cry out to God for mercy. He cries out that God would have mercy on him because he has no hope! There is nothing he can do to undo it. David turns to God. That is why this Psalm is given to us. All things are working for your salvation. Sorrow for sin drives you to flee to Him! He is all that you have. David trusted in the Lord even after all of that! You, too, must lament your sin and ask God for mercy. If Christ is your Lord, you will be saved! (Romans 10:9). Even if there is despair, that perhaps you have done the unthinkable or the unforgivable, think of the Lord who says, “I will be a God to you!” Ask Him to forgive you. Trust Him. Repent and believe! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help our unbelief and for trust that He will forgive us. Pray for strength to confess the name of Jesus for God’s mercy. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 16 – A personal lament for sin

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so that you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. – Psalm 51:4 Scripture reading: Psalm 51 It is interesting that on the heels of the application of the covenant, including the warning to sinners, comes this well-known psalm of restoration. The experts define Psalm 51 as a psalm of individual lament. Psalm 51 is one of those psalms well used in both the Israelite and Christian church eras to confess sin before God. Even though it has a historical association as David’s lament after his fall with Bathsheba, we ought to also understand the psalm was given by inspiration to David for us to sing and use to confess our sins. I think that it is vital that we pay attention to the setting as given by the heading of the psalm. It is also essential that we do not see Psalm 51 only as the words of David. Most Reformed churches have a place in the worship service for a corporate confession of sins. As you head to church today, pay attention to that part of the worship service. It is easy to pass through that portion of worship to get to the sermon. After the call of Psalm 50 to order our way rightly with the promise of the salvation of God, Psalm 51 provides the appropriate attitude and words. Confession of sin ought to be a part of our worship of God and ministering to one another. Through repentance and the mercy of God to us in Christ, we begin to order our way right to the glory of our God. Suggestions for prayer Pray for blessings on our worship today, the forgiveness of the people of God and for God’s mercy that we may teach sinners the way they should go. Ask for grace that inspires joy and worship. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 15 – Singing of the covenant blessings and curses

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” – Psalm 50:23 Scripture reading: Psalm 50 We come to the end of our meditations on Psalm 50. This Psalm is an application of Psalm 1, that gateway to the covenant. In our singing, we bring the case to a close for God as the people of God. The faithful sing to the congregation made up of the faithful and unfaithful. We must listen so we can sing and we must sing that God will be heard. Tomorrow we will gather for worship. Too often today, worship is only about praise, joy and our personal happiness. I think we can agree that prayer ought to have elements of joy and appreciation. But is there a place in worship for warning, calling and pleading? In Psalm 50, the words of judgment are clear. The righteous will be blessed and delivered. We find hope. But not so the wicked man. His end is horrible. Who can deliver us from hell once our lives are over without repentance? Then it is too late. But while we have life and breath, let us love our neighbor as ourselves and call each other to the grace and mercy of God. Let us call them to thankful living. Let us call them to sing the songs of praise with us. But let us also worship God in a way that sounds the warnings against sin and calls us to repentance. Let us sound the good news and the warnings of God. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord will use our churches, worship and songs tomorrow to bring people to devote their lives to God. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 10 – Singing to call the Church to respect the Lord

If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. – Psalm 50:12 Scripture reading: Psalm 50:12-13 The LORD calls Israel to remember that He is the Creator-King Who is their Father. Did Israel think that God needed all their smoked meat because of His ravenous hunger? Did they believe that God would starve without them? Or that the LORD could not take care of Himself? He calls them to bring offerings because they love Him, not because He needed anything from them. God asks them and us to think about this: The covenant people are the last place He would go to get His needs met if He had needs. He does not have any physical requirements. He is spirit and is to be worshipped in spirit and truth. How could they ever help Him? Every bull and goat they brought belonged to Him in the first place. He asks them for their honour and pure love—true worship. It may be more subtle for us, but I think it is easy to buy into this thinking. It is easy to believe that God needs our offerings, witness or daily work. We think that the Christian school or church building exists because of our planning and giving. It is hard for us to fully worship from the place of grace. We also forget how immense the grace of the LORD is. He helped us by coming down to us in the form of Christ. He provided the sacrifice. What can I give Him? Let us love Him and give Him the respect due His Holy name. Suggestions for prayer Pray for humility before God, a pure sense of His greatness, an understanding of our need of Him and to be able to respond in gracious, thankful living. Ask to properly confess God with our words and lives of worship. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 9 – Enter His gates with thanksgiving

I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. – Psalm 50:9 Scripture reading: Psalm 50:8-11 Yesterday we considered God. Israel had not. Oh, they were engaged in the activity of worship. It seems that they were pretty busy. The sacrifices were brought to the temple and offered. I think that what happened is that Israel worshipped the LORD in the way that other nations worshipped their idols. See, the idol always needs something. The idol needs to be aroused for it to do something. Every other kind of religion is works-oriented. If we do something, then the gods will do something for us. Israel had applied this kind of thinking to God. It was the worship of manipulation. They wanted good crops or healthy children—the good life and if they kept the rules and offered the animals, they figured God would bless them. That kind of worship belittles God. Everything on the planet already is His. We are His people. Israel had forgotten that God had blessed not because of what they did, but because He is good and gracious. He needed nothing from them or us—but our love and devotion. Today we will worship the LORD. But why are you going to do that? Is it so you can feel better, to be happier? Worship must be a response to grace received and applied. Psalm 100 teaches us that we are His people not because we give something to Him, but because He saved us. That is why we are His! Let us enter His gates with thanksgiving. Suggestions for prayer Ask for inspiration for the church to know God and honor Him in our worship and songs of praise Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 8 – Singing the testimony of God

Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. – Psalm 50:7 Scripture reading: Psalm 50:7 The Israelites probably understood the language of a covenant court case better than we do. We ought to understand the covenant as the declaration of the King towards His people. If the subjects obeyed, the LORD would give them peace and blessing. Trouble only arises when the covenant people disobey. It seems clear that the LORD, the King of Israel, is not pleased with His people. It is time for them to listen. God says, “Hear O Israel: I am God, your God.” The LORD identifies Himself as their creator and provider. He uses the language of the first five books of the Bible, “I Am the Lord your God.” Israel knows that God became their God not because they chose Him, but because He saved them from Egypt. He gave them the Promised Land. He sent the rain and dew. He fed them from the bounty of the earth. He gave and needed nothing from them. He demands their devotion and their good confession. He is God, their God, and they ought to love Him above everything and or anyone. They best listen to Him. God has become our God in Christ. We must listen to Him, Who so loved us that He gave His Son to die for us. He needs nothing from us. He asks that we love Him. This is our God! How can we not love and honor Him? Let us think about that as we gather together for worship tomorrow. Suggestions for prayer Pray for a blessing for our preparation for worship and a blessing for those who are preparing to preach the Word. Ask for inspiration for the church to know God and honor Him in our worship and songs of praise. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 7 – Singing a call to worship

Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice! – Psalm 50:5 Scripture reading: Psalm 50:5-6 Here is the Church sounding the voice of God — come and worship! As I write this, we are in the Spring of isolation, online church and missing the gathering together. The language of verse 5 and 6 is lovely and comforting. The LORD calls His people, the faithful ones to gather and worship. And they do. He gathers them together using the songs of the Church to call His people. The Church in Zion, more than just the temple, is the imperfect “Immanuel” that looks forward to the unification of God and His people in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Israel shed the blood of many animals as part of their relationship with the LORD. Now we come in the shed blood of Jesus. "Therefore, brothers, since we have the confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” (Hebrews 10:19-20). The LORD who rules the Church rules the heavens too. The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). What do the heavens declare? His righteousness and right to judge. He has absolute authority, and the Church sings of His power now to enter in conversation with His people. The LORD does this as a King with His subjects or as a Father with His children. Let us prepare our hearts to hear what He will tell us so that we can respond and tell others. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the blessings of worship. Give thanks for the death and resurrection of Christ. Ask for a blessing on the fellowship and the ministry of the Church on earth and fearlessness to declare the whole truth about the LORD. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 2 – Blessings for covenant keepers

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. – Psalm 1:3 Scripture reading Psalm 1:1-3 The first verses of Psalm 1 reveal to us the faithful children of God. We are looking forward to worshipping with them today. They do not walk with or live like the ungodly, but love the LORD. We sing and we take stock. How do we measure up? Godly people live life obeying the law of God. We trust them because they bear good fruit in due season. This picture leads us to think of the type of men we would have to lead the church or who are good sons, friends, or fathers and husbands. The picture gives us a notion of the kind of women we would have to love, teach and serve us. When we walk with the Lord by the light of His Word, and we trust and obey, the promise is sure: that man is blessed. Such a person is free to blossom and always produce the fruit of righteousness—living to love, serve and glorify God. Verses 1-3 point us to the perfect man, Jesus Christ. By His perfect obedience, we have redemption. Jesus, the perfect man, died on the cross, the righteous for the unrighteous and our lives are changed in Him. We are reminded for a moment of the words of Jesus as recorded by John in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Suggestions for prayer Pray for faith, faithfulness and blessing on our fellowship and worship services today. Ask for inspiration to be better able to love God and our neighbor and to be given the Spirit of grace so that we can produce good fruits and be blessed. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introduction to August’s study of Psalm 1 and 50-52

Paul calls both the Ephesians and Colossians to: “Address/admonish one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence to Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:16). God, by His Holy Spirit, has given us psalms to sing in order to praise Him. But the psalms are also given to us to minister to each other in the church and to those outside of it. They have also been given to us so that we may sing, live and worship together as God’s people in spirit and truth. This month I hope to lead you through Psalms 1, 50, 51, and 52 to help you to better understand God, the covenant He has made with us and how we are to live with Him and one another. Psalm 1 will set the perspective and then Psalms 50-52 will provide a unit by which we will come to know God Who calls us to obedience and repentance. We end up where we started, understanding the blessings upon obedience and the curses upon those who do evil. My hope is that we will no longer be conformed to this world, but be renewed in the transforming of our minds seeking God’s good and pleasing will, striving for holy singing and worship (Romans 12:1-2). **** A psalm of the covenant Scripture reading: Psalm 1 The 150 psalms are given by God on which to meditate on and sing. More than just songs to sing or poetry to recite, they are the revelation of God to us. Psalm 1 sets out the way to sing and understand the next 149 Psalms. Before we can sing the songs to His praise and glory, we must know what pleases the LORD God. The psalms spring from the context of the covenant and are given to the children of the covenant. Psalm 1 provides an inspired perspective. In Psalm 1, Israel then, and the church today, sings of the LORD our covenant God and the difference it makes to belong to God. Psalm 1 sets out for us the way of blessing and curses and the proper understanding of life before the face of God. It also sets before us the beauty of belonging to the Christian community. The church sings of her convictions about living in the promises of the LORD. We sing not only to glorify the LORD, but to reveal Him to the world and one another. The LORD knows the heart of man, both the righteous and the wicked man. Over the next few days, we will consider Psalm 1 from the perspective of verse 6, “The LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” May God bless the assembly as we worship Him tomorrow. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for the Word of God, the Psalms and the promises of God. Pray for help to understand and live out the Psalms and for blessings to live in grace with God and one another. Pray for blessings for our Sunday worship tomorrow. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 31 – Glimpse of home

“I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them,” says the LORD your God. – Amos 9:15 Scripture reading: Amos 9:13-15; Revelation 21:1-8 We already possess the beginning of eternal joy through the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ. The fullness of life described by Amos is one that believers have already now in part. And there is more to come! The notes of God’s judgment have dominated Amos’s preaching, but the Spirit ends by giving us a glimpse of the new heavens and new earth. C.S. Lewis helps to focus us: “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea” (C.S. Lewis, Weight of Glory). Sin offers empty pleasures. Idols are unforgiving tyrants. Trusting in self is a dead-end. Every human being is made in the image of God, designed to know Him, to love Him, and to live with Him in eternal happiness. Sin has ruined that and subjected this world to futility and judgment. The tragedy of rebellion against God is that the rebel rejects the King who gave His life for the world so that sinners can come home. Home. When your soul aches for permanence in a world of change and your heart longs for holiness in a world stained with sin, rest in the finished work of Christ and set your heart on home. Grace will lead you there. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the hope of heaven to deepen your life already now and to draw you forward in persevering faith. Amen! Even so, come, Lord Jesus! Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 30 – Abundant life

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.” – Amos 9:13 Scripture reading: Amos 9:13-15; Ephesians 1:3-14 The final words of Amos’s ministry set forth a glorious picture of the blessings of Christ’s rule and government. Drawing from farming imagery, Amos gives us a glimpse of a better day. The seed-planter overtaking the harvester, the hills flowing with wine – these are descriptions of abundance. The return of captives means true liberty. Living in the cities they build and drinking wine from the vineyards they plant points to the end of futility. No longer being pulled up from the land refers to permanence. This is a glimpse of life with God, the life that was ruined by sin in the Garden, and the life for which we long: abundance, liberty, permanence. Are these blessings spiritual or physical? The answer is “Yes!” The kingdom of God embraces all of creation. Rather than distinguish between spiritual and physical, we can distinguish between the blessings of this present age and the blessings of the age to come. In Christ, we have abundant life. He is the living water and the bread of life. He satisfies our thirsty and hungry souls. In Christ, we already possess the liberty of being adopted children of God. We are no longer slaves to the dominion of sin. In Christ, we have a living hope in the midst of the futility of death. His resurrection is the guarantee that our labor is not in vain. In Christ, we have security in life and death. Our heavenly inheritance is reserved for us who are kept by the power of God. Seek Him and you will truly live! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the Spirit to show you the riches that is yours in Christ Jesus. Pray for the Spirit to feed your soul with Living Water and the Bread of Life. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 25 – Spiritual famine

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord GOD, “that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.” – Amos 8:11 Scripture reading: Amos 8:11-14 What if you went to the grocery store to restock your empty fridge and there was nothing there? It’s hard for us to imagine! Well, far worse than a natural famine is a spiritual famine of hearing the words of the LORD. If an individual or nation responds with indifference and ingratitude to the Word of God, there comes a point when He removes the Word from them. Are you allowing worldly pleasures to choke your love for Jesus? Are you quenching the work of grace in your heart by withdrawing from communion with the Lord? Let this warning from Amos move you in godly fear to repair your walk with God. What a tragic picture this is! The children of God running to and fro, from sea to sea, north to east seeking the word of the Lord but not finding it. But didn’t God promise that those who seek Him will find Him? Yes, and that promise remains true. The problem is that the Israelites will run everywhere trying to find the word of God except in the place where God promised to speak to them: the temple in Jerusalem. It is like Esau who sought the blessing with tears but did not obtain it because he found no place for repentance (Heb.12:17). Today, you can be assured of God’s grace for you by responding in faith and repentance. Go to God. Bring your sin and guilt and faithlessness to the cross of Jesus Christ. If you seek God in Christ, you will find Him. Suggestions for prayer Confess where your heart has grown cold to the things of God. Pray that He would not remove the Word from you or your loved ones. Seek His help in committing yourself to renewed study of His Word. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 24 – The day of the Lord

“And it shall come to pass in that day,” says the Lord GOD, “that I will make the sun go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in broad daylight.” – Amos 8:9 Scripture reading: Amos 8:7-10 We might think by this point that Amos is laying the judgment on a little thick! But this is not just an idiosyncrasy of Old Testament prophets. The Lord Jesus talked about hell more than He talked about heaven. Threats and warnings are one way that our faithful God bids us to repent and live. Amos describes the coming judgment on Israel as a day of catastrophe and grief. On that day, the land will tremble (vs.8), the sun will go dark at noon (vs.9), and it will end with mourning as for an only son (vs.10). It is quite probable that these things literally took place in the years leading up to Israel’s destruction in 722 BC. At the same time, the Word of God points us to events beyond 722 BC. The Day of the LORD came upon Israel. And the Day of the LORD will come in final fulfillment upon the whole earth when Jesus comes again. That will be a day of cosmic catastrophe. The heavens and earth will pass away and all men, the living and the dead, will stand before the Lord Jesus. The wicked will be thrown into everlasting fire and the righteous into eternal life. The Day of the LORD was visited upon Jesus at the cross. The earth quaked, the sun went dark, and God turned His face away as the Son of God became a curse for us to redeem us from the curse. Will you be exposed in your pride on the Day, or will you be found sheltered in the safety of the cross? Suggestions for prayer Adore the Lord Jesus for His atoning sacrifice on the cross. Be specific. Ask the Father to shelter you under His wings of refuge. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 23 – The least of these

When will the New Moon be past, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may trade wheat? – Amos 8:5a Scripture reading: Amos 8:4-6; Matthew 25:31-46 Amos presents the charges against Israel for which she will be judged. In so doing, he returns to a familiar theme: abusing the poor and needy in the land (vs.4). Israel’s guilt is aggravated by the fact that their injustice is committed against the backdrop of worshipping the LORD. They observe the Sabbath and other special feast days; the stores are closed on Sundays and the churches are full. But they can’t wait for worship to be over so that they can get to what they really want to be doing: making money (vs.5-6). They were not explicitly thinking to themselves, “How can I lie and cheat and exploit?” Amos speaks with biting satire to get to the root: what they call “just doing business” is, in fact, trampling their brother to serve self. Our regard for our fellow human beings reveals our regard for God. “He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy” (Prov.14:31). This is why the apostle John cuts to the chase and says: if you don’t love your brother, you don’t love God. It’s that simple. Jesus teaches us in the parable of the sheep and the goats that He will judge us according to how we ministered to the needy. This is not because our good deeds earn us fellowship with God. It is because those who turn away the “least of these” have never truly had fellowship with God. What will He say to you on that day? Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to work the fruit of love in your heart – love for God and for neighbour. If you are withholding mercy from the needy or forgiveness for your brother, confess those sins and ask the Lord Jesus to give you a servant's heart. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 22 – Ripe for judgment

The end has come upon My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. – Amos 8:2b Scripture reading: Amos 8:1-3; 2 Kings 17:5-18 Amos receives a fourth and final vision of a basket of summer fruit with the explanation that the end has come, God will no longer pass by. Israel is now ripe for judgment and the Lord is no longer going to withhold His hand. Israel has been growing fruit of sin and rebellion for several centuries and her opportunity for repentance will very shortly expire. Vs.3 describes what will take place in Israel when God comes to judge through the Assyrian scourge. The worship songs at the temple will turn to wailing. The dead bodies will be flung about everywhere, thrown out in silence. Those who have fought in major battles attest to the silence that follows a battle. It is the silence of death. The children of Israel had the covenant promises, the Law of Moses, the witness of the prophets, and providential warnings through natural disasters. God stretched out His hands all day long to a rebellious people (Is. 65:2). But they did not turn from their sinful ways. When their punishment finally came, they had no grounds with which to accuse God of wrongdoing. Friend, are you living apart from Christ? Are you clinging to a sin from which you will not turn? Are you telling yourself that you’ll deal with it later? “Repentance and faith are the gifts of God, and they are gifts that He often withholds, when they have been long offered in vain. I grant you, true repentance is never too late, but I warn you at the same time, late repentance is seldom true.” – Thoughts for Young Men, J.C. Ryle Suggestions for prayer Pray for grace to be on your guard against the deceitfulness of sin. Ask Him to show you sins that you are protecting and to lead you out of them. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 17 – Complacency

Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, and trust in Mount Samaria. – Amos 6:1 Scripture reading: Amos 6:1-7 Amos exposes Israel’s false sense of security that has led to spiritual complacency. The danger of spiritual complacency is witnessed in the seed that fell among thorny soil where “the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). The Bible repeatedly calls us to watch out, be on our guard, and to persevere in faithfulness. It is a scary thing to develop a spirit of apathy toward the things of God. Amos helps us to diagnose this sin in our own lives. In vs.1, he warns those “who are at ease in Zion, and trust in Mount Samaria”. The economy is good, their borders are secure. What can go wrong? They do not see their weakness and their need for God. The spiritually complacent lose a sense of dependence upon God. In vs.3-6a, he opposes those who “put far off the day of doom” because they are too busy enjoying worldly comforts. There is no longer earnestness for spiritual things, a noticeable lack of “fear and trembling” (Phil.2:12). In vs.6b, Amos tells us that they “are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph”. That is, they are indifferent to the spiritual decline of the nation. This happens, for example, when we become desensitized to immorality in the entertainment we consume. Has the Word of God diagnosed spiritual complacency in you today? The apostle James tells us that the pathway to healing begins by humbling ourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift us up (James 4:10). Suggestions for prayer “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps.139:23-24). Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 16 – Formalism

Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! For what good is the day of the LORD to you? It will be darkness, and not light. – Amos 5:18 Scripture reading: Amos 5:16-27 Israel assumed that the day of the LORD was going to be a happy day for them. After all, they were the descendants of Abraham, God’s covenant people. They observed the feast days, gathered for sacred assemblies, and offered the sacrifices of Moses. Why wouldn’t the day of the LORD be a day of blessing for the children of Israel? God’s answer is blistering. He hates their worship. He won’t accept their sacrifices. He can’t stand the noise of their songs and won’t hear their skilled music. He has two reasons for despising their worship: First of all, they are only Sunday Christians and do not practice justice and righteousness in the rest of life (vs. 24). Secondly, like the wilderness generation, they have kept foreign gods on the side (vs. 25-26). The Israelites drew near with their lips, but not with their hearts. One of the ways that the same root spiritual issue shows up in our lives is the sin of formalism. Formalism consists of placing our trust in outward religious forms rather than in Christ Himself. This can happen even when our worship is correct, our theology sound – when we’re doing everything right. Baptism, profession of faith, church attendance, and correct theology, though they are good things, cannot in themselves save. We can sit under faithful preaching week after week and love the form of the sermon rather than the Christ who is preached. Do you see the sin of formalism in your worship and life? Don’t throw out the forms, but lean upon the Spirit of grace to revive your use of them. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for public worship and the means of grace. Pray for reformation of your worship that it may be truly faithful to the Word of God and governed by the Spirit. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 15 – Trust and obey

Seek good and not evil, that you may live; so the LORD God of hosts will be with you. – Amos 5:14 Scripture reading: Amos 5:10-15 In the story A Christmas Carol, the hard-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge receives a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The ghost takes Scrooge to visit his own grave and shows him the contemptuous responses of people when they hear of his death. Scrooge trembles, falls to the ground, and pleads "Good Spirit, your nature intercedes for me and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!" This is what the Lord is looking for from Israel: an altered life. He has given them a glimpse of their own funeral, a picture of their own doom, and called them to seek Him. That is the first aspect of biblical repentance that Amos teaches us: “Seek Me and live” (vs.4). He is the only One who can deal with our sin. Forgiveness and life-change are found in Jesus Christ. The second aspect of repentance, or the other side of the same coin, is a changed life: “Seek good and not evil, that you may live…Hate evil, love good” (vs.14,15). Those who have believed in Jesus for forgiveness will obey His commandments in love (John 14:15). When we have been rescued from eternal hell, clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and brought into favor with God, we will also desire to do His will. Those who persist in rebellion without repentance reveal a heart unchanged by grace. Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the living fruit of repentance in your life. Pray for the Spirit to lead you into the joy and freedom of walking in the ways of the Lord. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 14 – Seek the Lord

The virgin of Israel has fallen; she will rise no more. She lies forsaken on her land; there is no one to raise her up. – Amos 5:2 Scripture reading: Amos 5:1-9 What if you could watch your own funeral while you were still living? It would help to put life into perspective, wouldn’t it? Sometimes it is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart (Eccl.7:2). That’s what Amos is doing in this passage. In vs.3 he prophesies her coming death at the hand of an invading nation. But in vs.2 he sings a funeral lament for Israel while she’s still alive. Israel feels alive, like a maiden full of youth (vs.2), but in reality she’s at death’s door. She has the appearance of being alive, but spiritually she is terminally ill. Amos gives her a glimpse of her own funeral so that she will be awakened to her desperate situation and repent. God continues to hold out HIs hands to the rebellious nation: “Seek Me and live”. If they will turn away from idol worship at Bethel and serve the living God who made the Pleiades and Orion, they will be saved. Amos shows us the way of repentance. An essential part of biblical repentance is to seek the Lord. That means that we turn away from all the dead-end roads of sin and idols and entrust our lives to Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He gives life. He cleanses and renews. Biblical repentance is not primarily feelings or methods or tears: it is faith in Jesus for salvation from sin. Suggestions for prayer Confess your sinfulness to the Lord and acknowledge that only Christ can cleanse and save you from your sin. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 9 – You only

You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. – Amos 3:2 Scripture reading: Amos 3:1-2; Deuteronomy 7:1-11 The LORD had exposed the ugliness of Israel’s transgressions (2:6-8), but they displayed no conviction of sin. He reminded them of His redeeming grace (2:9-11), yet their hearts remained hard. The most tenacious of us would have written off Israel long ago. But God persistently pursues His beloved and here He speaks to her in terms of covenant love: You only. Israel (along with the kingdom of Judah) is His family that He brought up from Egypt and settled in the Promised Land. Out of all the families of the earth He chose Israel. They were no better than any other nation. There was nothing about Israel that merited His love. In free and sovereign grace He had made Israel His treasured possession, set apart from the rest. His covenant of grace was exclusively for Israel. And then come God’s shocking words: “Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” They expected to hear “therefore I will bless you.” Instead, God says that Israel’s special status is the very reason for their judgment. They have taken His grace for granted and defiled His holy love with their iniquities. Therefore, the covenant relationship will testify against them if they do not repent. The promises of God are received only in the way of faith and obedience. Anyone who thinks that it is possible to be forgiven and live in willful disobedience is living in a dream world. All of God’s saving blessings are found in Christ alone. And it is impossible to be in Christ without walking with Christ in the way of faith and repentance. “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” Suggestions for prayer Thank the Father for His immeasurable love for you in His Son. Ask the Spirit to lead you and your loved ones into thankful obedience. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 8 – Amazing grace

Behold, I am weighed down by you, as a cart is weighed down that is full of sheaves. – Amos 2:13 Scripture reading: Amos 2:9-16 The LORD God is weighed down by Israel like an overloaded cart. Of course, there is no weakness or shortcoming in God who “neither faints nor is weary” (Is.40:28). He is simply speaking in terms we can understand. The years of rebellion and hard-heartedness keep piling up and God will not bear with Israel much longer. God is weary of their contempt for His grace. Their indifference to the plight of the poor and weak demonstrates a graceless heart. If they had truly grasped the overwhelming grace of God in their redemption, they would love their neighbor. When they were weak, He “destroyed the Amorite before them” and brought them into the land of Canaan. When they were oppressed in the land of Egypt, He rescued them. When they were vulnerable in the desert, He protected and provided for them. Their history was one of undeserved kindness. Yet their hearts remain unchanged. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. He blesses the poor in spirit with the kingdom of heaven. The humble and the poor in spirit are those who know that they owe God an unpayable debt of sin and that God has forgiven that debt at infinite cost to Himself. If we sing “Amazing Grace” in church on Sunday and then remain indifferent to the plight of the needy, what does that reveal about our hearts? Who is the hungry person in your life right now? Or the stranger, the orphan, the widow? By grace you were saved. Now live it. Suggestions for prayer Confess to God where you have been taking His grace for granted. Pray for a heart that is transformed by the power of grace. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 7 – The tyranny of sin

For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals. – Amos 2:6 Scripture reading: Amos 2:6-8 Amos paints a devastating picture of injustice. Wealthy creditors preyed upon the poor, forcing them into slavery for the smallest of debts. The law did nothing to protect the little guy as court verdicts could be bought by the wealthy. Daughters, robbed of the protection of their fathers, were used and abused by shameless men. Meanwhile, at the houses of worship, Israelites reveled on the backs of the poor – sleeping on their garments and drinking their wine. Whenever a nation turns away from the Lord, the weak and vulnerable suffer the most. The Law of Moses provided explicit protection for the poor, the orphan, and the widow. God set Himself apart from all the other gods of the nations as “a father of the fatherless, a defender of widows” (Psalm 68:5). But sin is a tyrant that preys on those who need our protection the most: preborn children, trafficked girls, the neglected elderly, to name a few. His anger burns against the injustice in our nations as it did against Israel in the days of Amos. But we should not forget that Amos was directing his message to the church, God’s covenant people. We must allow God’s gaze to search our hearts and lives. Do you open your hand and home to the needy? What plays on your computer screen? Are you refusing to forgive a brother as God in Christ forgave you? Are you upright in your business dealings? The world’s greatest need is also our greatest need: a Saviour from the guilt and tyranny of sin. Suggestions for prayer Pray for God to arise and defend the oppressed. Ask Him to show you where you are complicit in the injustice in the land and for opportunities to do justice and love mercy. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 6 – Pathway to apostasy

For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they have despised the law of the Lord, and have not kept His commandments. Their lies lead them astray, Lies which their fathers followed. – Amos 2:4 Scripture Reading: Amos 2:4-5; Deut. 30:11-20 The nations surrounding Israel and Judah were without excuse for their transgressions. How much more so the people of Judah who had the benefit of His Word! “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). Judah had tremendous spiritual blessings: the royal house of David, the temple of the Lord, the priesthood, and the law of God. But they had exchanged these gifts of God’s covenant love for vanity. Amos describes Judah’s descent into apostasy in three steps: despising the law, not keeping His commandments, and following after lies. It began as a heart attitude towards the law, became a settled habit of disobedience, and ended in the embrace of idols. Apostasy doesn’t happen overnight. It begins unseen in the heart. The heart is the battleground for faithful endurance. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov.4:23). How do we keep our heart? The Spirit has given us a toolbox for keeping our hearts. These include corporate worship, Bible study, and prayer. There simply are no substitutes for these means. But as we use them, we must not make them ends in themselves, as simply another set of duties to maintain. Keep your eyes fixed on the goal: knowing God. “Love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days.” Suggestions for prayer Ask the Father to guard your heart and the hearts of your loved ones. Pray for the Spirit to revive and bless your communion with God through the means of grace. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introduction to July’s study of Amos

This month’s devotionals are a study of the book of Amos. The prophets can be difficult to understand and, at times, abrasive in tone. Amos is no exception. He speaks with very tough words to a stiff-necked people. And yet, we must make no mistake about this: these are words of tough love from our covenant God. Even as His people plunge headlong down the pathway of apostasy, He never stops calling, warning, pleading – even roaring like a lion. Some historical background will be helpful: The year is approximately 750 BC. It is nearly 200 years after the dividing of the kingdoms. In 722 BC, Israel will be defeated by the Assyrian army and will never rise again. Judah will continue on for another 130 years or so until its exile to Babylon in 586 BC. The prophet Amos comes from the southern kingdom of Judah (along with Benjamin) and preaches to the northern kingdom of Israel (the other 10 tribes of Jacob). The two kingdoms split during the reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. Under the leadership of Jeroboam I, the 10 northern tribes of Israel seceded from Judah. From that time forward, the southern kingdom was usually referred to as Judah and the northern kingdom was called Israel. Judah had a number of faithful kings throughout its history. Israel never had one truly faithful king. Jeroboam I had built altars to golden calves at Dan and Bethel as replacements of the temple in Jerusalem. He still professed to follow the LORD, but told Israel to worship the LORD through the golden calves. It was a political move to prevent Israelites from going to Jerusalem, but it determined the spiritual course of Israel. No king of Israel removed the altars at Dan and Bethel. From day one, the northern kingdom of Israel was engaged in false worship. I have been greatly blessed by meditating on the book of Amos. In particular, it has deepened me in the fear of the Lord. May God give us all ears to hear what the Spirit has to say to us through His faithful servant Amos. In the days of Jereboam The words of Amos, who was among the sheepbreeders of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. – Amos 1:1 Scripture reading: Amos 1:1; 2 Kings 14:23-29 “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. This opening line from Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities might as well have been describing the nation of Israel in the days of Amos. It was the best of times. Life was good in the kingdom of Israel. King Jeroboam II enjoyed a long and peaceful reign. He extended the nation’s borders to what they had once been under David and Solomon. He had an impressive list of military achievements. And the economy was booming. The Kingdom of Israel had never enjoyed this kind of prosperity since separating from the kingdom of Judah almost 200 years earlier. It was also the worst of times. King Jeroboam walked in the ways of his fathers and propped up idol worship. It was a time of empty religion and social injustice. The prophet Hosea, a contemporary of Amos, said of Israel, “There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land. By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed” (Hosea 4:1-2). Underneath the surface, Israel was rotten and the axe was about to be laid to the root of the tree. The Word of God has a telling evaluation: Jeroboam “did evil in the sight of the LORD”. Peace, prosperity, success – these are gifts from the Lord. But apart from God, they have no lasting value, no eternal legacy. One thing matters above all: what is God’s evaluation of your life? Suggestions for prayer Pray for civil leaders to align their priorities with God’s priorities. Pray for grace to set apart the Word of God as your authority in everything. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 30 – The fruit of God’s wisdom in one’s life

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.” – Proverbs 31:30 Scripture reading: Proverbs 31:10-31 and 1 Peter 3:1-7 Here we see that the book of Proverbs comes full circle! In Proverbs 1:1-7 we’re told of the importance of wisdom and that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (v.7). And in Proverbs 31, we see the glorious fruit of wisdom in the wise and godly woman. What a woman she is! She’s a model for all Christian women! In fact, in the Hebrew Bible, the book right after Proverbs is the book of Ruth, a woman who exemplifies this godly character! Thus, what is important for a godly woman is not her appearance, clothing, or jewellery, but having the “fear of the LORD”! That is, having a sincere, reverent view of God and His Word. This “fear” guides how we live and how we use our gifts for others. For the virtuous wife, her whole life is affected by this wisdom and the fruits are endless! And because of it she is a blessing to her children and is praised by her husband! (v.28). This, young women, is an encouragement for you when it comes to how you live your life. Don’t get caught up in all the fads, fashions and trends of the day, rather, make your spiritual life and your walk with God the priority! For such a life is “very precious in the sight of God”, as Peter says in 1 Peter 3:7. It’s also a powerful witness for Christ in a world enslaved to a false view of charm and beauty! Suggestions for prayer Pray for proper “fear of the LORD” leading to a holy life. Pray for our wives and daughters that virtuousness would grow in them and that God would protect them from worldly views of beauty and charm which are deceitful and passing. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 29 – Trusting in God’s provision

“Give me neither poverty nor riches - feed me with the food allotted to me... “ - Proverbs 30:7-9 Scripture reading: Matthew 6:10 and Matthew 6:25-34 Our words here are spoken by Agur (Proverbs 30:1) and reflect the seriousness with which he lived his life before God. For there are two things he desires to see in his life before he dies, “Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches - feed me with the food allotted to me…” (v.8). Here is a man who desires to live a holy and thankful life before God. In fact, Agur’s words remind us of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:10, “Give us this day our daily bread.” It’s a petition that speaks of our dependence upon God for all of our needs and also addresses our sinful tendency to be greedy and unsatisfied with what we have. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, do we realize what we’re saying? Do we really pray for the food allotted for that specific day? We can take for granted that the cupboard will be full, or the freezer stocked with plenty. And yet, it is God who provides for us, as Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:25-34. For our concern is not “if” God will provide for our needs, but that we have the right heart when it comes to His provision! Do we see our own sinful tendencies to be unthankful when we have plenty or to complain when we have little? God wants us to have this humble view of ourselves and our daily needs. For in poverty or in abundance we’re to be thankful for His gracious provision. Suggestions for prayer Pray God would grant you daily bread and that you would be thankful and content with what you have, whether it’s plenty or little for God is your great Provider and will never fail in giving you your daily bread. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Sunday, June 28 – Living in the joy of God’s forgiveness

“He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” – Proverbs 28:13  Scripture reading: Psalm 32 and 1 John 1:5-2:2 One of the great blessings God’s people have in Sunday worship is to hear the good news of the forgiveness of sins in Christ! How comforting is that assurance of pardon after hearing God’s Law and being reminded of our daily sins? For again, we see the infinite love of God for us through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross! Yet, it’s not easy to confess our sin, for sin comes with guilt, and with that, shame! Thus, instead of confessing our sin, at times we try to hide it, ignore it, or justify it to quiet our guilty conscience. David was a man whose unconfessed sin affected his body and soul! (Ps.32:3-5). For the more he sought to “cover” his sin before God, the more He laid His hand upon him until it led to his confession! (v.5). And what blessing came to David’s life with that confession! The apostle John also reminds us of our need to confess our sin, but also of God’s rich grace! “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (v.9). Do we daily come to God confessing our sins? Do we come humbly pleading the blood of Christ? And further, do we seek to “forsake” our sinful ways as forgiven people? May our worship today bring us to our knees over our sin, but also cause us to praise God for His rich forgiveness in Christ! Suggestions for prayer If you are living with unconfessed sin, humbly confess your sin, forsake it and ask the Lord to help you to grow strong in your faith that you may daily live a holy and godly life for His praise! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 23 – Keeping the proper focus on life

“Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day; for surely there is a hereafter, and your hope will not be cut off.” – Proverbs 23:17-18  Scripture reading: Psalm 73 Now “envy” can be a terrible influence on our lives as we see the status and wealth of those around us. Envy can fill our hearts when someone is promoted ahead of us at work, or when we see our neighbour’s business doing well, or when we see our friend always getting better grades than we do. Psalm 73 is a powerful example of how “envy” can affect our hearts before God! Asaph saw the wicked around him and how blessed their lives seemed to be even though they mocked God (vv.9-11). And yet, we’re not to be filled with “envy” over the wicked and their earthly blessings. Instead, we’re to be “zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day.” That is, we’re to live daily with reverent awe and wonder for our holy God. And how can we not, when we daily ponder the blessings He’s lavished upon us in Christ? This view of God gives us a much-needed perspective, as it did for Asaph. He fell into the trap we so often do when it comes to “envy.” But then, when he entered God’s sanctuary all was made plain! (v.17). For there is a “hereafter,” a future for mankind where everyone will have to stand before God and give an account of their lives! (2 Corinthians 5:10). The wicked have no hope, but for the righteous our hope “will not be cut off,” for it’s rooted in the victorious Christ Who reigns in heaven! Suggestions for prayer Pray for a growing “fear of the LORD” and that you would die to sinful envy. Ask the Lord to help you focus on the blessings you have in Christ and that He would create in you a thankful heart and a growing contentment in Him. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 22 – The Folly of laboring to get worldly wealth

“Do not overwork to be rich...for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven.” – Proverbs 23:4-5  Scripture reading: Luke 12:13-21 and 1 Timothy 6:6-10 One of the tragedies of life is our tendency to fix our hearts on earthly things, rather than on heavenly things. Jesus warns us of that in Luke 12:15, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” For many, life is what you make of it, or better, what you can buy for yourself! But this mentality as Paul shows us in 1 Timothy 6 is foolish! He says in v.9, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts....” Yes, a sinful desire for wealth is a terrible snare that many get themselves into, even God’s own people! We work, toil and sweat. We work overtime, save our money and invest our savings, all of which are not sinful things, but when we’re trusting in them for our security or happiness, then we’re in trouble! Earthly wealth is elusive and deceptive. As our text says, your wealth can sprout wings and take off, leaving you empty handed and unsatisfied (v.5). Therefore, we need to be wise and not engage in such dangerous behaviour. In Christ, we have all we’ll ever need. Yes, the key to a blessed life is to be “rich toward God”, as Jesus says in Luke 12:21. For when our hearts are fixed on the heavenly treasure found in Him, we never have to fear that it will sprout wings and fly away! Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to give you a proper view of your wealth, work, and priorities, not working only for things that will fade away, but trusting that God will meet all your needs. Pray that God would give you that heavenward focus. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Sunday, June 21 - Laying down a lasting foundation

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6  Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 6:1-9 and 2 Timothy 3:14-17 Sunday worship is one of the great training grounds for the faith of our children! Here the gospel is proclaimed faithfully, our little ones learn to sing the songs of Zion and they learn to pray to their heavenly Father. What a blessing! But worship is only one component in the instruction of our covenant children. Another is found in the Christian home as parents instruct their children in the vital truths of Scripture. Now, this is not something we’re to take lightly! Rather, we’re to actively “train up” our children in the truth of God’s Word, while at the same time trusting that God will be faithful to His promises. For in Deuteronomy 6:1-9, we see the great importance of this task, but also the great confidence we can have as parents! God will use His Word to the good of our children! We see a powerful example of that in Timothy who learned from “childhood” the Holy Scriptures “which are able to make you wise for salvation…” (2 Timothy 3:15). Do we teach with that kind of trust in God? Do we make time for meaningful devotions? Do we impress upon our children the importance of faithful Sunday worship? As v.6 says, if we properly train our children, then even when they’re old they will not depart from it. Yes, they may have times of rebellion or uncertainty about their faith, but God will bring them back to that path of daily trust and dependence upon Him! Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would bless your children and young people in worship, strengthen their faith and deepen their understanding. Pray for God’s strength to faithfully instruct your children so that you may lay a lasting foundation for their future! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 20 – The great value of a good name

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold.” – Proverbs 22:1  Scripture reading: Psalm 112 Is having a “good name” a priority in your life? Unfortunately, many today don’t see the need for it. They do what they want without any concern for their name. They think, “As long as I feel good, who cares about what people think of me?” But is that the kind of attitude we’re to have as Christians? What then is a “good name”? Well, to have a “good name” means to be a person of integrity, one who is trustworthy, truthful and loyal. It means to be gracious, respectful and willing to put your neighbour’s interests above your own (Philippians 2:1-4). This is the fruit of Christ’s ongoing work in our lives! (Philippians 1:6). We are also to have a desire for a “good name”! We need to pray to God about it and strive to live our lives in a godly and consistent way. We’re not to be those who say one thing and then do another. We’re to walk with integrity, for this brings about the “loving favour” of men, which is a testimony to how our lives make an impact on them. Therefore, we’re to desire a “good name” more than “great riches”! By our words and deeds, we point people to Christ and it opens up doors for us to share the gospel! Psalm 112:6 reminds us that the righteous life leaves a lasting memory on those around us! Is this true of you? May Christ so work in us to bring about this blessed result! Suggestions for prayer Pray for a “good name” among men that they might see Christ in you! Pray that the “loving favour” of others would open doors for you to share the good news of Christ by your words, deeds and way of life. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 15 – A good lesson about restraint and mercy

“The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” – Proverbs 19:11 Scripture reading: Ephesians 4:31-5:1, Colossians 3:5-10, and James 1:19-20 For many, lashing out and yelling is the way to deal with those who wrong or hurt them. But is that how it should be for Christians? We’re told in Colossians 3:5-10 that we’re to die to the ways of the sinful nature rather than encourage them. Yet for the Christian, as time goes by God grants wisdom, which when applied leads to “discretion,” the ability to discern a situation and act appropriately, that is, in a Christ-like manner. For as James rightly reminds us in James 1:20, “The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Do you exercise self-control when you’re provoked and want to retaliate? Well, as our text says it’s to our “glory” to overlook a transgression. In other words, it’s honorable and praiseworthy to show grace and forgiveness to those who hurt us. And it is because this is the way God has dealt with our transgressions! Paul says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31). Is this the way we live with our fellow believers and with those who don’t know the Lord? Do we shine the light of Christ’s mercy upon them in our response, or do we seek revenge? Paul reminds us in Romans 12:17-21 that instead of revenge we’re to confront people with kind deeds. For such compassion may open the door for the gospel to come to many who are hurting and far from God! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would grant you restraint when others wrong you. Ask Him to fill you with mercy for others, leading to forgiveness. Pray that God might open doors for the gospel to work powerfully in those who are without Christ! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Sunday, June 14 – The greatest of all friendships

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” – Proverbs 18:24 Scripture reading: Proverbs 13:20, John 15:9-17, and 1 Corinthians 15:33 As we gather for worship today, in whatever fashion we are able to, we bask in the glory of knowing that Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, is our Lord and Saviour! He has redeemed us with His blood and purchased us for Himself, and we are eternally His! (John 10:28-30). Jesus is our Lord, but He’s also the greatest friend the Christian has! He is the fulfillment of Proverbs 18:24b, “...but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother”! But how often do we use Jesus as the barometer for gauging the friends we make? Proverbs 18:24a says, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly,” and this is very true! But this verse could also be rendered, “A man who has friends may come to ruin.” The idea being that not all friends are proper friends, for some can have bad influences on us affecting our behavior, our words and our choices. As Paul says, “Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Proverbs 13:20 adds, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” But John 15:9-17 teaches, Jesus is the greatest friend because of His sacrificial love for us! He laid down His life for our salvation and because of His saving work, He calls us “friends.” What a blessing! Thus, out of this saving relationship, we can have the kind of friendships that will encourage us in our walk with God and in our Sunday worship! Suggestions for prayer Pray for wisdom when it comes to your friendships. Pray that you would choose your friends according to God’s Word rather than according to your sinful desires. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 13 – Where is your place of refuge?

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own esteem.” – Proverbs 18:10-11 Scripture reading: Psalm 91 Psalm 91 is a psalm of assurance that our faithful God is with us regardless of the situation. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust’” (vv.1-2). This is the comforting confession of God’s believing people in any age! Proverbs 18:10 talks about the “name of the LORD”, a name that reminds us that He is the faithful, unchanging God Whose promises are eternally dependable! Thus, when difficulties arise, we may call on that Name, we may look to God and know that He is with us. In fact, we are “safe,” that is, high and lifted up above our enemies! As Psalm 91:14 says, “I will set him on high, because he has known My name.” Where do others find their comfort? Many find it in earthly riches, power and fame. But are they lasting? Can they give the peace the soul craves? No! As v.11b says, the rich man’s “strong city” is “like a high wall in his own esteem”, or we may say, in his “imagination”! He thinks he’s secure, but really, he’s deceived and it will lead to his downfall! Where is your refuge? Is it in Jesus Christ, the Saviour? Acts 4:12 says, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” What name are you trusting in? Suggestions for prayer Give thanks that your eternal refuge is in Jesus alone, that Name that is above every name! Pray that you may always look to God for your help rather than the wealth, fame and power that the world rests in. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 12 – Wise advice for daily living

“He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he.” – Proverbs 16:20  Scripture reading: Psalm 1 and Psalm 19 Spiritual growth and maturity is something all Christians desire and it’s something we also desire for our children and young people. Two key parts to that in the Christian life are obedience to God’s Word and an active trust in the Lord! As our text makes clear, there are rich blessings that come with it! For when we obey God’s Word “wisely,” that is, with discernment and prayer, God brings about “good” in our lives! He causes us to be leafy and green and to bear spiritual fruit, as Psalm 1 says. In keeping God’s commands there is great reward, Psalm 19. Do we have a love for the Word and do we model that for our children with regular devotions and prayer? This wise heeding of the Word helps little ones to grow in God’s wisdom! But the other side of the spiritual coin is “trust”; this is the fruit of being daily in the Word! What joy daily putting your trust in God and His promises, brings to your life; for “Whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he”! And “happy” in the sense of having true joy in our hearts through Jesus Christ. This is not a worldly kind of happiness that’s based on our circumstances or so-called luck. No, our joy is only in Christ! Therefore, may we come to see that the only way to grow in God’s wisdom and to have true joy in our hearts is to trust and obey! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to give you a growing love for His Word and also an active trust in His promises. For as you do, you’ll experience the good things God brings into your lives and you’ll be filled with true spiritual joy and gratitude. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Sunday, June 7 – The blessing of the fear of the Lord

“In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.” – Proverbs 14:26-27 Scripture reading: Psalm 90 Psalm 90 reminds us of the frailty and brevity of human life, but it also comforts us with the truth of who God is to His people; “You have been our dwelling place in all generations…even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (vs.1-2b). Thus, to live with the “fear of the LORD” in our hearts means that we look at our God with awe and wonder! He is our holy God and we seek to honor and praise Him with our lives. Therefore, in Him we have a “strong confidence,” for He is a faithful, covenant God Who does not forsake His people, even when they sin, but is gracious to forgive and to keep us in our salvation. Thus, like Moses’ audience in Psalm 90, we know that we have a place of refuge! Proverbs 14:26 says, “His children will have a place of refuge.” This is true for us today! Jesus Christ is our refuge in the midst of the storms of life (Mark 4:35-41). This “fear” is also a blessing to us, or “a fountain of life" for it guards our hearts and helps steer us away from sinful living to pursue what is right and good in God’s sight, as v.27 says, “to turn one away from the snares of death.” Do we “fear” the LORD and does this “fear” affect our living? Let us pray that our words, our deeds and our worship would reflect reverence and awe for God! Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would worship God today out of a humble heart and in reverent fear! Pray that the “fear of the LORD” would fill your life and help you to honor and glorify God in all your words and deeds in this new week! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 6 – Enjoying true satisfaction

“The righteous eats to the satisfying of his soul, but the stomach of the wicked shall be in want.” – Proverbs 13:25  Scripture reading: Psalm 34:8-10 and 1 Tim.4:1-4 For the Christian, our daily meals ought to be a spiritual act and not merely a physical response to hunger. Yes, God has given us work and work makes us hungry so we need to eat, but our food is not to be the end-all and be-all of life! Rather, as those who pray for their daily bread (Matthew 6:11), we ask for the Lord to bless our food, for without God’s blessing our food and drink will not truly profit us (1 Timothy 4:4). But as Christians, we believe that God will nourish us, in fact, we know true satisfaction - “the righteous eats to the satisfying of his soul.” This means that God truly nourishes us so that we can be productive members of His kingdom. The wicked of the world are not so blessed. For though they might have more than we do, it only goes so far. Yes, their bodily needs are met, but they’re not drawn closer to the Giver of their food. They’re not built up in their faith because they do not understand God’s providential care nor do they know His saving grace in Christ. So their spiritual hunger continues! Thus, comes the cry of Psalm 34:8-9, “O taste and see that the LORD is good…there is no want to those who fear Him!" Let us be truly thankful for God’s gracious provision and pray for the lost that they might know true satisfaction of body and soul in Christ’s saving work! Suggestions for prayer Give thanks to God for His generous provision and for the spiritual strength and blessing He brings to your life! Pray that the lost of our world might come to know Christ by faith and be truly satisfied in their souls! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 5 – Words of blessing to those in need

“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.” – Proverbs 12:25   Scripture reading: Proverbs 15:13-30 and Matthew 6:25-34 As we know “anxiety” or worry can come upon the Christian in many ways whether it be through our work situation, stress in our marriage, financial crisis, or prolonged sickness. As a result, such stressful burdens can make us feel as if we’re under a great weight, or “depressed.” Thus, the “heart,” the seat of our emotions, the place where love, joy and peace abound, can become terribly affected and troubled. Yet, how blessed we are to have fellow believers come alongside and comfort our hearts with their words, as v.25b says, “a good word makes it glad”! Proverbs 15 also speaks of the blessing of such words: v.23 says, “a word spoken in due season, how good it is”, v.30 says, “a good report makes the bones healthy.” Or think of Proverbs 16:24, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” Yes, being able to comfort one another is a real blessing, for we’re able to comfort others with the comfort we have in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:4)! Some of the most blessed words of comfort in times of anxiety come from Jesus in Matthew 6:25-34 as He speaks of the Father’s loving care for us! For if He so cares for His creation, won’t He care for us, as those made in His image? Yes, as we ponder the precious words of Scripture and come to God in prayer, we’ll find our anxiety lifted and replaced by true peace! (Philippians 4:6-7) Suggestions for prayer Ask God to lift the anxiety that fills your life. Give your struggles to God in prayer and reflect on His precious promises of love, protection and care for all your needs. Pray that God would use you to help others who are struggling. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 4 – Christian fruitlfulness leads to Christian witness

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.” – Proverbs 11:30 Scripture reading: Matthew 5:13-16 and 1 Peter 2:9-12 The life we have in Christ is an awesome reality! By grace, we go from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive (Ephesians 2:4-5), and blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3)! Thus, because of Christ, we are “righteous” in God’s sight and through the inner working of the Holy Spirit, we produce spiritual “fruit” which can be a rich blessing to others! Our text calls such fruit “a tree of life,” that is, a place of refreshment, joy and blessing! Its language speaks of the “tree of life” in Revelation 22, which brings eternal blessing and healing to the nations. What a reality to ponder! That our lives can be a blessing to those who are hurting, in need of help, comfort, or encouragement! Such “fruit” is a blessing to the Church as we use our gifts, give of our time and seek to live out our faith. But also this “fruit” is a “tree of life” for the lost and broken of our world! As v.30b says, “...he who wins souls is wise.” It has the idea of capturing a prisoner or wild animal. How are we in living out our faith? Do we want to just influence people morally, or do we desire to see them come to saving faith in Christ? This is how the “wise” seek to live their lives! So let your light shine before men that they might see your good works and glorify God on the Day He visits us! Suggestions for prayer Pray for God to continue to make you fruitful for the sake of your life in the Church and for your witness to the world. Pray for ways that God can use you so that you can let your light shine for the salvation of the lost! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 30 – Worthy is the Lamb!!

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” – Revelation 5:8-12 Scripture reading: Acts 17:22-34 Immediately, when Jesus took the scroll, a song in heaven breaks out. That song testifies to the glory of our salvation. Even more importantly it is a song that testifies to the abounding glory of the Saviour who has purchased with His blood those from every tribe and language and people and nation (vs. 9). In Christ we live and move and have our being (cf. Acts 17:28a). How important it is for our hearts to join the mighty chorus. “Glory be to Him who loved us, washed us from all sin and stain! Glory to Him who bought us, made us kings with Him to reign! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Praise the Lamb that once was slain! Glory to the King of angels, glory to the church’s King, glory to the King of nations; heaven and earth your praises bring! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! To the King of glory sing! ‘Glory, blessing, praise eternal!’ Thus the choir of angels sings. Honour, glory, power, dominion! Thus its praise creation brings.” – Trinity Psalter Hymnal 213:2-4a “Christ was born of a virgin that we might be born of GOD. He took our flesh that He might give us His Spirit. He lay in a manger that we might lie in paradise. He came down from heaven that He might bring us to heaven. And what was all this but love? If our hearts be not rocks, this love of Christ should affect us. Behold the love that surpasses all knowledge.” – from the pen of Thomas Watson Suggestions for prayer Rejoice in knowing that Jesus is worthy! Pray for the gospel to go forth to the ends of the earth so others too might rejoice in the worthiness of Christ. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 29 – Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah!!

“And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.” º Rev. 5:1-7 Scripture reading: Revelation 22:12-17 The Scriptures trace the beautiful line of promise which leads to The Lord of lords and the King of kings. Christ is not only King of the church, but He is also King over all creation, every facet/area of life. A sealed scroll is set before us (cf Isaiah 29:11; Daniel 12:40; Ezekiel 2:9&10). The scroll presented in Revelation 5 is sealed tight and no one has been found to reveal what has been written. This made John weep. He knows the contents are very important. His sorrow is short-lived because he is told there is one worthy to reveal the contents of the scroll. That worthy one is Christ, the Lamb of God. This Lamb is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Already in Genesis 49:8-10, we receive the prophecy of the One who will rule for eternity. This Lamb/Lion did not come out of nowhere. As attested to in many places, His root (cf. Isaiah 11:1-10) can be traced to the great King David. Jesus is greater. What has been hidden throughout the ages is revealed in the coming of Christ and the imminent (just around the corner) second coming. What royal splendor is described for us! King David of long ago was highly acclaimed, but it was nothing compared to the greater David. David fought many battles, but the ultimate battle he could not win. The greater David, Jesus, has triumphed and God’s people live in the light and strength of that triumph!! Suggestions for prayer Pray with humble thankfulness and praise for all that Jesus has accomplished on our behalf. Jesus has prevailed! Express your joy to the Lord for the anticipation of what is yet to come in the Kingdom fulfillment. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 28 – The throne room of heaven

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.” – Rev. 4 Scripture reading: Psalm 117 What glorious chapter giving us an awesome sense of the throne room in heaven above. Here Christ is receiving never-ending, soul-stirring, heart-pumping praise. And to think that the heavenly Father’s children will add to that chorus for eternity. Revelation 4 describes and pictures the glorious worship of He Who is worthy to receive glory and honour and power. All of created reality has life through the King of the Church. Words such as amazing, astonishing, astounding, magnificent, marvelous and majestic hardly scratch the surface. “Put the beauty of ten thousand thousands worlds of paradise, like the garden of Eden, in one. Put all trees, all flowers, all smells, all colors, all tastes, all joys, all sweetness, all loveliness, in one. Oh, what a fair and excellent thing that would be! And yet that would be less to that fair and dearest Well-beloved, Christ, than one drop of rain to the whole seas, rivers, lakes, and fountains of ten thousand earths” – from the Letters of Samuel Rutherford Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! Suggestions for prayer May our prayer be: “To Thee all angels cry aloud: the heavens and all the powers therein. To Thee Cherubim and Seraphim continually do cry Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God. Heaven and earth are full of the majesty of Thy glory. The glorious company of the apostles praise Thee. The goodly fellowship of the prophets praise Thee. The noble army of the Martyrs praise Thee. The holy church throughout the world doth acknowledge Thee. The Father of an infinite immeasurable majesty; Thine honourable true and only Son—our redeemer and friend and the Holy Spirit our comforter.” – From the Anglican Prayer Book Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 27 – To the angel of the Church of the Laodiceans (3)

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked – I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” – Revelation 3:14-22 Scripture reading: Proverbs 10:17; Proverbs 17:10; Hebrews 12:4-12 Alongside the word of rebuke and counsel comes a divine summons. Those Jesus loves, He disciples/disciplines. As many as He loves He rebukes and chastens. He calls His disciples in Laodicea (and everywhere) to be zealous and repent of their lukewarmness. Worldliness and indifference must be expunged/removed. Jesus is calling and Laodicea must answer. Jesus continues to call to this day. Once again we come to the word “behold.” It is a word that calls us to look, to take notice. Jesus is demanding that the Laodicean church pay attention and stop going through the motions, to be a church with open eyes, to be aware of her need, to listen to His voice. There is yet great promise for the Laodicean church. Should she repent, she would enjoy a blessed fellowship with the LORD which she presently is not experiencing. Jesus is calling His church (in all ages and all places) to fellowship and communion with Him. The church is to be saturated with who Jesus is, what He has done and what He will yet do. The church is to be filled with the joy of living out of the glorious promise to join Jesus on the throne! May our song ever be: “I love Thy Church, O God! Her walls before Thee stand, dear as the apple of Thine eye, and graven on Thy hand.” – Timothy Dwight, Trinity Psalter Hymanl 405 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Suggestions for prayer In prayer ask the Lord to help us remember God affirms His love through His dependable and unchanging Word, which endures now and forevermore. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 22 –  To the angel of the church in Phiadelphia (1)

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie – behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Rev. 3:7-13 Scripture reading: Acts 14:21-28 What an encouragement the faithful church at Philadelphia must be to us. Jesus, who holds the key of David, grants an open door. He, in fact, is the door (cf. John 10:1-10). Christ is the only way to the blessings of the world to come. Sovereign authority belongs to our Redeemer. He controls the entrance into the Kingdom. The church at Philadelphia was characterized by faithfulness. Even though she was of little strength, she kept the Word of God and did not deny the Lord’s Name. Philadelphia may have been a small church and perhaps even beleaguered, but she had a big heart. Like Smyrna, she was not rebuked. She was not ashamed of the gospel; she kept Christ’s Word and did not deny His Name. The open door to kingdom life has been secured by the blood of the Good Shepherd. From the book of Acts, we know that God in His sovereign wisdom opened doors and consequently new believers were brought to saving faith and added to the church. But there were also doors that were closed. We see the same principle in effect to this very day. Gospel Light in the Western world is dimming, but in other parts of the world, it is a blazing light. Nevertheless, we still have the freedom to witness, to call others to the Open Door. Philadelphia was commended by our LORD. Would the church you are a member of receive the same commendation? Suggestions for prayer Pray for growing zeal and to remain faithful in your personal walk and in the life of the church. Pray that the church to which you belong works for that open door, testifying to the One Who is the Door. Praise God – Jesus is the open door to life eternal. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 21 – To the angel of the Church in Sardis (3)

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 3:1-6 Scripture reading: Psalm 47 Today the church marks Ascension Day. It was that magnificent remarkable glorious moment in salvation history where Christ returned to heaven above where He is now seated and exalted at the right hand of our heavenly Father. Just before Jesus returned to glory He gave us the command to teach those who would become His followers to observe everything He commanded (cf. Matt. 28:20). Everything means everything. The great commandment to love God with the whole of who we are and the great commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves will always bring us to the great commission. How thankful that within the church at Sardis there was a remnant which lived a life faithful to observe what Christ taught. There is wheat among the tares. That being said, the remnant needed to step up and look up; look up to their interceding Saviour for needed strength to be an overcomer. They are promised, out of the storehouse of grace, to be clothed in white garments symbolizing the righteousness of purity and the great gift of justification by faith; garments graciously washed white in the blood of our Ascended King. What comfort to hear that our Saviour confesses those who are His before our Father in heaven and His angels! Let us never forget “that we have no access to God except through the one and only Mediator and Intercessor: Jesus Christ the Righteous.” (Belgic Confession Art. 26) "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Suggestions for prayer In our own strength we are nothing. Rejoice that our ascended Jesus, from the throne room in heaven, will supply the need of His people. Give thanks that Christ’s disciples will find their names in the Book of Life! Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 20 – To the angel of the Church in Sardis (2)

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 3:1-6 Scripture reading: Matthew 7:13-23 Now all of the aforesaid is not to say there were no followers of Jesus in Sardis, but it seems those who confessed Christ were more than a little bit sleepy. Our Redeemer wants His church to be wide awake. As Spurgeon once said, “Christian beware of thinking lightly of sin; take heed lest you fall little by little.” Discipline is one of the marks of a true church. God-glorifying governance is essential in the church. Biblical standards within the church are hard to reach, but that must not dissuade us from exerting our energies, desiring to please the King of the church. If we aim low it is not too hard to hit the target. Let us not be blind to our own shortcomings. The church is to be a reflection of God’s glory. Christ warns (His warnings are gracious) Sardis and every church by extension to take heed. If not, His judgments will fall upon the church. We see that clearly in times past. Many churches no longer live; their life for Christ has vanished. You say the church you go to is faithful, that is well and fine. Be sure to give thanks to the Lord. But the point is that the danger of becoming unfaithful is always lurking around the corner. Never forget Satan's intention to seek and destroy. Give attention so that life in the church is not taken for granted. As churches, we are to seek diligence lest we become careless. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for confessing the perseverance of the saints. Pray God’s ongoing blessing for the preservation of the church. Pray that God’s people would with diligence, be watchful and fruitful! Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 19 – To the angel of the Church in Sardis (1)

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 3:1-6 Scripture reading: James 2:14-26 What a terrible, soul-shaking pronouncement!! You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead! Again King Jesus addresses His church. Once more our Lord and Saviour does not mince words. He will not coddle His church. Previously, we heard Jesus addressing some of the other churches of Asia Minor. Along with a word of encouragement and commendation, there also came a warning calling for correction. With Ephesus, she had lost her first love; with Smyrna, no warning, but a call to endure; with Pergamos, a call to discipline those who did not believe doctrine and life hold together; with Thyatira, a warning to uproot the seeds of compromise which marked the church. But now Sardis—she is dead! This is dreadful! While it is true that in this life we only have a small beginning of the obedience the Lord requires of us (cf. Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 114) there must be a beginning—also in the church. Faith without works is dead! A faithful church seeks to be built up in the most holy faith (cf. Jude vs. 17-21); she desires not only to be faithful to the faith delivered once for all, and she also wishes to live out of that faith in word and deed. Sardis has fallen far. Only Jesus can bring life back to what has become unrecognizable. Oh, she has a name, but it appears to be a façade. May the Lord find us to be in earnest for the well-being of His church. Suggestions for prayer Pray for a faithful and fruitful faith life, not only for yourself but also for the church to which you belong. Pray that God would help His people ever to be lively and living members of the church. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 14 – To the angel of the Church in Pergamos (2)

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’” – Revelation 2:12-17 Scripture reading: Proverbs 3:11-12; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 Even though the church at Pergamos was commended for holding fast, there was a serious problem. There is no perfect church, but that does not mean we should not strive to be more than we presently are. There were within the congregation those holding to the doctrine (false) of Balaam. Many of you know the story of Balaam and even his famous talking donkey. Balaam was offered money by Balak to curse the covenant community. When that didn’t work, he devised a plot to have Moabite women seduce Israelite men into intermarriage. There are still so-called Balaams around today peddling their version of the gospel (false) in exchange for riches and fame. To belong to a faithful church is an incredible blessing. But such a church should never rest on her laurels. The temptation to be sidetracked by way of compromise needs to be fought against continually. As is clear in this letter, the church of Pergamos did not discipline where discipline was sorely needed. A church that does not turn the key of discipline (cf. Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 85) does not really love her members as she ought. Discipline is to be an exercise of loving discipleship. Christ’s disciples listen to the voice of the loving Shepherd. He knows what is best for His church—after all, He is the Head and we are to serve Him as His body. A listening ear must be an obeying heart. May God grant us grace to be found faithful! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Holy Spirit, by means of the Word and Sacrament, would keep us close to the voice of Jesus. Pray that the church to which you belong would remain faithful. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 13 – To the angel of the Church in Pergamos (1)

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’” – Revelation 2:12-17 Scripture Reading: 2 Kings 18:1-9 Holding fast is a very important quality in Christian discipleship. The church must keep the truth as received and not accommodate the whims of doctrinal or social change. In the final exhortations the Apostle Paul gave to the church at Corinth, he writes, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (I Corinthians 16:13-14). In the sermon to the Hebrews we read, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for He who has promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). The all-seeing eye of Christ commends the church gathered in Pergamos for holding fast. The city of Pergamos was no stranger to the adultery of idolatry. It was home to many pagan cults and was the first city in Asia to build a temple to Caesar. It was a city where people believed in the greatness of man and had eyes closed to the living Almighty God. Also in our age, the pressures both from within and without to cave in are great. Never must we forget that we live in a world which is not a friend to grace. Societal sin is growing stronger and presses against the church and we who are faithful members must know something of what it is to push back. Does the church you are a part of make any difference at all in the community you live? Are you a stick-tu-ative Christian? Jesus never said it would be easy. Suggestions for prayer: Christ’s followers are called to hold fast to the truth and to live out of the truth. Pray that would also be true for the church where you are a member. Pray for the same graces Hezekiah enjoyed. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 12 – To the angel of the Church in Smyrna (3)

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’” – Revelation 2:8-11 Scripture reading: Matthew 24:1-14; 36-41 The call to faithfulness is high and demanding. The danger is faithlessness. Christ encourages the church at Smyrna and the church today to be faithful even if it means death. Those who can kill the body with the sword, can not kill the soul. The message for the persecuted church is: do not fear! The LORD, speaking to His people, tells them that they are not alone. He is with them. Believers are united to Christ by grace and through faith. Nothing can break that union. It has been sealed by the Holy Spirit in the blood of Christ, held fast by the love of our heavenly Father. As we wait to enter the glory land, we must constantly fix our eyes on Jesus (cf. Hebrews 12:1-3). By means of suffering, He endured the cross for our sake. As the church suffers (and in some places terribly so) we must remember the great comfort of Christ’s intercession. We may feel perplexed by evils of this present age, but Jesus is fully aware of the suffering of His church. As Scottish Presbyterian Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-43) once famously said, "If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference; He is praying for me.” For further study Look up the story of Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna, who was martyred for his faith at the age of 86. His story is soul strengthening! Suggestions for prayer Pray with conviction that even if it seems that the church is experiencing hell; she shall not be hurt in the second death. Pray for a listening ear: “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 11 – To the angel of the Church in Smyrna (2)

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’” – Revelation 2:8-11 Scripture reading: I Peter 4:12-19 Testing is never pleasant, but God’s word teaches it is necessary. The church gathered at Smyrna experienced a severe test—persecution for confessing Christ. Church members were going to be thrown into prison by the devil himself. The devil, the roaring lion prowling to devour, is the accuser, a slanderer who hates Christians with an undying hatred. There are particular seasons throughout the history of the church where suffering is intensified and the church at Smyrna knew that first hand. Jesus taught that if He was hated, so would be His followers. Jesus was persecuted and so will be His disciples (cf. John 15:18-25). We need to take Jesus’ words to heart, not with anxious hearts, but with the courage of the truth that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us. With resolve, we must remember that the power of the church in difficult and dangerous circumstances does not live within herself, but is only from Christ Himself. Persecution is used by God for His purpose. But never forget Jesus is fully aware of whatever trouble the church is called to endure. He does not want us to be afraid. The dominant religion/faith in the Western world is secular humanism and increasingly there is the pressure for the Christian church to compromise. God’s Word calls us to stand firm on the Word, to stand firm in Christ. All other ground is sinking sand. We do not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future. Suggestions for prayer Pray in the conviction that Jesus is proving our faith. Pray often for the church to be true to the holy faith, living faithfully before the Lord. When called to suffer for the sake of the gospel, pray for strength to commit our ways to the Lord (I Peter 4:19). Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 6 - Christ appears in blazing glory!

“Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand, he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.’” - Revelation 1:12-20 Scripture reading: Daniel 7:9-14 As John is commissioned to his consecrated task, he is greeted by the incomparable Christ in all His blazing glory. It is similar to what the prophet Daniel experienced more than once many years earlier. What they both saw is enough to take your breath away. John is permitted to see the majestic Christ Who appears in radiating brilliance that can hardly begin to be grasped. Christ who stands at the junction of heaven and earth, Christ Who is the meeting place between time and eternity comes to John and speaks to him with a loud voice. The meek Christ is also the authoritative Christ. The title Son of Man is the one used most often by Christ Himself during His earthly ministry—some 81 times according to one counter. Soak in what John saw – head and hair glowing white and countenance like the shining sun reminding us of the glory cloud, the Shekinah (cf. Exodus 13) and the Transfiguration (cf. Luke 9). John saw eyes like a flame of fire, as someone else has said, like two lasers looking with penetrating gaze into the depth of His church. John saw feet like that of fine brass reminding us that the altar of burnt offering was covered with brass (cf. Exodus 38) and also taking us back to the glorious cross where Jesus was the offering. John heard the voice – a voice like that of the sound of many waters. It was and is incredible! No wonder John fell at the feet of Jesus as dead! Suggestions for prayer God’s people are to be filled with the wonder and awe of Christ. Pray in the conviction of Rev. 15:3: “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed.” Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 5 - Write and send

"I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, 'Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.'” - Revelation 1:9-11 Scripture reading: John 20:30-31; 21:24-25  Our Scripture text today records John’s marching orders. He is to write about what he will see and send it to the seven churches in Asia. In verse 9, John identifies himself to his readers. He is a brother in the faith. He is addressing family in the LORD. He is their companion in a season of persecution. (There still continues to be seasons of persecution all around the world.) But John also recognizes that He is part of the Kingdom—the Kingdom of Christ. He is learning patient endurance and perseverance despite difficult times. John has been exiled on a barren rocky island. He has been exiled for standing firm on the Word and for his testimony concerning Jesus. He is devoted to his Lord and Master. (Let us ask ourselves: Are we standing firm? What characterizes our devotion to the One we have been called to follow?) John has had first-hand experience with the Lord Jesus. He has witnessed our Redeemer’s authoritative preaching and teaching, Christ’s compassion, the miracles confirming Christ’s Deity and Christ's ultimate sacrifice as our substitute on the cross. John, in God’s grace, knows what he is talking about. John is obedient to the Master’s call to write and send. What a privilege it is for us to share in that message to this day. What a blessing for this same word from Genesis to Revelation to go out to all those who have been given ears to hear! Suggestions for prayer Pray for strength, day by day, to persevere in the most holy faith, to honor and serve the Lord in selfless devotion and to remember the more we serve Christ, the less we will serve self. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 4 – The Alpha and Omega is coming

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” – Revelation 1:7-8 Scripture reading: Genesis 1:1-2; Revelation 22:12-22 Today as we take up our customary task, we ought to do so with the understanding that Jesus is everything. In all our comings and goings, we are to do so with eternity in view. Christians prepare for what is yet to come realizing the Kingdom is a prepared place for a prepared people (cf. John 14:1-6). With Scripture, we confess Christ is the Beginning and the End and everything in between. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus Christ is the pivot of history. Our Redeemer is the Wonderful One, Wise Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). A 250-word devotion can not begin to scratch the surface in speaking of our beautiful Saviour — nor could two hundred and fifty million! But for today, think of that word "behold." It is a word that calls us to pay attention. It is a word that calls us to look, to take notice. What are we to take notice of – Jesus is coming! Are you ready? What comfort to believe: "According to the Word of God, when the time appointed by the Lord (which is unknown to all creatures) is come and the number of the elect complete, that our Lord Jesus Christ will come from heaven, corporally and visibly, as He ascended, with great glory and majesty to declare Himself Judge of the living and the dead, burning this old world with fire and flame to cleanse it” (Belgic Confession Article 37). Suggestions for prayer Pray for the convicting of the Holy Spirit so that we are ready for that great day of days when Jesus returns. Ask that we would use our time wisely in preparation for that day when time as we know it, will be no more. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 3 – From and to

“John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – Revelation 1:4-6 Scripture reading: Romans 11:33-36; Ephesians 3:14-21 Today we have the blessed privilege and remarkable responsibility to gather with the body of Christ, His holy bride, His church. It was on the Lord’s Day (vs. 10) that John received the Revelation which we still have with us to this day. Our text tells us that the original recipients of this letter were the seven churches in the province of Asia. This is the area we today know as Turkey. Each of the seven churches held their own significance in the various areas of the region. In worship, we are busy in covenantal dialogue. The Lord speaks and we may answer. And as the Lord begins His conversation with us in worship, He gives us His comforting greeting. To be greeted by God – what an encouraging, soul strengthening blessing!! Pause and think about this in your meditations today (Don’t read God’s Word too quickly; I confess I do far too often). To have grace and peace announced to the congregation  – that is precisely what we need. Grace is not our deserving. Peace with God, secured by our Redeemer in this sin-stained world (including the sin in our lives), gives us life heartening perspective. These words are from Christ Himself Who, “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (vs. 5). He calls us to His service – to be His kings and priests. Amazing! Amazing grace! Do not take God’s greeting to us for granted. All glory and dominion belongs to Christ forever!! Suggestions for prayer Earnestly and prayerfully reflect on the wonder-working love of our Saviour. May the song in our heart be “Glory to God the Father, glory be to God the Son, glory be to God the Spirit, God Almighty, Three in One! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Glory be to Him alone.” (Trinity Psalter Hymnal 213:1) Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 28 – Far-reaching love

“And he said to them, ‘You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.’” – Acts 10:28 Scripture reading: Acts 10:24-33  This is a huge moment in Peter’s life and ministry. We know Peter loved Jesus and was really committed to following Jesus, even if it meant Peter’s own death, but now Jesus is sending Peter to also bring the gospel to Gentiles, the non-Jews. In doing so, Peter would be extending an arm of fellowship to Gentiles, calling them to join in the family of those adopted into Christ. This was something a self-respecting Jew would never do. But God’s love and grace is greater than we think. Jesus came to Peter, an unworthy sinner, not because Peter was a Jew or was worthy, but because of God’s promises and mercy. Now that mercy goes out to the Gentiles. Peter swallows his Jewish pride, again humbles himself, and goes to the Gentiles with love and obedience to God. In what ways do you treat the love of God as something small or something that you cannot share? Do you turn up your nose and refuse to talk to those who are outside your church? We, like Peter, are called to join the ministry of Jesus Christ. This is often messy work and people, even from within the church, will criticize it. We are not all called to be evangelists in the way Peter was, but I pray that your devotion to God brings you to live a life that holds firm to Christ and all God’s truth, while in obedience extending God’s love and grace to the world. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to forgive you for treating His love as something small. Ask God to guide you to live in a way that shares God’s love with others. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 27 – Go to the nations

“And the voice came to him again a second time, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’” – Acts 10:15  Scripture reading: Acts 10:9-23  Why were the Jews commanded to not eat pork and various other meats? Leviticus 11 explains which animals are clean and unclean. Leviticus 20:25-26 instructs them, saying: “You shall, therefore, separate the clean beast from the unclean, and the unclean bird from the clean. You shall not make yourselves detestable by beast or by bird or by anything with which the ground crawls, which I have set apart for you to hold unclean. You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.” Sometimes the Jews thought that not eating certain foods made them holy, but the purpose of not eating certain foods was to remind them that they are holy because of the covenant God made with them and on account of this, they must not eat certain foods. Now, Jesus came to fulfill that law; through faith in Christ we are holy and we see the covenant extended beyond the children of Abraham. This was part of the intention of the covenant, as God told Abraham that in his seed all nations will be blessed. Jesus is preparing Peter to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles (non-Jews). Gentiles were considered unclean. Peter would have never entered the home of a Gentile. Now, can Peter trust the new work of Christ, bringing God’s grace that would make the Gentiles clean? Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that His cleansing grace comes to Gentiles like you and me. Pray that you will not be hindered by pride or love of comforts, but that you can be a blessing to those around you. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 26 – Resurrection message

“Turning to the body he said, ‘Tabitha, arise.’ And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.” – Acts 9:40b Scripture reading: Acts 9:36-43 Peter spoke to ears that could not hear. Some people ask if God first put life back into Tabitha so that she could hear the words of Peter. But the Lord used the words of Peter and by that word, brought Tabitha back to life. We see the blessing of the resurrected Christ. Tabitha is raised from the dead to display the power Christ has over the grave. With the medical technology we have today, this is all the more amazing. If someone has a stroke and there is no blood circulation in part of the brain for a certain amount of time, the brain will be damaged beyond restoration. But Tabitha was dead for hours, maybe even a whole day, and Christ gives restoration. This is the good news of the resurrection! Brothers and sisters, do you see for us the blessing of Jesus Christ? Like Tabitha was dead, we are dead on account of our sins. Like Tabitha, we cannot even call for or ask for help. But the Lord came to us. Though nothing could make us worthy of His mercy, the Lord speaks life into us. This is the power of the resurrection. His living Word awakens us. This is part of why it is important to go to church on Sundays. We receive His Word and Spirit and by these we are given restoration. What was damaged and what was lost is all restored. We have a Lord who has conquered death. He has authority to raise us from the grave! Suggestions for prayer Praise the Lord today for His mighty Word. Pray that God’s Word will be faithfully preached and thankfully heard, and that God will equip you by His Word for service to His glory. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. ...

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