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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 14 – The fruit of the Spirit is love: love for one another

But the fruit of the Spirit is love… – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: 1 John 4:7-11; 5:1-3 We’ve begun to see that love for God and love for each other are intimately connected. To say you love God, while you hate your brother/sister in Christ or your neighbour, is a contradiction. Love for God is obeying His commands. And He has commanded you to love your neighbour. Therefore, to hate your neighbour is also to hate God, in whose image he/she was created, and Who commands you to love him/her. In the words of Jerry Bridges: “We cannot love God without loving one another. To recognize that there is someone I do not love is to say to God, ‘I do not love you enough to love that person.’ This is not to deny the reality of spiritual struggle in loving a particular person, because it often exists. I am referring to the attitude of not even wanting to love the person, of being content to allow a lack of love for someone who resides in my heart unchecked and unchallenged.” Thankfully, the Holy Spirit has been given to us to challenge our loveless hearts. Those who truly have faith in Christ have been born of God and have the Holy Spirit reproducing the character of Christ from within so that they more and more love others from the heart in word and deed. As we’ve seen previously, this was promised long ago, that God would give us His Spirit to cause us to walk in His ways and be careful to obey His commands (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Suggestions for prayer Is there someone you struggle to love? Pray for the Spirit’s strength to love that person. Remember the sacrificial love of Christ for you, while you were a sinner and deserved God’s wrath (1 John 4:9-10; Romans 5:6-8). There is no greater love! 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 13 – Let us draw near in full assurance of faith

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. – Hebrews 10:22 Scripture reading: Hebrews 10:19-25 Based on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and His continued work as our Great High Priest, we are exhorted to draw near to God. How should we draw near to God in Christ? “Let us draw near with a true heart.” We are to approach God in worship with sincerity and with right affections for God. Let’s be honest, sometimes we don’t feel like going to church. But let us nevertheless draw near to God with a true heart, even admitting to God that our hearts aren’t where they should be, and asking Him to help us worship Him with a true heart. Often if we are faithful to attend, even when we don’t feel like it, God changes our heart in the process. And “Let us draw near…in full assurance of faith.” Some of you may struggle with the assurance of God’s promises which prevents you from going to worship or from joy and confidence in worship. Let me assure you as a Minister of God’s Word, that if you trust in Christ alone for your salvation, then God forgives you, loves you, and welcomes you in His presence in worship. And so, worship God in the full assurance of faith because of Christ’s once for all sacrifice on the cross and because He ever lives to make intercession for you at God’s right hand. In Christ, we draw near to God, “with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Spirit would assure you and other worshippers of the promises of God in Christ so that all would draw near to God with a true heart in full assurance of faith. 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 12 – The fruit of the Spirit is love: the necessity of love

But the fruit of the Spirit is love… – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Matthew 22:34-40; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Love is central to the Christian life. Without it, we are a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal. Without it our gifts add up to nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Jesus summarized our entire duty to God and neighbour in the law, as love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbour as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40). Jesus says that love for one another is evidence that one is His disciple (John 15:8-12). After listing several virtues, Paul says, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14). Indeed, it’s probably not a coincidence that Paul mentions love first in the list of the fruit of the Spirit. John writes, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” He goes on to say, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:7-8; 5:1-3). Today we see the necessity of love and that love for God and neighbour are intimately connected. Beloved in Christ, let us love one another by the Spirit! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the Spirit’s strength to love God more by keeping His commandments in gratitude for God’s grace (1 John 4:19; 5:3). Pray that God will help you by His Spirit to love others, especially brothers and sisters in Christ, and even your enemies. 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 6 – Confidence to enter the holy places

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus…and since we have a great priest over the house of God… – Hebrews 10:19-21 Scripture reading: Hebrews 10:19-25 Today, as you worship God, remember that you have “confidence to enter the holy places.” Adam and Eve were expelled from God’s holy place in the Garden of Eden because of sin. God placed the cherubim with a flaming sword to bar anything unholy from entering. The only way back into God’s holy presence would be through judgment. This was impressed upon God’s people in the Old Testament in the tabernacle and temple, where cherubim were embroidered on the inner curtain that marked off God’s presence in the “most holy place.” No one could enter that most holy place except for the high priest, once a year on the Day of Atonement, where he offered a sacrifice for his sins and the sins of the people. How can we have confidence in worship if we have all sinned? Because Christ is our Great High Priest, He is true God and true man, Who always kept God’s law and offered up Himself as a once for all sacrifice for all our sins. He bore the judgment in our place on the cross and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. He rose again, ascended to heaven and now lives to make intercession for us at the Father’s right hand in the true temple. Through His precious blood, we have permanent open access to God’s holy presence (Hebrews 10:19-21). Therefore, worship God through faith in Christ, with confidence, and be thankful for Christ’s priestly work on your behalf. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and His continued priestly work on your behalf. Pray that you and other worshippers would “make a joyful noise to the LORD” and “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise!” (Psalm 100). 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 5 – Walk by the Spirit: not under the law?

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. – Galatians 5:18 Scripture reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Galatians 3:13-14 Are Christians really not under the law? What does Paul mean here? He doesn’t mean that you don’t have to obey God’s moral law anymore. You still are required to love God and love your neighbor as a Christian (Galatians 5:13-14; Romans 13:8-10). What then does He mean? Paul means that we are no longer under the law’s condemnation. Earlier he said Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13). And so, it can no longer condemn you, but it still commands you. In terms of the former, the words of the hymn, Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder, by John Newton, are very comforting: Let us love and sing and wonder, let us praise the Saviour’s name, He has hushed the law’s loud thunder, He has quenched Mt. Sinai’s flame: He has washed us with His blood, He has brought us nigh to God. For Christians, the law of God functions as a rule of love for God and neighbour. And, “we love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Finally, as Christians we have the law of God written on our hearts by the Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31-34). But the law doesn’t produce love. Rather, love is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). The Spirit produces His fruit as we hear both the law and the gospel preached, and He conforms us into the image of Christ Who fulfilled the law and died for our sins in sacrificial love for us. Suggestions for prayer Praise God with the words of Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder, by John Newton. Meditate on Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:25-27 and thank God for the gift of the Holy 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 4 – Walk by the Spirit: a daily fight

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. – Galatians 5:17 Scripture reading: Galatians 5:16-18 We’ve seen that walking by the Spirit is an echo of Israel’s exodus and includes the following ideas: freedom in Christ from the curse of the law, strength by the Spirit to turn from sin and to walk in obedience to God, and being led by the Spirit according to God’s Word. At this point, the Christian life may sound easy. Indeed, we have heard much good news so far to strengthen us for the journey! But the journey is not without its struggles. Here we are reminded that if we are led by the Spirit there will be a daily fight within, between our sinful nature (“desires of the flesh”) and the Holy Spirit Who dwells within us. Do you ever feel like there are two of you? Do you ever do something sinful and think, “Why did I just do that? I hate that! I never want to do that again!” only to do it again. Know that you are not alone. This is the ordinary Christian life. It’s a fight, but it’s a good fight. It’s the good fight of the faith. As Christians, we have peace with God because we have been justified through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). But the peace we have with God in justification marks the beginning of the war on sin in our sanctification. Thanks be to God that the Spirit Who raised Christ from the dead dwells within us and will give us ultimate victory! (Romans 8:11; Philippians 1:6). Suggestions for prayer Confess your sins to God and be assured that He forgives you and accepts you in Christ (1 John 1:9; 2:1-2). Pray that the Spirit would govern you more and more in your thoughts, words and deeds for the glory of God and the good of 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 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

August 29 – Sing the truth in love

See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and sought refuge in his own destruction! – Psalm 52:7 Scripture reading: Psalm 52:6-7 Tomorrow we are going to church. We know that we ought to sing verses like Psalm 52:6,7. They are in line with Psalm 2, where the Anointed laughs in derision at the intent of the wicked. With Christ, we laugh at the foolishness. God reminds us of our need to repent using our song of warning. That ought to be part of worship. If we love God, we must sing the truth, in love, to warn of the darkness. As a social worker, I remember coming into the homes of addicts. The first thing that hits you is the stink and then the poverty. In one home, a toddler was walking around. It was winter, and there was snow in the living room while she wandered about in her sagging diaper looking for some comfort. Yet her guardians took pleasure in their own destruction because they were addicts. What is supposed to be euphoric turns into the nightmare of desperation. But sin is like that. Hardly aware of it, we can put our trust in our idols. When God comes and brings punishment, one of two things will happen: we are enlightened and turn to Him, or we dig in our heels and take refuge in our destruction. Let us listen to God today. Let us understand that we sing to warn one another and the lost. Sin is ugly and so are the results. Run to Christ! Suggestions for prayer Pray for blessings for our worship and the courage for our pastor to speak the truth in love, to each other and to the lost. 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 28 – Singing about the destruction of the wicked

But God will break you down forever; he will snatch and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living – Psalm 52:5 Scripture reading: Psalm 52:5 Here is a sensitive issue for the church. In the Book of Romans (12:19-21), we read, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'” On the contrary, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Is it loving for us to sing about the destruction of the wicked? Jesus never shied away from warning the wicked of His day. The Church in Revelation 19 sings with joy about the destruction of the great harlot—a symbol of the wicked. Remember that David sings to God about the destruction of the man who persecuted the righteous priests of God. The wicked boast of the Christians they kill, even today. What would you think of a God who did not shield His chosen? What would you think of a Father who did not protect His children? The love of God is steadfast, and He will repay the wicked. God will send Jesus, and the Risen One will come to judge the living and the dead. If we do not believe this, or sing about it, likely we will not be all that engaged in reaching out to the lost. But, being sure of the end of the wicked, let us call them out of the darkness and into life. Let us sin no more! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the salvation of the wicked, the protection of the saints, a heart for pure living and the lost. 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 27 – Evil men and the love of God

You love evil more than good… – Psalm 52:3 Scripture reading: Psalm 52:1-4 Are you ever surprised by evil? In my earlier life counseling teenaged sex offenders, I remember being struck by what people can do to one another. Some of the young men I worked with seemed to have no conscience or remorse for the cruelty they inflicted upon others. Yet, most, if not every one of them had suffered the same kind of brutality. The cycle of sin is real and ugly. When I read the news, I wonder about the state of the world in the days before the flood. How bad was it? Was it worse than the days we live in? When we read about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, is our society any different than that corrupt society? David speaks about Doeg who bragged about killing the priests of God with no conscience or remorse. The wicked abound and it seems like they have the control. We see the growing drug problems and bizarre sexuality, and we are concerned. We cannot help but think about those words, “You love evil more than good.” The love of God is steadfast. I see the love of God flowing, mingled down in the blood of Christ on the cross, and I cannot help but be driven to the love of God. With Paul, we will fight against sin the rest of our lives and slowly, but surely, love good more than evil. David gave us the words to sing about and to take it to the Lord in prayer. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we will have the perspective of God’s love and let go of what is evil in our lives. 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 21 – Singing to declare God’s praise

Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise – Psalm 51:15 Scripture reading: Psalm 51:13-15 David leads the church in repentance. Knowing what repentance means, he wants to serve God. Our desire is to be restored to fellowship with a great and loving Father. When we know that God still wants us, we desire Him and yearn to give ourselves to Him. We want to tell everyone what He has done! The heart of evangelism is the praise of God and the desire to teach others His way. In some ways, it is a simple concept. Consider Psalm 51 with the concepts of Psalm 50. We sang about our God, Who is angry with our sin. Psalm 51 helps to sing of our conviction, that we hate it and that God is angry with us. Hence we cry out to God for salvation, a new heart and then a new way of life. When that happens, our hearts overflow and with an open mouth we tell others what He has done, teaching them to call on His name. In grace, He comes to us, accuses us and then gives faith and repentance that we may be restored to God and the community of believers. Experienced forgiveness causes a reaching out to the community and drawing others in. Repentance makes us want to minister to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, thanksgiving and prayer. Thanksgiving bursts forth from a bursting heart! My heart cup overflows! My mouth sings the praises of God! Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will restore you, using you to teach others in the church and the community and to sing praises and live for 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 20 – Sing for restoration

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me – Psalm 51:10 Scripture reading: Psalm 51:10-12 How can I be restored to the joy of salvation if God does not create in me a clean heart? So, we sing with David, “Create in me a clean heart.” Have you ever been so utterly aware of your sin and guilt and the horror of your life that you cower before God? When God comes to get you (as when He came to David via Nathan) there is an overwhelming sense of the need for renewal in our lives. We of the Reformed faith might wonder what David meant when he asked that God would not withdraw His Spirit. David saw God take his Spirit from King Saul. Saul disobeyed God and did not wait for Samuel to bring the sacrifices taking matters into his own hands. The Bible tells us that God withdrew His Spirit from Saul and sent an evil spirit. From that point on, his life was filled with jealousy, depression and murderous wrath ending in pathetic suicide. Yes, David saw what God did and it horrified Him. Didn’t we learn from Psalms 1 and 50 of the wrath of God? David understood and we with him sing, “Create in me a clean heart, do not withdraw your spirit or cast me from your presence.” The LORD answered David’s prayer because He moved David to that prayer. When He moves in our hearts, in the confidence of the Holy Spirit, convicted of our sin let us repent and ask for a clean heart. Suggestions for prayer Pray for restoration, hope, comfort and confidence in the love and mercy 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 19 – Cleanse me with hyssop

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow – Psalm 51:7 Scripture reading: Psalm 51:7-9 David now stands in the right place. God ought to have destroyed him then and there. David has no defense. He sings and we ought to sing with him, “I have sinned, Lord, I am helpless, broken, and in pain! Cleanse me; I will be whiter than snow!” Have you ever been there? That place where the sense of sorrow and shame overcomes you so that it physically hurts? Then run to God the Father and cry out for cleansing. Just a note about the hyssop. The hyssop branch was filled with many small branches and had leaves and was used in ceremonial cleansing. In Leviticus 14, we read that the priests used the hyssop to wash the cured lepers symbolically and from Numbers 19, to cleanse the repentant person who had touched or been near a dead body. With these words, we are asking, “Lord, I am a leper; my sin causes me to rot and decay, making me unclean. I cannot do anything about it. I need you to cleanse me! Wash me and I will be whiter than snow.” Now we sing our confession of sin and faith in the grace and mercy of God! Come now in Christ to receive forgiveness through faith in His purifying and cleansing blood that you may rejoice that all your sins are blotted out! Now, hear the joy! Suggestions for prayer Pray to repent, be washed, forgiven and to rejoice. Ask for faith to believe and comfort for your soul. 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 13 – Singing to love God and our neighbor

These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. – Psalm 50:21 Scripture reading: Psalm 50:18-21 Remember those words from Psalm 1 about the wicked? “The wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.” The LORD is consistent and so are the songs we sing as the people of God. Praise God for His truth. The wicked have lost their love for God, as revealed in the way they live with their neighbors. Their lives are characterized by lust, hate and darkness. We must be willing to make sure that the wicked know there is no place for the fruits of evil. The wicked cannot enter the Kingdom of God. The LORD’s love is pure, and that means He hates evil and removes the wicked from His sight. That is why He punished Christ for our sins. The LORD, through the Church, identifies the corrupt for who they are. But why are we singing about this? First, that God might be praised and we might sing and proclaim His truth and righteousness. But we also do it because we love our neighbor and want them to repent and believe. Finally, we do it to keep one another on the straight and narrow path that leads to glory. Yes, we do that to minister to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs as we have been commanded to do. Singing is part of our witness to the Church and the world! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the purity of the Church and our lives and for courage to call the wicked to repentance and for the LORD to change hearts and minds. Ask the Lord to use our churches and songs 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 12 – Singing about the judgement of God

But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips?” – Psalm 50:16 Scripture reading: Psalm 50:16-17 The conversation between the LORD and his subjects continues through the choir of the congregation. The King has called the people of God to new obedience, but looking into the hearts of the people, He calls out the wicked. Now, we must be clear that this call to repentance is for the covenant breaker. The wicked are the circumcised rebellious children of God who simply will not listen and obey. Where do we find ourselves? On the one hand, we confess the importance of reaching out to those who are wandering and living in sin. We perhaps are dealing with that wandering baptized child of God who will not repent. Our elders and pastor deal with these wayward children in an intense way. But we also need to look into our souls and ask ourselves about our walk with God. Are you handling difficulty and sorrow well? Are we able to accept God’s way without resistance? God has come to us in grace and peace in Christ. Let us hear the words of the LORD today and not cast them away. Suggestions for prayer Pray for a heart for the wandering and lost that God will turn their hearts. Pray for the pastors and elders of the church in their care for the flock. Ask for a pure and thankful acceptance of God’s way. 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 11 – Singing to call others repentance

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me – Psalm 50:14-15 Scripture reading: Psalm 50:14-15 There is always hope with God. He will not stay angry forever. He warns so that we will turn. As He spoke through Ezekiel: "Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?'" (Ezekiel 33:11). With Israel, the LORD calls us to offer our lives as a gift to Him. Worship without the heart is empty worship. But if we come in full repentance, the LORD will forgive us. The LORD calls the Church, through the congregation, to worship in spirit and truth. The soul of worship is thanksgiving. We come in the joy of what He has already given us rather than to get more from His Fatherly hand. God reveals the proper attitude for worship. How much more for us living in the death and resurrection of Christ? The LORD provided the sacrifice we needed and now calls us to offer our lives in services to Him. Do we pray from a position of thankful humility or arrogant desire? The LORD calls us to keep our promises to love, honor and obey Him. In time He will deliver us from all our trials and troubles and glorify us. Praise Him today and every day. Thank Him. Let us turn from our sins and find the blessings of the covenant now and forever. Suggestions for prayer Pray for a heart of thankfulness and a life of loving obedience to win others to Christ and bring joy to our Father in heaven. 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 5 – The Church sings of the Lord’s rights

The Mighty One, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting – Psalm 50:1: Scripture reading: Psalm 50 What a powerful Psalm! I am not sure many in our modern church world would write a song like this. The Church sounds the voice of God, warning us against empty rituals. I think of Paul’s words, “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). Sacrifices and worship outside of a real personal relationship with God are empty and it makes God angry. In Revelation 2 and 3, Christ, through the angels, warns the churches of backsliding, pride, losing their first love and toleration of evil. If the churches do not repent, Jesus will remove the lampstand. It is good to sing Psalm 50 to remind one another of the holiness of God and His right to our devoted love. Worship ought never to be a way to get something from God, but ought to adore Him. Let us consider the mercy in this. The LORD is not going to let Israel slide into eternal damnation without confrontation and warning. We, as the Church, have seen the wrath of God when poured out on the Son. It is severe and we ought not to place our faith in our baptism or church membership, but only in Christ alone. Let us see the glory of God and sing of it before God, warning one another when we go astray. Let us listen to what the Spirit says to the churches and be blessed. Suggestions for prayer Pray to be aware of the majesty of God and to be deeply mindful of the temptation to empty worship—even in our time of devotions today. Pray for the Church in the world that we may sound the voice of God in boldness and truth. 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 4 – The Lord knows his people

…the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. – Psalm 1:6: Scripture reading: Psalm 1 Psalm 1 is simply the covenant put into inspired verse and it provides the theme of all the subsequent Psalms. Psalm 1 directs us to Christ, the godly man in Whom we find blessing. I direct you to the words of John 3:16,18: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life… but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” That is a summary of the covenant. God is saying, “Walk with me, and I will bless you. If you do not, you will be cursed now and eternally." What are we to make of all this? God knows what to make of it. He is intimate with the lifestyle of the righteous and with the hearts of the upright themselves. The way of the righteous is the way that God provided for prosperous living. The covenantal blessing is issued, “Fear the Lord and live and prosper.” Whom will you serve? See the portrait of the righteous and the wicked. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt 5:6). Sing of the covenant of God. Yes, sing of the covenant of God! We are His people, the sheep of His pasture…” (Psalm 100). When the LORD is our shepherd, and we follow Him, surely, we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever! (Psalm23). Suggestions for prayer Pray that the church will be blessed and remain faithful. Pray for your congregation, leaders and the church around the world. Ask for blessings to trust and obey for you and loved ones. Ask that the Lord would turn the hearts of our neighbors to Him that they might be blessed and not be lost forever. 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 3 – Curses for covenant breakers

The wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. – Psalm 1:5 Scripture reading: Psalm 1:4-6 The beatitude, "Blessed is the godly man," is juxtaposed with the curse upon the rebel. The wicked man is not like a tree planted by the water. He is like the chaff, the lifeless remains from a once vibrant but now harvested stalk. When the wind blows, the chaff is blown away, not by the fierce storms of life, but instead, by the warm breezes of lust and desire that are enough to scatter the wicked so that they are no more. Do you see the picture of the rebel? What is going through your mind now? Sometimes it seems that the wicked have all the fun, money and power (see Psalm 73:1-17). They are free to live the way they want, which Psalm 1 tells us is a living death. They mock the God of holiness, ridiculing Him in grand displays of celebration, opinions, lofty and false doctrine that leads to open sin. Still, when the winds of life blow, they fly away and in the end, they wither away and die-cut off from the faithful children of God. But we must also look at ourselves. Jesus said when speaking about being the vine and we the branches bearing fruit, "If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned" (John 15:6). We thank God for Christ, Who redeemed us so that we can repent and no longer be fruitless branches bound for the fire. Suggestion for prayer Pray for God's Kingdom to come and His will to be done in our lives. Ask that God would bring down the forces of evil in this world. Pray for those who are wandering or under discipline. Ask to be led to new repentance, understanding and strength to strive to make our calling and election sure. 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

July 28 – Raise up the ruins

On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old. – Amos 9:11 Scripture reading: Amos 9:11-12; John 4:19-26 God’s focus shifts to the southern kingdom of Judah. After Israel was destroyed, Judah alone was left. Then in 586 BC, Judah also was brought to ruin. But unlike the tribes of Israel, Judah was restored to the Promised Land beginning in 536 BC. Jerusalem and the temple were rebuilt and the law restored. Faithful leaders like Ezra and Nehemiah led the Jews in repentance. Thus, God preserved Judah for the coming of Christ. Ultimately, David’s “tabernacle” or royal house was raised up in Jesus Christ. The Lord God gave Him the throne of His father David (Lk.1:32). He is the true and eternal King (Phil.2:9-11). He is the true Temple (John 2:19-22). He did what no other king could or would do: He was held responsible for our sin! He was laid low in the ruins of death in payment for our sin and He was raised up from the ruins for our restoration. The Samaritan woman to whom Jesus offered living water was a descendant of the mixed race and mixed religion that populated northern Israel after its demise. Salvation came to a Samaritan woman that day! Jesus told her that a day was coming and has now come that true worshipers would not come to Mt. Gerizim or to Mt. Jerusalem to worship the Lord. True worshipers worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. The King is risen! We enter the kingdom of God not by going to Jerusalem but by believing in Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer Bless the Lord Jesus for His exalted Lordship over all. Thank Him for stooping to the manger and the cross. Pray for the increase and consummation of His kingdom. 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 27 – A remnant spared

“Yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,” says the LORD. – Amos 9:8b Scripture reading: Amos 9:8-10 As the curtain closes on Amos’s prophecy to Israel, there is a shaft of light in the darkness: there will be a remnant from Israel that will be saved. God will destroy the sinful kingdom from the face of the earth, but He will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob. By using the name of Israel’s covenant ancestor, Jacob, God is directing our attention to His promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God will destroy the kingdom of Israel in keeping with His covenant curses; He will be faithful also in keeping His covenant promise by preserving a remnant from the 10 northern tribes. Consider two examples of how this is witnessed in redemptive history. The first example happened in 715 BC, just a few years after the kingdom of Israel was removed by Assyria. King Hezekiah restored the Passover and sent runners to the remaining people of the land of Israel with an invitation to worship with them. Many mocked the invitation, but some from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came (2 Chron.30:11). The second example is the prophetess Anna, from the tribe of Asher, who welcomed the Lord Jesus with great joy when He was brought to the temple as an infant (Lk.2:36-38). With the Lord, “not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground” (vs.9). Even in the midst of catastrophic destruction, not one of Jesus’ sheep shall be snatched from His hand. And you are His sheep if you hear His voice and follow Him (Jn.10:27-28). Suggestions for prayer Bless God for His unfailing mercy and steadfast love. Pray for ears to hear His voice and a renewed will to follow. 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 26 – Bring down the house

I saw the Lord standing by the altar, and He said, “Strike the doorposts, that the thresholds shake, and break them on the heads of them all.” – Amos 9:1 Scripture reading: Amos 9:1-7 The house of Israel – filled with false worship and injustice – will be brought down. They will take refuge by the altar, but those idols in which we have sought comfort and meaning will offer no protection from the wrath of God. He is the LORD God of hosts, who created and rules all things (vs.5-6). When God is against you, where will you turn for help? Will Israel turn to her covenant membership? Will she point to God’s covenant at Sinai for protection? Israel has turned away from God and will now reap the covenant curses as a covenant-breaking nation. The covenant of grace is not an automatic guarantee of immunity to judgment. It is a personal relationship with the almighty God that includes promises and demands. Israel has filled up the covenant land with sin. She will receive no special treatment from the impartial Judge (vs.7). The awesome majesty of God cuts two ways: For those who are living apart from Him, trusting in created things, the majesty of God is and will be truly terrifying. But, for those who serve the Lord in reliance on His grace, His majesty is a tremendous comfort. “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom.8:38-39). Suggestions for prayer Pray for the fear of God, for the trembling joy that comes from beholding the holiness and love of God. 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 20 – God’s plumb line

Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. – Amos 7:8b Scripture reading: Amos 7:7-9 Amos receives a third vision in which he sees God standing on a wall with a plumb line in His hand. Like a contractor tests the straightness of a wall with a level, God tests the true state of Israel’s faithfulness. His words to Amos reveal that the plumb line has exposed His people’s covenant unfaithfulness and that He will no longer spare them from judgment. The leading religious and political institutions will be desolated. This time, Amos does not plead for God to relent. It is clear to him that Israel’s window of opportunity has passed. What is God’s standard for determining whether to save or punish? Does the vision of the wall and plumb line suggest that He demands perfect righteousness from us? If so, none of us can ever measure up! Perhaps God allows for a little wiggle-room for sin in an “out-of-level” person? But that would contradict the holiness of God, in whom there is no darkness at all. Indeed, the vision of God and the plumb line are a reminder not to think of ourselves as more deserving than Israel – or any unbeliever, for that matter. We are all crooked; we have all fallen short of the grace of God. We all deserve eternal hell. But the righteousness of God that is given through faith in Jesus Christ has been revealed. We are declared “spot-on level” based on His perfect righteousness. What God’s plumb line looks for is this: Do you truly believe in Jesus for salvation? And is your faith proved true by your obedience? Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His perfect righteousness and justice. Pray for the two-fold gift of forgiving grace and transforming grace in Christ. 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 19 – God’s mercy

“O Lord GOD, forgive, I pray! Oh, that Jacob may stand, for he is small!” – Amos 7:2b Scripture reading: Amos 7:1-6 Amos has been readily announcing the judgment of God on His sinful people, but at the sight of the locusts and fire he pleads with the Lord to relent. What is it that moves Amos to intercede on behalf of Israel? Perhaps this was the first time he had actually seen with his eyes the judgments of God and it overwhelmed him. Or maybe he saw that the poor and weak would bear the brunt of these judgments. The locust swarm at the crops “after the king’s mowings” which probably means that the king and his friends would be well-fed while the poor farmers starved. We don’t know what exactly it was that Amos saw that moved him to pray for God to relent. What we do know is that Amos’s prayer reveals the merciful heart of God. It was in His mercy for stubborn sinners that God sent Amos to preach to Israel and pray for them. And when Amos pleaded, God relented because it had been His will all along to show mercy through the intercession of His prophet. The interceding Amos directs our faith to our eternal High Priest who ever lives to make intercession for us (Heb.7:25). In Jesus we see the heart of God perfectly revealed and all those who trust in Christ will never be excluded from His mercy. “Since it has pleased God to give us His Son as our Intercessor, let us not leave Him for another…For when God gave Him to us He knew well that we were sinners” (Belgic Confession, Art.26). Suggestions for prayer Give thankful praise for God’s indescribable gift of His Son. Thank Him for His patience and ask for humble confidence in the perfect High Priesthood of 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 18 – Unshakeable

The LORD God has sworn by Himself, “I abhor the pride of Jacob, and hate his palaces; therefore I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.” – Amos 6:8 Scripture reading: Amos 6:8-14 The Israelites think that their nation is unshakable. Therefore, Amos declares to them that God abhors the pride they take in their palaces (vs.8) and the way they boast in their own military strength (vs.13). Not only is this arrogant, it is foolish. This same proud folly was witnessed around the world recently when numerous leaders praised the success of human efforts in containing the coronavirus pandemic and gave no glory to God. “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1). God will bring Israel’s pride to nothing through the scourge of the Assyrian army. The city of Samaria will be delivered up (vs. 8) and the palace broken into little bits (vs.11). Perhaps the most chilling part of Amos’s message is found in vs. 9-10. When the Assyrians do eventually come, death and destruction will be so great that the survivors will be filled with superstitious dread of even saying the name of the LORD lest He bring even more judgment. In other words, the opportunity for turning to the Lord in godly fear unto salvation will be over. Economies will fall. Nations will crumble. This flesh will fail. The only secure refuge is the kingdom of God. And the only door into the kingdom is through the Lord Jesus. He bore the wrath of God against the sin of Israel and against the sin of the whole world so that we can receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:28). Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s kingdom to come through the defeat of Christ’s enemies, the increase of His church, and submission in your own life. Praise Him for His unshakable rule. 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 12 – Empty religion

Come to Bethel and transgress, at Gilgal multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days. – Amos 4:4 Scripture reading: Amos 4:1-5 One man puts a large donation into the offering plate to assuage the guilt of his deceitful business dealings. Another sits through worship services he despises in order to keep the family happy. And someone else raves about how much she likes worship at the new church in town because it feels so amazing. We could come up with a thousand examples of the same root problem that Amos confronts: attending worship for selfish reasons rather than going to meet God. “Cows of Bashan” is not a reference to four-legged beasts with horns, but to the wealthy women of Samaria. Amos is not very flattering, but he is simply telling these women what their husbands didn’t have the courage to say: that they are pampered and cruel. As long as they were being served, they were content – even if it meant crushing the poor. Their day will come. Amos proceeds to issue a sarcastic call to worship: “Come to Bethel and transgress, at Gilgal multiply transgression”. Go on, says the LORD through Amos, bring your sacrifices and tithes, your praise and worship, for I know you love it. Israel still observed many of the biblical worship ceremonies. But they did that while they crushed the needy during the rest of the week. They loved religious acts and rituals of worship, but they didn’t love the God whom they professed to worship. Worship is not a series of favors that we do for God to get Him on our side. Worship is a response of thanksgiving to the One who has purchased us with His blood. Suggestions for prayer Pray for deliverance from all man-centered, self-focused worship to wholehearted thankfulness and awe towards God. 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 11 – Spiritual poverty

I will destroy the winter house along with the summer house; the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end,” says the LORD. – Amos 3:15 Scripture reading: Amos 3:9-15 Amos addresses the wealthy in Israel: one man has a winter house in the city and a summer cottage on the sea; another man has an extravagant house of ivory, and still, another has a house that’s far bigger than he’ll ever need. Israel’s situation sounds similar to North America. We should listen very carefully to what God is saying through Amos: all those nice houses filled with beautiful stuff will be destroyed one day. Is God against being wealthy and enjoying nice things? No, God is the one who gives power to get wealth (Deut.8:18) and who blesses man with good things for his enjoyment (Ps.104:14,15). The love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim.6:10), not the money itself. We are called to a joyful and God-pleasing use of His gifts by enjoying them with thanksgiving (1 Tim.4:4) and sharing generously with the needy (Eph.4:28). The wealthy in Samaria made their money on the backs of the poor and filled their houses with the proceeds of injustice (vs.9,10): God will see to it that their wealth is all taken away (vs.11). Like the rich fool of Jesus’ parable, they placed their security in their possessions and hoarded them: God will destroy it (vs.15). Prosperity has a way of lulling us into a sense of false security and blinding us to our spiritual poverty. There is only one currency that will count when we stand in the judgment: the infinite value of Jesus’ righteousness. It is a gift, freely given through faith. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Father for all His good gifts. Pray for the Spirit to lead you away from trust in possessions to finding lasting security in the righteousness of Christ. 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 10 – Cause and effect

A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy? – Amos 3:8 Scripture reading: Amos 3:3-8 Amos poses seven questions to Israel. The first five questions (vs.3-5) expect the answer “no” and the last two (vs.6) expect the answer “yes”. The questions are simple to answer and assume the basic law of cause and effect. At first, the questions seem to have no point to them until we come to the last two. Then we notice that Amos is getting close to home: If a trumpet sounds a warning blast, will not people be afraid? He is talking about Israel. Israel can readily see and live by the law of cause and effect in worldly things, but they have ignored God’s principles of cause and effect that govern spiritual life. They do not see that sin leads to judgment. They think that they can live like they are and that disaster will not strike. Amos drives his point home in vs.8: “A lion has roared, who will not fear? The LORD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” God doesn’t act arbitrarily. If He roars through His prophet, then Israel should be doing something about it! God is sovereign and free. We cannot put Him in a box. But He has revealed to us in Scripture what we can expect of Him and how we ought to respond to Him. He is faithful in judgment and salvation. When He roars, we ought to fear because He will judge. When we persist in sin, we know that His anger will rest upon us. But His promise is just as true and dependable: the one who comes to Jesus, He will by no means cast out (Jn.6:37). Suggestions for prayer Pray for faith to believe the truth of the warnings and promises of God’s Word. Pray also for faith to respond obediently. 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 4 – Patterns of sin

“For three transgressions…and for four” – Amos 1:3a Scripture reading: Amos 1:3-10 The LORD confronts deeply-rooted habits of sin in Israel and seven neighboring nations. Beginning with Syria (Damascus), Philistia (Gaza), and Tyre, Amos announces that divine judgment is coming upon them and will not be turned back. The repeated phrase “for three transgressions…and for four” refers to entrenched patterns of sin. Each nation is guilty of not just one or two sins, but a multitude of sins. God is patient with sinful people and nations. When wickedness prevailed in the days of Noah, He gave 120 years for the ungodly to repent while the ark was being built. He patiently abided with the nation of Israel through centuries of rebellion and idolatry. Every sunrise welcomes another window of opportunity for sinners to repent and find refuge in the blood of Jesus. But that window of opportunity does not last forever. The repeated “for three transgressions…and for four” pattern points not only to a multitude of sin, but to a lifestyle of sin. It describes the unrepentant and unbelieving. We are all sinners in need of forgiveness in the blood of Jesus. It is a gift freely given to all those who trust in the Son of God who bore the wrath of God in the place of sinners. But those who harden themselves in sin show by their lives that they are living apart from the Saviour. They will not inherit the kingdom of God. Therefore, we are to “exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 7:13). Suggestions for prayer Pray for the Spirit to give you a deeper conviction of sin and eyes to see where there are patterns of sin in your life. Thank the Lord Jesus for His forgiving 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 3 – Lord of life

The pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers. – Amos 1:2b Scripture reading: Amos 1:2; Deuteronomy 8:1-20 Amos could see Mt. Carmel in the northwest, with its fertile soil and abundant rain. He saw the rich valley pasture lands where the sheep were grazing. These were symbols of fertility and growth for a kingdom that was enjoying unprecedented peace and prosperity. Amos declared what must have seemed unthinkable to the average Israelite: the pastures will mourn under the burden of drought; Carmel will wither in the blistering heat of the sun. The LORD is God. If He should choose to shut up the skies and dry up the economy, there is nothing Israel could do about it. When the source of their wealth and pleasure and power was removed, to whom then would they turn? Baal, the Canaanite god of rain and fertility, in whom they trusted, was powerless to save them. All the idols on all the high places could not deliver them. We know a whole lot more about weather and agriculture today than the Israelites of Amos’s day. The progress of climate and agricultural science in the last century alone has been staggering. And yet, we are still no closer to being in control of our lives. There is only One who rules the wind and makes plants grow and upholds the laws of nature He designed. “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). When God withholds blessings from His people it is to remind us that man cannot live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His works in creation. Be specific. Pray for a deepening of your trust in Him, especially where He is withholding blessings in your 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 2 – The roar of the lion

And he said: “The LORD roars from Zion, and utters His voice from Jerusalem.” – Amos 1:2a Scripture reading: Amos 1:2; Rev. 5:1-10 The LORD is described as a roaring lion, like a king of beasts announcing its intention to attack. Thus God’s voice thunders from Zion, the temple in Jerusalem that represented His heavenly throne. This is the main point of God’s message for Israel through the prophet Amos: the King of heaven and earth approaches and will soon fall upon you in judgment. Amos was not what we would call a motivational speaker. His words were hard, his message devastating. Indeed, the prophet’s description almost seems inappropriately severe. Should we compare God to a lion that is ready to seize its prey? How does one reconcile this terrible image of a lion with the God of love and mercy? The truth is: God is terrible. He is terrible not in the sense of bad or evil, but in terms of His awesome holiness and majestic power. He roars against sin. His wrath is “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom.1:18). We are sinners living in the presence of a holy God. Tremble before Him with godly fear! But remember that this does not exhaust the unsearchable depths of God. His love is as infinite as His holiness; His mercy is as wide as His justice. He “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The Son of God is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He is also the Lamb that was slain. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His awesome majesty and His great love. Pray for growth in godly fear. 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 26 – Keep fighting the good fight of the faith

“Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but such as keep the law contend with them.” – Proverbs 28:4  Scripture reading: Psalm 10, Ephesians 5:1-21, and Jude 3 We’ve seen in the last years a rapid moral decline in our society and politics. And it’s not surprising seeing that God’s Law, His 10 commandments, are no longer taught or obeyed. With that, the persecution of the church has increased and the good news of salvation in Christ is more offensive than ever! Thus, with this increased rejection of God’s Word, we see increased “praise” given to those who promote what is radical, offensive, and that which is contrary to His revealed will to us. But what are we to do? Should we ignore it, hoping it will go away? No! Our text says, “...but such as keep the law contend with them”! That is, we’re to take a stand for God’s truth as those who love the truth. We’re to address our leaders about these issues, and pray for them that they might see the truth of God! Paul says in Ephesians 5:11, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” Jude also says, “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (v.3). This is what we’re called to do as members of Christ’s kingdom! For though the wicked may be shameless in their defiance of God, as Psalm 10 says, it also declares, “The LORD is King forever and ever”! (v.16). This truth should encourage us to continue to fight the good fight, knowing that Christ will continue strengthening us in this great calling! Suggestions for prayer Continue to pray for your leaders and your nation. Pray that they may honour God with just laws and fairness. Pray for the conversion of those who reject God’s law and promote wickedness that they might come to saving faith in 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

June 25 – Living by faith one day at a time

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. “ - Proverbs 27:1 Scripture reading: James 4:13-17 and Matthew 6:34 Time seems to fly by fast! Just look at your children; they go from diapers to walking, and then before you know it you’re seeing them off to college! Yes, time flies by, but it goes as God has ordained it! And our proverb rightly reminds us that God is in control of time. But often we forget that! We look at the calendar and say, “I will do this today, or work there tomorrow, or visit that person next month”, but how often do we pray, “Lord, your will be done”? Or how often do we ask, “Lord, if this is your will, so let it be?” James understood the sinful tendency of our hearts and so he reminds us that even in our planning, we have to consider the Lord’s will! Do we “boast” about tomorrow? Do we confidently decree our path for tomorrow when it comes to work, school, or church life? Or do we humbly seek the Lord’s will in prayer? This we must do! For as our text says, “You do not know what a day may bring forth”! It’s out of our hands and we need to be spiritually ready for the unknown events to come. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:34, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” This is wise advice! For when we seek the Lord’s will for today, it helps us to keep from anxiety about tomorrow! Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s will as you plan and prepare for the future, and trust that He will provide for all your needs! 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 24 – Fainting in the day of adversity 

“If you faint on the day of adversity, your strength is small.” – Proverbs 24:10 Scripture reading: Mark 4:35-41 and Philippians 4:10-13 As we know, tests and trials are part of the Christian life! Living in a fallen world, contending with contrary world-views and battling our own sinful natures are a daily challenge! But the key for God’s people is not to look to themselves, or to others, or to sports or leisure to escape life’s trying times, but to look to Christ! To “faint” means to be overcome by the circumstances surrounding you. In other words, your faith gives out! You’re not actively trusting in God, but only doing so in words. This was the reality that faced the disciples on the Sea of Galilee! They took their eyes off of Jesus Who was resting in the boat and fixed them on the wind and the waves. This led to their frantic question, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (v.38). How often have such words been on our lips in the midst of adversity? Yes, our strength is small and so we need to be reminded daily of our need for Christ! For as He powerfully reassured His disciples of His loving care by stilling the wind and waves, so does He bring peace to our lives when we call upon Him in our weakness! The apostle Paul learned the secret of being content in any situation, he says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”! May this be a truth we grow to know more and more in our lives! Suggestions for prayer Ask Christ to help you fix your eyes on Him every day. Memorize Philippians 4:13 and call it to mind when you find your strength “small” in the day of adversity for Christ gives His strength to all who call on Him in their time of need! 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 18 – Get up you sluggard

“Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty; Open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread.” – Proverbs 20:13  Scripture reading: Proverbs 6:6-11, Psalm 127:1-2, and Colossians 3:22-25 When I was in Bible College there were students who liked to sleep too much, even at the expense of attending classes! Thus, often you’d hear the cry, “Get up you sluggard!” Such a statement was meant to be funny, but it was also meant to remind the lazy student that you can’t sleep when there are important things to do. Our proverb reminds us of that as well. For “sleep” is a gift of God to man because he was created to work in order to grow his food. We’re reminded in Psalm 127 that the LORD gives “sleep” to the trusting laborer. Sleep is a good thing, but it’s not to be abused. Today many don’t understand the purpose of work and prefer to be lazy and depend on others to provide. However, we need to keep in mind that work is meant to be for God’s glory. Paul says in Colossians 3:23-24 “And whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not to men…for you serve the Lord Christ.” Do we have that mindset as we get up for school, or go to the office, or take care of the children at home? Our proverb reminds us in v.13b that, we’re to “open” our eyes, that is, we’re to be alert when it comes to our labors! For as God’s Word promises, when we labor for the Lord, we can be assured that He will give us our daily bread and provide for all our needs. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to give you the proper perspective on your work. Pray for alertness and energy if you love to sleep at the expense of school or work. In all your labour, seek to honour and please God, for He will bless your efforts! 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 17 – Listening today brings wisdom for the future

“Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days.” – Proverbs 19:20  Scripture reading: Psalm 78:1-8 and Ephesians 6:1-4 The instruction of covenant children is a vital thing in the life of the church. Passing on to each generation the truth of God’s Word and the salvation that comes in Christ is imperative! Often in the proverbs, we see instruction given to “sons” (Proverbs 1-7), stressing for us our covenantal obligations and also God’s demands on faithful parenting. Yet, as is clear from v.20, the focus is on the hearer, that the child, young person, or church member in the pew would “listen” intently to God’s counsel and humbly “receive” His instruction. That’s the idea here. In fact, we’re commanded to listen and to receive. It’s not an option! For this is how we grow, this is how we mature in our faith and gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). It’s also vital that we learn from the past so that we won’t walk in the sinful ways of those who have gone before us! (Psalm78). Yes, it’s important that we take godly counsel and instruction seriously, for with it comes blessing! (Ephesians 6:2-3). Through it we gain wisdom and grow in discernment, and that is a blessing for us in our “latter days”, when we become older and we’re called to live out our faith in many challenging situations, especially when we’re persecuted! Thus, if we humble our hearts, heed instruction and pray for God’s direction, He will bless us with wisdom for today, for tomorrow and for whatever challenges may come! Suggestions for prayer Pray for strength as you instruct your children, students or employees. Ask God for a humble heart to receive godly counsel and instruction. Pray for growing wisdom and discernment for your life of faith in the world. 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 16 – Godly discipline is not to be avoided

“Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction.” – Proverbs 19:18  Scripture reading: Proverbs 29:15-17, and Hebrews 12:3-11 It’s clear from Scripture that corporal punishment, or physical discipline for sin when it comes to our children, is a godly practice. For as we know, our children are born in sin and if they’re left to follow their own way, it will lead to their destruction. Thus, parental discipline is meant to bring correction to the rebellious heart, as Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” In godly discipline we have “hope” that God will use it, not only to bring about outward obedience, but also to draw our children closer to Him as they see such obedience as part of their life of faith! “Correct your son, and he will give you rest. Yes, he will give delight to your soul.” (Proverbs 29:17) Now there are many who reject the biblical teaching of discipline and call it harmful and cruel. But when discipline is done lovingly, explaining why one’s behavior is sinful, and showing how God wants them to live, it’s a blessing! Hebrews 12:11 says, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Thus, to let children go their own way leads to their shame and “destruction”, but through godly discipline, correction comes to rebellious hearts and turns them to God. This is God’s gracious promise to us as parents. Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s strength to consistently discipline your children. It is not easy. But when we see the fruit God brings from it in their lives we realize the great blessing it brings for today and 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 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

June 10 – Having confidence in prayer

“The LORD is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.” – Proverbs 15:29 Scripture reading: Proverbs 15:8, Psalm 34:15-19, and Romans 8:26-27  Prayer is one of the great gifts we’ve been given as Christians! It’s a means by which we can bring our requests, praises and confessions to God’s holy throne, as Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer (Mt.6:5-13). But one thing is clear; apart from a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we cannot pray to God and expect Him to hear us! Many today wonder, “Does God hear all prayer?” No, He does not. For as we see from v.29, “The LORD is far from the wicked,” and as v.8 reveals, “the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD”! So you can go through all outward motions of prayer, but if you’re not right with God through Jesus Christ, such prayer will avail you nothing! And yet, how gloriously do the Psalms sing of the confidence believers can have when praying to God! Psalm 34 is a glorious testimony to that fact! David knew this blessing of prayer. He says, “The righteous cry out and the LORD hears”! Furthermore, Paul reminds us in Romans 8, that we have the Holy Spirit Who helps us in our prayers and intercedes for us with God! Thus, in heaven, Christ and the Holy Spirit intercede for us. For although we might not always know what to pray for, we have divine Helpers Who assist us as we come to the throne of our heavenly Father! What confidence we should have in our daily prayers to God! Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to help you grow in your prayer life. Make a daily list of things to pray for: your family, school, work and for the life and mission of the church. Lift them daily to God and trust in Him to hear and to answer your prayers! 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 9 – Having joy in the midst of suffering

“All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.” – Proverbs 15:15  Scripture reading: 2 Timothy 3:12, Hebrews 12:1-4, and 1 Peter 4:12-19 The Christian life is filled with many challenges, especially that of persecution! This is a growing reality for the church today. Thus, when affliction comes, the days of our lives are “evil,” that is, filled with grief and sorrow. Yet, as Christians, we’re not surprised, for both Peter and Paul warned us that such would come to those who follow Christ (1 Peter 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:12). Though we suffer for our faith, our joy in Christ is not quenched in the least! Rather, as Peter says in 1 Peter 4:13, you “rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings…” For we know that our present suffering will lead to glory at His return! Yes, in Christ we have “merry” hearts in the midst of our sorrow and we will also have a continual “feast,” that is, a banquet for our faith because of His saving work. For you see, Jesus is the fulfillment of Proverbs 15:15. For “all the days” of His life as the Afflicted One were “evil”, that is, marked by humiliation and suffering, especially on the cross! But through His resurrection we have victory and thus we’re able to “feast” on His saving benefits and have “merry hearts” in spite of our circumstances! Are you suffering for your faith? Are you growing weary? Then, look to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith, and rejoice! For His victory is your victory and at His return, your affliction will end and your joy will be full! Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s strength as you suffer for your faith. Keep your eyes on Jesus’ once-for-all finished work and be comforted, knowing that in Him you have the victory! Pray for the persecuted church around the world that it may continue to feast on Christ with a merry heart! 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 8 – Take care of the paths you tread

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” - Proverbs 14:12 Scripture reading: Proverbs 7:21-27 and Matthew 7:13-14 This powerful proverb is repeated exactly in Proverbs 16:25. It’s a bit of wisdom that all people, especially our covenant youth should take to heart. Today we hear so much that our youth need to be free, think for themselves and choose their own way. This is the mentality of the world, but it ought not to be so of the Church! Covenant children and youth need to be taught the truth of God’s Word so that they will know God’s perfect will, embrace it, love it and walk in it every day! Now to be sure Jesus reminds us in Matthew 7:13-14 that entering by the narrow gate, the way of faith, is not easy. It means sacrifice and suffering and few are those who find the way. For the broad way, or the easy way, appeals to our sinful natures. Why can’t we enjoy the world’s pleasures, treasures and securities along with Christ? Why can’t we enjoy the wicked life and still rest comfortably in Christ’s salvation? Proverbs 7 paints the sad picture of the careless fool who enters the house of a harlot and suffers the sad consequences for it! But this is what happens when we plot the course of our lives apart from having God’s infallible Word as our guide. What is the path you follow? Are you following the broad way, leading to destruction, or the narrow way, leading to life? May the Lord continue to guide us on the narrow way that leads to life! Suggestions for prayer Pray for wisdom as you live your life before God. Ask the Lord for discernment so that you can obey His Word and follow His ways in spite of the temptations to follow the broad way to destruction. 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 2 – You must guard your heart

“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” – Proverbs 4:23 Scripture reading: Proverbs 4 Guarding your “heart” is something all believers need to do, not just the young! Solomon writes to his children (v.1) in a very personal and passionate way. As he was instructed from his youth, now he has the responsibility to charge his sons to “Get wisdom! Get understanding…wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding” (vv.5a-7). Isn’t this our desire for our children, as well as for our own lives? Solomon says in v.23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it springs the issues of life.” Do we guard our hearts, as we should? Sadly, often the movies we watch or our favorite TV shows leave much to be desired! We need to pray about these things, especially as we hope to set good examples for our children and grandchildren. How much time do we spend in the Word, setting our minds on things above where Christ is (Colossians 3:1-2), or in setting our minds on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8)? These are things that strengthen our faith and build up a strong defense against the temptations that daily confront us. As Solomon says, “When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble. Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life” (vv.12-13). May these be words we all take to heart! Suggestions for prayer Pray for obedience to God’s Word and for growing in wisdom. Ask for spiritual discernment that you may be careful with your life and the choices you make. Guard your heart and fill it with things that will strengthen your walk with God. 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 1 – Introduction to Proverbs

The book of Proverbs is a wonderful book for getting our focus on the Christian life. There are so many powerful verses that challenge our faith and encourage us in our walk with God! Over the years I have been blessed by going through the book of Proverbs in my preaching, but also in my personal devotions. It’s an enriching experience. I have selected some of my favorites, ones that you may know well and some not so well. But regardless, I pray that you will find these various proverbs to be a blessing to your own walk with God and to your family as well. The book of Proverbs speaks to all of life and to the many situations we often find ourselves in as Christians. And so the more we read and apply these great truths to our own lives the more we’ll be equipped as servants for living faithful lives in God’s kingdom! Daily trusting in God “Trust in the LORD will all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6 Scripture reading: Proverbs 3 The first four chapters of Proverbs show us the great need for knowledge and wisdom in the life of God’s people. Solomon, writing to his son in chapter 3, impresses that upon him in verses 1-4. But then in verse 6, we have this wonderful affirmation of why we’re to trust in our faithful covenant God: “He shall direct your paths”! The idea here is of someone clearing the way and making your path smooth, of taking out the obstacles. This is what God does for those who “trust” and “acknowledge” Him. He is faithful to guide them and take care of their lives! The Christian life is marked by an active, daily trust in God! The idea is that we’re leaning upon Him and not ourselves. But that’s the great challenge for us! For we often see ourselves as wise and capable of handling life’s difficulties, trials, or temptations on our own, but we can’t! Solomon makes that clear, “Trust in the LORD…and lean not on your own understanding.” There is to be no self-reliance! So as we “trust” in God, we “acknowledge” Him, that is, we confess His rule over our lives and that His Word is to be obeyed above all things! Thus, this humble life of faith and confession of God’s authority leads to our blessing. For God graciously and lovingly leads His sheep as a faithful Shepherd! As Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that the LORD would cause you to daily trust in Him and acknowledge His control and direction of your life. Pray that you would die more and more to relying on yourself and rest in His faithfulness, for He will direct your paths! 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, May 31 – Everlasting worship

“And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!’ Then the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.” – Revelation 5:13-14 Scripture reading: Acts 2:14-28 Today, by God’s grace, we gather to worship as part of the thronging worshippers from all over the world. Today we may especially focus on that great event in redemptive history known as Pentecost. What a joy to be led in the conviction of the Holy Spirit to bring our worship to God. God is worthy of our praise and adoration! His Word to us is life. To live out of the covenant congregationally is a rich treasure. Today is a foretaste of what is yet to come in greater abundance. The vision John receives in our text depicts something of both the worship and activity in heaven. John has been permitted to see the inner area of God’s heavenly dwelling. What wonder and glory!! The song sung in verse 13 is a testimony to God’s glory, truth, justice, holiness and His awe-inspiring deeds. God is great and greatly to be praised! How is it possible that His Name not be glorified and feared? A heart in tune with God can’t help but sing His praise and so also does as the congregation, the body of Christ. On that first Pentecost Day, those who were given ears to listen could hear what Jesus has accomplished for those given Him by the Father. Today as we go to church, we can again hear through the work of the Holy Spirit (applying the Word) what great things our Heavenly Father has done for His children. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Suggestions for prayer Pray with heartfelt thanksgiving, acknowledging the glory of our thrice Holy God. “Unto God Almighty, sitting on the throne, and the Lamb victorious, be the praise alone. God has wrought salvation; He did wondrous things; who shall not extol Thee, Holy King of kings?” – Psalter Hymnal 469:3 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 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 25 – To the angel of the Church of the Laodiceans (1)

“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: Psalm 119:65-80 The church is to proclaim the beauty of Christ through the power of the gospel. Christ loved the church and gave His life for her life. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to live as a community practicing gospel culture with a sense of vibrancy and urgency. This was not true of the church of the Laodiceans. Jesus rebukes in the strongest language. He knows the condition of the church. They were neither hot nor cold, not characterized by refreshment (cold waters) nor the spiritual zeal of healing balm (hot waters). They were lukewarm, without vitality and Christ says He will spit/vomit them out of His mouth. Oh, what a soul disturbing judgment! The congregation at Laodicea had a high opinion of themselves, smug we might say, resting in self-righteousness. Jesus says you do not know yourself. You are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. Again, we must ask ourselves how Christ’s judgments apply to us. Perhaps you are privileged to gather in a beautiful building with a fancy sign. There may even be all sorts of programs and activities. But what is the heartbeat? A church must have a beating heart for the glory of God. The danger of succumbing to the apostasy of the Laodicean Age is ever real. Where do we find ourselves in the midst of those judgments? J.I. Packer once said, “Most churches today have passengers rather than practitioners.” Is that true of you? Is it true of the church you belong to? Suggestions for prayer Pray for something of the experience of the Psalmist (119:65-80)that it may be our own, both individually and corporately. Pray for the continued leading of the Holy Spirit to be found 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

SUNDAY, May 24 – To the angel of the Church in Philadephia (3)

“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 overcomes, 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: Psalm 23 Long ago David declared “I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the LORD” (Psalm 122:1). The closing words of Psalm 23 speak of David’s conviction to “dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (vs. 6). As the body of Christ, we come together to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. The preaching of the Word, together with the celebration of the sacraments are the means of grace. We come together as one church, in one faith and one hope. And we are to come as overcomers. Several times now in our devotions this month we have received the call to overcome. How do you understand that for your life and how do you understand that for the church to which you belong? How is it that you approach worship and what is your perspective as you enter the sanctuary, the place set apart? What does it mean to live as overcomers day by day? To overcome is to prevail, to withstand, to gaining mastery over obstacles. It is to live out of Psalm 28:7a, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped”. Jesus promises the overcomer a name and a place. He promises that His people will have His Name written upon them. That promise is real because we know Him Who has “overcome the world” (John 16:3). He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Suggestions for prayer Pray for the grace to live as an overcomer, to hold fast. May that be true for the life of the church and our families. Thank God He holds His people fast. 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 23 – To the angel of the Church in Philadelphia (2)

“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: Philippians 1:1-11 The Bible’s teaching concerning perseverance is a great comfort to all true believers. Jesus has assessed the church at Philadelphia and commends her with the promise of preservation. The Bible’s teaching concerning the Perseverance of the Saints is soul strengthening. The struggle against sin is great, also in our corporate life as the church. We must be thankful that believers may confess: “Because of these remnants of sin dwelling in them and also because of the temptations of the world and satan, those who have been converted could not remain standing in this grace if left to their own resources. But God is faithful, mercifully strengthening them in the grace once conferred on them and powerfully preserving them in it to the end.” – Canons of Dort 5:3 God enables this perseverance by means of the grace of preservation. We can be confident in His promise that when He begins a good work in His people, He will bring it to completion (Phil. 1:6). Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow Me (John 6:37). And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” – John 10:28-29 Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His tender mercies. He will hold us fast. Pray that we would persist in living out His persevering care, all the while rejoicing in the perseverance of the saints. 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

SUNDAY, May 17 – To the angel of the church in Thyatira (2)

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 2:18-29 Scripture reading: Matthew 16:5-12; 1 Kings 19:1-2 Today it is again our calling to gather as the body of Christ in corporate worship. Worship is to be seen as our greatest privilege and highest responsibility. The Lord calls us to worship in Spirit and in Truth. Worship is to be Word saturated. God’s Word touches every area of life and at certain points, the Word pinches and even cuts deeply. Christ’s words to Thyatira are hard-hitting and direct. There is no subtlety here. Thyatira was in grave danger. There is corruption in the church of Thyatira needing radical surgery. It seems that there is a prominent woman in the congregation, calling herself a prophetess, who promoted tolerance toward certain pagan practices. There is a Jezebel in the ranks. Jezebel, oh the name ought to bring a sense of dread. Jezebel (don’t name your daughter this) in the days of Elijah was a seducer working underhandedly. Jezebel brazenly sought to undermine true faith and promoted the wickedness of Baal worship. Shamelessly, she directed her attack against God of the covenant. Jesus calls us to walk the narrow road. Compromise leads to the broad road and those remaining on that path will ultimately be lost for eternity. The church is always to live with a view to eternity. But at the same time, as we look to the Lord for help and strength, we must do so desiring faithfulness day by day. Let us never forget that a church that does not shine gospel light, will ultimately have her lampstand removed. Suggestions for prayer Seeking God’s will helps us live a life of Soli Deo Gloria. Pray for a heart to do so both for yourself and the church. Pray that God would help us to see (and fight against) how terribly dangerous compromise is when it enters our lives. 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 16 – To the angel of the Church in Thyatira (1)

"And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 2:18-29 Scripture reading: 1 John 4:1-6 The all-seeing eye of Christ penetrates into the heart and soul of the church in all places and all ages. Our text today takes us to Thyatira where we hear Christ evaluate and assess the life and times of the congregation. The basics of what is to be a well-ordered church are scrutinized. As we read of the character of the church in Thyatira, we are given the initial impression that things are well. Jesus knows their works. It is as if our Redeemer has a check-list: Love-yes; Service-affirmative; Faith-checkmark; Patience – indeed so. In fact, Jesus tells them they are doing more than they did when they began! Our first impressions are WOW, this is a healthy lively church! I want to join! But as we are to find out tomorrow there is a "never-the-less." The LORD asks a great deal of the church that is to be vibrant in both word and deed. If Jesus gave your elders a check-list of the condition of the church to which you belong what would it look like? Together we must know what it is to reach upward to God in true faith and Godly worship, to reach inward toward one another in love and service, to reach out in witness to those far and near and also to reach ahead toward future generations ministering to all those whom God has included in His covenant. May God so help us! Suggestions for prayer Christians serve the all-sufficient God Who has secured the victory. Let us pray for faithful churches to press forward in their lofty calling! Pray that churches would engage in healthy self-examination. 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 15 – To the angel of the Church in Pergamos (3)

“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 15:31-33; Matthew 11:20-24 When Jesus began His public ministry, He spoke of the nearness of the kingdom and the command to repent and believe the good news (cf. Mark 1:15). Repentance is not negative, but a positive response to the call of God’s Word. To repent means a change in thought or behavior; it means to reverse direction. It is to submit to God’s Kingdom rule for every area of our lives. The church in Pergamos was called to repent, to reverse direction. Those who held to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans were to be confronted with the truth so they might reverse direction. The Bible teaches that when the church fails to exercise spiritual discipline, she might expect to experience severe chastening from God’s almighty hand. The church at Ephesus hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans, but the church at Pergamos tolerated them. The Nicolaitans held a view of life that perverted grace and exchanged their liberty with license. Jesus reproves the church at Pergamos for allowing heretical teachers and abominable practices into her midst and calls her to be faithful to the truth. Every believer and every Christian church needs to take to heart the fact that sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay and cost you more than you want to pay. When there is a cancer in the church that cancer needs radical treatment. It must be cut out. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Suggestions for prayer Pray for growth in repentance and faith. Pray that the church to which you belong would be steadfast in the life of repentance and faith and thus in fighting against compromise. Pray for that same grace for yourself. 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 9 – To the angel of the Church of Ephesus (3)

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’” – Revelation 2:1-7 Scripture reading: Ephesians 1:15-23 Office bearers in the church have been given a tremendous responsibility. They are far more than administrators. They must give focused time to consider the spiritual condition of the flock. As they labour amongst God’s people, they must point the congregation over and again to the wonders of the Heavenly Father’s love for us in Christ and then to what must be our first love. Together with the congregation, we are to give expression to a zeal for the LORD and His service. To be warned is to be blessed. If we are in imminent danger, it is life-saving to be warned, also in the church. Many churches through the ages have become apostate because they lost their first love. The church at Ephesus, can she be found today? With open minds and humble hearts, we need to deeply think concerning the spiritual condition of the church of which we are members, praying for constant renewal and revival and ongoing reformation and repentance. Think again of the reading in Ephesians 1, how we need spiritual wisdom to remain faithful! To have our candlestick removed would be a terrible and dreadful indictment. When the lamp is snuffed out there is only darkness. Jesus, the Light of the world, tells us that the overcomers have the right to eat from the tree of life which is in paradise. Let us strive to be an overcomer. “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Suggestions for prayer God’s Spirit lives in His people in order to work through them. Call on God, "Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). Pray for faithfulness and God’s patience toward us. 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 8 – To the angel of the Church of Ephesus (2

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’” – Revelation 2:1-7 Scripture reading: Ephesians 1:7-14 After some very encouraging words, the Lord reveals to the church of Ephesus that she has a major problem. He does not overlook their shortcoming, nor is His message sugar-coated. Jesus tells them they have left their first love; they are no longer filled with the same loving enthusiasm that belonged to them in their early history. The next generation does not hold the torch as brightly as those who had gone before them. We get the sense they have lost their passion for Christ, becoming mechanical in their approach to their life with Christ. This is a great danger for any church. Does the church you belong to have a passion for the Lord Jesus and is she on the march? It is easy for a church (and for believers) to simply go through the motions. When that happens there is something obviously wrong. When zeal is lacking, renewed repentance must be sought. Many in our society believe the church is simply a relic of a by-gone age. But the church remains the body of Christ and we who are part of that body must love our head—to love our Triune God with heart, soul, mind, body and strength remains our calling in answer to the first great commandment. Jesus has given us His life so that we would receive ours. In turn, we must ever learn to present ourselves to the Lord and His service – “My heart I offer to you LORD promptly and sincerely” (from Calvin’s motto). Suggestions for prayer Remind yourself, as Paul did to the church at Ephesus, of the many spiritual blessings we have in Christ! It is our privilege to give everything we have to the One who gave us everything on the cross. Give thanks. 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 7 – To the angel of the Church of Ephesus (1)

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’” – Revelation 2:1-7 Scripture reading: Ephesians 1:1-6 Out of the mouth of Jesus went a sharp two-edged sword (cf. Revelation 1:16; Hebrews 4:12) speaking with authoritative voice. John is given the words of Jesus to be sent to the church of Ephesus. Ephesus stood at the crossroads of four major trade routes and became known as the gateway to Asia and, sadly, for the idol worship of the so-called goddess, Diana. Paul ministered in Ephesus for some three years (cf. Acts 19) and, in God’s sovereign good pleasure, a church of the Way was established. The angel is the messenger who speaks the Word to the congregation — ordinarily an ordained pastor. The message begins with a word of commendation/approval. As churches, we can use encouragement for we face many struggles. Clearly, Christ knows in detail the works of all seven churches and of course also of the church where you are a member. Nothing can be hidden from our Redeemer. Jesus acknowledges the hard work of the believers gathered in Ephesus. He makes mention of their perseverance. Wicked men are not tolerated. Those claiming to be apostles have been tested and rejected. They have exercised discernment, they have endured hardship, they have labored for the Lord’s name’s sake, certainly an endurance to be much-admired. Many who read this devotion also belong to a local church with a specific address. How would the church you are a member of be characterized? What place do you hold in upholding the life and times of the church? Suggestions for prayer Keep the church to which you belong in your daily prayers. Pray to be a church full of true faith and enduring faithfulness. Pray for the grace to be active in the life and times 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 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 1 – Introduction to the Apostle John's letters to the seven churches

I have been asked to give some consideration to the letters that the Apostle John sent to the seven churches as we find them in the book of Revelation. They are also messages to the church today. From the onset, let me say that it is impossible to do justice to the full scope of the Scriptures’ teaching in short meditations of some 250 words. There is much we reluctantly pass over. And yet, within each devotion reflecting on Scripture, there is a great deal to ponder, not only concerning our personal walk with the Lord, but also our corporate, communal fellowship with the Lord in the church to which we belong. May the following reflective meditations be both comforting and sobering. We will begin with six devotions setting the context from chapter 1 (following the text of the NKJV) and then devote three days of reflection to each of the seven churches. We will conclude the month reflecting on the wonder of the throne room of heaven and the blessed worthiness of the Lamb Who was slain, now exalted in glory above. As we go forward this month, let us do so with our gaze, rooted in God’s love, on what is yet to come. But let us also engage in some self-examination, honest contemplation and consideration remembering life is short, death is sure, sin the cause, Christ the cure. I wish you the Lord’s blessings as you devote your attention to God and His Word. Sincerely in His grace and peace, Rev. P.J. Vellenga  THE WORD AND THE TESTIMONY  "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw." – Rev. 1:1-2 Scripture reading: John 12:37-50  To be a Christian is to have the eye of one’s heart opened by the grace of God. It is not our deserving. The world says seeing is believing. The Christian confesses believing is seeing. As we learn in the sermon to the Hebrews of long ago, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (11:1). The book of Revelation, albeit mysterious at times, helps us to see in faith. The Apostle John is given a revelation. The word revelation from the original Greek means uncovering, unveiling, disclosure. What is revealed to John? The book of Revelation unveils Jesus Christ in all His glory. Now, of course, this is evident throughout the Holy Scriptures, but like a mighty crescendo, the book of Revelation unveils for us a wonderful message of the full fruition of Christ’s victory in His soon, second coming. So very important to the believer is the revelation of Jesus Christ — it is our very life’s breath. The last surviving Apostle, John, exiled for the faith on the island of Patmos, had the great privilege of receiving this revelation of what had taken place and what will yet take place. He was called to bear “witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw." By God’s grace, John was a faithful witness to the most holy faith. We too are called to be Christ’s witnesses and His testimony to this very day—Praise God! Suggestions for Prayer Pray with heartfelt thanksgiving, acknowledging both the witness and testimony of Jesus Christ. Pray for the leading of the Holy Spirit so that we would be found to be faithful witnesses of the truth. 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 30 – Praise

“When Peter came to himself, he said, ‘Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.’” – Acts 12:11 Scripture reading: Acts 12:11-19  Sometimes we have fantastic dreams. Maybe you have dreamt that you can fly, or you are at your favorite vacation place with your favorite people, but then you wake up and it was merely a dream. You think to yourself, “I knew it was too good to be true!” Peter thought he was having this bizarre and wonderful dream where he was walking past guards and through the gates. Peter has seen many miraculous things, but he thought this was all too good to be true. Then he came to himself and saw that the Lord has rescued him. Yesterday, we saw our need for prayer. God answers prayer in ways greater than we could imagine. This does not mean we should always expect miracles whenever a hardship comes, but as we earnestly seek the Lord, we can expect He will do what is good. When we come to ourselves, we see God is still doing great things, greater than we expected. The enemies we face are real. What sinful habits or troubles seek to take you hostage? Turn to the Lord in faith. We are not promised an easy life, but God does promise that all who turn to Him in faith are rescued from clutches of sin and Satan and will be brought to the glory of His presence. That is greater than our most fantastic dream come true. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His sure deliverance. Ask God to give you strength to trust Him in all the trials we face and to look forward to the glory that is to come. 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 29 – A praying Church

“So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.” – Acts 12:5 Scripture reading: Acts 12:1-10, 20-25  Again Peter is in prison. Bringing the gospel to the Gentiles meant there would be no more sympathy from non-Christian Jews. And it was heartless Herod who was behind the arrest. Herod was not afraid to shed innocent blood, especially if it gained him favor with the general population. So what is the church to do? Herod has soldiers, prisons and weapons. How can the church avoid being snuffed out by the powers of the world? The church goes to God in prayer. Jesus teaches us to watch and pray. Why pray? Because God is more powerful than any ruler or government or weapon. As we strive to serve the Lord, we must be praying at all times in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18). How do your prayers reflect that your strength is not in yourself, but in the Lord? Are you praying for your needs, for strength against the enemies that seek to choke out your faith? What about the enemies of the church? The church is pressured by false teachings, pressured to be silent in this world and pressured to compromise on the truth. Will you pray for the leaders of the church? Herod went against God by wanting to put the apostles to death, but the gospel cannot be chained and God will always have the last word. Peter would be released by an angel and Herod would be struck down. The church prays and the Word of God increases and multiplies. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His awesome power over all things. Ask God to keep you humble and dependent on Him so that you remain steadfast in prayer. 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 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 23 – Shockingly bold

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” – Acts 4:13-14 Scripture reading: Acts 4:5-18 Healing in the name of Jesus Christ caused an uproar in the temple courts. Peter and John are placed in prison and put on trial. They know that at any minute they could be stoned to death or sentenced to crucifixion. And yet it seems they are not afraid. Are they relying on their own thorough training and expertise? Are they relying on the name they have made for themselves? No. We read that they are nobodies. But that makes no difference for they know the strength of the Lord Who is with them. Jesus once told them “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” They no longer fear man; instead, they have a healthy fear of the Lord. Not only do they not back down, but we read that Peter continually challenges the ones who put him on trial to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. He doesn’t apologize for what he did, but declares that they too should confess their wrong and follow Jesus. All this boldness is very impressive. The leaders do not know what to say, because they know Peter was with Jesus and they can see the lame man standing right there with him. This is the power of God in His servants. How do you act when the pressures of life and the world want you to give up or compromise your faith? Do people see that your strength doesn’t come from yourself, but instead comes from knowing and trusting the Lord God? Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that He is stronger than all the powers of the world. Confess your sin of fearing man and ask the Lord to give you strength to stand bold in your faith. 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 22 – Better than money

“But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’” – Acts 3:6   Scripture reading: Acts 3:1-10 Peter and John could not give the man what he asked for, but they had something much greater –  the good news of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:7-8 speaks of this wealth saying, In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. Peter and John had learned this, and now they share their wealth with the lame beggar, saying to him, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Jesus Christ healed this man; Peter was merely an instrument. But Peter was sure. He reached out his hand, pulled the lame man up and the man stood. The healing the man experienced on the outside shows us what God was doing on the inside. As the apostles ministered in Jesus' name, so they brought the authority and blessings of Jesus Christ, namely life and restoration to all who believe. This is good news as we are all lame beggars and we must all find strength and comfort in Christ Jesus Who is gracious to us. Better than silver or gold, in Jesus’ name, we have forgiveness of sins. In Jesus’ name we have a new life.  Let this bring you to rejoice today, even as you still see and feel the burden of sin and brokenness in this life. Suggestions for prayer At times we feel like lame beggars and only want the things the world wants. Pray that God will help you give thanks for His blessings and share the riches of His grace. 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 21 – What is a sinner to do?

“Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” – Acts 2:38 Scripture reading: Acts 2:22-36 Peter is tending the flock. The lost sheep of Israel are gathered and, in the strength of the Holy Spirit, Peter is explaining to them that Jesus, Whom they crucified, is their only hope for salvation. Now what? It might feel to the crowd as if they missed the only bus. After all, Jesus was rejected and crucified. The crowd knows their sin, so they cry out, “What shall we do?” The answer Peter gives is a summary of the Christian life. This is what Peter, a sinner, learned to do and now he speaks as one sinner to another, explaining the only way to be saved. Repent. That is, we must deny ourselves. We must flee from the idols of this world and devote ourselves wholly to God. This takes trust. We must trust that if we confess our sins, God will forgive them. This takes faith. We must have faith in Jesus Christ, knowing that if we turn from our sins, God will give us what we need to live a new life to His glory. We receive these from Christ in the gift of the Holy Spirit. By the Holy Spirit we are assured of God’s grace and given a new life wherein we can glorify God. Peter knew this gift and now he spreads the news so other sinners can know forgiveness and a new life. Do you know what it means to be forgiven and have the Holy Spirit? How can you share this good news in order that others may also know? Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will never cease to be amazed at God’s grace to you. Ask the Lord to help you point others to the only way of salvation in Jesus Christ. 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 20 – Going forward in faith

“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’” – Luke 24:44 Scripture reading: Acts 1:12-26 Jesus has ascended and the apostles and other followers are gathered together, but something is wrong. There are eleven apostles. During the whole of Jesus’ ministry, there were twelve apostles; twelve, like the number of the sons of Jacob. The number twelve showed the continuity of God’s plan of salvation for His chosen people. Now, with only eleven, it might feel like one stone has been pulled out of the foundation. Peter sinned and was reinstated, but Judas, though he grieved over his sin, did not turn to the Lord for forgiveness. Surely this brought much grief and discouragement to the disciples. But their faith is strengthened when they look to God’s Word. Peter takes the lead and reminds the brothers that both Judas’ betrayal and death were prophesied in Scripture (Psalm 69:25, Psalm 109:6-8). Scripture also said that another will take his office. Peter finds direction from Scripture and through this, he is able to guide the disciples. Jesus was not physically present with them, but God was still speaking to them by His Word. This is how God provides for His people. The disciples will pray and God will show them whom He has chosen to be the twelfth apostle. Where do you find your strength in difficult times? When others falter or the church struggles, do you still trust God’s care? Do you look to God’s Word during difficulties and come to God in prayer so that you are able to go forward with faith and encourage others to do the same? Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for His perfect plans which will work out all things for the good of those who love Him. Pray that God gives you trust, especially when things go “wrong” in our minds. 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 15 – A trusting Peter

“He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’” – John 21:16a  Scripture reading: Psalm 116  Jesus asks again, “Do you love me?” How do we respond to that? How can we say, “I love you” to God? Especially when we, like Peter, know how weak and pale our love is compared to God’s pure and perfect love for us. Peter does not dare to claim perfect love. The word Peter uses to say, I love you is not the same as the word Jesus uses; he uses a lesser word for love. Why? Because talk is cheap. We see it today. People claim to love their spouses, but go on to forsake them. Hypocrites will boast how much they love God, acknowledging Him with their lips, but in their hearts loving other things more. Peter was there. Now there is no boasting with words. “Lord you know my heart, you know I am frail and my love is not perfect, but you know that I love you.” So is that the answer to how we say “I love” you to God? Is the key to just use humble language? No, talk is still cheap. We need to show our love. Peter had a heart that was willing to be rebuked and to serve or to go wherever the Lord would lead him. Peter’s life will show his love. That is the key. Do you love the Lord? Recognize every good thing we have is only by the grace of God who is loving toward us and call on His name in trust, in praise and in thanksgiving. Show your love with your life. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will keep your relationship with Him honest, that we will not lie when we sing and confess our love to God, but that we will be keenly aware of His great mercy toward us. Pray that God will help you show your love with a life devoted to Him. 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 14 – A humble Peter

“Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’” – John 21:15  Scripture reading: John 21:1-19 Peter once boasted, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” Peter dared to brag that he loved Jesus more than everyone else did. So when Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him more than the disciples, Peter appeals to the knowledge of God and says, “Lord, you know.” Jesus knew where the fish were and knew Peter would deny him. There is no sense bragging before God because Jesus knows the heart. Peter confesses, You know that I love you.  Are you ever tempted to brag before God? Do you ever try to make yourself appear to be a better follower of Jesus than the next person? It is inevitable; our actions will have the last word. If we love other things more, or focus more on our desires, it will show. Let us not brag; instead, trust the Lord. He knows our love is not what it should be; our love for Him is nothing to boast about. But Christ also knows when we have a broken spirit and a contrite heart. Peter knew his sin and weakness, but he still loved the Lord Jesus and would serve Him if the Lord would have him. And the Lord will. 1 Corinthians 1:27 says, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. When we recognize our weakness and throw ourselves before God, trusting His strength and mercy, then we have become the very ones the Lord loves to use to further His kingdom and bring glory to His Name.   Suggestions for prayer Give thanks to God for knowing and examining our hearts. Ask God to forgive our pride and arrogance and help us to offer Him heartfelt and sincere love.  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 13 – Futile faith?

“And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:14 Scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Jesus is alive. And that changes everything for us in this life. It means that anything Jesus ever said is trustworthy and true. This means that everything Jesus did is real and accomplishes everything for us and our salvation. It means the message of the Bible is good. If Jesus is your Lord and Saviour, your sins are truly and completely forgiven and you are given eternal life – to live with the Lord God forever. This good news must lift our hearts every day. Through all of the bad days, stress, tears and sorrow, the knowledge that Jesus died, rose again and ascended into heaven gives us peace and hope. All the sorrows of this life, the losses of this life, are temporary. Imagine you are at war. You are on the battlefield, exhausted, basically out of ammo, and wounded, but you look up and see the enemy base engulfed in flames. Bullets are still flying, but you know that the kingdom of darkness has fallen and the kingdom of light has been established. Well, then you can hang in there. The injuries and wounds don’t hurt so much when you are celebrating victory. Is that your hope? Can you see and believe that our Lord is risen? Do you see what this means for this life and for eternity? Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we have hope. May we carry it and show it as we live certain of what we have not seen. Our Lord Jesus lives and reigns in heaven. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks that God not only sent His Son to bring forgiveness but also raised Him up so we may know that the mission has been accomplished. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 12 – Risen victorious

“But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.” – Luke 24:12 Scripture reading: Luke 24:1-12 When the women claimed Jesus was alive, Peter did not believe it but rather needed to investigate. After all, Peter once did not believe he would deny Jesus. But he did, as Jesus said he would. Peter also at one time did not believe he would catch fish if he cast out his net as Jesus asked him to, but again he was proven wrong. Peter ran to the tomb, looked in and what did he see? Not Jesus, but only the linen cloths used to wrap Jesus’ dead body. If Jesus was still dead, if Jesus’ body was stolen, or if someone had moved it, they would have kept the linen cloths on Him. No fool would unwrap a rotting corpse and take the naked body - of course not! But a living body would remove the burial linens, for they covered the face and bound the arms and feet. Peter looked at the linen cloths and marveled. The evidence is amazing!  Soon Peter and the other disciples will see Jesus Christ; they will touch Him and know He is real. They will know for certain. And that changes everything. We are not following a dead man; we are following the One who has risen, conquering sin and death and hell. We are following the One Who has all strength and authority over life and death. Our faith is not in vain, so let us keep following Jesus all our days. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the good news of the resurrection will strengthen your faith, that you will live your life not without hope or in fear, but with faith in the One who conquered the grave. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 7 – Prayer and protection

“I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  – Luke 22:32  Scripture reading: Luke 22:31-34, John 17:6-13  Jesus is the High Priest Who had just given the disciples the Passover. Now as High Priest, He prays for them. Jesus prays specifically for Simon Peter, knowing the trial he will face, and He prays for all the disciples as well as all His followers today. And we need this. We saw last time how weak we are; apart from the Lord intervening and praying on our behalf, there is no hope. And it really is amazing that Jesus prays, asking the Father to have mercy on us. Is anyone worthy of God’s care and protection? Is there anyone who has not slandered God when they grumble, who has not insulted God in the way they boast in themselves? No one. Peter will deny Jesus, leaving Jesus without any companions. And yet, Jesus says He will pray for Peter. Jesus’ prayer is a great strength for Peter. By Jesus’ prayer, Peter does not lose faith. Though he trips, he will stand in faith again. Like Peter, we too have Jesus praying on our behalf; when we face temptations, when we have trouble in our home, in our life, with our relationships, Jesus is praying that our faith may not fail. Take courage and look to the Lord to uphold you by His love in the difficult times. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help you realize His grace and love. Pray for specific situations where you need the Lord to help and protect you. Thank the Lord for His patient prayer for you. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 6 – Through the thresher

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.” – Luke 22:31 Scripture reading: Luke 22:31-34, Job 1:6-12 These are words of serious warning from Jesus. As He approaches the cross, Jesus warns one of His closest disciples that Satan has him in his rifle scope. As wheat is picked up tossed in the wind, Satan wants to pick Peter apart, toss him around so he cannot keep himself together. Satan aims for Peter’s ruin. Satan tried this with Job and Satan is still doing this today. Satan’s attacks are not always the same; his tactic may change, but expect it. When you are given a responsibility, when you face a hardship, or when there is something about following God that you do not understand, be ready. Satan’s mission is to get you to deny Jesus and give up the Christian faith. On hearing this, Simon Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and death.” Peter made the mistake of counting on his own strength. Peter did not think his faith would ever fail. We do this when we underestimate the devil and overestimate ourselves. In those moments we need to hear 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands, take heed lest he fall.” If we were swimming and were told there was a shark circling us, we would not turn and put up our fists; instead, we would climb into the boat. There we are safe. Against the enemy, Satan, we need to turn to Jesus. Pray for His help, His strength, that He will give us faith to withstand the attacks of Satan. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God gives you a keen awareness of both your own weakness and frailty and also of God’s strength and power. Ask God to protect you and to preserve you to hold fast to Him in faith all your days.  Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 5 – Seeking greatness

“For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” – Luke 22:27 Scripture reading: Luke 19:37-40, Luke 22:23-30 On Palm Sunday Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem. Being on a donkey makes a statement. The donkey is not like a Rolls Royce or even a Cadillac. No, it is more like an old Hyundai –a modest mode of transport. But that did not deter the crowds; they saw their king. In Jesus they saw the One Who could lead them to the deliverance of which the Passover spoke. Like Moses to Israel, they thought Jesus would rescue them from Rome, give them Rome’s gold and establish them as a glorious nation. You see, when Jesus rode in, they thought more of themselves than of God and God’s will. And we do the same when we want God’s blessings more than we want God’s will. But Jesus came to serve. And this is what we need. We don’t need more money, more earthly freedoms or land, but we need to be cleansed of our sin. Only Christ can give this cleansing, and He did. Jesus came as a servant and brought salvation by letting Himself be nailed to the cross where He would die a humiliating death. Phil 2:8 says, “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  Rejoice and praise God! Christ, who died on the cross, is our greatest treasure! Go to church today and serve and worship your God Who provided a way of reconciliation. Rejoice as you believe the good news! Christ came and lay down His life for you. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to help us show our love and thankfulness. Pray for God to help you be humble and faithful in times of trials, and to be quick to serve, considering others more highly than ourselves.  Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 4 – A new supper, the Lord’s Supper

Luke 22:19b–20 “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”  Scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 Jesus gives Himself. My body, given for you. Isaiah 53 says, “He was crushed for our iniquities.” His body is given over to death in our place. Think of what this means. A substitute goes in the place of another. Sometimes, someone will find a friend to take a shift for them at work. But Jesus came to suffer the punishment for sin and die in substitution for all who will believe in Him. Jesus is talking to the disciples. They don’t know it, but it is like Jesus will jump on a grenade so he can die instead of them. But what Jesus was bringing had eternal consequences.  So Jesus gives this bread and message to His disciples. Will they understand? Will they believe? Their response and our response must be, “Yes, this is what I need! He must be crushed for my iniquities.” Jesus told the disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me.” And that is what we do as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. The sacrifice has been made. Christ’s death was the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins. And so we partake of the supper in remembrance and faith. This meal must teach us to see anew what Christ has done. Believe and be strengthened in your faith! Know deep in your hearts that this is real. Jesus Christ has given His body and blood for those who believe. Suggestions for prayer What is the role of Lord’s Supper in your life? Pray that you will look forward to partaking, and that Jesus will strengthen and assure your faith when you do partake. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

March 30 – God’s guarantees to bless the nations through Abraham and his descendants

“And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.” – Genesis 22:13b Scripture reading: Genesis 22:15-19 Because Abraham lived in the Spirit through faith God intervened and called off the sacrifice of Isaac. Because God providentially led a ram that had its horns caught in a thicket to where Abraham was, Abraham sacrifices the ram instead of Isaac. Moreover, God rewards Abraham’s living in the Spirit through faith with the promise He would bless him so that he could be a blessing to the nations around Canaan. He does so by using language He had already used in Genesis 12, 15, and 17 to indicate this. God would bless him, multiply his offspring like the stars of heaven and the sand of the seashore, his offspring would possess the gate of their enemies and in him would all the nations of the earth be blessed. God guarantees His promise with an oath (v. 15). Now oaths always contain not only a blessing, but also a curse. The oath swearer calls a curse down upon himself if he does not fulfill the blessing. The curse can be either verbal or ritual, such as cutting animals in half as had occurred in Genesis 15. Because God’s oath does not contain a verbal curse, there must be a ritual curse. I believe we find this ritual curse in the sacrifice of the ram as a burnt offering. God is saying: “May I be sacrificed like that ram if I do not fulfill my oath of blessing the nations through Abraham’s descendants when they wholeheartedly live in the Spirit through faith and obey my voice.” Suggestions for prayer Thank your heavenly Father that He has guaranteed to bless the world through the church, Abraham’s offspring, when it lives in the Spirit through faith and is obedient to His voice. Ask Him to enable you to live in the Spirit through faith. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren....

Daily devotional

March 29 – Wholeheartedly living in the Spirit through faith and the goal of God’s creation

“He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’” – Genesis 22:2 Scripture reading: Genesis 22:1-14 God wants to use Abraham and Sarah as a second Adam and Eve and deal with the problem that their fall into sin caused and have them live for the other by being people and places where heaven and earth meet that reflect the glorious life-giving, light-giving, and loving presence of God. In order for Abraham and Sarah to be able to do this, they have to live in the Spirit through faith and not in the flesh of the world and the flesh of their sinful hearts. Circumcision as a sign and seal of their membership of God’s covenant community served as a reminder of their identity as well as their calling. In our Scripture reading, God tests Abraham’s wholehearted commitment to be His redemptive representative in this world for the sake of the world by commanding him to take the son he had waited for 25 years to be born and sacrifice him as a burnt offering, much like Canaanites sacrificed their children. Because Abraham did indeed live in the Spirit through faith by being receptive to the voice of his God, open to His provision and available to the Spirit’s leading, he passed God’s test. You see this in his immediate departure from his home, his telling the servants that he and Isaac would return, his belief that God would provide a sacrifice, his raising of the knife to sacrifice his son and in his belief that God would raise Isaac from the dead if he sacrificed him (Hebrews 11:19). Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father to show you where you may need to make changes in your life to be more wholehearted in fulfilling your calling to be God’s redemptive representative in this world by being a person where heaven and earth meet. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren....

Daily devotional

March 28 – Baptism as a sign of the goal of God’s creation

“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism.” – Colossians 2:11-12a    Scripture reading: Exodus 28:6-21 In the Old Testament, the high priest was the substitute and representative of Israel, symbolized by the stones on his shoulder and the stones in the breast piece of judgment. Wherever he went, Israel went with him and whatever he did, Israel did with him. The Lord Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament high priest. In whatever He did, He functioned as the substitute and representative of New Testament Israel, the church, His body. Thus, when He died, the members of His body died with Him. Baptism is a sign and seal of our having died and been buried with Christ. Because circumcision in the Old Testament, made with hands, was an identity marker that members of the church had been cut off from the life of the flesh in the world and the flesh in their hearts – the old order of life – and had been placed in the church – the new order of life – Paul calls our having been buried with Christ in baptism the circumcision of Christ, one made without hands. It is a sign and seal that in Christ we have died to the life of the flesh in the world and the flesh that lives in our hearts. Thus, as circumcision was a reminder of what being a member of God’s covenant community entailed, so baptism reminds us of the same. If we are to be a blessing for the world, we need to daily die to the ways of the flesh of the world and the flesh of our hearts. Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father to show you where you need to die to the flesh so that you can be a blessing to those around you. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren....

Daily devotional

March 27 – Circumcision as a sign of the goal of God’s creation

“You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.” – Genesis 17:11 Scripture reading: Genesis 17:9-14 I have a NEXUS card, which serves as one of my identity markers. It identifies me as a low-risk traveler who can cross the Canadian-American border quickly. It also gives me privileges at certain airports. Circumcision, as a sign of God’s covenant community, is also an identity marker. It identifies males as members of this community and reminds them (and the females) of what being a member of this covenant community entails. As the flesh of the male’s foreskin was cut off, so members of God’s covenant community are cut off from the ways of the flesh of the world. Being circumcised symbolizes that they have been separated from the ways of the world and consecrated to the ways of God. They are to walk before God, in His loving, holy presence in the Holy Spirit, and be blameless, wholeheartedly devoted to God. In addition, circumcision symbolizes that members of God’s covenant community are cut off from the ways of the flesh in their hearts. Outward circumcision is not enough, their hearts need to be circumcised as well (cf. Rom. 2:25-29). Only in this way can God use His covenant community, His church, to be a blessing for the world and to live for the other by being people and places where heaven and earth meet. The hearts of the members of the church need to be circumcised and the ways of the flesh need to be cut out of their hearts. Otherwise, they will be cut off from God’s covenant community. Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father to daily remind you what it entails to be a member of His covenant community with regard to the ways of the flesh that still live in our hearts. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren....

Daily devotional

March 22 – The land of Canaan and the New Heaven and the New Earth

“For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” – Hebrews 11:10 Scripture reading: Hebrews 11:8-16 God is on a mission for His glory to make all things new in a world where His people and His world will once again dwell in His loving presence and be people and places where heaven and earth meet. This means that the Christian life is a journey to this glorious life-giving, light-giving, and loving presence of God, also known as the fullness of God’s eternal Sabbath rest. From our Scripture reading, it would seem that Abraham understood this. We are told that he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. Moreover, it tells us that he acknowledged that he was a stranger and exile on earth who desired a far better country than the one he had just left, namely, a heavenly country, a city prepared for him by God. This means that the land of Canaan, in addition to being a real land, also functions as a type or foreshadowing of the new heaven and the new earth. And just as God dealt with the problem of uncertainty in Abraham’s life with regard to the possession of the land of Canaan by making a covenant with him that guaranteed His commitment to this promise, so God also deals with any uncertainty we may have that His commitment to His mission for His glory, resulting in a new heaven and a new earth, will be fulfilled with this same covenant. May He be cut in half if He does not fulfill this promise for us. Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father to enable you to hang on loosely to this world and the things of this world as you travel the journey to the new heaven and new earth as a stranger and sojourner on this earth. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren....

Daily devotional

March 21 – God’s first covenant with Abram and the goal of creation

“On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram...” – Genesis 15:18 Scripture reading: Genesis 15:7-21 I trust you have not forgotten what I wrote about biblical covenants between God and His people. Covenants regulate an existing relationship, often dealing with a problem in this relationship that causes uncertainty. Against this background of the function of covenants in God’s relationship with His people, it should not surprise us that we once again read about a covenant, for there is a problem in Abram’s relationship with his God that causes uncertainty. God has just promised to give Abram and his descendants the gift of the land of Canaan, but Abram is not sure whether this will indeed happen, for he says to God, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” Abram wants God to guarantee His commitment of giving him and his descendants the land of Canaan, possibly still in the light of the fact that he does not have a biological heir and that his wife is barren, even though he had believed that God would give him descendants as countless as the stars in the heavens. So, God makes a covenant with Abram according to the custom of those days where covenant partners cut animals in half and then walk between these animals, thus guaranteeing their commitment to the covenant they just made or cut. Except, in this covenant, only God walks between the bloody carcasses of the animals. In doing so, He is swearing an oath: “May I be cut in half if I do not fulfill my promise of giving you the land of Canaan”. Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father to open your eyes to the deep significance of His covenant commitment to you (and your children). Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren....

Daily devotional

March 20 – Faith and its reward

“And he said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.’” – Genesis 15:7 Scripture reading: Genesis 15:7-21 Yesterday, we saw that Abram believed God and God counted this posture of faith to him as righteousness. If we want to do justice to our relationship with God, we need to consider His promises to be trustworthy and entrust ourselves to this promising God. That is the way to live in a right relationship with God. Today, we see that God rewards this posture of faith with the gift of land. In Genesis 15:1, God had said to Abram that his reward would be very great. Today, we read that this reward is the gift of the land of Canaan. The land was a sort of second Garden of Eden where the nations would be drawn into the glorious presence of God and begin to reflect this life-giving, light-giving, and loving presence to one another as well by being people and places where heaven and earth meet. God had promised the land when Abram first arrived in Canaan. He had repeated the promise when Abram and Lot had separated. Now God makes the promise again as a reward for his posture of faith. New this time is that the geographical markers of the land are included as well as the fact that Abram’s descendants would first be sojourners in the land of Egypt before they would possess the land because the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full. This latter fact shows us God’s patience towards sinners. Not all sin warrants immediate destruction; only the full measure of sin. Suggestions for prayer Since faith in God’s promises and entrusting ourselves to this promising God is the means God uses to receive us into His eternal kingdom, ask your heavenly Father daily to strengthen your faith. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren....

Daily devotional

March 19 – Doubting the fulfillment of God’s mission for His glory

“And Abram said, ‘Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.’” – Genesis 15:6 Scripture reading: Genesis 15:1-6 Do you ever doubt that God will succeed in His mission for His glory, making all things new in a world where His people and His world will again dwell in His loving presence and be people and places where heaven and earth meet? Living in God’s life-giving, light-giving, and loving presence and reflecting this glorious presence to all those around you, it's all yours as a reward, when you consider the promises of God to be trustworthy and entrust yourself to the God of this promise. Abram also has his doubts about a promise of God: that he would become a great nation. How can he become a great nation if he does not even have one child and his wife is barren? Abram is asked to believe this promise, but this promise, humanly speaking, cannot be fulfilled. So God comes to Abram’s help, appearing to him in a vision, telling him not to be afraid, for He is his shield. Moreover, his reward shall be very great. His promise that he will become a great nation is trustworthy. God then takes Abram outside, tells him to look at the sky and try to count the stars. God assures Abram that his descendants would be as countless as the stars of heaven. Abram believed God and God counted this to him as righteousness, i.e. believing God’s promises and entrusting yourself to the God of these promises is an attitude that does justice to your relationship with God. Suggestions for prayer If you have any doubts about the fulfillment of God’s mission for His glory, ask your heavenly Father to remove them. If you have no doubts, ask Him to continue to spare you these doubts. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren....

Daily devotional

March 14 – The rainbow as a sign of the goal of God’s Creation

“I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” – Genesis 9:13 Scripture reading: Genesis 9:12-17  We have seen that in the Old Testament the Sabbath was a sign of the goal of God’s creation. For Israel, the Sabbath was the weekly reminder to enter into the fullness of God’s Sabbath rest by being people where heaven and earth meet. It is as well a promise that one day this fullness, where God will be all in all, would descend from heaven on a new earth. For New Testament believers, Sunday is a weekly reminder that they are a new creation in Christ, called to bear witness to this new creation by being people where heaven and earth meet. It is as well, a promise that they will bear witness to the fullness of this new creation when Christ returns. Today, we see that God gives another sign of the goal of His new creation: the rainbow. But signs only function in our life of faith to the extent that we remember them. We need to remember them and allow them to become constructive forces in our consciousness that shape the way we think and behave. However, the interesting thing in our Scripture reading is that God says that when the rainbow is seen in the clouds, He will remember His covenant with Noah and creation. This means that He will act upon His covenant commitment and bring the goal of His creation to fruition in a glorious new heaven and earth where a new humanity and creation will live in His loving presence and participate in His life in Christ through the Holy Spirit. Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father to help you cultivate the spiritual discipline of remembering the signs of the goal of His creation. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren....

Daily devotional

March 13 – God’s covenant with Noah and Creation

“Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you....” – Genesis 9:9-10a Scripture reading: Genesis 8:20-22; 9:9-11 Covenants between God and His people regulate the relationship He has with them and are often meant to deal with a problem that causes uncertainty in the relationship. We read how God did that with Noah before He came with the waters of the flood. After the flood, God makes a new covenant with Noah and his family as well as with all of creation. This shows us another aspect of biblical covenants between God and His people. A new covenant often updates an earlier covenant to the new situation that it is dealing with. You can see this, for instance, with an engagement covenant and a marriage covenant. The marriage covenant simply regulates and updates the engagement covenant to the new situation of the marriage. The new situation of God’s second covenant with Noah, now also including creation, is the new situation of continuing to live in a world that has once been destroyed by a flood. The problem that causes uncertainty in this new situation is the fact that the human heart was not cleansed with the water of the flood. The intention of man's heart is still evil from his youth (Genesis 8:21). But whereas before the flood, humanity’s depravity was the ground for God’s judgment, now this depravity becomes the ground for God’s mercy. God promises to never destroy the earth with a flood again. In doing so, He guarantees His commitment to the goal of His creation. He seals this commitment and guarantees it by establishing His covenant with Noah and creation. Suggestions for prayer Thank your heavenly Father that His commitment to a glorious new heaven and new earth is firm and sure. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren....

Daily devotional

March 12 – The recreation of Creation

“And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.” – Genesis 8:1b  Scripture reading: Genesis 8:1-9:7 After 150 days, God made a wind blow over the earth so that the waters began to recede. The Hebrew word for ‘wind’ is the same word that is used for ‘Spirit’. This reminds us of the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters in Genesis one. This is an indication that as God began with His work of creation in Genesis one, so now He will begin with His work of recreation in Genesis eight. This is confirmed when we compare God’s work of recreation with His work of creation described in Genesis one. After God made a wind blow over the earth so that the waters began to recede, He had the living creatures in the ark leave it and begin to repopulate the earth, reminding us of the way God populated the sky and the earth with living creatures during days five and six of creation. In Genesis eight, we read about God re-establishing the days and seasons, reminding us of day four of creation when He put the light-bearers in the sky to mark the seasons, days and years. In Genesis nine we read about Noah and his sons being blessed and commanded to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and have dominion over it. In Genesis one we read about this same command being given to Adam and Eve. In Genesis nine we read about God providing food for Noah and his family. In Genesis one He did the same for Adam and Eve. Suggestions for prayer Thank your heavenly Father for the work of His Spirit in the renewal of creation (Ps. 104:30). Thank Him especially for the spiritual renewal that His Spirit works in you. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren....

Daily devotional

March 11 – The uncreation of Creation

“...on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.” – Genesis 7:11 Scripture reading: Genesis 7:1-24 This past Sunday, we read about human wickedness being so great during the time of Noah that people thought and imagined evil continually. All this wickedness and evil was essentially a disintegration and uncreation of the form and order of God’s good creation. In Genesis one, God saw that everything was very good. Now, in Genesis six, He sees that everything is very wicked. Thus, this uncreation is a return to the disorder and formlessness of before the six days of creation. This is what sin always is. Because sin is an intentional refusal to live in the form and order that God has given to life, it inevitably results in the uncreation of this form and order. Just think how this is manifested in the sexual and gender ideologies of today as well as in your own life. Since all this wickedness is a return to the disorder and formlessness of before the six days of creation, when God comes in judgment He simply completes the uncreation of creation that the wickedness had resulted in. He tears the protective canopy, opening windows in it, and has rain come down for forty days and forty nights. He tears the dry land and has the fountains of the deep burst forth for forty days and forty nights. As a result, creation returns to the formless, watery mass from before the six days of creation. At least, this is all that is seen for 150 days. God completes the uncreation that all the sin and had caused. Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father to open your eyes to the uncreation of creation that sin causes in your own life and pray for healing. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren....

Daily devotional

March 6 – The Sunday as a sign of the goal of God’s creation

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17  Scripture reading: Romans 6:1-11 Even though God had blessed Adam and Eve for their task of extending the glorious presence of God over the whole earth, Adam and Eve failed in fulfilling this task. As a result, the chaos and disorder that God had subdued with His six days of creation, slowly but surely, began to return in God’s good and harmonious creation. We know this chaos as sin, death and the devil. In order for God to fulfill the goal of His creation, He has to deal with this threefold problem of sin, death and the devil. He does so by sending into this broken world, His Son, Who paid the penalty of sin, broke the power of sin, cleansed the pollution of sin, destroyed the partition caused by sin, and defeated death and the devil. When the Lord Jesus arose from the dead on the first day of the week, He demonstrated that He had successfully dealt with the problem of sin, death and the devil by ushering in the new creation that had always been the goal of God’s first creation. When we are united to Christ through faith, we experience the first fruits of this glorious new creation through the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Sunday, the first day of the week, is a weekly sign or reminder of our being a new creation in Christ and a promise that one day we will enter into the fullness of the rest of this new creation.  Suggestions for prayer Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you in how you can bear witness to those around you that you are a new creation in Christ. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren....

Daily devotional

March 5 – The Sabbath day as a sign of the goal of God’s Creation

“It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.” – Exodus 31:17   Scripture reading: Exodus 31:12-17 Before God commanded Adam and Eve to extend the glorious presence of God over the whole earth, God blessed them for this task. When God blesses people for a certain task, this blessing is meant to make them fruitful for their task. After God had created for six days, He rested on the seventh day. In addition, He blessed the seventh day and made it holy. If in Genesis 1, blessing people for their task means making them fruitful in fulfilling their task, then blessing a day in Genesis 2, would mean making this day fruitful for the fulfilling of its task. Thus, it should not surprise us that God made the seventh day holy, i.e. He set it apart and made it a special day for the fulfillment of the purpose for which He had blessed it. From what we have seen so far, we can conclude that right from the beginning the seventh day was a reminder for Adam and Eve and their posterity of the goal of creation: to increasingly enter into the fullness of God’s Sabbath rest by extending the glorious presence of God throughout the whole earth through being people where heaven and earth meet. Accordingly, it should not surprise us that when God enters into a covenant with Israel, the seventh day officially becomes a sign of this goal of creation; a weekly reminder to enter into the fullness of God’s Sabbath rest as well as a promise that one day this fullness will descend from heaven on a new earth. Suggestions for prayer Read the second part of Answer 103 of the Heidelberg Catechism and pray this back to your heavenly Father. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren....

Daily devotional

March 4 – Entering God’s rest

“And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” – Genesis 1:26-28  Scripture reading: Genesis 1:26-28  So far we have seen that God created for His glory. This not only means that human beings and creation were to praise God, but also that they would reflect the life-giving, light-giving and loving presence of God. We further saw that there is a relationship between God creating for His glory and God resting on the seventh day. Because the seventh day was meant to last forever, this day is the goal of God’s creation. In other words, having humanity and creation praise God and reflect His glorious presence involves increasingly entering into the fullness of God’s rest, enjoying God’s beautiful and harmonious creation, and celebrating the rest and peace that God’s creation radiates. Genesis one shows us what this would look like for Adam and Eve. God made them in His image, i.e. as His representatives who would reflect and embody His presence as they cultivated and maintained the Garden of Eden. Moreover, God blessed them, commanding them to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it. This meant that Adam and Eve were to extend the borders of the Garden of Eden over the whole earth by having children and grandchildren and a whole extended family that would spread the glorious presence of God. In doing so, humanity and creation would increasingly enter into the fullness of God’s Sabbath rest, reaching God’s goal of creation through their faithful living in God’s loving presence and reflecting this loving presence through their obedience of faith. Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father to enable you to spread the life of heaven by being a person where heaven and earth meet. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren....

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