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Daily devotional

Monday January 28 – The daughters of Zelophehad

The daughters of Zelophehad are right. You shall give them possession of an inheritance among their father's brothers and transfer the inheritance of their father to them. – Numbers 27:7

Scripture reading: Numbers 27:1-11

The daughters of Zelophehad are mentioned by name. Some see these sisters as defenders of women’s rights, daring to go where women did not go in the past. We indeed must speak highly of these sisters, but for different reasons. They trusted the promises of the LORD and acted out of faith.

In chapter 26 we read about the second census, which is connected to inheriting the land. These sisters realize that they will not have any land, for their father has died and they have no brother. They go to Moses and Moses asks the LORD. The LORD is positive about the request. He loves it when His people work with His promises. Why would these women want an inheritance? The land was a tangible proof of God’s promise to bring about His kingdom. If these women had no land, then their family would miss out. In fact, then sin would be of greater power than God’s work. Yes, they admit the sin of their father but plead for a place in God’s kingdom. The Lord gives rules to safeguard this.

It shows us that the power of God’s grace is greater than the effects of sin. That is a wonderful message to live with, in our personal lives, in our families and in our churches. We do not ask for land, but by God’s grace, we receive a place in the church, the communion of saints. In this communion, we see and experience the powers of His grace.

Suggestions for prayer

Thank the Lord for the powers of His grace. Pray to be living members of the communion where He has given you a place.

 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

Sunday January 20 – Provide for the support of God's servants

Behold, I have given you charge of the contributions made to me, all the consecrated things of the people of Israel. I have given them to you as a portion and to your sons as a perpetual due. – Numbers 18:8 Scripture reading: Numbers 18:8-32 The priests and the Levites have important work to do. Because of their work, Israel can continue to function as people of the Lord. But they have to live too. They need income, food and drink. Since the Levites had no inheritance in Israel, the LORD makes sure they can live and do their work. He is their inheritance and for this reason, gives to them a portion from what the people give to Him. Certain parts of the sacrifices, the wave offerings and the price of redemption, which the people had to give to the LORD, the LORD now gives to the priests. When it comes to the Levites, the LORD gives to them the tithes which Israel are commanded to give to the LORD. The Levites needed to give a tithe of their income as well. The importance of these laws is that in this way the ministry of the tabernacle could continue. The same counts for us. True, we do not have priests and Levites anymore, but in 1 Corinthians 9:13-14, Paul refers to these laws and connects them to providing for those who preach the gospel.  In Lord's Day 38 of the Heidelberg Catechism, we confess that the Ministry of the Gospel has to be maintained. Are we willing to give? The support of the priests and Levites had the LORD in the centre. Our support for the ministry of the gospel also is a spiritual service. We give to glorify the Lord, and we do so thankfully. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that we have opportunity to give to Him. Pray that we may give thankfully and willingly. Pray that the ministry of the Gospel may continue throughout this world. 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

Saturday January 12 – God shall arise and by His might put all His enemies to flight

Arise, O LORD, and let your enemies be scattered. – Numbers 10:35 Scripture reading: Numbers 10:11-36 The day of departure has come! The ark, the throne of the King of kings, is leading the way. Whenever the ark was lifted up, Moses said, “Arise, LORD, let your enemies be scattered, and your foes flee before you.” When the ark stopped, he would say “Return, O LORD to the countless thousands of Israel.” These words have a war-like tone. The journey is not a holiday trip, but part of God’s plan to destroy the power of the enemy and give His people peace in His kingdom. This is part of the war mentioned in Genesis 3:15! King David saw his task in fighting the wars of the LORD in this light as well. In Psalm 68 Israel rejoices in the victory given by the LORD. Note that the Psalm begins with the words of Numbers 10:35. The wars King David had to fight were not for personal gain, but also part of God’s plan to destroy the kingdom of darkness and establish the kingdom of light. Interestingly, the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:8 refers to Psalm 68, when he describes the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ. As His people, we share in this victory. The Lord gives office-bearers so we may share in His victory. Going back to Numbers and the words of Moses, they were a prophecy of the victory of Christ and therefore we still sing them today with Moses and David as we look forward to the complete victory of our King. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the victory of Christ. Pray that His Kingdom may come, when God will be all in all. 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

Friday January 4 – How to deal with sin?

…that they may not defile their camp, in the midst of which I dwell. – Numbers 5:3 Scripture reading: Numbers 5 The holy God is pleased to dwell among Israel. However, there can be things that threaten the holiness of the camp. Human beings are sinful by nature. The LORD recognizes this and gives means to make sure the camp is not defiled. Chapter 5 mentions three situations: defilement, transgression and distrust. Not only does the LORD point out the wrong – which is a blessing in itself already – but He also gives a way of dealing with it. The first situation involves bodily uncleanness. The unclean person is to be put outside the camp for a time. The second situation is when a person realizes he has sinned. Then restitution has to be made. The third involves the relationship between a husband and wife. The procedure to deal with this has nothing to do with spells or magic, but if the wife is accused and cannot prove her innocence, then the LORD allows her to prove her innocence by this ceremony and so trust can be restored. With these ceremonies, the LORD teaches His people what sin does: it defiles, breaks faith and undermines mutual trust. What a blessing to know that with Christ is full forgiveness because He died outside the camp. The defilement of our sin was taken away by Christ. Whereas we break faith, Christ kept the commandments of God perfectly and so restored us to God. He allows us to rebuild trust in our relationships because of His sacrifice. Forgiveness is a treasure in the church. Suggestions for prayer Thank the LORD that He points out our sin and provides complete forgiveness. Ask for strength to admit sin and fight against it. Ask for His grace to build trusting relations and for help if this trust is broken. 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 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

Thursday December 27 – Following Jesus and shining like stars

...shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life... – Philippians 2:15b, 16a  Scripture reading: Philippians 2:12-17 In the first part of Philippians 2, Paul gives a summary of Jesus’ ministry, from His taking on flesh as a child, to His humbling obedience unto death on the cross and to His exultation where all will bend the knee to His glorious name. However, notice that Paul tells us this summary of Jesus' life not just to encourage us in our faith, but as an example of how to live, not for ourselves, but for others. From this context, Paul tells us to work out our salvation; that is, because you are saved, work for your Saviour. How are we to do this? Paul says, "without complaining or arguing." Paul tells us this so that who we are in Jesus Christ would shine out to the world as living testimonies of what God can do. We can only be this light that shines in the dark world once our minds and hearts are truly set on Christ and His Kingdom and glory and not on ourselves. When we shine, we can hold out the Word of life, which is Jesus Christ. That is why we can tell people that Jesus is why we are the way we are. To bring Jesus in a proper way to your co-workers or your neighbors takes time and loving patience, time to spend with them so that they see that you are different and that you truly care for them. Do you use your free time for your own pleasure or your hobbies or are you working at telling those around you about the love of Christ that is in you? Suggestions for prayer That you shine in your community so that you can talk to others about 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

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

Wednesday December 19 – Taking our stand for the battle

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. – Ephesians 6:13  Scripture reading: Ephesians 6:10-20; Matthew 16:18 When one is in a battle, two things are necessary, you have to know what you are fighting and you need the proper armour. When Jesus came to this earth as a little baby, He came to do battle, to fight for the souls of sinful humans. He conquered Satan on the cross, but, as this passage points out, the battle still rages on. When Jesus conquers you and me, we are no longer part of the kingdom of darkness, but part of the kingdom of light. As citizens of Christ’s Kingdom, we are now to fight for His Kingdom, which we do by putting on the armour of God. This is the only way in which we can stand while doing everything we are called to do as Christ’s people. We are not only to stand firm with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with the gospel of peace, holding onto the shield of faith and fitted with the helmet of salvation, we are also to wield the sword of the Spirit. This points out that although we are to defend ourselves from our great enemies, Satan, the world, and our sinful nature, we are also to be on the offensive with the Word of God in hand. We are to go out boldly with the assurance that when we wield the sword of the Spirit, people will continue to be conquered for the Lord Jesus Christ. This is so because the Spirit goes with the Word. When all the members of Christ’s church go forward with this bold assurance, the church will see others conquered and brought into Christ’s church. Suggestions for prayer That we as members of Christ’s church will have the bold assurance to wield the sword of the Spirit. 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

Tuesday December 11 – Attracting people to our Lord

In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” – Zechariah 8:23b  Scripture reading: Zechariah 8; Matthew 5:14-16 Zechariah prophesied in the time when the people of God were called back to the promised land to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple of the Lord. Although the people of God were discouraged, God sent Zechariah to encourage them and to help them see that God had a long-term plan for them, as His people. This plan not only entailed a great future for the Jewish nation back then, but it also talked of a great future for all nations, including us today. This future for other nations has come about and is coming about because of the person and work of Jesus Christ. When God’s people live for the Lord and proclaim Christ crucified, the prophecy that God proclaimed through the mouth of Zechariah is being fulfilled. Through us, His people, the nations are seeing and hearing about the one true God and the one true Saviour of the world. But it is not finished. We are to live in such a way that the nations, even our neighbours, will say, “Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you”. Although this passage talks of Jews being asked about their God, Paul in Romans 2:29 points out that people are Jews if they are Jews inwardly, that is, if they are connected to Jesus Christ through faith. Jesus called us to be His people so that we would also follow Him in obedience and so fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy. Are you showing that you have a desire to be part of this? Suggestions for prayer That we would live lives that cause others to wonder about our hope in Christ, and be ready and eager to tell others about our lovely Lord and Saviour, 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

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

Monday December 3 – Sacrificial service comes from true faith

And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” – Genesis 22:15-18 Scripture reading: Genesis 22; Hebrews 11:17-19 Today we will see another lesson from Abraham’s life. God did not call and bless Abraham in order to be a trophy, but to be an instrument in God’s hand to bring blessings to others. In seeing that he was an instrument in God’s hand, Abraham came to understand that only through obedience could he be that instrument and only through faith in the promises could he be obedient. We are told that Abraham was able to offer up his son in obedience because he reasoned that God could raise this promised child from the dead. Although we are not called to leave the country like Abraham left and offer up a son as Abraham did, we are called to sacrificial obedience based on the promises we are called to believe in. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus has called us into His family to share in His triumph over sin, death and the devil. But He also called us to share in His ministry to bring the gospel to the rest of humanity, as His church, the pillar and foundation of the truth (Ephesians 3:15). If your eyes have been opened to His gracious and glorious promises, are you not also coming to understand, as Abraham did, that you are not a trophy, but an instrument in God’s hands, serving sacrificially as the body of Christ in His mission to the world so that all may hear the good news of Jesus Christ? Suggestions for prayer  Pray that you will more and more see yourself as an instrument in God’s hand that He is transforming and moulding to bring Him glory as you share the gospel. 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 "The Sacrifice of Isaac" (1603) by Caravaggio....

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

Sunday November 25 - The Church's mission (3): The preaching of the Word

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. – Romans 10:17 Scripture reading: Romans 10 In what way is the church called to carry out her mission. First of all, we must emphasize the centrality of the preaching of the Word. As we will see tomorrow, we are called to be witnesses in all of everyday life. But the primary means that God uses to create faith in the hearts of His people is always the preached Word. As Paul says in Romans 10: "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? ... So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:14, 17). It is because we are concerned with the church’s mission that we must emphasize the importance of preaching: the announcement of who Jesus is and what He has done in His death and resurrection together with the call to respond with faith in that good news. The church today is tempted to neglect this means of grace in favour of other methods. But just as the Word is the means by which God spoke and called this creation into existence, so the Word is the means by which God calls forth the new creation of faith in our hearts: “. ..since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). Suggestions for prayer That God would supply us with faithful preaching, that He would encourage our confidence in His use of the preached Word and that the Word would bear fruit in our lives and in the church’s 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

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

Saturday November 17 – Jesus fulfills Israel's mission (2): The true son of Abraham

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. - Matthew 1:1 Scripture reading: Matthew 1:1-17 We saw yesterday that Matthew summarized Jesus’ message as being about the good news of the kingdom, thereby connecting Jesus’ identity and message with the story of Israel. Jesus came to fulfill everything God had promised to Israel. Matthew also shows this connection by way of his genealogy. It can be tempting to skip over the long lists of names in the Bible, but they are always important. In this case, Matthew is teaching us that to understand Jesus, we need to understand the story that preceded Him. The names mentioned in his genealogy all bring to mind promises made, promises kept, and promises renewed, all yearning for fulfillment in Christ. Most importantly, Matthew begins his genealogy with Abraham and summarizes the identity of Jesus as being “the son of David, the son of Abraham.” When the gospel would later go to the nations, Jewish believers would be tempted to think that this was instead of the gospel being for Israel. But because Jesus is a son of Abraham, we are reminded that the gospel is going to the nations because the gospel is for Israel. Jesus came first for Israel and God’s promise to them, beginning with Abraham in Genesis 12, was that his family would bless the whole world. God blessed the nations through Jesus because that was God's purpose for Israel all along. And in that way, Jesus was and is the true Son of Abraham. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His faithfulness to His promises and for the glory of Christ as the true Son of Abraham, and pray that God would enable us to carry out that same mission as children of Abraham in 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

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

Friday November 9 - Israel's mission (6): The failure of Israel

And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. – Ezekiel 36:23 Scripture reading: Ezekiel 36:22-36 As Israel entered the promised land, God reminded the people of their calling to live differently from the world to be a blessing to the world. But Israel's time in the land ended with failure. They chased after other gods, rebelled against God's law and ended up in exile as a result. And when God sent Israel into exile, He was clear as to what the reason was: not only because of Israel's idolatry, but because of Israel’s failure to be a faithful witness before the nations: "Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came" (Ezekiel 36:22). The exile was because Israel profaned God’s name “among the nations.” When God promised that Israel would be restored from exile, He said the reason was to restore Israel’s mission: "Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it" (Ezekiel 36:36). Even when Israel was in exile, God promised to restore Israel for the sake of the nations. That is the heart of God revealed, the heart of the God Who created and loves His world and would one day rescue it through His Son. Suggestions for prayer That the Spirit would enable us in Christ to be faithful where Israel was unfaithful, and that he would do so for the sake of the nations. 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

Thursday November 1 – The big picture (1): Jesus on the road to Emmaus

This month we will be asking and answering the question of our mission as the church of Jesus Christ. Why do we exist as churches? What is our purpose? To answer that question, we will be walking through the story of the Bible as a whole, from Genesis to Revelation, tracing the theme of God’s mission to bless the nations through Abraham’s family, fulfilled in Jesus as the Light of the world. It is this theme of the mission of God that gives the church her mission. We’ll do this in several parts, after introducing the theme with the words of Jesus in Luke 24: We will trace the theme of God’s mission in the story of Israel We will see how Jesus fulfills that mission in His death and resurrection We will see God’s promises for the future of our mission We will be challenged by how this story gives us our mission as the church We will look at several ways we can be challenged to carry out that mission Many of the ideas in this devotional were inspired by lectures given by Michael Goheen, largely based on his book A Light to the Nations. For those who would like to dig deeper, that book is highly recommended, together with The Mission of God by Christopher Wright. ***** And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. – Luke 24:27 Scripture reading: Luke 24:13-35 This month, we are going to ask the question of the mission of the church by looking at the story of the Bible as a whole, from Genesis to Revelation. The Bible is one large book that tells one story and so it is helpful to get an orientation to the “big picture” of the whole story before diving in at the beginning. To get that big picture of what the Bible is about, we begin with the words of Jesus when He appears to the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. The story begins immediately after the resurrection of Jesus (in fact, it might be helpful to read verses 1-12 as context). When Jesus appears to the disciples, they are sad because they know Jesus died and they do not recognize Him. Their sadness is understandable: if the One they thought was the Messiah is dead, then He must not have been the Messiah! But Jesus tells them they should have expected the death and resurrection of the Messiah and He tells them why: “And he said to them, 'O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!'" (v. 25). Jesus says that the whole Old Testament “beginning with Moses and all the prophets” spoke of Him! This is the key to reading the Bible: the whole book is about Jesus, promising and proclaiming Him. That is the beauty of Scripture and the glory of Christ. Suggestions for prayer That God would give us the wisdom to see Christ in all of Scripture and that in seeing Christ we would grow to love and trust Him more. 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 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

Wednesday October 24 - Chosen before the foundation of the world

In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will. – Ephesians 1:4b-5 Scripture reading: Ephesians 1:1-14 Luke informs us in Acts 19:10, that Paul came to Ephesus and spent two years preaching the Gospel, “so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” “Asia,” in this text, referred to Asia Minor where Ephesus was situated near the Mediterranean Sea. The city was a large commercial and political centre; the Temple of the goddess Artemis attracted many people from the area to her worship. Paul sent this letter to Ephesus and to the churches around it. We learn about them in chapters 2 and 3 of the Book of Revelation. This letter has important lessons for the church, especially in areas of the world where believers suffer persecution. The opening words are a wonderful doxology praising God the Father for choosing believers before the foundation of the world. It is a very powerful teaching that assures Christians that they were the objects of God’s electing love, before their birth! What a comforting thought! Christians are adopted through Jesus Christ, Who redeemed them by shedding His blood for the forgiveness of their sins. To become aware of God’s plan and receive this unbelievable gift, requires the preaching of the Gospel. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory“ (Eph. 1:13,14). Suggestions for prayer Pray for expressions of gratitude to rise from us to our Triune God for His wonderful loving election; may our lives exhibit this thankfulness. 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

Tuesday October 16 - The future salvation of Israel

I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  And in this way all Israel will be saved. – Romans 11:25b–26a Scripture reading: Romans 11:25–36 During the last 2000 years, there have been few Jewish conversions to the Gospel. The 19th century did have two noteworthy exceptions; Alfred Edersheim, the author of The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, and the composer Felix Mendelssohn who has enriched us with his Oratorios Elijah, St. Paul and the Reformation Symphony. Paul warned us not to forecast the future of Israel by simply focusing on the past. “I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  And in this way all Israel will be saved” (11:25, 26a). Some Bible commentators interpret “all Israel will be saved” as referring to the “elect” in general and not to the Jews. But we should not forget that Paul was dealing with the Fall and Ultimate Salvation of the Jews. His teaching about election is found in Romans 8 and in Ephesians 1. Would the Apostle have burst into this doxology, if he were not thinking of Israel? “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counsellor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (11:33–36). Suggestions for prayer Plead with the Lord of the Harvest to hasten the day when this prophecy would come to pass! 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

Monday October 8 – Times of ignorance

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. - Acts 17:30 Scripture reading: Acts 17:22–34 Paul arrives at Athens, the Capital of the intellectuals, which had produced famous philosophers including Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Those philosophers had dazzled the ancient world with their wisdom. And yet, Athens was filled with idols, one even erected “To the unknown god.” Paul proclaimed the Gospel to the cultural elite by stressing the fact that the Creator did not need the works of men’s hands, since He was Himself the author of life, as even some of their prophets had said. Paul explained that in the past God had allowed Greeks and other nations to live in “the times of ignorance,” since He had not given them His special revelation that was given to the Jews. But now, in this New Testament Age, God’s universal Good News is broadcast everywhere. With this fact in mind, Paul added, “but now he commands all people everywhere to repent because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this, he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” The audience was shocked upon hearing of the resurrection of the dead. That contradicted their philosophy; immortality of the soul was acceptable, but not the resurrection of the body! Paul left the assembly, “some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that ministers and missionaries would not be ashamed of the Gospel when they face modern sophisticated unbelievers or followers of other religions! 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

Sunday September 30 – The presence of the Holy Spirit

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. - 1 Peter 4:14 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 4:12-19 We conclude by addressing the sufferings of Christians, particularly their suffering for being Christians. Many have had to suffer for their wrongs; they have reaped what they have sown. Others have suffered for the right — particularly Christians — because they care about what is right. It takes no effort to be careless; but in order to be faithful to the Lord, it takes a Spirit-led effort. It takes effort to care about what is right, but it can also hurt to do so. When we care for Jesus’ sake, Peter reminds us that we are blessed by God, for we would not care apart from the Spirit. Such divine presence is always our consolation as Christians. Such consolation is especially vital in times of suffering. We may suffer as Christians, but what is more important in our suffering is to know that God is with us. May the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Suggestions for prayer Seek the Lord’s favor that in worship today you might view your circumstances, through the Spirit-breathed Word of God, as times where the Spirit is with you, despite the trying times. 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

Saturday September 22 – The governance of the Holy Spirit

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth…. – John 14:16-17a Scripture reading: John 14:15-17 The reign of the ascended Lord Jesus Christ allows for the descent of the Holy Spirit. The governing of the Spirit is described in the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 12, as connected with the royalty of Christ, Who “governs us by His Word and Spirit.” The governing of Christ, by His Spirit, is never detached from Christ’s ruling word that is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Yet, people have perverted Christ’s rule in the Spirit by viewing the work of Christ’s Spirit as chaotic. They view the truly “spiritual person” as the one who is out of his natural mind — yet, he is the envy of all ordinary Christians. Being governed by the Spirit, however, should be viewed by Christians as the Spirit’s power enabling us to live in self-controlled obedience and gratitude to God. Reverential living may seem ordinary, but in a sin-cursed world, it is not; it is the extraordinary work of Christ, Who governs us by His Word and Spirit. Suggestions for prayer Pray to the Lord with gratitude when Christian virtues of faith, hope and love have been made evident in your life by the Spirit. Pray that such virtues may continue to be born in 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

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

Friday September 14 – The fruit of the Spirit: SELF-CONTROL (1)

The fruit of the Spirit is…self-control. – Galatians 5:22-23 Scripture reading: Titus 2:1-14 Most of us have heard the saying, “business before pleasure.” Duty calls! Pleasures can be a blessing, but we should also be pleased to prioritize the responsibilities that God has placed before us. To put our business before pleasure requires us to exercise self-control. Self-control puts the pleasure of the Lord and neighbour before our own; it rounds out nicely with the fruit of the Spirit that begins with God's love toward us in order that we can practice this self-control. It might be obvious to say that being out of control is not a fruit or gift of the Spirit. Yet the impression left by some is that if one is truly empowered with the Spirit of God, one undergoes an out-of-control experience because, supposedly, God is in control, not you. Yet, the Spirit of God has come into the lives of His people so that they might exercise control. The word that is used for self-control literally means “having power over” someone or something. The Christian has had his once-chaotic life replaced with an orderly one. That leads to other good conclusions that we can take up in our next two devotionals. Suggestions for prayer Pray today and often that the Lord will bring increasing order to your life since you have been made a new creation 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

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

Thursday September 6 - The fruit of the Spirit: KINDNESS

The fruit of the Spirit is…kindness…. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: 2 Corinthians 6:1-10 Kindness does not follow patience arbitrarily, any more than its pairing with patience elsewhere in Scripture, the most familiar being 1 Corinthians 13:4: “Love is patient. Love is kind.” Kindness is a quality of mercy on the positive side and a refusal to be rude on the negative side. It is one thing to suffer, it is another to respond so someone suffers in return. Kindness avoids vengeance. Kindness is the benevolent reaction of God to us. Ephesians 2:7 speaks of God’s immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Recipients of God’s kindness know that no one has suffered longer than God and His Christ have suffered for us, who are sinners. Yet, no one has responded better to suffering than God, Who in His loving kindness has displayed His benevolence in Christ. God calls us, then, to display the same kind of demeanour among those with whom we must suffer long, with a kindness that reflects the kindness of God in Christ. Our calling is to reflect the loving kindness of our Saviour by showing loving kindness to our fellow-man. Suggestions for prayer Pray to the Lord that He might grant you the sort of kindness that reflects the greatness of His kindness to 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

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....

Daily devotional

Thursday August 30 - Praying for the appearance of the Lord Jesus

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. – Colossians 4:2 Scripture reading: Colossians 4:2-4 How watchful are you for the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you praying for His appearance? Are you praying for an open door for the gospel? All of history is heading for the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now is the time of repentance for everyone. To be watchful for the Lord Jesus Christ, we need to persevere in prayer for His appearance, for prayer is a spiritual discipline, meant to sanctify us and keep our lives oriented towards why we are here and where we are going. Thus, the more we pray for the appearance of the Lord Jesus, the more being ready for His appearance will be on our minds. When we pray with thankfulness that our lives are hidden with Christ in the glory of the Father, we will pray more for the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ, for we will then appear in glory with Him (Col. 3:3-4). To be watchful for the Lord Jesus Christ, we also need to pray for an open door for the proclamation of the Word. God called Paul to proclaim that Christ was also working among the Gentiles, including them into His body, the church, on the basis of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul asks the Colossians to pray for an open door for the proclamation of this mystery of Christ. Because we are concerned not only about our own salvation, but also about the salvation of others, we need to daily pray for an open door for the proclamation of the mystery of Christ. Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father to enable you to persevere in praying for the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ as well as an open door for the gospel. 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....

Daily devotional

Wednesday August 29 - Employers and employees

Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters . . . Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. - Colossians 3:22, Colossians 4:1 Scripture reading: Colossians 3:22-4:1 What does having put off the old self and being renewed look like for Christian masters and bondservants, or employers and employees? What implications does Christ being all and in all have for them as members of the body of Christ? Bondservants are to submit to the authority of their earthly masters in everything, unless, of course, they are asked to do something against God’s will. They are to do so with sincerity of heart, as if they were actually doing their work for the Lord Jesus Christ, keeping in mind that He will give them a salary that is of far more value than any earthly salary. Moreover, if the master has wronged him, he will be repaid by God on the Day of Judgment and if the bondservant has done wrong, he too will be repaid for there is no preferential treatment with God. Masters who have put off their old self and are being renewed in knowledge after the image of God are to treat their bondservants justly, giving them what they are entitled to, with the same rights as if they were not bondservants. Slavery, through debt, in the Old Testament could last no longer than six years. For the New Testament congregation this meant that slavery could not go on forever. Furthermore, masters are to remember that as they demanded obedience from their bondservants so their heavenly master demanded obedience from them. In other words, they are to give them the wages and social/political equality they are entitled to. Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father that all employers and employees would be given the grace to serve each other as if they were serving the Lord Jesus Christ. 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....

Daily devotional

Friday August 24 - Wearing the clothing that fits our new self

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience ... – Colossians 3:12-13   Scripture reading: Philippians 2:1-5 Members of the body of Christ, the church, have put off the old self with its practices and put on the new self that is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator. Racial, religious, cultural and social barriers no longer separate them because Christ is all and in all. Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ is like putting on new clothing so that Christ is all around us and can be recognized in and through us. When we put on the Lord Jesus Christ, we become people with compassionate hearts like the Good Samaritan who saw a person in need, was moved with compassion and did something. We become kind and generous like God has been kind and generous towards us. We become humble, considering others better than ourselves and their interests more important than ours. We become meek and gentle, considerate, willing to give up our rights and willing to be injured rather than asserting ourselves and injuring others. We become patient in the face of wrongdoing and irritating behaviour, not lashing out in anger, but patiently enduring, like God. We bear with one another, persevering in the relationship when someone does not live up to our expectations. If someone offends us, we take the initiative and forgive like God did with us. This is why God chose us, set us apart, loved us and gave us new clothing in the Lord Jesus Christ. He did this so that we would spread the life of Eden and win others for the Lord Jesus Christ and this life in Him and His church. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord Jesus to clothe you with Himself so that His compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience shine in and through you. 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....

Daily devotional

Thursday August 23 - Christ is all and in all

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. - Colossians 3:11 Scripture reading: Ephesians 2:11-22 Adam, created in the image of God, was called to spread the life of Eden throughout the world and fill it with perfect offspring. For this, God filled him with knowledge of His will in spiritual wisdom and understanding. Adam, however, failed to use it, and the life of Eden was not spread throughout the world and it was not filled with perfect offspring. The Lord Jesus Christ is the new Adam created in the image of God (Col. 1:16). He succeeded where the first Adam failed because He did use the knowledge of His Father’s will with spiritual wisdom and understanding. He will one day spread the life of Eden throughout a new earth and fill it with perfect offspring. He begins to do this today by gathering a new man, a church, a body for Himself through His Word and Spirit. When people put Him on, through faith, they are joined to Him and become members of His body. They increasingly die to life in the old Adam, the old man, and increasingly arise to new life in the new man, the Lord Jesus Christ, filled with knowledge of God’s will with spiritual wisdom and understanding. In this new man, His body, His church, all barriers that once divided people from one another — racial, religious, cultural and social — are abolished. Sharing a common allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ is all that matters because He indwells all members of His body. This is how the church spreads the life of Eden and fills the world with Christ-like offspring. Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father to fill you with all knowledge of His will, with all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that you and your church can spread the life of Eden in your environment 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....

Daily devotional

Wednesday August 22 - Put to death what is earthly in you

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. - Colossians 3:5 Scripture reading: Romans 13:11-14; Colossians 3:5-11 How are you dealing with what is earthly in you: your sinful thoughts, your greed, your anger, your gossip and slander? Some people were trying to influence the members of the church in Colossae to deal with what was earthly in them by way of self-made religion, asceticism and severe treatment of the body: do not handle, do not taste, do not touch. While this had the appearance of wisdom, it ultimately was of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. This power only lies in the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is now hidden in the glory of the Father (Col. 3:3). Because we participated in the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus and are joined to Him, by faith, through the bond of the Holy Spirit, our life is also hidden with the Lord Jesus Christ in the glory of the Father. We should not set our minds on things that are on the earth – self-made religion that has the appearance of wisdom – but on things that are above. When, by the grace of God, we do, we will experience that having died to what is sinful and having arisen to what is holy will increasingly begin to manifest itself in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. How do we deal with what is earthly in us? By putting on Christ, through faith, every day again and living, remaining and maturing in Him. In this way, He will do in us what He has done for us (Romans 13:14). Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father to enable you to experience the mystery of dying to sin as you put on Christ through faith and live in Him. 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....

Daily devotional

Tuesday August 21 - Seeking the things that are above

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. - Colossians 3:1 Scripture reading: Colossians 2:16-3:4 As Christians, we are on a journey to the new heaven and earth. On this journey, we all long for certainty. Will we reach our destination? Will we be provided for on our journey? What is the road that leads to our destination? Will it be safe? There is nothing wrong in looking for certainty because we are broken people who travel in a broken world. Moreover, as members of the body of Christ, we are engaged in a cosmic spiritual warfare where demonic powers are doing their utmost to hinder us from reaching our destination. While there is nothing wrong in looking for certainty on our journey, it is wrong to look for it in what is visible on this earth because the form of this world is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:31) and thus does not offer us the lasting support we desire. The Colossians were also tempted to seek their security in things that were visible and transient, such as philosophy and empty deceit (Col. 2:8) and regulations, such as do not handle, do not taste, do not touch, according to human teachings (Col. 2:21-22). Instead, we should seek our security in Christ with Whom our life is hidden in the glory of the Father. This will not be easy because this security is hidden and thus will require the certainty of faith. But because it is faith that joins us to our risen and ascended Saviour with Whom we are hidden in the glory of the Father, it is the only lasting security we need. Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father to help you seek and experience that your life is secure in Christ with Whom you are hidden in the glory of the Father. 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....

Daily devotional

Thursday August 16 - Buried with Christ in baptism

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism... – Colossians 2:11-12a Scripture reading: Exodus 28:6-21 Baptism is an identity marker reminding us we are not our own, but belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, not only because we are baptized in His name, but also because we were buried with Him in baptism. To understand our being in Christ, it is helpful to remind ourselves of Old Testament Israel being in the high priest. On each of his shoulders he had a stone engraved with the names of six of the tribes of Israel. In the breast piece of judgment, he had four rows of three stones representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Thus, when he was wearing his official robes, Israel went with him, so to speak, because as their representative he acted for them and as their substitute he acted in their place. The Lord Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of the Old Testament high priest. He functioned as the representative and substitute of New Testament Israel, the church, His body. When He died, the members of His body died with him. Baptism is a sign and seal of our having died and been buried with Christ. Because, in the Old Testament, circumcision made with hands was an identity marker that members of the church had been cut off from the life of the flesh in the world—the old order—and had been placed in the church—the new order. Paul calls our being buried with Christ, in baptism, the circumcision of Christ, made without hands. It is a sign and seal that, in Christ, we have died to the life of the flesh in the world. Suggestions for prayer Thank your heavenly Father that in Christ you have died to the life of the flesh in the world and have been placed in the new order of life in the church. 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....

Daily devotional

Wednesday August 15 - Baptism as an identity marker

.... having been buried with him in baptism ... - Colossians 2:12a Scripture reading: Colossians 2:11-12 Most of us have a birthday calendar to remind us to congratulate family members and friends with their birthdays. Rightfully so, for birthdays are wonderful reminders of where we came from, why we are here and where we are going. Most, probably do not have a baptismal day calendar. In fact, most, probably do not remember the date. While we think it is important that we were baptized, that fact does not play as great a role in our spiritual formation as it ought to. That is odd, because God gives Himself to us through His Word and sacraments. Both baptism and the Lord’s Supper are signs and seals of His grace towards us and were given for the strengthening of our faith. So, why do we not use the sacrament of our baptism more for the strengthening of our faith? This question presses more when we consider that baptism is an identity marker. Identity markers tell us something about who we are: for instance, our race, our ethnicity, our language, and our gender. Baptism tells us something about who we are and to Whom we belong. Knowing this is important for young people when they grow up. It is also very important for people in our society, many of whom have difficulty finding a stable self-identity. Baptism is helpful in this regard. It reminds us that we are not our own, but belong to the Lord Jesus Christ because we are baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father to regularly remind you of the significance of your baptism. 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....

Daily devotional

Tuesday August 14 - Filled with the fullness of God

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. - Colossians 2:9-10 Scripture reading: Colossians 2:8-10 If you google “the grass is greener on the other side,” you will be confronted with an image of a cow, kneeling to eat grass on the other side of a barbed wire fence. It has lots of grass in its own field, but it thinks the grass on the other side of the fence is better. What is true for a cow is also true for humans. We too often think the grass is greener on the other side because we are not satisfied with what God has given us. Belonging to the Lord Jesus Christ with body and soul, in life and in death, sometimes is not enough for us. We long to belong to things or people in addition to the Lord Jesus Christ. Earlier we saw that we are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. These cosmic demons deceive us into not being satisfied with what we have in the Lord Jesus Christ and tempt us into seeking greener grass outside of Him. Paul warns the Colossians not to allow themselves to be taken captive by these demons who do their deceptive work through so-called human wisdom and false teachings. They should not do this because in Christ the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily and they have been filled in Him. Because Christ is the image of the invisible God, all the fullness of God dwells in Him. Thus, we have all that we need by being in Him, through faith. Suggestions for prayer When you think that the grass is greener on the other side, ask God to make you content and satisfied by being in Christ and having Christ in you. 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....

Daily devotional

Monday August 13 - Maturing in Christ

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. - Colossians 2:6-7 Scripture Reading: Psalm 1 If you ask a fish what it means to swim in water, it would say it means living and moving and having its being in water, surrendering and submitting to the laws of water and finding its nourishment there, because it was created for this. Human beings are created to live and move and have their being in Christ, surrendering and submitting to the laws of Christ and finding their nourishment in Him, for they were created for this. When human beings have received the Lord Jesus Christ by committing their lives to Him, they ought to thankfully walk in Him, i.e. live and move and have their being in Him, through faith. In doing so, they will mature in Christ. This is what the psalmist writes in Psalm 1 about living and moving and having your being in the Word of God. The more we make the Scriptures the element of our lives, like a fish makes water the element of its life, the more God will use the Scriptures to nourish and strengthen us, because these Scriptures will unite us more and more to the Lord Jesus Christ, the essence of the Scriptures. We will be firmly rooted in the Lord Jesus Christ and established in the faith as we increasingly mature in Him. We will be like those trees planted by streams of water that yield their fruit in their season, and whose leaves do not wither. They prosper in all that they do. How are you maturing in the Lord Jesus Christ? Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father to enable you to mature in Christ by living and moving and having your being in Him through faith. 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....

Daily devotional

Wednesday August 8 - The cost of discipleship

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. - Colossians 1:24 Scripture reading: 2 Corinthians 11:21b-29 What does it cost you to live a life worthy of being in Christ, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every kind of good work and increasing in the knowledge of God? If we were to ask Paul, we know what he would say. Living a life worthy of being in Christ costs him a lot of suffering. The Lord Jesus Christ had warned the people of His day that this would be the case when He said: “Whoever does not bear His own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). The Lord Jesus appeared to Ananias in a vision and told him to tell Saul (Paul) that He would show him just how much he was going to have to suffer for the sake of His name (Acts 9:16). In our Scripture reading Paul shares with the Corinthians how much he has indeed suffered for Christ. Paul had just urged the Colossians to persevere in the Christian faith, being steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which had been proclaimed in all creation and of which he had become a minister. While he had written this, he was in prison in Caesarea, waiting to be transferred to Rome. Who knows what further suffering awaited him for living a life worthy of being in Christ, bearing fruit in every kind of good work and increasing in the knowledge of God? What does it cost you to live a life worthy of being in Christ? Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father to be willing to count the cost for following the Lord Jesus and then to grant you the strength for doing so. 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....

Daily devotional

Tuesday August 7 - Persevering in the faith

... if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard... - Colossians 1:23a Scripture reading: John 15:5-6; Colossians 1:21-23  Faith unites us to the Lord Jesus Christ so that we share in His fellowship of love with His Father and His ministry of love from His Father that He carries out on earth through His church. Being united to Christ, through faith, enables us to live lives worthy of our being in Him. We have been redeemed by His blood and qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light of the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ; we have been rescued from the kingdom of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of light. But once we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and enjoy all the blessings of being in Christ, we also need to continue or persevere in our faith. The Bible is clear that those who are united to the Lord Jesus Christ through genuine faith will continue in the faith. But the Bible is equally clear that those who are not united to the Lord Jesus Christ through genuine faith will not persevere. The Lord Jesus Christ speaks about this in John 15. Some branches/believers abide in Him through true faith and bear much fruit. Other branches/believers do not remain in Him. The latter are cut off and thrown into the fire; the former God will present as holy, blameless and irreproachable living sacrifices for approval before Himself on the Day of Judgment. These conditional statements in the Scriptures are implicit warnings meant to keep us from a sense of false security. How are you persevering in the faith? Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father to help you to persevere in the faith by remaining in Christ through faith, especially when you feel weary. 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....

Daily devotional

Monday August 6 - The Mediator of re-creation

...and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. - Colossians 1:20 Scripture reading: Colossians 1:18-20 The Lord Jesus Christ is not only the source of our being able to live a life worthy of our being in Him because He is the mediator of creation, but also because He is the mediator of re-creation. This mediation is necessary because we have alienated ourselves from the Lord Jesus Christ with our fall into sin. And creation was subjected to futility because of this (Romans 8:20). Thus, both we and creation need to be reconciled to the mediator of creation. The Father of the Lord Jesus Christ gives the mediator of creation to the church so that He can be its mediator of re-creation by reconciling both the church and creation to Himself. The Lord Jesus Christ accomplishes this as the Head of the church, the One who brings the church into existence and keeps it in existence by giving life to its members, by ruling them through His Word and Spirit, and by holding them together. Having reconciled His body and His creation to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross, He was the first one to rise from the dead with a glorified, immortal body, guaranteeing the general resurrection of the dead of all those who were in Him, through faith. Because of this work of re-creation, the mediator of creation continues to have the first place in God’s universe. He is more than able and also willing to be the source of your being able to live a life worthy of your being in Him. Suggestions for prayer Ask your heavenly Father to enable you to look to your mediator of creation and re-creation when you struggle with being able to live a life worthy of your being in Christ, and that He would encourage you in doing so. 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....

Daily devotional

Sunday August 5 - The Mediator of Creation

For in him all things were created, . . . all things were created through him and for him and in him all things hold together. – Colossians 16 and 17b Scripture reading: Colossians 1:15-17 If Christians want to live a life worthy of Christ, they need to put on the Lord Jesus Christ like a garment and live in Him through faith, remain in Him when they encounter trials and mature in Him through faith. He is the source of their being able to live a life worthy of being in Him because He is the mediator of creation. He is able to be this mediator of creation because He is the firstborn of all creation. Accordingly, all things—whether visible or invisible—were created in Him, because the light and life needed to create all things resided in Him. Moreover, all things were also created through Him. He, who has light and life in Himself, creates light and life. Furthermore, He also holds all things together. We and creation do not live in an empty space, but in the Lord Jesus Christ who continues to uphold and sustain creation and us. This is what it means that the Lord Jesus Christ is the mediator of creation. Everything was created from Him and through Him and He holds everything that He created together. And He does so because everything was created for Him. Our destiny and creation’s destiny is the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the will of the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ that one day all things will be summed up and reunited in Him. Suggestions for prayer Thank your heavenly Father that, because everything is created from Him and through Him and to Him, He is able to be the source of your living a life worthy of being in Him. 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....

Daily devotional

Tuesday July 31 - Christ's ascension

Then He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. While He blessed them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven… - Luke 24:50-53 Scripture reading: Acts 1:1-11 By faith, we are united with the Lord Jesus, also when He ascends into heaven and returns to be with God the Father. That’s where He lives and that’s where our house will be also. Just as the High Priest left when entering the Holy of Holies, bearing the names of God’s people on his breastplate, the ephod, so Jesus enters the heavenly dwelling place of God, bearing on His heart the names of those the Father had given Him. And just as the High Priest would bless the LORD’s people after having made atonement for their sins, so the Lord Jesus ascends into heaven blessing His disciples, the apostles and foundation of His Christian Church. This ascension happened in a field near Bethany to signify that now the whole earth was forecourt of the heavenly sanctuary. Heaven and earth were united in Jesus Christ the High Priest, Lord of lords and King of kings! Upon His return from heaven, He will cleanse the earth from everything unholy! In anticipation of this return, we now continue in our service to Him, wherever our place, whatever our calling. Over all His children and over every work in His service, we may see His blessing hands. Meanwhile, He will guide us from heaven and will gather, defend and preserve His Church by His Spirit and Word, sending us into service under the weekly blessing of His High Priestly Blessing as commanded in Numbers 6:22-27! With the disciples, therefore, we too may leave our worship service to Him, rejoicing! Suggestions for prayer Pray to Christ, our Intercessor, in every situation of your life, for every need in your service, thanking Him for His blessings! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. William den Hollander (Sr.) is minister-emeritus of the Bethel Canadian Reformed Church of Toronto....

Daily devotional

Monday July 30 - Jesus and the beloved apostle

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them… When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?" - John 21:20-23 Scripture reading: Psalm 23 Peter had just heard what consequences his following of the Lord Jesus could have. Then, when he saw John, the beloved disciple of the Lord, he wondered what the future would be for him. Would he have to experience the same suffering in his service to the Lord? The Lord Jesus tells him that this should be of no concern to him. Imagine that the Lord Jesus would tell him that John’s way would be much easier, or that John will stay alive till Jesus’ return… What would Peter’s reaction be to such a message? Would he think, "Why such a hard service for me, while he won’t need to die for the faith?" Isn’t that a common human reaction when people compare their own path of life through trouble with the easy way of others? The Lord Jesus clearly indicates to Peter that this is none of his business! Jesus determines each one’s way. It’s a good thing we don’t know what the future will bring. Besides, come what may, the Lord will lead and guide and strengthen us anyway! "You follow me!" Jesus’ reply regarding John has been interpreted in various ways, even in the understanding that he wouldn’t die, but live till Christ’s return. That’s not what Jesus said though; if he would have wanted him to live until He returns, that would not be Peter’s business. Peter will have to go and accept his own way and leave the way of others to the Lord. Come what may, just go your way in the Lord; you’re in His hand! Suggestions for prayer Pray for Christ's continued work of gathering His Church. Pray for His office bearers. Pray that His people may accept His way with their life, entrusting themselves to His will by faith. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. William den Hollander (Sr.) is minister-emeritus of the Bethel Canadian Reformed Church of Toronto....

Daily devotional

Sunday July 29 - Peter's restoration in office

“Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” he said to Him, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time…, a third time… - John 21:15-19 Scripture reading: John 21:15-19 The Lord Jesus is preparing Himself for His ascension when He has to leave the care for His sheep to His apostles. They would have to go out to preach the gospel and become the foundation of the New Testament church of Christ. The question was whether Peter would be able to do so? Those who wish to serve in Christ’s Church should be unconditionally devoted to Him. If they would serve themselves, seek their own honour, or do their work in a self-designed way, they could not be office-bearer in Christ’s service. He demanded love unequivocally! Would Peter be able to do so, given his three-fold denial, due to self-service and fear of detection? The three-fold question of the Lord Jesus, “Do you love me more than these?” must have been hard on this disciple who had always expressed his love clearly. This time, however, his response is humble and sincere! Christ knows that his reply is sincere. Hence, He can restore His disciple in his office as under-shepherd and entrust to him His lambs. It will be a difficult task, one that can be completed only in true and deep love for the Saviour! It will be a hard job for Peter especially; the Lord Jesus foretells him that it will cost him his life! His Master died on the cross for him and this servant will have to take up his cross as well, figuratively and physically! In his love for the Saviour, he will be able to complete it to His glory! Suggestions for prayer Pray for a true love in Christ’s service, for loving leaders in the Church. Ask for courage to endure and be faithful. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. William den Hollander (Sr.) is minister-emeritus of the Bethel Canadian Reformed Church of Toronto....

Daily devotional

Saturday July 28 - The report of the guard

Tell people, "His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep." And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble. - Matthew 28:11-15 Scripture reading: Matthew 28:1-10 On the morning of the resurrection, there were many witnesses who could testify of Christ’s resurrection: men, women, and even the Roman guard. These Roman soldiers went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. Their report agreed with the facts that was broadcast by the disciples who had heard the angels or even seen their Risen Lord. This should have rung a bell with the leaders, to whom Christ had promised just one sign: the sign of Jonah the prophet – as Jonah was three days in the belly of the fish so He would be three days in the belly of the earth… and then rise! They cannot believe this. Their own theology and theories about Jesus are more credible than the Word of God! Today, we meet with this kind of unbelief time and again. Man’s theories must be believed. The truth of God’s Word about creation, or women in office, doesn’t agree with new theology or with today’s culture. The truth, as revealed, has been declared obsolete, or must be re-interpreted with new rules for understanding the Scriptures. The Sanhedrin must have believed their own theory, or deemed it better for the church than the report of the guard. Today, still, we must heed Paul’s words when he calls us to be saved from this crooked generation, and Peter’s call to faith in a world where the lie is on the throne! Let us submit ourselves faithfully and in childlike confidence trust in the Word of God and the promises of our Saviour! Suggestions for prayer Pray for faith in the Word of God, in the promises of salvation. Pray for the faithful proclamation of God’s Word tomorrow. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. William den Hollander (Sr.) is minister-emeritus of the Bethel Canadian Reformed Church of Toronto....

Daily devotional

Monday July 23 – They divided my garments among them

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took His garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also His tunic… – John 19:23-24 Scripture reading: Psalm 22 The Lord Jesus was robbed of all that He had. Naked, He was hanging on the cross. Around Him, people scorned Him, mocked and ridiculed Him. From the prophecies, He knew that this was going to happen, hence He did not open His mouth. He did so for us and in our place; for us who deserved to be robbed and lose all we have. We deserve to be crucified, forsaken by God and condemned to hellish agony; yet, He bore it all for us! At Golgotha, He descended into hell and He was exposed, not just to earthly robbers who cast lots for His clothing, but He was attacked fiercely by all satanic powers and demons as well! Indeed, Satan could do much in those hours of darkness; nevertheless, he is restricted in his evil works by God. Although David, too, experienced much of his evil plots and plans, as he expresses in Psalm 22, God still sustained him and left him much to be enjoyed in this world. God restrained Satan in order that His plan of salvation could come to Golgotha, where the full measure of our punishment was laid on Christ. God still leaves us much to be enjoyed and restrains Satan in order that God’s work can come to completion. Hence, we also may receive food and clothing, thanks to Golgotha, as gifts of God’s grace. Let’s express this awareness: never take any of His provisions for granted, but pray that we may receive all in thankfulness and for service to God! Suggestions for prayer Thank God for giving Christ as substitute to bear our curse and guilt. Pray God for gratitude for all His provisions. Ask Him for His help in using His gifts to serve Him in His church and kingdom. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. William den Hollander (Sr.) is minister-emeritus of the Bethel Canadian Reformed Church of Toronto....

Daily devotional

Sunday July 22 – The last Passover celebration

“… I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” – Luke 22:14-16 Scripture reading: Luke 22:7-20 Now, for the last time, the Lord Jesus wants to celebrate the Passover with His disciples. It provides an opportunity to place His own suffering and death as the Lamb of God in their sight! Ever since its institution, Passover signified the joy of deliverance, the gratitude over the escape from death (not only of the firstborn, but of all God’s people!). The Passover lamb made them look forward to the coming of the Messiah, the Lamb of God! At the beginning of His ministry, John the Baptist had pointed Him out, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” And now, He is ready to fulfill the Passover and to do so for them, for us! That’s the gospel that has been proclaimed ever since. Today again, we may hear that He has placed us in the glorious liberty of the children of God. We may celebrate this too, in the Lord’s Supper. However, just as the Israelites celebrated Passover in the midst of their Exodus, and continued it throughout their wilderness journey, we too must celebrate the Lord’s Supper in faith and believe that we have been set free… even though we may not yet see this clearly. We have the promise that Christ will celebrate this with us in the Kingdom of His Father! He will set us in the glorious freedom of His children in God’s Kingdom! The wilderness journey will end up in Canaan, the Promised Land, on the new earth where He will drink the wine new with us! Suggestions for prayer Pray for enlightened eyes of faith. Ask God for the power of His Spirit and Word, for the strengthening of our faith. Thank Him for the gifts and benefits we receive by faith in Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. William den Hollander (Sr.) is minister-emeritus of the Bethel Canadian Reformed Church of Toronto....

Daily devotional

Saturday July 21 - O Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets...!

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…! – Luke 13:34-35 Scripture reading: Luke 11:37-54 Although Christ’s suffering and death was a divine necessity, this does not excuse His murderers, not His killers in the church either. This is the reality the Lord Jesus exposes in this lament over Jerusalem. Throughout the ages, God’s prophets were abused and even killed. Even today, this same abuse of God’s servants continues with the poor attitude of ignoring the Word that’s proclaimed, sleeping in church, criticizing the preaching, rejecting the admonitions and bad-mouthing the preachers. Ultimately, however, those who so conduct themselves in the church of Christ are treating Him again the way He suffered! Jesus articulates this sad fact powerfully in the image of a hen gathering her brood under her wings. Thus, Christ is seeking us by His Word and Spirit, with the means of grace, through the instruments of preachers: He wants to gather us, protect us and care for us, especially against the fierce attacks of Satan, against the wolves in sheep's clothing! Why is this so? We don’t see the dangers, sense the need for protection and heed the admonitions? Instead of saying, “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD!” we approach Him again and again with the words “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Let us never forget how He bore for us the scorn and abuse, that He might protect us and spare us for life. He protected us from the severe wrath and curse of God that we may be blessed and preserved in God’s love and care by the preaching of the gospel! Suggestions for prayer Pray for your minister, for your elders, and ask that God may help them in speaking and us in listening. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. William den Hollander (Sr.) is minister-emeritus of the Bethel Canadian Reformed Church of Toronto....

Daily devotional

Friday July 20 – Get away, Herod wants to kill you!

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to Him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill You.” And He said to them, “Go, and tell that fox…" – Luke 13:31-33 Scripture reading: Luke 12:1-12 The Lord Jesus’ preaching was effective in Galilee. The Pharisees didn’t like this, neither did Herod. For the Pharisees, He is competition, while Herod is afraid of Him, thinking that He is John the Baptist, raised from the dead. Herod doesn’t want to kill another one, but, with the Pharisees, seeks to get rid of Him a different way. They plan to scare Him away, but the Lord Jesus knows their intent and He stands firm in His opposition to this fox, Herod, and his accomplices, the Pharisees. The Lord Jesus continues in His way, to complete His task. A few more days and He is ready to depart to Jerusalem, where He has to die. He cannot be dissuaded by circumstances; something that happens easily to us in the execution of our tasks in His Kingdom. He firmly proceeds in His work of salvation, for us and in our place. Yet, though He proceeds strong as a lion, He does so to offer Himself like a lamb to be slaughtered by Herod and his accomplices. Then, it may seem as if Herod has won after all, but Herod doesn’t realize that the Lord Jesus does so as a divine necessity, willingly giving Himself as the Lamb of God! He did so for us and in our place; for us, who are meant to be slaughtered as sheep by the greatest fox ever, Satan. Thus He becomes for us the beautiful Shepherd, Who lays down His life for the sheep, that we may find shelter in His sheepfold! Suggestions for prayer Pray for confidence and strength in our tasks in God’s Kingdom. Ask for His protection and for determination and courage; thank God that we have a Great Shepherd who leads us and keeps us. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. William den Hollander (Sr.) is minister-emeritus of the Bethel Canadian Reformed Church of Toronto....

Daily devotional

Sunday July 15 – "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?"

And when He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea… – Matthew 8:23-27 Scripture reading: Romans 8:18-30 During Christ’s life on earth, Satan used every way to obstruct the work of Jesus. He possessed people by his demons, brought terrible diseases, bound people for a long time, used his powers over nature, sweeping up the waters and winds where Jesus went, seeking to kill Him and His disciples. The disciples feared these powers of the sea while Jesus was sleeping in the boat. They woke Him up, and cried, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” He said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” It’s no wonder these disciples were afraid, fearing death at such a time. As believers, we too have times of fear for the powers of Satan, and understandably so. In this event, however, the disciples have Christ on board. They could have known that His work wasn’t finished, that Satan’s death and demise would come, though not at this time. They had God’s promises and had seen Jesus’ works, and yet… They did not think in faith, live by faith all the time; they had an interrupted faith. At moments like these, they had to learn again Who they had on board. Jesus manifested His power over wind and water; He silenced the storm and settled their fears. This is Jesus Who would conquer all powers of sin and Satan, all powers of destruction in nature as well. He would come again to establish a new heaven and a new earth in which there would be no satanic powers in nature that could affect the creation of God. Suggestions for prayer Pray for peace and tranquillity; ask the Lord for His protection, guidance; and for Christ’s return to make all things new! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. William den Hollander (Sr.) is minister-emeritus of the Bethel Canadian Reformed Church of Toronto....

Daily devotional

Saturday July 14 – Jesus delivers from sickness and death

And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” – Matthew 8:4  Scripture reading: Isaiah 53:1-12 The Lord Jesus conquers death; He restores life, in communion with God. That’s what He showed in the healing of the leper, who was dead (figuratively speaking). This healed leper, however, could not return to God’s people just like that. He first had to go to the temple, make the required sacrifices and show himself to the priests. By his sacrifice, he would testify that he actually did deserve death, but now an animal may die in his place. It pointed at the Messiah, Who would die in his place an eternal death; He would take upon Himself this man’s death and the death through sin of every believer! This man was healed, not because of his kind request or faith in Jesus; he was healed, thanks to the work Christ would perform at Golgotha. On the basis of that work, symbolized in the sacrifice of the animal, God (in His priest) would declare him clean and admit him to the communion of His people again. At the same time, as the priests would hear the man’s story and the manner of his healing, they would know that the Messiah had come. He would take over their task and fulfill the meaning of every sacrifice they make! That’s when these sacrifices will become redundant. Through His suffering, death, and resurrection, He will deliver those who are His from suffering and death and restore to them life, even eternally! That’s the light of the gospel that shines today over all manner of suffering and over death! Suggestions for prayer Pray for patience and endurance, for faith and hope in all the promises of the gospel. Pray for those who suffer among your loved ones or in the congregation. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. William den Hollander (Sr.) is minister-emeritus of the Bethel Canadian Reformed Church of Toronto....

Daily devotional

Friday July 13 – Jesus cleanses a leper: "I will; be clean!"

And behold, a leper came to Him and knelt before Him, saying, “Lord, if You will, You can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean!” – Matthew 8:1-3 Scripture reading: Leviticus 13:1-8 Jesus came to deliver us from sin and death, to restore life to us, the new life that will end in eternal life. That’s what He proclaimed in His preaching and manifested in His healing. If there was one disease that projected the power of death and held the verdict of death, it was leprosy. This disease showed itself by turning the skin white, making the sufferer look like a corpse. God hated death and by this disease showed the reality of death. Hence, Jesus Who came to deliver from sin and death used this opportunity to show Himself the Redeemer and King over death! Lepers could no longer be among the community of people; outside the camp, they had to wander around finding a place to stay and food to eat. When people approached them, they had to cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!” Healing a leper, therefore, was like calling someone back from death. The leper in this passage knew Jesus and believed that He could heal him; that He had power over life and death. He desired to live again among the people and in communion with God. Then Jesus defied the powers of sin and death and touched this leper. He wants to heal the man and deliver him from the powers of death. “I will; be clean!” He said. His Word is powerful and effective, conquering death in this man. His Word and Spirit are still powerful and effective, saving those who believe in Him from sin and death! His Word is life and gives life eternally! Suggestions for prayer Pray the Lord for His compassion and care in times of illness, dealing with a chronic disease (or for loved ones, a fellow-member). Ask God for comfort and hope with a view to eternal healing. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. William den Hollander (Sr.) is minister-emeritus of the Bethel Canadian Reformed Church of Toronto....

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