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Daily devotional

October 15 – The Voice of grace and judgment

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. – Matthew 25:41

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” – Matthew 11:28-30

Scripture reading: 1 Kings 19:9-18

So what does God think of Elijah's accusations? He agrees. Israel deserves judgment.

When Moses was on the mount (Exodus 34) God passed by him giving Moses a revelation of Himself. Here in the mount, God reveals Himself to Elijah with four different manifestations: wind, earthquake, fire, and a low whisper. Notice that the first three are destructive, the last one is calm.

What does this mean? The three correspond to the three judgments that God will unleash on His people through Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha (verses 15-17). But judgement is not God's only Word. Seven thousand will be reserved as true worshippers. Nor is judgement God's preferred Word. I get this from the contrast between the three and the one. He was not in the three, but He was in the one. That is, though God will bring judgement, he delights to show mercy.

Some years later we find Elijah on another mountain with Moses and Jesus (Luke 9:28-36) discussing Jesus’ departure, His coming death, which was God’s Word of judgement against Jesus. Weren’t there also rocks splitting and an earthquake at Jesus’ death? His death was for His people’s failure to keep covenant and to worship God faithfully. And then a cloud enveloped them and a voice spoke. Was it a low whisper? The voice said, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him.” Jesus is the voice we must listen to. Today His voice speaks grace and invites us to come. One day it will speak judgement and will command us to depart. Listen to Him! Now.

Suggestions for prayer

Adore God that the Lord Jesus was willing to take our judgement so that we might hear His voice of grace. Pray that through our personal evangelism and the ministry of Christ’s Church many would come to Jesus instead of bowing knees to idols and kissing false gods.

This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta.

Daily devotional

October 10 – The contest

I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. – Isaiah 42:8 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 18:19-40 You might think that the contest is between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal. But it isn’t. It is between God and Baal. For too long the people have been giving their allegiance to Baal. Now God was challenging Baal to a duel to demonstrate who was really deserving of devotion. He did this as a kindness to His people so that they would know Him and their hearts would be turned back to Him. Baal, the storm god, was a fertility god. For three years he had been impotent and before God was going to send rain, He wanted to display publicly Baal’s weakness and His own glory. The contest was in Baal’s area of expertise. Baal had more backers, 450 prophets and they had the first choice of the bull. Elijah was alone, the altar of God was in ruins, and the rebuilt altar was soaked. Certainly, Baal would answer by fire and win. But Baal didn’t answer that day. God does because, unlike Baal, He exists. And the people declare devotion to Him. This story highlights God’s judgement on the wicked. Notice the slaughter of the prophets of Baal. But you shouldn’t miss the mercy. The fire could have fallen on the people. They deserved it. But it fell on the altar instead. It had done that before in Israel’s history (Leviticus 9:24; 1 Chronicles 21:26-27) and it would do so again on the cross when the fire of the Lord falls on the Lord Jesus so that it would not fall on those who bow before Christ and say, “My Lord and my God!” Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would demonstrate His glory in His Church and our nation so that people might confess Christ as Lord to the glory of the Father. Thank the Lord for the mercy displayed in the cross of our Lord Jesus so that believers would be spared the wrath of God. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 9 – Divided hearts

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. – Matthew 6:24 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 18:17-22 Ahab pulls one of the most common tricks guilty people use. He tries to shift blame. “Not I,” said Adam, “but you, God, and Eve are to blame.” “Not I,” says Ahab, “but you, Elijah, you are the troubler of Israel.” Elijah rebukes him. He had simply announced God’s judgment; Ahab’s abandonment of God had earned it. Israel was experiencing God’s promise for disobedient people (see Deuteronomy 28:15, 23). And notice Ahab’s response. Not an outright rejection of the Word of God. He obeys Elijah and summons the prophets to Carmel. Having confronted the king, Elijah addresses the people and asks them why they will not give wholehearted devotion to their covenant God. They are wavering. They do not want to forget the Lord nor do they wish to reject Baal. They want both. This is a temptation we all face. For a variety of reasons – fear, peer pressure, boredom – we don’t give unwavering devotion to Christ. But he calls us to. If we confess the Lord is God, which we unfailingly do, then we must follow Him. We must let nothing – money, pleasure, reputation – capture our affections. A jealous God is looking for exclusive devotion. The Bible tells us the people did not answer Elijah’s confrontation though it doesn’t tell us why. What is your response to this call to commitment? Only the conviction of both the futility of other gods and the destruction of those who serve them and the surpassing greatness of having Jesus Christ as Lord will compel us to respond with, ‘We will take up our cross and follow Christ.’ Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would teach us His way that we may walk in His truth, that He would unite our hearts to fear His name (Psalm 86:11). Ask that God, by His Word and Spirit, might capture our affections by showing us the Prince of Glory so that we would gladly give our souls, our lives, our all. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 8 – The King and his servants

But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. – Mark 10:43-45 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 18:1-18 Ahab and Jezebel are opposed to God and His Church. Jezebel, aggressively so. That wicked woman cuts off the prophets of the Lord as she seeks to eradicate God’s worship. We wouldn’t do that, of course, but we need to guard against a more sophisticated way of killing the Lord’s prophets, like listening to preaching without submitting to it. Then there is King Ahab. He ignores the plight of his people, but cares for his animals of war, trusting in them for victory rather than in the Lord. He also ignores his soul. He pursues grass and not the grace that would remove God’s wrath and bring blessing to his parched soul and realm. Too many within the church imitate him, giving their best energy to pursue what will wither rather than God’s enduring blessings. They care more about grass than grace. And how stubborn Ahab is! Repentance would bring blessing to him, his people, and his animals. But how the human heart resists repentance. God has His own amidst the apostasy of His Church. There is Elijah and at least 100 other prophets hidden by God’s faithful servant Obadiah. Rather than suggesting that Obadiah compromised to be employed by an enemy of the Church, the passage highlights his devotion to the Lord. Admittedly, Obadiah does hesitate to go public with his devotion but finally agrees when Elijah reminds him of the big God they serve, the Lord of hosts. Aren’t you grateful that Christ cares more for His subjects than Ahab did and is willing to bear God’s wrath for their blessing? And doesn’t this spur you on to serve Him faithfully, whatever the cost? Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for our servant King, the Lord Jesus and ask God that by His Spirit we would be faithful servants of Christ and not exhibit the characteristics of the enemies of the gospel. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 7 – Resurrection life

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead... – 1 Peter 1:3 Scripture reading: Luke 7:11-17 When hundreds of years after Elijah you read of a prophet raising a dead son to life and giving him back to his mother, who is a widow, you are encouraged to link Elijah’s miracle with that story. Though written by many writers the Bible has one divine Author and through the similarities between the stories, the Holy Spirit is alerting us that 1 Kings isn’t just about Elijah but about a greater than Elijah, the great Prophet Who has arisen among us, God, Who has visited His people. That is, the Old Testament is about Jesus Christ. So, in reading about Elijah, we should learn about Jesus. In this New Testament counterpart to yesterday’s reading, we learn of Jesus’ compassion for the needy. He is willing to enter enemy territory. By touching the bier, Jesus demonstrates that He shares our uncleanness. He bears our sins and enters our death by experiencing God’s curse on the cross. He engages in conflict with the devil and triumphs. The risen Christ is the victor over sin, death, hell, and Satan. His resurrection life revives our spiritually dead souls and He takes us and presents us to the Father, saying, “See, Your son/daughter lives.” If they glorified God in Nain because they saw the Lord Jesus’ miracle as an evidence of God’s visitation, how much more ought we to glorify God for the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Himself and His resurrection power that raises the spiritually dead. Surely, God has visited us. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would visit us and bring to life the spiritually dead in our church and nation and praise Him that He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 2 – God’s man

Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” – 1 Kings 17:1 Scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; 1 Kings 17:1-5 No scholar seems able to tell us about Tishbe. Neither do we know much about Elijah’s parents except what is most important: in a day of rampant unbelief they confess their faith in the covenant Lord by naming their son Elijah, meaning, My God is the Lord. God’s chosen servant’s beginnings are clouded in obscurity yet Elijah’s character explodes in this introduction. Elijah is a man of courage, addressing the king of Israel, one who is no friend of God’s prophets. What emboldened him? First, conviction that God lives, in contrast to Baal, who according to pagan mythology, annually died. Second, consciousness of God. God was not simply one before Whom he stood but before Whom he stands. To Elijah, the colossal figure of the King towers above the king. Third, confidence in God’s promise to punish idolatrous people (Deuteronomy 28:15, 23-24). Elijah is also a committed man. He is told to go and he goes (vv. 2, 5). It doesn’t seem that significant except that people like that were scarce in his day and also in ours. But it should be common among Christians. Whatever God calls me to do, I will do. Whatever He forbids, I will forgo. This is the man Elijah. He was like Christ, the greater Prophet, who was chosen from obscurity, courageous before men, and committed to serving His God unstintingly. The Spirit upon Christ is the Spirit upon Elijah and is the Spirit upon us to shape us to be that kind of Christian. Suggestions for prayer Ask that God would pour out His Holy Spirit upon us to conform us to the image of Christ so that we might fearlessly serve Him in his Church and our nation. Pray that God would make your Minister a man of courage and commitment. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 1 – Introduction

The word of God is living and active. It is not only something we study, it studies us. As the Bible reveals truths about itself, it also, simultaneously, reveals truths about us. That's what you will discover as we work our way through the sacred account of the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, Elijah. From his sudden appearance before Ahab to his surprising disappearance before Elisha, his successor, these studies will highlight the astonishing grace of God to his people in his Son, Jesus Christ, the greatest of all prophets and the final Word of God. In the lead up to Reformation Day, and in light of the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dort, we will end the month looking at the five main points of doctrine in dispute in the Netherlands in the early 1600s, not so much for disputation, as for celebration. Hope in the dark days ...according to the word of the Lord – 1 Kings 16:34 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 16:29-34 There were dark days in Israel when Ahab came to the throne and they only became darker. It was bad enough that Ahab sanctioned the breaking of the second commandment by worshipping God through the golden calves. He also promoted the worship of Baal, the nature god of the Canaanites. Ahab bears responsibility for this because, contrary to God’s gracious command, he married the pagan Jezebel who had an evangelistic zeal to supplant the Lord‘s worship with Baal’s. Ahab further demonstrated his contempt for God’s Word by rebuilding Jericho, the ruins of which were a monument to God’s grace and judgment. Ahab wants to worship God and Baal. Would to God that this sin of syncretism, attempting to serve two masters, were only a past malady in Christ’s Church. Alas, we see those same Ahabian tendencies when we limit the Lordship of Christ to specific areas of our lives. Christ is Lord, we confess, but I will marry whom I will. I will not let that confession interfere in maximizing profits in my business or His Lordship dictate what will entertain me. He is as Lord as I make Him Lord. Syncretism. But if the sons of Hiel die according to the Word of the Lord (Joshua 6:26) doesn’t that encourage us to believe that other promises of God will be fulfilled too, including the promises to destroy the serpent, to forgive syncretistic sinners, and to sanctify His people? Indeed it does! Suggestions for prayer Ask that God would unite your heart to fear His name (Psalm 68:11) and praise Him that none of His promises fail, neither His promises of judgment nor of blessing. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

September 30 – One last consideration

Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the LORD! – Psalm 144:15 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 It has been a pleasure to write these devotionals and very helpful for my walk with Christ. With you, I have looked at this Psalm from a variety of angles, and verse by verse, asking those two most important questions: Who is God; who am I? We have grown in His Word. So how do we continue? How are we to remain “in such a state,” happy in God? Well, by staying in His Word. By repetition. When we read Scripture regularly and with careful attention to the context in which each word appears, we are trusting God the Holy Spirit Who authored this Word to lead us into all truth. This is what we each and the entire church needs in these trying times. God is faithful; His Word never fails. When you are sensing that you are entering into a trial, run to His Word and fall on your knees in prayer. Run with expectation to the house of the Lord on the Lord’s Day, knowing that the better you come to know your God the deeper will be your faith. Above all, trust that He holds you. We will mature in the Christian faith, but never beyond being a child of our Father in heaven. He says this, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!”Amen. That’s Who He is – Father. And all our days, we are His beloved children. Rest well in Him. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to show you, each day this week, how great is His love for you in Jesus Christ. Ask Him to teach you how rich is His mercy and forgiveness to sinners in Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 29 – Happy in God, because of God

Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the LORD! – Psalm 144:15 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 In our Psalm, David began by extolling the LORD. He ends exactly the same way. Through the twists and turns of the Psalm, as in life, there were challenges discussed and blessings rejoiced in. The constant through it all is the blessedness of our God and of the people who serve and follow Him. This is again the day to lift up praise to God for Who He is! The Lord’s Day is the day every reason for happiness comes together to be focused on praise to the “Father of lights” (James 1:17) Who is the giver of every good and perfect gift. Are you joyful today? God is the source of your joy. He is God, the LORD! Given who David was, it should not have surprised us that he thought a lot about war. But so should we. We struggle against evil enemies in this life. Knowing Who God is, we should be even less surprised that the Psalm is ending with praise. We are blessed with eternal life and none can take away what the Lord has given. This, then, is our “state.” We have been endowed with eternal blessing and joy from God through Jesus Christ. The knowledge of God, by His Word, works to remind us that He is “…eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, immutable, infinite, almighty, perfectly wise, just, good, and the overflowing fountain of all good”! Happy are the people who know Him – we are so blessed. Shout His praise this day! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to make this a Lord’s Day to remember His goodness and to find joy in His faithfulness. Ask Him, He is able! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 24 – Erecting trees and pillars

That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; That our daughters may be as pillars, Sculptured in palace style; – Psalm 144:12 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 Have you ever been inclined to say “let go and let God” about a situation in your life? It is sometimes very tempting to take that advice. Yet, even well-intended, that sentiment is bad advice. If you were racing down a steep hill on your bicycle and tried that, I fear it would not end well. I doubt many of us would agree to try that approach with parenting. Why not? Well, because we know ourselves. When you were a teenager, did you do something that later you hoped (and prayed!) would never be known by your parents? Prayer and parenting are not opposed, but are two sides of one coin. This is also that (well-known) secret of the Christian life, we pray and do. The request for deliverance in verse 11 was made with a mind to this “domestic tranquility” which only the Christian family may fully and richly enjoy. The Christian family enjoys this domestic tranquility (not perfectly, though) by applying scriptural truth to all actions within the home and family. Behind all this parenting is prayer to the God Who gives sons as trees (Psalm 1) and daughters looking as majestic temple pillars, full of beauty and might. Yet, along with that praying, we work hard to see them raised as ones who desire to glorify God in all they do (Colossians 3:17). Covenant parenting is part and parcel of the warfare of this Psalm. May He strengthen us for the battle! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to show you the precious gift our children are, and the commitment to do all needed to raise them as covenant children in Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 23 – God’s victory in covenant

That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; That our daughters may be as pillars, Sculptured in palace style; – Psalm 144:12 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 How well do we know God? What do we mean when we call Him “Father”? Are we confident that God, in Christ loves us? Are we sure He will give us all we need, when we need it? These are the kinds of questions that can rattle around in our heart and head when we are looking at a verse like this one. The statements, or requests by the Psalmist, begun in this verse, are very brave – almost daring! Why that, why daring? Because of what is being asked. The requests begin with the home, the family, and goes out from there. But daring, especially in that what the Psalmist actually asks for is a perfect life! Who has a perfect life? Which parents, father or mother, reading this verse has only stout, healthy sons and beautiful, stately daughters? Do any? But we need to go back to that primary question: How well do you know God? Who is He? Is it His intention and plan, in His covenant power and faithfulness to give us beautiful, godly children? Yes, of course it is. Yes. Yes! Beauty and godliness are words which describe God and He is remaking our children, by the mercies of the Lord Jesus Christ, to be men and woman who portray Him. Do you believe that? Whether you do makes all the difference in how you will raise those covenant children. What joy and help it is to know Who God is as we raise our children in His Name! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to convince you that He is generous in giving you children who grow up to be godly men and women. Ask God to do all that is needed to preserve those covenant children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 22 – Delivered by God from the worst attacks

Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of foreigners, whose mouth speaks lying words, and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood – Psalm 144:11 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 You may have noticed one word changed in the title of the devotional from yesterday to today. Jesus Christ was delivered by His Father to these sufferings for us so that today, the Lord’s Day we can rejoice that we are delivered from such attacks. We are coming to know Who our God is. But what about us? Do we know why this category of attack can be so destructive? David laments the attack of words and deception. These wounds can hurt far more than the blow of sword or financial collapse. The attack of words, lies and deception strike a blow to our heart, our inner man. Paul prayed that we would be… "strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16) because that is where we are the most vulnerable. Strike a blow in the inner man and recovery is difficult and tenuous. Perhaps you know how hurtful these wounds are. In our Christian culture, we still don’t give depression and mental illness their proper place. We tend to think like we can wave a wand and these griefs will wisp away.  Yet, David prays earnestly for rescue from just such a trial – one that is internal, rather than external. We usually can’t see the wound that brought depression, but its sad fruits are quite evident. Rejoice today, believer, that the Lord’s Day is the day to know the shadow of His wings (Psalm 57:1) He will keep you safe from every attack. Trust Him. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help you rejoice in the shadow of His wings and to keep you safe from every attack. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 21 – Delivered by God to the worst attacks

Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of foreigners, whose mouth speaks lying words, and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood – Psalm 144:11 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 A few days ago we saw that these exact words (with one difference – see September 13) appear twice in this Psalm. While repetition in the Old Testament Hebrew is normal, repetition of a negative appeal is not. This devotional exercise has been a practice of repetition because God repeats in the Bible what He wants emphasized. These words are important to Him. He knows we need to have these words pressed into our hearts. This is what a kind and loving Father does. Knowing what we most need, He brings it to our attention twice. Take note of this. God wants us to know how He feels about what will happen to His beloved Son that day of His unjust trial and crucifixion. Those who will cast votes and cause nails to pierce His perfect Son will speak lying words and will be the epitome of falsehood. God wants us to know this. There is another reason we need to know this and we will look at that tomorrow, but first, know God. What we can learn about God today is that He wants you to know His love by what His Son endured for us. The shame and agony of the cross were but one aspect of His suffering – He also was betrayed, even by His closest friends. How He suffered, how terrible His grief. We are so blessed to be able to know Him well, for this is the Father’s desire – that we know and love His Son. Praise Him! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to show you something of Jesus Christ in your Bible reading every day. He is the finest gold and richest treasure we can ever mine in the pages of Scripture. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 16 – Living with liars

Whose mouth speaks vain words, And whose right hand is a hand of falsehood. – Psalm 144:8 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 The Lord’s Day was a blessing – and we needed it. Perhaps you heard exactly what you needed to hear, sang a song your heart really needed, or maybe your experience of God’s grace in a sacrament nourished your heart. But now it’s Monday. Great, back to the land of liars. Oh, is that too harsh? So, the Bible is wrong? Man has “progressed” as the liberals and evolutionists want us to believe? We know the Bible is not wrong and we know that we go back to work among those who are not guilt-stricken when they lie or break a promise. Now what? Now we are in the day of opportunity! We know it’s wrong to lie, we know God would have us tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth….and that means we get to tell them of Jesus Christ, the way, the truth and the life! Monday is evangelism day. Monday is “tell the truth day.” Try these three ideas: First, tell them, truthfully, that you actually do care about them and their troubles. Most unbelievers will be shocked out of their socks to hear someone does love them. Second, tell them that the whole Bible is true. Don’t argue, just tell. The Holy Spirit will do His work. Third, tell them that you will pray for them. The truth will win out over all lies and we are blessed to be the people of the truth. Speak truth in love. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to give you love and concern for your unbelieving neighbor. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 15 – God contra mundum

Whose mouth speaks vain words, And whose right hand is a hand of falsehood. – Psalm 144:8 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 You have now read this Psalm 15 times. Since that is the case, you might have noticed that the last part of verse 7 and verse 8 are largely repeated in verse 11. That is very significant in a way we will discuss at verse 11. For now, do take note, on the Lord’s Day, that the complaint King David has here is about lying and a double-cross. He trusted another human and that person has destroyed David’s confidence by a lie. God is not like the world (1 John 2:15-17). God is truth while all in the world will lie to us. “Let God be true and every man a liar!” (Romans 3:4). God intends for you to find assurance in His promises today. The Lord’s Day is when the church gathers together in a particular place and is reminded and taught that God tells the truth. He speaks only Words of Truth and when He makes a promise, He keeps it. Someone might get baptized today. The most significant thing about that baptism is that God makes a promise, His covenant, to that child or adult. He keeps His Word. We are covenant Christians. Our hope and certainty are built on God’s Word – He keeps His promises. What a blessing and what joy for us to know that all is well with my soul because God does all He promises. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to show you how His truth has already changed your life in many different ways. Ask Him to use this Lord’s Day to give you ever deeper assurance in His promises. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 14 – I can’t even lift my arm to say I need to be saved

Stretch out Your hand from above; Rescue me and deliver me out of great waters, From the hand of foreigners, – Psalm 144:7 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 Tomorrow is the Lord’s day. Do you have for yourself and your family a pattern of preparing on Saturday for the Lord’s day upcoming? It was once very common in historic, reformed churches that prior to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper there was a preparatory service. This was excellent! Maybe the sermon had a special emphasis on preparing – but what about preparing to worship Him every Lord’s Day? This verse can be of great help to us in preparing to worship God corporately tomorrow. Okay, how? Well, this verse reminds us that had not God reached into this world to save us we would be utterly lost. Tomorrow would have been golf or shopping or overtime at work, but not worship. In thinking carefully about this verse it should occur to us that we never even raised our hand to say “help” until God had first given us spiritual life to know we needed to be rescued. Regeneration precedes conversion. God needed to give us eyes to see before we saw that we were naked and without any spiritual funds at all. When you wake tomorrow, thank Him. Praise Him that you get to worship Him because He entered to deliver us out of death. Remember, the battle is the Lord’s and He fought in Jesus Christ to save you, to give you life everlasting. Praise God! So, do you have a plan of how to prepare today to worship tomorrow? Suggestions for prayer Ask God to settle your heart, mind and hands by the end of this day that you might worship Him fully and freely in spirit and truth tomorrow. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 13 – Divine activity

Stretch out Your hand from above; Rescue me and deliver me out of great waters, From the hand of foreigners, – Psalm 144:7 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 There is an ancient heresy which has plagued regular Christians for ages. This heresy espoused by high-brow academics, who are sure they know better, is also sometimes accepted by us regular Christians, where it would be termed an error. There is an issue we get wrong about how God acts. This very old teaching is called Deism. Deism says that God made all things and then decided to stay “out of our business.” He is sovereign, but totally uninvolved in the affairs of “we the people.” But sometimes we Christians act like that old lie is the truth. This verse is a comforting correction to that ancient error. God acts! God reaches down from above and pulls us out of the mess in which we find ourselves. He enters our world of trouble. God must or we are doomed! Into the quiet of Bethlehem, the heavens above were torn open and the angelic army choir poured into our world, singing of the arrival of the promised messianic Babe. Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace! What kind of peace do you need today? His hand is there. Do you need to be delivered out of “great waters”? Are you drowning in sorrow, in debt, in self-pity? God is still able to take hold of you because He decided to involve Himself in our affairs. Praise Him today for Jesus Christ Who entered to save. O, how God must come down. Then we are saved! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to reveal to you how important and significant to your daily sanctification is the fact that He involves Himself in your day to day choices. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 8 – Day of rest for those passing on

Man is like a breath; His days are like a passing shadow. – Psalm 144:4 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 “The Sabbath was made for man…” (Mark 2:27). Have you ever asked why? Let’s answer that question in terms of what we know already from our study of Psalm 144. We have carefully studied the first four verses. What we know so far is that God trains us for warfare. This spiritual warfare which Paul mentions in Ephesians 6 is difficult. We grow weary. We understand verse 4 better as we age and feel our once strong bodies getting weak and easily tired. Yet spiritually, we learn how much we lack strength. How do you feel if, by a sad situation, you have to miss attending worship on a Lord’s Day? Even more tired, right? We are like a breath and we easily get out of breath, spiritually! We are like a passing shadow and we feel time rushing past us. We need a day of FULL STOP. Today is that day. Praise God that He gives you the opportunity to step aside from all the regular challenges and trials, and hear of the perfect rest Christ has provided you. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). You are like a breath and you need rest. Your life is passing away quickly and you need to enter into that place and time of eternal things to be reminded that God is eternal in the heavens. As you attend worship today remember your need and His full supply! Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to restore to you the joy of His salvation on this glorious day of rest! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 7 – God is not like us

Man is like a breath; His days are like a passing shadow. – Psalm 144:4 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 Well, it is good that God is the opposite! Have we given enough thought to how “other” God is? This is hard for us because we live gasping for each breath, scraping for every next dollar, praying for each new day. But this verse of our Psalm is telling us who we are so that we would remember this is exactly Who God is NOT! God is not like a breath. He is firm, rock-solid, unchangeable. He is permanent and eternal. If you live near mountains you might be tempted to think those rocks are forever. That mountain range will disappear someday. God is forever. In this devotional study of Psalm 144 we are learning Who God is. What have you learned so far? Actually, this verse uses two related concepts to show how frail man is, all to teach us how reliable God is. This verse mentions “breath” and “a passing shadow.” Breath has to do with substance. Man is like a mist (James 4:14). Man is impermanent, even though we think we are pretty sturdy and can handle quite a bit. Man is also like a passing shadow. As the sun moves across the sky, so our life passes along quickly. God is solid and timeless. What a blessing to know these things about our God! We are not helped by worry, but are strengthened by faith – in Who God is! For the rest of this day (passing shadow!) set your mind on God’s stable Being. Be encouraged! Suggestions for prayer Try praying for longer than you ever have before. When you are done, check how long you prayed, then remember that God has been listening to the prayers of His people for thousands of years. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 6 – Putting ourselves in place

LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man that You are mindful of him? – Psalm 144:3 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 Reading the Bible can be a very encouraging practice. There is so much to know about Who God is in His gracious ways to us in Jesus Christ. The promises of Scripture bring us comfort, bring us hope and bring us joy. But just who is the “us” we are thinking about? This is the second great thing we want to know by the end of this study of Psalm 144 and by the end of this month: Just who am I as a human? That’s the question of verse 3. Who are we? What are humans like? The assumption of the writing of the verse is that we humans are not “all that.” We are not all we think ourselves to be and certainly not as great and powerful, wise and wealthy as Hollywood makes us out to be. Compared to God, we are specks of dust riding on the eyelashes of microscopic dust mites. But that is exactly the point, isn’t it? Have you ever met someone or can you think of a person you remember in your past who thought he was really “the cat’s meow?” This person was convinced he was really special or important. Did he annoy most everyone else around him? Yet, we are all a little like that from time to time and maybe more often than we realize. The answer expected in this verse humbles us. We really are not that important. Yet God sent His Son for folks just like us! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to remind you that He loves you even though it is true that you are not lovely in yourself. Ask Him to show you how rich is His grace in Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 5 – The condescending mercy of God

LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man that You are mindful of him? – Psalm 144:3 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 There is a perfect contrast displayed in this verse. This contrast is unlike any other contrast in all of creation. This is the contrast between the Creator and the creature. Every other contrast you could mention has less “distance” to cross, less difference to wrestle with than the Creator-creature contrast. God, the LORD has no need for anything. Man the creature is completely needy. God is entirely complete in Himself, we are fully dependent on Him for everything we have. In this verse the Psalmist asks why does the God Who needs nothing spend any effort, time or resource on us humans. This is an excellent question! Mercy is the answer. God is merciful. Do you remember from the introduction to this devotional that we are striving to know well two things: Who God is and who we are? This verse tells us by a question that seems to have no good answer, that God is merciful. Otherwise, what possible answer could we expect to the question of this verse? Since God is everything, what is man? Man is nothing, that’s what. Since God has all power, what power do we humans have? None. Since all life comes from God’s work and good pleasure, what life do we humans have on our own? None. Since salvation from sins comes from God’s plan in sending His Son to save us, what claim and authority over our salvation do we have? None. What is God like? He is merciful. Believe. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to give you greater clarity and trust in Who He says He is in the Bible. Ask Him to give you a greater interest in knowing Him each time you read the Bible. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

August 31 – Choose you this day

“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15 Scripture reading: Joshua 24:1-28 As the book closes, Joshua calls all Israel to him to again ratify God’s covenant. They must publicly pledge to follow their mighty, majestic and merciful God. First, Joshua reminds Israel that the Patriarch, Abraham, was mercifully drawn out of paganism by the Lord (vs. 2). If even Abraham needed God’s divine intervention, how much more do we also! Then God’s continued covenantal faithfulness is expounded upon by Joshua (verses 3-13), reminding them that salvation is always and only the work of Almighty God. Next, Joshua challenges the people to properly respond to God’s grace. Will they serve the Lord in gratitude and thanksgiving, or will they side with the gods their fathers served or the idols of the pagans around them (vs. 15)? The people promise to serve the Lord, but Joshua questions their commitment (verses 19-20). The people insist, however, so Joshua confronts them about the nature of the God they say they will follow. He will accept no half-hearted followers, no half-baked commitments. So choose you – very carefully – whom you will serve. This challenge is for us today. Because God is holy and jealous, He demands perfection and righteousness from us. But we too fail in our covenantal obedience. We need the loving sacrifice and the holy righteousness of Jesus. He alone keeps covenant perfectly for us. He alone stands in our place and turns aside the Father’s wrath. God does for us what we can never do for ourselves. Find your eternal rest in Christ alone. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for pulling you out of unbelief and sin. Thank Him for His great show of divine grace as seen in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Ask Him to make that grace known to even more people around the world, until the full number of His elect are saved. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 30 – A witness between you and us

“Let us now prepare to build ourselves an altar, not for burnt offerings nor for sacrifice, but that it may be a witness between you and us and our generations after us.” – Joshua 22:26-27 Scripture reading: Joshua 22:10-34 Our passage today reveals how a miscommunication nearly turns into a massacre! How what one side did, intending it to be a deed of faithfulness to God, was misconstrued to be a deed of rebellion against God. Out of a zeal for the honour of the Lord, the tribes on the West side of the Jordan prepare themselves to do battle with the tribes on the East side of the River. This zeal was not misplaced. With the building of this “alternate altar,” it appeared that God’s Word was being called into question and God’s honour was being threatened. So Israel was willing to go to war against their brothers. This teaches us that God’s name is worth more than our ease, that God’s honour is more valuable than our family, that God’s Word is to be kept even if it means offending friends. Thankfully, because of the open conversation held between the offending parties, the misunderstanding was resolved. Honest dialogue prevented disaster. The alter was not built as a substitute for proper worship, but for a memorial for all to see that the Jordan did not separate God’s people. As a witness to the next generation, the memorial is erected. God’s church today also has a memorial for all to see, a witness to future generations: the Cross of Jesus Christ. May we not fear open conversations and honest dialogue with those around us as we preach Christ and Him crucified. May Jesus be our Witness to the world. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to give you godly, humble zeal for His Name. Ask Him to guide you to those who need to hear the honest truth about themselves and about the Good News of the Gospel. Ask Him for wisdom to deal openly with the misunderstandings in your life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 29 – Take careful heed

“But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you.” – Joshua 22:5 Scripture reading: Joshua 22:1-9 In the last chapters of the book, Joshua calls all the people of Israel together so that he can challenge them about their proper response of gratitude that they are to live out for the Lord. Israel’s leader knows how important this emphasis is, especially now that the people are being released to go and enjoy their promised rest and begin a new life in their inheritance. It is important for them to serve the Lord now in times of peace, just as they did in times of war. For it is exactly in times of peace that we are most tempted to forget about the Lord. When a trial overtakes us, or a hardship overwhelms us, we find it easy to cry out to God in prayer. We open His Word to discern His will. We enter His church in order to find comfort. But what happens to this zeal when life is fine and things are easy? That is usually when the Bible stays closed, when church seems boring and our prayers wither on the vine. Joshua knew this would be true for Israel also. They did great when they were fighting giants. But what would they do with God now, when their biggest concern was what to make for dinner? How is your life today? May we always remember all that Jesus has done for us in saving our soul. For then, in both hard times and in ease, whole-hearted devotion will overflow from us. Suggestions for prayer Dwell on and praise God for his amazing grace shown to you. Praise Him for His might, His majesty, His mercy. Ask Him for even more strength to put off the old man and to be filled with the new. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 28 – Divine faithfulness

“Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.” – Joshua 21:45 Scripture reading: Joshua 21:43-45 One commentator called the three verses of our passage today “the jugular vein for the book of Joshua.” So important are these truths! Here is the theological heart of the Book of Joshua. Verse 43 mentions the land. It nicely summarizes chapters 13 through 21 of this book. God had promised Abraham that one day his descendants would inherit all the land of Canaan. This verse testifies that God has kept His promise to the patriarch. Verse 44 speaks of Israel’s enemies. It summarizes chapters 1 through 12 and all the battles and conflicts found there. God had promised Joshua in Chapter 1 that not one of the occupants of Canaan would be able to stand against them and this verse testifies that God has kept that promise as well. Then verse 45 reassures Israel that as they settle into this new land they can trust in the Lord to keep His promise to watch over them and to bless them. Because Israel’s God has proven Himself to be persistent in keeping His promises, they can walk forward confidently into the future with Him. Because He is mighty, majestic and merciful“not a word failed” of what He had said in the past, and so, therefore “all will come to pass” in the future as well. This is the same message that we must hold to today. God’s Word is truth. As you too settle into life, or face conflicts and battles, never forget that your mighty, majestic and merciful God is walking with you and seeing you through. We have Jesus Christ, THE Commander of the Lord’s army who has fought the battle for us and has proven Himself victorious. Trust in Him. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for being mighty, majestic and merciful. Thank Him for being faithful to His covenant promises. Express your gratitude to Christ for His finished work in your salvation. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 23 – As the Lord had commanded

“As the Lord had commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did; and they divided the land.” – Joshua 14:5 Scripture reading: Joshua 14:1-5 Repetition is used in the Old Testament to emphasize the main point that is being expressed. In our passage today the phrase “as the Lord had commanded” is repeated twice, signifying that we must notice this truth. Joshua begins his work as God’s “Registrar of Deeds.” With Eleazar the high priest, he casts lots in order to determine which tribe of Israel receives which part of the Promised Land. Both verse 2 and verse 5 emphasize that they do this “as the Lord had commanded.” It would be easy for us to read over this repetition, but it is here for a reason. You might think, “All they are doing is dividing up the land. Why is it so important who lives here and who lives there?” What is important is not what they are doing, but how they are doing it! “As the Lord had commanded” them – That is the point being stressed. This underscores the truth that God cares about ALL that we do, how He wants us to be faithful in even the small things of life, just as much as in the big things of life. The Lord considers Joshua’s work as “Registrar of Deeds” just as important as him exterminating Canaanites. So too in your life today. No command from God is small. No work done for the Lord is “insignificant.” Whether you are a CEO or are doing another load of laundry; do it faithfully, with all your heart, for His honour and glory. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the work that He has given you to do. Ask Him for the strength and diligence to do it well. Ask Him to use you today for His honour and glory. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 22 – An ominous warning

“Nevertheless the children of Israel did not drive out the Geshurites or the Maachathites, but the Geshurites and the Maachathites dwell among the Israelites until this day.” – Joshua 13:13 Scripture reading: Joshua 13:8-14 Because of the Lord’s righteous judgment against sin, the Israelites were to exterminate all of the Canaanites from the Promised Land. This was a foreshadowing of what will happen at the end of time when God’s eternal judgment is brought upon the whole earth. In our passage today, we see the first occurrence of what will quickly become a common pattern with Israel: a failure to walk by faith and to trust in the Lord. Even though they have God’s specific promise to lead them, they fail to do as He commands. Pagans are allowed to live in Israel. Our tendency is to read this and not see anything too threatening. This is not much to get worked up over, is it? A couple of minor Canaanite tribes? Whom we have never even heard of before? Whose names we can’t even pronounce? Is this really such a big deal? After all, Israel has been through a lot already. They have been very faithful in the big tests given them against those massive coalitions of pagan kings! So they deserve a break, don’t they? Maybe later they can take care of these last few stragglers. But “later” never comes. Israel too easily lives with sin. They become comfortable with pagans in their midst. And within one generation these pagans have taken over God’s people (see Judges 2:7-10). This is how easily sin infects our heart. Do not live with it. Fight it! Trust in Jesus, and He will strengthen you for this battle. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to reveal and root out sin from your life. Ask the Spirit to increase your spiritual fervour. Ask Christ to work within you in powerful new ways. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 21 – The divine promise

“Them I will drive out from before the children of Israel.” – Joshua 13:6 Scripture reading: Joshua 13:1-7 With Joshua 13, a very different section of the book begins, the division of the now conquered Promised Land. One Bible commentator described the difference between the first half and the second half of this book as the difference between watching an action-packed war movie and going to the register of deeds office to read through the descriptions of land surveys! Yet even here in the division of the land, we can learn much from God’s Word. With this chapter, Joshua’s work for the Lord takes a much different turn. His role as Israel’s military general is finished and his role as the Lord’s “Registrar of Deeds” begins. The boundaries for the 12 tribes within the Promised Land need to be settled because there are still small pockets of Canaanite resistance left which need to be eliminated. All the main fortified cities have been destroyed. The coalitions of pagan kings have been eliminated, so there is no need for the whole army of Israel to remain together. But each tribe needs to eliminate the small enclaves of pagan people that yet remain within their borders. It is about these last remnants of unbelievers that God gives His promise, “Them I will drive out from before the children of Israel.” What reassuring words for His people to hear. In the power of this promise, Israel can move forward confidently. May this promise give you confidence as you go forth in your life. God has promised. He is faithful. He will watch over your life. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for His faithfulness shown to each new generation. Praise Him for His watchful eye shown to you. Ask Him to use you mightily for Him this day. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois. This picture adapted from one adapted by Malus Catulus and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license....

Daily devotional

August 20 – He left nothing undone

“As the LORD had commanded Moses His servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses.” – Joshua 11:15 Scripture reading: Joshua 11:1-15 Because they forget that the Bible is God’s one account of His history of redemption, many view the Book of Joshua only as a tale of gruesome battles. We must see instead the sovereign Lord preparing for His Messiah: preparing an earthly place and a human line through which His Son can enter into time and space to redeem the elect. Joshua 11 records the battles leading to the complete conquest of the Promised Land, ensuring that God’s covenant of redemption can be fulfilled. This time, the pagan kings of the northern half of the land of Canaan assemble to fight against the Lord. Once again the Lord proves that the seed of the Serpent cannot stand against the Seed of the Woman. Four times, in verses 8 through 14, the complete annihilation of the Canaanites is emphasized (verses 8, 11, 12, and 14). Many consider this to be unnecessary, unloving and intolerant. This attitude reveals our ignorance of the Battle between Good and Evil that rages all around us. It shows we do not understand the holiness of God or our own sinfulness. This extermination of evil has nothing to do with love or tolerance, but with Divine justice against human sin. Joshua dispensed this justice and “left nothing undone.” As such he foreshadows the true Warrior King of Israel, Jesus Christ. He too “left nothing undone” when on the Cross He fought the final Battle with sin. Look in faith to this warrior King Who has fought so completely for you. Suggestions for prayer Pray for humility as you boldly enter God’s throne room of grace. Thank Him that you are part of His covenant of redemption. Praise Him for both His mercy and His justice. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 15 – The Church in the hands of an angry God

“So the LORD turned from the fierceness of His anger.” – Joshua 7:26 Scripture reading: Joshua 7 God’s wrath against sin plays the central role of this chapter. The anger of the LORD is mentioned at the beginning and the end (verse 1 and 26) of this account, with a chilling declaration by God to Israel in between, “Neither will I be with you anymore” (verse 12). This is the opposite of what the Lord had promised in chapter 1:5, “I will be with you. I will not leave you, nor forsake you.” So what has happened? What made the difference between what God promised in chapter 1 and what He now declares in chapter 7? The difference is sin; purposeful, unconfessed sin. God takes sin seriously. In fact, He hates it! We may not, but He does. We may grow accustomed to it, but God does not. Because of sin in their midst, God’s covenant people find themselves in the same situation as the pagans around them: devoted to destruction! They have broken covenant with God and so they are worthy of judgment. “Unless!” Don’t miss the glimmer of grace held out at the end of verse 12, “unless you destroy the accursed from among you.” Here is propitiation, the turning aside of God’s wrath. When Israel identifies and destroys Achan, his family and all his belongings, God’s wrath is turned away and propitiation occurs. This is a foreshadowing of the finished work of Christ; a picture of the Cross of Calvary. The only begotten Son, crushed by the Father, that we could be accepted by Him. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for propitiation. Confess any and all sin to Him, hiding none. State out loud that your hope, your righteousness, your life is found in Jesus Christ alone. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 14 – The Lord fought the battle of Jericho! – Part 2

“So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpets, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat.” – Joshua 6:20 Scripture reading: Joshua 6:6-27 The ark of the covenant of the LORD once again plays a central role in the Book of Joshua, this time in the defeat of Jericho. Remember that in the Ark, God Himself is represented on earth! For six straight days God – in the presence of the Ark – confronts the unbelievers behind the walls of Jericho. With the priests carrying the Ark, God’s holiness is presented to them. With the soldiers going in front of and behind the Ark, God’s judgment is presented to them. For six days God graciously withheld His judgment. The people behind the wall should have responded to this mighty and majestic God of Israel by surrendering. They should have “come out with their hands up” throwing themselves upon the mercy of Israel’s God. But they hide behind their high wall and strong gates in the vain hope that these earthly things might save them. They love their sin too much. So on the seventh day, after the seventh pass around the city, God unleashes His judgment. The time for mercy is over. The day of grace has passed. These rebellious unbelievers experience how mighty and majestic the true God of all Heaven and Earth really is. Today is still the day of grace for us. Today is the day of salvation. Do not hide behind earthly things. Do not cling to your sin. Come with a submissive heart to the mighty, majestic and merciful God of Heaven and Earth. Confess your sin and trust in Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer Ask God the Holy Spirit to examine your heart and reveal any vain things upon which you are trusting. Thank God for this day of grace. Thank Him for sending Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 13 – The Lord fought the battle of Jericho! – Part 1

“And the LORD said to Joshua: ‘See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor.’” – Joshua 6:2 Scripture reading: Joshua 6:1-5 Joshua has never yet fought a battle like this. How is his army supposed to take this fortified city with its strong gates and thick walls? Build battering rams for the gates? A siege ramp to scale the walls? Or maybe just surround the city and starve them into submission? It looks so hopeless. God tells him: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand!” What an odd thing for the Commander of the LORD’s army to say, because Joshua doesn’t see a defeated Jericho. All he sees is a powerful, fortified city, with strong, locked gates and high, thick walls! Joshua sees an impenetrable fortress that even if his army does succeed in taking, he is going to lose many good men doing it. That is what Joshua “sees.” So the Lord encourages Joshua to look with the eyes of faith and see that it is not him or his army who is going to fight this battle. It is the LORD! Jericho will be taken, but in the way that God determines. And the rest is history. Whatever “battle” you may be facing in life, the Lord calls for you to “See!” Do not dwell on outward appearances. Look instead with the eye of faith to what God can do. Find your hope in how He has promised to care for you, fight for you, love you. Humanly, your situation may seem hopeless, but “cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Suggestions for prayer Ask God to give you the eyes of faith. Ask Him to work powerfully even in the midst of your hopeless situation. Ask Him to give you even more grace to find your rest in Him. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 12 – Judgment begins

“Then the Commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, ‘Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” – Joshua 5:15 Scripture reading: Joshua 5:13-15 This second main section of Joshua emphasizes judgment, destruction and death; this troubles many modern readers. Yet, it is a section that rings out with praise to Almighty God! Yes, God is praised even in the destruction of these pagan tribes. Such judgment shocks us today only because we have lost sight of God’s holiness and the sinfulness of sin. Eternal punishment testifies to God’s holiness and how much He hates sin. We prefer a “kinder, gentler” god, one more like a soft and sweet marshmallow who wouldn’t hurt a flea. But that is not the God of Holy Scripture. As Biblical Christians, we are to understand the judgment and destruction seen in Joshua as a foreshadowing of the LORD’s promised final judgment that awaits this earth at the end of time. We must remember how God promises to send to eternal destruction all who reject Him, while He also promises to welcome into eternal glory all who respond to Him in faith and repentance. This is why “the Commander of the LORD’s army” reveals Himself to Joshua, to remind Joshua Who he ultimately serves. This “Commander” is none other than Jesus in pre-incarnate form. He tells Joshua, “The place where you stand is holy.” What makes a place on earth “holy,” but that this “Man” Who is standing there with Joshua is Himself holy! This reminds us that the Lord goes with us too as we go out into the world. Go in His strength and serve your holy God today. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His holiness. Ask Him to reveal to you even more of your own sinfulness. Ask the Lord to help you serve Him with all your heart. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 7 – The ark of the covenant

“When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it.” – Joshua 3:3 Scripture reading: Joshua 3:1-6 In the camp of Israel, the ark represented God Himself residing with His people. The ark was emblematic of God’s promise to never leave them nor forsake them. So wherever the ark was, there God’s people were to be as well. However, the presence of God also comes with a warning. The people must stay at least 2,000 cubits away from the ark (vs. 4). This is over one-half mile away (or just under one kilometre)! This is to teach Israel that they cannot just come and approach God anyway and anytime that they feel like it. No, God sets the rules for how sinners can approach Him. You might think that 2,000 cubits sounds excessive. Wouldn’t 1,000 cubits be good enough? Or 500? No! What a typically human and sinful response! The Lord is never content with our “good enough.” Our fallen hearts always think little of God’s holiness and our own sinfulness. We so easily convince ourselves that we are not as bad as God says we are. The Bible tells us that God is holy, pure and absolutely righteous; and we are not! This is exactly why He had to send His only begotten Son into this world as the Mediator between God’s holiness and us as sinners. Jesus Christ is our righteousness. Through faith in Christ, we are made as holy as God Himself. In Christ we can “go after” God and serve Him with all our heart in this world. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His holiness and majesty. Confess your sin before Him. Ask Him for the leading of His Holy Spirit to draw you closer to your Saviour, and that you may find your rest in Him. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 6 – The profession of a prostitute – Part 2

“And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted: neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” – Joshua 2:11 Scripture reading: Joshua 2:8-24 In verses 10-13, we see that the Holy Spirit has been active in Rahab’s heart, for this pagan prostitute makes three key statements that every believer in the Lord must make. First, in verse 10, Rahab confesses the might of the Lord. She mentions how “the LORD dried up the waters of the Red Sea,” and how the two Amorite kings, Sihon and Og, were “utterly destroyed.” Second, in verse 11, Rahab confesses the majesty of the Lord when she states, “The LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” Third, in verse 12, Rahab confesses the mercy of the Lord. Twice in that verse, she uses the Hebrew word hesed, a word used regularly throughout the Old Testament. Yet, it is a concept that is difficult to put into English. Different English translations use words like lovingkindness, mercy, covenantal faithfulness, and so on. It is important to notice that with her request for divine hesed, Rahab is expressing genuine faith! For true faith is never content with only expressing intellectual truths, such as God being majestic and mighty. Those truths must also reach down and transform the heart. True faith, after confessing truth about God, then seeks to take refuge in God! Rahab not only states correct beliefs, but she also confesses her desperate need. Who else but God the Holy Spirit could have planted such a faith in such an unbeliever? Here is sovereign, divine grace in action. Here is God’s hesed. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His might. Confess His majesty. Thank Him for His mercy. Express your gratitude to Him for the amazing grace that He has shown to you. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 5 – The profession of a prostitute – Part 1

“So went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there.” – Joshua 2:1 Scripture reading: Joshua 2:1-7 The late James Montgomery Boice in his commentary on Joshua states, “It is interesting that the first character described for us in this great book of Joshua – other than Joshua himself – is this woman Rahab, and that the first real historical account told us is her account.” This is interesting and important because most Christians would say that Joshua is basically about wars and battles. Even conservative theologians would describe the book as God’s divine judgment against human sin, using the nation of Israel to punish whole people groups because of their rebellion against the LORD. Now it is true that war and judgment play a major role in this book. Yet we must not miss the fact that the Book of Joshua essentially begins, as Boice puts it, with “a story of God’s mercy rather than of His wrath." Think about that. Divine mercy and grace begin this account, not divine wrath and judgment. This must be the presupposition that guides us as we read through this historical record; namely, that yes, our God is holy and just and He will punish sin, but God is also merciful and gracious, long-suffering and filled with lovingkindness. And in this we find our hope! God’s grace is seen today in the blood-stained cross of Calvary. There perfect and full propitiation occurred. Through the instrument of faith, our sin is imputed to Christ and Jesus’ perfect righteousness is imputed to us. The “great exchange.” Trust in Christ and find your hope in Him. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His mercy and grace. Thank Him that He did not leave you in your sin as you deserved, but that He sent His only Begotten Son “to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 4 – Turning promise into possession

“Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, “Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess.” - Joshua 1:11 Scripture reading: Joshua 1:10-18 Finally, God is delivering on His promise made years earlier to Abraham, to give the land of Palestine to Abraham’s descendants. Because “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1), Palestine can be given and taken as God sees fit. Canaan does not belong to the pagan tribes who now reside there any more than it does to the tribes of Israel who will soon reside there. For now, God has decided to give this land as His gift to Israel. Yet the LORD does not just drop this gift into Israel’s lap! Rather, He commands His people to cross over and lay hold of His promise. They are to fight for this land! Work to claim God’s gift. The people are expected to turn promise into possession. Notice the commands given them in verse 11: “prepare provisions,” “cross over,” “go in to possess.” God’s promises often come with expectations. You may have observed this in church today. In the sacraments, God’s great covenantal promise is put before us in picture form. The water of baptism and the bread and wine of communion picture for us the promised salvation of Jesus Christ. Yet, with that promise comes expectations. We must “cross over the Jordan”, as it were, and take possession of the promise. For water, bread and wine do not save. Only Jesus saves! God commands us to respond in repentance and faith to the promise pictured in the sacramental elements, for salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the salvation found in Jesus Christ. Repent of all your sins. Ask the Lord for a greater measure of His Holy Spirit so that you would look in faith to Jesus Christ alone. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

July 30 – Doing the work of faith

“And the LORD said to Joshua, ‘See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days.’” – Joshua 6:2, 3 Scripture reading: Joshua 6:1-7 Joshua means, salvation is from the LORD. That’s the promise of the gospel, and we receive salvation from the LORD as a free gift simply by believing the promise.The promise is absolutely sure. Our salvation is accomplished by God’s sovereign grace. God has decreed it, and He will do it. The history of salvation recorded in Scripture proves that beyond the shadow of a doubt. In I Corinthians 2:9, Paul makes it very clear that this kind of salvation is absolutely different from every kind of salvation that people have ever invented or imagined. We’re not saved by what we do. God does all the work because God wants all the glory (Ephesians 2:9). But God has work for us to do, by faith. Paul said, Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God Who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12,13). This is how we have to understand the work to which the LORD called Israel, as He gave the city of Jericho into their hands. Marching around the city, no matter how many times, and blowing trumpets, no matter how loudly, couldn’t bring down the walls of Jericho. That was the work of faith. Israel earned nothing, and received everything, by doing what God commanded. God commands us to pray and worship, and to meditate on His Word. We earn nothing, but we receive everything, by doing what He commands. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for the free gift of salvation, and pray that the Holy Spirit will give you a deep sense of thankfulness, and help you to do the work of faith. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 29 – Coming to judge the living and the dead

“…he said, ‘No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped.” – Joshua 5:14a Scripture reading: Joshua 5:13-15 Who is this man with the sword that Joshua met at Jericho? Joshua worshipped Him. And he said to Joshua what the LORD had said to Moses by the burning bush: Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy. This person isn’t a man, or even an angel. It’s the LORD Himself, the Son of God, coming to judge His enemies and to save His people, hundreds of years before He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. This scene foreshadows one that we will see, one day. This is how the Lord Jesus shows Himself to us in Revelation 19: Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The One sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems, and He has a name written that no one knows but Himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which He is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. Come, Lord Jesus! Suggestions for prayer Ask the Holy Spirit to remember and to fix your hope on the promise of Christ’s return to judge the living and the dead, when your faith in Him will be vindicated, and His enemies will be destroyed forever. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 28 – Humbled by God’s grace

“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God Who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them.” – Deuteronomy 7:9-10a Scripture reading: Joshua 5:13-15 God had marked the conquest of Canaan on His calendar long before Israel crossed the Jordan. He told Abraham, Your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs . . . And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the sin of the Amorites is not yet complete.(Genesis 15:13,14) That’s what the commander of the army of the LORD was saying: I’m not here for Israel’s benefit, in the first place, but to carry out God’s righteous judgment because the sin of the Amorites is complete. And this is the gospel for you: in His sovereign grace and His divine wisdom, God has decided to glorify Himself by saving you, even while He judges Canaan. There’s a warning there for Israel, and for us. Moses said to Israel in Deuteronomy 7: The LORD your God has chosen you . . . because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers. . . . Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God Who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays to their face those who hate Him, by destroying them. . . . You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today. Knowing that we are God’s people by sovereign grace alone should make us humble, thankful, and obedient. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will never allow you to forget His mercy, or to become proud or thankless, but that you will always walk with Him and with your neighbor in genuine humility. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 27 – Whose side are you on, anyway?

“Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you for us, or for our adversaries?’ And he said, ‘No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.’” – Joshua 5:13b, 14a Scripture reading: Joshua 5:13-15 The night before the conquest of Jericho, Joshua was alone, and at a certain moment, he was startled by a man standing before him, with his drawn sword in his hand. Joshua asked him, Are you for us, or for our adversaries? The man said, No. It’s a strange answer. He is obviously ready to fight. So he must be for Israel or for Jericho. One or the other. But he says, No; in other words, I’m not on either side. I am the commander of the army of the LORD. It will become very clear that this man is the LORD Himself, and Israel is His people, and they were there to take possession of the land that He had promised them. So why didn’t he say, “I’m on your side, Joshua?” Maybe it sounds strange to say it this way, but we always have to remember that the LORD isn’t on our side. The Bible says in lots of places that God is with us and for us. But, He’s not on our side, in the sense that He takes up our agenda, that He’ll always make sure things always work out the way we want them to. God is sovereign, and He’s working on His agenda. And that’s good news, because His agenda is infinitely more wonderful than ours. He has decided to glorify Himself not by doing what we want Him to do, but by saving us from our sin by grace through faith in Christ. Suggestions for prayer Glorify God for taking you up in His sovereign purpose, so that you receive the indescribable blessing as He vindicates the honor of His Name. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 22 – He has rolled away the reproach of Egypt

“And the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’” – Joshua 5:9 Scripture reading: Joshua 5:1-9 The LORD explained in verse 9 why He had commanded the Israelites to circumcise their sons at Gilgal: Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you. What is the reproach of Egypt? Remember how Moses prayed to the LORD after Israel worshipped the golden calf. He said: “O Lord God, do not destroy Your people . . . lest the land from which You brought us say, Because the LORD was not able to bring them into the land that He promised them, and because He hated them, He has brought them out to put them to death in the wilderness. For they are Your people and your heritage, whom You brought out by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 9:26-29). The unbelief and rebellion of Israel constantly brought God’s work of salvation into question. How can people like this be saved? How can people like this be God’s people, God’s beloved children? Our sin puts a question mark behind God’s promises. But God erases that question mark with the gospel: God saves sinners for the glory of His Name (Ephesians 1:3-14), and He has exalted His Name and His Word above all things (Psalm 138:2). Israel’s arrival in Canaan was never really in doubt. God vindicated His Name when He brought Israel through the Jordan on dry ground. He has staked the glory of His Name on your salvation; believe that He will bring you to Himself, through the saving work of Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer Thank and praise God that He has chosen to glorify His Name in your salvation, and rejoice in the certainty that that gives you. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 21 – First things first

“At that time the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time.’” – Joshua 5:2 Scripture reading: Joshua 5:1-9 If the people of Jericho could have seen what was going on in the Israelite camp, they would have been utterly confused. Because at that time the LORD said to Joshua, Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time. Why in the world would the LORD give that command at that time and place? The Holy Spirit says that for some reason, after the fiasco at Kadesh Barnea, when the people refused to enter the Promised Land, they stopped circumcising their sons. That was the fathers’ responsibility, but they had not done their duty. In verses 5-7, the Holy Spirit keeps talking about the old generation that had come out of Egypt. They were all circumcised. But it seems like God wants to convey the idea that the people who were camped there on the plains of Jericho were a new generation, or even, a new Israel, that God raised up in place of the generation that had come out of Egypt. Circumcision was a seal of the covenant and of the righteousness of faith. Israel had been changed, had been reborn, and had entered the promised land. As they began their new life, God commanded them to circumcise their sons, as a confirmation of His promises, of their identity as His holy people, and of their commitment to live in covenant fellowship with Him. In baptism, God still calls you as His holy people, to live in fellowship with Him by faith in His promises. Suggestions for prayer As you gather with God’s people to worship Him today, ask God to help you believe and to remember and live every day according to the holy identity that He has given you in Christ, that He signified and sealed to you in your baptism. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 20 – Brought from death to life

“About 40,000 ready for war passed over before the Lord for battle, to the plains of Jericho.” – Joshua 4:13 Scripture reading: Joshua 4:10b-14 By faith in the gospel that Joshua proclaimed, the people followed the ark of the LORD into the river, into death, and God brought them up out of the river, into the land of rest. Our Joshua says, Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My Word and believes Him Who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. That’s the gospel: by faith, you died, and you rose again, with Christ. That is what God promised you in your baptism, and what He says to you when you eat the bread and drink the wine of the Lord’s Supper. Do you not know, asks Paul in Romans 6, that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried, therefore, with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Israel passed over the Jordan, prepared for war, to claim the inheritance that God had given them. Paul says that’s what you have to do: consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus . . . present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life . . . sin will have no dominion over you since you are not under law but under grace. That is God’s promise to you in Christ. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the Spirit’s help to live by faith in Jesus Christ, so that in your behavior, it becomes evident to God, to your neighbor and to yourself that you have died and been raised to life with Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 19 – A monument at Gilgal

“…the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” – Joshua 4:23, 24 Scripture reading: Joshua 4:19-24 Israel crossed the Jordan and encamped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. Joshua set up the twelve stones which they had taken out of the Jordan as a monument at Gilgal. And throughout the generations, parents would point at those stones, and explain the meaning of the stones. Pay careful attention to the way the parents had to explain to each new generation, what those twelve stones were all about. They had to tell them that the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever – as if the children had been there that day. In the unity of faith, they shared in the great miracle of salvation that God performed that day. What God did for Israel that day was a picture of what He has done for us in Jesus Christ, our Joshua. Just as the LORD went ahead of Israel into the river, He has gone ahead of us, into death and the grave. And when He raised Him from the dead, He exalted our Saviour in our eyes. He showed us, and all the peoples of the world, that Jesus is the only One Who saves from sin and death. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the help of the Holy Spirit to keep your faith fixed on Jesus Christ, living in the knowledge that He has already won the victory by His death and resurrection. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 14 – Do not fear; only believe

“Then Joshua rose early in the morning and they set out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan, he and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over.” – Joshua 3:1 Scripture reading: Joshua 3:1-6 The morning after he got the report from the spies who had gone to Jericho, Joshua got up early, and the people set out from Shittim. In other words, he was in a hurry to get going. But when they came to the Jordan, they camped there for three days. Why would they do that? Why get up and get started early in the morning, and then camp for three days beside the Jordan? It was springtime; the snow in the mountains had melted, and the river was running high and fast. And God let them sit there for three days, with that river standing between them and the promised land, because He wanted every man, woman and child in Israel to see that with all those people, young and old and weak and strong, with their cattle and all their possessions, they were never going to get across the river. So that every one of them would have been wondering, How in the world are we ever going to do this? The raging river was an obstacle that stood between them and the promised land, barring the way. There was only one way they would ever cross that river: by grace, through faith. They had to look up and pray for the salvation that God had promised them. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) God’s word to Israel, and to us is, “Do not fear; only believe.” (Luke 8:50) Suggestions for prayer Ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen your faith in the things that are unseen and eternal, so that you are not intimidated or discouraged by the brokenness and injustice that you see in this world. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 13 – Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone

“…as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father's house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” – Joshua 2:11-13 Scripture reading: Joshua 2:8-21 The whole story of Rahab glows with one theme: salvation is from the LORD. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Martin Luther’s eyes were opened when he recognized that, in the words of Galatians 3:11: The righteous shall live by faith. That’s the message that shines from the story of Rahab. She was as lost as a person can be. Most of us would never have spoken a word to her, never had a thought or a care about her. But God knew her. And she belonged to Him. At a certain moment, there in the city of Jericho in the land of Canaan, He called her. She heard the gospel of Yahweh in those reports about what He did at the Red Sea, and what He did to Sihon and Og. She repented and believed. Christ gathered her with His people; Matthew tells us that she became one of His mothers. And she serves, for Israel then and still for us today, as a testimony to the sovereign grace and saving power of God. If she can be saved, anyone can be saved. Even you; even me. There is no one whose sin is too great to be forgiven, whose sin is too great to be forgiven by grace, through faith, in Christ. That’s the gospel to us, in our sin. That’s the gospel that we can proclaim to our children, and to our neighbors. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would open the hearts of your co-workers, neighbors and unbelieving family members, so that they would be ready to hear and believe the gospel when you speak with them about life in Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 12 – The scarlet cord

“And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.” – Joshua 2:21 Scripture reading: Joshua 2:8-21 People wonder about the meaning of that scarlet cord that Rahab hung out of her window. The Holy Spirit mentions the colour, so it has to mean something. But what does it mean? Some say, Scarlet is the colour of blood, so it must be a symbol of the blood of Christ. And it means that Rahab was saved by the blood of Christ. But in the Bible, scarlet is also the colour of sin (Isaiah 1:18). And scarlet is also associated with prostitution (Jeremiah 4:30; Revelation 17:3,4). Apparently, in those days and in that part of the world, prostitutes would hang a scarlet cord out of their window, so that the men who passed by would know where to find them. Rahab used to hang that scarlet cord out the front window of her house; it identified her as a prostitute. It was a symbol of her shameful life. But after she professed faith in Israel’s God, the spies told her, Take that scarlet cord, that used to identify you as a prostitute, and hang it out the back window, as a testimony to your new identity in Christ. Hang it out the back window, and let it serve now as your public profession of faith in our God. That’s what she did. And the scarlet cord which had once testified to her lostness and her shame was transformed; it became a sign of her righteousness and salvation. And a great encouragement to the people of Israel. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His sovereign love and grace, extended to you, even though you are completely undeserving. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 11 – The battle belongs to the Lord

“…we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” – Joshua 2:10, 11 Scripture reading: Joshua 2:8-14 Paul says in Romans 10, Faith comes from what is heard. Rahab heard what Yahweh had done, and she believed in Him. She called Him, Yahweh. That’s the covenant Name of God. She said, I know that Yahweh has given you the land. In fact, Rahab said, Everyone in Jericho, everyone in Canaan, is afraid of you. Because we’ve heard what your God has done for you. It’s all anyone can talk about. Think about her faith, and Canaan’s fear of God, and compare it to the way Israel behaved. Israel saw what God had done, but they grumbled and complained and doubted. Rahab and the Canaanites had heard what God had done, and they knew what He could do. Rahab said, As soon as we heard about what you did to Sihon and Og, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. This is the gospel of the conquest of the Promised Land. Before a single soldier had set foot in the land, before a single Israelite arrow was shot or spear was thrown, God had given the land of Canaan to Israel. And this is the gospel of our inheritance. Yes, there are enemies, and you have to fight; you have to stand. But in Christ, the LORD has gone before us and defeated our enemies. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help you to believe that your sworn enemies – the devil, the world and your own flesh – are defeated in Christ, and pray that His victory would be displayed clearly in your confession and life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 6 – Israel’s savior was careful to do what God commanded him

“And Joshua commanded the officers of the people, “Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, ‘Prepare your provisions, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.’” – Joshua 1:10-11 Scripture reading: Joshua 1:10-18 God told Joshua that Israel’s salvation depended on his obedience (Joshua 1:7-8). And the Holy Spirit wants us to know that Joshua was obedient. Right after He recorded the charge that Joshua received from the LORD, He tells us that Joshua commanded the officers of the people to tell Israel to get ready to enter Canaan. It says that Joshua told Israel that they were going to pass over the Jordan and take possession of the land within three days. But when you compare that with the story of the spies that Joshua sent to Canaan, in the next chapter, you’ll recognize that Joshua probably sent the spies to Jericho before he gave Israel the command to get ready. What do we make of that? Is it a mistake in the Bible? Is the Holy Spirit misleading us? We have to remember that the book of Joshua is prophecy. The purpose of this book is to tell the story of God’s work for the salvation of His people. God had made it clear that Israel would only inherit the land if Joshua was obedient. And the Spirit says, Praise God! Joshua, the instrument of Israel’s salvation, was careful to do exactly what God commanded him to do! The Holy Spirit has given us the New Testament gospels for the very same reason: they are the record of our Savior’s perfect obedience, and they are the foundation of our faith in Him to be our perfect Savior. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His Word, and in particular, for the gospels’ record of Christ’s obedience, and ask the Holy Spirit to encourage you in faith through His Word. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 5 – Salvation through the obedience of the Savior

“Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses My servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” – Joshua 1:7-8 Scripture reading: Joshua 1:1-9 Three times, the LORD told Joshua to be strong and courageous. In verses 7 and 8, He followed that charge with a command, to obey the law and to meditate on it day and night. He used the word, torah, which means, instruction. It includes the law, but it also includes covenant history. God joined His promise to His commands: Then you will make your way prosperous and you will have good success. When Joshua faced the fortified cities of Canaan, he would be tempted to believe that victory depended on his strategy, or on Israel’s military power. So God commanded him to meditate on His torah, to bolster his faith. In effect, He said, Read My Word with deep concentration; read it to yourself; and believe that it is for you. Then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. In other words, The salvation of My people depends on your faith and your obedience, Joshua. This is what He demanded of our Savior. And this is the gospel: He was perfectly obedient. “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Yeshua, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:8-11) Suggestions for prayer Praise God for the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ, Who lived a righteous life in your place, and poured out His blood to pay for your sin. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 4 – Only be strong and courageous

Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous. – Joshua 1:6-7a Scripture reading: Joshua 1:1-9 God gave Joshua an impossible task: “...you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.” Joshua’s experience as Moses’ assistant had equipped him for this tremendous responsibility. He had become a wise leader and a skillful general. But the heart of Joshua’s preparation to be Israel’s savior was witnessing first-hand how the LORD was with Moses and empowered him to win victories, to bring plagues, to open the Red Sea, to give the people manna and water from the rock. The LORD called Joshua to lead Israel in war. He was their general. But the LORD didn’t say, Study the geography; make sure you know all the strengths and the weaknesses of the nations that you’re going to go up against. He said, Joshua, this is My promise: You shall cause this people to inherit this land. Yes, this weak and fearful and thankless people! And those fortified cities that you see out there, and those giants that you saw when you spied out the land forty years ago, will not be able to stand against you. God only put one condition on His promise, the condition of faith and obedience: Only be strong and courageous. This is the heart of his responsibility and the key to his success as Israel’s savior. Just like it was for our Joshua, Who by His faith and obedience caused us to inherit the land and the life God has sworn to give us. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks to God that by grace, through faith, you are a child of God for Christ’s sake and a fellow heir with Him. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 3 – Immanuel is our comfort

“Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” – Joshua 1:2b-5 Scripture reading: Joshua 1:1-9 It sounds as if the LORD was standing with Joshua, at a place where the whole land was spread out before them. And the LORD says, It’s all yours: every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you. God says it three times, in verses 2, 3 and 6. There it is. You only have to go and take it. Moses says in Deuteronomy 8 that Canaan was a paradise. There was plenty of water, wheat and barley, vines and fig trees and pomegranates and olive trees; there would be honey, and they would eat bread without scarcity. They would lack nothing. The stones were iron, and they could dig copper out of its hills. But the Jordan was at flood stage, running high and fast, overflowing its banks. And Joshua remembered the fortified cities and giants that were waiting for them. So, the promise was wonderful, but the idea of entering Canaan was intimidating. The LORD knew that Joshua needed encouragement. He said, “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave or forsake you.”That’s how we know that we will receive the inheritance that God has promised us: we have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, Who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it (Ephesians 1:13,14). Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the presence of the Holy Spirit in you, and pray that more and more, by His work, you may be confident of your inheritance in Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

June 28 – Elected unto obedience

You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today. – Deut. 7:11 Scripture reading: Deut. 7:6-16 God, Who elected us is faithful. If Israel had no reason to doubt God’s favor, we certainly do not need to doubt it. He has shown us favor by giving us the gift of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Not only this, but He gives us the Holy Spirit who awakens us so that we might work out our salvation with fear and trembling. The unending faithfulness and love of God should teach us to respond to God’s election of us with thanksgiving for such an immeasurable grace. He has chosen us as His holy people to be holy. If God has chosen us to do good, then He will also enable us to do good. However, our remaining sin troubles us. Then we need to remember why God elected us. It isn’t because of who we are or how good we are, but because of God’s good pleasure. We can be confident that we will ultimately overcome and remain faithful. Because He is a faithful God, He has given us a way of righteousness. Christ’s victory and the Spirit He sends to us, gives us the strength to do good. In this way, God’s election is fulfilled in our lives. The Holy Spirit helps us fight against our old sinful nature. It is the doctrine of election that gives us certainty in our war against sin. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will continue to give strength in our war against indwelling sin. Pray for the assurance that comes from the Holy Spirit. Thank Him for the fullness of His almighty and powerful gift in Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 27 – Election and God's character

The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. – Deut. 7:8 Scripture reading: Deut. 7:1-11 In telling us of his decree of election, God reveals His character. He is full of love and compassion. He is faithful and keeps His promises. He is just and will hold the guilty responsible for their offence against a Holy God. Because of His character God has chosen a people for Himself, a treasured possession. They have extreme value to God because of His covenant. Their value does not come from themselves, but is based on God’s own faithfulness and love. God gives them their value. He has not chosen them because they were greater and mightier than other nations. Absolutely not. They were slaves in Egypt after all, and are entering a land where there are seven nations greater and mightier than they are. The basis for Israel’s election is not in any value that they have. God chose them on the basis of His good pleasure. God chooses us according to His plan, based on His good and holy will. His plan may seem arbitrary, but we cannot know the ways of God. We do know how He has revealed Himself to us in the Scriptures, a just, holy and compassionate God. He has revealed the glorious doctrine of election so that we might have confidence that He will do what is necessary to bring His sons to glory. That gives us confidence as we live out our lives with fear and trembling. Our God is for us. Our response should be total thanksgiving and total devotion to our glorious God. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the assurance He gives us through revealing the doctrine of election. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 26 – Covenantal allegiance

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. – Deut. 6:7 Scripture reading: Deut. 6:20-25 In verse seven, the move from a call to live according to the love of God, to the call to educate one’s children may be a bit jarring. This call is not merely the “evangelization” of one’s children, but it is connected to the call for all covenant people to fear Him. God is working with Israel so that, “You may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son”(v.2). You are to teach your children because the promise belongs to them as much as to you. There is a sense of a new creation here. God placed Adam and Eve in the garden so he could commune with them. He brought Israel through the baptism of the Red Sea for the same purpose. He brought a people out of Egypt and put them in a new garden, the Promised Land, so that He may dwell among them. In the same way, God brings us through the baptism of Christ, or the death and resurrection of Christ, so that He may create a new people. As Paul says, “You are a new creation.” and Peter, “You are a holy nation.” Just as children belonged to the holy nation of Israel, so children belong to the holy nation that is the church today. But we cannot presume our children’s salvation any more than we can presume our own. They need the regeneration of God. God has given them His promises and we are obligated to train our children up in the fear of the Lord. Suggestions for prayer Pray for your children and pray that God may give you all that you need in raising them in the fear of the Lord. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveldis the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 25 – Centered on God

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. – Deut. 6:5-6 Scripture reading: Deut. 6:4-9 God is one. He has one law, one Christ, one Spirit and one Bible. God calls us to worship Him in Spirit and Truth and to love His mercy and His justice. He calls us to love Him with heart, soul, and mind. With our heart: Our heart is our center; all things we do come from the heart, so it needs to be set on God. We can think of our heart as a compass. For accurate direction, the needle must be set toward the north. Our heart must always be directed toward God. We should be immersed in the Scriptures, the revelation of God, always seeking to obey it. With our soul: The soul refers to the whole animating force of the body and to all bodily action. To love God with our soul is to love Him with everything we do, to love God in the very way that we use our bodies. For example, when we stand at the beginning and end of worship, we honor God as we enter and leave His presence. With our mind: God teaches our hearts through the mind. We use our mind to contemplate God’s Word, to apply it to our lives, to judge those who live in disobedience to God and to judge those who teach heresy and error. In the freedom that Christ brings in the Spirit, the mind grows even more important in using the wisdom that comes from above to apply God’s Word. This is the way of flourishing. Suggestions for prayer Acknowledge your failure in loving God. We have all fallen short of God’s commands. We have only a small beginning of obedience to this, the greatest of all commands in this life. Seek God’s help in calibrating your life toward His righteousness. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveldis the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 20 – Trust and obey

Know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on earth beneath; there is no other. Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today… – Deut. 4:39-40a Scripture reading: Deut. 4:32-40 Israel can learn from the works that God has done. “Know therefore that the Lord is God and there is no other.” The implied command is “Trust in Him.” God has revealed Himself to you and given you the way of salvation. What is left to do – but acknowledge Him as your Lord? You want this God on your side – not against you. He has proven that He is a good God and cares about you. Don’t ignore Him. This is the first half of the command “trust and obey.” Here is your God, Who you can trust and Who will reward your trust with good things. This is faith. And it is only by faith that you can fulfill the second part: obedience. Obedience springs naturally from trust in God. If you believe that what He says is true then you will obey Him. “Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today.” Moses uses the word “keep.” It has the sense of both guarding and watching with close attention. Israel is to use the law as a guard to keep herself from sin, so that she might prosper. Think of the “happy man” of Psalm 1. The law is a source of life to him because he trusts the Giver of the law. We have the same instruction, “Trust and obey.” This sums up the central command of Scripture. This is also your call: submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Suggestions for prayer Seek the Lord in prayer for the Spirit who works in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveldis the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 19 – Knowing God and the discipline of God

Out of heaven He let you hear his voice, that He might discipline you. And on earth He let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire. – Deut. 4:35 Scripture reading: Deut. 4:32-40 Deuteronomy notes two different ways that God made Himself known to Israel: through the mountain where He spoke to her through fire and through the works that He did in rescuing her from Egypt. He shows her that He is the one true God. He shows Israel His faithfulness and love so that He might discipline her and train her to have the same love He has. God speaks in the midst of the fire, or in verse 36, “out of heaven” so that He might discipline Israel. God’s self-revelation in the law is a boundary to teach His people how to live in relationship with Him. The revelation of God here is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Just as God spoke in the fire, God spoke through Christ. You can even see the same response of fear that Israel had toward the fire of God on Mt. Sinai in the Disciples of Christ when they see the works of Christ. The coming of Christ disciplines his Disciples. God continues to discipline us as Sons in Christ. It’s easy to respond to the discipline of God with anger and fear like Israel did. Let us respond to the discipline of God by seeking Him. We know that the Son is better than the law, for He sends His enlivening Spirit of wisdom to help us obey His law. Seek Christ, through the Spirit, by learning what He desires in the Scriptures. Seek Him by looking to the love that Christ demonstrated in His life on earth. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that we have the discipline of the Spirit. Pray that through His Spirit you may grow in knowing His desires for your life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveldis the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 18 – Going deep into history

For ask now of the days that are past which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. – Deut. 4:32 Scripture reading: Deut. 4:32-40 Our faith is a historical faith. The mighty acts of God are a foundation for our faith. God has revealed himself to us through Abraham, Moses, David and ultimately, Jesus. Deut. 4 is a call for Israel to remember her history so that she might live in faithful obedience to God. God calls Israel to remember what happened when she sinned at Baal Peor and to remember that she did not see any form or image at Mt. Sinai. God calls Israel to dig deep into history to see if anything has happened to other people like what has happened to her. Christians are a people of history. They are the only people who understand that the uniting theme of history is the work God is doing so that He may have a people who glorify Him. God is bringing many sons to glory so that He may delight in and enjoy communion with His people. We can look into our past, two thousand years of Christianity and another four thousand since the earth was created, and see the hand of God through it all, leading and guiding His people. The calls of Deut. 4 are just as much a call for us to search into the history God gives here as it was for the Israelites of that time. It is our history and it reveals the glory of our God which is the history given in Scripture. In this way, know the only God Who has given us His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer Pray for a knowledge of the wonders that God has done. Thank God for His gifts, especially for the gift of our Lord Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 17 – A fading glory

Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes westward and northward and southward and eastward, and look at it with your eyes, for you shall not go over this Jordan. – Deut. 3:27 Scripture reading: Deut. 3:23-29, 2 Corinthians 3 The covenant that God established through Moses was glorious. We read about the glory of God in Moses’ face in 2 Corinthians 3. When Moses descended from Mt. Sinai after talking to God, his face shone so brightly that the people could not look at him and he had to veil his face. The glory that Moses had at the foot of the mountain faded away. He would not live forever and would not continue to stand as a mediator between Israel and God. Even as the glory faded from Moses, so it faded from the people. They eventually rebelled against God and not long after Moses and Joshua died, the people began to fade again. Flesh decays and is corrupt. It cannot be overcome unless a new principle of life can be found to overcome it. What can be done about this problem? God gives glory in the Old Covenant, but it fades away under the weight of the sin of the people. Moses eventually died and stayed dead. He sent a successor into the Promised Land: Joshua. Joshua had a short-lived glory. He died and the people failed to take the rest of the Promised Land successfully. Therefore, his death could not take care of sin. But the ministry of the law of Moses, or as Paul calls it, the ministry of condemnation, has been replaced by the ministry of the Spirit through the righteousness of Jesus. Christ died. Through Him, death becomes an entrance into the Promised Land. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the great glory that is given in Jesus Christ. Pray that we may live by the Spirit in all that we do. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 12 – Trembling at God's judgment

This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you. – Deut. 2:25 Scripture reading: Deut. 2:26-3:11 Christ’s death and resurrection are the greatest moments of judgment in history. On the day of Pentecost, Peter used that judgment to put the fear of God on the Jews that had gathered in Jerusalem. When God the Holy Spirit came down in fire on His people, the commotion drew others from all over the city. Peter’s sermon convicted them about what they had done to Jesus, and they feared God. Today, the world continues to be reminded of God’s judgment in raising Christ from the dead through the ministry of the church. Since Christ has come, we don’t need the destruction of physical enemies to cause the nations to tremble. We’ve graduated to more powerful enemies, principalities and powers. We battle against these through the preaching of the Word of God. We declare our victory in Christ when we baptize babies, demonstrating God’s claim on us from birth to death and again when we assemble around the Lord’s Table, proclaiming a victory won on the cross of Christ. The faithful preaching of the Word and administration of the sacraments make the principalities of this world tremble. Why do our modern unbelieving leaders, animated by the false philosophies of this world, first attack speech? They threaten the claims of Christianity by attacking its claims about nature, sin and sex. They undermine the content of the Word because they are afraid. We should not be afraid. Remember Christ’s promise, “The gates of hell will not prevail against you.” God will use the church to take the gates of hell by storm. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God may continue to provide His church with the necessary means to obey His commands to baptize and disciple the nations. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 11 – So that the nations might fear God

This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you. – Deut. 2:25 Scripture reading: Deut. 2:26-3:11 God tells Israel why He is giving them victory. It is 40 years since God showed His mighty acts in Egypt. He wants to refresh the memories of the nations and show them that He is the same God who brought Israel out of Egypt. He is fighting psychological warfare. When Israel enters into the land, all the nations are hiding in their cities. They are afraid. Whereas Sihon and Og came out against them, Israel now has to attack the wJune11alls of the city of Jericho. This is not the only type of fear that God is looking for. Fear can cause us to run away from God, or it can teach us to run to God. We know His greatness. We know He is our Creator. So, instead of running away from God, we take the way of forgiveness He has given us, that we may fear Him properly. God uses the cross of Jesus Christ in the same way. When the world wonders at the death of Christ, God wants the world to wonder at the love that He showed. In the Gospel of John, Christ tells us, “I will be lifted up before the world.” The world will see the righteousness of God and the wrath that sin deserves. In the Gospel of Mark, the Roman centurion sees the darkness God sends on the world at the crucifixion of Jesus. He hears Jesus’ words on the cross. God strikes the centurion’s heart. He cries out, “Surely this is the Son of God.” He is struck with the fear of God. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God may continue to work through His church so that the nations might fear God. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 10 – Rise up and take the salvation God has given

Rise up, set out on your journey and go over the Valley of the Arnon. Behold I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to take possession, and contend with him in battle. – Deut. 2:24 Scripture reading: Deut. 2:26-3:11 Reformed scholastics makes a distinction between receiving salvation and taking hold of salvation. In the conquest of Palestine, we see something of what that means. The people of God are commanded to make war on the seven nations of the Canaanites. To encourage his people, Moses reminds them of two victories on the east side of the Jordan, against Sihon and Og. These battles are templates for what will happen in the Promised Land. The people of Israel have left Moab and crossed over into the territory of Sihon. Having warned them to refrain from attacking Ammon, God promises Israel that He will give them the land of Sihon. Verse 24 gives a number of commands, “Rise up! Set out! Go over! Behold! Look! Begin! Take Possession! Contend with him in battle!" God has already promised to give the land to Israel. He has ordained the outcome. Israel is called to take this gift through faith. This is no less true in Christ. God says to us “Rise up and cast down the arguments of those principalities and powers that I have already placed under the feet of Christ.” In terms of our struggle with sin, Paul tells us that Christ has conquered the power of sin. According to Romans 6, we are freed from sin, so we are to “present our members to God as instruments for righteousness.” That means our hands, our feet, our heart, our eyes should be doing righteousness. We are to work out the salvation God has already won. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for the victory He has won. Acknowledge your complete inability to do any good apart from His life-giving Spirit. Plead for His strength as you seek to walk in the way of righteousness. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 9 – A greater purpose

And when you approach the territory of the people of Ammon, do not harass them or contend with them for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession because I have given it to the sons of Lot as a possession. – Deut. 2:19 Scripture reading: Deut. 2:1-23 God ensures that every life on earth works out according to His plan. Acts 17 states, “He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.” This is suggestive of what is going on in Deut. 2. God gives a place to Esau and a place to the sons of Lot. He arranges the nations around Israel so they may see His great works and how He is bringing salvation to the world. God has set up Israel’s relatives along her border. They have first row seats for the coming of Christ. God gives the same gift to the Philistines. Later in Scripture, we read how God uses the Israelites for His glory in Tyre. God is using Israel to draw the nations to Himself. God continues to guide the affairs of the world today. In North America, we live in a moment where God is bringing thousands upon thousands of immigrants into our cities. Even if there are some legitimate concerns about immigration, that is an opportunity for the church of North America. Our job is to lift the cross of Christ so that seekers can hear the call of Christ through His Word and Spirit and come to Him by faith. We trust that God has put us here for His purposes. If we do not take hold of that purpose, the church will fail in North America. Let us take hold of that purpose. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the opportunities he has given us in the way he has shaped the course of history. Pray that the church may be bold in showing Christ to her neighbors. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveldis the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 4 – Authority comes from God

Choose from your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads. – Deut. 1:13 Scripture reading: Deut. 1:9-18 Moses needs help in ruling over Israel. Two stories in Exodus and Numbers help us understand this. In Exodus 18, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, encourages Moses to appoint elders to help him. In Numbers 11, God shares the Spirit He has given to Moses with the elders of Israel. Deut. 1 summarizes both stories. Notice how Deut. 1:13 is written. First, the tribes choose men who are wise, understanding and experienced. Then Moses appoints them over the people of Israel. God, through Moses, recognizes the natural authority that belongs to certain individuals, men who have a reputation for wisdom, whom others would come to for advice. On top of their natural authority, God gives these men the authority to judge others with regards to God’s law. Even though we see human action today in electing men to office in the church, it is not the congregation that gives elders authority. It is God. This is applicable to civic authority as well. We know this from Romans 13, where we are told that civil servants are God’s servants. Both church governors and civil governors serve God. Is this good news? Does God sanction every action of our rulers? Absolutely not! Everyone who is in authority over you, everyone whom God has appointed, is first and foremost responsible to God. If local authorities misuse their office in relation to you, God will vindicate you on the final day. God holds our leaders responsible. Our hope for justice finds realization in Christ. Suggestions for prayer Pray for your ecclesiastical and civic leaders. Remember and give thanksgiving that God has established true righteousness, by placing our Lord Jesus Christ on His throne in heaven. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 3 – Who defeated Sihon and Og?

Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him in commandment to them, after he had defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth and Edrei. – Deut. 1:3b-4 Scripture reading: Deut. 1:1-8 In verse four, the Spirit does something interesting through the grammar of the text, teaching what God’s grace looks like in our lives. The subject of the word “defeated” is ambiguous. “He” could refer to the Lord or to Moses. Are we told that Moses defeated Sihon and Og or that the Lord defeated Sihon and Og? We know that it is ultimately the Lord who wins the battles of Israel. Later in Deut. 2, we are told that the Lord gave Sihon over to Moses. However, we know that Moses is also acting here. He obeys the command of God to “rise up and attack. "Moses can say, “I attacked Sihon and Og,” with the understanding that he only did that by the strength of God. This ambiguity is instructive for us as we look back at the goodness of God in our own lives. From one perspective, our lives can look very human. We make choices and we receive the consequences. But when we examine the evidence, we have to say that there is no boasting. We know our hearts are full of corruption. If we depended on ourselves, we would accomplish nothing. It is God who is at work in our prayers, our tears and our desire to do good works. We realize the victory God has given in our own lives. It is amazing how God uses little moments in the grammar of the sentences of Scripture to teach us deep truths about His works. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His work in your life and meditate on the ways God has worked within you and those around you. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 2 – Sin and grace at the boundary

It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-Barnea. – Deut. 1:2 Scripture reading: Deut. 1: 1-8 Just as the boundary is an opportunity for reflection on God's instruction, so it is an opportunity for reflection on sin and grace. The first generation of Israel had forgotten the grace of God. They had walked through the Red Sea, eaten manna and heard the very voice of God at Mt. Sinai. Despite this, Israel rebelled against God at Kadesh-Barnea. They were afraid of the giants in the land. Moses’ statement that it only takes 11 days to journey from Horeb to Kadesh-Barnea is a reminder that, due to their sin, it took Israel 40 years to enter Palestine instead of a couple of weeks. Now Israel is there. Her new position is a testament to the grace of God. We are the same, forgetting God’s mercies and lapsing into apathy. This can produce long periods of failure: our wilderness. These sins have consequences in our families and our churches that sometimes can last over generations. Despite our folly, God is gracious. Even before Israel was ready to enter the Promised Land, God was beginning to give her victories. God destroyed Sihon and Og through Israel. If we look back at our wilderness, we will see that God has already been working in our times of wandering. Boundaries are an opportunity for us to remember lost opportunities and failures, to remind us to watch and pray, to guard our hearts and to remember we are here by God’s grace. When we remember that and turn to God, He provides. He will renew and strengthen you. Suggestions for prayer Meditate on how God has worked in your life. Thank Him for how He has shown His grace. Express your confidence in His work as you look to the future. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 1 – Introduction, and Reflection at the boundary

Pastor James Zekveld started his ministry with a sermon series on the book of Deuteronomy. June’s devotions are a summary of some of the insights gained while preaching through that book. Deuteronomy is a book of covenant renewal. This comes out in the continual call to remember God’s works, to search the Scriptures for God’s wisdom, and to remain faithful. Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to explain this law saying… – Deut. 1:5 Scripture reading: Deut. 1:1-5 You’ve decided to move, or you’re headed to University, or about to get married. All these activities invite reflection: kingdom reflection. Who are you? Who is your Master? How will you follow Him in your new situation? How do you advance the kingdom of God? Israel stops at the boundary of the Promised Land. They are about to receive the gift for which they have been waiting forty years. They rest at the borders and Moses explains the law again, preparing them for a big change. They will no longer be slaves or wanderers. They are about to be landowners. They are called to reflect on the law that the Lord their God has given them. Israel is to remember what God has done for them and what He has taught them. God will continue to be God to them and they must not forget Him as He prepares Israel for her new world. Do you look for renewal at the boundaries of your life? It’s a new day. How will I live for God today? How do I live for God’s kingdom in my marriage? In my job? As a student? God brings us new opportunities, so that we may reflect on Him and His Word. God brings us to greater maturity. Forgetting God is easy. A new boundary is an opportunity to reflect and grow. Take the time to reflect on who God is and what His desires are at the boundaries of your life. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the Lord’s Holy Spirit so that you may grow in wisdom and maturity at the boundaries in your life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

May 27 – Life during the night of death

It was a night of watching by the LORD, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the LORD by all the people of Israel throughout their generations. – Exodus 12:42  Scripture reading: Exodus 12:33-51; 2 Peter 3:1-13 What is this watching? It’s more than observing from a distance. It’s a word meaning sheltering or caring for or protecting. Our translation follows the Latin translation of the Hebrew to use the word ‘pass over’ in verse 23 to say that the LORD will ‘pass over the door’ and not let the destroyer enter your houses to strike you. We can sometimes think of this almost like God ‘skipping by’ the houses of the Israelites, saying, “Oh, not that one.” But there’s more here. In the night of judgment, God actively protects and guards His people. The LORD watched over these homes, like an eagle hovering with outstretched wings over a nest, so that the destroyer would not enter. This is the imagery we find in Exodus 19:4 where God reminds them, “You have seen how I bore you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself.” Here’s the big point: it’s true of the judgment which is still to come! God will not merely skip by those who believe in Him. He will actively shelter you beneath His wings while judgment falls upon the heavens and the earth! God will hold you tight and secure. You won’t ‘miss’ the judgment as it skips you. You will be taken from the scene of judgment so that you will only behold it while resting secure in the arms of your Saviour! Christ spent three days in the tomb - watching over you! He sealed you with Him into His tomb of death - so that you might also rise with Him! Suggestions for prayer Thank our Merciful Father for sparing us and covering us in His arms of love, mercy, and peace! Rejoice in His Covenant Faithfulness to His Chosen People and pray that many more would find peace and rest in Christ Jesus. In the words of Psalm 17, “Hide me in the shadow of your wings” so that I “will not fear the terror of the night” (Psalm 91) This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 26 – Life when the destroyer comes

None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. – Exodus 12:22-23 Scripture reading: Exodus 12:21-38 Now God is poised and ready to strike Egypt for her sins against the LORD and His people. The previous plagues left the land of Goshen like a shining light, unscathed and untouched, but now God is saying, “This is a judgment that shall strike all.” In Genesis 7, Noah was commanded to enter the ark and not to leave it. We’re told that God sealed the doors of the ark before sending the waters of judgment. Now the LORD commands them to enter their homes and not to leave them. The Israelites’ very dwelling places became a way to pass through the judgment as their doors were sealed with the blood of the lamb – sealed up to pass through unscathed in the night of death in Egypt. One lamb’s life is shed and blood poured out for the many who gathered within and they are sealed into these vessels of deliverance from God’s wrath and just judgment of sin. The destroyer went out and struck all the firstborn – see how specific verse 29 is. God showed no favouritism – the highest born to the lowliest. The only difference on this judgment day was whether they were covered by the blood of the lamb. Even before their Exodus from Egypt and the power of Pharaoh, they must pass through the judgment ordeal which God is sending by the hand of His destroyer. And who can stand when the angel of death appears? Only those who are sealed and covered by the blood of the Lamb! Suggestions for prayer Pray for our Heavenly Father to make us ready for the Day of Judgment and make us thankful for the way of escape He has provided to us. Ask Him to renew our confidence in His unfailing promises to deliver us from all harm and the judgment to come! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 25 – Life before the night of judgment

When your children say to you, “What do you mean by this service?” you shall say, “It is the sacrifice of the LORD's Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.” – Exodus 12:26-27 Scripture reading: Exodus 12:1-32; Psalm 91 God’s people were to take a lamb into their homes, care for it for four days and then kill it at twilight. Especially for the children, this must have been shocking! "Dad, what are you doing?" And when they said this, their fathers were to answer: “It is the sacrifice of the LORD's Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.” God had His people make special preparations packed with meaning as a display of their faith in the face of judgment. They were to honour the LORD’s Passover by killing the lamb on the fourteenth day, marking their dwellings with its blood, and remaining within these blood-marked dwellings until the dawn broke. And, in a truth that is profoundly significant, the blood of one lamb would cover the life of all who dwelt in that blood-marked dwelling. In Egypt, all who acted in faith were delivered, while all who ignored His promised coming saw death’s cold hand in their homes. Do we similarly live with faith in the face of God’s coming judgment? 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 JudgmentDay! Suggestions for prayer Tell our Gracious God that we cherish His wondrous love and the Lamb Whom He has provided to us for our deliverance! Thank Him for His Blood and Righteousness which gives us both forgiveness of sins and righteousness in His Presence! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 24 – Reset your clocks to Exodus time

This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. – Exodus 12:2 Scripture reading: Exodus 12:1-2; Hebrews 4:1-13 Have you ever thought of why we gather for worship services on the first day of the week? Christians, ever since the resurrection of Jesus Christ, have gathered on the Lord’s Day to worship and break bread together. We gather on the day of our victory in Christ! We gather on the day when our guilty verdict was replaced with the verdict of our vindication in the resurrection of our Saviour! The Christian Church, in the hope and joy of the resurrection, established a new starting point to the Sabbath celebration in the aftermath of Christ’s victory. Where the LORD appointed a Sabbath rest for believers before the coming of Christ that required labor for six days and then a day of rest, we consciously see that now we begin each week in the Sabbath rest we enjoy in Christ and then we carry out our callings in the aftermath of our reconciliation in Him! We are living in the aftermath of our glorious exodus from the grave in Christ our Risen King! This pattern of orienting our lives to the great works of God was shown to us in the first place at creation, and we see this in Exodus 12 when the LORD marks out a new highlight on the peoples’ calendars and tells them to reset their clocks to exodus time. When God carries out His work of redemption, it permanently impacts the shape and rhythm of our lives! Suggestions for prayer Thank the LORD for the spiritual rest that we enjoy in Christ! Praise Him for His wondrous acts of reconciliation and deliverance! Ask Him to move our hearts to gratefully worship Him on this coming Lord’s Day as we give witness to and celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus and our exodus from the grave in Him! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 19 – God commands the animals to die and the dust to bring distress

“The LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing of all that belongs to the people of Israel shall die.”And the LORD set a time, saying, "Tomorrow the LORD will do this thing in the land." And the next day the LORD did this thing. – Exodus 9:4-6 Scripture reading: Exodus 9:1-12 God has an amazing way of getting His point across, doesn't He? He has said to Pharaoh, “You shall let my people go and you shall know that I am the LORD.” Now the signs and judgments are being displayed for all to see and they are steadily increasing in power and consequences until at last God will slay every firstborn of Egypt and then drown the remainder of the powerful of Egypt in the Red Sea! The LORD’s purpose in all this activity in Egypt was to make His name known among the nations and to bring His treasured people out of their bondage into the land of promise. Those two great purposes – to glorify God and restore the Israelites to the land of the promise – are on full display here. He strikes all the beasts of Egypt, but spares all that belonged to the Israelites. And then, the very dust which coated the Hebrew slaves from the brick kilns of their slavery is cast upon Pharaoh and his hosts and they are oppressed by these wretched boils. Even still, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. One godly congregant wrote recently, “Pharaoh grieves me. He grieves me because his hardened heart and unwillingness to accept God’s sovereignty remind me so much of my sister. Her heart is hard towards Jesus and her will is unyielding to God’s sovereignty ... she and Pharaoh have too much invested in sovereignty over their own lives... Why doesn’t she see that lasting peace comes only from knowing Jesus?” (Cited in Phillip Ryken, Exodus, p 275) Suggestions for prayer Pray that the LORD’s message would be heard and received in faith by new generations. Pray that the LORD would give us greater joy in the news that lasting peace comes only from knowing Jesus. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 18 – God commands the dust and the flies to afflict Egypt

The magicians tried by their secret arts to produce gnats, but they could not. So there were gnats on man and beast. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God." But Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said. – Exodus 8:18-19 Scripture reading: Exodus 8:16-32; Psalm 66 In the third and fourth plagues, the LORD chose small and seemingly trivial bugs to make a serious point: the Egyptians were being confronted by the LORD of heaven and earth. The gnats (or lice) were taken from the dust of the earth to afflict the Egyptians. The flies were taken from the skies to drive the Egyptians mad. These plagues testified that the LORD’s power was incredible. It’s almost amusing that the magicians – who had created snakes, blood, and frogs through their dark secret arts – are now stumped by the most insignificant of critters – the gnat! These demonically empowered men now confront the truth: “This is God’s doing!” But Pharaoh refuses to heed the Word of the LORD. He tries to trap the Hebrews by offering them a chance to make sacrifices in Egypt. He tries to twist God’s commands and keep the Hebrews in a place of compromised loyalty to God. Yet what do we see? Moses and Aaron confront Pharaoh’s lies and attempts to cheat them. God was bringing the powers of Egypt to its knees and humbling every refuge, every so-called god that they turned to, by displaying His absolute power over them. Charles Spurgeon explains, “God’s demand is not that his people should have some little liberty, some little rest in their sin, no, but that they should go right out of Egypt... Christ did not come into the world merely to make our sin more tolerable, but to deliver us right away from it.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that our Father, as He instructs us as His children, gives us discernment to see the temptations which are placed in our path to turn aside from Him or to offer compromised sacrifices to Him. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 17 – God commands the frogs of the Nile to invade Egypt

Moses said to Pharaoh, "Be pleased to command me when I am to plead for you and for your servants and for your people, that the frogs be cut off from you and your houses and be left only in the Nile." And he said, "Tomorrow." Moses said, "Be it as you say, so that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God.” – Exodus 8:9-10 Scripture reading: Exodus 8:1-15 Surely a frog was nothing, right? Well, it shouldn’t surprise you that the Egyptians reverenced the goddess Heqet as the Egyptian goddess of childbirth. She was depicted with the head of a frog as a symbol of fertility. This is the false god that God attacked in this second plague. Heqet is undone through a sanity-stretching invasion. The frog goddess is toppled from a place of reverence and respect as the Egyptians begin to mutter every time they find another frog in their beds, their pots, their ovens and their kneading bowls. So Pharaoh cries out – he wanted relief, as one writer put it, from the punishment for sins, but not relief from sin itself. Pharaoh was coming to know about God through Moses but he was not prepared to come to God for deliverance from sin – Pharaoh wanted no part in salvation, just a respite from the plagues and these curious people. We look upon Pharaoh crying out for relief from one plague and we realize the powerful difference between a true cry of a repentant heart to the Servant of the Lord and the false cry of those who remain hardened in sin and unrighteousness. Only those who repent and believe in Jesus can find true relief and lasting peace with God! Let us cry out for deliverance to the One Who hears our cry and answers our request as we humble ourselves before Him! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the salvation of many in this world who are following false gods. Pray that your faith in Jesus would be strengthened as you cry out to Him in all of life’s troubles and hardships. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 16 – God commands the water to become blood

Thus says the LORD, "By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood.” – Exodus 7:17 Scripture reading: Exodus 7:14-25; Revelation 16:1-16 From the perspective of the pagan Egyptians, it made good sense to worship such a mighty natural force as the river Nile. The name given to the Nile River god was 'Hapi' and she was depicted as a mother who had given birth to Egypt. The fertility of Egypt depended on this great river which allowed life in the middle of the sands. After Moses and Aaron present the serpent-sign in Pharaoh’s presence they are told by God to meet Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the river. It is likely that Pharaoh was there for a religious ritual. What were they to do? “Go out to the place where Pharaoh interacts with one of his gods,” the Lord is saying, “and put that god to death by striking it with your staff.” It's a powerful one-two punch combo! Your royal serpent figure? Swallowed. Your powerful and life-sustaining river god? Defiled and dead. Say what you will, but God has an amazing way of getting his point across, doesn't He? No other god can save a people from the hand of the LORD. Judgment awaits every foe of God. What a precious gift it is to believe in the Son whose shed blood now cleanses and renews us.  And never forget Jesus’ testimony, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Suggestion for prayer Pray for the blessing of the LORD for the ministry of His Gospel in all places around the world. Pray that many more would believe in Jesus and pass from death to life in Him! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 11 – I’m Pharaoh and I will not

“Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.'" But Pharaoh said, "Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go." – Exodus 5:11-12 Scripture reading: Exodus 5:1-21; Isaiah 51 After narrowly escaping death through the emergency circumcision of Moses' son, Moses met Aaron in the wilderness and they traveled to Egypt. Incredibly, the people believed the message they heard and then bowed their heads and worshipped the one true God. You could say Moses is on a roll! Moses must be expecting even greater things to happen when he brings God’s Word to Pharaoh. Surely, all that had been promised is about to come about! But things don't go according to plan, do they? At least, as we see so often in our lives, according to our plans. In Exodus 5, we see two sides to one great showdown. Here we are ring-side and we hear the boast: “I'm Pharaoh, and I WILL NOT. I will not listen to your God and I will not let you go. Whoever you think you and your people are, I will not take orders from you.” Moses is shaken by Pharaoh’s refusal. Yet, in the picture here of everything going awry – of the oppression becoming greater and not less – we see a distant preview of another Servant of God Who came to His own and His own disciples struggled to understand how good could come from His rejection. The children of Abraham did not receive Him. Jesus came with a message and mission of freedom and faced the great powers of the evil one head on. When it seemed like the powers of darkness triumphed at Golgotha, Christ Jesus demonstrated His power by rising again on the third day and silencing the boastful mouth of Satan! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to show you how to ‘count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds’. Pray for a renewed heart that trusts that the LORD shall bring us good even when others refuse Him. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 10 – Let me go

Moses took the staff of God in his hand. And the LORD said to Moses, "When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.” – Exodus 4:20-21 Scripture reading: Exodus 4:18-31; Romans 8:18-39 In Romans 8, we read, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” God is for us – what a precious truth this is! Do we consider this as we struggle to be freed from the things which keep us from serving God as we should? Do you let the knowledge of what God has done, and is still doing, power your life? The good word of the gospel provides you with every reason and encouragement to strive against sin! For when our cry for help comes to the LORD, He declares, “I have freed you!” This is such a key part of the Christian life. All who believe in Christ live in a newfound freedom! We no longer live as those who remain in rebellion against God and captivity to sin. Here in Exodus 4, Moses’ hesitation has been overcome and he tells Jethro, his father-in-law, that he must go and do what God has called him to do. God has reassured His struggling servant repeatedly. Why? He is a God who saves His people! In a harsh world filled with many trials and hardships, the Lord comforts His people every day. In this age with its many troubles, the Lord provides a vivid display of His will in action in the story of the Exodus – hardening and softening hearts, addressing doubts and fears and calling all to service. Suggestions for prayer Pray for a deepening awareness of God’s gracious care for you. Pray that He would help you to be more and more willing to live as He calls you to live. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 9 – Are we sufficiently equipped for what lies ahead?

Then the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak." – Exodus 4:11-12 Scripture reading: Exodus 4:1-17; Hebrews 13:8-21 “Who am I that I should go?” Moses asks the Angel of the LORD. And God responds with 27 more verses of exhortation and encouragement for His servant Moses! Remember, God is not so distant from His people that He doesn't understand our weaknesses and our fears. He even holds back His anger over Moses' continued objections. But Moses’ fears are real and he’s not wrong – he gets a lot of the predictions he makes right! He's doubtful of Israel's reaction to him – and for good reason! He's fearful of Pharaoh's reaction to him – and for good reason! He's even correct that the signs which God has set before him are still going to be questioned and even rejected by the people! The LORD's plan of deliverance ultimately required someone with more to offer than a trembling heart and the signs which God gave him. Jesus has come with His unblemished obedience and divine power to remove our guilt and rescue us. Yet, as believers awaiting Jesus’ return, we can likewise see real threats and wonder if we are sufficiently equipped for the struggles we face. We face temptation, growing hostility, and personal hardship. And as He reassured Moses, He assures us that He is with us. He gives us His Word to shape our lives. He provides us with the signs of baptism and the Lord’s Supper to deepen our faith. And He assures us by His Spirit that He will “equip you with everything good that you may do his will.” (Hebrews 12:21). Suggestions for prayer Rejoice in the LORD’s continued mercies. Thank Him for being patient with you in your weakness. Ask Him to give you a renewed resolve to serve Him without compromise. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC. ...

Daily devotional

May 8 – It shall not harm you

The LORD said to Moses, "Put out your hand and catch it by the tail"--so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand-- "that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you." – Exodus 4:4-5 Scripture reading: Exodus 4:1-5; Psalm 121 "Put out your hand and catch it by the tail.” Now, don't try this at home. You can throw sticks on the ground as much as you like – that part is just fine. But grabbing a snake by its tail is a very risky business. A venomous snake moves most swiftly to strike anything which touches its body. That's why when you're snake catching, you try to nab it right behind its head and grasp it there. The tail flails around, but the head can't move if you have it securely grasped. God gave Moses a remarkable sign. He was to confront Pharaoh, whose emblem was a coiled serpent, and demonstrate that the serpent would not strike them. No harm would come to them from actual serpents, from Pharaoh as the Serpent Ruler of Egypt, or even the ancient Serpent who was anxious to harm God’s people. Moses will seize the serpent by the tail – and its mouth will be shut – its power will be stripped – and it will yield to the rod of the shepherd and literally become a rod again. The sign given by God to Moses makes plain that the serpent shall not harm his people. We know this with even greater clarity because Christ Jesus has bound our great adversary and tempter, Satan. By rising from the grave, Jesus has conquered every foe. By His action, He has gained us the victory over the powers of sin, death, and the darkness of the evil one! Suggestion for prayer Praise our Heavenly Lord for His victory which has gained us an everlasting peace with Him and an everlasting security from our foes through Jesus Christ! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 3 – Delivered

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? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. – Isaiah 53:8-9 Scripture reading: Exodus 1:15-2:10; Isaiah 53 We can read many stories in the Bible of times when the LORD miraculously and powerfully delivered His people from the spear and sword of their enemies. He spared the Hebrew children through the faith-filled actions of Shiprah and Puah, the Hebrew midwives. He delivered baby Moses from the very river in which he was supposed to be killed. Moses was brought to the site of death. He was spared. He was rescued from certain death by means of an ‘ark’ – a vessel of deliverance which was safeguarded by the LORD so that Moses might be rescued by a most unlikely rescuer – Pharaoh’s daughter! These are important testimonies to the love God has for you. He hears your cries and answers your pleas. He promises you deliverance from the judgment to come and He sets before you everlasting life. Amazingly, then, the greatest testimony of our deliverance is found in the scene of a man brought to the place of death who was not delivered. Our Saviour was not spared at the site of His judgment. Even though He was entirely pure and innocent, He laid down His life so that we might be saved in Him. This salvation through the payment of our sins and the bearing of our judgment is now finished! You are delivered because Christ was not spared. He was stricken for our transgressions. Through His death and resurrection, we now confidently tell Satan and his whole dominion that we do not fear their power for we have been delivered and we shall be raised again with Christ! Suggestions for prayer Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Praise the name of the LORD for His unfailing mercies and wondrous deliverance of sinners who call upon His name to receive life through His death! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 2 – The collision of two great powers

But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. – Exodus 1:12  Scripture reading: Exodus 1:1-14; Revelation 12 The Pharaoh of Egypt was shrewd and cunning. He did not know or care about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was most willing to become an enemy of God's people. In this, Pharaoh was taking up the vain battle cry of Satan and all who follow him in rebellion against the LORD God. He thought his human powers could overcome the problem posed by the rapidly multiplying people of God. In these events in Exodus, Satan saw that his attempts to wipe out the people whom God loved were futile. With Satan behind him spurring him on, Pharaoh would see first hand that no ruler or power can stop the LORD God! No chains can deter the LORD’s purposes for his people. No army can ever stand in His way. No waters can hem in His people and not even a wilderness without food and water can actually disrupt God's purpose to save His people! Jesus, our great Saviour from the powers of sin, death and the devil, says to His followers, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Those words are true for all who suffer for His name’s sake as a part of the people of God. When it seems like we're caught in the collision of great powers – when we face grave threats or increasing pressures, we must be and are reminded of this glorious testimony of Christ our Lord: “I have overcome the world." Suggestion for prayer Thank the LORD for delivering us from our bondage to sin and the powers of the evil one. Pray for strength to withstand temptation. Ask the LORD to increase your trust in Jesus Christ alone for deliverance from the powers of evil in this world. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 1 – The central Character in the story of all our lives

Introduction to the month of May This month we will be looking at Exodus 1-13 in order to see the tremendous way that the historical exodus of God’s people from Egypt foreshadows the wondrous exodus of all who are redeemed from sin, suffering and the tyranny of the devil. 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. There are a remarkable array of characters in these pages of Scripture and every one of them has a message to tell us in our time of awaiting our entry into the Promised Land (Hebrews 12:22-24)! You will meet villains who oppose the LORD and His anointed (Psalm 2:2). You will meet a people who are reluctant to listen to a man whose presence has seemingly made things worse for them (John 6:66-69). You will meet a redeemer and judge who is reluctant to take up his calling until the LORD gives him a name to proclaim, a series of signs to perform and a stirring message: My people shall be set free to worship Me (Hebrews 10:5-7). In this series of devotions for the month ahead, we’ll look at the story that the martyr, Stephen, appealed to in Acts 7:17-36 to explain that the coming of Jesus Christ was always anticipated in scripture and that He is truly our Saviour and King! **** Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Scripture reading: Psalm 48, 2 Corinthians 1:1-4 God is the central character in the story of all our lives. As Scripture says, “In Him we live and move and have our being” and “we are His offspring.” So when the story of your life is written, it is always the case that God is the central character – whether He is recognized in this role or not. We might think we’re the central character in the story of our lives. It feels like we are! Yet, one part of our faith-filled response to God is that we learn to humble ourselves before Him and see that He is the most important figure in our story. Yet, if a story-teller dropped by your house and wanted to capture your story, I wonder if he might be caught off guard if you said, “First, I need to tell you about God because He is more important and central a character in this story than I am!” The story of the Exodus is first and foremost a story which highlights the greatness of the LORD God. His plan brings comfort to His people. His actions reveal His glory. His mercies reveal His steadfast covenant faithfulness. His powerful triumph over the armies of Pharaoh reveals the splendor of His holy Name to all! As we proceed through this account of trouble and triumph, we will do well to keep reminding ourselves that God is truly the central character in the story! Suggestions for prayer Praise God for being the One who comforts us in all our affliction. Pray for humility to submit to God’s will for our lives and to rejoice that He is the most important character in our life story. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC. ...

Daily devotional

April 30 - Joy with Jesus

Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given me, may be with me where I am…– John 17:24 Scripture reading: John 17:1-26 I want to conclude this month’s topic of joy focusing on one of my favorite verses. John 17 records Jesus’ high-priestly prayer in which we get a glimpse into the heart of our Saviour. In that prayer, Jesus reveals the desire of His heart: that all those whom the Father has given Him would be with Him. It’s one thing to long to be with Jesus. I desire to be with Him and dwell in that place where pain is gone and I will have eternal fellowship with Christ. But what John 17:24 says is that Jesus desires that too! Jesus wants me to be with Him. Jesus wants you to be with Him. It will be the most blessed experience to see our exalted Saviour and Lord in all His glory. To join the angels and that “multitude that no one can number” (Rev. 7:9) and to worship Him before His throne will be unimaginably glorious! And Jesus wants you there. But His desire is not like so many of our desires. We may desire something that will never come to pass. I desire to visit Israel, but I have no assurance it will happen. But do you think there is any prayer of Jesus that the Father will not grant? Is there any desire of Jesus that will go unfulfilled? By no means! That means you and I can have full assurance, 100% certainty that we will be with Jesus! That, dear brother or sister in Christ, should thrill your heart and fill you with great joy! Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would increase your faith to see the blessed future awaiting you. Give thanks that God gives you joy today and for all eternity. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 25 - Counterfeit joy (3)

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?- Mark 8:36 Scripture reading: Mark 8:31-38 C.S. Lewis once said: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” Lewis was right. We have infinite joy offered us, but we are satisfied with that which is much less. We’ve already looked at the counterfeit joy of sin and of circumstances. Today, I want to consider things that are not necessarily bad, but are ultimately trivial. I like playing sports and enjoy following my favorite players and teams. I’ll watch an occasional game on TV, or play a round of golf with friends. But I can honestly say that I can do without these things. Yet, I’m sure you’ve noticed that some people’s lives revolve around sports. My wife is artistic and enjoys making crafts. But she wisely does not allow that activity to run her life. If sports, or crafts, or recreation, or stamp-collecting or some other activity is what fills you with joy and meaning, you’ve settled for something far too little. You are making mud pies in a slum when you are offered a holiday by the sea. You are, as Lewis would say, “Far too easily pleased.” Don’t settle for the trivial. God, in Christ, is your true and infinite joy. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would not find your joy and meaning in the small, trivial things. Repent for desiring and being satisfied with too little. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 24 - Counterfeit joy (2)

Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.- Mathew 13:5-6 Scripture reading: Matthew 13:1-23 Every nation has strict laws against making and using counterfeit money. People who deal in commerce and handle money regularly must learn to distinguish fake money from real money. Banks, for example, have classes to train their employees how to tell the difference. In the parable of the sower, Jesus taught about a certain kind of counterfeit joy. When He explained the point about the seed that fell on rocky soil, He said, “This is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy…” But when trials and hardships arise, this person fell away. Far from being true and lasting joy, this was a counterfeit joy because it was contingent on circumstances. When everything is going smoothly in life, when things are going well, it is easy to confuse that sense of well-being with lasting joy. But this is not really joy at all because it depends on circumstances. Remember that Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer (be joyful), I have overcome the world.” The true joy of a believer is one that does not fall away due to tribulation and hardship. True joy’s foundation is far greater, far deeper than this world’s ups and downs. Its foundation is Jesus Christ. Therefore, pleasant circumstances cannot produce true joy and difficult circumstances cannot detract from true joy. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would grant you wisdom to distinguish true from false joy and that you will rest in Jesus and have a joy that cannot be shaken by hardship. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 23 - Counterfeit joy (1)

By faith Moses… refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. - Hebrews 11:24-25 Scripture reading: Hebrews 11:23-28 Hebrews 11 is an entire chapter that focuses on the faith of Old Testament believers. And speaking about Moses, the writer says that Moses rejected the “fleeting pleasures of sin.” This is instructive to us as we focus on joy. It is important to distinguish between true, lasting joy and a counterfeit of joy. One such counterfeit is pleasure that comes from sin. When tempted, the devil would have us believe that if we give in to the temptation, we will be more joyful than now. And the reason it is so effective is that there are often certain pleasures that accompany sin. Moses, as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter, could have lived in palatial opulence and had every sensual desire met. Instead, he chose the difficulties of wilderness living. Why? Because he understood that true joy comes in trusting and following the Lord. David learned that the hard way. When he committed adultery with Bathsheba, he did so for the “joy” of sexual gratification. He soon discovered that while this may have brought him “fleeting pleasure,” it brought him no joy at all. This is why when he finally repented of his sin, he asked God: “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Psalm 51:12). He had discovered that the fleeting pleasure of sin is a counterfeit to true lasting joy in the Lord. Suggestions for prayer Repent of your sins and, like David, ask God to restore your joy. Pray that God would give you faith like Moses to see beyond fleeting pleasures. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 22 - The joy of believing

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.- Hebrews 11:1 Scripture reading: John 20:24-29 Thomas wasn’t present when the resurrected Jesus revealed Himself to the other disciples a week earlier. When they told Thomas about it, he said he wouldn’t believe unless he had visible and tangible proof. Thomas was ever the practical skeptic. It wasn’t that Thomas had no faith, but I think it is fair to say that he had weak faith. In John 11, when Jesus told the disciples that He was going to Bethany because of Lazarus’ death and they all knew this was dangerous because the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus, it was Thomas who said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” In John 14, when Jesus prepared His disciples for His imminent departure and said to them, “That where I go you may be also,” it was Thomas who said, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” And here in John 20, the loving Jesus humbly submitted to this skeptic’s demands. All the disciples were gathered behind locked doors and Jesus came to them and spoke directly to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side…” And that was enough for Thomas who responds with a beautiful profession, “My Lord and My God!” That’s when Jesus mentioned you and me. He said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” This means that if you are a Christian, a believer in Jesus Christ and the gospel, Jesus says you are blessed! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Holy Spirit would work to increase your faith and that the knowledge that you are blessed would fill you with joy. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 17 - Jesus’ fifth word on the cross

“I thirst.” - John 19:28 Scripture reading: John 19:28-30 Jesus’ fifth word on the cross is only one word in Greek which, when translated is, “I thirst.” And while His mouth was most certainly parched, Jesus is telling us something deeper. First, this word expresses that Jesus was fully human so that He could justly bear the sins of humans. He didn’t simply appear to be human, He became flesh. While on earth He slept, wept, grew weary, ate, walked and got thirsty. This means that today Jesus knows your aches and weaknesses. He is a High Priest who sympathizes with your infirmities. Second, John tells us that Jesus spoke this word “to fulfill the Scriptures.” Psalm 69:21 says, “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” Jesus is identifying Himself with the godly sufferer of Psalm 69. He is the Suffering Servant of the Lord. And third, Jesus spoke this word to declare that His death was for you. In the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the rich man was in hell and called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.” Jesus’ thirst is a declaration that He was experiencing and enduring the unquenchable anguish of hell, of divine wrath. He thirsted because the wages of our sins were poured out on Him. Here is our joy: Jesus thirsted so that you and I will never thirst that unquenchable anguish in hell. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks that you have a Saviour Who understands and sympathizes with your weaknesses and infirmities. Pray for the salvation of your unbelieving loved ones. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 16 - Jesus’ fourth word on the cross

…"My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" - Matthew 27:46 Scripture reading: Matthew 27:45-56 I wonder if the onlookers at Jesus’ crucifixion were starting to get uncomfortable at this point. For three hours “there was darkness over all the land.” Were they starting to realize that something about this crucifixion was different from all the others they had witnessed? Then, out of the darkness they hear the agonizing voice of Jesus quoting Psalm 22:1 – “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” The anguish He experienced while bearing the full wrath of God and being forsaken of God wrenched from Him those amazing words. But while this fourth word is a question, the Son of God knew precisely the answer. Jesus was not seeking some information that He lacked but, in fact, was making a remarkable statement. He is saying: “I am the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Psalm 22 is about Me. Isaiah 53 is about Me.” And He is saying: “I am forsaken by God.” The eternal Son of God, Who had always been in perfect fellowship with the Father, was now forsaken. That bond was broken. Jesus wanted the crowd, and us, to know this. Why? Because the only possible reason that the Father would ever forsake the Son is if the Son were bearing our sins. This is the fount of our joy! Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us. Jesus was forsaken of the Father so that you and I would NEVER be forsaken! Suggestions for prayer Give thanks that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Pray that your pastor, and every pastor everywhere, would boldly preach the gospel of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 15 - Jesus’ third word on the cross

…He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.- John 19:26, 27 Scripture reading: John 19:17-27 About 33 years earlier, Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the temple. While there, Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God for letting him see God’s salvation. While Joseph and Mary marveled at all this, Simeon blessed them also and prophesied about what Christ would do. As he spoke, he turned to Mary and said, “And a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (See Luke 2:22-35). That sword thrust came as she watched her Son hanging, nailed to the cross. But Jesus, loving her in spite of His agony, cared for His earthly mother. Many may wonder why He addressed her as “woman” thinking it sounds rather cold and heartless. But Jesus is actually telling her that she must see Him not simply as her Son, but as her Saviour and Lord. At the same time, as a faithful Son, He appointed John to take her in and care for her. From that point on, John would be her guardian, provider and protector. Jesus’ third word on the cross is a word of love and affection. But while this particular word is directed toward Mary and John, it is that very same love and affection for you and me that compelled Him to give His life. Christ, by taking our sins upon Himself, provided us with our greatest need – forgiveness and reconciliation with God. Oh, what love! Oh, what joy! Suggestions for prayer Give thanks that God has provided your needs, both materially as well as spiritually. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 14 - Jesus’ second word on the cross

And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."- Luke 23:43 Scripture reading: Luke 23:35-43 We might view the conversion of the thief on the cross as a peculiar and singular event. There are aspects of this encounter that are unique. The criminal was near death, had no opportunity to join the church in Jerusalem and was hanging next to Jesus on a cross. But, his conversion is really very similar to that of every person who is saved. We are all saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ. Notice the faith of this criminal. What he saw with his eyes was a beaten, bleeding man hanging in agony on a cross. Jesus didn’t appear to be the King of Glory and Son of God. Yet, in spite of the mocking unbelief of others, this man put his trust in Jesus and said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” God opened his eyes of faith so that he saw Jesus for Who He really was. And he believed. Jesus’ response shows His power and grace. Even on the cross, in agony, He is powerful to save. Christ made that sinful criminal fit for heaven in a moment. The thief didn’t have to spend time in purgatory or try to clean up the mess of his life. Jesus’ atonement is sufficient and effective to save right now. “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” See what joy this brings. Your salvation does not depend on your works, your efforts, or your abilities. Like the criminal, we come to Jesus saying, “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would open the eyes of faith of friends and family who do not yet believe and that God would restore to you the joy of your salvation. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 9 - The fruit of joy (i)

But the fruit of the Spirit is… joy…- Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Galatians 5:16-25 My family and I lived in Hawaii for seven years. We lived on the island of Kauai, nicknamed “The Garden Island.” In our backyard, we had a lime tree, an orange tree and a few banana trees. Every year, without fail, we enjoyed the fruit that those trees produced. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he used this same agricultural reality as a metaphor to describe the results of being in the Spirit. These are, as he calls them, “the fruit of the Spirit.” His list describes what I should expect to experience as a Christian and see in other Christians. Where the Holy Spirit is, these Spiritual characteristics, to some extent, will be present also. Paul’s list is not set forth in a loose and arbitrary way. There is a purposeful order and inter-connectedness. Love is the first fruit and out of love flows joy; and out of love and joy flows peace, etc. Joy is the disposition of one’s personality toward cheerfulness that is rooted in Christ. And since joy is a fruit of the Spirit, we may rightly conclude that the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, is not a grump – or a Scrooge, or a Grinch. He is God. And God is joyful. That is why, when the people in Nehemiah’s day wept over their sins, he comforted them with this very truth. He said, “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah8:10b). Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Spirit’s fruit of joy would be present and growing in your life and repent if you’ve given the impression to others that the Spirit is a grump. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 8 - Joy in tribulation

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.- James 1:2 Scripture reading: James 1:1-8 Hardship in life is never fun, but we all have these “trials of various kinds.” Five and a half years ago, when my doctor informed me that I had cancer, my whole existence was jolted. After getting over the shock, I started thinking “I want to be at my children’s weddings” and “I want to hold my grandchildren.” I shed tears and wondered about my uncertain future. Five months later I underwent major surgery that removed the cancer. Thankfully, I have been “clean” ever since. But how can you “count it all joy” when you hear such news? Or when your child dies? Or when you lose your job? The unbeliever finds this incredible. Instead of joy, he will get angry at life. Or she will drown her pain in drugs or alcohol. But the child of God knows that nothing happens by chance, but everything comes from God’s fatherly hand. God’s purposes are always for our good (Romans 8:28). They are productive, not destructive, moulding us into the image of Christ. When you experience trials, it isn’t bad luck. Rather, God is working to make you beautiful – your dross to consume and your gold to refine. During those five months of uncertainty about my health, God strengthened my heart. Far from shaking my fist at God, by His grace, I rested in His goodness and faithfulness. The faith that I had always professed was confirmed and that has brought me unspeakable joy. Why? Because “the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that when the Lord sends trials in your life, He will confirm your faith and that your joyful response to hardships will be an encouragement to others. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 7 - Worship with gladness

Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence with singing! - Psalm 100:2 Scripture reading: Psalm 100:1-6 Since joy in our salvation carries over to joy in all God’s blessings, it is not surprising that when the psalmist writes about worship he often includes joy. Throughout the Psalms, God’s people are often instructed to lift up their voices in praise. Think, for example, of how often the word “Hallelujah” is used in the Psalms. Psalms 113-118 are called the “Hallel” Psalms and the final five Psalms (146-150) all end with the same word, “Hallelujah.” Hallelujah means “Let us praise the Lord.” It seems to me that joy is an essential ingredient in praise. Praise is the believer’s joyful response to who God is and what He has done. I cannot help but wonder what is happening in a person’s heart when we begin worship with singing that great hymn “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” and it looks as though he or she is singing about their next dentist appointment. I cannot judge such a thing, but it appears as though there’s little praise going on. When you gather for worship, are you “serving the Lord with gladness?” To praise the Lord with joy does not mean that the Christian never experiences sorrow or pain. In fact, true repentance means there is a real sorrow for our sins. But even so, the believer’s sorrow should never be separated from the conviction that, as the hymn writer so beautifully penned, “It is well with my soul.” Christ has overcome and I am His. That conviction cannot help but overflow into joyful praise! Suggestions for prayer Pray that as you worship today, your worship would be a sincere response of joyful praise to God who is worthy, and that not only you, but your church congregation would have the reputation of worshipping the Lord with gladness. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 6 - Joy in God’s revelation

In the way of Your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches… I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget Your Word.- Psalm 119:14,16 Scripture reading: Psalm 119:1-16 While joy in our salvation in Christ is the fountain, that joy naturally carries over to all the blessings we have in Christ. The Christian’s joy is multi-faceted. We find joy in the reality that we’ve been saved and justified in Christ Jesus, but as a result, we find joy in all aspects of Christian life. We recognize that because we are in Christ, all that we are and have are blessings from God. These increase our joy. And one of those blessings is His Word. The Psalmist in Psalm 119 delights in God’s Word. God’s Word always has been and continues to be a source of joy to God’s people. Meditating on God’s written revelation will bring joy to the Christian. But what is it about the Word of God that causes the Psalmist, and us, to delight in it? First, the primary purpose of God’s Word is to reveal to us the way of salvation. After Adam and Eve sinned, God promised that the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head (Genesis3:15). The rest of the Bible tells us how God has fulfilled that promise, culminating in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Second, the Bible is the clearest revelation of God. In God’s Word, God tells us about Himself. Third, the Bible instructs us on the kind of life that is pleasing to God. We delight in God’s Word because our natural reaction to our supernatural salvation from God is to love Him and live for Him. And God’s Word tells us what that looks like. Suggestions for prayer Pray that when you read the Bible, the Holy Spirit would open your mind and heart to understand and thatGod’s Word would be your delight. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 1 – Good news of great joy

Introduction April's theme is “The Christian's Joy.”Joy is the possession of every child of God. The triune God is a God of joy and the source of joy to all who trust in Him. In Deuteronomy 16:15 Moses told the children of Israel: “The Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.” Jesus told His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). And the second fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5 is “joy.” This means that those in whom the Holy Spirit dwells will possess, to some extent, joy. This month we explore this great blessing given us by God. We will distinguish between true Christian joy, which is lasting, and the fleeting “joy” of this world. We will look at what is the basis of this joy, focusing on Christ’s atonement, His words on the cross and His resurrection. And we will consider those things that hinder our joy and how God graciously restores our joy. May God bless you abundantly as you study His Word this month and may you be strengthened because“the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). **** Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.- Luke 2:10-11 Scripture reading: Luke 2:8-14 I want to live in joy and I want to die in joy. I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in this world who does not want the same thing. Joy is a desirable thing. Granted, there are people who seem to thrive on difficulty and even wallow in their unhappiness. To use a modern description, their lives have far too much drama. But I think it’s fair to say that even so, they would prefer a life of joy over their difficulties if they could find it. When the angel spoke to the shepherds at Jesus’ birth, he said, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). So it isn’t surprising that when we celebrate Christ’s birth we often see and use the word “JOY.” We find it in our decorations, on the front of Christmas cards, in our church bulletins, even on store windows. Why? Because joy and Jesus are inseparable! The good news that the angel told was joyful news; more than that, it was news of GREAT joy. The arrival of Jesus changed everything. He came on a rescue mission and He accomplished it. This means that if you desire joy, believe in and cling to Jesus. You simply will not find joy anywhere else. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Holy Spirit would use this month’s devotions to increase your joy. Pray for friends or loved ones that you know who seem to lack joy. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

March 31 - Be firm in your faith! 

Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, Who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. - 1 Peter 5:9-10 Scripture reading: James 4 What is your protection against your adversary, the devil? Your faith! To resist him means to refuse to submit to him and let him direct your life. Remember, the words that Jesus spoke to Peter before his denial: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:31-32). Why did Peter’s faith not fail? Jesus prayed for Him. Why does your faith not fail? Jesus is also praying for you! Why is faith so important here? Because Satan directs his attacks to destroy your faith in Christ. Suffering is one of the ways he uses to raise doubts in your mind concerning the reliability of God. When we suffer we think we are alone. This is not the case. Many others have endured the same kinds of trials and have been able to persevere in the faith because the Lord was there with them. Any suffering you experience is limited to what God will allow in your life. As a God of all grace, is there anything too difficult for Him to help you with? He is the God who has called you to eternal glory in Christ! What you have in Christ far outweighs what you lack here on earth. As you attend church today, think about the sufficiency of your Saviour. He Himself will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the gift of faith and that Jesus is making intercession so that our faith will not fail. Ask the Lord to help you resist the devil, to be firm in your faith, so that you will overcome him through the grace God gives to you. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB....

Daily devotional

March 30 - Your adversary 

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. - 1 Peter 5:8 Scripture reading: Zechariah 3 You have an adversary, one who strives against you: an enemy. One of the main reasons we have anxieties and cares is because of this enemy. The word Satan means adversary, and the word devil means the accuser, the slanderer. Peter gives two imperatives concerning this adversary. Be sober-minded; be watchful. To be sober-minded means to have self-control and to not allow this enemy to influence you. Rather, always be under the direction and control of the Lord your God. To be watchful means to be awake, always aware, and to never be off your guard. Always be aware of your weaknesses and don’t let this enemy get the better of you because of them. How does Peter describe him? He compares the devil to a lion that is hungry looking for prey that he can devour. There is one that is actually hunting you, one who is stalking you without your knowledge, hoping to devour and destroy your faith in Christ. He has slandered and tried to destroy others in the past, (one example is Joshua in Zechariah 3), and he will continue to do so in the present and into the future until Christ returns. According to the context, there are two ways the devil tries to attack us. Satan seeks to puff up our pride, trying to convince us we do not need God and he tries to get us to believe God does not care for us. Do not let this enemy get the better of you! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that we can flee to Christ when the devil comes to accuse and attack us. Ask the Lord to help you heed these warnings and to be diligent and watchful especially when we feel weak in our faith. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Michael Jaatinen is the minister of Mount Zion Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moncton, NB....

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