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Daily devotional

September 27 – Undershepherds of our Shepherd-King

Your shepherds are asleep, O king of Assyria; your nobles slumber. – Nahum 3:18

Scripture reading: Ezekiel 34:1-16

Nahum’s prophecy is eloquently layered for New Testament Christian readers. The first layer is the warning that the people of Assyria ought to be the primary concern of the King and nobles. Ezekiel prophesied the duties of the king and nobles. Most important is that such shepherd leaders keep in view their accountability to the LORD of Heaven and Earth, to Whom all men must give an account for their actions.

The second layer of this prophecy reminds the people of the LORD of the high calling they have to honor the LORD their God. In calling out the wickedness of the Assyrians, the people of Judah are not to gloat over an enemy’s fall into ruin; instead, they are to examine their own conduct. By the time of Ezekiel, the Assyrians had already been defeated. What a stark warning this should have been for the leadership in the household of faith to stay true to the LORD as shepherd-leaders.

As New Testament Christians we read these words and are reminded that Jesus is our Good Shepherd (John 10). He has sought out the people of the LORD and He has bound up the wounded. He has fed and refreshed the lost sheep. We read these words and are reminded, wherever the Spirit of the LORD has placed us, we serve as under-shepherds of Jesus Christ. We raise our families to know and obey Him. If we are single, in whatever capacity God has given us charge of, we make His Name known in acts of service.

Suggestions for prayer

Pray to be faithful in your role as an under-shepherd in the kingdom of Jesus, the Good Shepherd and for the leadership of your city, your region and nation, to live in view of their calling before God.

Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional.

Daily devotional

September 22 – Living defensive stones

Draw water from the siege; strengthen your forts; go into the clay; tread the mortar; take hold of the brick mold!  – Nahum 3:14 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:1-12 If you have a good study Bible while reading Nahum, you’ll have a footnote about this section teaching you that the imperatives, or command forms of the verbs used here are mocking in tone. Something to the effect of: “Go ahead, make all these plans, do all this work.” When the plunderers come to invade a walled city, the usual strategy of preparation for the defenders is to bring in as much water as possible. Marauding armies would encircle a city and starve it out. Obviously, food and water would be critical for the residents to withstand the siege. While studying in preparation to write this devotion I learned that this verse refers to two kinds of Assyrian bricks. The first, clay bricks, were ordinarily used for building. The second reference is to those used for fortifying the defences of the city—bricks that would be molded and fired in a kiln. Again, all such preparations are going to be pointless as their destruction has already been foretold by the LORD and His Word is sure. Interestingly, Peter calls Christians living stones, chosen by God and precious. As Christians gather together, we are being built up as a spiritual house. We are the new temple where Jesus lives in and among His people. We are a defensive structure built up together to defeat the hostile forces of the world and gathered as a holy nation that declares the excellencies of God Who rescued us from darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the people of God would recognize how the Spirit fits us together in Jesus Christ, for the glory of the Father and the defense of the Church against the enemy. Give thanks to God, the Triune God of every blessing, for the gift of the Church. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 21 – Are you trained for war?

Behold, your troops are women in your midst. – Nahum 3:13a Scripture reading: Ps. 144 Wait a minute, is the text sexist? Does the Bible have something against women? Not at all! Consider the time and the context of this verse. In the ancient Assyrian Empire, women were not trained for battle. Any person who is not trained for battle, when confronted with a horde of armed soldiers with spears, arrows and swords is going to panic and run around in circles. The issue is training. The picture described is accurate. Consider the circles in which many people are running. While I am writing this devotion, Covid-19 is in its third wave. Questions abound as to whether someone vaccinated needs to still wear a mask. Can such a person contract this disease again and when will ‘normal life’ resume? Influential leaders and banks are musing about rewarding investors who back green initiatives that won’t promote climate change. Billionaires are divorcing and the media speculates about the collapse of these marriages, even as the billionaires are taking on new ventures, such as how to shield the earth from too much sunlight. I wonder, who should determine what is too much and what is too little sunlight? Unless our lives are directed by Jesus, the Captain of Salvation, the Author and Perfecter of all true believers, we will run in circles. Those not entirely subjected to Him will run in panic at every sign of every real or imagined disaster. It is the LORD Who trains my hands for war, and it is the LORD Who directs the efforts of His faithful people bringing them to victory. Suggestion for prayer Where is the Spirit of the LORD directing your efforts for serving Jesus? Are you faithful in that area, or are you shrinking back? Give thanks to the Father that He has equipped you by His Spirit, training you for precisely the right battles at the right time. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 20 – Ripe for picking

All of your fortresses are like fig trees with first-ripe figs—if shaken they fall into the mouth of the eater. – Nahum 3:12 Scripture reading: Heb. 2:1-9 Perhaps it is because I am not a farmer, nor have I lived where fig trees grow, that what is described in our text today was basically meaningless to me. I have learned it is difficult to determine when figs are ripe. Those that are on the ground quickly rot. Those that are on the tree should not be plucked because their ripeness is not easily discerned. The best way to gather figs is this: spread out a large cloth around the base of the tree and shake the trunk of the tree. The ripe figs will readily drop onto the cloth. The Assyrians are now ripe for plunder. At the lightest touch of their enemies, they will fall. The enemy is described as the “eater”. With hardly any force or effort, the nation will fall into destruction. Perhaps by now you are getting a bit weary of all these references to plunder, ruin and destruction? I know writing these devotions has been a bit of a challenge because of the repetition. Then I realized how stubborn my own heart was. When I was a child, my parents would say to me, “If I have told you once, I have told you a thousand times, don’t do that!” Like the Assyrians, and like children, we need to hear the repeated warnings of God in order that we will not drift away in our sins, but will be redirected towards His mercy, and in view of His mercy, serve Him with our whole heart, mind, and strength. Suggestions for prayer: Offer up to God in prayer where in your life you are drifting and needing to heed God’s warning to repent and stay true to Him in all you do and say; also pray for those among your family and friends who need to hear the message not to drift. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 19 – Terrible wrath and greater mercy

Yet she became an exile; she went into captivity; her infants were dashed to pieces at the head of every street; for her honored men lots were cast, and all her great men were bound in chains. – Nahum 3:10 Scripture reading: Ezekiel 33:1-20 The hammer blows continue to fall on Nineveh as the prophet of the LORD declares the terrors that will come to her. But isn’t this Sunday, the day people are supposed to celebrate the LORD and focus on His love? Why read such despicable things? Remember the warning of God is meant to be merciful. Those who hear His words of coming judgment can repent. Also, the warning is clear—as Thebes, also known as No-Amon, famous for being unconquerable, fell to the Assyrians, so too the Assyrians and their capital, Nineveh, will fall. But the description of infants dashed to pieces, surely that is not righteous?! It is what the Assyrian army inflicted on those they conquered. It was all part of the campaign of “shock and awe.” So terrible was the assault of the Assyrian army against its enemies that those defeated would shudder to remember it and refuse to rise up in rebellion. Now, with the same cruelties they inflicted against their enemies, these things will happen to the Assyrians. Why declare these things on a Sunday? Because the LORD our God has rescued us from His wrath through Jesus Christ. Though our sins should have risen as stench to His nostrils, we are, in fact, named the fragrance of Christ—His righteousness is ours. We live in a land that murders babies in the womb. Seniors and those who are ill can be crudely dispatched, and it is named “euthanasia”. As those who are redeemed, we urgently call others from the judgment that is approaching. Suggestions for prayer Thank the LORD for the greatness of His salvation and urgently pray for our land. May the Word bring great repentance and waves of people seeking His mercy. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 14 – Humbly serve the living God

The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. – Jonah 3:6 Scripture reading: Nahum 3:1-4 and Jon. 3 About one century before this prophecy of Nahum, the wickedness of Nineveh had come up before the LORD. He judged them and the people repented at Jonah’s preaching. They humbled themselves by fasting, wearing sackcloths and confessing their sins. So great was their repentance that the LORD withdrew His hand of judgment and punishment. The Ninevites returned to the true purpose which should guide every nation: to humbly serve the Living God. How quickly the Ninevites fell from that place of obedience! They were again a people who shed blood to the point that this capital was called a bloody city. They offered abominable sacrifices to false gods. They were full of lies about their own pre-eminence, about their history and their place in it. They were a people who ruthlessly made war against others. They were a nation that prostituted itself for plunder and pride, victory and perversity. Jesus noted that the work of the Spirit is to convict the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). When the standard of God’s holiness is presented, the hearers are presented with a stark choice of obedience or rebellion. We should not be surprised when hearers rebel. It is painful because we speak and preach Christ from the joy of knowing our sins have been thrown down and His righteousness has taken hold of us. Scripture commands people to glorify God: seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1). Believer, humbly serve the Living God. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help you examine your life so that you are not being pulled in several directions, but your heart and your head are focused on Christ and serving Him in every area of your life. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 13 – The messenger of God

And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. – Malachi 3:2 Scripture reading: Nahum 2:10-13 and Malachi 3:1-5 Friends of ours complained about their hotel accommodations. They booked a weekend retreat at a distant hotel, longing for some peace and quiet. They were awakened at 6 AM on a Saturday morning to bell ringing and loud shouting. Jumping to his feet and terribly annoyed, the husband threw open the curtains to see a gathering of people dressed up in old-fashioned clothing. It was a town crier’s convention. Long before phones, social media, or telegraph and printed newspapers, an important message would be sent via a town crier. He would shout aloud in the streets bringing news. For example, the Assyrian King Sennacherib sent a messenger, Rabshakeh, to King Hezekiah, to announce Jerusalem’s destruction (II Kings 18:19ff). Nahum’s warning serves to remind the people of God of their own covenant with the LORD. The LORD is not some magical charm to keep them safe and allow them to do whatever evil they want to do and have His immunity. The LORD sends out His messenger of the covenant so that the covenant people—those who are under the binding promises of the LORD their God—will turn from their sins and obey Him. The Gospel of Mark picks up this theme of a Messenger—John the Baptist is the final messenger of the Old Testament who tells the people to prepare for Jesus, the King of Glory. At the cross, the sins of believers are punished on the Person of Jesus. Those who reject Jesus will face God’s punishment in eternity. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that He continues to warn us so that people do not have to face His punishment throughout eternity; pray specifically for friends and family members who do not know the mercy of Jesus. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 12 – Haughty lion thrown down

Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered. – Revelation 5:5 Scripture reading: Nahum 2:10-13 and Rev. 5 In a British museum, you’ll find a carved Assyrian stone lion: 15 tons and fierce. The lion is at the base of a large, imposing pillar. Assyrian warriors paraded war prisoners past such lions to intimidate and humiliate them before the royal court. Nations bringing tributes from far off lands had to pass by these lions before giving their lavish gifts to the king. The lion was the symbol of Assyrian power. Now the lion’s den of Assyria will be plundered by the LORD. The tearing lion will be hungry, desolate and ruined. The Assyrian lion will be completely defeated. The nations which had trembled in fear when a messenger of Assyria rode out to declare war against them, will find they are no longer the prey of Assyria. Assyria is fallen and great is her ruin. The LORD of hosts is greater. To name the LORD as the LORD of Hosts is to emphasize His power, His angel armies, His great command of all nations and all history. No one can stand against Him. The book of Revelation depicts Jesus as the Lion of Judah. He is the Great King, Overlord above every ruler of all nations, throughout all generations. Jesus is a conquering, tearing lion. Not one of His enemies can stand against Him. Even today, all who disregard the warning of Nahum will find God to be ferocious. All who turn to Jesus, confessing their sins and hating their rebellious ways, will find  in Jesus, the Lamb of God, Who has taken away their sin. Suggestions for prayer May our nation’s leaders bow before the Lion of Judah. May our lands turn to Jesus. Ask the Spirit to show you the attitude of your own heart. Are you humble before Jesus—is He, for you, the Lamb of God Who has taken away your sins? Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 11 – The Lord’s Day restores clarity

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. – Psalm 73:24 Scripture reading: Nahum 2:4-9 and Ps. 73 Confusion. If asked to summarize these verses in a single word, that is the word I’d choose. A mighty people, once the haughty plunderer of nations, is now thrown down. Instead of orderly waves of chariots going out to battle, panicked charioteers are independently trying to save themselves. Some are protecting their possessions. Some remember they are supposed to be soldiers and they see to the defences of the city, but courage is draining away. Soldiers are melting away. Riches are carried away. It is as if the city, overflowing with pomp, wealth and power, is draining like a bathtub with a pulled plug. How long had the people of God hated the Assyrians and yet been jealous of their wealth? How long did they envy the armies which once swept across nations and desired the gains of gold and silver? It is easy to fall into the trap of admiring the rich and powerful. It is tempting to think, as the Psalmist does, that they never have any problems, “Until I went into the sanctuary of God, then I discerned their end” (Psalm 73:17). Tomorrow is the LORD’s Day. We are reminded that all mighty armies and seemingly unassailable kings and tyrants answer to one Master. As the people of LORD worship, the decrees of God are confirmed, proven in Jesus Christ. The Spirit helps believers to see there is only One eternal power and He is our strength and portion forever. Our God brings order to the confusion of our lives. Suggestions for prayer Have you been envious of others and their successes? Confess it before the LORD; ask that the LORD of power will give you insight into His sure promises which one day will result in the open exaltation of Jesus Christ before Whom every knee will bow. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 6 – An oracle, a burden

The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. – Nahum 1:7 Scripture reading: Nahum 1:1, 6-7 and Proverbs 13:1-5 Happy Labour Day! It is part of the creation order for men and women to work. When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He gave them the instruction to work it and keep it (Genesis 2:15). Work can also be a burden. Nahum declared, as the superscription to his writing, “an oracle concerning Nineveh.” That word oracle is an important one to understand. The KJV translates this word oracle as burden. Think of it this way. A Christian parent might say, I have a burden for my children. I know they are grown up and have moved away, but I am still burdened for them, concerned because they have wandered far from the LORD our God and the mercies of Jesus Christ. What will such a burdened parent do? A loving mother will go to the throne of grace, where Jesus is seated and pray for her dearly loved children. A faithful father will speak, warning his children, so they know they are removing themselves far from the blessings of God. Nahum’s inspired use of the word oracle shows he is not celebrating the downfall of Israel’s enemies. He is urgently concerned for their salvation at that time and in eternity. He is aware that the punishment of the Living God is beyond anything humans can inflict. To live a life mocking the Holy One is to invite His wrath. No wonder Nahum was burdened. As long as God granted him breath, he would work to speak, calling for repentance. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the gift of work and pray to be faithful in the task He has given you; pray, as one burdened, for the salvation of family members, friends and co-workers who do not know Jesus Christ and His glorious salvation. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 5 – The sacred sanctuary in time

But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. – Psalm 73:16-17 Scripture reading: Nahum 1:14-15 and Ps. 73 The Jewish Theologian-Philosopher, Abraham Heschel (1907 – 1972), wrote of Sabbaths as a sanctuary in time. “The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals, the Jewish equivalent of sacred architecture.” Why is that significant on this Sunday? Look at the prophetic commandment given to the people of God. They are to keep their feasts. They are to continue in their worship of the Living God. Judah’s anticipated protest: But the enemy is still at our doorstep! The Nineveh conquerors still oppress and terrify us. Here Psalm 73 aids our understanding of what is going on. Sometimes the people of God look at the wicked and are shocked at their successes. It becomes too discouraging. Worship seems pointless. However, on the Sabbath, the Day appointed for worship, the people of the LORD remember the saving work of the LORD and are reminded of the sure defeat of the wicked. His blessings are poured out on the righteous. God created the Sabbath, a sanctuary in time when His people meet with and delight in Him. At the Covenant making in Exodus 20, the LORD affirmed the Sabbath Day as the time His people meet with Him. In the New Testament, Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. Sunday is the Sabbath for Christians. Beloved in Christ, meet with God’s people, renew your love for the God Who saves. The wicked are defeated. Those made holy in Christ are saved to delight in the LORD. Sing Christ’s victory to the Father’s praise, in faith, by the strength of the Spirit. Suggestions for prayer Pray that worship of the Triune God among His people will be a renewed delight for you; pray for the Spirit of God to bring believers back to Jesus and deepen their commitment to public worship; pray for preachers, chaplains, missionaries and evangelists that they have the God-given strength to bring Good News. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 4 – Where is Elkosh?

So that you are not lacking any gift, as you wait for the revealing of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end. – I Corinthians 1:7-8 Scripture reading: Nahum 1:1 and I Corinthians 1:4-9; 26-31 What do we really know about Nahum of Elkosh? The location of his hometown is unknown. Was he one of the deported people, a displaced person in Nineveh anointed by the Spirit of the LORD to daringly proclaim this warning? Was he part of Galilee, the region of Northern Israel that constantly had invaders running through it? He’d be part of the despised of Israel – those people – who’d intermarried with foreigners. Some think he was from Judah; that is the opinion of many scholars. Reflecting on this man’s ministry leads me to think he is incredibly brave. Think of it. If he were one of the deportees, his bold testimony about the downfall of Nineveh would amount to treason. No doubt the enemy would want to silence him. If he lived in Galilee, then others from Israel might mock him as a hick from a backwater town. If he is from Judah, he might be despised by the people from the other ten tribes, who were so oppressed by the Assyrians. When the LORD takes hold of a man or a woman, He calls this person to serve Him, regardless of the consequences. When the LORD our God raises you up in Jesus Christ, He gives the Spirit so that you can serve with holy boldness. Know this, being a servant of the LORD comes at a cost. You may feel nameless. God knows you intimately. Jesus is your Ruler; therefore, your true citizenship is in heaven, where Jesus is. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His Spirit’s work compelling men and women to serve in difficult places; bless God for the call He has placed on your life and the Spirit He gives so that in all circumstances you can call on the Name of Jesus. Pray for seminary professors who have the awesome task of training up the next generation of leaders. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 3 – A parade of God’s power

When he ascended on high he led a host of captives… – Ephesians 4:8 Scripture reading: Nahum 1:3-5 and Ephesians 4:1-17 Why do nations have military parades? To show the power of that nation’s army, tanks, and artillery to the world. It has in it an implicit threat, a dare to anyone who might consider advancing against them. Nahum is presenting the LORD of Hosts and verbally parading His power. The purpose is to get the attention of these warlike people who are feebly standing up against a power about Whom they have no concept or understanding. Desert dust storms are a real threat. It is reported that hundreds of millions of tons of dust are blown off the Sahara Desert each year—let that sink in. The violence of a sandstorm stops armies and causes the most hardened person to rush for cover. This is the power of the LORD our God. Mountains quake before him—those immovable pillars of rock of massive stature seem so impervious to any threat. These dance before the steps of the LORD. He rebukes the sea. All it takes is a word from the LORD and even mighty rushing waters are held back. The credentials of the LORD are well-known on this. Think of Exodus, where the LORD parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21ff). Dearly loved people of God, when the world and its powers threaten you, be reassured that this LORD of power and glory rides the heavens to bless those who, in Christ, turn to Him. Yet, His power to curse is real, gathering against all who hate Him. Today, as He parades His power to bless, humble yourself before Him. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His mighty acts of power and His salvation; ask for help and strength in the areas of your life where you feel weak against the power of the enemy. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 29 – Eating from the Tree of Life

To him who overcomes, I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. – Revelation 2:7b Scripture reading: Revelation 2:1-7 What a rich, full promise, Christ gives to him who perseveres in faith to the end. “I will give to eat from the tree of life.” Christ praises this church for her works, labor and patience; yet He rebukes her for leaving her first love. He warns that if she does not repent, He will take away her lampstand. He then praises the church for her firm stand against the works of the Nicolaitans. It seems these false teachers, the Nicolaitans, were not staying away from the immoral and idolatrous feasts and were trying to tempt the members of the church with their sinful practices. To the one who is loyal to Christ and perseveres in his love for Him to the end, Christ promises to offer something better than food offered to idols. He will be given ”to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” After Adam’s sin, the way to the tree of life in the garden was cut off, its entrance guarded by the cherubim (Genesis 3:22-24). But in Christ and through the shedding of His blood on the cross for sinners, God opens the way into fellowship with Him again, forever. This Lord’s Day we have the privilege to fellowship with Him, in His garden, through Word, song, prayer and sacrament. To all who persevere by faith, Christ gives the promise to eat of the tree of life. This fellowship in God’s presence will be full, rich, complete and forever! Suggestions for prayer Pray that, this Lord’s Day, you may grow in the assurance of God’s love and that through faith, encouraged by His promises, you may joyfully persevere in your love for Him. Sing this song of assurance: “I Know Not Why God’s Wondrous Grace.” Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 28 – Sanctification, not sanitation

Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in this world, do you subject yourselves to regulations --- “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle…” – Colossians 2:20,21 Scripture reading: Colossians 2:11-3:1 Our world, not having Christ, imposes its own holiness code on its citizens. So it is also with false religions that mandate their food laws and never-ending fasting rituals on their adherents. In the church of Colossae, false teachers were insisting on man-made, rigorous restrictions and regulations concerning food, drink, festivals, new moon and sabbaths. The apostle Paul summarizes their regulations in this way, “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle.” It had an appearance of wisdom, of humility and of being near to God. They taught that one could overcome evil and achieve the fullness of salvation through man-made rules regarding eating, drinking and fasting.  The focus is on abstaining from this and from that. There is no joy; there is no feasting, only “Don’t touch, don’t taste, don’t handle.” The focus is on outward purity. Without Christ and His Spirit, the world imposes its own regulations concerning separation for well-being and holiness. We need Christ. Fullness of salvation is in Him! Renewal comes from within by His Spirit. By trusting Christ alone for your salvation, you have a reason for feasting. The apostle Paul says if you died with Christ (2:20) and were raised with Him (3:1), you have made a complete break from man-made regulations. “Let no one cheat you of your reward” (v.18). By His Spirit, He continues to cleanse you from sin and cultivates a desire to grow in holiness. This is sanctification. Welcome to real living. Touch, taste, handle! Sing, rejoice and live! Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the full salvation and freedom He gives in Christ. Pray for renewal and growth in your love, holiness and obedience to Christ the Saviour and Lord. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 27 – Eating and drinking to God’s glory

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31 Scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 Like the church in Corinth, the church of our Lord Jesus Christ today lives and works among neighbors, friends and even family members who worship false gods or idols in temples. They have their meat shops in the market places. But also, out of love and respect, they will invite Christian friends to their homes for dinner. The wise approach as followers of Jesus, in either scenario, is not to ask questions. “Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake….” (v.25). Likewise, at the table in his home, you are free to eat whatever he serves you. Don’t ask where it comes from. “But if anyone says to you, ‘this was offered to idols,’ do not eat it” (v.28). If the host is saying this, do not eat. You must not jeopardize your witness to Christ. But if it seems that the weaker brother or sister in Christ, one sitting at the table with you, is saying this, even then you should not eat. You must not exercise your Christian freedom in a manner that causes a fellow believer to sin. Your freedom may be lawful, but not helpful. Use your freedom in Christ in a loving way. Exercise your freedom in a way that will build up fellow believers in their faith. What you eat does not matter, but avoiding offence does. In this way, we are eating or drinking to the glory of God. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we may exercise our freedom in Christ in a way that does not harm the faith of the weaker believer. Pray that we not jeopardize our witness and yet show love for those who do not know Christ. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 26 – One table or the other, not both

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. – 1 Corinthians 10:21 Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 32:15-18; 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 Corinth was a religiously diverse city. In the congregation of Corinth, there were members who came out of idol-worshipping families. They were brought to faith in Christ, but many of their extended family members were still worshipping false gods. The temptation is real for new believers to participate in the idol feasts. Their new commitment to Jesus is often challenged by family and friends who want them to participate in their temple feasts. In their relationships with friends and family, Christians are not to compromise their commitment to Jesus. This also means not participating in idol feasts. By participating, one identifies himself with idols and demons. Christians must not participate in the Lord’s Table and in the table of demons. True, an idol is not real; it is not a god at all. But demons are real. Those who worship idols have fellowship with demons. By faith, you belong to Christ and to a new family. He does not want half of you. He wants the whole of you because He gave Himself for you. You would not want to make God jealous, would you? Peter Leithart writes, “History is God’s work of rescuing His bride from the table of demons to bring us to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” At the Lord’s Table, we share in proclaiming our faith in Christ Who shed His blood for our sins. By eating the bread, we share in the body of Christ. In Christ, we are united to Him and to one another. Suggestions for prayer Perhaps you struggle with participating in both the Lord’s Supper and idol feasts. Pray for God’s grace and courage. He gives to those who ask! Pray for those you know who struggle with this. Ask the Lord for wisdom to encourage your brother or sister in Christ. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 21 – Still there is room

...and still there is room. – Luke 14:22b Scripture reading: Luke 14:15-24 A guest sitting with Jesus in the Pharisee’s home, exclaims, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Jesus responds with a parable about a certain man who gave a great supper and invited many. Those invited were God’s people, the Jews. Through the prophets of the Old Testament, they received this glorious invitation. With the coming of Christ, the feast has come! The master sends his servant out saying to the invited, “Come, for all things are now ready.” But all gave lame excuses for why they could not come. Being upset, he now sends his servant into the streets and lanes of the city, saying “Bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.” They were the outcasts and underprivileged among the Jews who were coming to Jesus. Bring them in; that is, take them by the hand. Why? Because they might have serious doubts. Could the banquet table really be for them? Still there is room. God wants His house filled. The master then sends his servant outside the city, “into the highways and hedges”, compelling them to come into the banquet, God’s kingdom. These are the Gentiles; that is, outsiders and strangers. Nothing is said about the servant completing his commission. Why? Because this commission to Christ’s church continues today. Still there is room. Have you responded to Christ’s summons to come? Or is some excuse stopping you? How is God using you to fill up His festal house? Suggestions for prayer Pray for those you know who are making excuses for not coming to Christ. Pray that the love of Christ may compel you to compel others to come to Christ and that they may be drawn by His love in His people. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 20 – Table etiquette for Jesus’ followers

For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. – Luke 14:11 Scripture reading: Luke 14:1-14 Jesus enjoyed His food and wine, but most of all He enjoyed the fellowship of other people around the dinner table. Table fellowship was vital to Jesus’ ministry. In our passage, Jesus is eating at the home of a Pharisee. Many guests are present. In this parable, Jesus teaches us how to be guests (verses 7-11) and how to be a host (verses 12-14). He teaches us how to receive and give hospitality. God’s grace humbles us. What does that look like? It’s the opposite of what we see in our reading. The guests at the feast love honour and the host honours those who invite him back. This pattern is often seen in table fellowship. This is not the way of God’s grace. Jesus says that when you are invited as a guest, don’t look for a place of honour. Don’t vie for position or put yourself forward. Be a willing servant. As a guest, honour others above yourself. Likewise, to the host who invited Him, Jesus says, ‘Don’t just invite those who invite you back.’ You should not think of hospitality in this kind of calculating way. Our hospitality should reflect God’s generous hospitality toward us. We can never repay Him! What is the way of God’s grace and blessing? “Invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.” Invite to your table outcasts and strangers who can never repay you. Does God’s grace humble you to serve Christ in this new way? He shall reward you at the resurrection! Suggestions for prayer Ask God for grace to fight against our pride and to shape us to be more like Christ. Pray for grace to be hospitable and to show hospitality to one another with a servant-like attitude. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. ...

Daily devotional

August 19 – Eating and being filled

So they all ate and were filled. – Mark 6:42 Scripture reading: Mark 6:30-44 God’s people are in bondage to their sins. Here we witness a large exodus of people from the cities to the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. They now enter into the wilderness. Jesus is the new Moses who leads them out of Egypt to Himself in a wilderness area. This is a new Exodus. As Shepherd, Jesus is moved with compassion so He teaches them (vv.30-34) and feeds them (vv.35-43). They need guidance. Their teachers have not been teaching them the Word nor pointing them to Jesus. The people have become confused and so lost. Jesus confirms His teaching with a miraculous sign of multiplying the five loaves of bread and two fish. This is not just about filling their bellies. This sign points to Himself, the Bread of Life. He is the Bread from Heaven, the Provision of life to Whom the manna in the wilderness pointed. Eat the food He provides and you will be filled. Jesus fully satisfies. He feeds thousands and there is no want. By His Word, He transforms our desert into a place of life and refreshment. Praise God for the presence and power of His Spirit. He promises a fuller and even greater feast to come in the Promised Land. The disciples gather twelve baskets, symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel and the church, under the care of one Shepherd, Jesus. Jesus is the proof of God’s love. Are you dealing with anxiety, depression or fear? Turn to Christ. He is the Bread of Life. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for giving us a Shepherd Who truly cares and loves, Who gave His life for us. Pray that, in all our anxieties and fears, we may learn to put our trust in Christ Who is the Bread of Life. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 18 – Jesus calls and heals for the feast

How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners? – Mark 2:16b Scripture reading: Mark 2:13-22 Tax collectors were a hated and despised group of people. They served the Romans to collect taxes from the Jews. Many were cheaters and often very belligerent. It is said that if a Jew saw a tax collector, he would spit on the ground and turn his head. They were expelled from the synagogue and were a cause of disgrace to their family. As Jesus walks along the shore of Galilee, He sees Levi, the tax collector, that hated individual sitting in his booth. Jesus turns to him in order to make him one of His disciples calling, “Follow Me!” Immediately Levi leaves everything behind, gets up and follows Jesus. There is no man happier than Levi. He throws a feast in honor of Jesus in his own home. Many of his associates, tax collectors and sinners, join the feast with Jesus in Levi’s home. Levi wanted them to know, trust and love this wonderful Saviour and Lord Who found him. He is the Physician Who forgives and heals. The scribes and Pharisees, the hair-splitting legalists, find Jesus’ activity questionable. “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus eats with sinners because He came to forgive them their sins. Today, in the church, Jesus continues to fellowship with forgiven sinners. What a privilege to eat and drink at His table. Who gets to sit around your dinner table so that you can share the love of our wonderful Saviour Who found you to feast with Him? Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His hospitality toward us in Christ, forgiving us and receiving us in His house. Pray that Jesus’ love for sinners may change us to love those we naturally despise and that He may open our hearts to them and eat with them. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 13 – The witness of God’s open hand

You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. – Psalm 145:16 Nevertheless, He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. – Acts 14:17 Scripture reading: Psalm 145:8-16; Acts 14:8-18 See the beauty and splendor of God in this Psalm. He is gracious, full of compassion, slow to anger, great in mercy, good to all. Those who confess the Lord praise Him for His greatness. Even His works praise Him. God’s people speak of His glorious kingdom, talk of His power and share this with others who know Him not. All of creation bears witness to Him, our Creator, the true and living God. He gives to His sinful creatures with an open hand and He satisfies their desires. People look expectantly to Him. He gives them their food in due season. Witness His benevolence, His generous goodness to all creatures. God’s purpose, however, is not merely to fill our stomachs. God’s open hand should draw our gaze upon Him through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We come to know Him in the Bible. By trusting in Him, we receive God’s grace, mercy and compassion and become His adopted children. For this reason, Barnabas and Paul call those who were worshipping other gods to turn “from these useless things to the living God who made heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them” (Acts 14:15). They address the worshippers of other gods with Psalm 145:16 in mind. God “did not leave Himself without witness…” He gives “rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” True gladness is not found in full stomachs, but in being filled with the joy of Jesus! Suggestions for prayer Pray for help and wisdom to share the one, true living God with others using the witness of God in creation. Pray for boldness as we point the way to God through Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 12 – Times of refreshing

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. – Acts 3:19 Scripture reading: Nehemiah 8:1-12 The world today does not have joy, nor is it feasting. There is much sorrow and sadness. Even in the church, we may lack lustre in our joy and feasting. Perhaps we have lost some of the joy of our deliverance from sin in Christ. In our reading from Nehemiah, the people of Israel have returned from exile. God had punished them for their disobedience to Him. Now times of refreshing have come. Ezra the priest read from the book of the law, the Scriptures “from morning till midday, before the men and women and those who could understand.” The Levites and others explained the Scriptures and helped them to understand. And “all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.” The Holy Spirit worked repentance in their hearts. With repentance for sin came times of refreshment. They were commanded not to mourn or weep, but to eat and drink. “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (v.10). And with joy, they feasted! To the Jews in Acts, Peter preached Jesus and His resurrection. He called them to repent and be converted, that their sins may be blotted out. The purpose is “that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” (Acts 3:19). But times of refreshing are also the result! Have times of refreshing come upon you? Is Jesus the joy of your salvation? How are you expressing your joy? What are the signs of feasting in your life? Suggestions for prayer If you are far away from Christ, pray that times of refreshing may come. Pray that you may grow and increase in the joy of your salvation. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 11 – Bringing life into the world of death

Serve it to the people, that they may eat. 2 Kings 4:43b Give it to the people, that they may eat. – 2 Kings 4:41b Scripture reading: 2 Kings 4:38-44 God’s people find themselves in the context of famine. His judgment is upon them because of their unfaithfulness to Him. Yet God mercifully sends the prophets, Elijah and Elisha, to bring His message of repentance, urging their return to Him. To live apart from God is death. The famine shows that. One of the sons of the prophets scavenges the field, looking for edible ingredients for their pot of stew. He gathers herbs and also a lapful of wild gourds which he slices into the pot of stew. They serve it, not knowing they had gathered poisonous gourds. They eat, and cry out, “Man of God, there is death in the pot!” After Elisha puts flour in the pot, there is no harm. In this miracle, God confirms that His Word brings life into a world of death. God reverses the curse. Likewise, how could twenty small loaves of bread feed one hundred hungry men? In such adverse conditions, a God-fearing man gave from the first and best he had. He did not have enough, but God blessed and multiplied it. They ate, having some left over. The calling of the church is to bring the message of life into our world of death. Christ heals. He multiplies His blessings. He sets the table in our midst. Jesus is the life. Jesus says, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you” (John 6:27). Suggestions for prayer Pray that we may grow more hungry for the food that endures to everlasting life. Pray that our world, which lies in the grip of death, may clearly see the life of our risen Lord Jesus in the church. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 10 – Unending provision

For thus says the LORD God of Israel: The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth. – 1 Kings 17:14 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 17:1-16 The land flowing with milk and honey now turns into a dry wilderness. There is a famine. Worse yet, there is a famine of the Word of God. The LORD sent His prophet Elijah to the northern kingdom, Israel. She had rejected the Word of the LORD. The people of Israel were worshipping other gods, like Baal, the sky god, to provide the clouds, the rains and the crops. They expected a strong economy while rejecting the God of heaven and earth! During this famine, the LORD blesses Elijah by sending him to the Brook Cherith. There He marvelously provides for him through ravens which brought him meat and bread. When the brook runs dry, the LORD sends His prophet to a Gentile widow in Zarephath, Sidon, even though there were many widows in Israel at that time (Luke 4:25). God’s Word finds a place where it is welcomed, outside of Israel. This simple widow had no more bread, just a little remaining flour and oil. She was preparing the last meal for her son and herself. Yet, wherever the Word goes and is received, you see life, blessing and a table! God chose to bless the home of this foreign widow. The bin of flour was not used up. The jar of oil did not run dry until the day the LORD sent the rains on the earth. In our land of many gods, will we find our shelter under God’s Word and seek our endless provision in Christ? Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s mercy on His church as we see the famine of the Word in our nation. Pray that His church may seek the true bread, find the blessing of endless life in Christ and be a blessing to the nations! Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 5 – Entertaining angels

Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. – Hebrews 13:1-2 Scripture reading: Genesis 18:1-8; Hebrews 13:1-2 What a glorious scene! In His grace and because of His promise in Christ, the LORD comes to visit Abraham. Abraham is sitting at the door of his tent. He looks up and sees three men standing in front of him. They are not ordinary people, but angels appearing in human form.  One of the three is the Son of God, appearing in His pre-incarnate human form (18:30; 19:1). Abraham meets the three men, bends low to the ground and offers them food and rest. How did Abraham have the courage to ask the Son of God, the Holy One, to come into his tent, into the presence of a sinful man? The LORD sits down with the two angels. Abraham tells Sarah to bake some cakes and tells his servants to prepare the best calf for the meal. He sets the calf before them with butter and milk. They are eating at Abraham’s table in intimacy and fellowship! The Son of God, Who visits Abraham later, became flesh and dwelt among us, eating and drinking with sinners. Jesus, the promised Son of Abraham, gave Himself as the perfect sacrifice for sinners. Through faith in Jesus, the holy God reconciles sinners to Himself, so that we may enjoy intimate fellowship with Him again. God comes to us in Christ, calling us to exercise our faith through love. In Hebrews, God reminds us to show the love of Jesus practically. Don’t forget to entertain strangers. Welcome them in the name of Jesus. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God may use us to entertain strangers in the name of Jesus and that they may be drawn to Christ and His love through table fellowship. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 4 – Receiving your food with thanks

...for every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving. – 1 Timothy 4:4 Scripture reading: Genesis 9:1-7; 1 Timothy 4:1-5 After destroying the world with a flood, God begins again with Noah and his descendants. As with the first Adam, God renews His mandate to Noah. He calls him to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” But God now provides an expanded menu. God provides not only green herbs and fruit (Genesis 1:29), but also meat for food. God gives explicit permission for eating meat. “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you... Even as the green herbs” (Genesis 9:3). The apostle Paul warns Timothy of those who depart from the faith, speaking lies, “commanding people to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (v.3). What God has made, we may eat, including meat. Nothing is to be refused. But there is one condition: that we receive the food God provides with thanksgiving. It is set apart “by the Word of God and prayer.” Practically, we may show this by setting apart our meals to God through prayer and reading the Bible. As one writer says, “Every meal is a dialogue with heaven.” There is the saying, “Christ is the head of the home, the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener to every conversation.” May our meal practices reflect a life of thanks for God’s abundant grace in Jesus for all who trust in Him for salvation from sin. He sets us free from manmade rules to enjoy what He provides. Suggestions for prayer In light of our busy lives and distractions, let us ask God for His grace to take the time to enjoy the food He provides, giving thanks and enjoying table fellowship. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 3 – Jesus’ obedient non-eating

But He answered and said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” – Matthew 4:4 Scripture reading: Matthew 4:1-11 Adam, in his rebellion, ate of the forbidden fruit through the instigation of the devil. In Matthew 4, we meet the Christ, the second Adam, the promised Saviour, not in the garden, but in the wilderness. He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. The wilderness is everything opposite of what the garden was. It is barren. The wilderness is not a picture of life and communion with God. Our Saviour, God’s Son, was sent into the wilderness on our behalf. He fasted forty days and forty nights. He was hungry. The tempter offered Him bread, saying “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” As the second Adam, Jesus’ obedience to the Father is tested on behalf of Adam’s race. Will He, like the first Adam, give in to Satan’s temptation? We need a second Adam who will undo the disobedient eating of the first Adam. He must not eat. He must also be willing to take the punishment on the cross for the rebellion of the first Adam. Christ answers with God’s Word! “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Through His death and resurrection, Christ obtained the victory for all who believe in Him. A feast follows. He sets a table with bread and wine. You have Christ and His Word, to overcome temptations. He gives you His food to strengthen you in your battles. Suggestions for prayer What temptations are you currently facing? Bring these before God. Pray that, by His Spirit, He will give you strength to resist and overcome, trusting His promises. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 2 – A disobedient eating

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” – Genesis 2:16-17 Scripture reading: Genesis 2:8-17; 3:1-6, 15-19 The generosity of God and His promise of life precedes His commandment. Our hearts are warmly rekindled, reading of the generosity of our gracious Host. Man was free to eat of every tree of the garden. Genesis 2 exudes God’s overflowing, self-giving love and fellowship with man in the garden. But the LORD God also tested man’s love and obedience to Him. He commanded man not to eat from the forbidden tree, “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Sadly, in Adam, we chose to disobey, willfully choosing to believe the lie of Satan. Satan made it sound like God was very stingy, placing an unreasonable demand on man, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’” Eve makes God’s word more severe by adding her words, “...Nor shall you touch it…” Satan then blatantly contradicts God’s Word, saying, “You will not surely die.” Then “the woman saw... Took... Ate... Gave... And he ate” (v. 6). God keeps His Word, “For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Pain, alienation and death mark our world. But the light of God’s promise breaks out in Genesis 3:15. God graciously sets out to restore life and fellowship through His Son. He bore the death sentence for our disobedient eating so that all who believe in Him may sit at His table again! Suggestions for prayer Pray that God’s love and grace may motivate us to flee from disobeying Him and continually trust in His Son Who came, fulfilling God’s promise to crush the head of Satan. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 28 – The sojourners’ shepherds

Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. – 1 Peter 5:2-3 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 5:1-4 Life for sojourners in exile will not always be easy. Amid trials, the easiest thing for us would be like sheep to go astray. But we have come under the care of the Chief Shepherd, Jesus. One of the ways He sees to it that we make our way through exile with hope is by the care of under-shepherds, our pastor-elders. Peter calls the elders to the work of shepherding, not giving them a title, so much as a task to care for the sheep. They are the flock of God, chosen and precious, bought and paid for with the blood of Christ. Sometimes sheep are frustrating. Our weaknesses and their wanderings can be tiresome. But these shepherd-elders must always remember they are dealing with the flock of God. Elders are to be among the flock, not domineering over them, but as fellow sheep. When they help us deal with our real struggles in the real world, they are not surprised. They can be both tough and tender at the same time because they know their own hearts. They can be both sympathetic and urgent because they know they have the same need for Jesus. By God’s grace we will be blessed with a model of humility when we see Christ-like, Christ-dependent, Christ-exalting men not in it for themselves, but for the good of God’s flock. By God’s grace they do not look for the praise of men, but the affirmation of the Chief Shepherd Himself, the crown of glory that does not fade away. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the blessing of elders in the church. Pray they may shepherd well, love us as God’s own flock, challenge us when we go astray and direct us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 27 – Sojourners are not surprised by suffering

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you. – 1 Peter 4:12 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 4:12-19 Amid the current struggles, do you ever think, “I thought being a Christian was going to be easier?” Have we been so spoiled by prosperity and comfort that we are caught completely off-guard when difficulties come our way? Peter says we should not be surprised. When we experience suffering as Christians, our inclination may be to lash out in anger, or languish in despair. Perhaps we may become bitter and begin to see the world and its leaders as the enemy. Rather than react, Peter says we should rejoice that we share in Christ’s sufferings. If we are ridiculed for Christ, we are blessed. Not cursed. Blessed. These are fiery trials, but you share in Christ’s suffering. You are not being asked to atone for your sins. Christ bore our sins in His suffering (1 Peter 2:24). He suffered to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). We suffer with Christ because we identify with Him. Therefore, we will be like Him and be willing to suffer for Him. But we are not alone in these trials. He is with us. The trials are sent by the loving Master Refiner Who knows what He is doing. As with Daniel’s three friends, Christ is with you in the furnace of affliction (Daniel 3:25). Be sure not to suffer as an evildoer. Do not be afraid to suffer as a Christian. Jesus has got this. If you suffer for doing the will of God, do not be ashamed, rest confidently in Him, He is your faithful and loving Lord. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the finished work of Jesus. If you are suffering, rejoice in the privilege that you may do so with and for Christ. Ask God to help you not to be so comfortable that you are caught off-guard by suffering. Pray that you may suffer well that God will be seen to be glorious. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 26 – Sojourner hospitality

Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. – 1 Peter 4:9 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 4:7-11 Hospitality ought to set us apart as Christians. It takes work and will put us on the stretch. That is why Peter has to urge that it be done, “without grumbling.” How discouraging it would be to be a guest at someone’s home and get the sense that they really wished they didn’t have to take time for you. They sense that, “I have more important things to do, but since you’re here anyway, here’s a sandwich.” We need to remember, as aliens and strangers, that we are living in exile. We are homeless outsiders who have found our true home in the household of God, and out of gratitude, we want others to know that blessing. The word Peter uses for hospitality here is literally “the love of the stranger.” Do not forget that by nature you too were once a stranger to God’s covenants of promise. That is why it can be said that the pattern of hospitality in our lives expresses the heart of the gospel. Putting ourselves on the stretch in love will mean we seek to find ways to open our homes to one another, but also to those who are still strangers to God’s covenants of promise. We break bread together, open the Word together, pray together and have fun together. We are showing what grace-based, Christ-centered fellowship is. We have received much from God. By the grace of God, when everyone seeks to use what they have been given to minister to others the blessing is rich, and God gets all the glory. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that you have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Pray for a spirit of rich gratitude in order that you may use what you have been given for the love of others, even those who are strangers to God’s covenants of promise. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 25 – Sojourners’ love covers a multitude of sins

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 4:7-11 For the Christian, love must take priority. As he continues to encourage sojourners in their care for one another, Peter writes, “Above all things, have fervent love for one another.” When he speaks about fervency here, he is speaking about its intensity in action. Think of a horse stretching towards the finish line. What is envisioned is, love that puts us on the stretch for one another, a willingness to put ourselves out for one another. Think of the lengths to which Jesus has put Himself on the stretch when He gave Himself for us on the cross. One of the most challenging ways we are put on the stretch is in the demand that our love should cover a multitude of sins. Peter is not talking about a cover-up as such that sins are never dealt with. It is something far more glorious. Its roots are in the blessing that by God’s grace, through repentance and faith, our sins have been atoned for (covered) by the precious blood of Jesus. When we know the blessing of Jesus’ covering, then out of love, we also want others to know it. Sometimes that will put us on the stretch because some sins against us hurt very, very much. We must remind ourselves of the blessing of our own covering. A body of fervent loving sojourners is not a place for fault-finding, where people delight in uncovering pesky details of each other’s struggle with sin. Fervent love means our greatest joy is to see sin covered by the blood of Jesus. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the blessing and privilege of worship where you could be assured again of the blessing of sins covered. Pray that you may be put on the stretch in loving action toward others. Pray for God’s grace to be a cover-er of sins, pointing to Jesus. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 20 – Sojourners love life and see good days

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous, not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. – 1 Peter 3:8,9 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 3:8-12 Some of you may have been thinking that since you are not a wife, a husband, a servant, or an employee, that none of what Peter writes applies to you. But here Peter brings it all home. “Finally,” he says, this call to loving, compassionate, Christ-like surrender and service of one another, applies to all of you. Peter calls us to love one another as brothers. This call to compassion and tender-heartedness is a beautiful description of the church of God. It also remains for us exiles the most effective cultural strategy there could be. They will know we are Christians by our love. When we are sinned against, or when we are reviled, because of what Christ has done for us, we may follow His example of not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling. That is never easy. It may cost us, but never more than what we have been given in the gospel. By God’s grace, we seek to be at peace, to overcome evil with good and put up with ridicule. Because we know the hope of our calling, we have the certainty of our inheritance. That is why, even in trying circumstances, we can say, “We love life! These are good days!” That’s astounding if you think about it. But we have been born again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus! Peter also gives us this assurance from Psalm 34: The eyes of the Lord are fixed upon us; His ears are attentive to our cries. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to increase your love for one another in the church. Thank God that by grace we may love life and see good days. Thank Him for His loving, watchful care. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 19 – Sojourner men understand their wives

Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. – 1 Peter 3:7 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 3:1-7 Men sometimes joke about the fact that they cannot understand the ways of the woman God gave them. According to God’s challenge in this verse, however, that is unacceptable. We are literally called to know our wives well. That means a depth of love and intimacy. It means a husband should take the time to know his wife’s thoughts, concerns, fears, what she loves and what she delights in. He should know her vulnerabilities and weaknesses, her hopes and dreams, and her day-to-day frustrations, the challenges of the world, and the promises of God’s Word. He should spend much time with her talking about these things, reflecting and praying together. He will also honour her as the “weaker vessel.” This is not a put-down. It does not mean she is less than him. Think about a precious vase, beautiful, delicate and significant. This preciousness of his wife must never be abused or taken advantage of. Rather, he honours her for it. He knows she is precious in God’s sight. He knows she is precious to him. He needs her. No Christian husband and wife would ever presume they could know any of this blessing without a life of fervent prayer. The challenge is that as we often fail in our relationships, our prayers can be hindered. We feel guilty and lose the passion for prayer. Please don’t get stuck there. Confess your sins to one another and to God. You will receive mercy and your prayers will be helped. We are heirs together of the grace of life! Suggestions for prayer Is there anything in your relationships that hinders your prayers? Talk about it and pray about it. Confess your failings and draw near to God. If you are married, do it together. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 18 – Sojourner wives are precious to God

...rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. – 1 Peter 3:4 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 3:1-6 The traditional, Biblical understanding of marriage between one man and one woman is considered odd today. But by God’s grace, a joyful obedient understanding of Christian marriage remains a significant part of our witness to the world. When it comes to sojourner wives, Peter speaks encouragingly here of submission. It is a concept that has fallen out of favor today, but Peter speaks of it as a glorious opportunity for Christian women to be Christ-like. It is also something they are enabled to do, in Christ. There is no hint at all that women are inferior to men. Men and women have both been created in God’s image. Also, in our redemption in Christ, we are heirs together of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7). Peter is not condoning any sort of harshness or abuse. Neither is he recommending marriage of Christians to unbelievers; God clearly forbids that. Peter addresses a situation where marriage has already taken place, then perhaps only the wife was converted after the marriage. God can use her quiet confidence in Him and gracious, respectful conduct toward her husband for his conversion! In the gospel, her joyful reverence for God takes away any sense of inferiority. She fears God, not her husband. She is concerned for God’s honor, not about what people think. Though God is not opposed to physical beauty, she does not make that her focus. She would rather turn hearts to Jesus than turn heads toward herself. By God’s grace in Christ, she knows she is precious in God’s sight. Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s blessing on the gospel preached throughout the world today. Pray for our marriages. Pray that because of the gospel, our marriages may give clear testimony to the world of how precious we are in the sight of God, by His grace. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 17 – Sojourners follow in Jesus’ steps

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps. – 1 Peter 2:21 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:21-25 Have you seen a little child trying to follow a parent at the beach, wanting to place his feet in each of the footprints? Sometimes it can be quite a stretch! That is a picture of what Peter says is the calling of sojourners: to trace the steps of Jesus Himself. Talk about big shoes to fill! Jesus is, of course, more than our example, He is our Saviour! Praise the Lord! But in accomplishing our salvation, He has also left us an example. And, because of His suffering, it is an example we can actually follow. By His death and resurrection, Jesus enables us to die to sin and to live for righteousness. He enables us to stretch and to commit ourselves to the service of God. So, even when others may make fun of us for living the Christian life, like Jesus, when we are reviled, we will not revile in return. We were weak and straying sheep, but by God’s grace we have returned to Jesus. If anyone knew how huge a blessing it was to be returning to Jesus, surely it was Peter (Luke 22:32). We too may live in the bold confidence that this loving Saviour has become the tender shepherd of our souls. Nothing will snatch us from His hands. He goes before us and with us as He leads the way. It makes you want to be like Him in the way you face challenges. It makes you want to stretch and take big steps for Jesus. Suggestions for prayer Thank Jesus for what He did for you on the cross. Thank Him for being with you and leading you in paths of righteousness. Ask Him to help you take big steps forward as you seek to follow in His steps. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 12 – Sojourners are built up as living stones

...you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 2:5 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:1-8 We have been hearing wonderful things about Jesus the living stone, chosen and precious. He is the rock of our salvation, but He is not a dead, inanimate object. He is a living stone, the resurrected Saviour. The blessing we get to consider now is that, as we come to Christ and find our life in union with Him, all of the things that are said about Jesus can also be said of us. In Christ, we are also chosen and precious to God. In Christ, we are also being built up as living stones. We who once had hearts of stone are made alive together with Christ! Christ, the master church builder is at work, building us into a living, thriving, spiritual house. Peter is not talking about the church in terms of bricks and mortar, but as a people, an exciting and dynamic building project of mutual love and devotion. Do you see the church that way? Thank God if you were encouraged in this hope in worship yesterday. Christ is building you up in your faith, building us up together and doing this in us and with us so that we too may be involved in the work of building. Through Jesus, we can now offer spiritual sacrifices. He offered the once-for-all atoning sacrifice for our sins, but now, through Him we can offer ourselves in sacrificial service, as living stones, for the building of His spiritual house. How are you involved in Christ’s church building work? Are you a living, active member of His church? Suggestions for prayer Thank God for how He uses the church to build you up in your faith. Ask Him to help you be a living, active, sacrificial builder of the church. Bring Him the sacrifice of praise! Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 11 – Sojourners come to Jesus

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious. – 1 Peter 2:4 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:1-8 As sojourners, we understand we are nothing apart from Jesus Christ. We need Him; we come to Him for life and hope. We want to walk with Him because to know Him is more precious than anything else in the world. Rejoice in Him as you go to Him in worship, today. We have learned that in coming to Christ, we find rest for our sin-burdened souls (Matthew 11:28), we find sustenance for our hungry and thirsty souls (John 6:35) and we can live in the hope-filled confidence that we will be raised up with Jesus on the last day (John 6:44). Have you come to Christ? Have you found the forgiveness, life and hope you need, in Him? Be encouraged; Jesus has promised that all who come to Him, He shall by no means cast out (John 6:37). He who has the Son, has life, he who does not have the Son, does not have life (1 John 5:12). Coming to Christ is more than a one-time event; it is an ongoing privilege and need. We get to keep coming to Christ. What do you do in your ongoing struggle with sin? You come to Christ! In the difficulties and perplexities of life? You come to Christ! When you are painfully aware that you are too weak to stand up and take on the challenges of the life of a sojourner? You keep coming to Christ! You will find in Him a resting place and He will make you glad! Suggestions for prayer Come to the Father through the Son in your prayers and in worship today. Go to Jesus with your sin and struggles and with your desire to serve Him. As you keep coming to Him, ask that you may know Him to be more and more precious. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 10 – Sojourners desire the pure milk of the Word

...as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby. – 1 Peter 2:2 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:1-3 We have seen how the beginning of our spiritual lives comes by the Word, through the gospel preached to us. If we want to grow in that life, that is also something God works by His living and abiding Word. Have you ever seen a baby who is desperately hungry for its mother’s milk? Babies can get very passionate about this desire! And that is the picture Peter gives here of our need as sojourners. Amid the battles and challenges of life, where sometimes the biggest enemy is our own sinful flesh, sojourners hunger with the passion of newborn babies for the pure milk of the Word. Do not be like some people who misapply Peter’s emphasis. The point here is not that there is something praiseworthy about remaining immature as a Christian, only wanting milk and not solid food. That’s embarrassing! (Compare to Hebrews 5:12). We are not being encouraged here to remain as weak and helpless babies in our Christian walk. Sojourners want to grow! And sojourners want to get rid of sin in their lives: all hatred, lies, superficiality, and sinful talk. If we know ourselves well, we will know these are demanding tasks that work up an appetite. So, we hungrily crave more and more of God’s Word. And, in the Word, as our hungry souls are refreshed in looking to Jesus, we taste again and again that the Lord is gracious. It tastes like more! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to give you a passionate hunger and thirst for His Word and for the grace we taste, in Jesus. Pray for the passion of a newborn babe, as well as the growing maturity of one who cannot get over the blessing of God’s grace in Jesus. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 9 – Sojourners are born of the Word

...having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever. – 1 Peter 1:23 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:22-25 Peter continues to unpack for us, sojourners, some details of what the call to holiness entails. Sojourners obey the truth. By the work of God’s gracious Spirit, we take hold of the truth and want to live according to it. Peter says this comes to expression in our loving one another fervently with a pure heart. The reason we want to do this and the reason we can, is because we have been born again. That means the seed of life that has been implanted by God’s Spirit through the gospel is incorruptible, or imperishable. It cannot and will not die. We’ve probably all planted seeds and been disappointed when they proved useless, dead, or rotten and never germinated. Not so with the life God gives through the gospel. We didn’t give life to ourselves when we were born the first time. We don’t give life to ourselves when we are born the second time, either. It is life that comes from above and it will never die. The seed God brings to life in you has been planted and is being watered by the living Word. He has done that through the preaching of the gospel. If you have taken hold of the gospel, believed the good news, obeyed the truth through the Spirit and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of your soul, you can be encouraged in your call to holiness and love. God has given you life. You have the life that you need. By God’s grace, you have what it takes. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the new life He gives through the gospel. Thank God for the gospel that is preached to you. Pray that those who do not have this life may also know this blessing. Pray that it will show in fervent love for others. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 4 – The sojourners’ fiery trials

...that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:7 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:6-9 Sojourners have reason to rejoice in every circumstance because of the living hope we have been given. That does not mean there will not be trials, however. In fact, trials should be expected. And fiery trials can sometimes be very grievous and difficult. “Lord, what are you doing?” We may ask. Some of our trials seem to last forever. But as sojourners of hope, who know where we are going, we know that compared with our eternal future, trials are only “for a little while.” They will come to an end. God, Who is faithful to His promises, will bring us through. The inspired words “if need be,” also remind us that all our trials are in the hands of our gracious God, the Master Refiner. They only, ever come to us in His sovereign and loving care. We may even learn to look back and say with humble gratitude, “I needed that!” That may not be easy to appreciate when you are in the fire. Take heart, though. A refiner of gold, who knows what he is doing, never leaves the fire when gold is being refined. He knows the gold is purified when He can see his face in it. In His refining fire, our gracious God always has a good and loving purpose in view. He wants us to be more like Jesus. Praise God, He is at work in all our trials so we may know Him, love Him, be like Him and serve Him better! We shall come forth as gold! (Job 23:10). Suggestions for prayer Reflect on trials God has brought into your life in His refiner’s fire. Thank Him for what you have learned and seek His face for further refining. Thank God for corporate worship and how He uses it to refine your faith. Pray for those near you and around the world who are experiencing trials that they may come forth as gold. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 3 – The sojourners’ imperishable inheritance

...to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. – 1 Peter 1:4 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:3-7 One of the great joys of a sojourner is knowing we are “going somewhere.” Despite times of spinning our wheels, we know we have a glorious future to look forward to. It gives meaning and purpose. We’ve all broken things, made things dirty, and have watched things we love dearly, rust away into uselessness. Our inheritance, our hope of blessed and eternal fellowship with God, is not like that. It will never perish or fade away. We cannot break it or defile it. Maybe amid the struggles you face in this world, you live in fear that you have defiled or broken your inheritance by your sins, like when you were a child you sometimes forfeited your allowance by your misdeeds. Can our living hope just fade away? Could you one day arrive in God’s presence only to be told, “I am sorry, I do not see a reservation?” By God’s grace, through faith, you may be encouraged to know your inheritance will not fade away. Sojourners who acknowledge their sin and turn to God, can be assured of two things. First, God keeps your inheritance, your place is reserved. Second, God keeps you and prepares you for your inheritance. An inheritance is something graciously given, not earned. Again, it’s all grace. God is eager and ready to reveal this blessing in the days to come. He makes you eager and ready to receive it and enjoy it. Having that hope makes us eager and ready to live for Him today! Suggestions for prayer Thank God for preserving your inheritance for you and for preserving you for your inheritance. Confess ways we might tend to defile this blessing. Ask Him to make you eager and ready to live for Him today in the hope of your certain future. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 2 – The sojourners’ living hope

has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. – 1 Peter 1:3b Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:1-4 When people say, “I hope so,” they are typically speaking of a faint hope, or something not certain at all. But Christian hope, the hope of sojourners, is not like that. Though we do not yet see and touch everything we hope for in Christ, we have the blessing as a sure and certain hope. It is a living hope. We can think of situations where people’s hopes have died. Dead hope is not hope. It is terribly sad. A lot of people are going nowhere. And we need to pray that we may be deeply sympathetic to the hopelessness that surrounds us. As sojourners, we have been given a living hope. It is a vibrant, thriving, lasting and certain hope. It is living because it comes from the living, thriving, loving, Blessed Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is so happy to be God, so thrilled to give life. He delights to pour out His abundant mercy. He gives life to our dead souls! We who were dead in sins and trespasses, without hope and without God in the world, have been born again and given new life and a living hope. This blessing is sure and lasting because it is ours through the life of our resurrected Saviour, Jesus. It is because He lives that we come to share in the blessing and certainty of His life. Remember, that in a world of darkness and hopelessness, we have been given a living hope. It is ours to enjoy and to share! Suggestions for prayer Is your hope alive? Ask God to give you great joy in the hope we have in Christ and to make us beacons of hope amidst the darkness. Pray earnestly for someone you know who is struggling with hopelessness, that you may encourage them in living hope. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introduction to July – Hope for sojourners in exile

When you think about your life in this world, do you ever feel like a fish out of water, or that you stand out like a sore thumb? Are you ever surprised by the fiery trials the Lord chooses to bring your way? Do you get overwhelmed with how it seems that more and more the world looks at us and thinks we Christians are strange? Are you ever shocked by how the world wonders why we just cannot go along with the flood of sinful changes that are drowning our culture today? Do you feel as though we are entering into a new era of exile? But do you desire with all your heart to stand up and stand out by being ready to speak to all about the hope we have been given? Take heart, pilgrim, we have been given a message of hope! We find it wonderfully summarized for us in the inspired words of 1 Peter. Peter, a man who knew all about failure and opposition, was once blundering and proud, but as an eyewitness of Christ’s majesty, a recipient of His restorative grace, also became someone who knew a thing or two about God’s grace and hope. Peter writes to pilgrims, aliens, exiles and strangers who are dispersed throughout Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). They are sojourners who can live by grace with strong hope because as sojourners they can live with the assurance that they are on their way to an incorruptible inheritance with Jesus that is reserved in heaven for them and does not fade away. The relevance for us today, as sojourners living in exile in a post-Christian culture, should be obvious. We are given a message of hope – a living, lasting and secure hope. Let us dig into this hope together and pray that we may be encouraged, as well as equipped to share it with others!  Grace for sojourners Grace to you and peace be multiplied. – 1 Peter 1:2c Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:1-2 The life of a Christian, a pilgrim, a sojourner is not always easy. There are trials, opposition and the challenge of being perceived as different. Peter begins his letter to sojourners with grace. Grace to you and peace! Peter had come to know through hard and blessed experience that his salvation and place as the Lord’s servant was all because of grace. He was amazed by grace and could not stop talking about it. Peter’s tone will be a tone of grace. We come to know ourselves as God’s sojourners – by grace! The loving and gracious plan of the Father, the powerfully gracious work of the Spirit to make this blessing real in our lives, and the obedience and sprinkling of Jesus to give us peace with God – is all undeserved grace. We rest in the obedience and sacrifice of Jesus once and for all – that too is grace. And, as we continue to struggle against sin, we continue to take refuge in the blood, passion and death of our Saviour. That is enduring grace! In Christ, we are chosen by God and precious. We have also been chosen for such a time as this and for these struggles. As elect pilgrims, we have been chosen to be sojourners. That too is grace. Living in exile will not always be easy, but God’s grace is more than enough. The grace God gives us and the peace we enjoy, as a result, is a blessing that is multiplied. God is not cheap with His grace. His grace abounds. Blessed be God! Suggestions for prayer Reflect on the wonder of God’s grace in your life. Count the ways you experience God’s grace and ask Him to help you talk to others about it with a tone of grace. Pray that you will always begin with and return to a deep appreciation of grace. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 26 – The manner of the Christian husband’s love (2)

…that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. – Ephesians 5:26-27 Scripture reading: 1 John 3:1-3 In addition to husbands loving their wives sacrificially as Christ loves the church, we read here that husbands are to love their wives with a purifying love. Look at the way in which Christ provided for His Bride, the Church. He called her out of this world unto Himself. He nurtured her. He discipled her. He cleansed her, washed her of all her sins with His precious blood shed for her on Calvary’s cross. One day, Jesus will present to His Father, His Bride the Church: pure, holy, blameless and without spot or wrinkle. And now, in the same manner, husbands are to love their wives. HOW? Nurture her, disciple her!  Keep her life free from temptation, free from anything harmful or evil that would cause her to sin. Don’t ask her to do anything that would compromise or contradict God’s Word. Protect her holiness. Maintain her virtue, her purity, her loveliness! Were you to present your bride to the Father in heaven, what will she look like? Will you present a bride, radiant, beautiful, and virtuous in every way; one whom you’ve loved, whom you nurtured in the faith and maintained as one who is blameless and holy? What has your bride turned out to be under your love, under your discipleship, under your spiritual headship? Have you lovingly cultivated her purity, her righteousness, her sanctity, her loveliness? Husbands this is our God-given duty! Suggestions for prayer Help husbands to cultivate the purity of heart in the lives of our wives. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 25 – The manner of the Christian husband’s love (1)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. – Ephesians 5:25 Scripture reading: Ephesians 4:14-21; 5:22-33 How much does Christ love His Bride, the Church? He laid down His life for her. Jesus’ love for His Bride is a sacrificial love! Jesus’ love for His Bride is selfless and one of self-denial. He loves her despite all her glaring defects, all her failures and shortcomings and all her sins that make her so ugly, so unattractive. Yet, He loves her. He loves her sacrificially, even to the point of death on the cross. And now, Christ’s sacrificial love serves as the model, the standard established by God in His Word by which husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loves His Bride, the Church! What does this mean in a practical way? One author notes, “If a loving husband is willing to sacrifice his life for his wife, he is certainly willing to make lesser sacrifices for her. He puts his own likes, desires, opinions, preferences, and welfare aside if that is required to please her and meet her needs. He dies to self in order to live for his wife, because that is what Christ’s kind of love demands.” A marriage where the husband loves his wife sacrificially, as Christ loves the Church, is a marriage that will be truly blessed by the Lord to the praise and glory of His name. Suggestions for prayer May God of His grace and Spirit fill our hearts and lives with a love for our wives as Christ loves His Bride, the Church. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 24 – The duty of the Christian husband

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also the loved the church and gave Himself for her. – Ephesians 5:25 Scripture reading: Ephesians 5:22-33 Not only has God ordained the husband to be head over the wife, and the wife to submit to her husband, but God now commands, “Husbands, love your wives.”  Notice how the respective commands given to husbands and wives are vastly different. Wives are commanded by God to submit and respect their husbands (vv.22,33). Men on the other hand are commanded by God to love their wives. In a culture where to love often means little more than romance and sex, or is reduced to mere sentimental or pleasant feelings, the Bible’s definition of love shows love’s true God-like quality and permanence. Love as defined in Scripture reveals a most significant character of God Himself “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” What is love? Well, the Bible’s definition of love is expressed simplest and best in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 where we read, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”  Husbands, let us heed God’s command, “Husbands, love your wives” so that not only will our marriages be blessed, but let us do so to the praise and glory of God. Suggestions for prayer Help husbands to love their wives not as the world defines love, but as defined here in the Word of God. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 23 – The model of the Christian wife’s submission

Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. – Ephesians 5:24 Scripture reading: Colossians 1:9-18 As much as a husband’s leadership should be characterized by Christ’s love for His Bride, the Church, a wife’s submission is to be modeled after the Church’s submission to Christ, Who is the Head of the Church. Christ through His Word and Spirit, lovingly leads and directs the Church, His bride. In her humble and quiet submission, she is a beautiful testimony of a godly and virtuous woman. She is a wonderful testimony to her children, her church, and the community of the marriage of Christ and His Church. She brings honor to her husband, to her family, to her church, and most importantly, she brings honor and glory to her Lord! And when the Church refuses to submit to her Head there is no blessing. In the same way, when wives refuse to submit to their husbands the resistance will wreak havoc in the marriage. The marriage becomes dysfunctional. It is not blessed. Where there is a power struggle there will be no peace, no unity, no harmony, and no blessing of the Lord. In the end, everyone loses, the husband, the wife, the children, the church and society. As one author noted, “And the love that binds this man and woman in marriage is a magnificent love because it portrays something magnificent - `as Christ loved the church’ and `as the church submits to Christ.” Suggestions for prayer May our wives walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing unto Him. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 18 – A Spirit-filled life is always thankful

...giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Ephesians 5:20 Scripture reading: Luke 17:11-19 How can one know if the Holy Spirit is truly at work in our lives? Ephesians 5:20 answers that evidence of a Spirit-filled life is one of continual thankfulness to God for all things. Acknowledging God’s sovereignty, His providence, His goodness and faithfulness that He will provide all things necessary for body and soul, in life and in death, the Spirit-filled Christian is always thankful to God from Whom all blessings flow. And yet, do we always give thanks? Are we perhaps like the nine lepers who were healed by Jesus, but failed to give a word of thanks? They had no desire to worship Him or to give thanks. How can that be? And yet, how often don’t we have to remind our children or even ourselves to say, “please and thank-you.” How much more, ought we who are filled with the Spirit, to always give thanks to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. In good times, we can become proud or complacent and neglect to give God thanks. In times of sorrow and suffering, we can be so consumed with our unpleasant circumstances that we fail to see God’s hand working all things to our good (Romans 8:28) and we neglect to give thanks. Being thankful is not dependent on our circumstances, but is a matter of the heart – a Spirit-filled heart. Yes indeed, let us count our blessings one by one and give thanks! Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! Suggestions for prayer Pray for a heart filled with the Holy Spirit that we may give thanks always for all things and in all circumstances. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 17 – A Spirit-filled life sings

...speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord... – Ephesians 5:19 Scripture reading: Psalm 150 How can we know if the Holy Spirit is truly at work in our lives? Ephesians 5:19 answers this by declaring that evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, is the joy of the Lord which we possess in our hearts and which comes to expression in our worship of God. As Christians, we have every reason to worship and to sing praises to our God. We sing of His wonderful work of creation, His sovereignty and His providence. We sing of His wonderful work of salvation through the life and death of His Son. We sing of the victory over the powers of sin and evil by His resurrection. We sing of the future glory that awaits us when we will join with the heavenly choir of angels and saints, praising and glorifying God together in heaven. The music and songs of the church are not about what we like or our personal preferences, but are about what pleases the Lord. The aim of our singing and worship must always be the glory of our God. Music and songs that honour the Lord will also be a blessing to His people. We do well to remember too, that our joy in the Lord and our Spirit-filled response of singing unto the Lord is not determined by our circumstances in life. Paul and Silas sang to the Lord as they were sitting in prison. A Spirit-filled heart rejoices in the LORD always and SINGS. Suggestions for prayer May it be the desire of our Spirit-filled hearts to worship our God by singing together to His praise and glory. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 16 – Be fill with the Spirit, not wine

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit... – Ephesians 5:18 Scripture reading: Proverbs 23:29-35 The Bible does not condemn the occasional drink in moderation. Rather, what is condemned is excessive drinking to the point of drunkenness. Why do people overindulge? Some get drunk to fit in with those of the world, but in doing so they alienate themselves from God. Some get drunk thinking it will make them happy when it only brings an artificial happiness. Some get drunk to escape reality and the problems of life when in fact, it provides only a temporary escape. Some get drunk in an attempt to drown the sorrows or sins of the past only to compound their sin and misery. Every picture of drunkenness in the Bible is a picture of sin and misery. Sadly, alcohol addiction is a real and increasing problem in our Christian churches and families. Rather than getting drunk or resorting to some other kind of addictive habit such as drugs, self-harm, pornography, sex, etc... God’s Word commands us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. As one author noted, “Be filled is passive, not active”. It is not something we can do. God must do it. But we are responsible to seek that state of fullness.”  People who become drunk are ruled by the bottle unto ruin. People filled with the Spirit are ruled by the Spirit unto a life of blessedness to the praise and glory of God. Suggestions for prayer Pray for those with addictive, destructive habits. Pray to be filled more and more by the Spirit to live a Spirit-filled, God-honoring and glorifying life in dependence upon the Spirit. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 15 – Walk in wisdom

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:15 Scripture reading: Ephesians 5:15-21; Psalm 1 Commanded to be imitators of God, we are now being commanded to watch how we walk, not as unwise men, but as wise. As the elect of God, redeemed in Christ, born again of the Spirit, every step must be consistent with who we are as dear children of our heavenly Father. We do not walk in the ways and wisdom of the world. We do not subscribe to the false ideologies of ungodly men. Rather, as Christians, every step in life is made in submission to the Word and will of God. Every step is made with the intention to fulfill our created purpose, namely to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Yes indeed, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). Psalm 1 calls such a man who walks in the wisdom of the LORD “blessed.” But notice the urgency, “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”  Redeem the time means to buy back the opportunity to love and serve Christ and His Church. We are to do it now because the number of our days here on earth are short and the days are evil. Given the times in which we now live, let us pursue wisdom, God’s wisdom, that we may reflect the wisdom of God in our daily walk as His dear children, as living witnesses for Christ until He comes again. Suggestions for prayer May God by His Spirit lead us and guide us in our daily walk with Him. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 10 – The consequences

For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. – Ephesians 5:5-6 Scripture reading: Romans 6:15-23 Here we note the seriousness of God’s warning. Those who do not believe in Jesus and who do not walk as dear children of the heavenly Father will not inherit the kingdom of God. Rather than imitating God, they imitate Satan, the father of all lies and deception. They walk according to the patterns of this world. They walk in the lust of their flesh. Consequently, unless they repent, they will not inherit the kingdom of God. As imitators of God, there is no place for immorality or filthiness of thought, deed or language. And yet, when we sin, as inevitably we all will, we must repent, turning from our sinful ways and strive all the more with the gracious help of the Holy Spirit to be imitators of God’s love. People today may tolerate sexual immorality. But rest assured, God doesn’t. People today may dismiss foul language and laugh at filthy jokes, but rest assured, God isn’t amused or laughing. There are two very different paths, with two very different lifestyles, with two different masters and with two very different destinations. So don’t be deceived. Don’t be deceived by the world’s view of morality or fun, because God’s standard of righteousness and judgment revealed in His Word hasn’t changed. Friends of the world, imitators of Satan, will spend eternity with him in hell. Therefore, do NOT be deceived. Heed the warning. Imitate Christ! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the work of the Holy Spirit that we may more and more forsake sin and seek righteousness. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 9 – Conduct not fitting for the Christian

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving thanks. – Ephesians 5:3-4 Scripture reading: Galatians 5:16-26 To be imitators of God’s love is no doubt a great challenge; a challenge because our old sinful nature is not always so loving; a challenge because the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. And yet, when we are born again by the Spirit, filled with the Spirit and led by the Spirit, this ungodly conduct is not only inappropriate, but should not even be named among Christians. These vices are unbecoming of those called to be saints, those separated unto God as His dear children for whom Christ died. Rather than engaging in these vices of the flesh, we should be actively engaged in giving thanks to God. We ought to give thanks to God for His gift of love in sending us His Son, Who has fully paid for all our sins with His precious blood, and has set us free from the tyranny of the devil. Because we belong to Him, Christ, by His Holy Spirit assures us of eternal life and makes us whole-heartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him. When our hearts and minds are filled with an appreciation of all the blessings which we, in Christ possess, our lips respond with praise and thanksgiving. Paul not only lists the vices that are not fitting for Christians, but he responds with the one virtue that sums up the Christian’s life. Thanks be to God! Suggestions for prayer Let us pray that we may put off the works of the flesh and walk by the Spirit. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 8 – Walk in love as Christ also loved us

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. – Ephesians 5:2 Scripture reading: Philippians 2:1-11 How much does Jesus love us? He humbled Himself leaving the place of glory in heaven, not only to dwell among sinners, but He took upon Himself our human nature, sin excepted. He was despised and rejected by men, beaten, scourged, spat upon, crucified, endured the wrath of God, died and was buried all for the sake of our salvation. He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement for our peace was upon Him. And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He offered up the supreme, the all-sufficient sacrifice pleasing unto the LORD. How can we even begin to grasp the magnitude of the love of Christ toward us sinners? We simply can’t. And now, to us, as dear children of the Father, in Christ, as those redeemed by Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, the command is given, “Be imitators of God.” Love as the Father loves - sending His Son. Love as the Son loves – sacrificially, by laying down His own life to give us life, abundant life, now and in eternity. See in the love of the Son, the love of God the Father for us. Wow! What a standard! May others see God’s love through our love, a sacrificial love, following the supreme example of Christ Jesus our Saviour. Suggestions for prayer Help us to love others as God, in Christ, loves us. Help us to see that lovelessness is a sin from which we must repent. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 7 – Walk in love

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. – Ephesians 5:2 Scripture reading: 1 John 4:7-21 Here, in verse 2, we are commanded by God to walk in love. Do this! Walk in love! Be imitators of God by your walk in love. What does the love of God look like? We are told in 1 John 4:9-10, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. And this is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  And now, having defined love, we are given the command in verse 11, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  We are not to love as the world loves, but rather, we are to love as God has manifested His love toward us undeserving sinners. His love is one of self-sacrifice and self-denial. But notice as well, the command in verse 21, “And this commandment we have from Him: that He who loves God must love his brother also.” Here again, we are to walk in love!  How can we readily identify the children of God? By their God-like love toward others! Suggestion for prayer Pray for the Holy Spirit to create in us a pure heart, a heart that truly loves God and expresses this God-like love toward our neighbor. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 2 – Be imitators of God’s kindness

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32 Scripture reading: Ephesians 4:25-5:1 Verse 1 begins with, “Therefore” which connects what follows with what precedes it, “And be kind to one another….” We are to be imitators of God in kindness which is one of the attributes of God (Titus 3:4). Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Kindness is also a characteristic of true love as defined by God (1 Corinthians 13:4). To be kind means to be useful, serving, pleasant and gracious. It is to be other-oriented. It is to be gracious and gentle in our attitudes, actions and speech toward others. Interestingly, the catalyst for Rosaria Butterfield’s radical conversion was the kindness of a local pastor. Earlier in Ephesians 2:7 we read, “…that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  God’s kindness toward us undeserving sinners is displayed in His wonderful gift of salvation. He does not treat us as our sins deserve. So too, we are to imitate the kindness of our heavenly Father toward others. But then, in this day and age of entitlement, of self-love and virtual relationships are we still imitators of God’s kindness?   Do our thoughts, words and deeds reflect the lovingkindness of our God that we are commanded to imitate?  “Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honour” (Proverbs 21:21 ESV). Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Holy Spirit will produce in us, hearts of kindness to grace our thoughts, words and deeds toward others, that imitate the kindness of our God. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introduction to the month of June

Looking back over 27 years of ministry, I’ve come to realize one of the great challenges as Christians is to be consistent in our daily walk with the Lord. Chosen by the Father, redeemed in Christ, born again and sanctified by the Holy Spirit – all by grace, how must we now live Corum Deo, before the face of God? How are our lives as Christians to be uniquely different from those of the world? How? Ephesians 5 provides the answer. We are to be imitators of God. We are to walk in love. We are to walk in light. We are to walk in wisdom. What does that look like? Well, let’s walk through these passages together in the coming month. It is also my goal to write these devotionals simple enough for children and young people to engage in further discussion together during family devotions. Be imitators of God Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. – Ephesians 5:1 Scripture reading: Ephesians 5:1-7 God, through the apostle Paul, issues a command, “Therefore be imitators of God…”  Notice, God is not merely making a helpful suggestion or offering believers some good advice for our careful and prayerful consideration. No, this is a command. Do this! The word translated here as “imitator” is from the Greek word meaning “to mimic” or “to copy”. God is actually commanding us to mimic or copy Him. We are to be just like Him. The command to be God-like takes us back to the dawn of creation.“Then God said. “Let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). God is the eternal Creator and we are but mere creatures, and yet, God created us in His image and likeness to be just like Him. To be made in God’s image means that, as prophets, we can know God and tell others the truth about God and everything He has made and done. As priests, we can offer ourselves to God in our service of love and obedience to Him. As kings, we can fight against sin and evil and rule with God over the works of His creation. The creation of man in God’s image at the dawn of creation indicates that we were created by God to be imitators of God to His praise, glory and honor. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Holy Spirit will empower you more and more to be the image-bearer of God that He created you to be. Rev. Henry Van Olst felt called to the ministry at the age of 32 after 12 years of working in the accounting field. He served the Parkland Reformed Church (URC) of Ponoka, Alberta from 1993 to 2005; served in several other churches, and upon retirement in 2020 moved back to Ponoka, Alberta along with his wife Mary, to be closer to their four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Rev. Van Olst remains active in preaching and teaching as the church is currently vacant. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 31 – Our beautiful King and Saviour

He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen. – 1 Timothy 6:15-16 Scripture readings: Daniel 4:1-3, 36-37; 1 Timothy 6:13-16 We have spent a month bumping up against the worst impulses of a human king like Nebuchadnezzar. We have seen what arrogance and pride does to a man and his kingdom. The ugliness of sin has been on full display. The stubbornness of his heart’s corruption has shocked us. In the midst of this, God’s faithful servants have stood firm in the Word of God and trusted in His promises. How? By trusting in the LORD and believing in the Anointed One Who delivers our bodies from the grave and our hearts from the condemnation of sin! Cherish this truth, dear readers, that you are graciously called to love a wondrously different King! You are promised blessing from the King of Kings! He is the unwavering and unflinching Shepherd Who acts out of His perfection and the fullness of His mercy towards you. “Take heart,” He reminds us, “for I have overcome the world!” It does not matter what the plots of our adversaries are when we have the Lord of Hosts on our side! Our brother in Christ, the Apostle Peter, encourages us that “Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” So, together let us worship Him as we joyfully sing, Beautiful Saviour, Lord of the Nations, Son of God and Son of Man! Glory and honour, praise, adoration Now and for evermore be thine! Suggestions for prayer Saviour, like a Shepherd lead us, much we need thy tender care. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 30 – Worthy

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. – Revelation 4:11 Scripture readings: Revelation 4:8-11; Daniel 4:34-37 The change of Nebuchadnezzar’s heart yielded an uncompromising proclamation of the dominion of the Most High. He broke out of his madness when he blessed the Lord and praised Him. What a moment! In the words of the king which Daniel likely composed for distribution to the peoples in his kingdom, the king made known that, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” He utters true words that we, by faith, are moved to assent to and share with him. The question of the truth of his heart is a subject of considerable dispute because tragically there did not appear to be any further fruits of repentance in Nebuchadnezzar. He drops out of the story at the end of chapter four and we don’t have any further record of him. But we can ask this question of ourselves: do we live with faith in the face of God’s coming judgment of the mighty and the lowly? The LORD has decreed that He is coming again to judge the living and the dead. In Luke 18, Jesus Christ asks, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Be sure that you are trusting in Jesus, the Lamb of God who has been provided for you and enables you to live with confidence as you await the coming judgment Day! Suggestions for prayer Help us Lord to walk in true repentance and obedience! Deliver us from temptation. Make our hearts abound in thanksgiving for Your mercies and love! Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 25 – A lesson learned four times

Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. – John 20:29 Scripture readings: Daniel 4:1-3; John 20:27-31 Men like Nebuchadnezzar take a long time to learn. In the first chapter, the king has the opportunity to see firsthand what the fear of God looks like, in the lives of the four men of Judah. In the second chapter, the king receives his vision and he is again reminded that it is the Lord of Israel who ministers truth to His people. In the third chapter, the king responds by building a big statue to ‘correct’ what the Lord had said about him and his dynasty, but the Lord reveals His power to Nebuchadnezzar. The fourth chapter shows that he continues to resist the will of God by resorting to his old ways. In Daniel 4:7, the king calls on the old fools who were previously revealed to be impotent liars and cheats. Finally, the king is brought low by God and turned into a beast. At last, after all this, Nebuchadnezzar is willing to have Daniel prepare an edict to go out to the peoples, nations and languages concerning the true God. Yet it might be best to title this letter in chapter four, “Nebuchadnezzar’s Momentary Perception of the True God.” The text of the fourth chapter of Daniel was probably composed by Daniel as a letter to be sent out under the king’s signature to the ends of his kingdom. Are you more eager than the king of Babylon to declare the signs and wonders the Most High God has made known to you? 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. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 24 – Blessed be the God of Israel!

Psalm 107:1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Scripture readings: Daniel 3:26-30; Psalm 107:1-9 Writing about the courage of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when they stood before Nebuchadnezzar, Calvin wrote, “We must bear defamatory statements about us, for the time patiently, until the LORD shall shine upon us as the asserter of our innocence.” We don’t always know if we will be vindicated when we are confronted for the truth we proclaim concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the exclusive call to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved. The three men did not know if they would emerge from the fires or if they would succumb to their injuries. Nonetheless, they knew that the LORD would assert their innocence. In this instance, the LORD displayed their righteousness in a dramatic fashion and Nebuchadnezzar was astounded by the scene before his eyes. Despite the ferocity of his furnace, they weren’t harmed in any way! When Nebuchadnezzar addressed the gathered crowd, he came close to confessing the name of God, but the tragedy in this scene is that his proclamation was still an external acknowledgment and not an internal surrender to the LORD, the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Under his banner, a proclamation went out that proclaimed the greatness of Yahweh, but it did not result in personal faith. Which brings us to this sobering reminder: it is not enough to know true things about God. We must trust in the LORD with all our hearts and not lean on our own understanding or our strength or our own pride. Suggestions 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! Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 23 – The fiery furnace and the fiery Presence

It shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. – Acts 2:21 Scripture readings: Daniel 3:18-25; Acts 2:1-21 Today is Pentecost and we marvel at the contrast between the fiery furnace that was kindled by Nebuchadnezzar in order to kill and the fiery presence kindled by the Spirit of God in order to make alive! Nebuchadnezzar’s fire sought to stamp out the servants of God while the Holy Spirit’s fire anointed them for the bearing of testimony to the nations! Nebuchadnezzar’s fire sought to stop the mouths of those who claimed, “Our God is able to deliver us,” while the Holy Spirit’s fire brought the power of God to a multitude who went forth proclaiming “Our God has delivered us through the man Who was crucified!” Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace was made powerless to harm by the presence of the Son of Man, while the Holy Spirit’s fiery presence in Jerusalem was made possible by the presence of the Son of Man Who was risen from the grave! The Son of Man interceded to save Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in an early preview of His great act of salvation, which the Apostle Peter proclaimed so powerfully to all who would listen on the day of Pentecost. The testimony continues to go out about Jesus Who was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Praise God for redeeming you from the powers of sin and death. Rejoice in the Lord’s goodness to you! Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 22 – Who will deliver you?

If you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands? – Daniel 3:15 Scripture readings: Daniel 3:8-18 The challenge for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is that their lives depended upon their response to Nebuchadnezzar’s blasphemous reproach of their stance, against his directive to worship his golden image. Would they blaspheme God or would they defy Nebuchadnezzar? Interestingly, in this account, we don’t know what the rest of the community’s response was. It may be that many did bow while others tried, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, to abstain from this act of false worship. In any case, we know that the Lord can forgive even such blasphemous worship. The Lord has a will and a way of delivering a man like Naaman who had fallen before the gods of his peoples until he learned of the Lord’s instructions to him. The Lord could forgive those who had fallen into various forms of idolatry. And yet the Lord was calling on His people to consider well the example of these men. In Daniel 7, the saints are warned of the dogged persistence of the kingdom of darkness to wear down the resistance of God’s people. This is why the LORD gives us the whole armor of God to withstand these attacks. As Calvin reminds us, from the beginning, “The Church of Christ has been so constituted that death has been the way to life and the cross the path to victory.” Even to die a fiery death is not the worst thing for us – for we have been joined to the Son of God who has died for us! Suggestions for prayer Pray for relief for those who are being persecuted under unjust rulers. Pray for joy in the face of hardships. Pray that the LORD would teach us the way of full obedience to Him. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 17 – What the future holds for those God loves

A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure. – Daniel 2:45 Scripture readings: Daniel 2:31-39; Daniel 8:15-27 Daniel provided this interpretation of the king’s vision and he assigns only one specific name – Nebuchadnezzar’s – to the kingdoms described in the sequence of dynasties that would arise before being brought low by the stone carved by the God of heaven. With historical insight and the comparison we find to this vision in Daniel 8, we can conclude that Daniel prophesies of the rise and fall of the Babylonians (head), the Medo-Persians (chest & arms), the Greeks (torso & thighs), and the Romans (legs & feet). However, these kingdoms are relevant here because their boundaries would include the land of Judah. Consequently, the LORD’s message to Nebuchadnezzar must properly be seen as a message to the LORD’s people at the end of their period in exile and in the days of their return to Judah. He wants the children of God to know what the future holds. Not in absolute detail, but in enough detail to know how it ends: with the kingdom of heaven established upon the earth! Though Daniel tells this to Nebuchadnezzar, he is commanded by God to write this down for God’s people. The LORD’s Word concerning the life to come is chiefly for His people who can find comfort and courage to withstand trials and temptations of various kinds (1 Peter 1). The vision is all about God’s people in the end as He establishes a proper dwelling place for the temple of God – His people! Suggestions for prayer Pray for humility in our nation’s leaders to see that their authority is from God. Pray for patience in our hearts as we await the return of Christ. Pray for the gospel to continue to spread throughout the earth. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. This picture used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license from FreeBible Images.org....

Daily devotional

May 16 – All that glitters is not gold

The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. – Psalm 1:4-5 Scripture readings: Psalm 1:4; Daniel 2:31-35 Daniel accomplished the very thing that Nebuchadnezzar’s advisors had said was impossible: he was able to describe the dream in the span of four verses because the LORD provided him with the knowledge of the dream and its interpretation. This reminds us of what Jesus said in another context that, “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luke 18:27). Before we move to the interpretation, it’s worth reflecting on the creative brilliance of this vision and the way the LORD gets His point across to this prideful ruler of the Babylonians. From a distance, this image was exceedingly bright and frightening as it stood before the king in his dream. This is like a super-charged totem pole with various metals arranged in layers. Yet the splendour and extravagance of the image were reduced to shreds by a greater object of divine origin – a stone that the king sees being carved from the mountain without human intervention! The original image, which terrified Nebuchadnezzar, was suddenly not his concern anymore. The stone obliterated the image and, as Daniel explained, it became a great image and filled the whole earth. I find a parallel here with Paul’s reminder to the Corinthians that, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong ... but remember, you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:27-30). Suggestions for prayer Father, grant us insight into what matters most so that we would not be fearful, but rather live with confidence in Christ the Son through Whom life has come to our souls! Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 15 – Facing certain death

This man does not deserve the sentence of death, for he has spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God. – Jeremiah 26:16 Scripture readings: Jeremiah 26; Daniel 2:25-30 When Jeremiah brought the word of the LORD to Daniel’s predecessors in Judah before the exile, there were many who spoke against him to denounce his message of the judgment of God against their sins. They sought to have him killed for bringing the truth to God’s covenant people. Astonishingly, Daniel received a better reaction from the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar than Jeremiah received from those who had been given the Law and the Prophets and the covenant signs. Nonetheless, while King Nebuchadnezzar was more receptive to Daniel because of the intensity of his fear of the vision he’d received, he still challenged Daniel by asking, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” Daniel testified that the bankruptcy of those who said, “There is no one who can interpret your dream” was matched by the supremacy of the God in heaven Who reveals mysteries about “what is to be.” This God of heaven continues to send out messengers who have come to us with words of life so that you would sincerely believe and trust in Christ Who was crucified by those who rejected Him, but embraced by those who cherish Him. Therefore, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Suggestions for prayer Pray for a readiness to daily take up your cross as you follow Jesus. Praise God for bringing you His Word today. Ask the Lord to open the hearts of those who refuse to embrace Him as their Saviour. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 14 – He removes kings and sets up kings

He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him. – Daniel 2:22   Scripture readings: Psalm 2; Daniel 2:17-24 Daniel believed that the LORD would deliver him and his friends from the anger of Nebuchadnezzar. We read that he told his friends to join him in seeking, “mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed.” He prayed to the true God and the LORD answered! He received the truth about deep and hidden things. As Daniel says in verse 23, the simplest summary of the vision of Nebuchadnezzar, is that the LORD removes kings and sets up kings. Our God is so great that we can not only bring our needs to Him, but we can also know that even the things we are not even aware of in this world, are all known to Him. So when we confront the hardest burdens, we can follow in the path of the faithful who cry out to the LORD above Who hears our petitions and answers our requests. When our prayers are answered, we do well to see the faith-filled response of Daniel in the psalm he composes as an act of worship in verses 20-23. The moment Daniel receives the answer, his first thought isn’t to rush out to Nebuchadnezzar, but instead, his first impulse is to worship the LORD of Lords. Our God is always delighted to hear our response of thanksgiving and joy after He grants us our requests, chiefly in Christ. The prayer of gratitude is the greatest expression of praise to the LORD! Suggestions for prayer Give thanks to the LORD for His revelation to you of the Way, the Truth, and the Life! Pray that you would further understand His Will in changing and challenging times in your life. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 9 – Humbled that we might be lifted up

By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? – Isaiah 53:8 Scripture readings: Isaiah 25; Isaiah 52:10-53:12 Every Lord’s Day, we are called to worship the LORD together as we celebrate the grace of God freely given to us in Jesus Christ. We do so with great joy because the Good News of our new life in Christ Jesus is extraordinarily good news to receive – whether we’re hearing it the first time or the thousandth time! In the midst of such joy, as part of our worship together, we also share together in a time of confession of sin that is humbling and sobering. We acknowledge that the LORD is good, that we are sinners, and that we need to and desire to hear the glad tidings of His forgiveness and reconciliation of our sins. As we take stock of the story of Daniel being a man of God, living with a fear of God, we should ask ourselves, “What are our expectations?” The book of Daniel is often held up as a story of triumph by way of morality. “Love God, give up a few things for Him, and you’ll be successful.” The danger of pride is great when we view our relationship with God like this. Even Christ was humbled unto death so that He might be exalted. The only triumph we are assured of in this life is the triumph of Christ Jesus over the powers of sin and death! The only hope we have rests in His humiliating death on the cross and His glorious resurrection that we celebrate on this day of resurrection joy! Suggestions for prayer Father, help us to remember who we are as sinners in need of your grace every day of our lives. Teach us to walk in repentance, faith and the joy of Christ. Open our hearts to grow in humility and holiness through your Holy Spirit. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 8 – Daniel the prophet

Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? – Esther 4:14 Scripture readings: Esther 4:1-17; Daniel 1:20-2:6 One of the challenges of the book of Daniel is that the first six chapters read like a story and the latter six like an account of one man’s strange dreams. We find it easier to read the story part and harder to read the dream sections, right? It can be helpful to ask what Daniel’s purpose is. Does he act as a deliverer or a prophet? Does he intervene for the well-being of God’s people like Esther when she spoke up to King Xerxes to avert a disastrous genocide in Persia? Looking closely, Daniel doesn’t actually serve God’s people as their deliverer even though he is in a high position. He opposes the king’s edicts, but he doesn’t lead a revolution. He warns the king of his pride, but doesn’t put a stop to the taunting of the exiles by the Babylonians (Psalm 137:3). The Lord raised up Daniel to chiefly serve as His prophet. He is not their champion, but he is their teacher of what it means to live with a fear of God. The text tells us in verse 17 about this calling to interpret visions and the remainder of the book shows us Daniel’s primary role as a messenger of the LORD to God’s people. The LORD anointed Daniel with His Spirit so that Daniel might proclaim God’s favour and covenant faithfulness to His people. Daniel and Esther foreshadow different aspects of Jesus’ ministry of revelation and redemption (Hebrews 1:1-4). Both are required and bring blessing to you! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the LORD would continue to reveal His truth to you! Praise God that He is both our Redeemer and the One who reveals the Way, the Truth, and the Life to us! Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 7 – The turning point

I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me. – Psalm 13:5-6 Scripture readings: Psalm 13; Daniel 1:18-21 The experience of the people of Judah in exile was not a happy one. They would suffer indignities and distress. They would weep on account of their wrongdoings and they would watch as the temptations of Babylonian life swept away many of their brothers who left the faith. Would they always be troubled? The experience of Daniel and his three friends declares quite clearly: no, it will not always be so! It is God’s sovereign will to save His people! Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah’s gifts from God are revealed to a watching world and He grants them all favour with King Nebuchadnezzar. This is a turning point – a moment when the blessing is visible again for God’s people. They are in exile, but the Lord is now acting to deliver Daniel and his friends from the expected outcome of their time in the training grounds. In Daniel 1:9 we read that, “God gave Daniel favour and compassion in the sight of the eunuchs.” It stands out as a relief and a delight to read of the LORD again showing favour and compassion to His people after all that they have (deservedly) gone through! I’m reminded of the question of the psalmist who cries to the LORD in Psalm 13, “Will you forget me forever?” And the psalm reflects on the turning point we all face in our lives when we remember that, “He has dealt bountifully with me.” Suggestions for prayer Praise God for answering our humble cries for mercy and forgiveness! Express your gratitude for His gifts to you. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 6 – An object lesson for an exiled people

In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. – Daniel 1:20 Scripture readings: Psalm 66:16-20; Daniel 1:15-17 The whole reason that the people of Judah were in Babylon is that they had forsaken the way of God in exchange for the ways of the surrounding nations. Their lives were now a tragic example of what the judgment of God looks like. What should they do when their exile was a consequence of their unfaithfulness to God? The answer is simple. Be faithful to the Lord. Trust in Him. Believe that He can intercede and aid you in your distress. As the wise Teacher in Proverbs 3:5-6 taught Daniel and his friends, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.” The outcome of such belief in the LORD will look different for you than it did for Daniel and his friends. You probably won’t rise as high as Daniel did or become as strong a student as they managed to. Nonetheless, the simple commitment to live with integrity and the fear of God is the answer to the question, “What should I do in the midst of these hardships?” The Lord dramatically displayed His will to set apart His servants for His purposes in the life of Daniel and He continues to display His will in your life, as you serve Him with thanksgiving for the life you have gained in Christ Jesus. Suggestions for prayer: Ask the LORD to help you to find joy and strength in the midst of the trials you are going through. Ask the LORD to help you to remember that your faith is grounded in the finished work of Jesus Christ who has forgiven your sins and given you new life in Him! Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introduction to the month of May

What does it look like to live in the midst of a pagan culture that does not honour or listen to God? What insights are there for us when we face a future that is filled with reports of hardship and unsettling predictions? The oracles of God and the testimony of Daniel and his three friends in the Book of Daniel are very relevant to the times in which we are living. This story of faith in the midst of fiery trials is a powerful lesson for all who face hardship and fears while walking by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This month we will read the first four chapters and reflect on the message of Daniel – a vivid and descriptive book filled with visions, dramatic moments, and the ultimate reassurance that the LORD is sovereign over all things. There are several remarkable characters in these pages of Scripture and every one of them has a message to tell us in our time of awaiting the end of our pilgrimage (1 Peter 2:11-12). You will meet villains who oppose the LORD and His anointed (Psalm 2:2). You will meet a few good men and follow along with their growth in character and holiness before God while in exile (Psalm 1:1-2). You will meet the Lord’s messengers who bring words of light to a people who walk in the midst of much darkness (Psalm 104:1-4). If you would like to explore the message of Daniel in more depth this month, I would recommend to you the Bible commentaries written by Sinclair Ferguson (The Preacher’s Commentary Vol 21) and Iain Duguid (Reformed Expository Commentary). Both of these gifted teachers have also recorded sermons on the book of Daniel which can be found on the monergism.com website. Our prayer is that we will see more fully the way that God’s people can have hope and confidence in the work of Jesus for us as sinners in need of God’s mercy and grace. How could this be happening to me? Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great. – Revelation 19:5 Scripture reading: Revelation 19:4-8; Daniel 1:1-6 In the midst of the hardships brought about by this ongoing global pandemic, the Lord’s Word provides us with a powerful reminder that He is in control of all things. He is sovereign. Everything which happens, He has willed for it to happen. If your life has been upended by the events of the past year, there is comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Nothing in this world happens to us by chance. Rather, the Lord our God is actively caring for us through the trials of our lives. This is an important theme that helps us to understand the story of Daniel and the exiles who went to Babylon from Judah in the 7th century BC. As we read through Daniel together this month, I hope you will remember the words of praise that John the Apostle hears in the heavenly places in Revelation 19:5. The people of God rejoice because they can see the full picture and they are sure that the Lord will triumph! The LORD is to be praised because He is strong to save. We also, while reading of hardships to be endured by God’s people, can know that there is an end in sight to everything which God has said will take place, until His name is fully glorified and His people are able to enter into our everlasting resting place with God. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for being the One who comforts us in all our affliction. Pray for the humility to submit to God’s will for our lives and to rejoice that He is the most important character in our life story. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 30 – With the Lord forever

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.” - Psalm 23:6 Scripture reading: Psalm 23:6 In the last phrase of the Psalm, David declares with sure hope that the greatest desire of his heart will be granted, namely, his desire to be with the LORD forever. We remember that David, and we along with him, can only say this and believe this because Christ is our Good Shepherd and Victorious King. It is only because Christ laid down His life for us, His sheep, winning for us a great victory, lavishly bestowing upon us all the blessings of heaven and shepherding us through this life, that we can declare this with confidence. Those of us who believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. There are no “ifs” or “buts” about it, for as Paul says in Romans 8:38,39, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  What joy and peace should fill our hearts to know that, believe and say that, for we get to see Jesus and be with Him forever. We dwell with Him and He with us now, spiritually. We see Him now with our eyes of faith. But there will come a day when we shall dwell with Him, both spiritually and physically and see Him perfectly, not just with our eyes of faith, but with these physical eyes resurrected. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would increase your desire to dwell with Him and dispel any doubt in your heart. Pray this for yourself, but also for the church around the world. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 29 – The pursuing faithful love of the Lord

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.” – Psalm 23:6   Scripture reading: Psalm 23:6 Today we’ll focus on the first half of verse six. This verse closes the Psalm with essentially two definitive and declarative statements. Looking at the first one, we see David is declaring with absolute confidence that the goodness and mercy of the Lord will follow him all the days of his life. First of all, let’s look at the goodness of the Lord. David is declaring that all the days of his life he will see God working in wonderfully good ways. Second, David declares that the mercy of the Lord will follow him all the days of his life. The word that is translated as “mercy” is the Hebrew word “hesed," which is an incredibly important word. Hesed certainly means mercy, but it is a much more fulsome term than what can be translated by one English word. It means the covenantally faithful love of God. All through his life, David professes that the hesed of the Lord will be with him. But it is not just with him. The word that is translated as “follow” should really read, “pursue” or “hunt”. Essentially David is saying that the Lord is going to hunt him down only to cover him with goodness and faithful love every day of his life. Isn’t that true?  Not just in the life of David, but in yours?  Even when you don’t understand it in the moment, how many times can you look back over your life and see the goodness and faithful love of the Lord chasing you down and surrounding you?. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would give you the strength of faith to say with unwavering confidence, that His goodness and faithful love will hunt you down all the days of your life. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 28 – Overflowing blessings

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.” - Psalm 23:5 Scripture reading: Psalm 23:5 The last phrase of this verse might be one that we run past as we recite or read this Psalm. Yet, the truth that our cup runs over is a beautiful one. All Christians, no matter how much they have suffered in their life, can say this phrase, “My cup runs over”. What is pictured for us in this phrase is that in the presence of the victorious king, the people at his table would drink with him and enjoy the spoils of victory. The wine-cup pictured here means so much more than simply enjoying victory. It is the cup of blessing. We are reminded that we get to drink of the cup of blessing because Christ drank the cup of God’s wrath. We are told here that Christ is not stingy with the wine, or with any of the blessings that flow from His heroic victory. The cup of blessing which we are given by Christ is overflowing. I urge you to think upon your own life. Can you not say that this is true?  No matter how much you have suffered, you can declare this with joy because you have Christ and all the eternal blessings that He gives to you. No one and no thing can take those blessings away from you. As a sure test, to see if you understand and believe just how blessed you are in Christ, ask yourself how joyful and thankful you are. Is the joy of Christ evident in your life? Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would fill you with joy as you come to a greater understanding of just how blessed you are in Christ. Pray Christ would use you to infect the rest of His church with that joy and thankfulness. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 23 – You are with me

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” - Psalm 23:4 Scripture reading: Psalm 23:4 In ancient times, especially in the land of Canaan, a lot of the best farmland was in the valleys. It was also common that the roads and paths would not often go over the hills, but instead wind around them. However, if a shepherd were to lead his sheep into a deep valley, especially one with steep sides close together, that meant that the sheep were in a very dangerous situation. This is the valley David has in mind here, a deep, dark valley where you cannot see your enemies hiding and waiting to attack. Sheep would be easy prey to robbers and wild animals often hiding in the hills, prepared to attack anything that came by. David, in using this imagery, is explaining something very real to all of us. We all go through times in our lives when we are in danger, when we are scared of what might happen, or where we are even being attacked. We have all experienced going through the deep, dark valley of the shadow of death in one form or another in our lives. However, no matter how terrible the circumstance in which we find ourselves is, we never have to be afraid, for Christ is always with us. Hold fast to that truth dear Christian, even when it feels like you are all alone. Remember this unchanging truth, Christ is with you. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would comfort your heart and the hearts of all of His people with the truth of Christ’s presence with them as their Good Shepherd. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 22 – He leadeth me

“He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” – Psalm 23:3 Scripture reading: Psalm 23:3 Since our Good Shepherd leads us to Himself to refresh us and restore us continually from His Word, by the result of being restored by Christ, He will also lead us in paths of righteousness. Christ will always lead us in righteousness, to do righteousness for the glory of the name of the Father. Following our Good Shepherd on the path of righteousness is for our own good. Our sinful and deceitful hearts would like to believe the lie that sinning will really make us happy and blessed. However, the truly blessed life is lived in communion with God and in obeying Him, for the Lord’s commands are always right, good and true. In the cultural and sexual revolution in which we seem to find ourselves, what has become incredibly obvious to any person with sense, is that the people who are happiest and live the most blessed lives, even from a worldly perspective, are those who even just outwardly follow God’s law. The sheep that stay close to the shepherd always have an easier time of things. The sheep that run off trying to chart their own course and destiny are the sheep that end up in big trouble. For example, a relationship that has taken decades to build can be destroyed in a few minutes. The blessed life, the God-glorifying life, is the life lived following Jesus. Christ our Good Shepherd not only leads us to Himself, but also leads us in righteousness to the glory of God. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would keep you from sin and give you the strength to follow Christ in all of life. Ask the Lord to continually change the desires of His people away from the inclinations of our sinful hearts and to love God and our neighbor. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 21 – Christ restores my soul

“He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.” – Psalm 23:3 Scripture reading: Psalm 23:3 Looking at just the first phrase of this verse, “He restores my soul,” we see what David really had in mind in verse two was not just physical things, though that certainly is included, but the emphasis is on spiritual things. We know we need food and drink. Jesus tells us to pray for that in the Lord’s Prayer. We also know, however, that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). We need to be spiritually fed and nourished by the Lord as well. Christ as our Good Shepherd, not only provides all we need physically, but also gives us all that we need spiritually. He leads us spiritually to green pastures and still waters. What are those green pastures and still waters?  Where is Christ leading us to restore our souls?  As Jesus said in Matthew 4:4 quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, He is leading us to the Word of the Lord. Christ is leading us to Himself, the Word, as He is revealed to us in the Word of God. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord Jesus would continue to lead you to Himself in His Word that you would be refreshed. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 20 – Christ my daily provider

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.” – Psalm 23:2 Scripture reading: Psalm 23:2 Sheep are incredibly helpless and stupid animals. We probably have the image of nice white sheep that just graze in the field. We have these images in our minds because of pictures or movies. But anyone who has had to deal with sheep knows its intelligence level is only slightly above a turkey and quite a bit below a cow. Even goats are far more intelligent, tough and resilient creatures than sheep. Sheep need a shepherd and not just for when they are being attacked by wolves or have fallen into a deep ditch. Sheep need a shepherd even for the basic needs of life, food and water. This was especially true when David was a shepherd, for a shepherd would have to herd his flock long distances to find good pasture lands, wells or oases along the way, in the arid land of Canaan. This is a good reminder for us, that we don’t just need Christ when we are in trouble; we need Him all the time for even our most basic needs. We have a bad tendency to forget Christ when times are good and we feel like we have everything under control. Then when we are in trouble we cry out to Him. Do you realize that apart from Christ you can do nothing (John 15:5) and are nothing?  We need Christ all of the time, not just when we are in trouble. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would humble you to be more dependent upon Christ for all things. Ask for forgiveness for when you have forgotten your dependence upon Christ in the good times and ask for His help to praise and thank Him for His good gifts to you. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 15 – Christ our mighty warrior

“Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle.” - Psalm 24:8 Scripture reading: Psalm 24:8 In the previous verse, those who are with the coming King, are calling out to the gatekeepers to open the gates so that the King of glory shall come in. In this verse, we have the response of the gatekeepers, “Who is this King of glory?”  The answer that comes is beautiful and comforting. We read that the LORD is strong and mighty and specifically mighty in battle. This may sound a bit strange; maybe we don’t think of Jesus as being a mighty warrior. Yet, this is exactly how He is described here. This, of course, is what He was prophesied to be all the way back in Genesis 3:15. He would be the One Who would crush the head of the serpent. Christ is also described as such in Psalm 2, where it is said that He will break the nations that have risen up against Him like pottery smashed with a rod of iron. In Revelation, we have visions recorded for us, of Jesus having a two-edged sword coming out of His mouth and of Him riding upon a white war horse (Revelation 1:16; 19:11). This is not the Jesus that is proclaimed in many churches or certainly by many in our culture. Jesus is seen more like a kitten than like Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia. Yet, this is the Jesus Who we need, the Jesus who will defeat all of our enemies and give us a great victory. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord Jesus would destroy all the works of the devil and that He would continue to plunder his house, saving many unto eternal life. Praise our Lord Jesus Christ for all that He has saved us from by dying on the cross. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 14 – The King is coming!

“Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in.” - Psalm 24:7 Scripture reading: Psalm 24:7 We now come to the third part of the Psalm (verses 7-10), where we see this excited and eager climax – excitement for the King to arrive – the King who can ascend the hill of the LORD and bring us with Him. We see this fulfilled at Christmas, in that Christ arrived on the scene of history to lead us to victory. These words are also fitting as we see the Triumphal Entry of Christ, as He entered Jerusalem and went to accomplish that victory. These words also point us to the Ascension of Christ, in that Christ has gone up before us into the very presence of the Father to intercede on our behalf and also to reign over all things. This section also anticipates the second coming of Christ, when He will finally take all of His people with Him to glory and to the new heaven and new earth. What we have in this section is a conversation between the one who announces the King’s coming and the gatekeepers. Think about how wondrous the Triumphal Entry must have been with Jerusalem all abuzz with Jesus’ entry. How wondrous it must have been to be a disciple of Jesus walking behind Him, as He rode into the city, singing His praises. How much more glorious will it be when Christ takes us with Him after His second coming?  How eager and excited are you for that day?  We cannot even fathom the joy that will fill our hearts in those moments. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would fill you with eager anticipation of Christ’s second coming. Pray that the Lord Jesus would come quickly and finally deliver us and all His people from all sin and this sinful world. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 13 – Seeking the Face of Christ

“This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Your face. Selah” - Psalm 24:6 Scripture reading: Psalm 24:6 In verse six there is an important point that is made which leads to a very important question that we must ask ourselves. We are told in the first line of verse six, that Jacob or the church, referring back to verse five, is blessed and receives the righteous salvation of the Lord. Continuing on in that line, we are told that those “who ascend into the hill of the LORD'' are those who seek the Lord (Psalm 24:3). Then again in the second line, we find a repetition, “Who seek Your face.” You find throughout the Scriptures and throughout the writings of the saints of church history, that all had an intense desire to see God. Moses asked for such a privilege in Exodus 33. It is the one desire of David as recorded in Psalm 27:4.  We are told in the New Testament, that in the face of Jesus Christ, all the fullness of the glory of God dwells (2 Corinthians 4:6, Colossians 1:15-20). The question then comes to us, do we want to earnestly see Christ now with our eyes of faith, and physically in the life to come?  Is that the greatest desire of our hearts?  Or are there idols that we would rather see? Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would smash all the idols of your heart and that He would be the one desire of your heart. Pray for forgiveness for all the times that you sought your idols rather than seeking the Lord and finding satisfaction in Him alone. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 12 – The righteous acts of God

“He shall receive blessing from the LORD, And righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Your face. Selah” - Psalm 24:5 Scripture reading: Psalm 24:5-6 In these two verses, we are told that those who place their faith in King Jesus, will be blessed and shall receive from the Lord righteousness. The second line of verse five is not a reference to the imputation of righteousness which one receives from Christ by believing upon Him, but rather refers to the righteous acts of the Lord in keeping His promises of salvation to the believer. Could we, who believe upon the Lord Jesus, as we have been brought near to the throne of grace and dwell in the presence of God, declare anything different?  Truly we, the people of God, are blessed in every way as we think upon the salvation that has been given to us in Christ. “This is Jacob” or we might say, “This is we who seek the Lord.”  We are blessed. For we who have no right to ascend into the presence of God, have been ushered in by Christ. We who only deserve God’s righteous wrath for all eternity, have instead received His righteous grace. This section ends with a “selah,” which means stop and reflect upon what was just said. Upon such a glorious truth, we must stop and reflect! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the grace of Christ would be highly valued by you and the church. Thank the Lord for the blessing and salvation that He has freely given to you by His grace. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 7 – Christ’s saving reign

“All the ends of the world Shall remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations shall worship before You.” - Psalm 22:27 Scripture reading: Psalm 22:27-29 As we approach the end of this Psalm, we see what a glorious ending it is. How glorious it is to reflect on the realities of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. We read in verse 27 that God will gather to Himself, in Christ, a people from every tribe, tongue and nation (Revelation  5:9). Not only this, but Christ, in being raised, has overcome the entire world (John 16:33). As we see in verse 28, the LORD’s reign is over all the nations. Everyone is under His dominion, however not all will be saved. Yet, the saving reign of Christ extends not only to all the ends of the earth, but also to the rich, the poor and the dying. When we consider the death and resurrection of Christ, we should be in awe and wonder at not only the sufficiency and effectiveness of Christ to save, but also the extent to which Christ’s salvation is spread. It is not limited to one family or one group of people, but as was promised to Abraham, “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would continue to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth and that He would be pleased to use us for that end. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 6 – Never forgotten

“For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard.” – Psalm 22:24 Scripture reading: Psalm 22:22-26 Left to ourselves, we are poor. We are spiritually bankrupt. “We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This is our most dire problem. However, to add insult to injury, we also suffer great pain as we go through this life as the result of sin. Whether that is the loss of a loved one, broken relationships, physical poverty, or the stresses of the unknown future, we all suffer the effects of this broken world. I hope we see the enormity of the problems that we face. We are completely broken and impoverished as we live in a world that is suffering under the weight of the curse. Yet, as verse 26 says, we are never without a sure and secure hope, for because Christ is risen, we who are poor in our sins are fed and satisfied. Even though we suffer in this life with the effects of sin and the curse, we are never forgotten nor left alone. God will always hear us, answer us and deliver us as verse 24 says. Whatever our affliction, no matter how poor we are in any way, we have reason to rejoice for Christ died and is risen! Praise the Lord for His complete deliverance which He gives to us. The last phrase in verse 26 is often translated as a wish. “Let (or may) your heart live forever!”  However, it is to be translated with much more surety than that. This is your sure hope, “Your heart shall live forever.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would continue to open your eyes to the brokenness in your own sinful heart, as well as the brokenness in the world. Pray that He would open your eyes to the wonderful, powerful and eternal salvation provided in Christ. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 5 – Christ the choirmaster

“I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly, I will praise You.” – Psalm 22:22 Scripture reading: Psalm 22:22 Yesterday, as we considered the resurrection of Christ and that the Father answered Christ’s prayer in raising Him from the dead, we saw that rejoicing with praise is the only proper response we could have. The words of the second half of this Psalm lead us there. But now I want to consider just verse 22 in the light of Hebrews 2:12. In Hebrews 2, the author quotes Psalm 22:22 and says that this verse applies directly, not just to us as we might expect, but also to Christ Himself. The author of Hebrews is making the point that Christ is our Elder Brother and  He will declare the name of the Father to us, singing with us, in the midst of the assembly the glories of the Father. I wonder if we think about this glorious truth that the author of Hebrews is making known to us as he quotes Psalm 22 when we sing in church?  When we sing, and especially when we sing in the context of corporate worship, we are not just joining with saints below and saints above as well as all the angelic hosts, we are joining with Christ, the great Choirmaster as He personally leads us in the singing of the praises of God. Next time you are in church, I encourage you to think about this while you are singing. Suggestions for prayer Pray that as you sing, you do not simply say the words, or just enjoy the music, but ask for forgiveness when you do. Ask God to remind you as you sing that you are joining with all the saints, angelic beings and chiefly with Christ in singing the praises of God. Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 4 – He is risen indeed!

“You have answered Me. I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly, I will praise You.” - Psalm 22:21c-22 Scripture reading: Psalm 22:21-31 He is risen! He is risen indeed!  Having walked thus far through this Psalm and the account of our Saviour’s suffering, dying and His body being laid in the tomb, the words of verse 21 should vault us into great rejoicing, just as Mary Magdalene did when she saw Jesus on Easter morning. Read those wonderful words again, “You have answered Me.”  On Easter morning, the Father certainly did answer the prayer of Christ upon the cross. The Father raised Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, it is no wonder that verses 22 and following are full of praise and rejoicing. Certainly that Easter morning Christ was rejoicing, all of heaven was rejoicing, and though the disciples were slow to understand and believe, they eventually got there too. And so as we read this passage, we too should want to proclaim and sing the glories of our God. Christ is risen, brothers and sisters! Rejoice and sing: “Sin’s bonds severed, we’re delivered, Christ has bruised the serpent’s head; Death no longer is the stronger, Hell itself is captive led. Christ has risen from death’s prison, O’er the tomb He light has shed” (Praise the Saviour, Now and Ever: stanza 3).” Our prayers for salvation are assuredly answered because of that Easter morning. “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him (Christ); But when He (Christ) cried to Him (The Father), He heard” (verse 24). Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would fill you with joy in knowing that just as the Father answered the prayer of Christ, so our every prayer will be heard and answered. As you pray for forgiveness from your sins, for a clean heart, to be remade in the image of Christ and to be granted eternal life, you will be heard and answered for He is risen! Rev. James Roosma has been serving at Grace Reformed Church in Kelowna, BC for six years. He and his wife Jeni have been blessed with two children, Elijah and Tabitha, and have one on the way. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 30 – The conclusion of the whole matter: keep God’s commandments

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” – John 14:15 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 12:13b The new life Christians live in the Holy Spirit is the life of the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5). Ecclesiastes reminds us of this in v.13, “Fear God and keep his commandments.” Fearing God and keeping His commandments go hand in hand. Faith in the Lord leads to love for the Lord and love for the Lord leads to obedience (1 John 5:3; John 14:15, 21). Fearing God includes loving God. One key purpose of Jesus’ salvation work is that we would be saved to obey Him forever (Romans 14:9). Because Christ is our Saviour, He tells us the first and second commandment is our righteousness so that God’s law is fulfilled in us. We are also now learning obedience, and being transformed into the image of Christ, Who is our obedience. Which commands do we obey in the Lord? The commands given in Ecclesiastes to enjoy life in God’s name and trust in God. The other commandments include God’s law written on our hearts by the Spirit (Hebrews 10:16) and the fruits of the Spirit. Suggestion for prayer Ask God to help you love Him more and more every day. Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 29 – The conclusion of the whole matter: fear God

“Let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” – Hebrews 12:28 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 12:13a Ecclesiastes 12:13 commands God’s children to fear God (3:14; 5:7; 7:18; 8:12). What does it mean? It does not mean we have to be frightened before God, though He is awesome, all-powerful, breath-taking and makes us often tremble. It does not mean He is cruel. No one ever is afraid of God because He is cruel! Fearing God first of all means having faith in and love for Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Why? Because God has given us Jesus, and He calls us to trust in Him. Christ is our justification, sanctification, redemption and our wisdom. And to fear God is the beginning of wisdom, the beginning and everlasting life with His wisdom, Jesus Christ. Secondly, fearing God means taking God seriously. When it is put this way people have images of God knowing everything about you, of God sending down fire on Sodom, of God on Mt. Sinai in the fire and smoke, of His holiness and terrible judgment on evil, and of His unconquerable control. Are these things true? Yes, absolutely true and we should take them seriously and reverence God. But there is this too. Fearing God is taking God’s grace and gifts in life just as seriously. Fearing God is believing He loves you and has given you Himself in Christ and the Holy Spirit. We are not righteous and we are not God. So we need God’s mercy and guidance and He gave and gives it to us in Christ by the Spirit. Suggestion for prayer Pray for the grace of fearing God. Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 28 – The conclusion of the whole matter

"Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ."  – Romans 10:17 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 12:9-13 We are now in the last section in Ecclesiastes. Verse 11 tells us these words are from Christ, the One Shepherd. Our Lord put it plainly, “I am the good shepherd, who gives his life for his sheep.” Well, in Ecclesiastes, Jesus is leading His flock with His truth. Jesus brings us to chapter 12:13-14. Notice the first phrase in v.13. The idea here is, “Now that you’ve heard God’s Word, this is the final result of the matter.” We are not able to figure everything out in life, but there are hope and joy. However, it is not about figuring out everything in life because life is vanity, uncontrollable by us. Biblical wisdom includes an honest acknowledgment that life in this world is often a mystery to us. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 is a call for faith in God! We have heard God’s wisdom in Ecclesiastes. Yet, God in love brings us to this conclusion: we need God, so the final grand result of the matter is “fear God, and keep His commandments…for God will bring everything into judgment.”Fearing God and keeping His commandments are actions of faith for the Christian. We will explore these actions in the next two days. Suggestion for prayer Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Pray God helps you understand His Word. Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 27 – The call to faith

“To bring about the obedience of faith.” – Romans 1:5 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 We are to remember our Creator, to live by faith in Him! Solomon applies this call in three ways. First, live by faith in Him when you are young and throughout your life, because one day you will die (v.1, 6a). God, through Solomon, uses a poem to show us this. One day the silver cord is snapped. Second, live by faith in Him now because when you die your body turns to dust and your soul meets God (v.6b-8). Third, and the main point, live by faith because life is a vapor. All of life is controlled by God, so trust God and enjoy life. Do you like to read? Read with joy in God’s name, one day you will not be able to. Do you like sports? Play with joy in God’s name, one day you will not be able to. Do you like to worship on Sunday? Worship with joy in God’s name, one day you will not be able to. In other words, keep God in mind all the time. Remember what He has done for you, given to you, and promised you. Have faith in the Lord when you are young, in days of trouble, when the sun shines and when it is dark before the golden bowl is broken. Life is a gift from God to be lived for Him and enjoyed. He came to redeem us to enjoy Him and glorify Him. The gospel of Jesus, which God has given, is the way for us to have joy and faith. Suggestion for prayer Disparaging and worrying about circumstances in life is not wise. Pray God will give you the Holy Spirit’s fruit of peace and joy. Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 22 – Remember the overarching message of Ecclesiastes

“O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all.” - Psalm 104:24 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 5:18-20; 11:7-10 To rightly understand the light, joy, freedom, and the “walking in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes” described in Ecclesiastes 11:7-10, we must first remind ourselves of the overarching message of Ecclesiastes. We should not think the evil in this world is this world. Creation and life are God’s gifts and He has come to forgive us our sin to free us to live for Him in this world and enjoy this world. Ecclesiastes points this out over and over again. Solomon sings the praises of work, wife, feasting, drinking wine, generosity, funerals and births. As well in our passage, we see joy all life long, youth, following one’s heart, and removal of vexation from life. Does this seem too physical, too un-spiritual? It is not. Yes, this world is filled with evil, tyranny, disaster, the uncontrollable future and futility in work. There is no pretending in Ecclesiastes. Sometimes, for some more than others, life is not rosy. However, faith teaches us that life is a gift from God to be lived for Him and enjoyed. He came to redeem us to enjoy Him and glorify Him which includes calling nothing unclean that He has called clean. The grace in Christ and the guidance of the Spirit teaches us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, not to renounce the blessing of God. Jesus came to set us free from sin to enjoy God and all His good gifts. Suggestion for prayer Give thanks to God for your health, for your family, for music and for good things. Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 21 – An amazing chocolate factory

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” - 1 Timothy 4:4-5 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 11:7-10 This is a wonderful section of Scripture. It describes what the gospel of Jesus does in our lives. I am introducing this Scripture to us with an illustration. Perhaps you have seen the 1971 film, Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Five children win golden tickets to visit Willie Wonka’s amazing mysteries candy factory. After the children and some parents arrive at the factory, Wonka takes them to the door leading into his factory. But to everyone’s surprise, it’s a very small, insignificant door. They are all disappointed and cynical and think the whole of Wonka’s factory is loony. However, when Wonka plays the musical combination, the door opens up to a huge, fantastic, grandiloquent, chocolate room full of colors and candy. The door into the room was small from the outside, but the place was magnificent on the inside. This helps us understand how the gospel works. When people are unbelievers they see the Christian life as small, silly and always disappointing. But when you believe in Jesus and are saved, you see the greatness of God, His forgiving grace, and the glorious new life we have with Him in the world He has made. The words in italics are the emphasis of Ecclesiastes 11:7-10. When we are saved by the Lord, we don’t escape this world, we are reintegrated to it to enjoy it in godliness. Read how Paul describes this truth in Colossians 1:18-23 and 1 Timothy 4:1-5. Suggestion for prayer Father, grant me the grace to enjoy life in holiness. Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 20 – Serving others generously today

“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: Ecclesiastes 11:6 Solomon applies the principle of verse 1 in three ways. First, with faith in God take the risk of serving others. Second, with faith in God take the risk of serving others generously. Today, we explore Solomon’s third application, with faith in God, we take the risk of serving others generously today. Think of the risks farmers take to plant. They could take the seed and sell it or use it for food. Instead, a wise farmer sows in the morning and at night by faith. He does not know if he will prosper, but he sows today! We could hoard our money and time to make sure we always have enough, but then we would not give generously right now. Scripture calls us to give generously to others today (1 John 3:17; James 2:14-15; 1 Timothy 6:17-18). For love of others and honor of God go without “me time,” or “money,” or “comfort,” today! Take the risk! Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-10 and Philippians 4:15-19. God will supply our every need. Consequently, we can give generously today because we can trust God to bring our bread back to us. Meyer wrote, “We are supplied by his abundances. It all comes down to faith. We can be extravagant in our generosity today because God is faithful and abundantly generous.” Christ gave every day of His earthly life. Jesus still gives to us today in heaven. His word still goes forth saying, “Today is the day of salvation”(Hebrews 3:12-15). Suggestion for prayer Ask the Lord to help you see how much He gives to you every day. Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 19 – Serving others generously

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 11:2, 6 Today we explore Solomon’s second application of the principle in verse 1. The first is, with faith in God, take the risk of serving others. The second is, with faith in God, take the risk of serving others generously. Generous giving is what God means in verse 2a. Don’t stop at giving to seven people. Go on giving to eight, nine or eleven. Give to the utmost; be a river of generosity to others. The verse also says, “For you don’t know when a disaster may happen.” This means: be so generous that you give to people even before there is a need! You don’t need a crisis to give to others. We are told in Psalm 112 that the Lord Jesus distributes freely and gives to the poor. He does this all the time and in many ways, not to just seven, but to eight, to nine, to a million. He gives not according to good works, or status. No, Jesus gives generously even in the midst of the greatest disaster on earth, our sinfulness. Maybe we would die for a noble cause or even a noble person, but we wouldn’t take that risk for Adolf Hitler. But while we were wretched sinners Christ died for us! God in Christ did not hold on to His wealth and forget about us. He became poor so that we might be rich. And, He found His investment; He got His bread back! His people and His world are saved and will come into the eternal Kingdom of God. Suggestion for prayer May you make me a cheerful giver, giving even out of my poverty. (2 Corinthians 9:6-10) Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 14 – Boast in Jesus who is our wisdom

“Asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom.” - Colossians 1:9 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 10:1; 12:13; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 Ecclesiastes chapter 10 has been our study this past week and we have learned that God, more than mere wisdom, is the hope of our life. God knew this so He sent us Jesus Christ Who is “the power of God and wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). Here is the third application from Ecclesiastes 10. Wisdom is better than foolishness, but we need more than mere wisdom for living, we need God in our lives. God comes to our lives in Christ and when He comes wisdom comes too! In the New Covenant gospel, we have the promise that we will be given wisdom, or to put it another way, we will be given the mind of Christ. This wisdom is not yet complete in us, but it has begun to be formed in us who are Christians. Christ has risen, the Holy Spirit has come, and with His coming at Pentecost has come wisdom. Read Acts 2:17-21. Is this not wisdom? Read Ephesians 5:15-18. This is possible in the gospel. Remember Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. This is now a reality in Jesus Christ. Yes, this wisdom is not perfect in us yet. We will be perfect at the resurrection, but wisdom has started to be formed in us. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31) Suggestion for prayer Pray for the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, so you may know the hope to which God has called you. Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 13 – Continue with Jesus

“Looking unto Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith.” – Hebrews 12:2 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 10; 12:13 Yesterday, we started giving practical applications of Ecclesiastes 10 to our lives. The first application was to fear and love God, rather than wisdom for its own sake. The second application is simply to live by faith in God Almighty now. Yes, it’s hard to see your slip-ups, your foolish mistakes which brought trouble. It’s hard to live out, “Whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). But this text tells us we need God. Do you think you would have needed him less if you made all the right choices all the time? No. Wisdom is not the answer. God is, so continue living with Christ as your salvation and hope. Don’t lament those slip-ups, but repent and continue living by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. What does Lamentation 3 say, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Did David quit after his sin with Bathsheba? No, he prayed, “Restore to me the joy of salvation.” Continue with Jesus. Suggestions for prayer Our slip-ups can cause us to focus on self. Pray for help to put off sin and look unto Jesus. Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

March 12 – In Christ you are wise

“Count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 3:8 Scripture reading: Ecclesiastes 10, 12:13 We have studied chapter 10. I am sure you have understood the point that in this fallen world, wisdom can be undone by foolishness on our part. Even the wise need God and must live by faith in God, or as Ecclesiastes 12:13 says, “In the fear of God.” Putting chapter 10 together with chapter 12:3 has three profound applications for our lives. First, fear and love God, rather than wisdom for its own sake. Seek wisdom because you seek Christ. Let wisdom be a teacher to bring you to Christ. Yes, wisdom is needed, but you don’t have it all the time. You would not have known foolishness, except by wisdom. Wisdom is the way of blessing, but wisdom is not Christ. You might be living wisely for a while, but then there is that little slip, that hot head, that gossiping which sets you back. Don’t think your wisdom is gospel, flee to Jesus Christ. He is our saving wisdom, the Man who can save the city and He redeems fools. As our saving wisdom, He truly is great, He can and does deliver. He will not be forgotten. He is mightier than the world and He is our righteousness. You can be hot-headed, a wrong judge of character, miscalculate and slip up, but Christ never does. When you believe in Him, His righteous, His calmness, His wise authority, His perfect insight and His righteous use of words, wisdom is given to you! Yes, you are not always wise, but in Christ you are. Suggestion for prayer Count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Rev. Henry Bartsch has been serving as pastor of the Trinity Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Chatham, Ontario) since 2003. He and his wife Tammy have seven children and two grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

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