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Daily devotional

March 18 - The shortness of life   

…for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever." And this word is the good news that was preached to you. - 1 Peter 1: 24-25 Scripture reading: Isaiah 40 Imagine there is a bank that credits your bank account each morning with $86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. It’s almost overwhelming to think about it if such a sum of money was given to us each day like this! Yet, each of us has such a bank. It’s called TIME. Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off as lost whatever of this amount you have failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balance. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no borrowing against tomorrow. You must live in the present on today’s deposits. How are you spending your time? Peter quotes Isaiah 40:6-8 in this text:

"A voice says, 'Cry!' And I said, 'What shall I cry?' All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades…"

The reality we all face is that life is so very short. Thankfully, the Word of the Lord remains forever! Make sure in all the busyness of life that you stop to take care of the most important thing with your time - a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to direct you to the best use of your time so that you do not look back over life lamenting much wasted time, but rather use your time for spiritual life and growth in God’s Word through Christ.

This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB.

Daily devotional

March 13 - Live in fear?

And if you call on Him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile. - 1 Peter 1:17 Scripture reading: Genesis 18 Peter gives us a conditional statement that goes like this, if you call, claim or declare God as your Father, Who judges everyone impartially according to what we do, thenlive in a manner of fear in the time the Lord gives you as one who is in exile. Those who are in a relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ show it in how they live. No hypocrisy here! No superficial praying! God knows your heart. Our Father is the Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25). His judgment includes all men and is conducted without respect to a person’s position in this world. Wealth, social status, or family background makes no difference to Him. As a result of this relationship, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile. Exactly what does it mean to live in fear? This fear means reverence or respect and to live in the awareness of God. We are exiled Saints waiting for the time when we will be full citizens of heaven in glory. In the meantime, as the covenant people of God, we must not expect God to overlook the sin in our own lives, for while its penalty has been paid for by Christ, He still judges it. We are to live for Christ and not just ourselves. Are you living in the fear of the Lord? Does your life show reverence and respect for Christ? Remember, our conduct is more important than our words. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to give you a right view of the holiness and majesty of God and that He would give you the desire to live in a manner that shows reverence and respect for Him, to live for Christ and not just ourselves. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB....

Daily devotional

March 12 – We are to have a right moral standard

...but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." - 1 Peter 1:15-16  Scripture reading: Isaiah 6 There are two elements to God’s holiness. The first is the idea of being set apart. God is totally above and beyond us and He is in a class by Himself. There is a profound difference between Him and those He has created. The second aspect of holiness (the one we generally think of first) is the idea of purity. This is His intrinsic and transcendent purity, the standard of righteousness according to His moral law to which the whole universe must conform. He sets the standard for our morality as He is the Sovereign Lawgiver. Peter gives a command here that we are to be holy in all our conduct as God is perfectly holy. This is a high order for us! How can we achieve such a command when we live lives that are so unholy even with a desire to obey the Lord? A couple of things to keep in mind, the moment we put our faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour, we are positionally sanctified or set apart unto God. "If any man be in Christ he is a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17). Then we must be progressively sanctified by growing in holiness. This is a lifetime of dying unto sin and living more unto righteousness (Galatians 5:16; Romans 8:13). When we enter glory we will be perfectly sanctified, made completely like Him. If you desire to be holy, your relationship with Christ must grow because only He can make you holy. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to fulfill your calling by making you holy and that as His people, we will be able to more and more die unto sin and live unto righteousness through Christ Who makes us holy. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB....

Daily devotional

March 11 - We are to have right obedience

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance. - 1 Peter 1:14 Scripture reading: Ephesians 2 Paul told us that naturally, we are all spiritually dead and disobedient, living in the passions of our flesh and by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). What changes all that? "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:4-5). When we recognize the riches of God’s grace and mercy in His salvation, bringing us from spiritual death to life, what impact should this have? True salvation always results in obedience from disobedience. We obey God as a response to the grace and salvation He has so freely given to us. Jesus declares, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15). For right obedience, we need to go to the right source for our authority which is Christ Himself. When we say we love Jesus this also means we obey Jesus. We are not to conform or live after the pattern of an unchristian lifestyle marked by human passions (any kind of self-seeking whether wealth, power, or pleasure). We don’t try to use Jesus to fulfill our desires to make us happy and comfortable. Rather, as obedient children, we turn from self-centered living to living under Christ’s lordship and keeping His commands. At the end of the day, what are you living for? Do you have right obedience and submit yourself to Christ? Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to give you a heart that desires to obey Christ rather than to surrender to human passion and sin. Pray that those who are alive in Christ, by grace through faith, will also live for Him by faith and grow their sanctification and holiness. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB....

Daily devotional

March 10 – We are to have right thinking

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. - 1 Peter 1:13 Scripture reading: Psalm 26 I read an illustration about a California driver’s license examiner who spoke about a teenager who had just driven an almost perfect test. “He made his only mistake,” said the examiner, “when he stopped to let me out of the car. After breathing a sigh of relief, the boy exclaimed, ‘I’m sure glad I don’t have to drive like that all the time!’” We should never approach our Christianity like this boy. Just put on a good front while at church or when someone is watching, but the rest of the time it's okay to make our own moral standards and pay lip service to God. Whew, I am glad I am out of church today and don't have to live like that all the time! Peter now brings us to the place where we are to live responsibly to God and others in light of the salvation and living hope we have in Christ. Today is a day of worship, but Sunday is not the only day we live responsibly before God and others.  This means you are to have a ready mind to obey the command to set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Be sober-minded or have clarity of mind that results in good judgment. Your attitude determines your actions. What you think determines how you live. As Paul put it, take every thought captive to obey Christ(2 Corinthians 10:5). Have you prepared your mind for action today? Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to grant you right thinking and a disciplined mind. Pray that you would set your hope fully on the grace that comes to you in Christ and that you would have a mind prepared for action. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB....

Daily devotional

March 5 - Guarded by God’s power

...who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. - 1 Peter 1:5 Scripture reading: Psalm 20 Peter now shifts his focus on the security of the believer in this living hope. Through faith, God's people are guarded by the power of God. The word guarded is a military term that means to protect or keep. Like a fort or castle that is made firm and strong to protect all those inside from enemy attack, so too does the Lord watch over and protect His Saints. The tense of the verb reveals that we are constantly being guarded by God, assuring us that we shall safely arrive in heaven. Believers are not kept by their own ability, but by the power of God. Our faith in Christ has so united us to Him that His power now watches over us. This is what gives us assurance that we will indeed receive the inheritance promised to us. God's power shows His ability or capacity and points to His omnipotence. This means that God can do anything! If He has a purpose to bless His people, who can stop Him! How long will He guard us? Until Jesus Christ returns and we share in the full revelation of His great salvation. The believer is already saved through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9), but the completion of that salvation awaits the return of the Saviour or when we go to be with Him in glory. In the meantime, He secures us and is able to equip us so that we will endure the struggles we face daily. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we will be encouraged to know that we are protected for glory by God’s power. Ask the Lord to grant us fresh grace and strength for each day as we face the challenges of living in a fallen world. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB....

Daily devotional

March 4 - The Christian’s inheritance

...to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you... – 1 Peter 1:4 Scripture reading: Romans 8:1-17 Usually, our concept of the word hope has the idea of desiring something in the future which is not guaranteed, a desire based on uncertainty, and it might happen or might not. Is that what we have here? Does Peter present to us an uncertain expectation of future blessing and life? No, the substance of this living hope is an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, unfading and kept in heaven for us. The only hope that lasts must be based on what the Father gives to us in Christ and not just on what we think or feel. So, this is not some kind of wishful thinking or uncertain expectation that stands alone without a foundation. It is actually something real and substantial, that which the believer possesses in Christ! Once we realize we have this inheritance, then we can have confidence and boldness in our faith! The word for inheritance has the idea of property, possession or that which is real and substantial. Here on earth, estates can change in value over time, or even lose value. Buildings and other property that are part of an inheritance can become rundown if they're not maintained. But there are no such problems with our inheritance in heaven. Peter is telling us that we will possess something that can’t be ruined, spoiled, wear out or be taken from us. It is kept or reserved for us. Praise God, He made us joint-heirs with Christ and has given us a lasting legacy! Suggestions for prayer Praise Him that everything He promises us in His Word is not wishful thinking, but has real substance and will come to pass as He has told us. Praise the Lord that He encourages us with the future hope and expectation of our inheritance in Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB....

Daily devotional

March 3 - Why should we praise God the Father?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead... – 1 Peter 1:3 Scripture reading: Psalm 145 This festal day of rest is a day of worship and praise of our covenant God. An important motivation for our worship is due to the fact that our Heavenly Father delights to show us mercy and give us a future living hope in Christ. Peter declares His great mercy which shows that the Father’s mercy is rich, abundant and overflowing! As He is great, so also is His mercy toward us! It is because of the richness of His mercy that He has caused us to be born again. What is this? If I could say it simply, it involves a radical change in a sinner from spiritual death to spiritual life and centers on what God does to bring spiritual life in the heart of one who is dead in trespasses and sins. Jesus tells us…unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Thus, the Father’s mercy is necessary just as our spiritual life is necessary if we are to enter the Kingdom of God. Note the important connection between the death and resurrection of Jesus and the spiritual life of the Christian. It is because of Jesus’ physical death and resurrection that we have spiritual life, which rescues us from spiritual death. Think of it this way: if we do not have this spiritual life within us, our lives are actually hopeless even if we don't realize it! Are you born again in Christ? If you are, you possess a living hope! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that His mercy is rich, abundant and overflowing and that because of this mercy, He has granted His people spiritual life from spiritual death and that He willingly gives us a living hope rather than leave us in a life of misery and hopelessness. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB....

Daily devotional

March 2 - The Triune God saves us

…To those who are elect…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with His blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. - 1 Peter 1:1-2 Scripture reading: Ephesians 1 In verse 2, Peter now tells us that the Triune God saves us! Christians are ordained to spiritual life by the sovereign choice of God the Father. This choosing was not based on foreseen faith, but divine choice alone, because God knew us before the world began. Paul declares: "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world and that He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will" (Ephesians 1:4-5). God's people are those who are chosen in Christ and in God's perfect time He ordained that we would repent, believe the gospel, and be saved. Those who are in Christ by faith have been appointed for cleansing by His blood. The word sprinkling here refers to the ceremonial cleansing of the Old Testament sacrificial system. The many sacrifices and priestly rites were shadows of the one offering and priestly work of Christ on behalf of His covenant people. We are also partakers of Christ's obedience and thus made to conform to God's standard of holiness. Christ makes us perfectly acceptable to God the Father. The Holy Ghost applies to us Christ's work of redemption and fulfills the Father's will for our election. The Spirit's work is inward and He deals with our hearts to make us willing to accept Christ as our Saviour. He illuminates our minds to see our sin and to see our need for a Saviour to cleanse and save us. What a great Triune God Who saves us! Suggestions for prayer Praise the Triune God Who saves His people from their sin. Thank God the Father that He did not leave us to perish and die, but sent His Son to shed His precious blood to cleanse us and send His Spirit to awaken us to our need for Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB....

Daily devotional

Monday February 25 – Warnings of God fulfilled

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. – John 3:36 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 9:1-37 Have you ever had people ask, “How can you know that the Bible is true?” One way to know the truth of the Bible is to look at how the prophecies given in the Bible are fulfilled. It doesn’t matter whether they are prophecies concerning judgment or prophecies regarding deliverance and salvation; we see time and again where the prophecies that have been made are fulfilled, right down to the minutest detail. In this passage, we see judgment in the deaths of three people, and each death is a fulfillment of prophecy. It wasn’t by chance that Joram, who was a son of Ahab and Jezebel, met Jehu at the plot of ground that belonged to Naboth. Rather, it led to the fulfillment of the prophecy of God’s judgment on the lineage of Ahab (vs.21-26; 1 Kings 21:21). Ahaziah’s death was also a fulfillment of prophecy, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 22:7. And the same was true for wicked Queen Jezebel. Elijah had prophesied, in 1 Kings 21:23, that at Jezreel, dogs would devour Jezebel’s flesh. In these deadly judgments, we are reminded, not only of the truth of the Bible but also that God is not mocked; one reaps what is sown (Galatians 6:7-8). And, further, through this passage, we are assured that God’s Word is always fulfilled, both in warnings of judgment (2 Kings 10:10) and in promises of salvation (John 1:11-13). May you and I take both the warnings and the promises to heart, knowing that both are administered righteously by Christ. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that He is a righteous judge who will hold the unrepentant accountable for their actions (2 Thessalonians 1:5-11). And thank Him that He is the faithful Savior of every sinner who repents and turns in saving faith to Him. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Sunday February 24 – History as His story

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. – Psalm 33:10-11 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 8:16-29 For the secular person, studying history can be so disappointing and discouraging. History is filled with heart-wrenching events. We see the inhumanity of man over and over in the rise and fall of nations, in the waves of crime that sweep through every culture, and in the greed and self-centeredness that marks humanity. To look at history without recognizing that it is the account of God redeeming His people from the curse of sin is a thoroughly frustrating experience. The secular historian can only conclude that history is a tragic circle that keeps repeating itself over and over. But in this passage, and the passages that follow, God is at work. God allowed the cruelty of Hazael to bring judgment on rebellious Israel. In turn, God will bring about the demise of Hazael and the Syrians. His counsel stands forever; all nations, all political leaders and all the events of the world are in His hands. When we understand that, then even the great tragedies of history which break our heart are yet understandable. We realize that it is not because God is uncaring or inept that tragedy comes into the human experience, but rather the evil one is in constant conflict against God and His people. But God brings good out of tragedy for His people, and in the rise and fall of nations, He yet works for the good of His eternal kingdom, as all events will culminate in the glorious return of Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer Thank God, with sincerity, that He works all things for our good, even deeply disturbing tragedies that we don’t understand. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Saturday February 23 – The deadly power of sin’s enticement

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? – Romans 6:16 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 8:7-15 This tragic passage teaches us that sin, which initially shocks, becomes less shocking if it is mulled over in our mind and heart. Initially, Hazael questioned how he could be as cruel as Elisha described him. But after mulling it over in his mind, for just a day, he decided murdering Ben Hadad was well worth receiving the kingship. But it isn’t just a heinous murder such as Hazael committed which becomes less shocking if we mull it over in our mind. Every type of sin imaginable becomes less shocking the longer we think about it. It was Thomas a’ Kempis who pointed out, “First there comes to mind the bare thought of evil, then a strong imagination thereof, afterward, delight and evil motion, and then consent.”  That is why it is so crucial to flee from sin and to focus in faith on Christ. If we don’t flee from sin, we will be captivated by it. James brings that out clearly: When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death (James 1:13-15). Scripture warns us that we are either a slave to sin or a slave to Christ (Romans 6:16). By God’s grace may you and I have Christ as our Master, our Savior and Lord, as we flee from sin! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the fruit of the Spirit, including self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), asking God to help you focus on Him and not the temptations that are put before each one of us. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Friday February 22 – God’s perfect timing

… Just as Gehazi was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, the woman whose son Elisha had brought back to life came to appeal to the king for her house and land. – 2 Kings 8:5 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 8:1-6   God’s timing is truly remarkable! In the case of the Shunammite woman, God provided for her through the perfect timing of His providence. When she went to the king to ask for her property back, Gehazi “just happened” to be telling the king how Elisha had restored the woman’s son to life. That is remarkable timing! But it should not be surprising to anyone who knows the God revealed in Scripture. When did the band of Ishmaelites travel by a remote pit on their way to Egypt? It was just after Joseph’s brothers had put him in that pit to die. And when did Haman fall on the couch begging Queen Esther to spare his life? It was when King Ahasuerus walked back into the room and, filled with anger, decreed Haman’s death.   And when did the Lord Jesus Christ offer Himself as the Passover Lamb, whose blood alone is sufficient to cover your sins and mine? It was at the time of the Passover when the full significance of His sacrifice would be realized by many gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover feast. The Lord created time; it is His servant to accomplish His purposes. Because of that, whatever events come into your life and mine, even the sad, sorrowful ones, are in God’s hands which should give us great encouragement, as we pray the prayer of the Psalmist, “My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!”  (Psalm 31:15). Suggestions for prayer Thank God that our times are in His hands and that He controls the time and season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Especially thank Him that when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Sunday February 17 – He cares for you!

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. – Matthew 6:34 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 6:1-7 Sometimes we think that God would only care about the big anxieties in our life, a diagnosis of cancer, the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job. But this passage reminds us that God cares about every aspect of our lives, even the borrowed axe head that is lost. I knew someone who bought a new vehicle only to discover that the seat hurt her back so much that she could not drive it for any length of time. She had an air bladder installed to give the seat lumbar support, and she asked me, “Is it wrong to pray that this would make the seat more comfortable?” It was another way of asking, “Should I only approach the Lord in prayer with the ‘big issues of life’? Or can I go to the Lord and call upon His name for help and consolation in the ‘little things’ of life?” And the answer is that we are to go to the Lord in prayer over the little things as well as the big.  As David wrote in Psalm 55:22: Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. And how does Peter use that verse in 1 Peter 5:7?  He writes: Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Whatever cares and anxieties you have, bring them to the Lord in prayer. Since He redeemed us by the precious blood of His Son, He cares about every aspect of your life and mine! Suggestions for prayer Use Philippians 4:6-7 as your prayer guide: 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. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Saturday February 16 – God is not mocked

He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. – Psalm 7:15 Scripture reading: Judges 1:1-7 Reflecting on Naaman’s leprosy (2 Kings 5:27) we see that God often uses the sin that people commit to return against them as judgment. Consider that Haman was hanged on the gallows he had made for Mordecai (Esther 7:8-10). Or consider the lesser known, but equally equitable example, of Adoni-bezek, one of the Canaanite kings. Whenever he would capture another king he would cut off their thumbs and their big toes.  By removing their big toes he hampered their mobility. And by severing their thumbs he made it virtually impossible for them to grip a sword in retaliation. It was also an act of great humiliation for the seventy kings Adoni-bezek had captured. But then his day came; he was captured. His big toes and his thumbs were cut off, and he acknowledged the justice of the punishment. He said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and their big toes cut off used to pick up scraps under my table. As I have done, so God has repaid me” (v.7).   His life is one of many biblical examples teaching us the truth of Galatians 6:7-8: Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. May we, by God’s grace and enabling Spirit, always strive to live according to His Word, reaping eternal life through faith in Christ alone. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that He is a righteous judge who will repay the unrepentant wicked, and thank Him that He credits the righteousness of Christ to all who believe in Him. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Friday February 15 – God knows your heart

So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow. – 2 Kings 5:27b Scripture reading: 1 John 1:5-10 As we see Gehazi’s leaving Elisha’s presence, leprous, as white as snow, the question could be asked, “Did he ever repent?” Every sin conceived in the heart, pondered in the mind, put into action by the will – every sin, even premeditated, willful sins can be forgiven by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Whoever believes in Jesus Christ with saving faith, no matter what is in their past, becomes white as snow, not with leprosy but with the purity of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Old Testament believers were saved by grace through faith in the coming Messiah, just as you and I are saved by grace through faith in the Messiah – the eternal Christ, who came in human flesh to save His people from their sins. I ask the question whether Gehazi may have been saved because we will read about him again in 2 Kings 8 (though some question whether that passage is in chronological order). We will find him speaking to the king of Israel about all the great deeds that God had done through His servant Elisha. Had Gehazi learned from God’s judgment upon him? Had his heart been cut to the core? Had he repented with true godly sorrow? (2 Corinthians 7:10).  Had he put his faith in the Messiah yet to be revealed? We don’t know, and we don’t need to know. God knows and God will, on the last day, pronounce the right verdict, not only for Gehazi but also for you and for me. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the truth of His Word that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). And then confess your sins to Him, with full assurance of pardon and salvation! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Thursday February 14 – God’s just judgment

For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. – Ecclesiastes 12:14 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 5:15-27 The tenth commandment, prohibiting covetousness, is often broken before any others. Gehazi’s coveting led to a series of lies, which included an elaborate story. In order to lie so convincingly, as Gehazi did to Naaman, leads us to believe that Gehazi had lied many times before. We are surprised and shocked when we hear of a professing Christian who is caught in a heinous public sin. But with further reflection, we often realize that whatever public sin was committed and discovered had probably been going on for some time in secret. But what is a secret to us is an open book before the Lord. Gehazi discovered the truth of Hebrews 4:13 long before it was written: And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Gehazi wanted what Naaman had, and he received it. He got some silver and nice clothes, but he also received Naaman’s leprosy, leprosy that would affect his children and grandchildren for generations to come (v.27). There is only one way to escape the just punishment of God on sin. It is to trust with saving faith in Jesus Christ, for “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Suggestions for prayer Thank God that for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Saturday February 9 – Life from above

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins …But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – Ephesians 2:1, 4-5 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 4:32-37; Ezekiel 37:1-14 We see the power of faith and prayer in this passage, but above all, the passage teaches us the power of God to impart life for both body and soul. The resurrection of the boy is a shadow of the resurrection of Jesus and all who have faith in Him. It also portrays the spiritual life that God graciously imparts to all who have faith in Jesus, for we were dead in our sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1-5). Elisha’s act of breathing into the boy’s mouth portrays the breath of the Holy Spirit who breathes the breath of everlasting life into those who are spiritually dead. It points to the truth that Jesus spoke in John 3:5-7, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you ‘You must be born again.’” At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus spoke these familiar words: “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). Martha responded with sincere and joyful faith. She believed in Christ and His power to give life to the dead, not just physically, but spiritually. By God’s grace, may the same be true for you and me! Suggestions for prayer Praise God that because He has given us spiritual birth He has also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6-7). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Friday February 8 – Straight to Christ

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 4:8-31 Among the many truths taught in this passage is that at any time and in all situations, we are to go straight to Christ, of whom Elisha was a shadow. It may seem strange that the Shunammite did not stop to tell Gehazi, or anyone else, about her son’s death. She continued straight to Elisha and would only speak to him. It may seem strange until we realize that Elisha was a foreshadow, or type, of our Lord Jesus Christ. She did not stop to talk to Gehazi. She wanted to go straight to the man of God. Yet there are many who go to the saints, praying to them or to Mary, expecting that they will intercede on their behalf. But there is only one intercessor. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). The Shunammite’s husband was surprised that she would go to Elisha when it wasn’t the new moon or Sabbath (v.23). In his mind, you would only approach the man of God at certain times. Many people act much the same way. Instead of a special observance for the new moon, they approach the Lord in outward worship at Easter and Christmas, but seldom at other times of the year. And there are many who attend church on Sunday and yet throughout the week seldom approach the Lord with prayers of adoration and praise, as well as petition and supplication. But may you and I always go straight to Christ, being fervent and faithful in prayer! Suggestions for prayer Thank God that we can approach Him anytime in prayer because of our faithful High Priest, Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Thursday February 7 – The debt paid

...even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. – Matthew 20:28 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 4:1-7 God’s provision to pay the widow’s debt points us to His payment for our debt of sin. It wasn’t just a widow back in Elisha’s day who had a debt so large she could not pay it. The same is true for you and for me. None of us can pay the debt of our sin. The only one who could pay the debt of sin is Jesus Christ.  Jesus frequently spoke of His death as a payment for a ransom. In Matthew 20:28 Jesus said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Just as God provided for the widow through Elisha, God provides for the payment of our debt of sin through Christ. The promise is given, but it is only realized by faith. The free offer of the gospel is extended to all, but each one, by God’s grace and regenerating Spirit, must believe the promise. The same was true for the widow. The promise of the payment was offered. The means was stated. But she needed faith that the oil would be provided. By God’s grace, she believed and was spared. May the same be said of you and me! May we not only hear, but also respond in saving faith to the only One who can pay the debt of our sin. Suggestions for prayer Pray the sentiment of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 back to the Lord with thanksgiving and earnest devotion: “I am not my own; I was bought at a price. Therefore, I will honor You with my life.” This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Wednesday February 6 – Three kings and God’s prophet

When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD. – Proverbs 19:3 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 3:1-27 This slice of history teaches us many truths, including the error of making plans without prayer. The first 12 verses describe how three kings were lost and in dire need because they did not inquire of the Lord. But who did Jehoram blame? Not himself, but God! (vs.10, 13). It reminds us that the wicked seldom see God’s hand unless disaster strikes. Even today, a natural disaster is called “an act of God,” but the radiance of a beautiful sunset is attributed to “Mother Nature.” We also see in this passage that God uses the same means, in this instance water, to be a blessing to some (v.17) and to bring judgment upon others (vs.22-24). This is especially true in the response of humanity to Christ. Every person in the world will either be eternally blessed by their relationship to Jesus Christ, or they will suffer eternal judgment because of their rejection of Him. As Simeon said to Joseph and Mary, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed… so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35). Jesus Christ is either the blessed Savior and Lord of your life, the One Whose praise you proclaim and Whose Word you eagerly strive to obey. Or, He is the stone of stumbling and the rock of offense. By God’s grace, may He be your blessed Savior and Lord, the focus of your faith! Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the privilege of prayer as you seek His guidance for your life with gratitude for the gift of His Son. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

February 1 – Introduction, and our dependence on God alone

On the road to Emmaus, two disciples walked with the resurrected Lord Jesus. Luke describes how beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:27). It is little wonder that after He left them, they said to one another, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:31). All of Scripture reveals Christ to us. He is written about in the Old Testament as well as the New, and in the Old Testament there are many types and foreshadows of Christ. Among those who were a type or foreshadow of Christ was the unique prophet, Elisha. He pointed to the ministry of Christ as he cleansed lepers, provided for widows, fed the hungry, raised the dead as well as foreshadowing the ministry of Christ in many other ways. As we look at Elisha’s life, it is my prayer that we see the One whom he foreshadowed, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our dependence on God alone Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. – John 15:4 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 2:1-14; John 15:1-11 Elisha was called by God to take on the ministry that Elijah had begun. It was an enormous task. Elijah had proved the power of God on Mount Carmel as fire from heaven ignited a water doused altar. Elijah was the one who confronted wicked King Ahab head on. The Lord had even given Elijah power to raise a widow’s son from death. What would Elisha need to fill such a high calling? Would it be imperative for him to be a great orator calling Israel back to the Lord? Would the success of his ministry rely on his ability to be witty and clever, winning the Israelites over with his personality? Not at all. Instead, he recognized his dependence on God alone. He asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. By asking for that blessing, Elisha showed his complete dependence upon the Lord. By asking for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, Elisha was acknowledging his own emptiness and his need to be filled with God’s Spirit for the work that lay before him. The same is true for you and for me. We need the blessing of God’s Spirit within us. By the Holy Spirit’s regenerating power, we believe in Jesus Christ. He is the true vine; we are the branches. Apart from Him, we can do nothing, but through faith in Him, we have salvation from sin, eternal life and daily strength! Suggestions for prayer Instead of asking for material blessings, ask the Lord for spiritual growth and ask Him for wisdom in living out the truths of His Word in your life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Thursday January 31 – The feast of booths

On the fifteenth day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. – Numbers 29:12 Scripture reading: Numbers 29:12-38 We end the devotions of this month with the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles. In chapter 29, we find instructions for several feasts. Redemption is a joyful reality. These feasts were a way to remember the work of God in the past. The Feast of Booths was one of the most joyful feasts. Israel celebrated the care of the LORD when He led them through the wilderness. As we read in Deuteronomy 29:5, no piece of garment wore out, no shoes needed to be replaced. The LORD provided food and drink. God will provide; He daily bears us up (Psalm 68:19). We need to know this too as we travel on. The Feast of Booths is marked by many sacrifices, indicating the thankfulness of the people. Each sacrifice came at a cost. But there is more. Throughout the feast, blood had to flow. The LORD reminds His people that His care for them is the result of redemption. This is emphasized also by the fact that this feast was a week after the Day of Atonement. God’s care is a result of the shedding of blood. Our food and drink, all material possessions, are gifts of God. We receive them not because we deserve them or earn them, but only out of grace. A child’s prayer sums it up so well: “Lord, bless this food and drink, for Jesus sake.” We are on the way to the eternal rest. Let us travel in joy, in confidence and in obedience. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for His provisions. Pray that we may remain focussed on Him in our traveling.  This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College...

Daily devotional

Wednesday January 30 – Strive side by side

…we will take up arms, ready to go before the people of Israel, until we have brought them to their place. – Numbers 32:17 Scripture reading: Numbers 32:1-27 At the last moment, the future is in danger again. Moses words in vs. 14 and 15 are quite sharp! He receives a request by Reuben and Gad. They ask to not cross the Jordan. What caused this? They saw the land they had and the fact that they had many animals. The LORD had blessed them, but rather than seeing these blessings as a reason to go forward more zealously, they use them as an excuse to stop. They go by sight, not by faith! Moses exposes this attitude. He accuses these tribes of selfishness. You stay here and let your brothers do the fighting for God’s kingdom. Next, he blames them for discouraging the others. Why should the others go on when Reuben and Gad are nicely enjoying their rest already? He then shows the root problem. It is rebellion. This is no different than the refusal to enter the land 40 years earlier. Moses’ sharp rebuke has results. The two tribes come back and pledge that they will go with their brothers. They will go to the head. When all the fighting is over they will return to their homes. Moses makes them swear an oath. Joshua 22 shows they kept their word. The entrance into the Promised Land is endangered by selfishness. It is opened by a commitment to stand shoulder to shoulder. We are called to strive side by side for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27). To do this we need the mind of Christ. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for exposing the dangers of selfishness. Pray to stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Tuesday January 29 – Joshua – the new leader

And Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and made him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole congregation, and he laid his hands on him and commissioned him as the Lord directed through Moses. – Numbers 27: 22-23 Scripture reading: Numbers 27:12-23 Moses’ term as leader is coming to an end. Leaders come and go, but God’s work goes on. The reason for Moses’ leaving is given. No, he had no physical weaknesses, but the passage clearly refers to what happened at Meribah. He disobeyed. Leaders are sinners too. Yet, in spite of this, God’s work goes on. Moses is allowed to see the land. He is assured that Israel will inherit the land. Moses cares for the people. He knows the need of the people. He asks for a successor, who can lead Israel in battle and be a shepherd to them. He asks the LORD, Who knows what lives in human hearts, to provide a leader. The Lord indicates that He has already been preparing one. He is ahead of Moses! Joshua will be the next leader. Joshua was Moses’ trusted helper. He spent much time in the tent of meeting, led the people in battle and trusted the promises of God, as we know from his report as a spy. That is the kind of leader Israel needs and the LORD provides. We are blessed to have a Mediator Who is without sin, our Lord Jesus Christ. He cares for His people and realizes the need for faithful leaders. In John 17:6-19 we read His prayer to the Father for faithful disciples so that the work of the Father can continue. That we are provided with men to lead us in the church is the result of His prayer. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the intercession of Christ, His care for His flock. Thank the Lord for faithful servants. Pray that our leaders may remain faithful. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Thursday January 24 – Many nations He struck down

...and gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to his people Israel. – Psalm 135:12 Scripture reading: Numbers 21:21-35 The defeat of Sihon and Og is mentioned in Psalm 135 and 136. In both, it is in the context of the LORD showing His power and steadfast love. The LORD is leading His people to the Promised Land. The enemy of the LORD will do everything to try to stop this. He tries it in the first instance with intimidation. Israel is facing powerful enemies. The first one is the powerful nation of the Amorites under the kingship of Sihon. Israel asks to pass peacefully through their territory, but the king refuses and instead comes out with his army. The LORD gives the victory. The second opponent was Og, King of Bashan. He comes out with his powerful army. The LORD also gives him into the hand of Israel. Deuteronomy 3:4 says that 60 cities now are in Israel’s possession. Israel already controls the land east of the Jordan. The people faced these battles before entering the land. The LORD shows that their strength lies in trusting in Him. It is not Israel’s might, but the power of the LORD. What an encouragement before entering the land! For us too. The enemy may seem powerful, but he cannot stop the progress of God’s Kingdom. He tries to intimidate the church with power. "Our fighting would be losing, were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing." This Man is Christ Jesus, He must win the battle. “Your exalted name, O LORD, will stand firm for evermore.” Suggestions for prayer Thank the LORD for giving us the right Man on our side. Pray for strength in the battle against the powers that intimidate the church. Pray for the believers who face persecution.  This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Wednesday January 23 – Inheriting the land is by faith alone

And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. – Numbers 21:9 Scripture reading: Numbers 21:1-9 The people of Israel are back at Kadesh and the first encounter with the Canaanites does not go very well. Israel suffers a defeat. But Israel dedicates itself to the LORD. The LORD gives a victory. Victory is by faith alone. Instead of going directly into the land they have to make a detour (see chapter 20). The new route leads through difficult terrain. The people grumble against the LORD and Moses. They accuse Moses of evil motives: he led them in this wilderness to kill them. They want to go back to Egypt. As a punishment, the LORD sends poisonous serpents. This discipline hurts the people and they confess they have sinned. As a remedy to the bites of the serpents, Moses has to make a bronze serpent and anyone who looks at the serpent will live. This is a remarkable way of dealing with the people. The serpents are not taken away, but as people are bitten, they have to look at this symbol and they will live. Why would they? The only reason is that the LORD had said so. Israel has to trust the word of the LORD. There is nothing magic in the bronze serpent. Looking at it is the expression of their faith in God’s promises. The Lord Jesus referred to this incident in His discussion with Nicodemus (John 3). As looking at the serpent gave healing and life, so believing in Jesus Christ gives life. Entering the Promised Land is by faith alone. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for His grace in Jesus Christ. Pray for the strengthening of your faith.  This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Tuesday January 22 – The Lord shows Himself holy at the waters of Meribah

Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them. – Numbers 20:12 Scripture reading: Numbers 20:1-13 It isn’t hard to feel sorry for Moses. He makes one mistake and is punished with not being allowed to enter the land. The people are back to the place they were 40 years ago, Kadesh. Because there was no water, they blame Moses and Aaron and accuse them of evil motives. When we do not receive what we want or think we deserve, grumbling is often the reaction. The LORD does not destroy the people, for had He not said that He would hold the priests, the leaders responsible? Moses was given clear instructions, but he disobeys them. He had to speak to show the power of the Word of God (Deuteronomy 8:3). Instead, Moses makes it into a personal matter. No matter how many excuses can be given, his action is an insult to the holiness of the LORD. Yes, there is water in abundance for the people, but Moses and Aaron hear the judgment of the LORD. They too will die in the wilderness. They have joined the generation of grumblers. The rock from which the LORD gave water symbolized His grace. 1 Corinthians 10:4 says that the Rock was Christ. What God gives in the Rock, He gives fully in Christ. In a way, Moses hit “Christ” and thus was not allowed to enter the land. Moses is not the Redeemer we need. He too was a sinner. What a blessing that we have a Mediator who did not sin! His righteousness is ours by faith. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the perfect Mediator. Pray that in all our words and actions we may hallow the Name of the Lord. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College. ...

Daily devotional

Monday January 21 – Made clean to serve

For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. – Hebrews 9:13-14 Scripture reading: Numbers 19 Reading this chapter you may wonder, what does it mean? The first part of the chapter deals with the slaughter of a heifer. This is not to be confused with the regular sacrifices as recorded in the first chapters of Leviticus. In the sacrifice of this heifer, the involvement of the priest is minimal. There is also no transfer of guilt. The heifer had to be sacrificed in order to get ashes. An added interesting detail is that being part of this sacrifice made a person unclean, unlike many of the other sacrifices. It reminded the people of the power of defilement. The chapter then describes situations in which the ashes had to be used, namely to cleanse someone who had come in contact with death. Death is the result of sin. At the same time, death is a reality in life. In chapter 17, we read that 15,000 people had died. They needed to be buried. That means the need for cleansing was acute. The LORD provides a way to purify from the defilement of sin. These ceremonies remind us of the destructive and pervasive power of sin. Sin defiles. The good news is that the LORD provides a way out so that we can serve Him. The Letter to the Hebrews brings this out. The ashes of an animal purified people, how much more will the blood of Christ purify us from dead works to serve the living God. He offered Himself without blemish to God. Suggestions for prayer Thank the LORD for providing purification from dead works to serve Him. Pray for His grace that we may offer ourselves as living sacrifices of thankfulness to Him. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Wednesday January 16 – How to live as God's people in God's land

When you come into the land you are to inhabit, which I am giving you… – Numbers 15:1 Scripture reading: Numbers 15:1-10; 37-41 This chapter may seem out of place. It is about sacrifices and not about Israel’s travels. However, it is in place! The journey through the wilderness is also a time of learning. In fact, there is something very amazing about this chapter. In the previous chapters, we read about Israel’s rebellion, God’s punishment and Moses’ intercession. Now, look at how this chapter opens: “When you come into the land you are to inhabit, which I am giving you,” Isn’t that amazing? Doesn’t this speak of God’s willingness to forgive? He seems to have forgotten about the previous rebellion. He has thrown Israel’s sin behind His back. He will bring them in, but they certainly need to learn how to live with a holy God. This chapter points to several aspects to be kept in mind. The regulations about sacrifices stress the need to be totally dedicated to the LORD. The laws about unintentional sins highlight the urgent call to repent. Yes, we fall into sin, but we should not continue to live in sin but return to the LORD and ask for mercy. The law about breaking the Sabbath reminds them that they have to observe the day of the Lord and keep it holy. The tassels in their garments teach the people that every aspect of their lives is to be ruled by the commandments of the LORD. What a gift that God forgives our sins in Christ. Now He calls us to a life of thankful service. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that He removes our sin as far as the east is removed from the west. Pray for His grace to serve Him in thankful obedience. Ask for the Spirit to help us serve God in all aspects of our lives. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Tuesday January 15 – Two reports

Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread to us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them. – Numbers 14:9 Scripture reading: Numbers 13:25–14:10 The events of these chapters mark a turning point in the travels of Israel. Israel has to turn around and go back into the wilderness. She will have to spend 40 years in the wilderness. A whole generation will die; they will not be allowed to enter the Promised Land because of their unbelief. Hebrews 3 uses this as a warning, lest we think that we can enter without showing faith! Israel has come to the border of Canaan. Twelve men are sent to inspect the land. The LORD allows His people a foretaste of what is to come. However, instead of making the people more eager to go in, it causes a rebellion and subsequent punishment. What is the case? There are two reports, one by ten spies and the other by two. Both reports agree that the land is good, that the produce is amazing and that the people are powerful. But they come to opposite conclusions. The majority report says: we cannot do it. These giants are too much for us. Doesn’t this sound realistic? The minority report says: we can do it. It will be possible. These giants are a piece of cake. Does this not sound unrealistic? What is the difference between these reports? The majority report looked at the fact from a human perspective. The minority report saw the fact in light of God’s promises. Which of the two reports was realistic? Facts have to be judged in the light of God’s promises. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for giving His promises. Ask for wisdom to judge facts in the light of these promises.  This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Monday January 14 – Put away all envy

Why were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? – Numbers 12:8 Scripture reading: Numbers 12 “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.” (1 Peter 2:1) Envy is dangerous; it destroys relationships, careers, even lives. Envy is one of the works of the flesh mentioned in Galatians 5:21. Envy can involve possessions, but also positions, as Numbers 12 shows. The people of Israel had to learn that the LORD uses leaders to guide and protect them. They had to respect and obey these leaders. It took some time to learn this because, by nature, we would rather be our own master. Aaron and Miriam become jealous of Moses’ position. Miriam seemed to take the initiative in this. Aaron joined her. They begin with putting Moses in a bad light by mentioning that Moses had married a non-Israelite. Once they gain popular support, they come with the real point: Why should Moses alone be the leader? They are envious of his position. Moses reacts in the right way. He leaves it in the hands of the LORD. The LORD steps in and makes very clear that Moses is His servant. When you attack him, you are in fact attacking the LORD. Note how highly the LORD speaks about Moses as His servant. In punishing Miriam, the LORD shows that He supports and defends His servants. Moses has to intercede for his sister and he did. In this way, the LORD calls His people to respect their leaders and submit to them. He governs us through their hand. Suggestions for prayer  Thank the Lord for the gift of leaders. Pray that the Lord may give them His grace so they can fulfil their task. Pray for strength to fight against envy and jealousy.  This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Sunday January 13 – Is the Lord’s hand shortened?

Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them! – Numbers 11:29 Scripture reading: Numbers 11:1-15; 24-29 It doesn’t take long for the people to show their true nature again. They grumble. They are not happy with their food, the manna. They crave the food of Egypt. As if Egypt was a holiday resort! Grumbling distorts one’s view. It is a denial of God’s work of redemption. As a result, the LORD is angry with His people. Israel’s grumbling leads to another crisis. Moses feels that he cannot do it anymore. Grumbling is contagious, for Moses also becomes a grumbler! He even questions God’s ability to provide. The LORD assures him that His hand is not too short. He can and will do what He says. The LORD first solves the leadership crisis. He gives Moses seventy helpers. Some of the Spirit given to Moses was enough for seventy men. Next, the LORD deals with the people. He grants them what they demand, but it becomes their punishment. They eat the quail the LORD sent but die with the meat between their teeth. Coveting leads to death. This chapter shows the danger of grumbling. The Spirit warns us in 1 Corinthians 10:10 not to grumble. How can we fight this inclination? Only by the power of the Holy Spirit. Moses realizes this too and expresses the longing for the day of Pentecost to come. The hand of the LORD is not too short in that His Spirit changes our grumbling hearts into hearts that rely on God alone. Each Sunday He is at work to do this! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that His hand is not shortened. Thank Him for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Pray for strength to fight against grumbling. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Tuesday January 8 – Walk in the light of life

When you set up the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand. – Numbers 8:2 Scripture reading: Numbers 8:1-4; Exodus 25:31-40 Among the various preparations for traveling onward, we come across an instruction about the lampstand. It is connected to the consecration of the Levites since they are the ones to care for the lampstand. The lampstand resembled a blossoming tree and symbolized the tree of life. The Tabernacle signifies the gracious restoration of Paradise. The lamp was also a source of light, thus representing the blessing that in the darkness of this sinful world, the LORD continues to give light, His revelation. In Exodus 25 and 37, you can find instructions on how to make the lampstand. In Numbers 8, the emphasis is on the use of this lampstand. It was placed on the north side of the Holy Place opposite the table of showbread. The priests would go between these two on their way from the main altar to the altar of incense. They needed light to be able to see as they walked to the altar and back to the people. Thus, the lamp was essential for the functioning of the priests, for the functioning of the covenant of grace. As the people are getting ready to move on, the LORD reminds them that they can travel onward, when the priests are able to walk in the Holy Place. The Lord Jesus fulfills the lampstand. He is the light (John 1:4), for He reveals the glory of God. We can only journey onward when we walk in the light of His grace. Let him who has an ear, hear! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the life and light we receive in Christ. Pray that we may walk in the light of His face, with our ears open to His Word. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Monday January 7 – Regular voluntary contributions

…and the chiefs offered their offerings before the altar. – Numbers 7:10 Scripture reading: Numbers 7:1-11; 84-89 Not only is this a long chapter, but it is also repetitious. All the leaders of the tribes offer gifts and they all give the same. Do not take the repetition as a lack of originality. It reflects the thankfulness of the leaders for the ministry of atonement and their desire that it can continue. The description of these gifts, though it may seem repetitious, shows the overflowing thankfulness of the people for God’s grace. The whole nation is involved. We learn that the giving was done willingly. It was, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 8:7, an act of grace. In addition to this, the contributing was done with a purpose. All the gifts were useful for the service of the LORD so that the people could travel onward with the LORD in their midst. Note the way the chapter ends, the covenant fellowship can continue. Contributing is essential to God’s people. It is a result of the grace given us in Christ. We were bought, not with gold and silver, but with His precious blood. When we give, we do so out of thankfulness that He Who was rich became poor for us (2 Corinthians 8:9). When we give regularly it shows that the LORD is part of our lives. It is voluntary, for the Lord loves the cheerful giver. We give so that God’s work may continue. We may give according to the measure in which He has blessed us. Do we excel in this work of grace? Suggestion for prayer Thank the Lord for His gifts of redemption in Christ. Pray that we may excel in this act of grace.  This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Sunday January 6 – Threefold blessing

So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them. – Numbers 6:27 Scripture reading: Numbers 6:22-27 These words are familiar. Perhaps you will hear them today at the end of the worship service, as the blessing. They are an important and wonderful part of meeting the LORD in worship.  The LORD puts His Name on His people. We cannot travel onward without the blessing of the LORD. The formulation of the blessing is truly beautiful. It consists of three lines, each one a bit longer than the previous. Each line begins with the name of the LORD, I AM WHO I AM. And at the end of it all, we hear: peace. Our God is an overflowing fountain of blessings. He says that He will keep us. The second line affirms that, in His grace, He makes His face to shine on us. That is stressed even more in the third line: the LORD looks upon us and gives us peace. Life is restored by Him. We need not be afraid. The priest had the wonderful task to proclaim this blessing to the people. The people could go home in the assurance of this blessing. Today we receive this blessing as a result of the perfect sacrifice of Christ. It is therefore not a wish, but a proclamation of His grace, to be received in faith. We can travel onward each new week knowing that the LORD’s name is upon us: the love of the Father, the grace of the Son and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. What else can we say but: Amen! Suggestion for prayer  Thank the LORD for His wonderful blessings: His care, His face shining on us and the peace we receive. Pray for His Spirit to help us walk in the light of His countenance, to seek the comfort of His grace each day. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Saturday January 5 – The vow of the Nazarite

Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the LORD, he shall be holy. – Numbers 6:5 Scripture reading: Numbers 6:1-21 An Israelite could make a vow and for a certain time separate himself to the LORD.  Numbers 6 gives the requirements: he had to stay away from anything that could intoxicate him, not cut his hair and not touch anything dead. If somehow he made a mistake, he had to start again. The beginning and end were marked with sacrifices. We know from the Bible of life-time Nazarites, e.g. Samson, but this chapter deals with people who made a temporary vow. They could dedicate themselves to the LORD. The Nazarites symbolized that Israel is a holy nation, a kingdom of priests.  What did these three requirements mean? Alcoholic drinks were forbidden because when the Spirit of the LORD rules one's life, then there is no room for other “spirits”. Letting one's hair grow indicated that one has no control over his own life; his strength lies in the LORD. Because death is connected to sin, any contact with death had to be avoided to remain holy. Do these requirements not describe how we are to live as Christians? We are to be holy for the LORD. Do not get drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), but be sober-minded (1 Peter 1:13). Let the Lord rule every aspect of your life, including your outward appearance (1 Peter 3:3-4). Flee from the corruption of sin (Hebrews 12:1). See also the marks of the Christian in Article 29 of the Belgic Confession. In Christ, this is our permanent calling. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the blessing of being sanctified in Christ. Pray for His grace to live holy lives, to be filled with His Spirit, to be ruled by Him and abstain from sin. Ask for wisdom about how to live holy lives each day. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Monday December 31 – The joy of living with, and for, God

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. – Psalm 84:10b  Scripture reading: Psalm 84 One of the driving forces in each human heart is a desire to be at home, to be at peace in a special place that will never fail us. Many strive for this in all the wrong places. At the end of a year, the world looks to things to bring them joy and contentment. At times we can be distracted by the comforts and desires of this fallen world. For 2019, where will your true home be? Where will you find contentment and comfort? The writer of Psalm 84 reminds us that the real and lasting home is with God. The Psalmist yearned to be in the special place with God because he knew that this is what would truly satisfy him. He points out that sinful people like you and me can only be in this special place with God because of the sacrificial system that God put in place. We do not have altars to make sacrifices on anymore, but the altar the Psalmist loved to be near pointed to the one great sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Christ’s sacrifice was so sufficient that it ended the need for all other sacrifices. Do you see that the greatest blessing that Jesus brought us was to bring us home with God? This was the psalmist's greatest joy and confidence. It caused him to say that he would rather be a door-keeper in the house of God than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of the world. A good door-keeper is one who guards, but also welcomes. May we be those who welcome people to confess their sins and enjoy the great blessings of being with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer That we would enter this new year not seeking the things of this world but seeking to be that door-keeper. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Sunday December 30 – The power of the Holy Spirit

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. – Acts 1:8  Scripture reading: Acts 1:1-11 Although Jesus had already commissioned His disciples in the passage we went over yesterday, we can see from this passage that they were not yet ready to take on the commission of being his witnesses. They were not yet ready to represent Him, proclaiming Him as Lord and Saviour to the fallen world. They were not super humans, but weak like us and could not take on the task Jesus called them to do without the power of God in them. We must remember that the Holy Spirit did not just enter the twelve Apostles, but He was poured out into Christ’s Church. All those who believe in and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour receive the same Holy Spirit, not only to be preserved in their faith, but to carry on the great commission Jesus gave to His church. The Apostles were the foundation of the church and so were both examples and special leaders inChrist’s church. However, it was the church as a whole that carried out this great commission. When a great persecution broke out in the church after the death of Stephen, those who fled proclaimed Christ wherever they went. When the Thessalonians later heard and received the Word of God in true faith, Paul tells us that all those in their province and the neighboring provinces heard about Jesus Christ. The same Holy Spirit who powerfully worked in Christ’s church then is still with His people today, not only to enliven our faith but to empower us to proclaim His name lovingly and boldly in our communities. To do otherwise is to deny the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Suggestions for prayer That the Holy Spirit would enliven our faith and empower us to proclaim the wonderful name of Jesus in our neighborhoods. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Saturday December 29 – Making disciples of the nations

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations... – Matthew 28:19a   Scripture reading: Matthew 28:16-20 When Jesus rose from the dead and gathered His disciples to give them a special commission, we are told that although they worshipped Him, some doubted. Jesus, being God, knew of their doubts, yet He still sent them out to make disciples of the nations. You could say, they were as unfit as we are in our own strength. I have often heard it said that making disciples is for church leaders, for those who have greater knowledge, for those who have no doubts (or at least fewer doubts than me). But Jesus chose people who had doubts and sent them out to make disciples of the nations. Jesus calms His people, even today, with these words, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me." Do those words touch your doubts and cause you to respond in such a way that you see that you are also called and equipped to do your part in Jesus’ great commission? We all have different obligations in being part of this commission. Not all are called to baptize, but all of God’s confessing children are called to teach or mentor. If you have learned the ways of the Lord in such a way that you stood to profess your faith publicly, you have learned not only to confess but to teach those who do not yet know the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ the way you do. This includes teaching or mentoring those who have not yet confessed their faith within the church; however, it also entails teaching and mentoring those outside the church community. Suggestions for prayer That our doubts would be silenced by the truth of who Jesus is and that we would so glorify Him more, also teaching others both inside and outside the church about our great Saviour. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Friday December 28 – Conversation full of grace and seasoned with salt

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. – Colossians 4:6 Scripture reading: Colossians 4:2-6 In ending this letter, Paul emphasizes two points. In calling us to prayer and to be watchful and thankful, he calls us first to seek our dependence and joy from our relationship with our Lord and Saviour.  Paul showed this dependence by asking his readers to also pray for him. In doing so, he humbly admitted that he was not a super apostle, but a human being like us who needed prayer to continue in his service. Paul also emphasized a relationship with the world around us. He asked for prayer that he would proclaim the mystery of Christ clearly. In doing this, he showed he had a great love for his neighbors. He was often beaten and imprisoned yet he did not ask to be rescued from this; rather, he asked for the ability to speak to the lost about Jesus in such a way that they would understand it clearly. Paul calls us to have a similar concern for the people around us who do not believe the wonderful message of salvation in Jesus Christ. He tells us that our conversation should be full of grace; that is, we are to talk in a loving way with everyone, even when they do not deserve it. But our conversation should also be seasoned with salt, that is, our conversation should touch and challenge people. It should not be just about the weather or the latest sports events. In doing this, we will be able to answer people about the most important matter in life, being reconciled to God through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer That our conversations with others will always be full of grace and seasoned with salt. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Sunday December 23 – Living out of God’s great love for the world

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16  Scripture reading: John 3:14-21 Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and no doubt many are preparing in a variety of ways, getting presents for loved ones, baking for family and friends, etc. We can easily be so affected by the world’s ways of celebrating this season that we can gloss over the wonderful Present, the Bread of Life, that has already been given. The greatest wonder that has ever happened to this world is God the Father sending His Son to die for sinners like you and me so that we can have eternal life. The wonder is magnified in the fact that the Father sent His Son even though we did not deserve it. Jesus came to a world that hated Him and would kill Him, yet He came to die for this world because He loved it. But in rejoicing in this wonderful news, we must also see that this news is not just for us. It is for whoever believes in this wonderful Child and what He did on the cross. This passage should not only cause us to be joyful in the great gift of God’s Son, but it should also compel us to want those around us to hear this wonderful news. For the news is for the world, for all people, including those in your neighborhood and city. May our celebration this Christmas include telling others, maybe that neighbor or co-worker, the true meaning of Christmas. Suggestions for prayer That we would see that we have the greatest gift in Jesus Christ and ask for opportunities to tell others of this great gift. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Saturday December 22 – Setting apart Christ in our hearts and lives

But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you… – 1 Peter 3:15 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 3:8-22 The Christians to whom Peter first wrote this letter lived in a hostile world that thought their faith was crazy. Although we do not deal with the same persecution they faced, many people today see our faith as crazy. Everyone looks to Christmas as a nice time for the family to get together and celebrate, but most think the story of Jesus’ virgin birth is foolishness. For many, it is like believing in Santa Claus.  However, in the midst of this world, we are called to set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts. The things of this world can easily fill our hearts with wonder and joy, but we are called to put Christ first, above all. This can only happen when we continue to think and ponder on who Jesus is and what He has done for us. As we constantly think and ponder the wonder of who Jesus is, we will be able to both handle the ridiculing of our world and do what Peter calls us to do: to live for Jesus with such hope and joy that others will ask us the reason for our hope and joy. Although the world around us ridicules Jesus, we are called to look for ways to speak to them of Jesus, because knowing Him is the only way anyone can have lasting hope and joy in the fallen world. Suggestions for prayer That Jesus would increasingly be the joy and hope of our hearts; that we would show this hope and joy to all; that we would be able to explain our hope and joy to those still needing it. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Friday December 21 – The example of Thessalonians

For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere... – 1 Thessalonians 1:8a Scripture reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 The Christians in Thessalonica suffered much since they put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.  Paul thanked God for their ability to stand up under pressure, but he also praised them for not hiding their faith in the midst of their suffering. Paul says that they became imitators of him and his fellow workers. They could do this because they welcomed the message with joy. In coming to faith in Jesus, they had a special joy that compelled them to stand up under the pressure of persecution. It also gave them the confidence to declare the message they heard, not only in their own province and in the neighboring province of Achaia, but everywhere they went. This is what the good news of Jesus Christ does to those who come to a living faith in Him. A young man who hears the words “I do, I accept your proposal," from the girl he loves deeply, has great joy and is excited to tell everyone the good news. The Thessalonians and all of us who truly believe in Jesus Christ have a much bigger reason to speak with great joy about the wonderful news of Jesus Christ coming to die for sinners. The other great thing about telling others the joy of knowing Jesus is that they can share this joy with us through a living faith in Jesus Christ. Paul not only praised the Thessalonians for standing firm, but also for sharing their faith. Suggestions for prayer That the joy of salvation would so overwhelm us that we would always be compelled to proclaim the amazing message that saves wretches like us. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Thursday December 20 – Going out with confidence with the Word of God

...I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. – Matthew 16:18b  Scripture reading: Matthew 16:13-20 In a few of the devotions this month, I referred to this passage. In this statement, Jesus tells us the underlining reason why He came to this earth: to push back the domain of the devil and claim a people back from this fallen world. It comes after Peter’s wonderful confession of faith, “You are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus was telling His disciples that nothing is going to stop the building of Christ’s church. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God and followed the words of the devil, the devil won a battle. If it was not for God’s love for those He had created in His image, this world and everything in it would be forever lost. But God did have a great love for the fallen human race and so promised to send His Son so that He would conquer in such a way that He would enliven His people, not only to become His adopted children, but His instruments to proclaim the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ. With the sword of the Spirit (God's Word), Jesus said His people would conquer in such a way that the gates of Hades would not overcome it. Jesus is telling us that no matter how deep one of God’s chosen people may be under the control of devil, he will be rescued as the church battles with the sword of the Spirit in love. As His church, this should give us great confidence to go forward in our communities with His Word. Suggestions for prayer  That we would truly believe what Jesus said and go forward with great confidence in our neighborhoods with the Word of God. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Saturday December 15 – Declaring God’s glory to the world

Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! – Psalm 96:2,3 Scripture reading: Psalm 96 In reading this Psalm, you can see that God was calling His people not only to praise Him out of the joy of salvation but also to proclaim a special message to the world. The only way the people of the Old Testament could truly know His salvation was to admit their guilt and rely on the sacrificial system God had set up for them. Only from the joy of receiving this salvation out of grace could they declare God’s glory among the nations and His marvelous deeds among all peoples. Although God’s Old Testament people had reason to celebrate and proclaim His salvation day after day, we have more reason today. We live after the finished work of Jesus Christ. They did not know that those Old Testament sacrifices pointed to the fact that salvation could come to all people. But we do. We know that God Himself took on human flesh and lived among us so that He could die on a cross and bring salvation even to us. This should cause us to celebrate His salvation day after day and cause us to glorify God wherever we live and work. But this salvation should also cause us to delight in telling the marvelous things Jesus did to bring salvation to sinners. God always wanted His people not only to praise Him in the joy of salvation but also to tell the world of His deeds so that many would join in praising Him in salvation. Suggestions for prayer: That we would grow in the wonder of His gracious salvation and so praise His name and share the wonders of God’s saving work with others. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Friday December 14 – Desiring others to join the family of God

And of Zion it shall be said, “This one and that one were born in her”; for the Most High himself will establish her. – Psalm 87:5   Scripture reading: Psalm 87 When the people of God in the Old Testament sang this Psalm, they were yearning for our days, the days after Jesus died, rose, ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit upon His church. Old Testament people sang this Psalm with eager expectation for the day when Zion, the church, would be a place in which people, who used to be enemies of God, would rejoice in being part of the people of God. We live on the other side of the great works of Jesus that made this possible. The difference between us and the Old Testament people of God is that we can now sing this song about ourselves. We sing that God has made it possible for us to be part of the people of God. But we are also called to sing this Psalm yearning for others to be added to Christ’s church. For God’s Old Testament people to truly sing this Psalm, they had to live their lives promoting the coming of the day, the great day when the Lord would fulfill this prophecy by preserving the nation of Israel. When we sing this Psalm, we are called to promote the ongoing fulfillment of this prophecy. We are not just to sing this Psalm, but live our lives seeking for our unbelieving neighbours to hear about our Lord and be born again through a living faith in Jesus Christ, so they can also 'be born in Zion'. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would have an increasing desire to live in such way that those around you would hear the gospel from you and see it in you so that many others would also say they were born in Zion. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Thursday December 13 – Going forward with the joy of God’s shining face on us

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. – Psalm 67:1-2 Scripture reading: Psalm 67:1-7 For many Reformed churches, the worship service ends with a blessing that can be found in Numbers 6:24-26. If you read that blessing, you would see that it is very similar to the blessing for which the writer of Psalm 67 asked. Notice that he did not ask this so that God’s people could sit and simply enjoy this blessing. He added, that God’s ways would be known on earth, God’s salvation among all the nations. You see, God wanted His people to desire His blessing so that they could be a blessing to others. God’s people in the Old Testament desired and prayed for this, but had to wait for it to be truly fulfilled. God’s ways truly become known throughout the earth and His salvation among all the nations through the ministry of Jesus and His Church. Jesus’ death and resurrection made it possible for God’s face to shine on His people. Yet more had to be done. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to live in His people so that through their actions and words, Jesus’ saving work could be known and celebrated all around the world. That work of making God’s ways and salvation known among all the nations is not finished. All those who know and believe in Jesus Christ are called to make God’s ways and salvation known in the areas where they work and live. If God has shined His gracious face on you, He did this so that you would praise Him, but also so that those around you would know of your God and His salvation in Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer That God would be gracious to you and bless you and make His face shine on you so that you can make His ways known on earth and his salvation to the people around you. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Wednesday December 12 – Taking the gospel to others with optimism

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever. – Daniel 2:44 Scripture reading: Daniel 2:36-47; Matthew 16:18 We live in a time when we see the kingdoms of earth battling for supremacy, either militarily or financially. But the truth is, none of these kingdoms will last. Only one Kingdom will last forever, which is the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the Kingdom that God has called us to be part of as we put our faith in the great King, Jesus Christ. King Jesus has called us to this Kingdom, not to sit on the sidelines, but to be involved in conquering in His name, not with guns and swords, but with love and the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, through Daniel, prophesied a long time ago that this would happen. And history has told us that kingdoms have come and gone, but Christ’s Kingdom has endured. In our world today where the Christian faith is not respected, we can easily think, "What can we do?" We often fail to be witnesses to our neighbours and co-workers or fellow students. This prophecy of Daniel not only says that the Kingdom of our Lord will conquer the kingdoms of this world, but it also tells us that it will grow to fill the whole world. This does not mean that all will come to faith. But God does want us to be optimistic about what the gospel can do in our lands. With this optimism, God desires us, His people, to take up the armour of God and so take our stand, witnessing to our neighbours and those at work or at school. Remember, the gates of hell cannot prevail against us, Christ’s Church. Suggestions for prayer  That you would have the confidence to boldly witness for your Saviour and King, as members of His Kingdom. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Friday December 7 - Being an active member of Christ's kingdom

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it. – Isaiah 2:2 Scripture reading: Isaiah 2; 1 Timothy 3:14-17 In the time of Isaiah, God’s people were rebellious. God said He would punish them, yet God still promised that He would make them into something great. That great thing was fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus and “the last days” Isaiah was referring to, are our days, the days after Jesus conquered the devil, sin, and death for His people. During these last days, Isaiah prophesied that God’s people would be like a mountaintop to which people from all over the world would come in order to learn about the wonders of the one true God and His ways. God had set the people of Israel apart so that this would one day be a reality. In setting Israel apart, God was making things ready for His Son to come into the world and make things right so people from all over the world could come and know the one true God, His ways and His loving forgiveness. Another amazing thing about this is that when people come to this mountain and find the Lord, they can see themselves as part of the mountain that draws people to come and know the Lord God and His ways. That mountain is really Christ’s Church. To be a living member of this church is to be part of this mountain drawing people to God through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Are you being an active member of this mountain in drawing people to God and His loving forgiveness? Suggestions for prayer That we as a church community would more and more be what God said we would be through the prophecy of Isaiah. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Thursday December 6 - Being instruments in God's hands shows that God cares

And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city. ..? – Jonah 4:11a  Scripture reading: Jonah 4 One of the hard things Jesus calls us to do, as His disciples, is to show love to our enemies. This was and is not a new command. God had asked Jonah to do this many years before Jesus walked through the land of Israel. The people of Nineveh were great enemies of the people of Israel. The Ninevites liked hurting, killing, and causing great fear in the hearts of their enemies, including God’s people. Jonah ran from bringing a message to Nineveh the first time because he wanted God to destroy this city and not show pity to them. God redirected Jonah back to Nineveh because He cared for this wicked, rebellious, idol-worshiping people. Jonah knew that his own people, the people of Israel, were also wicked, but thought they deserved God’s mercy instead of those wicked Ninevites. In sending Jonah to Nineveh, God sought to teach Jonah and all His people three great lessons. The first lesson has to do with who we are. If our hearts have been changed and we are part of God’s people, it is not because we are so good. The second lesson is that if we are God’s people, we are not to see ourselves as trophies to sit and be proud of who we are. We are to see ourselves as instruments in God’s hands to show that God does care for people like the Ninevites and people in our communities. Thirdly, God can change the heart of anyone to repent, so we should be willing to bring God’s words to anyone. Suggestions for prayer That we would have the heart of God and care for the people around us and so be willing to get to know people in our communities to tell them the good news of Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life. The painting is "Jonas and the whale" (circa 1552) author unknown....

Daily devotional

Wednesday December 5 – Being a kingdom of priests

Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. – Exodus 19:5-6a Scripture reading: Exodus 19:1-9; 1 Peter 2:4-12 The nation of Israel left Egypt as slaves but God not only freed them but made them into a special nation of priests. After wandering through the desert, God brought His people to Mount Sinai, where God set the guidelines for the covenant relationship He lovingly established with His people. When you read those words, “If you obey me fully and keep my covenant," did you think of all the times Israel did not obey and keep His covenant? Yet God continued to look at Israel as His treasured possession. That full obedience and keeping of the covenant had to wait until the coming of Jesus Christ. But God already started to look at His people through the lens of Jesus Christ.  Only through Him could they be that treasured possession.  Is that not also true for us today? But just like them, we have to admit we are not what we should be and seek forgiveness.  They did it according to the regulations and ceremonies that pointed to Jesus’ work, whereas we do this looking to Jesus' finished work on the cross.  And just like they had to believe that they were God’s treasured possession of grace, we too are called to see ourselves as His treasured possession because of His mercy. But this is not all we are called to believe and do. We are also called to believe that as His people, we are set apart to glorify God and to be of service to others by telling and showing the world Who our God is and what great things He can do for sinful people. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we as His people would be that holy nation, that kingdom of priests, glorifying God and at the same time telling and showing the world Who our God is and what He has done through His Son, Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Tuesday December 4 - God can change and use anyone to fulfill His promises

Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. – Genesis 28:14  Scripture reading: Genesis 28:10-22 Have you ever thought, "God cannot use me to spread the Word of God?" Or perhaps you've thought, "I do not have this ability. I am still struggling in my Christian life." Jacob was a human being like us. He was a struggling follower of God. He had just lied in a very despicable way to his father in order for his father to bless him. He was running for his life, afraid that his older brother would kill him. He was all alone with nothing going for him. Or so he thought. It was at this difficult time that God showed Himself, not only to bless Jacob but to inform him that all peoples on earth would be blessed through him and his offspring. Whenever God comes to His people and blesses them, He does this so that they would also be a blessing to others. God would lead and protect Jacob so that he would become the father of a nation from which the Saviour of the world would come. Because of that, people from all over the world would be blessed including you today through faith in Jesus Christ. Although the blessings God has promised you are somewhat different than what Jacob heard from God, there is a similarity. You see, God was thinking of you when He blessed Jacob, but He was also thinking of others who would be blessed through your faith in Jesus Christ as you witness of your Lord and Saviour. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would grow in your understanding of the great blessing you have in Jesus Christ, being part of His body to bring blessings to those around you. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life. The painting, "Jacob's dream" (1639) is by José de Ribera....

Daily devotional

Thursday November 29 –The Church's mission (7): Fighting idolatry

Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. – Psalm 115:8  Scripture reading: Romans 1:18-32 We have seen that Matthew 5 and 1 Peter 2 both expect the church to be different from the world in such a way as to be visible and appealing. How can we do that? Is it simply by following different (or more!) rules? Will that be appealing? One of the main ways Scripture gives us to be different in an appealing way is by fighting idolatry. In Romans 1, Paul summarizes sin as a matter of idolatry and defines idolatry in this way: "They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen" (Romans 1:25). Idolatry is worshipping the creation instead of the Creator, taking good things that God has made and treating them as ultimate in place of God. When we do this, we inevitably distort and twist the good things God has made, since they are not meant to be worshipped. Those idols enslave, consume and destroy. When we follow Jesus by faith, we are freed from worshipping those idols and that life of freedom is meant to be appealing, for it is life as God made it to be. Instead of being destructively enslaved to things like money, sex and power, we can use them rightly, for God’s glory and that way of life is given to be light in a dark world. Suggestions for prayer That God would help us recognize our idols, be freed from them and live for His glory so that we might use His good creation rightly, for the sake of those around us. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Wednesday November 28 – The Church's mission (6): Life together, for the sake of the world

And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. – Acts 2:47b Scripture reading: Acts 2:42-47 (again) Look back at our outline of Acts 2 from yesterday. What was the church doing that resulted in people being saved each day? They were simply being the church, doing so with a sense of missional purpose. We have been wrestling with this idea throughout this month: mission isn’t just something we do, it’s who we are. But at the same time, it affects and shapes everything we do. Acts 2 describes the church’s life together as being fruitful for mission. But we so often do the opposite: we justify our community life together as a way of putting up walls, excluding others, defining insiders and outsiders. Acts 2 suggests, however, and the entire story of God’s mission throughout the Bible makes very clear, that we are called to be the church for the sake of the nations. God blesses us with community life so that we will be a blessing. We must ask ourselves - as individuals, families and churches: what is our sense of identity and purpose? Why are we here? Is our fellowship eager to welcome others? Is our life together infused with the sense of being for the sake of others? Is our community ready, willing and able to include those who need the gospel, whose lives are messy and broken, who are drawn to the good news we proclaim? Or do we think of our churches as existing largely to meet our own needs? All of this is how the story of God’s mission must challenge us today. Suggestions for prayer That God would infuse our fellowship with a sense of being other-oriented and that He would make our churches welcoming places for those who need the gospel of Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho...

Daily devotional

Tuesday November 27 – The Church's mission (5): Life together

And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. – Acts 2:47b Scripture reading: Acts 2:42-47  For the church’s mission, the preaching of the Word is central, even as we are called to be witnesses in all of life. Another central component of our mission is our life together, our community life as the church. Acts 2:42-47 describes the church's life together and concludes by saying that their life resulted in having favour with all the people and in people being saved each day. Let’s look in more detail at the aspects of that life: Word and sacrament: “the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” Real life fellowship and community: “And all who believed were together and had all things in common” Caring for each other in time of need: “And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Fellowship by way of hospitality: “breaking bread in their homes” We are not called to be witnesses as isolated, individual Christians first of all, but together as the church. That means that, when the church is blessed with a rich life of fellowship, we must think of it as not simply being for our own sake, but as being for the sake of those around us. Suggestions for prayer That God would bless us with a rich life of fellowship together, and that He would make us eager and ready to welcome others into that fellowship. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Monday November 26 - The Church's mission (4): In all of life

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:1-12 In the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5, Jesus said that we are the light of the world. While the preaching of the word has a central place in the life and mission of the church, what Jesus meant is that in all of our living, we are to be different and distinct in such a way as to be witnesses to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In that passage, the teaching of Jesus was that such a witness would be fruitful for the good of others, expecting that they would “give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” In the same way, Peter calls us to be different from the world: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Pe 2:12). This doesn’t just mean being different from the world. It means being different in a way that is visible: not in a hidden huddle, but in real engaged life in real cities and communities. And it means being different in a way that is appealing. If we truly love the world as God does (John 3:16), then we must make it clear that the way of life God calls us to is good and that it is for the good of the nations. That is, our heart motive must be that of being a blessing to those around us. Suggestions for prayer That God would make us different from the world, that He would make our way of life visibly appealing, and that He would make that witness fruitful for our mission. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Wednesday November 21 – The future of our mission (1): The Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered

By your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. – Revelation 5:9 Scripture reading: Revelation 5 One of the things that the book of Revelation makes abundantly clear for the church today is that the church’s mission will be successful. That is what God promised in Daniel 2: that the stone that defeated the kingdoms of the world would grow into a mountain that filled the whole earth. Likewise, when Jesus gave His commission to His church in Matthew 28, He was clear that “all authority in heaven and on earth” has been given to Him. As Revelation 5 says, the Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered by dying as a Lamb and rising again from the dead. That victory over death guarantees the success of the church's mission. It may not always look like success in the eyes of the world: the Lion conquered by dying after all, but the mission will nevertheless be successful. And so Revelation 5 gives us the beautiful song to sing of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham so long ago that he would be a blessing to the nations: "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation" (Revelation 5:9). That glorious song is our confidence as we carry out the mission God has given to us. Suggestions for prayer That we would be encouraged by the promised success of the church's mission and that such encouragement would make us faithful in response to God’s promises. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Tuesday November 20 - Jesus fulfills Israel's mission (5): Go, make disciples!

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. - Matthew 28:19a Scripture reading: Matthew 28:16-20 Until He returns, Jesus has given His church the identity of being a light to the nations. This is not, first of all, something we do, but a matter of who we are. Missions is not simply a category of the church's life; rather, the mission God has given us is our identity, our very reason for existing as His people in this world. In Matthew 28, Jesus describes the reasons and purpose for which we are in the world: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28:19–20). This is not a matter of having missions and evangelism as a part of the church’s life. It is, rather, the whole reason we exist: to disciple the nations. This task does not end the moment someone becomes a Christian. Rather, the task of learning to be a disciple, to follow Jesus faithfully, lasts one’s entire life. And the work is not done until all people, all nations, all communities have heard the good news and the call to follow Jesus. This is why we are here; this is who we are; this is our purpose until Jesus returns. We are to disciple the nations, because that is what God promised Abraham, what He fulfilled in Jesus, and that is the mission He now gives to us. Suggestions for prayer That God would help our sense of identity as God’s missional people to grow and flourish and that our mission would be fruitful for His kingdom. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Monday November 19 - Jesus fulfills Israel's mission (4): You are the light of world

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16 Scripture reading: Matthew 5:13-16 To understand the mission of the church, we must continue to trace the line of God’s mission throughout Scripture. The Bible is a big book and so the big picture of the whole story can be difficult to hold in our minds all at once. But it’s essential to do so if we are going to understand and feel and experience the drama of who we are called to be as the church today. Let’s recall the flow of the story: God promised Abraham in Genesis 12 that He would bless all the nations through his family. Israel, therefore, was called to live before the nations as a light to the nations. But Israel failed at that task and in exile waited for the Messiah Who would bring the promised Kingdom. When Jesus came, He did so as the true and faithful Israelite, the true Son of Abraham. Jesus was the true light of the world, the fulfillment of Israel’s calling. Does that mean there is no longer a need for light in the word? Here is where we must hear the words of Jesus in Matthew 5: "You are the light of the world. " Jesus has fulfilled Israel’s calling and then given that same calling to His church. As Israel was called to be, as Jesus was perfectly, so we are called to be until His return: the light of the world. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for the light that Jesus brings and then pray that He would enable us to be a light to those around us. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Sunday November 18 – Jesus fulfills Israel's mission (3): " I am the light of the world"

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12 Scripture reading: John 8:12-30 When Jesus says that He is the light of the world in John 8, there are all sorts of things we can learn from His words. He is speaking of His identity as being from the Father, the words “I am” speaks of His divine identity. He is speaking of being the answer to what the world needs, as light dawning in darkness. He is calling people to follow Him as the way of light, like wisdom in the book of Proverbs. Among all those things He is doing, He is also connecting His identity with Israel’s story. God had called Israel to be a light to the nations, and promised the day when that calling would be fulfilled: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Is. 49:6). When Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World,” He was declaring the fulfillment of that promise. Israel was called to be a light to the nations, but failed at that calling, ultimately going into exile because of her idolatry. But during the exile, God repeatedly promised that Israel’s calling would be restored. In Jesus, that happened. He is the true Son of Abraham, the true and faithful Israelite. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for Jesus as the light of the nations, the reason we have received light, the announcement of God’s faithfulness and the One in Whom we receive our calling to be a light to the nations today. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Tuesday November 13 - Singing of mission (3): Christ shall have dominion

May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth! – Psalm 72:8 Scripture reading: Psalm 72 Psalm 72 is another example of a psalm in which Israel sang about the coming of the Messiah, and about the implications He would have for all the nations of the earth. Israel sang for and about the faithful Son of David: “Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son!” (v. 1). Israel’s expectation was that a faithful son of David would have dominion over the whole earth. Though they did not see this with their eyes, they sang of it by faith: “May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!” (v. 8). And most strikingly, this was not just about conquering or subduing the nations, though that theme is present in the Psalm and many Israelites probably emphasized that theme. It was also about being a blessing to the nations: “May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!” (v. 17). Israel sang of the nations of the world being “blessed in him.” These were the sorts of promises that shaped Israel’s hopes as they awaited the Messiah, the promises that Jesus fulfilled, the promises that now give us our mission as the church. Our goal is to see all the nations - including our own communities and cities - “call him blessed.” Suggestions for prayer Praise God for the good news that we have found blessing in Jesus as the faithful Son of David and pray that we would love and embrace our calling to be witnesses to that same good news. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Monday November 12 - Singing of mission (2): Blessed to be a blessing

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. – Psalm 67:4 Scripture reading: Psalm 67 The next Psalm we turn to is Psalm 67. It begins with familiar words, reminding us of the Aaronic benediction in Numbers 6: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us” (v. 1). This is a prayer for blessing, a prayer for the blessing that most specifically belongs to Israel in particular. The Aaronic benediction was something that belonged to and was proclaimed for Israel as God’s special covenant people. It was their special blessing. That makes the next verse all the more striking: “That your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations” (v. 2). The particular blessing that was for Israel was ultimately not just for Israel. Israel was to seek blessing from the Lord so that the nations would come to know God’s ways. Israel was tempted to think the blessing was just for them. This psalm challenged them to remember that they were blessed to be a blessing. The same thing is true for the church today. When God blesses us, it is not so we can keep that blessing for ourselves, but so that we can be a blessing to those around us. In Christ, we are the true children of Abraham and that means that the calling of Israel to be a light to the nations is being fulfilled in the church today. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for blessing Israel in such a way that we have received blessings in Christ and then pray that we would continue to be a blessing to others. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Sunday November 11 - Singing of mission (1): Why do the nations rage?

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. – Psalm 2:8 Scripture reading: Psalm 2 Thus far this month, we have seen how God gave Israel a mission to be a light to the nations, a mission driven by the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed and we have traced that theme throughout the story of Israel. That leads us to the next section of this study: the ways in which Israel sang about their mission in the Psalms. This is deeply formative for us as the church today, as we continue to sing the Psalms as they have been fulfilled in Christ. Looking at the Psalms, then, teaches us about Jesus and about the mission of the church today. The first example we turn to is Psalm 2. This psalm sings of the Messiah, the Son of David, Who would fulfill God’s promises to Israel. God’s promise to the Messiah was that the nations would be His inheritance: “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (v. 8). This is how we must view the world. Even as the nations rage against the Lord, they are in fact Christ’s inheritance, the reason He came, the purpose for which He died and rose again. And so that song gives us our mission as well, to proclaim to all who do not know Him: “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (v. 12). Suggestions for prayer We thank God that the Messiah asked for – and received – us as His inheritance, as part of the nations of the world. And we pray that we would be faithful to continue to carry out the mission of calling others to take refuge in Him. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Saturday November 10 - Israel's mission (7): It shall come to pass in latter days

And all the nations shall flow to it. – Isaiah 2:2b Scripture reading: Isaiah 2:1-5 Even as Israel received judgment for rebellion against God, the Lord was clear that He would not abandon the promise to Abraham that through him all families of the earth would be blessed. Through the prophets, God promises to fulfill Israel's mission for the sake of the world. A beautiful example is Isaiah 2:2-3: "Many peoples shall come, and say: 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." God promised a day when the nations would stream to Mt. Zion! In Luke 24, Jesus said that all the Scriptures spoke not only of Him, but of the mission of the church. Likewise, Isaiah 49:6: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” In Zechariah 8:13, He promises to restore Israel precisely as a blessing: “And as you have been a byword of cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing...”, promises that waited for fulfillment at the coming of Christ, promises for all nations! Suggestions for prayer That we would trust in God’s faithfulness to His promises and that we would love Jesus more as the One in whom they are fulfilled. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Monday November 5 – Israel's mission(2): The call of Abram

...and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.– Genesis 12:3b Scripture reading: Genesis 12:1-9 The call of Abram in Genesis 12 marks the beginning of the story of Israel as God’s special covenant people. The promises that God gives to Abram are the promises that drive the whole rest of the story. God had promised in Genesis 3:15 that He would defeat the serpent, that He would defeat sin and death, and in Genesis 12, He proclaims that He will do that through Abram’s family. God gave Abram the promise of land, the promise that would guide so much of Israel’s story: the Exodus, the conquest of Canaan, the time of the Judges, the exile and the return. He gave the promise of descendants, the promise that would motivate the hopes and dreams of Isaac and Jacob, of Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, and Rachel. As a result of both of these promises, Israel was tempted to think everything was about and for them. They were tempted to forget the third promise, the promises that actually gave the reason for all of this: “and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3b). This is the promise that would drive the rest of the story, that through Abram’s family, God would bless all the families of the earth. In that promise, we hear God’s heart for His lost world. In that promise, we hear the mission of God. Suggestions for prayer That we would receive the good news that God had desired from the beginning to bless all the nations of the world and that we would love and serve Him in return. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Sunday November 4 – Israel's mission (1): Genesis 12 comes after Genesis 1-11

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis 1:1 Scripture reading: Genesis 12:1; Genesis 1 Yesterday we saw how Jesus summarized the story of the Bible: as being about Him - fulfilled in His death and resurrection - and as being about the mission of God to bring salvation to the nations. That mission begins with the call of Abram in Genesis 12. But it is important to remember that Genesis 12 comes after Genesis 1-11. Genesis 1-11 tells a story, not of Israel in particular, but of the whole world. It tells of Creation in Genesis 1-2 and then of the Fall in Genesis 3. And think of the rest of the stories in chapters 4-11 – Cain and Abel, the Flood, the Tower of Babel, what do they have in common? They make it clear that the world is messed up by sin. When God called Abram, Israelites were tempted to think God was rejecting the rest of the world in favor of Abram’s family. That cannot be because God is the One who made the world. “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). Israel needed to remember – and we must remember – that God created the world, that He declared it very good, that He loves the world and will not abandon it to sin and death. That is where God’s mission begins: with the goodness of Creation and His promise to defeat sin and death (see Genesis 3:15). Suggestions for prayer That we would remember God’s love for the world He has made and that our love for the lost would reflect God’s love. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Saturday November 3 - The big picture (3): To all nations

 ...and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. – Luke 24:47 Scripture reading: Luke 24:36-49 Yesterday we saw that Jesus is very clear in Luke 24 that the whole Bible tells one story, united around Him as the fulfillment of the Scriptures. This point is glorious and exciting, showing the beauty of the Bible and of Christ, emphasizing the faithfulness of God to all of His promises to His people. But too often, Reformed Christians are tempted to stop at this point, rightly delighting in how the whole Bible points to Jesus, but neglecting the next thing He says. The Scriptures didn’t just speak of the death and resurrection of Jesus; they also spoke of the mission of the church: Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (v.45-47). Did you catch that? Jesus would die and rise and again. And, forgiveness would be proclaimed to all nations! The whole Bible is about the mission of the church. As we look at the story of the Bible, we must look not only for Christ but for the story of God’s mission to proclaim forgiveness to all nations. Suggestions for prayer That we would see Christ in all of Scripture and that we would see God’s mission to save the nations, fulfilled in the mission Christ has given His church. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Friday November 2 – The big picture (2): Everything written about Me

Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead. – Luke 24:46 Scripture reading: Luke 24:36-49 After appearing to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus appeared to the rest of the disciples in Jerusalem. He allowed them to touch Him (v.39) and He ate with them (v.43), all demonstrating that His resurrection was a real bodily resurrection. He was not a spirit, having abandoned His body (v.39). Instead, the tomb was empty and His body was raised. All of this is glorious good news, for the Apostle Paul says we will share in a resurrection like Christ’s (Romans 6:5). But our main focus is on the words of Jesus after all of this: 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." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead” (Lk 24:44–46). Jesus again says that the whole Bible is about Him. By referring to “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms,” He spoke of the three divisions of the Hebrew Scriptures. Jewish Christians would have understood the point clearly: The Hebrew Scriptures spoke of Jesus! And this was the case, not simply by way of promises fulfilled, but by way of telling the story that Jesus completes. Suggestions for prayer That we would rejoice and take comfort in the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and that we would grow in loving the Bible as one story, fulfilled in Jesus. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Sunday October 28 - Making purification for sins

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high... - Hebrews 1:3b Scripture reading: Hebrews 1:1–4 The author of Hebrews would first state a doctrinal truth, then use the word “Therefore” to apply that truth in the life of the Church. In Chapter 1, he contrasted God’s revelation during the Old Testament times, with the revelation in the New Testament era. Old Testament revelation was accomplished through the prophets; God’s final revelation was by His Son. Old Testament revelation was partial and preparatory; New Testament revelation was total and final. In describing the nature and attributes of the Son of God, Hebrews 1 reminds us of John 1. The focus of this Introduction is on Redemption, stated in these significant words: “After making purification for sins.” The Prophets handed down the messages delivered by God’s Spirit; the core of their message was God’s promise in Genesis 3:15, when He said to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Man’s sinfulness could only be overcome by a redemptive act of God. The Old Testament sacrificial system portrayed that redemption, but could not accomplish it. Only the Incarnate Son of God did that by His vicarious death on the cross. During Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, He revealed God both in His preaching and in His actions. The leaders of Israel should have welcomed the work of the Messiah as the sacrifice for sin; however, they rejected the only One who was to make “purifications for sins.” Suggestions for prayer Praise the Lord for His wonderful provision of “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1: 29b). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Saturday October 27 - For the sake of the elect

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. - 2 Timothy 2:10 Scripture reading: 2 Timothy 2:8–13 Having assured Timothy that the proclamation of the Word of God could not be stopped, Paul mentioned his readiness to endure every hardship, so that the elect would become partakers of the salvation accomplished by Christ. Here is an important lesson in mission work. The elect will be saved, but they will be saved by faith in Jesus Christ. Earlier this month, we learned during our meditation on First Corinthians, that God ordained that people are saved through the preaching of the Gospel. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Chapter 10:17, states, “So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” The role that preaching the Good News plays in reaching the elect is inestimable. It enabled me to embark on a radio and literature ministry to the Arab world for 36 years. Most Arabic-speaking people are Muslims. Their sacred texts, the Qur’an, Hadith and Life of Muhammad, deny every fundamental truth of the Bible. Belief in the Holy Trinity is considered as idolatry; the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, His resurrection and ascension are denied. The sinfulness of man is regarded as a mere ignorance that can be overcome by obedience to the commands of Allah. It would have been impossible for me to persist in this work had I not believed in the doctrine of election. At the same time, I was convinced of the necessity of proclaiming the Word of God in order to bring in the elect from every part of the vast Arab world. Suggestions for prayer Pray for pastors, missionaries and church members, that they keep in mind both Divine sovereignty and human responsibility, as the Bible teaches! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Friday October 26 - The Word of God is not bound

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! – 2 Timothy 2:8-9 Scripture reading: 2 Timothy 2:1–13 Second Timothy is Paul’s last Letter. He was in prison awaiting his execution. These words are his “Will and Testament” sent to his spiritual son Timothy, pastor of the Church in Ephesus. He reminded him of the essence of the Gospel message and exhorted him to train men who will hand down the faith to the following generations. To be a servant of Jesus Christ required a readiness to suffer and perhaps to die as a martyr (Greek for witness). While the Lord’s servants have often been chained throughout history, the Word of God has not and cannot be chained. No power on earth can thwart God’s eternal purposes. This is the verdict of the history of missions. A colleague, who had once served as a missionary in China, told me that his work came to an end with the victory of the Communists in 1949. At that time, it was estimated that the number of Christians in China was around one million. During the Cultural Revolution (1960–1970), thousands of Christians were imprisoned and many were martyred. Regardless of the severity of persecution, Christianity was not wiped out. Lately, the situation has changed drastically. House churches have sprung up in many parts of the country, theological schools have opened and the number of believers is estimated to be in the millions. What a testimony to Paul’s words: But the word of God is not bound! Western Christians are providing the Chinese Church with theological instruction to help believers grow in faith. Suggestions for prayer Praise the Lord for preserving the Church in China, for the courage of its leaders and for Western Christians who are helping with theological instruction. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Thursday October 25 - The Spirit of Wisdom

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him. – Ephesians 1:17 Scripture reading: Ephesians 1:15–23 Paul assured the believers in Ephesus that they had been chosen in Christ before the creation of the world. He prayed that God would give them the Spirit of wisdom. The Christian life is not one of passive existence, but of an active exercising of God’s gifts to become aware of Christ’s Lordship of history and His headship of the Church. The Ephesian Christians lived under difficult circumstances. Their witness against the idolatry and immorality of the worship of Artemis was not appreciated. They faced the Roman authorities’ hostility to the Gospel. They needed wisdom in the conduct of their lives. In the face of opposition, they had to hold fast to their faith and not lose heart, keeping in mind that Jesus Christ was seated at the right hand of the Father, in firm control of history’s march and the welfare of the Church. Christ rules His Church, “which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” In chapter 4, Paul would list various gifts that Christ apportions to church members; here he gives us the principle that must be observed: All authority in the Church belongs to Him and He delegates specific roles to different members of the Church. Details of the various church functions are listed in the Letters of Paul. Sadly, the growth of hierarchy in the Church became a hindrance to its life and mission. While the Reformation restored the Biblical teaching about the Church, the battle against hierarchical structures must continue! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the leadership of the Church, that they may adhere to the New Testament teachings about their role as servants of Jesus Christ, laboring for the welfare of the congregation. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Saturday October 20 - The message, not the method

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. – 1 Corinthians 2:2 Scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 2:1–5 The Corinthian Church needed to learn this fundamental truth: the integrity of the message is extremely important. Some members of the church wanted the message to be constructed in accordance with the standards of Greek culture. Paul, however, reminded them that the Gospel should be proclaimed without embellishment or alteration. “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” Paul’s emphasis on the message, “Jesus Christ and him crucified,” is crucial today. Believing in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, as an atonement for our sins, reveals the power and wisdom of God in planning our redemption and by enabling us to believe the Good News. This Biblical truth must be maintained at all costs as we are surrounded by theories which are radically opposed to the authority of the Word of God and to sound doctrine as summarized in the Nicene Creed. To succumb to such views, would nullify the power and effectiveness of Christian missions. This happens often when men teach unbiblical theories in missions. Suggestions for prayer Pray fervently for all those commissioned by the Lord to proclaim the Gospel, to do their work boldly, fully convinced that their labors will not be in vain. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Friday October 19 - The wisdom of God

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach, to save those who believe. – 1 Corinthians 1:21 Scripture reading: I Corinthians 1:18-31 Paul spent eighteen months in Corinth preaching the Gospel and organizing the Church. He wrote his First Letter to deal with several problems that had been disturbing the health and unity of the congregation there. The Corinthians were not as sophisticated as the Athenians; still, they were attracted by “form” rather than “substance.” They had not grown spiritually since they leveled several criticisms at Paul and his preaching. Paul had to remind them that God, in His sovereignty, had ordained the preaching of the Gospel as the means of salvation. The phrase “what we preach” is a translation of the Greek, “Kerugmatos,” a specific word that refers to the content of Paul’s preaching. In other words, every message proclaimed from a pulpit must conform to the Biblical Gospel. Paul took notice of the Greek’s love of wisdom. But Greek wisdom was the very antithesis of God’s wisdom since they regarded the message of a crucified and risen Saviour as utter foolishness. It didn’t matter that the Greeks described Paul’s preaching as foolishness; he did not accommodate his message to make it acceptable to his audience. Throughout all his missionary career, Paul was convinced that the Gospel of Christ “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (NKJ). The Church hasn’t always proclaimed and defended this Biblical faith. In our days, several denominations have surrendered to the “wisdom” of man. We need another Reformation like the one launched by Martin Luther 500 years ago. Suggestions for prayer Plead with the Lord to grant our ministers and missionaries to boldly proclaim the “whole counsel of God” as Paul did in his ministry. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Thursday October 18 - The word of the cross

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. – I Corinthians 1:18 Scripture reading: I Corinthians 1:18-31 The 19th century is known as the Great Century of Missions. My family was impacted by the Presbyterian missionaries from Britain and the USA when they began their work around Antioch, Syria. My father was the grandson of the local Orthodox priest in Seleucia. Thanks to the presence and teaching of the missionaries, he converted to Protestantism. After serving in the Ottoman Army during WWI, he was tutored by the missionaries and served as pastor in two cities of the area. Growing up in a Protestant home, I became aware of the ways the early missionaries accomplished their work. My father’s library was lined with Bible Commentaries, books on Systematic Theology and Church History. All had been translated into Arabic by the pioneer missionaries whose greatest accomplishment and gift to us was the translation of the Bible into Arabic, our native language. To this day, this translation is known as the “Smith-Van Dyck” version of 1860! National pastors were equipped to proclaim the “Word of the Cross.” Notwithstanding the obstacles they encountered in their work, their message brought men and women to a saving faith in the Lord, as it was accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit. The phrase, “the word of the Cross” summarized the essence of Christianity as a faith based on the redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ, by His death on the Cross, His victory over death, His Resurrection and Ascension into glory, seated at the right hand of God to make intercession for His own. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to grant His messengers steadfastness in their proclamation of the Word of the Cross. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Wednesday October 17 - A living sacrifice

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. – Romans 12:1 Scripture reading: Romans 12:1-2 Paul followed this pattern in his Letters to the Churches. After expounding the Gospel, he turned to its application in the life of the believers. While justification by faith in Jesus Christ is a once-for-all event, sanctification, that is the practice of the faith and the working out of God-centered living, is a life-long process. Paul followed the order of the Great Commission, as given by the risen Christ prior to His Ascension: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19,20). It wasn’t only Paul that mentioned the importance of the Christian’s walk during his earthly pilgrimage. The same emphasis exists in the New Testament Letters of Hebrews, James, I and II Peter, I, II, and III, John and Jude. Followers of world religions have objections to Christian beliefs, but are impressed by the Christian life. Having grown up in the Middle East where Muslims who regarded Christians as unbelievers, still couldn’t help but admire the life of their Christian neighbors. One of their sayings was, “A Christian doesn’t lie.” My father used to relay this anecdote that Muslims, who had plans to travel, used to “deposit” some of their money for safe-keeping at the home of missionaries whose conduct in life exemplified honesty and integrity! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord will enable us to manifest the Christian Mind in all our dealings with others! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Friday October 12 - The righteousness of God

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. – Romans 3:21,22a Scripture reading: Romans 3:21–31 Unlike the rest of world religions, Christianity is a redemptive faith. This means that in Adam’s Fall, all of humanity became incapable of rescuing itself from the bondage of sin. It’s important to remember that the Judaism of Paul’s days did not reflect the faith of the Old Testament Prophets. During the 400 years between Malachi and John the Baptist, a legalistic form of Judaism developed. A person could be put right with God by doing the demands of the Law. Over against this “Rabbinical Judaism,” Paul explained: “but now, the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law … the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. … For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God…. And are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” The legalism of Judaism is like the belief of Muslims. Having confessed their faith in Allah and in Muhammad as his prophet, Muslims must accomplish various duties to gain a place in Paradise. This deprives them of assurance about their eternal state. Fear surrounds their life journey! Now that Muslims have moved in great numbers to the West, Christians have a responsibility to share the Biblical Gospel with their Muslim neighbors. While Muslims reject all the basic teachings of the Scriptures, yet, “the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes;” this includes Muslims and Jews as well! Suggestions for prayer  Plead with the Lord of the Harvest to grant us boldness in our witness to our non-Christian neighbors. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Thursday October 11 - Unashamed of the Gospel

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also the Greek. – Romans 1:16 Scripture reading: Romans 1:16-17 When Paul was in Athens, he presented the Gospel of the crucified and risen Lord to everyone he encountered. Some, who were followers of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, looked down on him, claiming he was uttering nonsense! As he began expounding the Gospel to the Church in Rome, he was fully aware of the negative attitude of many Jewish and Gentile people in the city. So he set forth, in the clearest manner, his absolute confidence in the message entrusted to him by God. Unlike the vain speculations of Athens’s philosophers, Paul pointed to the fact that the Gospel he proclaimed served as a means for the salvation of everyone who believed, both Jews and Greeks. This was manifested in a changed life that centered on the love of God and of fellow human beings. Even though the Jews had received the Promise of the coming Messiah and could read about it in their Scriptures, yet, they were disappointed in Him because He didn’t liberate them from Rome. As to the Gentiles, often called Greeks, since the educated ones knew Greek as well as Latin, they considered the Gospel message as “foolishness,” as it contradicted their views of man’s basic needs. The Gospel provides the diagnosis and the cure for mankind’s sinfulness. It explains how to obtain a right relationship with God. As Paul put it, “For in it a righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to equip His ministers and missionaries with boldness and clarity to proclaim the saving message of the Gospel. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Wednesday October 10 – The Gospel of God

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God. – Romans 1:1 Scripture reading: Romans 1:1-17  We began our meditations with texts from Matthew and the Book of Acts. Today, we begin with Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Paul addressed this letter to a church he had yet to visit. It was organized by people who had visited Jerusalem and witnessed the events on Pentecost. Upon returning home, they shared with their respective communities their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, having been baptized as members of His Church. Unlike the other letters which addressed certain doctrinal and ethical problems, this letter can best be described as “The Catechism of the Christian Church.” It sets forth in a systematic way, an exposition of the Gospel. This is Paul’s theme throughout the letter, as we notice from his salutation: “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans has played a special role in the life of the Church. It functions as a key to the understanding of the Bible. The rediscovery of its teachings contributed to the revival of the Christian faith. It was through his study of Romans, that Martin Luther found peace with God and launched the Reformation, five hundred years ago! Suggestions for prayer Plead with the Lord to work mightily among us, that we may take to heart, the vital lessons from this Epistle. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Tuesday October 9 - Many are my people

For I have many in this city who are my people. – Acts 18:10b Scripture reading: Acts 18:5-11 Leaving Athens, Paul came to the port city of Corinth where he met Aquila and Priscilla and joined them in the business of tent-making. He first went to the synagogue of the Jews and proclaimed the Gospel. The majority did not welcome his message, but the ruler of the synagogue believed and his entire household. Many of the Gentile population believed and were baptized. The Lord encouraged Paul in a vision, telling him: “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”  The Lord’s comforting words remind us of the doctrine of election that is summarized in Lord’s Day 21, of the Heidelberg Catechism: “What do you believe concerning ‘the holy catholic church? I believe that the Son of God through his Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member.” My belief in election, enabled me to persevere during thirty-six years of broadcasting the Gospel to the Arabic-speaking world. Most of the audience were Muslims, “immunized” by their sacred texts, against the reception of the Christian message. Some believed, since they had been among the elect, known to God from eternity! Suggestions for prayer Missionaries laboring in difficult areas need our prayers that God would remind them their labors will not be in vain! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Thursday October 4 – Ananias and the persecutor

And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized. – Acts 9:18 Scripture reading: Acts 9:17-19 The conversion of Saul of Tarsus is one of the most dramatic stories of the New Testament. Luke tells us that this zealous young man couldn’t tolerate the followers of the Messiah. He consented to the murder of Stephen. When he met the glorified Messiah on the Damascus Road, he was ordered to go to a Christian disciple in Damascus, the very one he had planned to harm! Luke has supplied us with vivid details of the encounter. I would like to draw attention to a phenomenon that played a major role in the rapid growth of the Christian Church: the existence of Christian communities with no information about how the Gospel got to them. This applies to Damascus. Paul went to Ananias' home; his sight was restored and he was baptized. This implies the prior existence of the Church. It must have been that some of the 3,000 who were converted in Jerusalem on Pentecost, belonged to the Jewish community in Damascus. Their conversion experience enabled them to go back to their homes and tell the marvelous account of the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies in the life and person of Jesus Christ.  Their testimony was spontaneous and joyful; it led to the conversion of Ananias and several others. In our reflections on similar accounts in Acts, the existence of Christian communities like the one in Damascus will be noted. Behind all of them, we must consider two major facts: the Jewish Dispersion and the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek. Suggestions for prayer Let us pray that all members of the Church may reclaim the spontaneity that marked the witness of the Early Church. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Wednesday October 3 – Repent and be baptized

For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself. – Acts 2:39 Scripture reading: Acts 2:37–41 Peter’s sermon quoted Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus Christ and culminated with the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, to inaugurate the New Testament Age. The hearers,  “were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’  And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.'”  Christian missions include the command to “repent,” a basic condition for entry into the Church. Since those who heard Peter’s message were adults, their baptism followed their confession.  But Peter didn’t stop; he declared that the “Promise” (the Gospel) was for them, their children and for all people who were included in God’s eternal plan of salvation. This fact encourages and sustains missionaries in their work, realizing that their labors will not be in vain! Reading Acts and the Epistles, we discover the way God works in missions. One missionary plants the seed of the Word and later another one builds upon it. Finally, God gives the increase as He sovereignly determines. And the phenomenal growth of the New Testament Church is the witness to His mighty acts at the very beginning of the church’s life. Early in the fourth century, the number of Christians in the Roman Empire had become substantial. Paganism was declining, while the followers of Jesus Christ showed by word and deed, the renewing power of the faith. Suggestions for prayer Pray for your missionaries asking the Lord to grant them patience and hope. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany hasserved as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Tuesday October 2 – The promise of the Spirit

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. – Acts 1:8 Scripture reading: Acts 1:6-9 After our Lord’s resurrection, He appeared to His disciples to teach them the proper way of interpreting the Old Testament. “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem’”  (Luke 24:45–47). However, they were not to begin their mission until they were endowed with power from the Holy Spirit. This was to instruct the Church that missionary endeavor depends on the blessing of the Holy Spirit.  This teaching is explained in Lord’s Day 21, Q & A 54, of the Heidelberg Catechism:  “What do you believe concerning ‘the holy catholic church’?  I believe that the Son of God through his Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member.’”  The Belgic Confession emphasizes the universality of the Church in Article 27: “This holy Church is not confined, bound, or limited to a certain place or to certain persons, but is spread and dispersed over the whole world; and yet is joined and united with heart and will, by the power of faith, in one and the same spirit.” Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to bless all missionaries who are spreading the Gospel, sharing with converts the riches of the Biblical faith, as summarized in the Reformed confessional standards. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Monday October 1 - Introduction

During this month, we will be studying “Christian Missions” as they are described in the New Testament. In his Gospel, John tells us of God’s love for the world, manifested in sending His Only-begotten Son to save whoever would believe in Him. When Christ had accomplished His redemptive work, He gave the disciples “The Great Commission.” As missions expert Rodney Stark put it in his book The Triumph of Christianity, while it was given in the “imperative,” in the early church, it functioned in the “indicative." In other words, Christians spontaneously shared the Good News with their neighbors. This explains how the number of Christians climbed from 3,000 on Pentecost, to 6 million by 300 AD and to 30 million by 350 AD. The Third Millennium has ushered in the Age of Globalization. Millions of people from Asia and Africa have settled in the West, the majority from a non-Christian background. The “Mission Field” is now next door. We have unprecedented opportunities to spread the Christian faith, by word and deed, through personal contact and the Internet. It is my hope and prayer, that these meditations will re-acquaint us with Biblical principles of missions, guarding us against certain questionable approaches that promise numerical success at the expense of sound doctrine. The goal of Christian missions should be the organization of churches that confess Jesus Christ, as Lord and Savior. THE GREAT COMMISSION Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. – Matthew 28:19 Scripture reading: Matthew 28:16-20 Our devotions for this month deal with Christian Missions. The Lord Jesus Christ prefaced the Great Commission with these words: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  These words assure the Church that, notwithstanding the obstacles that would arise in the way of the Gospel, Christ’s omnipotence guarantees the success of the missionary enterprise. The goal is to “make disciples of all nations,” which implies instructing converts with the basics of the Christian faith. During the Apostolic Age, the Apostles and their assistants expounded the Messianic passages of the Old Testament that were fulfilled in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. This tradition is of great importance for us today, since not all Christian missionary work reflects a faithful adherence to the Great Commission. Some teach that baptism, followed by membership in the church, is not necessary. Others, add a political dimension to the Gospel, such as the realization of “Social Justice” in the here-and-now. However, a careful reading of the Book of Acts reveals that the Gospel proclaimed, “repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21b). The Greek word for repentance is “metanoia,” i.e. a change of mind, resulting in submission to the authority of the Bible.  The Internet has become a wonderful tool to spread the Gospel worldwide. This is especially important for Muslims who live in lands that prohibit missionaries. We praise the Lord for this new avenue of service. Suggestions for prayer Pray for Christian missionaries that they may be faithful to the Gospel, realizing that they represent Jesus Christ Whose sovereignty is universal and Whose plan for the gathering of the elect, will be accomplished.  This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Wednesday September 26 – The strength of the Holy Spirit

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. – 1 John 4:4 Scripture reading: 1 John 4:1-5 The last petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” is defined by the Heidelberg Catechism: “Lord, uphold us and make us strong with the strength of Your Holy Spirit…” (Q. 127). Scripture conveys the gospel in superior tones. We hear the comforting words of Elisha conveyed to his servant in trial: “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16), and the servant’s eyes of faith are opened to God’s power. The devil prowls like a roaring lion seeking those he might devour, yet Scripture calls us to resist him (1 Peter 5:8-9) — not in our own strength, but because “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” It is a blessing for us to know that when we have been made new by Christ’s Spirit, we need not fall for the devil’s deceit. When we do not, it goes to show that the Spirit of truth is at work in us. When God is with us, who can be against us? Suggestions for prayer Pray daily for the Lord’s supply of His Spirit to empower you to serve Him well. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

Tuesday September 25 – The sacraments and the sealing Spirit of Christ

… is the guarantee of our inheritance…. – Ephesians 1:14 Scripture reading: Ephesians 1:11-14 The Holy Spirit regenerates, but He also supplies assurance for our faith. When we know Christ as our Saviour and Lord, we confess that “Christ by His Holy Spirit assures us of eternal life” (Heidelberg Catechism, Question 1). The Spirit’s very presence that enables us to make the good confession of Christ is an assurance to us of better things to come as Ephesians 1:13-14 remind us—the Holy Spirit is a seal and guarantee. The Spirit assures us in various ways, but one of them is through the sacraments. Christians confess that the Holy Spirit “confirms through our use of the holy sacraments” (Heidelberg Catechism, Question 65). While “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 8:17), the Spirit uses the signs and seals of the sacraments to bolster the trustworthy word of God so that we might serve our God and Saviour with an assurance that contrasts the world of uncertainty. God gives us two sacraments which are sufficient for the Spirit to assure us that the gospel is not just for us, but for all those He has called. Suggestions for prayer Pray with thanks to the Lord that you can live under the assurance of His grace, an assurance that the Holy Spirit promotes by the use of the sacraments in your life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

Monday September 24 – The renewing of the Holy Spirit

… have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. – Colossians 3:10 Scripture reading: Colossians 3:5-12 The Heidelberg Catechism begins its gratitude section by declaring that Christ “redeemed us by His blood” (Question 86), but then says that “Christ by His Spirit is also renewing us to be like Himself.” The Heidelberg Catechism describes renewal as “genuine repentance or conversion” (Question 88). Our passage does not speak explicitly of the Spirit, but it does speak of what He accomplishes in His people, the dying of the old and the living to the new. This renewal involves every possible relationship we can know — our thanksgiving to God, our praise of God, our personal assurance and our love for our neighbors. Our status before God has forever changed when we have been made right with God through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. However, we are also called to daily change by way of the Holy Spirit. That daily change becomes further evidence that the gospel of Jesus Christ has made a true difference in how we live and what we believe. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Spirit of Christ might be at work in you so that you and others may more and more see the holy changes that the Lord has called you to display in light of His grace to you. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

Sunday September 23 – Unity in the one Spirit

For through we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. – Ephesians 2:18 Scripture reading: Ephesians 2:12-22 Christ not only governs as eternal King by His Word and Spirit, He also saves through His Word and Spirit a community united in true faith (Heidelberg Catechism, Question 54). When we speak of the holy catholic church, we can be consoled to know that the unity of the church is realized, not by us, but by the grace of God: “Through we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). In response, we can find it so much easier to promote church unity when we remember that no matter who we are, the reason that we belong to the church of Jesus Christ as a living member is not because of who we are, but because of what the Holy Spirit has done for us. One Spirit makes us all members of His church; the more we appreciate that, the more we will treat each other like brothers and sisters in the family of God and promote the unity of the church that is realized by Jesus Christ, Who by one Spirit gives to us access to the Father in heaven. Suggestions for prayer As you go to worship the Lord with others today, pray that God may grant you the ability to be a promoter of true Christian unity with others who worship with you in Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

Tuesday September 18 – The fruit of the Spirit: SELF-CONTROL (5)

The fruit of the Spirit is…self-control. – Galatians 5:22-23 Scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Christian self-control bears with it many virtuous conclusions: Self-control has long-term goals of pleasing God and values imperishable prizes. Paul says that the athlete devotes himself to self-control to win a perishable prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Paul says that those who know that the imperishable crown of Christ is ahead will run a spiritual race greater than the temperate athlete. Self-control avoids abuses and excesses, lest it loses control. Too much alcohol and you lose control; too many wrong words and you devour one another. Blessing is found in the Spirit, not in excesses. Self-control is a sign of order in our lives. Proverbs 16:23 says: “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Refusing to over-react shows that we know Who has our times in His hands. We can be more in control of our lives in a temperate way when we know Who really is in control of our lives, the Spirit of Christ. He shows us, like no other, what it means to be loving, joyous, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled. Suggestions for prayer Pray thankfully for God’s fruitful virtues at work in your life in Christ. Pray that the fruit of the Spirit may be born in increasing fashion in your life with each new day. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

Monday September 17 – The fruit of the Spirit: SELF-CONTROL (4)

The fruit of the Spirit is…self-control. – Galatians 5:22-23 Scripture reading: Matthew 26:47-56 Self-control flows from gentleness and meekness. Being gentle and self-controlled go together. It takes the power of the Spirit to be gentle; it takes the same power to control ourselves. Self-control is a reflection of God and His Christ. God describes Himself as “slow to anger” (Ex. 34:6). Were God quick to anger, He could not pardon our sins for the sake of Jesus Christ. We see the self-control of Christ in the temptations of Matthew 4. In Matthew 26:53-54 we find even greater self-control: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and He will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53-54). Christ’s greatest display of self-control was to remain on the cross. Jesus never ran ahead of God. For the joys that were set before Him, He endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2). His example is why we are called to self-control, called to keep our eyes on Christ in the short-term trials now and not give up on the long-term plans that God has for us in Christ. Those truths will lead us into one more set of conclusions on self-control tomorrow. Suggestions for prayer Ponder the restraint of God and His Christ and pray that the Lord will help you to appreciate God’s restraint in your life, and to reflect all the more Christ’s restraint for you. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

Sunday September 16 – The fruit of the Spirit: SELF-CONTROL (3)

The fruit of the Spirit is…self-control. – Galatians 5:22-23 Scripture reading: Galatians 5:1-15 Self-control has many edifying virtues: Self-control does not get ahead of itself. When people are out of control, they get ahead of themselves and God. Not controlling ourselves within the bounds of marriage is an example of getting ahead of ourselves. Commitment is supposed to come before consummation between a man and a woman, but when consummation comes before commitment, we have turned the order of marriage upside-down. Pre-marital sex is wrong, as God declares because it is a chaotic act; it goes against God’s order and when we go against God’s order, life gets complicated. Self-control is the expression of the liberty of the new life in Christ. All the works of the flesh, found in Galatians 5, are acts against self-control because they all seek to satisfy our sinful selfishness. Christian freedom, on the other hand, asks, “How can I please God and others by way of self-restraint?” Christian freedom is not meant to take us out of control, but to put us in control of ourselves so that God is pleased in the process. Self-control expresses the liberty we now have as servants of Christ. Suggestions for prayer As you hear the gospel today in worship, pray that the Lord might grant unto you the insight from His word to put God’s timing before the temptations of mere momentary satisfaction. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

Saturday September 15 – The fruit of the Spirit: SELF-CONTROL (2)

The fruit of the Spirit is…self-control – Galatians 5:22-23  Scripture reading: Titus 2:1-14 When we find ourselves controlling our tongue, appetites and tempers, we are in control of our lives as God designed. One of the ways that we can view the Spirit at work in us is if we find ourselves more and more in control of ourselves. If we are, we're showing ourselves to be living a sanctified life, where the fruit and presence of the Spirit are evident in our lives. We share a few more ways that Christian self-control is edifying: Self-control respects marriage, the family and the individual. Self-control is more than sexual, but it is certainly that. 1 Corinthians 7:9 says, “But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry.” Part of the antonyms of self-control in Galatians 5 includes immorality, impurity and indecency. When we do not exercise self-control sexually, we disrespect marriage, families of those over whom we might lust, and we disrespect the one who is not our spouse. Self-control gets a boost when we remember that marriage is a sanctified institution established by God. Marriage is to be honoured because we honour God who established it. In the same way, we honour the families that God has established in His supreme wisdom. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to help you appreciate the sanctity of marriage so that the fruit of self-control might bear greatly in your life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

Monday September 10 - The fruit of the Spirit: FAITHFULNESS (3)

The fruit of the Spirit is…faithfulness…. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Matthew 24:45-51 Christian faithfulness is to be God-directed, but it is also to be shown to others. We can be loyal in the wrong ways, as when our work comes before our families or our families come before our relationship to God. Our faithfulness to others can be a beautiful thing even though the world doesn’t understand true faithfulness. You might wonder why you cannot count on some people when the chips are down. Concentrate more on whether people can count on you as you can count on Christ. Not all marriages work out like they ought, but ask yourself, “What keeps a marriage together — mine perhaps?” It is going to be the fruit of faithfulness. The works of the flesh include immorality, but the fruitfulness of a Christian marriage will be found in emulating the faithfulness of Christ. Be a faithful worker to your Master in heaven and to your employer. The hallmark of the employee is not what he can get, but his ability to be a dependable worker. Ask not how others might be faithful to you; ask how you can be faithful to others as God has been to you in Christ and His Spirit. Suggestions for prayer Ask for pardon when you have let others down. Ask for the Lord’s grace to help you be someone on whom others can depend in faithfulness. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

Sunday September 9 – The fruit of the Spirit: FAITHFULNESS (2)

The fruit of the Spirit is… faithfulness…. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Psalm 34:1-10 As we mentioned yesterday, faithfulness is meant to be directed both to God and to those whom God has placed in our path. Believers in Galatia needed a reminder to be faithful to God. Some had become bewitched, thinking that justification was somehow based on the law. The apostle calls the Galatians back to a loyalty for the gospel truth, trusting in God for justification in Christ, not in themselves. Faithfulness to God includes faithful worship. Worshipping God regularly is a sign of our faithfulness to God. God’s faithfulness in Christ is a basis for faithful worship. God’s faithfulness to His people never dries up; they can always count on God; this is why God expects faithful worship from them. Worship does not quit because God’s faithfulness never quits; Christians are faithful worshippers. Our world is shouting at us to worship less or quit worship altogether—all for illegitimate reasons. Yet, worship is never an exercise in futility when we remember that the faithfulness of the Lord is great and new every moment; with the psalmist, then, “His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Tomorrow, let’s see how the fruit of faithfulness can be shown to others. Suggestions for prayer Pray to the Lord that your response to God’s call to worship will be based initially on God’s faithfulness to you in Christ, rather than some secondary reason. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

Saturday September 8 - The fruit of the Spirit: FAITHFULNESS (1)

The fruit of the Spirit is…faithfulness…. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Psalm 100 Faithfulness speaks of devotion to the faithful and triune God; it includes a dependability in our service to others. The call to faithfulness should not surprise us, given God’s faithfulness in time and eternity to His people. Whether we speak of the Father, Son or Holy Spirit, each displays the character of One Who is covenantally faithful, as Psalm 100 relates. God the Father finishes what He starts, beginning a good work and seeing it to completion unto the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6). His faithfulness is so great that nothing in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:39), Who Himself is the faithful witness (Rev. 1:5). The Holy Spirit also is faithful, a guarantee of better things coming, the unfading inheritance that awaits the people of God. He is the One that Jesus would call “the One who will abide with us forever” (John 14:16). Bearers of the fruit of the Spirit are therefore called to be faithful as God is faithful – a faithfulness to be directed to God and to others. Tomorrow we will see how this Christian faithfulness can be realized in our lives, particularly in worship. Suggestions for prayer Take time to pray with adoration for the various ways that the Lord reveals His faithfulness, both in Scripture and in your life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

Friday September 7 – The fruit of the Spirit: GOODNESS

The fruit of the Spirit is…goodness…. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Psalm 37:1-9 Goodness is a reflection of God, Who is good. From the outset in Scripture, God is revealed as good and as One Who creates what is good. The world accuses God of evil, but such accusations are contrary to God’s Word. In fact, God works all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). Our calling to be good is to give glory to God according to His standards in our relationship to Him and to others. As we have opportunity, we are to do good to everyone, especially to those who are of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). Goodness is to live an honourable life, where honour is given to God Who is good, by pleasing God and blessing others. Goodness plants seeds of goodness. God’s goodness to us plants seeds of doing good to others. It is easy to let the evil deeds done to us be the seeds we plant in others. Yet, dwelling on God’s prevailing goodness toward us must dictate how we treat others. Suggestions for prayer Pray to the Lord with thanks for His goodness to you each day; with such a spirit of thanksgiving, ask that He might also enable you, by the Spirit, to reflect His goodness all the more. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

Sunday September 2 - The fruit of the Spirit: LOVE

But the fruit of the Spirit is love…. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Galatians 5:16-26 The gifts of the Spirit are sometimes talked about more by Christians than the actual fruit of the Spirit that is shown. Yet, while not all the gifts of the Spirit belong to every Christian, the fruit of the Spirit are to be evident in all Christians. We can understand why the fruit of the Spirit starts with love. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God and a second like it is to love your neighbor. All the other virtues of spiritual fruit flow from love. Love comes first because it directs our attention to God, Who is love. Love is productive. When we are loving, we are giving — to our families, our churches, and others in need. Above all, love gives to God the glory due to His name, which we give especially in worship on the Lord’s Day. We know love best when we know Christ’s love, Who gave His life for us. Not surprisingly, the way in which we, first of all, bear the fruit of the Spirit is by the very way that God has treated us in Christ. Suggestions for prayer As you meditate on God’s unfailing love to you in Christ, pray that, on this Lord’s Day, the Lord might grant you the grace of His Holy Spirit to respond to His love with loving worship. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

Saturday September 1 – Introduction

The September devotions focus on the Holy Spirit. The Fruit of the Spirit is covered first, followed by references to the Holy Spirit in the Heidelberg Catechism. We conclude with a devotional of assurance to Christians on the Holy Spirit’s presence. Reformed Christians often are accused of ignoring the Holy Spirit in the life and teaching of the church. However, when we realize that the believer could never make a confession of Jesus as Lord without the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3), and when we realize that it is the calling of every Christian to bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), ignoring the Holy Spirit is impossible. If anyone is ignoring the Holy Spirit, it may be those who think they could make the profession of Christ without the Spirit of God, or it may be those who think that they should sin all the more so grace can abound. Those who ignore the Spirit ignore the Spirit’s word as those who have ears but do not hear. If Reformed teaching is accused of ignoring the Spirit, the accusation is a false one. The ignoring of the Spirit does occur; however, when our praise, our profession, our prayers and our practice does not display the impact that the Spirit of Christ has on a person’s life. By the grace of the Spirit, may this month’s devotional direct our lives to the need and praise of the Holy Spirit, whom any true Christian will not ignore. FRUITFUL LIVING IN THE SPIRIT If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. – Galatians 5:26 Scripture reading: Galatians 5:16-26 The call to be fruitful is nothing new from God. From the outset the Lord has called us, as human beings, not to be destructive, but to be productive in all facets of our lives. Before the fall, the Lord called humanity to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). The works of the flesh go against this cultural mandate from the Lord. It need not be this way for us when, by grace and through faith, we know we are saved from such a destructive way of life by Christ. When we are saved by Christ, the fruit of the Spirit begins to bear in all the relationships to which we are called. We discover that how we live in Christ matters. If the gospel of Jesus Christ and His precious blood mean anything to us, we will live like those who believe that how we behave in this world does matter. We will not allow our Christian freedom to be an opportunity for the flesh, but an opportunity to be fruitful in God’s vineyard. Suggestions for prayer Pray to the Lord that for each new day He gives, you might use that day to be productive in His kingdom by the power of His Holy Spirit and in service to Christ your Saviour. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

Friday August 31 - Wisely making the best use of the time

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. - Colossians 4:5 Scripture reading: Mark 9:49-50; Colossians 4:5-6 To be watchful for the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ, we need to make the best use of the time God gives us. The Greek has two words for time, one referring to every second, minute and hour, the other to special occasions. Here Paul uses the latter: special moments where God gives us an open door for the proclamation of the gospel either in word or deed. When that happens, we wisely make use of this opportunity. We buy it up, just like we buy up a bargain. It’s important to buy up these opportunities because the reason God gives us time is that He is patient, not wanting any to perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9). This is the redemptive story that is unfolding. When we are joined to the Lord Jesus Christ, we have the awesome privilege of participating in this redemptive drama, buying up the opportunities God gives us to bear witness to the Lord Jesus Christ and insisting that all need to be ready for His appearance. Being watchful for the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ will also entail that our speech be seasoned with salt. When it is, we are to remember that because our lives are a sacrifice to God, so also is our speech. Accordingly, we do our best to listen well to outsiders and speak graciously. When we do, it will have the taste of a sacrifice for God and He may be pleased to use it to prepare others for the appearance of His Son. Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father to enable you to behave wisely towards outsiders, making the best use of the time and paying careful attention to your speech.  This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC....

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