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Daily devotional

July 15 – Keep your eye on the ark

“As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” – Joshua 3:3, 4

Scripture reading: Joshua 3:1-13

After camping beside the river for three days, even the strongest believers would have been wondering how they were ever going get across it. The answer was, The ark of the covenant would lead them. The ark of the covenant was that golden chest that was in the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle, and it was a symbol that promised Israel that God was with them.

The people were going to see the ark of the covenant. That never happened. The only person who was ever allowed to see the ark was the high priest, once a year on the Day of Atonement. Whenever Israel moved from one place to the other in the wilderness, the ark was covered up, because it was holy, and the people weren’t allowed to see it.

The ark was going ahead of Israel, the way it did when it led them away from Mt. Sinai, in the direction of the Promised Land. And the LORD wanted them to be able to see it. They had to stay a kilometer away from the ark, so that they could see it, so that they would know the way they had to go, because they had never passed that way before. The Bible says, The ark did this, and the ark did that. But what it really means is, God did this, and God did that. That’s the gospel here: God Himself went ahead of them and led them into the Promised Land.

Suggestions for prayer

Pray that you would be convinced and that you would remember that God is with you, so that you can be sure that God will guide you and all of His people until the day of final victory.

This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario.

Daily devotional

July 10 – Rahab the prostitute

“And she said, ‘True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.’” – Joshua 2:4b-5 Scripture reading: Joshua 2:1-7 The people of Jericho knew that Israel was camped just on the other side of the river, so they were keeping a close eye on any strangers that came to their city. When they figured out who these men were who had gone to Rahab’s house, they went straight to the king and told him. Somehow, Rahab found out that the soldiers were on their way, and she hid the two spies before they got there. She admitted that the men had come to her house, but she said, “I did not know where they were from. They left Jericho just before the city gates were closed, but if you pursue them quickly, you will overtake them.” She lied. Was that right? We get hung up on that question. But the Bible says that Rahab was acting out of faith. In Hebrews 11, the Holy Spirit puts Rahab in the same category as Abel and Enoch and Abraham, and all the “heroes of faith” that He mentions in that chapter. “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” James 2 says, “Rahab the prostitute was justified when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way.” The Holy Spirit highlights the faith of this Canaanite prostitute, as the sovereign and gracious work of God. It was a sign for Israel, that He had gone before them, and would give Jericho into their hands. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would be encouraged by the knowledge that the Lord Jesus Christ is right now gathering God’s elect from every nation, and joining them by faith to His body, to be your brothers and sisters in Him. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 9 – Commitment to exercise Church discipline

“Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death.” – Joshua 1:18 Scripture reading: Joshua 1:10-18 Israel had shown herself to be a stubborn and rebellious people. But here, on the doorstep of Canaan, they made an absolute commitment to obey Joshua. And they promised, “Whoever rebels against your commandment, and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death.”This has to do with who Israel is, as God’s people. That means, it has to do with us, and who we are. God had spelled out how Israel would receive their inheritance. In a certain way, they had to believe in Joshua. He was their appointed leader, and they had to trust him, and obey him. This is why they promised to put to death whoever rebelled against his commandment or disobeyed his words. Because disobedience was unbelief. Rebelling against Joshua and disobeying his commandment was rejecting the promise of the gospel, and refusing to live by faith. So, those who rebelled against Joshua, and disobeyed his commandment showed that they didn’t belong to the people of God. The church is finally the body of believers, of all those who are hungering and thirsting for salvation in Jesus Christ. And anyone who rebels against the Word of Jesus Christ, who disobeys His commandment, is rejecting the gospel, and refusing to live by faith in Christ. He or she forfeits the right to be included among His people. Our commitment to exercise church discipline is an expression of our loyalty to Christ, and our desire for the salvation of our brothers and sisters. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Holy Spirit will keep you from falling away from Christ and that He will bless the work of believers and of the elders as your church exercises mutual and official church discipline. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 8 – Commitment to the unity of faith

“And to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh Joshua said, ‘Remember the word that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, “The LORD your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land.” Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land that Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but all the men of valor among you shall pass over armed before your brothers and shall help them, until the LORD gives rest to your brothers as he has to you, and they also take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving them.’” – Joshua 1:12-15a Scripture reading: Joshua 1:10-18 When Moses gave the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh their inheritance on the other side of the Jordan (Numbers 32:28-32), they promised that they would send their soldiers to fight alongside their brother Israelites. Humanly speaking, the bigger your army, the better. But time and again in Deuteronomy, Moses told Israel that the LORD would be fighting for them. So Israel didn’t need a big army. They didn’t need any help from Reuben, Gad and Manasseh. So why did the two-and-a-half tribes have to send soldiers to fight along with the rest of Israel? This is about the unity that’s created among God’s people by faith in the gospel. Think about what’s going on here; think about it in the light of the New Testament. Israel is an Old Testament picture of the congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ, and they were about to receive their inheritance. We confess that we believe and profess one catholic or universal church, which is a holy congregation and assembly of the true Christian believers, who expect their entire salvation in Jesus Christ. That’s who the church is. And this is what that looks like in Joshua 1: a congregation of people who were expecting their salvation in Joshua. Joshua is saying, Every Israelite must do all that he can to make sure that every one of his fellow Israelites receives his inheritance. That’s what our Joshua says, too. That’s the demand and the purpose of our unity in Christ. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord Jesus, by His Spirit, to deepen your love and your commitment to your brothers and sisters in Christ, to pray and to work out their salvation. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

Sunday July 7 – Only believe

“Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, ‘Prepare your provisions, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.’” – Joshua 1:11 Scripture reading: Joshua 1:10-18 The people were excited about finally entering the Promised Land. But they could see the Jordan River. They knew about the giants and they knew about the fortified cities. So they must have had questions about how this was all going to go. But Joshua didn’t give them a big long explanation of how they were going to get themselves and all their cattle and all the rest across the river; he didn’t explain how he planned to defeat the Canaanites. He just announced that within three days, they were going to cross the river, and take possession of the land. And he told them to get ready. Getting ready was an act of faith. Getting ready means, I believe the promise. This is the gospel, and this is how the gospel comes to us in worship today. Jesus comes and He simply announces God’s gift of salvation. He says to us, for example, in John 5:19: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My Word and believes Him Who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Jesus doesn’t explain there how He’s going to bring us from death to life. He just says that He will. And then He says, Believe. The gospel is: Salvation is from the LORD. Don’t ask all kinds of questions. Only believe, and do what Jesus tells you to do because He promised you, and it’s going to happen. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to help you today, as you hear the gospel preached to you, to simply believe the promise of salvation in Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 2 – Not even Moses could save them

“Moses My servant is dead.” – Joshua 1:2 Scripture reading: Joshua 1:1-9 Moses’ name is mentioned three times in the first sentence of the book. He was the only leader the people had ever known. He had met with God and talked with Him, face to face. He had brought the good news of freedom from slavery in Egypt and he was God’s instrument of salvation, at the Red Sea and the entire way through the wilderness. And now he was gone. Israel had finally reached their destination, but after all the sorrows and frustrations of leading those thankless people through the wilderness, God wouldn’t let him enter Canaan. Yes, he had sinned. At Meribah, Moses made the worst mistake he could have made as a mediator. God wanted to show Israel His mercy and patience, but Moses was angry, and he misrepresented God. But Psalm 106:32,33 says that Israel angered God at the waters of Meribah, and it went ill with Moses on their account, for they made his spirit bitter, and he spoke rashly with his lips. The people were impossible. They were unsavable. Just like we are. That’s always the great obstacle to our salvation. Who can save us from our slavery to sin, and make us inherit eternal life? Jesus said, With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)That’s the answer: only God can save us. And in the name of Joshua, God promised Israel, and He promises us, that He will save us. Remember and believe: salvation is from the LORD. Suggestions for prayer Confess that you and your sin are the greatest obstacles to your salvation, and thank God that your salvation is from the LORD. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 1 - Introduction

How do we approach the book of Joshua, the story of the conquest of the promised land, the story of this great leader of Israel? The book is named after him, and his name is on every page.  He’s meant to be central in the story. His parents had called him, Hoshea.  Hoshea means, salvation.  But when Moses sent him to spy out the land of Canaan at Kadesh-Barnea along with eleven other men, he changed his name to Joshua.  Joshua means, salvation is from the LORD. That’s a promise; in fact, that’s the gospel.  And when the Lord sent His own Son into the world, He told Joseph and Mary to give Him that name, too. We think of Joshua as a history book.  But when the people of the old covenant described their Bible, there was no section called history books.  For them, it was simply, the Law, or the Law and the Prophets, or maybe, the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms, or the Writings. And they put Joshua into the section called, the Prophets. That’s how we have to understand the message of Joshua: salvation prophecy.  Biblically speaking, prophecy means, in the first place, telling the wonderful works of God to save His people, because God’s actions in the past shed light on the future, and how God is going to save His people in Jesus Christ.  So this book is the gospel of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through Joshua, and the gospel of the greater Joshua, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has defeated our enemies and causes us to receive the greater inheritance of a new heaven and a new earth. How can we be saved? Scripture reading: Joshua 1:1-9 There’s a lot of tension hanging over this opening passage of the book of Joshua.  In Genesis 13, the LORD promised Abraham that He would make his offspring as the dust of the earth and that He would give them the land of Canaan as their inheritance. 400 years later, Abraham’s offspring had become a nation that was growing in number, just like God had promised.  But the promise of the land was still unfulfilled.  Israel was standing on the border of the land at that moment.  If they climbed up one of the hills in the area, they could see the whole land, from north to south, and all the way out to the west, as far as the Mediterranean Sea. But they had been this close once before, forty years earlier, at Kadesh-Barnea.  That time, when they heard about the people who lived there and the fortified cities, they were afraid, and they started looking for someone to bring them back to Egypt.  What reason did Joshua have to think that this time things would go better than they had the first time?  The journey through the wilderness showed that Israel was an unbelieving, thankless, complaining people. There was no way that Israel would ever enter the land, and receive the inheritance God had promised them unless it was by grace and unless God did it for them.  And that was the gospel He proclaimed to them in the name of their leader: Joshua – salvation is from the LORD. Suggestions for prayer   Thank God that He has provided us with a salvation that is all His work, and that we receive by grace through faith. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

June 30 – You shall not live by bread alone

And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God. – Deut. 8:3 Scripture reading: Deut. 8 Why do churches reject God? We see the slow degradation of churches in our neighborhoods. People will give any number of causes: not following the confessions or the church order, or external causes like TV, cellphones, rock music, the internet, cultural degradation or secular universities. Ultimately these are symptoms. The central problem is that we have forgotten God, His statutes and His rules. We have forgotten the Word: our Lord Jesus Christ. We have grown rich and tell ourselves that we ourselves have brought about the peace and prosperity that we experience. We have left our Bible on the shelf, or interpret it so it no longer pierces our hearts. We’ve forgotten what God did for us in Jesus Christ. We no longer desire to fully seek and obey every word that comes from God. We’re starving for spiritual food and seek to fill that hunger with the filth of entertainment, with vague platitudes of loving and respecting everyone, or with comfort. God warns us in Deut. 8, “If you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish because you would not obey the voice of the Lord.” If you love God, you will dig deep into His Word and seek Him. GodHimself encourages you in this task, “Strengthen yourself and be of good courage.” May He be with you. Suggestions for prayer Repent of your failures to put the Word at the center of your life. Seek the bread of the Word of the Lord and the strength of the Spirit in comprehending and applying that Word. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 29 – Elected unto victory

And when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. – Deut. 7:2 Scripture reading: Deut. 7:1-6 God lists seven nations “more numerous and mightier than you.” That is a fearful prospect, but God promises His help in taking the land. He will defeat their enemies. Why? Because they are His chosen people and a holy nation. You too are God’s holy people, His chosen nation, and are engaged in a battle against sin. The church also battles against the false ideologies that keep our neighbor in slavery. We can have confidence that God will use us to expand His glory. God promises to be with us. Since the World Wars, Orthodox churches in North America have been gloomy in their outlook on the future of the church. There is a sense that things will get worse and worse, and they have. Today, we fight against the lies of evolution, of homosexual activists, and of people within the church who give in to false ideologies. The church is failing in her calling. Deut. 7 reminds the church of the gracious electing purpose of God and should give her boldness in her mission. God promises to be with us in the task He calls us to. We now have maturity in Christ and know we are called to do this through a witness to our Lord Jesus, which means suffering. (We might lose our tax-exempt status, our Christian schools and our status in society.) It might even mean martyrdom. Remember Paul’s words in Ephesians 3:20, “Our God is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think according to the power at work within us.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that God may give us wisdom and confidence as we seek to stand before God and man as a witness to the righteousness of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 24 – The only Holy God

Hear, Oh Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. – Deut. 6:4 Scripture reading: Deut. 6:1-6 There is more in these words than the assertion that God is one. If that was all this text was teaching, we might be left with the arbitrary God of the Muslims or the silent God of the Deists. The oneness of God reveals He is uniquely God, uniquely one in His love and promises to Israel. He is one in being and will. There is no contradiction or change in Him. There is no division or disagreement within Himself. We call this the simplicity of God. Any attribute of God describes the fullness of God. He is mercifully just. He is righteously loving. He is lovingly holy. The unique goodness of God, His constancy, His faithfulness, is something we can rely on. Those who claim that there are many ways to God, contradict the truth that God is one. God does not provide contradictory ways to Himself. In the Old Testament, the way was through the promise He gave to Abraham and through Israel, whom He set apart as holy. In the New Testament, that way is found in Christ. Israel was tempted by the teaching that there are many ways to God, just as we may be today. Remember the story of the golden calf? Israel had received the Ten Commandments and instead of waiting for God, they choose to directly contradict the second commandment. They set up an image of the Lord God, a golden calf. They replaced the center of God’s worship, drawing near to fellowship with God through sacrifice, with a golden calf. Suggestions for prayer Pray for growth in your relationship with the one true God. Seek His grace as you seek to love Yahweh before all other gods. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 23 – God's prayer

Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever! – Deut. 5:29 Scripture reading: Deut. 5:22-33 The Lord sees that Israel’s request for a mediator comes out of a recognition of who He is and who they really are. The request is a humble one. Israel recognizes her weak and sinful nature and that she does not have any inherent right to speak to God. God praises her for that and He grants her a mediator. But God goes further; He reveals something about Himself in the wish that He expresses in verse 29. He desires that the same heart that responded in a proper fear of God on hearing His voice on the mountain, would continue in that fear and keep all His commandments. God’s prayer should be at the forefront of the minds of all those who are tempted to question their salvation. God is not an arbitrary God, willfully sending some to hell and some to heaven. He is a God of compassion and love, Who desires that those who are in covenant with Him might live out the commandments that He has given them. He is a loving Father, for all who are willing to humble themselves before Him, recognizing their rebellious nature. This is because God has made men to glorify and enjoy Him forever. The fact that God chooses out a people for Himself is rooted in His loving nature. He has proven this through the cross of Christ. Ask, and He will give. He offers the sacrifice of Christ and the Holy Spirit to strengthen you in the task of living as a Christian. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for how He reveals a disposition of love and kindness toward His people. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 22 – Israel's prayer

For who is there of all flesh that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire as we have and has still lived? – Deut. 5:26 Scripture reading: Deut. 5:22-33, Hebrews 12:18-29 Israel is devastated. The unveiled Word is before them. They know that they cannot continue to stand before God and live. The leaders come to Moses as soon as God has finished and told him that if they continue listening to God, they will die. They need a mediator between God and their sinful flesh. God affirms their prayer. They have rightly understood their status before Him. They affirm God’s choice of Moses as mediator. He will pass on the words of God to Israel. But Moses prefigures someone far greater. In Christ, God will provide a Mediator Who brings us to Mt. Zion, where we may hear the Word of God in the light, not in the darkness and flame as Israel did. Our recognition of the holiness of God is often missing in the church today. People tell us that we can approach God in any way we want, but the advent of Christ makes this recognition of holiness more important. Christ brings us to a new intimacy with God, but Christ also calls us to come before Him having purified our hearts and prepared our hands and feet to approach His throne. This is done through a knowledge of our sin and the One who takes away our sin… and a desire to do His will. Israel’s fear is demonstrating the importance of preparing our hearts for worship. We are called to prepare and examine ourselves as we approach God on Sunday to hear the Word of God and to partake of the sacrament. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God may strengthen you as you approach Him both in your daily worship and your worship among the people of God. Acknowledge the Lord’s almighty works and His holiness. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveldis the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 21 – The unveiled word

These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. – Deut. 5:22 Scripture reading: Deut. 5:22-33 You are going to church at a mountain. You approach, but not too close. You’ve been warned against touching the mountain. You probably wouldn’t want to. It is full of fire, smoke and wind and shakes as you approach. You feel the ground trembling. This is not your regular church service. Then out of the fire, God speaks. His words? The Ten Commandments. God gives these words in the midst of the fire and smoke and speaks no more. I have called this the unveiled Word, but this is not entirely true. The Word of God is still veiled in darkness, fire and smoke. However, Israel does hear that Word directly from God. That God chooses to speak this Word from the mountain, underlines its significance. God meets His people in this unique way and chooses that moment to give these Ten Words. They are a summary of God’s holiness and righteousness. In following these Ten Words, we reflect the holiness of God. This is the closest that the people of Israel ever came to God near the mount. We experience a far more fearsome unveiling, for we approach Mt. Zion by the Spirit, a place of glory and light. We are only able to bear it because the Word spoken on the mountain has become incarnate in Jesus Christ. Yet, even now we cannot properly speak of the Word as completely unveiled for someday Jesus Christ will step down from His role as Mediator and we shall have unveiled access to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the closeness of the communion we have with Him in Jesus Christ. Pray for continual humility and thankfulness for this gift of God. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveldis the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 16 – Punished in order to picture Christ

But the Lord was angry with me because of you and would not listen to me. – Deut. 3:26 Scripture reading: Deut. 3:23-29, Romans 4:16-25 The Father of all good things, the fount of mercy denies Moses' request. Why? Moses says, “The Lord was angry with me because of you.” To clarify this, we need to go back to chapter 1:37, “Even with me the Lord was angry on your account and said you shall not go in there.” If Numbers 20 tells us that the Lord was angry at Moses for his sin, how is it that God’s anger is on account of the people? Ps. 106:32-33 gives us helpful words: “They angered him at the waters of Meribah, and it went ill with Moses on their account, for they made his spirit bitter, and he spoke rashly with his lips.” The evil of the people partly accounts for Moses’ anger. This in no way clears Moses of fault, but it helps us understand why he was angry. Moses, like Christ, is called to accept the consequences of the sin of the people. God has a reason for denying Moses’ request. He wants to typify the life and death of the Son that He will send for the sake of the sins of the world. Of course, Moses' death does not cover sin, but it foretells Christ’s coming. It is only in the resurrection of Christ that the faith of God's people is vindicated, for it is by His resurrection that we are justified. When we suffer the consequences of other peoples’ sin, we too point to the suffering of our Lord and Saviour. Suggestions for prayer Pray to the Lord that He might give you the strength to sacrifice yourself for the sake of others. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 15 – The prayer of a righteous man

Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon. – Deut. 3:25 Scripture reading: Deut. 3:23-29, Numbers 20:2-13 In God’s denial of Moses’ request, we see some of the complexity of God’s relationship to us. God is a good Father. God freely forgives sins in Jesus Christ. But God does not acquiesce to Moses’ request. The book of James tells us, “The prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Is Moses’ prayer the prayer of a righteous man? Moses failed to represent the righteousness of God before His people. In Numbers 20, we read that God told Moses to speak to a rock so that water would come from it. Instead of reflecting God’s merciful answer to a selfish request, Moses struck the rock with his rod and shouted at the people, calling them “rebels.” He failed to present God’s holiness to the people. But Moses was also a righteous man through faith in God. He pleads with a heart that loved the Lord. We need to think of the prayer of Moses along the lines of Christ in Gethsemane. Like Moses, Christ prays, “Let this cup pass from me.” Christ’s desire is not evil. Moses’ desire is not evil. Moses prayer is a good prayer. However, it doesn’t seem to be a perfect prayer. Christ, unlike Moses, adds, “Lord, let your will be done.” Jesus, the truly righteous man, is better able than Moses to accept the verdict of the Lord. Moses sets an example, just as Christ does, in bringing all our burdens and hopes before God. However, we should also be willing to accept the verdict of the Lord, even a verdict we do not understand. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for being a faithful Father as our Lord Jesus Christ showed us. Pray that He may strengthen us in accepting His will in our lives. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 14 – United in rest

All your men of valour shall cross over armed before your brothers, the people of Israel… until the Lord gives rest to your brothers, as to you, and they also occupy the land that the Lord your God gives them beyond the Jordan. Then each of you may return to his possession which I have given you. – Deut. 3:18-20 Scripture reading: Deut. 3:12-22 Moses reminded Reuben, Gad and Manasseh of the promise they made back in the book of Numbers. They asked for the lands that Israel took from Sihon and Og. Moses was concerned that their request was selfish and worried that they would ignore the needs of their brothers when they attacked the main body of the Promised Land. But the tribes offered, not only to fight with their brothers, but to be in the front line. That meant they would be the first to die if things went badly. The goal was rest. Moses wanted all Israel to participate in the rest that was coming. He wanted brothers to be concerned for each other. How does that apply to us? According to Matthew 28, Christ, our ascended King, wants us to bring His rest to the world through the gospel. That means that while the task of evangelism remains and the task of discipling remains, the church should not imagine that it can kick back and enjoy its rest in God. Our prayers, our gifts, our resources should be used to expand the kingdom of God. There is a danger of merely focussing on local needs. At times this is necessary, but at other times, we can lose the desire to bring the gospel and focus inward on our family, our church, or our community. We are called to declare God’s gift of rest to the world. We have to have kingdom thinking. How do I best develop myself so that I model God’s generosity in giving rest? Suggestions for prayer Pray that God may give us the grace to find opportunity to give rest to others through physical and spiritual gifts, so that we may be united in rest. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveldis the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 13 – God overflows with good things

Jair the Manassite took all the region of Argob, that is, Bashan, as far as the border of the Geshurites and the Maacathites, and called the villages after his own name, Havvoth-Jair, as it is to this day. – Deut. 3:14 Scripture reading: Deut. 3:12-22 Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh saw that the land Israel had taken from Og and Sihon was good and asked Moses for it. God heard their request. In this way, God gave Israel assurances that they would enter the land. This teaches us that God is a God Who moves us from glory to glory. Our cup overflows and He continues to add to it. God assured Abraham of his place in the Promised Land by allowing him to purchase some of it. Now Israel receives the area next to the Promised Land as a down payment. The syntax of the passage teaches us something of God’s goodness. Moses arranges verses 12-17 in a chiastic structure, or a verbal sandwich. Verses 12 and 16-17 give us the inheritance of the Reubenites and the Gadites. Verses 13 and 15 tell us the land that is given to the half tribe of Manasseh. That points us to the centre, to a seemingly random story of a future leader named Jair, who conquers an area next to Manasseh. He takes a number of villages and calls them Havvoth-Jair, meaning “the villages of Jair.” God shows His blessing on these tribes and their faith by relating this little story in the middle of this section. The name Jair means “splendid.” God is adding splendor to what He has done in giving these lands to the half tribe of Manasseh, reminding us again of God’s goodness. He is the One Who overflows with good things for the man who walks faithfully before Him. Suggestions for prayer Remember God’s goodness. Be reminded that even as Israel was promised a good land, you too are promised a far better land. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 8 – A failure in holy war

The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place. – Deut. 1:30-31 Scripture reading: Deut. 1:19-46 Israel rejected the call of God to wage holy war, despite Moses’ assurance that God would be with her. She rejected the Word of the Lord Who was with her in fire by night and cloud by day. God was with her, showing Himself in a visible form, teaching her to trust in Him and she rejected Him utterly. That raises the question, do you believe the promises of God? God has commanded us to baptize and disciple the nations. He promised that all nations will be blessed through the seed of Abraham, which is Christ. And God has promised to be with you by His Holy Spirit so that you are enabled in working out God’s mission. Do you believe His promises? Sometimes we focus on the weakness of mankind and despair of the work of God in the mission of the church. Yes, we should be aware of our weakness. If we do not completely humble ourselves before God, we will fail. But that is not the primary message of the Old Testament. The message is that God is powerful to accomplish what He promises. We don’t want to hear this and respond with the same attitude the Israelites had, “Has God brought the church to North America to die?” The church has died in certain areas before, but not because God brought it there to die. It died because the people were afraid, afraid of the giants, afraid of various arguments, afraid of sacrifice, afraid of confessing God’s truth. We are called to fear God, not man. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the love of God may overcome the improper fear that is in your life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 7 – Self-deception

And you murmured in your tents and said, “Because the Lord hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us.” – Deut. 19:27 Scripture reading: Deut. 1:19-46 Are you honest with yourself? About yourself? One of the key tools of Satan is self-deception. Romans 1 tells us that the unrighteous man suppresses the truth. He knows the truth. He knows that God exists and he knows something of His righteousness, but suppresses it and is self-deceived. He believes Satan’s lies concerning the existence of the God of Scripture. Self-deception is just as prevalent among Christians; God gives us stories of failures to teach us about our self-deception. God wants us to know our hearts. God doesn’t whitewash the history of His people. We are stupid, hard-headed, worse, a people with evil hearts and corrupt flesh. We need to know that, otherwise we are self-deceived and begin to trust in our wisdom rather than God’s wisdom. God gives us the story of how he punished the Israelites in the wilderness for forty years so that we may examine ourselves and put our faith in Him. Self-deception comes in many forms. Some deny the justice of God as a way to serve their lusts. Some deny the truth of God’s Word or twist it so that they are more comfortable with its contents. Often it begins with fear. In response to fear, our wicked imaginations feed us lies, so we reach some inescapable “logical” conclusion. In Israel’s case, their fear of the Amorites led them to question the love and kindness of God; love and kindness they had seen in their rescue. They accused God of bringing them in the wilderness to die. Are we so different? Suggestions for prayer Pray that God may uncover your self-deception, so that you may more fully grasp the righteousness and holiness of God. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 6 – You have the anointing of the Holy One

And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My Lord Moses, stop them.” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them.” – Numbers 11:28-29 Scripture reading: Deut. 1:9-18, Numbers 11:16-29 Moses delegates authority and God gives a portion of His Spirit with that authority. In Numbers 11, the people have complained against God again and Moses cries out, “I am not able to carry all these people alone; the burden is too heavy for me.” God responds by giving Moses a gift, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel… and I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them.” This is a mini-Pentecost. God fills seventy men with His Spirit. And then… the Spirit breaks out beyond that and dwells in other men, Eldad and Medad, so that they begin to prophesy. Moses has been given the wisdom of God to rule according to God’s heart. But Moses could not share that Spirit of wisdom with his people. Then God works in Moses so that he prophesies something far bigger, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets!” Pentecost fulfills that prophecy. In the words of Joel, repeated by Peter,“ I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” Pentecost is a sign that God has restored the office of all believers in Christ. You are now called to exercise your office of prophet, priest, and king. You now have a responsibility as mature people in Christ to judge without partiality, even as the seventy elders were called to help Moses. Exercise that responsibility through His Word and Spirit in all that you do. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Spirit of God might strengthen you in your calling, whatever it is, so that you may do it wholeheartedly. Thank God for the gift of His Spirit and for the close fellowship you may have with Him in Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 5 – Moses’ inability

At that time I said to you, “I am not able to bear you by myself.” – Deut. 1:9 Scripture reading: Deut. 1:9-18 Moses tells his audience that “the numerous people of Israel” are too great a burden for him. This is not a problem in itself. The fact that Moses can’t do everything is evidence of God’s overflowing blessing to the people of Israel. He has blessed their families so that they are as many “as the stars of the sky.” Moses doesn’t want that to end. He tells the people, “May the Lord, the God of your fathers, increase you a thousand times and bless you as he has promised!” Moses’ burden is a glorious thing. However, it is too big a task for him. Moses has a whole nation to look after. Any of you who exercise leadership, at work, at home, probably know how tiring it can be to give judgment after judgment in the arguments that arise. Like Moses, we’re limited; weak. We don’t have a perfect grasp of justice for every situation. We aren’t able to deal with every problem. Sometimes we hurt ourselves when we assume that we need to deal with every problem and answer every injustice. We need to rely on God, the One who provides. He provides through Jethro. He provides Moses with the wisdom to make judgments in the first place. God has all wisdom, all authority, and all power. God does not give the work of the church to one person, but through Christ, He pours out His good gifts so each part of the body may rely on the others in the body. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God may strengthen you in the responsibilities He has given you. Pray for the leaders that God has given to the church to strengthen her. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

May 31 – The pillars of the exodus

He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! – Psalm 107:14-15 Scripture reading: Psalm 107:1-22 God has been the central character in the story of the Exodus. We pray that in your readings this month you have been blessed to see the LORD’s hand of mercy and power in action. Throughout the Bible, we have references to these majestic moments which God brought about in Egypt. One pillar of our faith is our confidence that a greater exodus has occurred in Christ! You can’t read Psalm 107 vs 14 without thinking about Jesus’ ministry of life through His death on the cross. He has brought us out of darkness and the shadow of death and burst our bonds apart. God brought the Israelites out of Egypt to bring glory to His name and to reveal His saving purposes. Another great pillar of our joy in Christ is the truth that He has borne our burdens and atoned for our sins so that we have nothing to fear on the Great Day of the Lord. When He comes again to judge the living and the dead, we shall stand with Him and know complete joy and peace in His presence! The coming at midnight of the destroyer of the firstborn in Egypt vividly foreshadows a greater scene we shall soon witness. In the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, God gave His people tangible testimonies of their salvation and further sanctification. In Christ and by His Spirit, we are given a greater assurance of these good blessings from our Heavenly Father in our baptism and the Lord’s Supper. So “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22). Suggestions for prayer Ask our Gracious Father, to embolden us as His witnesses in a world that constantly rejects Him and His Word. Pray for Him to sanctify us by His Spirit and make us ready for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 30 – Life in the shadow of your wings

Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Saviour of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who do me violence, my deadly enemies who surround me. – Psalm 17:7-9  Scripture reading: Psalm 17 With all that we have rehearsed thus far, are you more persuaded than ever that the LORD is mighty, merciful, and most gracious towards His people? He heard their cries and He appointed Moses to be their deliverer and leader. He spared Moses and then provided Moses and the people with His Word and Holy Name to assure them that they would be freed. The LORD was with His people through all their distress and He never once looked away from them. He provided clear symbols to Israel of the special place she occupied before God. He demonstrated His Sovereign power over all of creation through the complete upheaval of the natural world in Egypt and He demonstrated His gracious mercy through the provision of the blood of the Lamb to spare them on the night of Judgment. Consider what the LORD has done! He provided a potent symbol of the atonement from the judgment wrath of God in the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. And He sheltered them under His wings so that the threat of the judging destroyer was turned because of the LORD our Guardian’s presence. Now consider what He has done for you. He hears your cries! He responds to your plea for forgiveness and reconciliation with God. He provides you with His Word and assurance of freedom. He has shown you Christ, the Son, dying in your place and rising for your new life! He shelters you daily under His wings so that there is no condemnation and no fear of death in this life or judgment in the life to come! Suggestions for prayer Praise God from whom all blessings flow! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 29 – Life without the leaven of pagan Egypt

Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. You shall tell your son on that day, 'It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.' – Exodus 13:7-8  Scripture reading: Exodus 13:1-13, 16; Isaiah 26:1-15, 20-21 “Passover is about getting saved,” writes Phillip Ryken. “It reminds us that we have been delivered from death by a perfect substitute whose blood was shed as a sacrifice for our sins. The Feast of Unleavened Bread reminds us what God wants us to do once we’ve been saved, and that is to live a sanctified life, becoming more and more free from sin.” The LORD uses the symbol of leaven as a vivid teaching lesson. What’s leaven? I’m not a foodie so I had to look this up: “It’s a bit of dough that is kept unbaked from the previous day’s baking and added to the next day’s batch of dough so that it would start the fermentation process there also.” Discarding that lump from their time as Egyptian slaves was a “gesture that symbolized leaving behind all Egyptian influences that might work their way through their lives and corrupt them.” In Joshua 24 we’re told that the fathers in Egypt had idols that they were flirting with - even as God was preparing to redeem them out of Egypt. That same idolatrous leaven, inherited from the nations around them, was to be cleansed from their midst in this Feast of Unleavened Bread. You’re exposed to all kinds of influences in your life - and so many things, like our culture’s view of sexuality, identity, wealth, entertainment and the like, can easily seep in. Yet the LORD sets before us this vivid reminder that He has saved us and calls us to daily live a sanctified life in Christ (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). Suggestions for prayer Pray that the LORD would further sanctify you and cause you to grow more and more in holiness through Christ and by His Spirit! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 28 – Life after the night of watching

And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. – Exodus 12:37-38 Scripture reading: Exodus 12:29-51 Life for Pharaoh after the judgment was one of shock, bewilderment and watching the people of the Hebrews go out despite his best efforts to keep them. The night of deliverance for Israel was a night of devastation for the Egyptians. They realize this and say, “If they don’t go, we shall all be dead.” It’s fascinating that in verse 38 we’re specifically told that “a mixed multitude also went up with the Israelites.” It shows that for some of the Egyptians and other non-Israelites, they sought life after the night of judgment on the firstborn of Egypt by joining with the Lord’s people in their exodus from the land. They sought blessing from the LORD and joined His people. This models for us what our very own message of life after the night of deliverance on the cross of Calvary must always be! We also are to proclaim what has happened so that a “mixed multitude” would join with us in our ongoing exodus from the sin and temptation we find in this world. We are also to tell others this truth of God’s deliverance in our continued earthly pilgrimage while we await the heavenly city which is set to be revealed in the days to come! By God’s mercy, a host of Egyptians and non-Israelites believed and were given a place within the covenant community! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the Gospel to grip the hearts of friends, neighbors, and loved ones who do not yet believe in Jesus and follow Him! Pray that our thankful and holy living would be an attractive sight in the midst of so much despair in this world and lead many to Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 23 – Not a dog shall growl against you

Every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die... There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again. But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. – Exodus 11:5-7 Scripture reading: Exodus 11:4-10 This is a fascinating comment here about the dog’s growl. This is more than just a way to say that the Israelites won’t suffer even a scratch. On such a night with so much death in the land, one god of the Egyptians would be especially busy. Anubis, god of the dead and embalming who was represented like a dog in Egyptian images. And on this night, God declared, “The dog shall not growl against any of the people of Israel.” It’s as if the LORD is saying, “Your dog-god will be busy, Pharaoh, dealing with all your dead bodies – but won’t even growl against my people! For I will spare my people so that you may know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.” How amazing this is! And the story becomes even more amazing when we see the provisions that the LORD set in place for His people to be spared His fierce anger and powerful hand of vengeance. In the next few chapters, the LORD makes His people prepare for the night of terror in Egypt. He sets them apart and sets a covering over them to guard so that not a dog shall growl nor shall a single hair be touched by the LORD’s avenging angel. In Romans 9, we read of how God says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then, Paul reminds us, it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” Suggestions for prayer Praise God for protecting and preserving your life and granting you the righteousness of Jesus Christ your Saviour! Praise Him for securing the salvation of His people and guarding us against the powers of death. Thank God for His Mercy! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 22 – He will let you go from here

The LORD said to Moses, "Yet one plague more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. Afterward he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will drive you away completely.” – Exodus 11:1 Scripture reading: Exodus 11:1-3; Exodus 3:13-22 In human history, great warriors have made a name for themselves by winning on the battlefield. But God does something far more amazing than win on the plain of battle against an outmatched Egyptian army. He takes up, with His hand, the very things He has created in the beginning and wields them like His Sword. We can say that creation plays an active role in Israel's release from slavery. The LORD unleashes natural powers and also brings them to a conclusion. Both are remarkable! If you remember, God attacked the symbol of Egypt, the serpent, in the first sign. Then, in the first plague of blood, there was a visible symbol of coming bloodshed. It was a warning sign. Then God attacked the Nile again when He made frogs come forth from the Nile to again bring a defiling presence into the land. Then God attacked the land (plagues 3-6) and then He attacked the sky (in plagues 7-10). God struck the three great sources of so-called divine powers in Egypt: the Nile, the Land and the Skies. By the end of it, Stephen Dempster explains, “The people must think that it is as if all of creation has become unhinged.” What was the right response? To acknowledge and worship God alone! As the Apostle Paul explains, “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Suggestions for prayer Pray to our Father in Heaven, His name be hallowed! His awesome deeds give us hope and confidence in His constant care for us. Thank Him for the light of the knowledge of the glory of God which He has shone in our hearts! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 21 – God commands the darkness to swallow Egypt

They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived. – Exodus 10:23 Scripture reading: Exodus 10:21-29; John 12:27-50 To blot out the light of the sun over the whole land of Egypt for three days is incredible. To simultaneously provide light to the people of Israel is even more incredible! In Egypt, they worshipped the sun god Ra who rose steadily every morning and then departed into the place where Egyptians believed death dwelt. But they always expected the light to return – and sure enough, through the rotation of the earth, the sun would reappear and the Egyptians would be heartened, thinking, “Our god has come through death’s place and returned to us alive and so shall we also be sustained!” The ninth plague begins without warning and it strikes a powerful blow to the whole idea of Egyptian worship of the sun god Ra. Where is this god who is suddenly cast down? For three days they experienced a darkness so thick and oppressive that they were filled with the terrors of the night. They knew the sense of dread that perhaps the sun and its light would never return. And what was the response of the Egyptians to be? The same response that many gave in Luke chapter 7 when Jesus performed a miracle in their presence: “And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has arisen among us!’ and ‘God has visited his people!’" (Luke 7:15-16). The LORD continues to reveal His glory and might in creation and calls us all to follow Christ Jesus with eager devotion and persistent gratitude. Suggestions for prayer Praise our Holy God, for His awesome deeds and wondrous power! Thank Him that Christ Jesus is our Lamp and Shining Light in the midst of the world’s darkness. Thank Him for being the Light of the World! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 20 – God commands the heavens to strike and the locusts to destroy

“By now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” – Exodus 9:15-16 Scripture reading: Exodus 9:13-21; Psalm 29 Pharaoh’s sorcerers were humiliated. These lurking shadows, with power to frighten Pharaoh and wield authority in Egypt, were driven away by their boils in the last plague. Whatever threat they possessed was neutralized. They are never mentioned again. Egypt’s whole system of command and control is being decimated by these waves of judgment on Egypt. And the LORD explains what He is doing: "I am showing you My power so that My name may be proclaimed in all the earth!" This is the whole point of the plague cycle. The LORD’s power is being shown in increasing magnitude. “The hail, rain, thunder and fire came as a barrage,” writes Phillip Ryken, “an opening of the arsenal of judgment to pour out his deadly wrath on Egypt.” So Pharaoh’s servants ask, "How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?" This judgment scene in the Old Testament serves as a preview of the all-out destruction that shall occur on the Last Day. As a hymn writer puts it, At His call the dead awaken, rise to life from earth and sea; all the pow'rs of nature, shaken by His looks, prepare to flee. Careless sinner, what will then become of thee? But to those who have confessed, loved and served the Lord below, He will say, "Come near, ye blessed, see the kingdom I bestow; you forever shall My love and glory know." Suggestions for prayer Rejoice in the LORD’s goodness that ‘the free gift following many trespasses brought justification’ for all who believe in Jesus Christ! Ask the LORD to give you courage as you testify of the blessings which you have received through His grace to you! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 15 – The Lord warns and Satan still tries to deceive Pharaoh

Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. – Exodus 7:10-11 Scripture reading: Exodus 4:1-17; Exodus 7:8-13 Pharaoh and the Egyptians are about to be swallowed up by the might of the LORD God! The proof is directly in front of them. Pharaoh, represented by the vivid imagery of a cobra head poised and ready to strike, was confronted by a live snake on the ground before him which was poised and ready to strike. The serpent's appearance was a warning and a declaration of intent on God's part. And then the most deflating thing happened, didn't it? Through dark demonic powers, Pharaoh’s magicians did the same by their secret arts. The magicians and sorcerers bring into Pharaoh's presence another threatening force – poised to strike. TheSerpentmakes an appearance. In Revelation 12, the Prince of Darkness who rebelliously confronts the LORD is named as the ancient serpent. Satan, the deceiver, presents through these sorcerers an imitation of God's threat. Which threat would Pharaoh respond to? God threatens, “I will destroy you and swallow you up.” And in response, the prince of darkness responds with his own threat through these other sorcerers and magicians: “for each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents.” And Pharaoh thinks, “If you have one snake and my magicians have many snakes, I think I'll stick with them!” And then? “Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs.” Don't you love that? God is superior to any challenger – and God's servants cannot be thwarted by the Serpent or by the powers that he gives to his followers. Suggestions for prayer Rejoice in the saving power of the LORD God! Pray for greater faith to be confident in the face of discouragement and doubts. Ask the LORD to give us joy because Christ has overcome the powers of sin, death and the evil one. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 14 – They shall all know that I am the Lord

Though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them. – Exodus 7:3-5 Scripture reading: Exodus 6:10-7:7 Up until now, the action in the book of Exodus has been more small-scale. Yes, the burning bush scene was quite something – but even that was a fiery scene witnessed by one man in the wilderness. Now we're at the doorstep and ready to dive into the ten plagues. Why did the LORD bring the plagues? He had previously explained this to Moses: “You shall know I am your God. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”  In this chapter, we read that the signs and plagues will also be a testimony to the Egyptians who will come to acknowledge God’s supreme power over them. The mighty deeds of the LORD will be legendary! It’s disturbing, but unsurprising that we live in a time where many people ignore the truth that the LORD is sovereign over all. His might was displayed in Egypt and His saving purpose was foreshadowed in the events of the Exodus. The amazing impact of the good news of our salvation in Christ emerges when we remember that the LORD’s judgment of Egypt pales in comparison with the coming judgment for sin that shall take place on the last day. Yet, in Christ, every believer is assured that we have already undergone the judgment for sin because Jesus Christ has borne our judgment in His body on the cross! Suggestions for prayer Praise our Holy Father for graciously providing us with a Mediator Who was judged in our place. Ask Him to graciously open the hearts of our loved ones so that they may know that He is LORD and that He will save all who call out to Him in faith. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 13 – Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night (Jesus I come to Thee)

Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery. – Exodus 6:9 Scripture reading: Exodus 5:19-6:9 In John 12:46, Jesus declared, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” What wondrous news this is for sinners who need to be redeemed from the darkness! He came to bring the blessing of a new life to every believer. He came to bring us into a world of light in Him! The exodus from Egypt serves as a vivid preview of Jesus’ greater ministry to bring us out of a state of darkness and into the light of His presence. We do well to remember the dramatic change which the LORD brought to His people. As God said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do”. The LORD’s people were broken in spirit and burdened by harsh slavery. Their hope was fading. Pharaoh’s rejection of God’s command was emphatic. Their slavery was worse than before. What good could come out of this? Moses speaks in despair: “Since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all." Our experience of hardship leaves such a mark on our faith. We begin to question God’s ability to actually help us. The LORD calls on us to look and see that His hand of deliverance has gone out to bring us from darkness into light! In the words of a familiar hymn: Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night, Jesus, I come! Jesus, I come! Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light, Jesus, I come to Thee! Suggestions for prayer Praise God for rescuing you from the darkness of sin and bringing you into the light and joy of His presence. Ask Him for strength to overcome fear and despair as you remember that Christ has overcome all our enemies and shall soon return to bless us with everlasting life! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 12 – I am and I will

The LORD said to Moses, "Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land." – Exodus 6:1 Scripture reading: Exodus 5:22-6:12; Acts 4:1-31 God takes us places in our lives that we think are entirely backwards – entirely opposite of what we want or expect or think can in any way be a good thing. “Why have you done evil to this people?” Moses asks, “Why did you ever send me?” The despair of Moses resonates for so many who've known struggles and pain. Yet God will display that “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.” This truth emerges in this scene which previewed the coming deliverance of God’s people. For “this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” Remember this as you gather to worship the Great I AM today! After all, Pharaoh thought he was in control. Pharaoh boasted, “I will not let you go, I will not help you, and I will not let you rest.” God's response is even clearer: “I AM and I will deliver My people and give them rest.” As our passage unfolds, God again promises deliverance and declares that He will be vindicated. His character will be proven through the events that follow. God's name is now to be fully known and He is to become famous for what He does to Egypt. We can trust the LORD to do what is right even in the harshest of circumstances and when we face the most strident opposition. Suggestions for prayer Praise our God Almighty and marvel at His splendor, power, and righteousness! Thank Him for saving us from our distress! Ask Him to strengthen our hearts to serve Him with greater confidence. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC...

Daily devotional

May 7 – Who shall I say you are?

Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.’” – Exodus 3:13-14 Scripture reading: Exodus 3:13-22 Jesus shocked the crowds in the temple when He declared, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” In a misguided attempt to protect the name of the LORD, they picked up stones to throw at Him. What was His offense, in their eyes? Jesus was declaring that He was God. Yet, Jesus was rightly revealing His Name to the crowds just as He had previously revealed Himself to Moses. For it was the Word of God Who spoke from the burning bush and provided assurance to Moses that it was by divine authority that Moses was to carry out his calling. In a way, we can identify with Moses’ hesitation, can’t we? Moses doubted himself, he feared the people and Moses was worried about Pharaoh. And amazingly, the LORD provides a powerful reassurance to His wavering servant: “Say this… I AM has sent me to you.” I can't do this. Lord, you call me to an impossible task. What is that for you? What part of your life feels impossible right now? Particularly, what area in your heart feels like a no-go zone in your fight to root out sin? What struggle do you face with others that feels like it is an insurmountable challenge? If we focus on Moses, we miss the much greater revelation happening: The LORD God, the maker of the heavens and the earth, made plain this everlasting truth for all who trust in Him: I AM with you to deliver you! Suggestion for Prayer Pray for the LORD’s name to be hallowed on earth as it is in heaven. Pray for assurance that His power is so great that we need not be anxious about anything! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 6 – How can we come near?

God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then he said, "Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." And he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. – Exodus 3:4-6 Scripture reading: Exodus 3:1-12; Hebrews 12:18-29 To come into God’s presence, we must be pure of any sin and holy in heart and conduct. Like Moses, we are defiled by sin and need a priest who can cleanse us. This was why Moses was told not to come near to the burning bush and the Angel of the LORD who spoke to Him. Yet the great news in Hebrews chapter 10 is this: “Since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith." We are invited to draw near through Christ our High Priest Who has washed our hearts and bodies clean of sin and corruption. Particularly in the aftermath of Jesus’ wondrous work of redemption and the offering of His shed blood and body for our sins, we are granted a new confidence and assurance to draw near to the majesty, splendor, and glory of our God! Jesus Christ has opened up a new and living way for us to come into the presence of our Holy God and live with joy in His presence! God comes near to Moses in the wilderness and gives Moses His Name to proclaim, His plan to carry out and His power to display signs of God’s intent to set His people free. He wants Moses to be His ambassador in Egypt. All that Moses will do serves as a preview of when Jesus would come to rescue His people from a greater foe and secure us forever. In Him, dear Christian, we draw near with newfound boldness and holiness! Suggestions for prayer Praise the Lord that He has completely provided what you need to draw near to Him without terror or dread! Pray that Jesus would be exalted in your conduct as you live in renewed holiness because of His perfecting work in you. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 5 – God’s ways are not our ways

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9 Scripture reading: Exodus 2:15-25; Isaiah 55 How was anything good to come from Moses’s sudden exodus from the land? Wasn’t he saved from the Nile River for a special mission? He’s 40 years old and well trained. He’s strong enough to be a powerful foe to the Egyptians, single-handedly taking the large lid off the well and imposing enough to drive away the aggressive shepherds. If you were a casting agent for social revolution, you would say Moses was your guy. But God’s ways are not our ways. The might of Moses will be diminished during his 40 years as a shepherd in the wilderness away from the Hebrews of Egypt. It will not be mighty, well-connected Moses who leads the charge into the battle for Hebrew independence. No, God’s plan is to send an 80-year-old Moses to be His voice and a messenger with signs of power. Is this surprising? Yes! Just as a child born in a stable was a surprising turn of events for those who expected a king. Yet Jesus Christ was the Word of God Incarnate and the only One who could bring life to us through His death and resurrection. There is a lesson in the life of Moses that we need to learn too: that God’s perfect plan of deliverance involves times of suffering, hardship and pain for us to endure. But through it all, God is in control! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would give you peace in your circumstances as you await the day when you will enter the Promised Land of rest for all of God’s people. Pray for contentment when God’s plans for you seem hard to understand or experience. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 4 – The defender of the oppressed

When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. – Acts 7:23-25 Scripture reading: Exodus 2:11-15; Acts 7:17-29 What was Pharaoh’s fear? In chapter 1 vs 10, he fears that the Hebrews would join the enemies of Egypt and fight against them and escape from the land. Amazingly, that’s exactly what Moses does here. Here’s a son of esteem and privilege in Pharaoh’s court, next in line to the throne according to the ancient historian Josephus. What does he do? He joins the enemy. What’s more, he fights for them and escapes from the land. In this remarkable scene, Moses served as a defender and avenger of the oppressed. This is the inspired interpretation which the martyr, Stephen, sets before us in Acts 7:24-25. Moses strikes the first blow against Pharaoh’s forces. Yet the weary hearts of the Hebrews were not prepared to see that God was giving them salvation by Moses’ hands. They looked at the prospect of deliverance and thought it was too far-fetched and they rejected Moses. When Stephen preached on this text before the Council, he made the point all too clear for them: you are acting with greater disdain and danger to your soul if you reject Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, Who has come to defend the oppressed and avenge all wrongdoing. For unlike Moses, who shrank in fear once he realized what he had done, Jesus unfailingly overcame our great enemy and now He opens the gates of Heaven to all who believe in Him. Moses’ actions were only a preview of the glorious way in which God has now given us salvation through the pierced hands of His Son! Suggestions for prayer Pray for God to remove every obstacle in the hearts of those who think salvation from sin is either unnecessary or simply impossible. Pray for courage to be a witness of Christ our Defender and Redeemer! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

April 29 - Future joy

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. - Revelation 21:4 Scripture reading: Revelation 21:1-7 As we have seen this month, the Bible speaks much about joy in the Christian life. But God’s Word does not paint a false picture of life. We also read about pain, hardship and difficulties. Though we don’t always understand why, we know God has His purposes for such trials and that His purposes are always for good. If you are in Christ, you can rest assured that God is foryou, not against you! What He does is for your edification and sanctification, not for your destruction. This month’s topic of JOY is not meant to minimize or ignore the reality of pain; it is meant to put hardships into perspective. As Christians, you are pilgrims, aliens and strangers on this earth. Your citizenship is in heaven. You are a child of God and He has reserved for you a future that is without pain. Think of it. When Christ returns in all His glory and the number of the elect is complete, He will inaugurate the new heaven and new earth in which you will live for eternity. This won’t be a temporary respite. God wants you to know that “the former things have passed away.” What former things? Tears. Death. Mourning. Crying. Pain. These will be eradicated, done away with, gone forever! When you recognize and believe this, you will have joy even while you experience hardships. Do you believe? Then you can say with Paul, “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would increase your faith to see the blessed future awaiting you and that the Holy Spirit would give you joy even as you shed tears, hurt or mourn. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 28 - Joy in worship

True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. - John 4:24 Scripture reading: John 4:1-26 Since joy, in some measure, ought to be present in every believer and since worship should include the believer’s heartfelt response to the Saviour, it follows that true worship should be joyful. Joy isn’t the only thing, but it is an essential thing. Jesus responded to the Samaritan woman's question about worship with these words: “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). What does this mean? William Hendriksen rightly explains it in his Commentary on John’s Gospel: “…worshiping in spirit and truth can only mean a) rendering such homage to God that the entire heart enters into the act, and b) doing this in full harmony with the truth of God as revealed in His Word. Such worship, therefore, will not only be spiritual instead of physical, inward instead of outward, but it will also be directed to the trueGod as set forth in Scripture and as displayed in the work of redemption.” Our worship must avoid what God described in Isaiah 29:13 and repeated by Jesus in Matthew 15:8, 9: “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Today, worship the Lord in spirit and truth, with joy in your heart. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would find in you the kind of worshipper He is seeking and that your heart will be filled with the joy of the Lord today. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 27 - Angelic wonder

…things into which angels long to look.- 1 Peter 1:12 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:3-12 I’m curious about angels. Not the fat little-winged baby cherubs depicted in medieval art, but those beings depicted in Scripture – the ones that elicited great fear in humans. Far from cute babies floating on clouds, the Bible portrays them as powerful warrior-like beings. God created them before He created our world (Job 38:6-7). They are a set number; that is, they don’t multiply. Lucifer and a third of the host of angels were cast out of Heaven because of their pride and rebellion against God. In 1 Peter 1:12, Peter interestingly states that there are things into which angels long to look. There’s a certain curiosity that the angels have. But what are these things that angels desire to look into? They witnessed the righteous judgment of God when He cast Lucifer and a third of their number out of Heaven. They saw what happens when the creature rebels against his Creator. The angels understand law and justice. But Peter is talking about the gospel and that is a different category than law and justice. For angels to now see the Creator respond to rebellious creatures in mercy, in grace, in love – to see Him send His own Son as a sacrifice for that rebellious lot – now that is something to look into. It is grace unknown and love beyond degree! That is the gospel, and that is our joy! Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would have the same awe and wonder of God’s sovereign grace as do the angels and that you would rest in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for you, and be filled with joy. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 26 - Counterfeit joy (4)

May my meditation be pleasing to Him, for I rejoice in the Lord.- Psalm 104:34 Scripture reading: Psalm 104:1-35 I live in Colorado and most days I can see the Rocky Mountains. When on a clear day, I see the distant white-capped peaks, my heart rejoices in wonder and praise. But I’m sure that when unbelievers see the same sight, though they do not acknowledge the Creator, they still experience a certain awe and wonder. Simply living in this world is a blessing. Although many will not acknowledge it, God has blessed us humans. We have talents and abilities, enjoy good health, have material possessions, have family and friends. We can appreciate beautiful art, wonder at a colorful sunset, and be in awe of majestic mountains. Whether a Christian or not, there is a joy that comes with living. It is the joy of God’s common grace. Psalm 104 recounts God’s great creative work. The psalmist looks at the mountains and is in awe. He recognizes that God sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. He hears birds singing, watches animals feed, sees ships navigate the oceans. At the end of the Psalm he says, “I rejoice in the Lord.” Not the ships, the rain, the animals, the mountains, but I rejoice in the Lord. Joy in God’s creation will not last because there is so much more. Jesus asked, ”For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mark 8:36). True, lasting joy comes not in the earthly gifts we enjoy from our Creator, as wonderful as they are, but in trusting and rejoicing in the Creator Himself. Suggestions for prayer Pray that your joy would not consist simply in the gifts God has given, but would be in God Himself and that you would have a thankful heart for all of God’s gifts. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 21 - Resurrection joy

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord." - John 20:18 Scripture reading: John 20:1-18 It is clear from reading John’s account of Jesus’ resurrection that Mary Magdalene didn’t expect Jesus to rise from the dead. When she went to the tomb early in the morning and found it empty, her first reaction was not, “He arose” but rather, “Someone has taken the body” (v. 1). Then a little later, when the angels asked her why she was weeping, she answered, “They have taken away my Lord” (v. 13). You see, Mary and Jesus’ other followers lived in the same world we live in, a world in which dead people don’t rise again. That is precisely John’s point in this passage. While our experience tells us that dead people don’t rise again, Jesus actually did. People who weren’t expecting to see Jesus alive again saw and believed. Some speak of the resurrection as a “symbol” of Jesus’ continuing influence in the world, but scoff at the idea that He actually rose from the dead, bodily. But John and the other Gospels record eyewitness accounts that Jesus, after He was laid in the tomb, was actually seen upright and walking, heard talking, ate meals and was touched. And this must be the case, else we have no Saviour. His death on the cross conquered death so that death could not hold Him. His resurrection was the Father’s approbation of Christ’s atonement. His resurrection is the promise and guarantee of the resurrection of His people. It was no “symbol” or metaphor. He really rose from the dead. Hallelujah! Christ arose! Suggestions for prayer Give thanks that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the guarantee that when He returns, your body will be raised to eternal life. Pray that the church will never compromise the message that Jesus actually, bodily rose from the dead. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 20 - For the joy set before him

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:2 Scripture reading: Hebrews 12:1-17                                                                Yesterday was Good Friday, the day that Christ, the Lamb of God, in full obedience to the Father, gave His life as a substitutionary atonement for our sins. He was wounded for our transgressions and was bruised for our iniquities. And yet, despite the pain and shame and rejection, Jesus was joyful. He had spoken about His joy just before His arrest in the Upper Room with His disciples. In Hebrews 12, we are encouraged to keep running the race of faith, all the while looking to Jesus. Not only was Jesus joyful while on earth, but He looked forward to a fuller and greater joy ahead. It was the joy of a mission accomplished. He endured the pain, suffering and shame of the cross because He knew that there was even greater joy on the other side. We too are blessed with joy today, but there is a greater joy ahead. And realizing that blessedness should encourage us to keep running the race of faith. We might be discouraged, weary and worn out, but “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9). For the joy that is set before you, keep running! Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would take your eyes off your circumstances and be focused on Jesus. Rejoice that Christ your Saviour is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 19 - Jesus’ seventh word on the cross

“Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!” - Luke 23:46 Scripture reading: Luke 23:44-49 This word, like the fourth and fifth, is a quotation from Psalms. Psalm 31:5 says, “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.” Jesus began His ministry with the Scriptures on His lips when Satan tempted Him and now He breathes His last with the Word of God on His lips. Luke tells us that Jesus spoke this seventh word after the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Since Christ had accomplished His mission, the way into the Holy of Holies is now open. Christ Himself is the way, the truth and the life. Luke also says that He spoke this word with a loud voice. This is significant. Jesus had said,“No one takes My life from Me; I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18). This means that death didn’t come until Jesus allowed it to come. When He was ready, He embraced it. He didn’t die in weakness, but in strength. He didn’t speak with a whimper, but with a loud voice. And further, He says, “Into Your hands I commit My spirit.” I commit, not as some passive, helpless victim, but as the One Who holds the keys of death. Jesus died, safe and secure in the Father’s hands. Understand that He did so as our mediator and substitute. As He committed His spirit into His Father’s hands, He is committing our spirits into His Father’s hands. Like Jesus, we can die safely and securely because our covenant head and Saviour died safely and securely. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would have the joy and peace of being secure in the Father’s hands. Give thanks that Jesus has conquered death. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 18 - Jesus’ sixth word on the cross

“It is finished.” - John 19:30 Scripture reading: John 19:28-30 You and I might not finish something we’ve begun. Due to laziness, weakness or for reasons outside our control, that project you were working on or letter you were writing or diet you started, didn’t get completed. But that can never be said of Christ. Jesus’ sixth word on the cross is a word of triumph. He fully completed what He came to do. In 1 John 3:5 we read, “You know that He appeared to take away sins.” A few verses later John says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” These purposes are not separate, but the same. Christ came to take away our sins and thereby to free us from the tyranny of the devil. There are times when I’m keenly aware of my own sins and conclude, as did Paul, “O wretched man that I am” (Rom. 7:24). At those times, when the devil points his finger at me and says “guilty,” I remind myself of this sixth word on the cross. “It is finished.” Christ paid it all. That truth restores the joy. Horatio Spafford got it right when he penned this stanza in his well-loved hymn, “It is Well with My Soul”: “My sin – O the bliss of this glorious thought! – My sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more; praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!” Suggestions for prayer Pray thatGod would forgive your sins because of Christ’s sacrifice for you and that He would grant you a deeper assurance that your sins are forgiven and that it is well with your soul. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 13 - Jesus’ first word on the cross

And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."- Luke 23:34 Scripture reading: Luke 23:18-34 Looking forward to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, I want to spend the next several days looking at the seven words of Christ on the cross. My prayer is that you will find and experience great joy in hearing and understanding them. The spiritual leaders of Israel, in hatred and jealousy, brought charges of blasphemy and sedition against Jesus. The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, cowardly washed his hands of this debacle. The Roman soldiers scornfully beat and mocked Jesus. Finally, they nailed Him to the cross between two criminals so that the sinless Son of God was, as Isaiah had prophesied, “numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah53:12). Jesus didn’t rant and rave against His oppressors, He didn’t defend Himself against the injustice of it all. Instead, the first words from His lips are, “Father, forgive them.” Forgiveness. This is why Jesus came into the world – to forgive sins. When Joseph wondered what to do about Mary when she was pregnant, the angel reassured him and said, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” This first word of Christ on the cross brings great joy to sinners like you and me. We cannot out-sin His grace. And just as He interceded for the sinners of His day, so He continues to lovingly intercede for you and me today. Hebrews 7:25 says, “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Hallelujah! What a Saviour. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will forgive your sins for the sake of Jesus Christ and give thanks that Jesus is your great High Priest Who continues to intercede for you. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 12 - Jesus’ joy

But now I am coming to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. - John 17:13 Scripture reading: John 17:1-13 Jesus prayed that we would have His joy. What does that look like? How are we to understand His joy, much less experience it? First, Jesus’ joy is a holy joy. It is, if I may put it this way, a “serious” joy. It is not flippant. It is not showy or boisterous. It is not produced. It is the joy that results in being in fellowship with the Father. And that is precisely what Christ has accomplished for us – fellowship with the Father. He has the joy of that fellowship and prays that you and I may have the same joy. Second, when Jesus speaks of His joy, He is speaking of the joy that comes from Himself. As we’ve already seen, Jesus is the source of all joy. It is impossible to have true, lasting joy apart from Jesus. Third, Jesus’ joy is a joy completely independent of earthly circumstances. Jesus was about to be crucified and He knew it, but that didn’t affect His joy. He would soon be leaving His disciples in this world full of hatred, anger and murderous intent. Yet, He prayed that they would be more than conquerors filled to overflowing with His joy. And that is His prayer for you and me. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will be able to know Jesus' joy in spite of your circumstances. Rejoice that though you were once alienated from God, in Christ you’ve been reconciled. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 11 - Joy in this world

But now I am coming to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.- John 17:13 Scripture reading: John 17:1-13 In John 17, just before His arrest, trial and crucifixion, Jesus prayed to the Father with the disciples listening in. Often referred to as His High Priestly prayer, Jesus prayed several petitions for His followers. He was fully aware of what was about to transpire, yet one of His petitions was that the disciples would have His joy. In spite of His imminent crucifixion, Jesus had joy. There are some people who think that being a Christian is a joyless life in which you will miss out on all the fun. Or they say that whatever joy a Christian might experience will only be in the future. Satan, the father of lies, would have us think that we’re missing out. But that clearly isn’t Jesus’ position. Remember that Jesus had just said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Jesus intentionally prayed this prayer in the disciples hearing so that they would have His joy immediately. Yes, Jesus has gone to prepare a place for them (and us), and our eternal existence in the “new heavens and the new earth” will be joyful beyond our imagining. But it isn’t only for that future that He has redeemed us. We are to enjoy the blessings of our redemption in this world as well as in the world to come. And one of those blessings is joy. The Christian is meant to be joyful today. Suggestions for prayer Be thankful that your future is one of joy unimaginable and pray that you will experience the true foretaste of that joy today. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 10 - The fruit of joy (ii)

…rejoice that your names are written in heaven. - Luke 10:20 Scripture reading: Luke 10:1-10 The reason that joy is a fruit of the Spirit is because the Spirit always brings us back to Jesus. When Jesus was comforting His disciples, He told them that after His departure, the Holy Spirit would come. He said, “He (the Spirit) will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14). The Holy Spirit’s primary purpose is to reveal, to shine the light on Jesus. Where Jesus is preached, where Jesus is praised, where Jesus is glorified, there the Spirit is at work. And since Christ is the ultimate source of joy, joy is an inevitable fruit of the Spirit. We have a tendency to find joy in lesser things – our marriage, our work, sports and recreation, our children or grandchildren, etc. We might even find joy in “spiritual” things like our church, our teaching responsibilities or our serving as office-bearers. But even here Jesus sets us straight: Luke 10 tells us that Jesus sent out His followers on a mission and gave them extraordinary, miraculous powers. They went out into the villages and were able to heal diseases and cast out demons. When they returned to Jesus they were filled with joy because they were able to do all these things. But Jesus reoriented their focus and said, “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that your pastor would faithfully preach Christ and Him crucified and give thanks that your name has been written in the Book of Life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 5 - Joy in the God of my salvation

I will take joy in the God of my salvation. - Habakkuk 3:18b Scripture reading: Habakkuk 3:1-19 When the Bible speaks of our joy, we discover that it is the Christian’s response to all the blessings we have from God. But the wellspring, the fount of joy is our salvation in Jesus Christ. For example, James instructs us to “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…” (James 1:2). But we cannot be joyful in our trials apart from our salvation in Christ. In Psalm 119 the Psalmist says that he delights in God’s Word, in God’s commands and in God’s testimonies. But we cannot find joy in God’s revelation without being in Christ. At the end of Luke’s gospel, just after Jesus’ ascension, we read that His disciples “worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:52). But we cannot worship joyfully apart from being in Christ. Habakkuk was a prophet during very difficult days. In the short, Old Testament book of Habakkuk the prophet raises complaints to God about the sorry state of affairs in Judah. He is burdened because God seems to be indifferent to the appalling spiritual condition of His people (Habakkuk 1:2-4). But after God answers his complaints, Habakkuk responds with those beautiful words, “I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Is that your joy? God sent His only begotten Son to save you. He is the God of your salvation. Do you take joy in Him? Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would impress on you His great love for you. So great is His love that He gave Jesus to be your salvation. Pray that your joy would be evident and recognized by others. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 4 - Joy & peace

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.- John 16:33 Scripture reading: John 16:25-33 Being a Christian does not mean you become immune to the hardships of life. Anyone who’s lived long enough knows that we suffer pain and sickness, financial hardships, death of family or friends, inter-personal conflicts and are scorned by the world for holding Biblical convictions. Granted, there are some false teachers that preach a “health and wealth” gospel, but they didn’t learn that from Jesus. He made it clear that if they persecuted Him, they will persecute His followers. And, in the passage above, He says, “in this world you will have tribulation.” Not “might have,” but “will have.” But Jesus then says “take heart.” Do not wallow in your hardships. Do not despair. Take heart! He isn’t saying “just grin and bear it.” He tells us that He has overcome the world. The hurts and pains we experience are temporary. As Paul says in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Why? Because Christ has overcome the world and He will make all things new. This truth affords the Christian a “peace that passes understanding” because by faith the Christian can see beyond the present circumstances. And that, in turn, brings great joy to the believer. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would remove the hardships, or reconcile the conflicts in your life and that if it is His will to allow these to remain, you will trust in the future grace of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 3 - Abide in me

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.- John 15:11 Scripture reading: John 15:1-11 In chapters 13-17 of John’s Gospel, Jesus is alone with His disciples in the upper room. These chapters are often referred to as “The Upper Room Discourse” because in them our Lord teaches and speaks words of comfort to His beloved disciples. In the middle of that discourse, Jesus tells the disciples, and us, that He is the Vine and we are the branches. Apart from Him, He says, we can do nothing. Apart from Jesus, we cannot bear fruit. Apart from Jesus, we are nothing but withering branches, only good for being “gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (v. 6). So Jesus lovingly instructs and encourage us to abide in Him. Only then will we thrive, bear fruit and live. Only then will we know the joy that Jesus promises. As we focus our attention this month on Christian joy, I want to impress on you that it is only by abiding in Christ that we can and will have joy. Romance will not bring lasting joy. Recreation and sports cannot offer lasting joy. Politics and governments cannot bring you joy. Only by abiding in Christ will you have joy. Why? Because He is the ultimate and only source of joy! To abide in Jesus means that you believe the good news of the gospel. It means that you are resting in and trusting in His righteousness, not your own. It means that you humbly embrace His atonement on your behalf – so that your joy may be full. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we would truly believe and know the comfort and joy of belonging to Jesus and that we would bear fruit for Christ’s glory and our neighbor’s good. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 2- Tidings of comfort and joy

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… – Romans 3:21-23 Scripture reading: Romans 3:9-26 Yesterday I began by saying: “I want to live in joy, and I want to die in joy.” And we saw that Jesus is the only true source of joy. But Jesus lived over 2000 years ago. How can my joy in 2019 have anything to do with Jesus? The Heidelberg Catechism is a summary of biblical teaching and begins by asking the question, “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” The answer can be summarized: “That I belong to Jesus.” But notice what the second question asks: “What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?” Then it lists three things. That is, if you desire (as I do) to live in joy and to die in joy, you need to know and understand these things: First, that I am a sinner. And not only am I a sinner, but I have no hope of earning or meriting God’s favor on my own. Because I am a sinner, I deserve only God’s punishment. Second, that God in love sent His only begotten Son to save sinners like me. There is no other Saviour but Jesus Christ and I am trusting in His salvation. Third, that my gratitude is the inevitable response to God’s grace in Christ. This gratitude is not only a feeling, but shows itself in a life of obedience to God’s will. When you know, understand and believe those three things, you will have joy. Suggestions for prayer Pray for a deeper appreciation for the gospel. Pray that the gospel will be the pillar and foundation of your church’s ministry. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

March 28 - Are you humble? (2) 

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you. - 1 Peter 5:6 Scripture reading: Proverbs 11 Peter continues his teaching on humility in verse 6. He tells us to humble ourselves so that God may exalt us. Pride can be viewed as dependence or confidence in oneself. A person may think he is fully independent of others and self-sufficient. Is this true? Are we completely self-sufficient without any dependence on others? The reality is, no matter where we are in life, we do rely on others. We all appreciate family, friends, employers, customers, retail workers, doctors and nurses and the list goes on. Think about all the people you rely on each day to make your life better and easier. We are not truly alone. There is One Who is actually in your life whether you recognize it or not. The Lord directs all of your affairs by an all-wise Providence. You don’t live in a chance world. Peter brings us to the place where we need to recognize God working in our lives. Humility is having a full dependence on and confidence in God. This verse could be translated allow yourselves to be humbled, under the mighty hand of God. We must permit ourselves to be humbled. We must consent to let God take control. We must surrender to His will as He knows what is best for us. His hand is mighty and powerful. He breaks the power of sin and pride and molds us to be like Christ by His Spirit. He will exalt us in due time. Will you allow yourself to be humbled? Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord He is faithful and powerful so that we can truly depend upon Him. Praise the Lord that when we humbly submit to Him, He will exalt us in His perfect time. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB....

Daily devotional

March 27 - Are you humble? (1) 

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you. - 1 Peter 5:5-6 Scripture reading: Philippians 2 How important is humility? According to Peter very important! Pride not only hurts our relationship with God, but also our relationship with others. How many friendships and marriages have been damaged or ruined over hurtful or angry words? How many families and workplaces have been divided by resentment and bitterness? How many reputations have been ruined through jealousy and hateful gossip? How true are the words, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18). Do you have a humble spirit or have you allowed pride to impact your relationship with your spouse? Family member? Co-worker? Even Christ Himself? Peter declares, "Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."How can we clothe ourselves with humility? The term clothe refers to a servant’s garment or apron that would be worn over other clothing and tied so that it would stay tightly fixed to the body. Peter’s imperative here is that humility must be part of us like a garment tightly wrapped around the body so it can’t fall off. This garment is to be on all the time and never removed. Humility is essential in the Christian life. Just as Paul taught when he said in Philippians 2:3, "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." Why do this? "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." How important is humility to you? Suggestions for prayer Give praise to God; He is willing to give His grace to the humble. If you struggle with pride, ask the Lord to grant you grace and help today so that you can repent of this sin and come to Him with humility and faith. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB....

Daily devotional

March 26 - Biblical leadership  

So I exhort the elders among you,… shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. - 1 Peter 5:1-3 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 5; Titus 1 What makes for a spiritually healthy church? I could list many things that would contribute to the health of a church, but the most important is a strong dedication to the Word of God as our only authority for faith and practice. What makes a strong dedication to God’s Word happen? The answer is strong leadership. Most churches stand firm or fall with the quality of their leadership. Of course, leaders can’t fulfill their calling without supportive and spiritually minded members of the church. Both leaders and members must be Biblically minded and work together in humility with a desire to serve Christ so that the church can grow and flourish. Even though this text is directed towards elders, it should speak to all of us to recognize the importance of Biblical leadership in the church. The primary task of the elder is to shepherd the flock of God. Like the Good Shepherd, this means he is to pray for, guide, care for and nurture the church which is Christ’s flock. He is to exercise spiritual oversight over the church to ensure the faithful preaching of God’s Word and that the purity of the Word, the sacraments, the doctrines and holiness of life are maintained. This is a calling he accepts willingly and reverently and not for shameful gain or benefit. He is not to abuse his authority and be domineering, harsh or arrogant, but to be an example of Christ. May the Lord give us strong Biblical leadership! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord will give us Biblical and faithful elders and pastors to lead Christ’s church on earth and pray for and support the leaders the Lord has called to have oversight in His church. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB....

Daily devotional

March 25 – Are you prepared?

...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 Corinthians 3:1-17 It can be very challenging to share your faith in Christ with others and there are many questions we can ask ourselves. Will I say the right things? Will I be able to explain the gospel correctly? Was I sincere? Or, why couldn’t I remember that verse, it was perfect?! We can play mental gymnastics before, during and after witnessing to someone. Many feel uncomfortable talking to others about Christ. They can be afraid of rejection, of looking foolish or of offending others of a different faith. Yet, our aim should always be to share our Saviour with a lost world (Mark 16:15-16). We must always remember, we are not in the business of converting people; that is the work of the Holy Spirit, but we are in the business of planting the good seed of God’s Word in the hearts of others. We leave it to the Lord to apply His Word to hearts and give the growth (1Corinthians 3:7). Peter tells us, as those who are dedicated to Christ by true faith, to always be prepared to make a defense of the reason for our Christian hope at any time. You share real hope every time you speak to someone about Christ, a hope that has a foundation, a hope that has a real future, a hope that will not disappoint! Know the truths of God’s Word and pray for the Spirit’s help so that you will always be ready to share your hope. Suggestions for prayer Praise the Lord He revealed Christ to us and that we were enabled to come to Him in repentance and faith for our salvation. Pray that we will be able to share this hope we have in Christ with others. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB....

Daily devotional

March 20 - Our living stone!

As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious. - 1 Peter 2:4 Scripture reading: Psalm 118 How does Peter describe Jesus for us? He is a Living Stone, rejected by men, but chosen by God. This means that the Lord has set forth Christ to be the great foundation upon which the Church is built. How do we come to Him? Of course, we come to Him in salvation when we first believed. But that is not what Peter has in mind here. The verb tense he uses means we are to come to Christ repeatedly. This does not refer to our conversion, but to our daily communion with Him. We must come to Christ continually so that we may be built up in Him. Peter calls Jesus a Living Stone. He is living in that He died for our sins, but was raised from the dead and is alive, gaining victory over sin, death, and hell. He is the author and giver of life, able to impart spiritual life to all who believe in Him. Because He is living, Christianity is not a religion of dead rituals, superficial worship, and paying lip service to God. It is a relationship with the living Lord of the universe! Christ is the only solid foundation for your faith for time and eternity. This should be very comforting because your faith rests on what Christ has done for you. You can put your trust in Him and know that you will not be disappointed or put to shame (1 Peter 2:6). Is Jesus your Living Stone? Suggestions for prayer Praise the Lord that He has given us Jesus, our Living Stone! That there is no other foundation for our faith and that when we place our faith and trust in Him we will never be disappointed. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB....

Daily devotional

March 19 - Desire pure spiritual milk

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation - if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. - 1 Peter 2:1-3 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2 As we now come into chapter two, Peter gives us a list of five things we are not to possess as Christians. These are not the only things that hinder our growth in Christ. Peter uses a figure of speech here, where the part represents the whole. Peter just finished telling us in chapter one that holiness and love for others are to mark every aspect of the Christian life. The Greek word for put away means to get rid of or to remove. Any vice must be removed like clothes that are dirty and defiled. We are to strip off anything that spoils our holiness and love for God and others. What place do malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander have in your heart as a believer in Christ? Does Christ not save us from all forms of vice and wickedness? What should we desire? The believer is to crave one thing, the truth of God’s Word. Just as babies need fresh milk and good nutrition to grow up strong and healthy, so we also need the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word. Newborn babies have an intense craving for their mother’s milk. It doesn’t matter if it’s 3 a.m., if they’re hungry, they let you know about it and don’t stop until they are fed! When was the last time you had such a desire for God’s Word? It is only through the Bible that we may grow up to salvation and know that the Lord is good. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to help you deal with any type of vice and sin in your heart. Pray that the Lord would grant you a strong desire to know His Word and that you would experience His goodness in your life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB....

Daily devotional

March 18 - The shortness of life   

…for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever." And this word is the good news that was preached to you. - 1 Peter 1: 24-25 Scripture reading: Isaiah 40 Imagine there is a bank that credits your bank account each morning with $86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. It’s almost overwhelming to think about it if such a sum of money was given to us each day like this! Yet, each of us has such a bank. It’s called TIME. Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off as lost whatever of this amount you have failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balance. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no borrowing against tomorrow. You must live in the present on today’s deposits. How are you spending your time? Peter quotes Isaiah 40:6-8 in this text: "A voice says, 'Cry!' And I said, 'What shall I cry?' All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades…" The reality we all face is that life is so very short. Thankfully, the Word of the Lord remains forever! Make sure in all the busyness of life that you stop to take care of the most important thing with your time - a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to direct you to the best use of your time so that you do not look back over life lamenting much wasted time, but rather use your time for spiritual life and growth in God’s Word through Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB....

Daily devotional

March 17 - Born again

...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 Scripture reading: John 3 I read a story about an old church that sat empty and abandoned for a long time in a rundown neighborhood. The decaying building blended naturally into the whole area. Storefronts were boarded up. An old school building was padlocked. The place was grim, unswept, forgotten. Then one night everything changed. The old church was lit up. Parked cars lined the streets. The sound of music filled the air. What had been dead and abandoned had come to life. There have been many people like this old church, spiritually dark, empty, and without any life. Then, as if someone turned on a switch, they came to life! What makes such a radical change in a person’s life? God makes His people born again by His Holy Spirit! The new birth gives us a new nature as well as a new and living hope (1 Peter 1:3). Peter explains that the new birth comes through the living and abiding word of God. By the Word(logos), he means "God's self-revelation," which would include both His spoken message of the Old Testament and the message of the gospel through Christ, our great prophet in the New Testament (Hebrews 1:1). God's Word is living because it gives life to all who hear it and respond to it in faith. Has the Bible made an impact on your life? Does it continue to make an impact especially on this day of worship? God’s Word is life to all who respond to its message! Suggestions for prayer Praise God for the new birth and that He does not leave us dead in our trespasses and sins. Ask the Lord to enable His Word to have a continual impact on your life by His Holy Spirit. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB....

Daily devotional

March 12 – We are to have a right moral standard

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

Daily devotional

March 11 - We are to have right obedience

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

Daily devotional

March 10 – We are to have right thinking

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

Daily devotional

March 9 - The prophets spoke about him

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. - 1 Peter 1:10-11 Scripture reading: Hebrews 1 Peter continues to encourage suffering Saints by telling them that even the prophets of old looked for and testified concerning God’s salvation and grace given to His people. This should encourage us as well! The Lord had a plan to save a people and, over time, revealed that plan in the progression of His revelation through His Word to the prophets, various other means and now to us through His Son Jesus (Hebrew 1:1). What did the prophets search for? God made a gradual discovery of Christ from the time of Adam down through the running centuries to the New Testament times. Each prophecy from the prophets was a part of the full picture that Christ would come to reverse the curse that the fall of Adam brought upon all mankind.  Christ Himself declared to the men on the Emmaus road: "…O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:25-27). Christ needed to come, to suffer, to rise from the dead and to enter into His glory to fulfill the plan of salvation for us as well as all those who came before us and those who belong to Him in the future. How great is God’s grace for His covenant people! Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to help you to also testify to the good news of the gospel, that salvation has come and Jesus sets sinful captives free. Pray that as the prophets spoke about Jesus, we would be able to do the same through His Spirit and by His grace. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB....

Daily devotional

March 4 - The Christian’s inheritance

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

Daily devotional

March 3 - Why should we praise God the Father?

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

Daily devotional

March 2 - The Triune God saves us

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

Daily devotional

March 1 - Introduction, and encouraged by election

For the month of March, we will do a study based on the Epistle of 1 Peter. I am not able to cover the entire book; however, we can take a good look at chapter one, most of chapter two, and chapter five as well as some verses in chapter three. This epistle is a very practical book, not just for those who lived during Peter’s day, but also for us as we experience growing hostility in our society as believers dedicated to Christ. The main theme of this book is suffering for Christ. Peter wrote to encourage these Christians who were going through difficult times. They faced terrible persecution, most likely at the hands of the Roman Emperor, Nero, and Peter tried to encourage them by pointing them to their future hope and inheritance (1 Peter 1:4-5), to the fact that suffering has a purpose (1 Peter 1:6-7), and to the knowledge that Christ also suffered for us (1 Peter 2:21). Peter touches on a variety of different themes and doctrines in his book and uses some key terms. One key concept is precious. He calls the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold (1 Peter 1:7). He declares that we have been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot (1 Peter 1:19). Christ is the living stone chosen and precious(1 Peter 2:4,6). And he gives instructions to wives when he says, let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious (1 Peter 3:4). My desire as we look at this epistle for the month of March is that Christ would be more precious to you and that your love and devotion to Him would grow and thrive within your heart. ****  Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. - 1 Peter 1:1 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1 As we begin to look at this chapter, Peter is writing to a church that is suffering, oppressed, experiencing pain and enduring persecution. In verse 1, he says they are scattered and exiles in this world, and in verse 6, he speaks of the suffering of grief in all kinds of trials. Peter does not try to encourage them by telling them their trials will end, the pain will cease or even that the world will become a friendlier place if they can just hang on and persevere long enough. What does Peter present to the suffering church? Living hope in the living God! This living hope comes as they are a chosen people granted salvation by God. This should also give us hope and assurance in the Christian faith. He is the One Who appointed a people for Himself to be His covenant children. In the Bible, election is always declared to encourage the Saints and never to discourage them. We are not told to try and figure out if we are elect or not, but to repent from our sins, believe and come to Jesus by faith and be saved. Election teaches us that true believers cannot be lost and have real assurance of God’s salvation. Why are you to persevere and have hope in a fallen and cursed world as a Christian? By faith in Christ, you are also chosen by Him and belong to Him as God set His love upon you to save you! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that we can also be encouraged, even in our trials, because as true believers we belong to Him. He is the One Who chose us and tells us He will never leave us nor forsake us.  This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB....

Daily devotional

Sunday February 24 – History as His story

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

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

Friday February 22 – God’s perfect timing

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

Daily devotional

Thursday February 21 – So close, yet so far

There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. – Luke 13:28 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 7:3-20; Luke 13:22-30 The remarkable passage in 2 Kings reminds us that for the sake of Christ, God provided food for His people (v.16), just as He does today, in lean times and times of plenty (Matthew 6:25-34). But it also teaches us that we are not to savour the feast without telling others the good news of the gospel. The lepers feasted on the food left behind by the Syrian army. But they realized what they were doing was not right. In verse 9 they said, “What we are doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves.” But do you realize that a lot of Christians today do the same thing as those lepers did? Is it possible that in your life, you have done that? I know that in my life, unfortunately, many times I have feasted on the gospel without telling others the good news. The passage is also a graphic warning, reminding us that the punishment of unbelief includes the torment of seeing the blessing, but not partaking of it. Elisha had told the captain, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.” The captain was so close to abundant blessings, and yet so far. But he is not alone. All those who reject the Word of God and harden themselves in unbelief will come under the Lord’s judgment. And part of that judgment will include seeing the blessing and glory of salvation for others, but not tasting it themselves (Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 13:28). Suggestions for prayer If you have entered the narrow door of salvation (Luke 13:24), thank God for His grace. If you are unsure, pray that God will enable you to strive to enter the door of salvation by faith in Christ alone. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Saturday February 16 – God is not mocked

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

Daily devotional

Friday February 15 – God knows your heart

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

Daily devotional

Thursday February 14 – God’s just judgment

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

Daily devotional

Wednesday February 13 – A gift that cannot be bought

Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. – 1 Peter 1:18 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 5:8-14 Naaman discovered that salvation is a gift of God’s grace that cannot be bought. He could not buy his cure with gold or silver, not even with ten extremely valuable suits. Naaman, to his initial dismay, also found that he could not be cured of leprosy by influence, not even with a letter from the king. Yet there are many people today who try to buy their salvation with deeds of self-righteousness, not realizing that we have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment (Isaiah 64:6a). Many others try to be cured of their sin by influence. “I have been a lifelong member of the church,” they might say. Or, “Because of my baptism, I know that God will receive me.” But the sacraments, precious as they are to those of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, can never save us. The only way to be cleansed from sin, which is represented by Naaman’s leprosy, is to be cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus which is portrayed by the cleansing that Naaman received as he washed himself seven times in the Jordan River. When we come to Christ in saving faith we are cleansed from something far worse than leprosy; we are cleansed from sin and granted eternal life, which is why we are to live to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6)! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that the day prophesied by Zechariah was fulfilled at Calvary by Jesus Christ: On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness (Zechariah 13:1).   This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years. ...

Daily devotional

Friday February 8 – Straight to Christ

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

Daily devotional

Thursday February 7 – The debt paid

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

Daily devotional

Wednesday February 6 – Three kings and God’s prophet

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

Daily devotional

Tuesday February 5 – God’s use of the insignificant

…Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 3:1-12 This passage reminds us that the Lord often uses insignificant people and events to accomplish His purposes, for nothing is too hard for Him. When the three kings realized how perilous their predicament was, Jehoshaphat asked where they could find a prophet of the Lord. Who pointed the way to Elisha? It was an unnamed officer of the king. It was just a common everyday person who answered, “Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who poured water on the hands of Elijah” (v.11). The pouring of water on the hands refers to a menial task that Elisha had in his service with Elijah. Elisha had left his family’s prosperous farm to become a humble servant of Elijah’s. During that time, about a decade, nothing is written about Elisha’s service. But we gather from verse 11 that he served willingly in whatever job was put before him, even the menial task of providing water for Elijah. He is an example of what Paul would write to the Colossians about: Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men (Colossians 3:23). You might feel insignificant, as though there is no purpose for you in God’s kingdom, but God has no insignificant people. Even those whose names we don’t know are known to God, for He knows each one of us by name, and has a purpose for our lives! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that He has a purpose for you. Ask Him to reveal His purpose for you with clarity, and then strive to live according to God's purpose – His will – for your life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Thursday January 31 – The feast of booths

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

Daily devotional

Wednesday January 30 – Strive side by side

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

Daily devotional

Tuesday January 29 – Joshua – the new leader

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

Daily devotional

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....

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