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Daily devotional

February 5 – Beth: Pure living

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” – Psalm 119:9

Scripture reading: Psalm 119:9-16

This second stanza is about being cleansed and washed in the Holy Spirit through a living faith. How can we be cleansed and washed in such a way? How will our young people be that? By being in God’s Word every day.

The psalmist makes use of the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, beth, in an interesting way. In most of the eight verses he uses the letter in a preposition meaning “in,” “on,” or “with.” We read: with my whole heart, in my heart, with my lips, in the way, on your precepts, in your statutes. Do you see the pattern? The way to holiness and purity is to envelop our whole lives with, to give our whole hearts to and to bathe ourselves completely in seeking to do God’s will. We must dedicate our mouths, ears, eyes, minds and hearts to God and His ways. That leads to blessed purity and holiness!

It means looking to our Lord Jesus Christ. First, He is the ground of our righteousness and purity through His death on the cross. Second, He is our example to follow, showing us the way of delightful obedience. In Christ’s blood, we are made pure and in Christ’s Spirit, we make our way pure. Looking to Jesus, searching the Scriptures for Him, listening to God’s law, acting on it, we are led to pure living. O Lord, perfect us in Your love, so that we are cleansed and conformed unto Your will.

Suggestions for prayer

Pray that you really devote yourself every day to being enveloped and bathed in God’s Word and law, thus seeking His will.

This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada.

Daily devotional

January 31 – Proverbs on the home

“The curse of the LORD is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the just.”  Scripture reading: Proverbs 17:1-6 A home is not a house. A home is a place where a family lives. A Christian home is where a Christian family lives in unity, preparing for and doing the work of the Lord. In a Christian home there is peace even if there is not a lot of food. We know that “Better is a dry morsel with quietness than a house full of feasting with strife” (Prov. 17:1). A Christian home is a place where brothers and sisters help and protect each other. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17). A Christian home is a place of safety. You don’t have to wonder if you are welcomed. What happens if there is no peace in the home? One wants to run away from it. Proverbs 21:9 says it is, “Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” Yes, a house without peace (Peace only comes from the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ) is a place of misery. Proverbs 15:25 warns, “The LORD will destroy the house of the proud, but He will establish the boundary of the widow.” Sin is a menace to any home. Proverbs 15:27 notes, “He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live.” What is the remedy for a corrupt house? Know God’s Word, believe in Jesus and hold on to Him for dear life. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will preserve peace and unity in the home, unity based on Jesus and that you will not ignore the mutual duties in the home. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Mitchell Persaud is pastor of New Horizon URC in Scarborough, ON, a mission church under the oversight of Cornerstone URC in London, ON. He was born in Guyana, South America, into a Hindu home, baptized Roman Catholic, raised Pentecostal and then became Reformed....

Daily devotional

January 30 – Proverbs on prayer

“The LORD is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.” – Proverbs 15:29  Scripture reading: Proverbs 28:9-13 Prayer is the means God has ordained to give you the things that are necessary for you to do the work He has called you to do. God delights to hear the prayer of the upright. In Proverbs 15:8 He tells us, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.” Who can say this? Who delights to have people ask him for things? Only God! But if God delights in the prayer of the upright, how does one become upright? One can only become upright when the righteousness of Jesus is counted as his own. So there is no prayer without sacrifice, the sacrifice of Jesus. This means the non-Christian cannot pray. His prayers go into the air, not to God. There are things that hinder your prayer (proof that prayer by itself is not magical). First, Solomon warned that God will not answer your prayer if you neglect His law and refuse to be obedient. Proverbs 28:9 says: “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” In fact, without proper ground for prayer, your prayer can become the cause of judgment. It is trying to get something to which you are not entitled. Second, if you are secretly living in sin, your prayers are dead. Proverbs 28:13 says: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” Suggestions for prayer May you always pray through Jesus Christ and pray often for things that are good in doing God’s work. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Mitchell Persaud is pastor of New Horizon URC in Scarborough, ON, a mission church under the oversight of Cornerstone URC in London, ON. He was born in Guyana, South America, into a Hindu home, baptized Roman Catholic, raised Pentecostal and then became Reformed....

Daily devotional

January 29 – Proverbs on money

“The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” – Proverbs 10:22  Scripture reading: Proverbs 3:9-10 You’ve probably heard that money makes the world go round! Is that really true? Is survival and progress in this world dependent on how much money you have? It seems so when you see how obsessed people are about accumulating wealth. Many things are sacrificed on the altar of wealth. Now don’t misunderstand, wealth by itself is not sinful. Solomon, a rich man, wanted you to remember a few things. Earn your money honestly, for wealth gained by fraud disappears. Earn your money without abusing others. Honor the Lord with your wealth by giving back a tithe to Him. Share your wealth with the needy. Don’t trust in your money or it will be your downfall. Concurrent with these instructions, know there are many things better than riches – a good name, for instance. Proverbs 22:1 says: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold.” And do not become preoccupied with wealth. Wealth does not profit anything on Judgment Day. Even in this life, your wealth is stolen, misused by the civil authorities, and of course, stolen by civil authorities by inflation. Don’t forget your greatest riches are gained through Jesus Christ and no one can take them away. Moreover, your good works are riches that you can store up in heaven. Have you considered how much time you spend storing up treasures that you will have for eternity? Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will love the riches you have in Jesus Christ and that you will be thankful for earthly wealth and use it according to the Giver’s decrees. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Mitchell Persaud is pastor of New Horizon URC in Scarborough, ON, a mission church under the oversight of Cornerstone URC in London, ON. He was born in Guyana, South America, into a Hindu home, baptized Roman Catholic, raised Pentecostal and then became Reformed....

Daily devotional

January 28 – Proverbs on violence

“The violence of the wicked will destroy them, because they refuse to do justice.” – Proverbs 21:7  Scripture reading: Proverbs 1:10-19 There is no question that there are times when violence is necessary: in war, self-defense and just punishment. But like in the days of Solomon, we are often surrounded by violence, especially if we live in cities. Some make their living with violence and they plot and plan. Others use violence on the spur of the moment because they lack self-control. Either way, this type of violence is wrong and you have to learn how to deal with it. Solomon describes violence as a fruit that the wicked produce. Why do men commit violence so much? Proverbs 29:10 says: “The bloodthirsty hate the blameless, But the upright seek his well-being.” No one is violent with the one he loves! Violence is rooted in hate! You must avoid situations that cause or promote violence. If you have rowdy friends or visit a rowdy bar, for example, the potential for violence increases. Proverbs 24:1-2 tells us: “Do not be envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them; For their heart devises violence, and their lips talk of troublemaking.” Further, deal with the issue of contentment. You have your contentment in Jesus. Don’t envy. It is a common cause of violence. As Proverbs 3:30-31 says: “Do not strive with a man without cause, if he has done you no harm. Do not envy the oppressor, and choose none of his ways…” So don’t be violent. Love your enemies. When violent people are around you, move. Have friends who encourage you in Christian living. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will hate and avoid violence and that you will love and promote peace and encourage justice on those who are violent. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Mitchell Persaud is pastor of New Horizon URC in Scarborough, ON, a mission church under the oversight of Cornerstone URC in London, ON. He was born in Guyana, South America, into a Hindu home, baptized Roman Catholic, raised Pentecostal and then became Reformed....

Daily devotional

January 23 – Proverbs on adultery

“Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, Do not stray into her paths; For she has cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by her were strong men.” – Proverbs 7:25-26 Scripture reading: Proverbs 2:10-19 It is easy to fall into lusts that lead to adultery. The wicked woman flatters you with her words. Her lips drip honey and her speech is smoother than oil. She lures you with her beauty and her long eyelashes. She kisses you. She pretends she is making peace offerings and wants you to celebrate with her. She covers her bed with perfume. What are the consequences of adultery? Adultery leaves you with spiritual pain (and physical pain as well), like when you eat poisonous food that is sweetened with sugar. Adultery leads you to the grave. The adulteress will take away your strength and the best years of your life. The adulteress will reduce to a simple loaf of bread, Solomon wrote! (Proverbs 6:26). You will be burned. You will fall in a pit. Solomon knew this. He knew it in an experiential way. How should you deal with temptation to commit adultery? Be satisfied with the blessing of your life and “drink water from your own cistern” (Proverbs 5). It is safe. It is healthy. (If you are single, this is good reason to be married.) Stay away from wicked women (or men). Learn to guard your eye. You often can’t avoid the first look, but what about the second look and the lustful look? What will make you remain pure? Knowing that you are fully satisfied in Jesus Christ is the only ground that will truly keep you from sinning against the Lord. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will be satisfied with your spouse or that you will find one if you don’t have one and that you and your spouse will encourage each other in faithfulness. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Mitchell Persaud is pastor of New Horizon URC in Scarborough, ON, a mission church under the oversight of Cornerstone URC in London, ON. He was born in Guyana, South America, into a Hindu home, baptized Roman Catholic, raised Pentecostal and then became Reformed....

Daily devotional

January 22 – Proverbs on stewardship

“Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds; For riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all generations.” – Proverbs 27:23-24  Scripture reading: Proverbs 22:1-4 A good preacher will warn you to take care of your soul; he will warn you to take care of your body and he will warn you to take care of your possessions. Your possessions may be of less value than your soul and body, but your possessions are also God’s gifts and you have an obligation to care for them. So learn from Solomon how to spend your money, including how to care for your car and your new iPhone. We call this stewardship. You get things in two ways, either by hard work or by inheritance (from people who worked hard for it). “He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich…” (Prov. 10:4). When you get things you are to care for them (but not make idols of them). You are required to make good investments. This is why lotteries are inappropriate. And yet, you must not overwork. “Do not overwork to be rich; because of your own understanding, cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven” (Proverbs 23:4-5). Money can become mist. As Christ’s child, thank God for your wealth. You are a mere steward. Don’t take credit for whatever you achieve. “By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches and honor and life” (Proverbs 22:4). Don’t hold too tightly to wealth. Remember what you have received from Jesus! Suggestions for prayer Thank God for your wealth and talents. Pray that you take care of them and use them for good, not hoarding or wasting. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Mitchell Persaud is pastor of New Horizon URC in Scarborough, ON, a mission church under the oversight of Cornerstone URC in London, ON. He was born in Guyana, South America, into a Hindu home, baptized Roman Catholic, raised Pentecostal and then became Reformed....

Daily devotional

January 21 – Proverbs on giving

“He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor.” – Proverbs 22:9 Scripture reading: Proverbs 19:14-17 Most Christians accept that they should tithe and give to the poor, but giving goes beyond those things, to other causes. First, why give? Solomon said God says so. But there is more. Giving shows you are thankful for God’s love for you. Giving shows your love for your brother. Giving brings rewards. You start giving by giving to those closer to you: God, your family, relatives, and friends. Give to strangers also. Give to proper needs. This means you must investigate. Don’t simply give because others are giving to an organization. Check them out. Find out how much money goes to administration and to the main cause. Remember, the money is not yours, but the Lord’s. You are merely stewards of those gifts. And don’t boast about giving. “Whoever falsely boasts of giving is like clouds and wind without rain” (Prov. 25:14). You must give much more than money. Money is relatively easy to give. Getting your hands down and dirty is much more difficult. Isn’t that true? It is easy to give $4.50 to Scott’s Mission downtown Toronto for a Thanksgiving meal for the homeless, but would you go and help feed the homeless, especially on Thanksgiving Day? Speak for the poor. “Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:9). Give of your talents. If able, give advice on personal life, marriage and finances. Give training to a youth. Give of your time. Give support to struggling businesses. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will help without expecting anything back and that you will be generous and not hoard. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Mitchell Persaud is pastor of New Horizon URC in Scarborough, ON, a mission church under the oversight of Cornerstone URC in London, ON. He was born in Guyana, South America, into a Hindu home, baptized Roman Catholic, raised Pentecostal and then became Reformed....

Daily devotional

January 20 – Proverbs on the future

“Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day; For surely there is a hereafter, and your hope will not be cut off.” – Proverbs 23:17-18  Scripture reading: Proverbs 24:19-20 Who likes to have to wait for blessings? But deferring blessings is like using small fish to catch bigger fish. You might have to wait longer, but you will get more in the future. This is why Solomon urged you to wait for your future blessings. You have a rosy future that is much more than 100 years. It is for eternity! Your future blessings will come because you are a child of God, saved through Jesus Christ. Moreover, even the minutest area of your life, God knows and controls. So whether you live or die in the next year, you can be sure your future is in God’s hands. As Proverbs 10:28 says, “The hope of the righteous will be gladness, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.” Remember, the righteous are only made righteous through Jesus Christ. So be patient for your blessings to come. Expect tough times, but be confident of the future. While some have abandoned serving the Lord because they don’t want to wait for blessings, you must not! At the same time, don’t forget there are great blessings in this world now that you should appreciate! As you wait, work hard and save up more future blessings. And in order to wait, feed daily on God’s Word and His promises. The more you eat, the stronger you will get. Eventually, heaven will come. Proverbs 13:12 teaches: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will give you patience when things don’t go well and that you will learn to rest in the promises of a secured future through Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Mitchell Persaud is pastor of New Horizon URC in Scarborough, ON, a mission church under the oversight of Cornerstone URC in London, ON. He was born in Guyana, South America, into a Hindu home, baptized Roman Catholic, raised Pentecostal and then became Reformed....

Daily devotional

January 15 – Proverbs on divine protection

“Every word of God is pure; he is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.” – Proverbs 30:5 Scripture reading: Proverbs 2:1-8 You probably heard of ADT. It is a popular home security company. But can they really prevent most dangers? They can’t really protect your body. The most they can do is call for the ambulance, fire department or police. They can’t protect your soul. You need someone else and Solomon spoke of Him. God is able to protect you. He said so. Solomon’s father said that even when you go through the “valley of the shadow of death” God is able to keep you. He protects you by His angels. He protects you by giving you wisdom. He watches over you all the time. We read in Proverbs 15:3 that: “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” God even destroys your enemies when it suits Him. Why does God protect you? He protects you because you are His children and He loves you. Proverbs 2:8 says: “He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints.” Even sinful, earthly fathers try to protect their children. This does not take away your responsibility. Proverbs 13:3 tells us: “He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.” You guard yourself by following the Lord’s commands. As Proverbs 19:16 says: “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, but he who is careless of his ways will die.” The two tables of God’s laws are like rails to a train. You are safe when you remain on them! Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will learn to trust God’s sovereignty and that you will not worry about your or your children’s future and that you will not fear disease and death. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Mitchell Persaud is pastor of New Horizon URC in Scarborough, ON, a mission church under the oversight of Cornerstone URC in London, ON. He was born in Guyana, South America, into a Hindu home, baptized Roman Catholic, raised Pentecostal and then became Reformed....

Daily devotional

January 14 – Proverbs on politics and politicians

“Mercy and truth preserve the king…” – Proverbs 20:28 Scripture reading: Proverbs 16:12-13 Most people, when they hear of politicians, want to hold their noses in disgust because politicians often put their own welfare above others’ welfare, take bribes and forget the promises they made before their election. Because of these sinful practices in politicians, Christians have avoided being involved in politics altogether. But what did Solomon teach about politicians? A politician must be qualified. He said a slave with no experience is not able to lead others (Proverbs 19:10). A politician must love righteousness, knowing righteousness brings blessings on nations (Proverbs 14:34). This means a politician must know God’s truth which teaches that his job is to protect the godly and punish the wicked. It is not his job to show empathy or redistribute wealth. Why do politicians compromise? Because many politicians begin to love power more than God, they try to preserve their power at all costs, even compromising the truth. When politicians are wicked, the nation suffers and either tyranny or anarchy becomes law. Tyranny can come in the form of over-taxation in order to provide for those who would vote for that politician. Anarchy can come when the politician has no interest in public safety (only in his advancement) so criminals run rampant. But whether it is tyranny or anarchy, under these circumstances the kingdom of Jesus Christ cannot expand. Remind politicians they will have to give an account to God for whatever they do. Pray for them. Be active politically if you are able. Redeem the culture and promote God’s truth. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will not hate politicians. Pray for them and for their removal from office if they refuse to do well. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Mitchell Persaud is pastor of New Horizon URC in Scarborough, ON, a mission church under the oversight of Cornerstone URC in London, ON. He was born in Guyana, South America, into a Hindu home, baptized Roman Catholic, raised Pentecostal and then became Reformed....

Daily devotional

January 13 – Proverbs on the unchangeable Scripture

“Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life.” – Proverbs 4:13 Scripture reading: Proverbs 30:1-6 It didn’t take long for Nintendo GameCube to be tossed aside for a new and better version, and then another and another. But there is no such worry about the Scriptures. God’s truth never changes. God’s truth is perfect and that means it can never be improved. You need truth. Truth shows the danger you are in without Christ. (Truth is used figuratively by Solomon to refer to Jesus. Jesus described Himself as the Truth.) Truth shows you the way to return and remain in a right relationship with your heavenly Father. As we read in Proverbs 4:4: “He also taught me, and said to me: 'Let your heart retain my words; keep my commands, and live.'” God’s truth shows God’s love. What about those who are trying to reinterpret God’s Word, or water it down to make it more acceptable? Look at one example. Some don’t like only men as elders, so they reinterpret the Scriptures to allow women elders. In reality they are changing God’s Word. The Lord warns what would happen to anyone who changes one jot or tittle of his Word. So read Christ’s Word, hide it in your heart and work to see it established in your life, in your family’s life, in the church and in the world. Teach God’s Word, starting in your home, and note that the Lord puts the focus especially on fathers to do this. Keep your children alive! As it says in Proverbs 4:6: “Do not forsake her , and she will preserve you…” Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will be diligent in reading, meditating on and promoting the Holy Scriptures and that you will rely on God’s Word to guide in all areas of your life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Mitchell Persaud is pastor of New Horizon URC in Scarborough, ON, a mission church under the oversight of Cornerstone URC in London, ON. He was born in Guyana, South America, into a Hindu home, baptized Roman Catholic, raised Pentecostal and then became Reformed....

Daily devotional

January 12 – Proverbs on lying

“He who speaks truth declares righteousness, but a false witness, deceit.” – Proverbs 12:17  Scripture reading: Proverbs 6:12-19 The tongue, which was created as an instrument to praise God, can instead be the source of great hurt, great, great hurt, when it tells lies. What happens when you lie? When you lie there is chaos in society. Proverbs 20:28 tells us “Mercy and truth preserve the king, and by lovingkindness he upholds his throne.” But when you lie, families and churches are destroyed. Consider some examples: A mother who lies to protect her children from discipline destroys godly order. Those children lose a sense of what the truth is and would not be able to trust the Bible and its doctrines. A State that teaches that abortions are not murders, or a civil court that says that spanking a child is mentally destructive, is undermining societal structure and robs God of honor. As we learn in Proverbs 26:28: “A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” Moreover, lying in court can send an innocent man to his death. No wonder lying lips are compared to poisonous snakes. Ultimately, lying lips send people to hell. How then are you enabled to speak the truth and help to maintain order and bring honor to the Lord? When you are filled with the Holy Spirit of Jesus, Who is the personification of truth in you, you will speak the truth. There is no other way! Proverbs 8:7 says: “For my mouth will speak truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips.” Invest in truth. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will know the truth, speak the truth and train your children to do so and that you will support the speaking of truth in every area of society. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Mitchell Persaud is pastor of New Horizon URC in Scarborough, ON, a mission church under the oversight of Cornerstone URC in London, ON. He was born in Guyana, South America, into a Hindu home, baptized Roman Catholic, raised Pentecostal and then became Reformed....

Daily devotional

January 7 – Proverbs on taking advice

“By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.” – Proverbs 13:10 Scripture reading: Proverbs 1:25-27 Some people think they know everything and so they don’t want to take any advice. Other people struggle with pride so they don’t want to take advice. But the reality is that every single person at one time or another (and for most of us, many times) needs advice. When you take advice, you not only evidence a humble spirit, but you are also equipped to better serve the Lord. Taking advice is a mark of wisdom. Through taking advice you gain wisdom. If you don’t take advice, you are foolish and you won’t be able to be effective for the kingdom. Remember the foolishness of King Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, and how he lost most of the kingdom for taking bad advice! And didn’t Napoleon ignore advice about the Russian winter and faced a horrible defeat? So take advice. Take sound advice from those who are grounded in the Lord and know more than you. The Lord stores wisdom in others. Draw from them. Later in life you will be able to pass on that advice. As Proverbs 15:22 says: Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established. Your Wonderful Counselor, Who Himself is the personification of wisdom, saved you and will equip you through His Word and through His servants! Listen carefully. Listen to the Lord and live. Only He has good advice. The Devil pretends to be wise, but he leads men to their death! Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would not be a know-it-all and that you would seek advice from others to do the work the Lord has called you to in the home, church and society. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Mitchell Persaud is pastor of New Horizon URC in Scarborough, ON, a mission church under the oversight of Cornerstone URC in London, ON. He was born in Guyana, South America, into a Hindu home, baptized Roman Catholic, raised Pentecostal and then became Reformed....

Daily devotional

January 6 – Proverbs on alcohol

“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” – Proverbs 20:1 Scripture reading: Proverbs 23:29-35 God gave alcohol as a blessing to man, not a curse. Jesus personally made barrels of fine wine for people to enjoy at a wedding. Christians drank wine at fellowship feasts. So wine is not sinful. The trouble comes when this gift of God is abused, when it is consumed in inordinate amounts, or when it is consumed by those who should not use it. But just as you may not blame food for being fat, you must not blame alcohol for drunkenness. The abuse of a gift doesn’t make it a bad gift. What are the consequences of drunkenness? Poverty. Spousal abuse. Murder. Consider Solomon’s direct words from Proverbs 23:19-21, Hear, my son, and be wise; And guide your heart in the way. Do not mix with winebibbers, or with gluttonous eaters of meat; For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty… Yes, the abuse of alcohol does bite like a viper, but ultimately, the greatest consequence of alcohol abuse is hell. How can you prevent drunkenness? First, if you do drink alcohol, make sure it is in moderation. And you will have to stand before God and account for “moderation.” Second, remember that you don’t need to drown your troubles or escape reality with alcohol. The Lord will help you through your trials. You are His. Third, remember your sufficiency is in Christ. He meets the greatest needs of your life. Learn to be satisfied in Him. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will guard against drunkenness in your life and that you will not use alcohol to avoid dealing with troubles in your life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Mitchell Persaud is pastor of New Horizon URC in Scarborough, ON, a mission church under the oversight of Cornerstone URC in London, ON. He was born in Guyana, South America, into a Hindu home, baptized Roman Catholic, raised Pentecostal and then became Reformed....

Daily devotional

January 5 – Proverbs on the poor

“He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will pay back what he has given.” – Proverbs 19:17  Scripture reading: Proverbs 28:19-22 Poor people are all around. You see them on the streets asking for help. You see their images on TV at Christmas time and you hear the pleas to help them. There are also the poor among the people of God who need help and they must be your first priority. You start with helping at home! (By the way, those who teach that Christians who are poor are only poor because they lack faith are unkind and wrong. God may providentially want some to be poor so they can empathize with other poor people and help them. God may also ordain people to be poor in order that the rich could learn to care for them.) In order to help the poor in the church, God appointed deacons. Along with deacons, God wants you to be merciful to the poor and help them. But you are not only to help the poor by giving them money. In fact, money may not be their greatest need. They may need a rebuke and they may need advice on how to spend money. They may need encouragement to be patient in poverty. You may help the poor by speaking up for them if someone is abusing them. Your motivation to show kindness is in the fact that Jesus showed love to you and enriched you. As a result, you would want to help His people, especially the poor ones. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will show you those who are truly needy and that you will be generous and reflect on how rich you are in Jesus. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Mitchell Persaud is pastor of New Horizon URC in Scarborough, ON, a mission church under the oversight of Cornerstone URC in London, ON. He was born in Guyana, South America, into a Hindu home, baptized Roman Catholic, raised Pentecostal and then became Reformed....

Daily devotional

January 4 – Proverbs on food

“Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, lest you be filled with it and vomit.” – Proverbs 25:16  Scripture reading: Proverbs 23:19-21 The average North American eats more than 150 pounds of sugar per year. No wonder North America is the fattest continent in the world. But the misuse of food is not new. It occurred many, many times in the Bible. Now, Solomon enjoyed food, even exotic, tasty food. Food is God’s gift. But because of abuse of food, which hinders our sanctification, Solomon was compelled to address the issue of food abuse, or rather, body abuse. What did he teach? Enjoy your food, but don’t be a glutton. Being a glutton is acting as if God couldn’t provide for you tomorrow and you must eat all today. It is also an abuse of the body. Many diseases are caused by overeating. Enjoy your food, but learn to share with those who do not have, especially with those who are from the same blood, the blood of Jesus. Remember, the reason you have more food is not because you are better than Christians in Africa, but because God is pleased to bless you. A suggestion might be to miss one meal a week and give that money to the needy. (That might be good for your health as well!) Enjoy your food, but don’t waste it. Save up for hard times. Learn from Solomon’s ants (Proverbs 30:25). It seems that ants even store up more food when they sense a famine coming. Not being a glutton and not hoarding is evidence that you are growing in Jesus. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will teach you to live a balanced life and that you will share of your abundance and be satisfied with God’s gifts. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Mitchell Persaud is pastor of New Horizon URC in Scarborough, ON, a mission church under the oversight of Cornerstone URC in London, ON. He was born in Guyana, South America, into a Hindu home, baptized Roman Catholic, raised Pentecostal and then became Reformed....

Daily devotional

December 30 – The character of the King’s return

“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” – Revelation 1:7  Scripture reading: Revelation 1:9-18; 19:11-21 On Christmas Day we looked back in time to remember Jesus' first Advent, but we look forward to His second Advent. And it will be very different in character. Jesus' first Advent was not noticed by many people. Only a few shepherds, and later, some wise men from the east, came to see the newborn King. Interestingly, Jesus' enemies looked for Him, but could not find Him. What a contrast to His second coming where Jesus will be noticed by everyone and His enemies will not be able to flee from Him. Jesus came to earth the first time as a humble, helpless babe wearing not a prince's garb, but swaddling cloths. He lay not in a cradle, but an animal's feeding trough. His birthplace was not a palace, but a barn. However, when Jesus returns, He will come as a mighty, majestic King wrapped in flowing, royal robe, riding a royal steed, and wielding a double-edged sword. Jesus' first coming focused on bringing salvation to His people through His atoning death. His second coming focuses on bringing judgment upon His enemies through their eternal death. When Jesus returns, the dead will be raised, the earth will quake and a final fault-line will be formed as the final separation takes place. All those standing on Satan's side will be swallowed up by eternal death in hell. But those on Jesus' side will live on the green grass of God's new creation from that day forward and forevermore. Whose side do you stand on? Where does your loyalty lie? Suggestions for prayer Thank Jesus that if you trust in Him, you can confidently await His return as Judge, for on the cross He already stood trial in your place and removed God's wrath when He bore the curse for you. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 29 – The timing of the King’s return

“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” – Matthew 25:13  Scripture reading: Matthew 25:1-13 As our thoughts turn toward the end of the year, it is natural for our thoughts to also turn to the end of time and the beginning of eternity. We know that this year ends in three days and that the year 2020 will end 366 days after it begins. But we don't know when Jesus will return to bring the world as we know it to an end and cause a recreated world to begin. Jesus tells us, “No one knows about that day or hour. The Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him” (Matthew 24:36,44). He then tells a parable to teach us to always be ready for His return. The ten bridesmaids are part of a wedding party. They are awaiting the bridegroom to arrive, but he is delayed. The delay is not the problem. Unpreparedness is. Five of the bridesmaids did not bring extra oil. When their lamps burn out, they have to head back to town to buy more oil. Tragically, the bridegroom returns while they are away. He takes with him those who are ready, but leaves behind those who were unprepared. This reminds us that Christianity is not a one-time decision for Christ, nor an insurance policy to be renewed on an annual basis. It is a moment-by-moment lifestyle of repentance and trust. We get ready and remain ready for His return by continually confessing our sins, and by continually trusting that His blood cleanses us and His righteousness clothes us. Jesus will return. Are you ready? Will you stay ready? Suggestions for prayer Thank God that the oil of forgiveness is continually and freely available through the gift of faith in Jesus Christ. Ask for help to live in a constant state of readiness by continually confessing sin and by continually trusting in the cleansing power of Jesus' blood. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 28 – Departure & arrival announcements

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” – John 14:3  Scripture reading: Mark 8:31-33; John 13:33-36; 14:1-4 Jesus, the Saviour, had finally come. For three years He captivated the crowds by teaching, healing and feeding them – all free of charge! Excitement was surging. Then, when Jesus mounted a donkey and rode into Jerusalem, the crowds were ecstatic. He was entering the capital city, and doing so in kingly fashion! The crowds knew what this meant. This was exactly what they had been waiting for. Jesus was going to seat Himself on the throne of David in the city of David! As Messiah, He would depose depraved King Herod, overthrow the Roman overlords, and gain complete independence for the Jews. This would be heaven on earth! That's how most Jews thought the story would go. But that's not at all how the story actually goes. It actually goes exactly the way Jesus said it would go: He suffered, died, rose, and departed. Jesus had explained this sequence of events to His disciples. But like a child who tunes out when a parent starts saying something she doesn't want to hear, the disciples tuned out when Jesus began to talk about His suffering and death. They didn't listen long enough to hear the word 'rise.' The disappointment caused by His death soon gave way to delight as He rose on the third day. Then disillusionment set in again as Jesus announced His departure. But it shouldn't have, for in the very same breath, He announced His return. And because Jesus came the first time, as God promised, you can be sure He will come a second time. He promised! Suggestions for prayer Thank Jesus for the promise of His return and for the joy of knowing that when He returns, He will welcome all who trust in Him into the new creation over which He will reign as eternal King. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 27 – Enjoying the Savior’s presence: blessings flow far as the curse is found

“The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” – Matthew 11:5  Scripture reading: Mark 1:14-34 The Gospels quickly move from Jesus as a baby in a manger and boy in the temple to Jesus as a powerful Preacher and a marvelous miracle-working Man. His teaching amazed people because He taught with a calm, compassionate, kind, confident authority they had never heard before. All the other prophets spoke about God, but Jesus spoke as if He was God. And His miracles provided abundant proof that He was indeed God. With words, Jesus not only communicated ideas, but controlled creatures and creation alike. At His command, demons departed, leprosy left and fevers fled. Lame limbs were restored to life, sight was restored to the blind, speech returned to the mute, sound was again heard by the deaf. At His word, raging winds ceased, surging waves were stilled. Most amazing of all, when He spoke, the dead would hear His powerful voice and walk right out of their tomb (John 11:43-44)! If Jesus could do all this by speaking a word, you can be sure people's sins were forgiven too when He said they were. No wonder people came in droves when Jesus came to town. The whole world was going after this Doctor who healed both soul and body (John 12:19). What an exciting time! Through the miracles He performed, Jesus gave a glimpse of what life in His kingdom would be like: No more would sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground because He came to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found. Suggestions for prayer Thank Jesus for the cosmic scope of salvation He brings. He saves not only our souls, but also our bodies which He promises to raise and restore, transforming them and making them like His glorious body. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 22 – Prophets promise Christ’s coming (1): A Christmas stump

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” – Isaiah 11:1  Scripture reading: Isaiah 11:1-16 As promised, a remnant returned to the Promised Land. But only a remnant. When you hear "remnant," think "remainder." In mathematics, ninety-nine divided by five is nineteen, remainder four. Four is but a small fraction of the ninety-nine – a mere four percent! That's about the size of the group that returned to Jerusalem – a small fraction of the whole. The prophet Isaiah uses not mathematics, but trees to describe how small the remnant was. Back in Solomon's day when the kingdom of Israel was enjoying her golden years, she was a tall, sturdy tree with leafy limbs that stretched out far and wide across the land. But because of her sin, she was cut off at ground level. Nothing but a stump remained of the once grand and glorious kingdom. What had come of God's promise that David's kingdom would endure forever? Had Israel's sin nullified or voided God's promise of the coming Saviour? No! Remember, this was a “No ifs, ands, or buts” promise from God. Though Israel was now nothing but a stump, there was still a stump. And this stump, according to Isaiah, is a Christmas stump. We might be far more familiar with Christmas trees, but Isaiah's Christmas stump has a much clearer connection to Christ. Isaiah says that from this Christmas stump will spring forth a Christmas shoot, a Seed, a Son. The family tree of Jesse, father of King David, would be revived and begin to grow again. The promised Saviour would still be born! Suggestions for prayer Thank God that His promise to send a Saviour to redeem us from the curse of our sin was a “no ifs, ands or buts” kind of promise and that though God had to punish Israel, her failures did not stop His promise from being fulfilled. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 21 – The exile: The end?

“Thus says the Lord GOD to the land of Israel: ‘An end! The end has come upon the four corners of the land. Now the end is upon you, and I will send my anger upon you . . . and I will punish you for all your abominations.’” – Ezekiel 7:2-3 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 17:5-23 Under Joshua's leadership the Israelites defeated the Canaanites and took possession of the Promised Land. By King Solomon's day “Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy” (1 Kings 4:20). God certainly fulfilled His promise to multiply Abraham's descendants and give them land. Tragically, just when things were as good as could be, they got worse than can be imagined. Solomon married foreign women, worshiped false gods and set Israel on a deadly path of disobedience. God sent one prophet after another to call His rebellious people to repent, but they refused to listen. God had to punish them. Ounce by ounce, the gold was stripped from the temple. Piece by piece the temple furnishings were carted away. Group by group, God's people were carried far away from His presence. They became foreigners in a foreign land with foreign gods. Why were they dispossessed so soon? Had God broken His promise? Certainly not. God reminded His people that He had not broken His promise, but they certainly had broken His commands. It seemed like this was the end of the story, and that Israel was history. But God's promise to send a Saviour was a “No ifs, ands, or buts” kind of promise. Through the very same prophets who prophesied punishment through exile, God promised that a remnant would return, and He restated His promise that the Saviour, Jesus Christ, would come. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help you take sin seriously, and thank Jesus that He was exiled from the presence of God while on the cross so that we can forever be in the presence of God in Paradise. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 20 – Picture #6: The Promised Land

“On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands.” – Ezekiel 20:6b  Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 8:7-9; Joshua 21:43-44 Although God was with His people while they wandered in the wilderness, the journey was no picnic in the park. The Israelites had food and water. But that was about it. The wilderness was a wasteland. What a contrast to the Promised Land of Canaan, “a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands” (Ezekiel 20:6b). Milk and honey might not seem like anything special to us, but they represent all that is most desirable and delightful. If you think about it, the most expensive drinks at your local cafe are still the lattes. And who doesn't like whipped cream, cream cheese and ice cream? As for honey, it represents all that is sweet. In the Promised Land, the Israelites would enjoy wheat and wine, barley and bread, grapes and olives, figs and pomegranates, not to mention the minerals and precious metals that could be mined from the ground. The land would be flowing with these good gifts; available in unending supply, like a river that never runs dry. What a contrast to their meager diet as slaves in Egypt! What a change from the monotonous manna! If the wilderness was a picture of hardship, danger and God's displeasure, Canaan was a picture of prosperity, peace and pleasure. More importantly, the Promised Land was a picture of Paradise itself. Joshua led the people into a beautiful land that pictured Paradise. But Jesus leads us into the eternal Paradise, the Promised Land of the new heavens and renewed earth. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the cosmic scope of His saving work. He is redeeming not just our souls and bodies, but this creation itself (Romans 8:19-21). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 19 – Picture #5: The Tabernacle

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt (tented, tabernacled) among us.” – John 1:14  Scripture reading: Exodus 26:1,6-7,14; 29:43-46; 40:33-35 Pictures of Jesus were plentiful for the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness: the Passover Lamb, thirst-quenching water, daily bread, a bronze serpent. But there was yet another picture of Jesus moving with them wherever they wandered in the wilderness. That picture was a large, elaborate tent-like structure called the tabernacle. This tent was God's home or the street address of His earthly dwelling. The tabernacle consisted of wooden poles covered with colorful curtains embroidered with intricate designs. Their beauty could be viewed from inside the tent. Covering these colourful interior curtains were three more curtain-like layers. All three were made of animal skin: the first layer was goatskin; the second, ram skin; and the third, another kind of durable leather (Exodus 26:1,6-7,14). Skin, skin, skin! God lived in a tent made of three layers of animal skin! Move into the New Testament and we find the human body described as a tent. Call it a tent of human skin. That's exactly what Jesus dwelt in when He came to earth. Christmas is the celebration of Jesus coming to earth and dwelling not in a tent of animal skin, but in a tent of human skin! This is precisely what John 1:14 describes. Jesus is the Word; flesh is a reference to the human body He took on; and 'dwelt' literally means 'tented' or 'tabernacled.' Christmas is the celebration of Jesus coming to tabernacle in a tent of human skin! Never had God's presence been nearer or clearer. Suggestions for prayer Thank Jesus that He is both the tabernacle and the sacrifice required to enter into the tabernacle, both the presence of God and the means by which we enter into the presence of God. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 14 – The deliverer: Moses

“Then the LORD said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry....And I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.’”– Exodus 3:7-8,10 Scripture reading: Exodus 3:7-10; Psalm 105:1-7,16-45 God promised Abraham that his descendants would take possession of Canaan. However, due to widespread famine, Jacob and his family moved to Egypt. Upon arriving, Pharaoh favored them, letting them live in the lush land of Goshen. But one Pharaoh's favor gave way to the next Pharaoh's fury. The Israelites became mere machines that made pyramids and palaces. God's promises now seemed far from being fulfilled. Abraham's descendants were certainly numerous, but they lived far from the Promised Land of Canaan. They were enslaved in a foreign land. It seemed all they had to look forward to was the next crack of the whip and the next baby's burial. But God had not forgotten His promise. He raised up a deliverer! During a time when all baby boys were destined for death in the Nile, Moses was saved in the very waters that were intended to serve as his grave. Safely afloat in a miniature ark of reeds, he was discovered by Pharaoh's daughter and raised in Pharaoh's palace. After learning the ways of Egypt, Moses fled to the wilderness and learned to care for sheep. God then sent him back to Egypt to deliver His people. By delivering ten powerful plagues and drowning evil lord Pharaoh and his army, Moses pictured Jesus, the Deliverer, Who defeated Satan by rising from the tomb. By leading the Israelites through the wilderness, protecting and providing for them along the way, Moses pictured Jesus, the Shepherd, Who leads us along our way.   Suggestions for prayer Thank Jesus that through His death and resurrection He delivers us from the eternal death we deserve. And thank Him for being an ever-present Shepherd Who provides for and protects us each day. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 13 – Jacob’s son Judah: A lion to look forward to

“Judah is a lion's cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?” – Genesis 49:9 Scripture Reading: Genesis 49:1-2,8-12; Numbers 24:8-9; Ezekiel 19:1-7 God promised Abraham that his descendants would become numerous enough to form a nation. That promise came true. Abraham's son Isaac had a son named Jacob who had twelve sons. Jacob's twelve sons became the heads of twelve tribes. Those twelve tribes formed a nation named Israel. God had also promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan. However, that promise had not yet come true. Two hundred years later, Canaan was still inhabited by powerful pagan peoples. These nations were far bigger than Israel. Their military technology was far better. Would Abraham's descendants ever possess the promised land? Absolutely! God had promised. And to help Abraham's descendants believe the promise given long before to their forefather, God gave them yet another promise. Through the prophetic words spoken by Jacob while blessing his sons, God promised that Judah would be a lion's cub. This meant the tribe of Judah would bear and raise lion-like-leaders who would pounce upon the pagan peoples who possessed the promised land and devour them as a lion devours its prey (Numbers 24:8-9). Think of David who not only killed lions, but also lion-like giants like Goliath. Jesus came as the ultimate lion-like leader. It might not have seemed so when, like a Lamb, He went silently to the cross. But with a great roar of victory, He rose from the dead showing He was indeed the Lion of the tribe of Judah — a Lion who defeated the greatest enemies: death and Satan (Revelation 5:5-6). Suggestions for prayer Praise God for Jesus Who is both the Passover Lamb slain for our sins and the powerful Lion Who defeated the last enemy, death, by rising from the dead. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 12 – Abraham (2): Looking forward from Mount Moriah

“God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 Scripture reading: Genesis 22:1-19; Hebrews 11:17-19 God promised to give Abraham a multitude of descendants, but at the age of eighty-six, he was still the father of none. Not much to look forward to, it seemed. Abraham and Sarah eventually doubted God's promise. Thinking God might need their help to make His promise come true, Abraham slept with his wife's household servant and received a son. They figured Jesus could descend from Abraham and Hagar's son, Ishmael. But no! God had promised to give Abraham a son through his wife, Sarah (Genesis 17:16; 18:10). And God keeps His promises! When Abraham was one hundred years old and Sarah was ninety, Isaac was born to them. Now there was hope! But then God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. Suddenly, all hope vanished. How could God's promise come true if Isaac was dead? Jesus was to descend from Isaac's seed. Despite the extreme difficulty of the test, Abraham obeyed God's command. But through this test, God presented a picture of Abraham's greater Son, Jesus. The picture is painted by numerous parallels. Both sons are dearly loved and only sons. Both are sacrificed by their fathers. Both carry the wood upon which they will be sacrificed. Both are sacrificed in the same location: Isaac on the temple mount where daily sacrifices for sin would be offered; Jesus just east on Mount Calvary. But there is one major difference. A substitute was provided to die instead of Isaac, but no substitute was provided for Jesus. He died to pay for our sin. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for being willing to offer His Son as a sacrifice for your sin. Thank Jesus that He was willing to be the sacrifice by dying in your place so as to remove the righteous wrath of God against your sin. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 11 – Abraham (1): Looking forward from Ur

“And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’”– Galatians 3:8 Scripture reading: Genesis 12:1-7; Galatians 3:8 The judgment and renewal brought about by the flood wiped wickedness from the face of the earth, but it did not remove wickedness from the human heart (Genesis 8:21). The seed of drunkenness soon sprouted as the world's first vintner (Noah), became the first drunk (Genesis 9:21). The weed of rebellion grew as people refused to scatter across the face of the earth, instead gathering together to build a gigantic tower so as to make a great name for themselves. The tower must not have been that big, though, because God had to come down just to see it (Genesis 11:5). He put a stop-work order on the project by confusing peoples' languages. This caused them to scatter, as He had commanded them to do. Then things got worse. Instead of building big towers, people built false gods (Joshua 24:2-3,15). It seemed everyone was on Satan's side. Where would the serpent-crushing Seed of the woman come from? Was anyone on God's side? Maybe not. But God called Abraham to cross the fault-line and come to His side (Genesis 12:1). Abraham obeyed. God also promised that Abraham's descendants would be numerous enough to form a nation (Genesis 12:2), that they would live in the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:7) and that Jesus would be born from among his descendants while living in the promised land of Canaan. Through Jesus all people from all nations are blessed with the gift of salvation. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that long before Jesus came, He preached the Good News about His coming to Abraham. Praise God for the width, length, height and depth of His love which extends to all people from all nations. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 6 – Promise in paradise (2): Through a new set of clothing

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” – Isaiah 61:10a Scripture reading: Genesis 3:6-21; Isaiah 61:10 A second Advent promise was given in the garden in symbolic form through a new set of clothing. Immediately after eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve suddenly realized they were naked. Their nakedness was not a problem before (Genesis 2:25), but now it suddenly becomes a source and symbol of shame. When we are ashamed of something, we try to cover it up. This all started with Adam and Eve. They tried to cover up the shame of their nakedness with skimpy loincloths. Did this solve their problem? No! Though covered by fig-leaves, they were still filled with fear. They hid their nakedness from each other. Then they tried to hide from God. But no matter what they did, they could not remove their fear, guilt and shame. Nor could they restore their relationship with God. But God could! He replaced their skimpy, fig-leaf loin-cloths with tunics that He tailored for them from leather. In doing so, the Tailor taught two truths. First, tunics cover far more than loin-cloths, teaching that clothing should conceal rather than reveal. Second, God taught that blood must be shed in order to cover sin. To make the leather tunics, God killed an animal. This was the first animal sacrifice. The animal's death taught that the penalty for sin is death. But the animal died instead of Adam and Eve, teaching that God graciously gives life to sinners by providing a substitute to die in their place. Suggestions for prayer Thank God the Father for this picture of Jesus given in the first sacrifice that took place in the Garden of Eden. Thank Jesus for sacrificing Himself on the cross as the Lamb of God Who takes away our sin. And thank Jesus for clothing us with the robes of His perfect righteousness. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 5 – Promise in paradise (1): Through a curse on the serpent

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” – Genesis 3:15 Scripture reading: Genesis 3:14-15; Romans 16:20; Galatians 3:15-16 Paradise was lost. But all hope was not lost. Before banishing Adam and Eve from Paradise, He graciously gave them promises that filled them with hope. One promise was embedded in the curse God pronounced upon Satan: “You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). What hope for humanity is found in this curse! God broke the bonds of loyalty that bound Adam and Eve to Satan by placing enmity (enemy-likeness) between them and their respective descendants. God made them enemies, rather than friends, of Satan. God also condemned the serpent to crawl on his belly and eat dust all the days of his life. This symbolized Satan's subjugation, defeat and ultimate doom at the hands of a descendant of Eve. Galatians 3:16 tells us that this serpent-crushing descendant or seed is Jesus. He is the promised Saviour who would reverse the curse and rescue humanity from sin and death. What hope is found in God's words of curse upon Satan! They contain the first promise of Christ's coming, making this day in the Garden of Eden the very first day of Advent! God would keep repeating this same Advent promise in many different ways until Jesus came to ensure His people could keep looking forward to Christ's coming. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help you hate Satan and all that is evil; pray for strength to love and cling to what is good. Thank God that He will soon crush Satan completely (Romans 16:20a). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 4 – Punishment

“The wages of sin is death.” – Romans 6:23a “Sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” – James 1:15b Scripture reading: Genesis 2:16-17; 3:8-24 God liberally provided for Adam and Eve. They had permission to freely eat from all the trees in Paradise. Only one was off-limits. But the penalty for eating from the prohibited tree was death. God warned, “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17b). Sadly, Adam and Eve ate. And they died. Immediately. Death is not just about hearts that stop beating or brains that stop functioning. Death is the separation of that which belongs together. Adam and Eve immediately experienced separation from God by trying to hide from His sight in a bunch of bushes. Separation from God climaxed when they were banished from Paradise and barred from re-entry. Separation from each other began as the formerly naked couple hid their nakedness from each other's view. Emotional separation was experienced as the blame-game began. Relational separation started as Eve soon resented her subordinate role as helper and as Adam soon abused his role as leader. Lastly, on that very day their immortal bodies became mortal. A process of decay was now underway. They were destined to return to the dust from which they were made and physical death would eventually separate body from soul. From marvelous to marred, from beautiful to broken, from endless life to decay and death, paradise was lost. Such were the tragic results of defying a good and generous God. But before banishing Adam and Eve from the garden, God made promises that filled them with hope. Suggestions for prayer Rejoice that in Christ's resurrection, death has been defeated and we can look forward to eternal life with Him in transformed bodies that will be like His glorious body. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 3 – Problems begin

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” – Genesis 3:6 Scripture reading: Genesis 3:1-7 How long did the world stay picture-perfect? Not long. The third chapter in the Bible explains how this perfect Paradise was soon perplexed by a plethora of problems. When Satan tempted Eve to eat the fruit, she said to him, “Of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die'” (Genesis 3:3). Eve remembered both the prohibition and the penalty, and she clearly communicated both to Satan. This means the act of eating the forbidden fruit was not an accident or the result of forgetfulness. Nor was it an act of desperation due to being deprived of food. It was a conscious decision to disobey God. This was defiance. Rebellion. High treason against the good and generous king of the universe! What a tragic day. Adam and Eve's relationship with God was fractured. That day a fault-line was formed. Not a fault-line that divided the earth's crust into two tectonic plates, but a fault-line that divided humanity into two sides: those loyal to Satan and those loyal to God. This fault-line would run the length of the human race. As Adam and Eve moved forward with their lives, they looked back with sadness. They regretted the choice they had made and the consequences they had to live with. But that is not the end of the story. God continued to be good and soon showed them undeserved favor, which the Bible calls grace. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to give you a discerning spirit that enables you to know right from wrong, and pray for the desire and the strength to do what is right when you are tempted to do wrong. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

November 28 – A new nature

“Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being…” – Romans 7:20–22 Scripture reading: Romans 7 We don’t want to sin but rather we are charged to fight against that old self because it is not really us. This is not an excuse to sin but it is something else. We don’t want evil close at hand, yet as with Paul, the old self hasn’t completely died off. Our old nature was mortally wounded on the cross, as good as dead, always dying, however, it still clings to us like a dying soldier fighting to carry as many enemies with him into the grave. That is the evil that lies close at hand, dead, and no longer a part of us. So we might fight to put it to death once and for all. We want to be saints. Here is our twofold life, the Christian “inner being.” This is our new nature in Christ, not I who live, but Christ in me. The “inner me” is the me in Christ or Christ in me. The “inner me”, the true me, is the one regenerated by the Holy Spirit who truly loves God’s law. The Christian delights in God’s law, embraces it with gladness, and loves it as the revelation of God’s good and merciful will. The Psalms are for the songs of the “inner me”. They are the words of our new life. Our true voice in worship is found in the heart of God, which the Psalms reflect. Suggestions for prayer Pray that your church would worship God according to His Word alone. Pray that your home would follow that same Word and say with the saints of old, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Jared Beairdis the church planter and pastor of Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Missoula, Montana, USA....

Daily devotional

November 27 – A twofold life

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” – Romans 7:15–19 Scripture reading: Romans 7 Notice the two “I’s” in these verses: one “I” is my renewed self and the other is my old self. The one “I” hates the other. The Christian hates his sinful life because it is evil. What is the greatest evil? Death, which is where all sin leads. What is the greatest evil ever? The death of Christ, which is where our sin led Jesus. Here is why we hate evil: it is not only our enemy, we are its servants. We are the culprits that killed our Savior. Our sin led Christ to the cross which now saves us. Delivered, we no longer want to trample under our foot this grace of God. We hate that we try to keep Christ on the cross. We hate evil because it killed our Savior. We hate evil because we love Christ more, Who died for our sins. Here we see the difference between unbelief and believers hatred of evil. Unbelievers hate evil deeds because it upsets their best life now. We hate evil because we have the best promise now – Christ became sin for us so that we might be the righteousness of God. Once you truly accept that by faith, you will learn more and more to hate sin. Suggestions for prayer Augustine said, “our hearts are restless until they rest in God.” Pray that you would rest in God’s grace and from there seek to live for Him more and more. Pray that you would put to death your old self. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Jared Beairdis the church planter and pastor of Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Missoula, Montana, USA....

Daily devotional

November 26 – Compelled by love

“For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” – Romans 7:5-6 Scripture reading: Romans 7 Sin is an attempt to be a better god. The deception of sin is this, “I am powerful.” Our flesh loves the law because we think the power to overcome resides in our hearts. This “power trip” leads many to invent even more laws, which God has not made. What is the power of temptation? “You can be like God.” Behind sin is self and the fruit of self is death. Why do we love the gospel so much? Because it is the power of God unto sanctification. The gospel strengthens us to serve. Paul begins “But now” (vs.6). This is a famous Pauline “but now.” It is his way of contrasting our pre-Christian life with our Christian life. In that old life we were enslaved to the law, but now “in Christ” we are free. We are free not to do what we want, but to serve God. Paul contrasts freedom with bondage, the old life was bondage. Notice, we still serve. We are enslaved to righteousness. Just because the law is powerless does not mean it has no place in Christianity. It has a place, not of power but of leading. The gospel sets us free and the law then shows us the way. The gospel leads the Christian in sanctification. Christian obedience follows Christ. Suggestions for prayer Pray the Lord would expose your secret and hidden sins that you might with godly sorrow turn more and more away from sin and love God more and more instead. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Jared Beairdis the church planter and pastor of Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Missoula, Montana, USA....

Daily devotional

November 25 – Enslaved to love

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:20–23 Scripture reading: Romans 6 “Christ Jesus our Lord” is the last word in salvation. What can we do for such a great Savior? Only what God requires. We are enslaved to thankfulness. We do not obey God out of compulsion, fear, or greed. That would mean we hate sin and fear God only because we fear hell or because we want something – we want our best life now in return. That is enslavement to selfishness. That is not the fruit of justification. Those justified want to be enslaved to righteousness because Christ Jesus our Lord died for us sinners. We want to be enslaved because the Father chose us in Christ Jesus and because the Holy Spirit has sealed us into Christ Jesus. Why do we want to be enslaved to righteousness? Because God first loved us. We are enslaved to the gospel, enslaved to Christ Jesus our Lord, Who suffered and died not only for others but for us also. Heis greater than my shame. What else can I do, but offer my life as a sacrifice of thanksgiving. I am enslaved to righteousness and willingly and joyfully submit to God’s everlasting love and care in Christ Jesus my Lord. Amen. Suggestions for prayer Fix your eyes on Christ as your only hope and make it your aim in prayer to please Him all the days of your life. The highest praise is reserved for His great deeds of redemption that Christ has worked in us poor sinners. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Jared Beairdis the church planter and pastor of Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Missoula, Montana, USA....

Daily devotional

November 20 – Justification

“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” – Romans 5:9 Scripture reading: Romans 5 Justification is history. Everyone who belongs to the kingdom of God has this history, the moment you believed all charges were dropped, and you have been declared righteous. The adverb “now” demonstrates that justification is a present reality. There are some who say you have to earn justification. They are dead wrong – matter of fact, they are still dead in their sins. From Paul’s perspective, he and the Roman Christians were justified in the past, a declaration that continues into the present. How so? Faith, by faith they were received into the kingdom of God and by faith, so too, we are now resting in that kingdom. Faith is our history, faith is our present, and faith is our future and this faith is a gift of God, not of works, because God first loved us. Our faith is not self-caused, it is God caused, a gift of grace. It has to be faith because Jesus’ work that earned the Kingdom of God is history, “His blood.” The cross is our history. Our past, present, and future is history, “it is finished.” Christ died and we were justified. Christ died and we are justified. Christ died and we will be justified. Everything here is past and present tense except this “the wrath to come.” This is the eschatological wrath of God to come. This is Kingdom time too—when the Kingdom comes to judge the living and the dead. In Christ, we will be on the right side of that judgment. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the fullness of God’s Kingdom, that He would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, and cause multitudes who neglect salvation to seek after Christ and find it. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Jared Beairdis the church planter and pastor of Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Missoula, Montana, USA....

Daily devotional

November 19 – True love

“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 Scripture reading: Romans 5 In case we fail to see the greatness of God’s love for us, Paul spells it out. Paul compares the greatness of God’s love by the smallness of man’s love. It is indeed rare to find someone willing to die for another, but it happens. It happens on the battlefield when an unknown hero becomes known to all by diving on the grenade to save his troops. We’ve all heard the story of the man risking is life, even giving his life to run into the burning building or jumping in the frozen lake. There are exceptional men and women in the world; total depravity does not rule that out. Yet as loving as that may be, rarer indeed, perhaps unheard of, is the one who dies for someone who hates him. You don’t hear of the hero jumping on the grenade for the enemy. Yet this is exactly what Christ has done. In contrast to the very best of human love is God’s love. God sent His Son to die for a people who hated Him. God loves the unlovely. This dying “for us” is proof. Christ never dies for us in Scripture apart from the Father’s first loving us. The Father never loves us apart from Christ’s dying on the cross. God’s love is active, it moves to remove sin. It loves by preparing, protecting, and providing for us all we need in life and death. It is a sacrificial love. Christ died not for Himself but for us. He was our Substitute. He suffered in our place. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the abundance of His loving-kindness, Who has sustained us with every spiritual blessing by giving us His grace. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Jared Beairdis the church planter and pastor of Covenant Reformed Church( URCNA) in Missoula, Montana, USA....

Daily devotional

November 18 – Made by love

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die.” – Romans 5:6–7 Scripture reading: Romans 5 In ourselves, we have no access to God. We are sinners “while we were” in this lost state, God provided a solution. While we were unlovely and weak, “Christ died for” sinners. The solution is Christ’s love for undeserving sinners. We call this grace; grace is the self-caused love of God. Self-caused, He doesn’t love us because of some worth in us. We are unworthy. His love actually confers worth upon us. This means grace is greater than our sin. God makes us worthy of the kingdom of God. His love makes us. Who belongs to the Kingdom of God? Those who do not deserve it. So, contrary to popular opinion, Christ did not die on the cross to “help those who help themselves.” Grace does not wait for us to start helping ourselves. That is not grace. It is works. Salvation by grace, in Christ, without any merits of our own says, “God sent His Son to die for us while our life was off track.” Christ died for us while we were ungodly, while we were altogether helpless. Who belongs to the Kingdom of God? Christians who now remain in themselves completely sinners, yet by grace in the eyes of God are completely righteous. Who belongs? Those who put away their good works that they might have grace instead. Faith is not another good work among many. No, faith is the alternative to good works. Faith is access to the Kingdom of God. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would sustain all yesterday’s new converts to the faith around the world. Pray for the unity of our faith and love. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Jared Beairdis the church planter and pastor of Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Missoula, Montana, USA....

Daily devotional

November 17 – Spiritual glory

“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:2–5 Scripture reading: Romans 5 Our glory now is spiritual, and not earthly prosperity, for we rejoice “through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Our praise follows the cross and as our Lord faced affliction in this sad age, so shall we. As His suffering brought us peace, so too through our affliction we continue to find more and more peace. Affliction is our race to run. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” – Hebrews 12:1 This is our pilgrim life on our way to Celestial City, yet tested on the way, nevertheless, in rejoicing through adversity we find ourselves strengthened on the way. We will reach the end of the line. Hope, like a muscle, must be used or it becomes weak. Suffering then makes us stronger. So the Lord allows us to be tried by adversity so that we might endure. This sad age is our gym, it is the means of strength so that we will come into the age to be victorious. Already we are more than conquerors, justified, yet being made more and more victorious in our sanctification until our glorification. The Kingdom of God is the consummation, when it will become evident that it has not been I who live, but Christ in me. To the watching world, we seem weak and vulnerable, yet when Hereturns “we shall be like Him” and will reign with Him forever over all creation. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the sick and spiritually distressed that God would continually care for us in such a way that all things would work together for our good. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Jared Beairdis the church planter and pastor of Covenant Reformed Church(URCNA) in Missoula, Montana, USA....

Daily devotional

November 12 – Faith alone

“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” – Romans 1:17 Scripture reading: Romans 1-2 This is another highly debated statement, but it basically means sola fide. Paul is simply emphasizing the place of faith – salvation is received by faith through and through. Later Paul reveals why sola fide – soli deo gloria. By faith alone, God does all the work so that He gets all the glory. Comparing Scripture with Scripture we see that faith is not some meritorious condition we meet, rather faith puts away our good works to rest in Christ alone. Faith alone says Christ alone is our Savior. Today many argue against this old perspective, faith alone in Christ alone. They want to go back to the medieval scheme of faith plus works, grace plus cooperation. But the Reformers were right, Paul is not talking about the way God’s people should live. Paul’s point is that by faith God saves His people. Paul will insist over and over that a person is righteous only by faith. Paul is speaking of the way a person is made righteous, namely by trusting the finished work of Christ. God has done everything that needs to be done. The gospel is God’s almighty power for saving sinners. As it is preached, a righteous status which is God’s gift is being revealed and offered to you. Do you want it? It is altogether yours by faith alone. Simply reach out by the hand of faith and be clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ our Lord. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would get all the glory in your home and in your salvation. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Jared Beairdis the church planter and pastor of Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Missoula, Montana, USA....

Daily devotional

November 11 – The Gospel’s power

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” – Romans 1:16–17 Scripture reading: Romans 1 The righteousness of God makes the gospel so powerful. There is debate surrounding this righteousness. The medieval age had turned it into the righteousness God accepts. The medieval scheme was grace plus cooperation, “God helps those who help themselves.” This made faith a meritorious cause – faithfulness. It was salvation by our blood, sweat, and tears; salvation by fear and trembling. Fear and trembling described Luther’s life before the Reformation. Luther rightly understood God’s holy demands. He tried to satisfy them with his good works, but one thing stood in the way, his sin. “How can I stand before the holiness of my Judge with works polluted in their very source?”Luther said, “If God will not be merciful towards me for the love of Christ and grant me a happy departure when I must quit this world, I shall never with the aid of all my vows and all my good works stand before Him. I must perish.”The thought of divine righteousness terrified Luther. Yet He found that the righteousness needed before a Holy God is not ours. He saw that the righteousness from God depends on faith. It is a free gift of God so that no one may boast. Luther understood that this righteousness, which comes through faith in Christ, is the righteousness from God. It is a righteousness God gives through the gospel. God makes the gospel powerful, and faith makes it my own. Suggestions for prayer Pray that many around the world would hear the gospel and receive, by faith, the righteousness of God. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Jared Beairdis the church planter and pastor of Covenant Reformed Church(URCNA) in Missoula, Montana, USA....

Daily devotional

November 10 – The power of God

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” –Romans 1:16-17 Scripture reading: Romans 1 This verse has been called “the theme of the epistle” and the “very essence of Christianity.” In these words we find what it means to be a Christian, that is, how sinners are made right with God. This might shock our modern ears, but we don’t make ourselves right with God. Rather, we are evil, born in sin and God’s wrath is being revealed against all sin. So what do we do? There is nothing we can do. It is far too late for that. Yet here in our text, Paul tells us that God has done something, actually, God has done everything that needs to be done. It's called the gospel and the gospel is God’s almighty power for saving sinners. The gospel is almighty, for in it, God provides all we need. It is gospel because it saves sinners. Finally, it is powerful, so we receive it, not by doing righteous things, but by faith alone. The gospel is God’s almighty power for saving sinners. The gospel is not a power, one of many, as if there are other saving powers. Paul was not eager to preach the best of all the powers of God. No, Hewas overjoyed in the power. God has given to the church one power. We call it the Word of God. It accomplishes one thing – salvation. The gospel is God’s almighty saving power. Because the gospel is so almighty, so too is salvation. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the power of God in your church. Pray for the pure preaching of the Word of God; may it accomplish salvation this day here and around the world. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Jared Beairdis  the church planter and pastor of Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Missoula, Montana, USA....

Daily devotional

November 9 – A powerful word

“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you – that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” – Romans 1:9–12 Scripture reading: Romans 1 We have been chosen in Christ to bear fruit. Christians do bear fruit, but not in their own power. God gives the increase (cf. 1 Cor 3:6). He does so through the means of grace. What is the means of grace? What strengthens our faith? It’s why Paul was so anxious to visit Rome. The means of grace is the preaching of the gospel. Therefore, it must be freely offered to all. Paul was compelled to preach to all Gentiles, to as many as would believe. The means of grace is for the wise. There is enough wisdom in the gospel to hold the attention of the brightest among us. It is simple enough for the least unlearned to grasp. It is the power of God for all people, therefore it is administered through preaching. Paul wasn’t eager to play the guitar for Rome. He wasn’t excited to watch some media about the life of Christ or to give them marching orders. One thing compelled his ministry – preaching Christ and Him crucified. The message of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection is the means of grace. Do you long for peace? Joy? To be loved by God? Then receive the means of grace, a grace greater than your sin. That is, trust the finished work of Christ, Who died for your sins and was raised for your justification. The promise is for you and your children – no more condemnation. Suggestions for prayer Pray that in church tomorrow the means of grace would be administered freely and that God would empower His preached Word. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Jared Beairdis the church planter and pastor of Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Missoula, Montana, USA....

Daily devotional

November 4 – A new creation

“…through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations…” – Romans 1:5 Scripture reading: Romans 1 The ministry of the gospel of God affects us today. This finished work, this history creates in us an “obedience of faith.” What is this obedience? I thought we are saved by grace through faith without any merit of our own. Does this mean that our works play a role in salvation? Jesus was asked by the leaders of His day, “What work must we do, to do the work of God?” He responded, “Believe in the One He has sent.” Faith is the obedience of faith, which is a gift, not of works lest any might boast. Faith is simply knowledge and trust. We must know history, the finished work of Christ. We not only know it, but trust our life with it. It is called obedience because ministers command it – believe! Faith is a non-meritorious work. It is a work in the sense that we must believe in order to receive and be received by God. By faith we belong to Christ. By faith we become servants. Now as servants, justified saints, serve! In Christ we serve, we fight against sin and the devil. We bear witness to Christ, and after this life, we reign with Him over all creation. This is what it means to be a servant of Christ. We are thankful servants who offer our lives as a thank offering to God. Christ accomplished the new life in the resurrection. Now the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead raises us to new life. What is the gospel? It is finished. It is finishing us. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would help our unbelief, as Thomas said, “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.” May we give our every devotion to the Lord through His Word. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Jared Beairdis the church planter and pastor of Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Missoula, Montana, USA....

Daily devotional

November 3 – A new life

“…and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord…” – Romans 1:4  Scripture reading: Romans 1 Redemptive history comes to an end at the resurrection. The gospel of God was accomplished by the Son of God. In theological jargon, we call this the historia salutis (history of salvation). What is the gospel of God? It is rooted in history. It was accomplished by Christ. What is the gospel of God? It is finished! What happens when something is finished? The project is over. The work is complete. You get paid or you sit back and enjoy the results. So too is our redemption. The Father promised it and the Son has done it. This means our salvation is complete. It means we add nothing. It means we are eternally secure, we are given the righteousness of Christ as if we had been perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for us. The gospel of God makes saints. The gospel of God is finished. Does this mean that we don’t do anything? No, for the gospel of God also makes servants. By the resurrection, the history of resurrection has given us a new history. We are no longer dead in our sins and trespasses; we are raised up to a new life. This is also the promise of the Old Testament, a new life, a new day, all because of the New Covenant. It is ours today, the Sabbath, a time to rest in the gospel of God. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the new week, that in rest, you and your family would serve God this week. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Jared Beairdis the church planter and pastor of Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Missoula, Montana, USA....

Daily devotional

November 2 – An Old Testament gospel

“…which He promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures…” – Romans 1:2 Scripture reading: Romans 1 Everyone has a family history. So does the family of God. Our history takes us back to “the gospel of God” which is the promise in the Old Testament. The gospel is an Old Testament truth. This is important to believe today. It was important for Paul that Jesus was promised in the Old Testament. It was important to the early church as they witnessed to the Jews to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. It was important during the Reformation to show that our salvation belongs to the eternal purpose of God. It is important for our assurance to know that God has chosen us before the foundation of the world. We must know that salvation is finished. “…concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord…” – Romans 1:3–4 The gospel is redemptive history. You need to learn your family history. What must you know?  A King accomplished salvation, for Jesus was “descended from David.” As King, the Old Testament promised that He would destroy the prince of the air. We see this destruction in the New Testament. Having defeated death, the Father appointed Him the Son of God. Jesus is the King of kings. You must know that Christ has all power in heaven and on earth. All power and authority belong to the gospel of God. Only in Christ are we safe from sin and wrath. Only in Christ are we the righteousness of God for only Christ has finished the work of redemption. Suggestions for prayer Pray that in church tomorrow, unbelievers would hear the message of the gospel and submit their lives to Christ the King. If you know unbelievers, I know you do, pray for them specifically. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Jared Beairdis the church planter and pastor of Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Missoula, Montana, USA....

Daily devotional

November 1 – Introduction to Rev. Jared Beairdis' series on Romans 1-8

The Epistle to the Romans is a letter for the Christian mind. Luther said, “Every Christian should know it by heart.” It is a weighty book. It is the longest epistle and the most systematic. Paul wrote it to churches he wasn’t so sure he would meet. So, he wrote it to make sure their theology was sound – to make sure they understood the gospel. He wrote it for the understanding of our reasonable faith. While we are to have a Christian life, it’s not to the exclusion of the Christian mind; rather knowledge is key to the Christian life; “truth,” Christ said, “sanctifies.” Our life must be controlled by a mind saturated with truth. So God has given us books like Romans, a systematic study of the Christian faith. We will need to put on our thinking caps as we make our way through this important letter, matter of fact, don’t ever take it off. Christianity is the precondition for the intelligibility of human experience. You need a Christian mind, for ideas have consequences and Christian ideas have the greatest end – “to be loved by God and called saints.” The consequence of the “gospel of God” is belonging. The good news of God is that we belong to God and there is no higher truth to know. The gospel of God ”Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God…” - Romans 1:1 Scripture reading: Romans 1 Paul’s entire ministry concerned “the gospel of God.” Romans is a theology of this gospel and its news gives us our purpose in life. By the gospel of God, Paul was not his own. He belonged body and soul, in life and in death to his faithful Savior Christ Jesus. By His faithfulness, we too are set apart for the gospel. Paul calls himself a servant, which in his day was very counter-cultural. Greeks found pride in freedom, that they were their own. Paul, however, affirmed his captivity to Christ. If you want to be counter-cultural, you don’t need tattoos and pink hair. We have something better – complete devotion to Christ. There is nothing more counter-cultural than serving Christ Jesus. Complete devotion to God is our purpose in life. We are called to forsake the purposes of the world for God’s instead – complete devotion to God because in God we find the source of our salvation. We are righteous before God only by the gospel, that is, by the righteousness of Christ. We are free from the tyranny of the devil, only because Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again from the dead. In this gospel, we are free to live for the glory of God. This is the “goodness” of the gospel—that I am not my own but belong body and soul to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. Knowing our deliverance we have become slaves of gratitude to our Deliverer. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for bringing us into the new life of grace. Pray that we avoid the temptation to purpose our life according to the world. May we live according to His Word alone. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Jared Beairdis the church planter and pastor of Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Missoula, Montana, USA....

Daily devotional

October 27 – Chosen, not choice

..."For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. 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. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you...” – Deuteronomy 7:6-8 Scripture reading: Acts 13:13-52 “Tis not that I did choose thee, for, Lord this could not be; this heart would still refuse thee, hadst thou not chosen me.” Now that we know the glory and grace of God in Jesus Christ, it seems incredible that we would ever refuse One so gracious and kind. Yet, such is the depravity of the human heart that we would have. The stream of God's grace can be traced back to before the creation of the world. From all eternity the God of our salvation selected from the human race some who would be recipients of eternal life. And it's that eternal choice which leads some to choose to believe in Christ when they hear the gospel of salvation. That explains why the Gentiles in Acts 13:48 embraced the gospel. They were "appointed to eternal life." The elect are chosen by God, but not because they are choice people; they are selected but not because they are select. God chose those He wanted to choose because He loved them. And if you ask why He loved them, the answer is because He did. This truth of unconditional election not only magnifies the glory of God, but it also offers unspeakable comfort to unbelievers and believers.  If salvation were based on justice or merit, no unbeliever could have hope that he might be saved. Since salvation depends on God's eternal good pleasure, everyone who knows Christ can know as well that his salvation is secure. God will never stop loving us because God never started loving us since from all eternity God had set his affection upon us. Suggestions for prayer Bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus that He has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Pray that God’s sovereign election would make us humble before His majesty and before others. 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 26 – Very, very bad

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.– Genesis 6:5 Scripture reading: Romans 3:9-20 As sinners, we are very, very bad. Sadly, the proof that we are by nature lost sinners is self-evident, even if everywhere disputed. God didn't create us this way, but we have become this by our fall into sin with the first Adam. Created good, we are, untouched by grace, incapable of doing any good at all, of any kind. By nature, we hate both God and our neighbor. In fact, we are so bad we are even unable to rescue ourselves from this self-inflicted mess. There is no spark of goodness in us that, given the right conditions, we could fan into flame and become Christians. We are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). We are both unable and unwilling to come to Christ that we might have Life. Won’t this teaching put off unbelievers from pursuing Christ? If you tell them they can't believe, isn’t it more likely that they won't? I don't think so. It is actually the sense of our total depravity that spurs us to seek the mercy of God in Christ to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We are very, very bad. But Christ is very, very good. Thanks be to God that in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, not only are our sins forgiven, but the devastating spiritual deadness is destroyed, so that by the Spirit of the ascended Christ we are made alive with Him. It is, after all, by grace that we have been saved. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Spirit of God might, through the preaching of his Word tomorrow, bring the dead to life for the praise of God’s glorious grace. Pray that God would give us a sense of our sinfulness that we might glory all the more in the gospel of free and sovereign grace. 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 25 – Ascension and succession again

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. – 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 2:15-18 It isn't exactly clear what was behind the request of the sons of the prophets when they pressed Elisha to allow them to seek Elijah. It is clear, however, that it was not Elijah they should have been seeking. Like Elisha, they should have been asking, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” (v. 14) That should be our concern too: Where is the Lord Who can do mighty things for the honor of His name and the blessing of His people? Elisha is Elijah’s successor. So are we. We can see this by looking back and forward from the story. If you look back you will find another tag team that wrestles with the forces of darkness, namely, Moses and Joshua. Elijah is the new Moses and Elisha the new Joshua. Looking ahead we see that John the Baptist is the new Elijah (Matt. 17:11-13) which makes Jesus the new Elisha. Joshua, Elisha, and Jesus have names that mean the same, begin their ministries at the Jordan, and all receive the Spirit for ministry. Jesus is unique, of course. He is the only Saviour Who reconciles sinners to God. And He is also the only One Who gives the Spirit to His own to carry on His mission of bringing all things under His Lordship. We do that through missions and evangelism, but also by bringing our lives as churches, families, and individuals in subjection to His authority. Do you see areas of your life where you need to wield the sword of the Spirit that you might better please our sovereign? Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to enable you to examine your lives so that we might better please our God and Redeemer. Pray that He would empower us by the Spirit so that we might have the courage and conviction to work for Christ’s honour in every sphere of our lives. 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 24 – Ascension and succession

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,  and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." – Luke 24:46-49 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 2:1-14 There's no doubt that Elijah’s leaving would leave a big hole. He had been God's "army" on Israel’s behalf. His loss will be devastating. But God will provide for His work. He has a succession plan in place. In his farewell tour, Elijah visits the school of the prophets, probably to encourage them to continue their fearless promotion of God's claims on His people. There's also Elisha. He had served with Elijah for some years and now it was time for Elisha to fly solo. Elijah tests him by suggesting that he abandon Elijah on his final tour. Elisha refuses to bail. That's the kind of people that the kingdom of God needs, people who will not turn back even when the future is unnerving. And then the final moment arrives. Elisha asked for something that Elijah is unable to give, a double portion of his spirit. How wise that Elisha recognizes that he cannot minister in his own strength. However, Elijah promises his successor that, if he sees him being taken, he shall receive the double portion. Elisha does see the glory of God – God coming down in chariots and horses of fire and therefore receives the promised Spirit. Leaving the Jordan in the power of the Spirit, Elisha does Elijah's farewell tour in reverse, across the Jordan, to Jericho and Bethel, before returning to Samaria. That succession is complete but the succession of the servants of God continues and what we need is what Elisha needed: a vision of God’s glory and the outpouring of God’s Spirit. And God delights to grant both. Suggestions for prayer Pray with Moses, “Please show me your glory.” Confess that our help is in the name of the Lord and ask for the Spirit to be poured out on us so that we may be faithful and effective servants of the Lord. 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 19 – The righteous sufferer

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.– Hebrews 13:12-14 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 21:1-16 Naboth was a righteous man. He refused Ahab's offer, not because he was churlish, but for righteousness’ sake. He knew the Lord's laws forbade, under most circumstances, the selling of one's land (Lev. 25:23-28). The gift of the land was part and parcel of Israel's redemption. Redemption was not simply escaping from slavery but provision for the future. The promise of God to the fathers was realized only when Israel possessed its inheritance in the land and enjoyed life there with their Redeemer. Naboth treasured God’s blessing and was not going to part with it. Esau did. So did Demas (2 Tim. 4:10). Would you? His determination cost him. He suffered through wicked machinations. Remarkable how similar Naboth's experience was to our Lord’s: Christ was accused of blasphemy against God and king, two false witnesses spoke against him, and he was put to death outside the city. The similarity is not so much because Christ joins us in our suffering as that we join Him in His. But even as Christ received His inheritance following His suffering, so will the saints receive theirs following suffering. Naboth is dead but not forgotten. His name is mentioned seven times after his killing. And after his death his vineyard is still called “the vineyard of Naboth” (v. 18). Nor did he not lose his eternal inheritance. Neither shall we who trust in the righteous Sufferer, Jesus Christ. Our names are engraved on His palms, those palms that were outstretched on Golgotha’s cross for your salvation, a salvation that rescues you from tyranny to bring you into an inheritance. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we would be encouraged to embrace suffering for Christ’s sake by the confidence that we shall share in His glory. Pray for your minister that he may preach Christ and Him crucified and that God’s Word would both comfort and convert for the glory of the Saviour. 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 18 – From desire to death

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. – James 1:13-15 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 21:1-16 This story and every sin’s saga begins with a desire. Not all desires are evil, of course. Some we should have, like the desire to be a better Christian. Some we may have, like the desire for children, though even here we must be careful if God in His grace and wisdom withholds from us what we legitimately may desire. Some desires we may not have. We may not crave what God forbids. There is no nuance here. Ahab had the wrong kind of desire. He may have had a green thumb, but he also had a green heart. He envied Naboth's vineyard so he could turn it into a vegetable garden closer to the palace. And that desire led to death. When righteous Naboth turns down the offer, Ahab goes home and sulks like a petulant child. By the way, how we respond to thwarted desires often can reveal whether our desires are godly. Wicked Jezebel is no help. Had she been godly, she could have encouraged him to applaud Naboth for his righteousness and to be thankful that God didn’t let him have what he sinfully desired. It is a blessing to marry well. Instead ,Jezebel uses forgery, blasphemy, and perjury to steal the vineyard from Naboth. Ahab got what he wanted but he got more. His desire led to death. Naboth's. But his own too. What a warning to us to kill sin before it kills us. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to show us where we have ungodly desires so that by His Spirit we may put them to death. Pray that we would rejoice in the blessings of God to others and be content with His kindness to us. 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 17 – Carrying the cross for Christ

And he said to them, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life." – Luke 18:29-30 Scripture reading: Luke 14:25-33 Clearly our Lord Jesus calls us for a whole-souled commitment. He demands that we reorder our loves (v. 26), release our lives (v. 26), recount the costs (vv. 28-32), and relinquish our grip on our possessions (v. 33). This is what it means to be his disciple. Have we done that? Have we given up our cherished desires, even for legitimate things, for the sake of Christ? Are we willing to give up time and money and energy and reputation and comfort to serve our Redeemer? Are you ever uncomfortable for the gospel’s sake? Christ is not necessarily asking us to sell everything and go to Nepal as a missionary. Though it would be great if we sent out more missionaries! But he is asking us to give more of our time for prayer and our money for missions. He’s asking us to forego visiting with family some Sundays so we can be a blessing to those in the congregation who are unlike ourselves. He’s asking us to show hospitality, to visit the elderly, and to witness to unbelievers despite our discomfort. He wants you to speak to the visitor at church even though you are quiet and introverted. He is calling children to serve their parents and siblings. He is calling us to be uncomfortable for Him. Sound restrictive? Not if you see it as service to the Saviour. At the end of a long life of suffering for the Lord Jesus, the great missionary, David Livingstone, said his hardships were ‘nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.’ Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to teach us where we might serve Him as Christ’s disciples. Pray that God would raise up ministers and missionaries to go to the ends of the earth with the gospel of life. 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 16 – Joyfully serving Christ

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. – Titus 2:11-14 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 19:19-21 Well, that was a surprise! Elisha is plowing on his family's farm and suddenly Elijah throws his cloak on him. Somehow Elisha knew what that meant and joyfully responds. He runs after Elijah, eager to do God's work. He bids farewell to his parents, kissing them goodbye. He slaughters his oxen and burns the yokes, indicating that he was making a complete break both with his former work and future inheritance. And he celebrates his call to service with his friends. Elisha eagerly responds to God’s call. That's a good word for us, isn't it? Our service to God is too often bare duty. We serve in Church office because the congregation elected us. We care for our elderly parents because it is the right thing to do. We attend worship because God calls us to. We resist sin because it is against God’s law. It is right to do things because our Master places these obligations upon us, but shouldn’t there also be delight in our doing? These obligations are opportunities to do something for Christ. And shouldn’t joy saturate our service? It wasn’t going to be easy for Elisha. He was leaving a large farm and an affectionate family. Farming was just becoming fun again now that the drought was over. And the life he was going to lacked security and promised hardship. And notice, he was called to be Elijah’s assistant. Hardly glamorous. By the grace of God, he heeded God's call. Should not Christ’s service to us win our service to Him? Shouldn’t the grace of God make us zealous for good works? Suggestions for prayer Ask that God would forgive us for our, at times, begrudging obedience. Pray that the Holy Spirit might conform us to the image of Christ who said, ‘I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.’ 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 11 – Showers of blessing

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.– James 5:16c-18 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 18:41-46 There are more blessings here than simply the rain. For example, Elijah commands Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink.” The contest on Carmel is more than a contest. It is a covenant renewal ceremony. Elijah prepares the altar as a burnt offering. In the Old Testament the burnt offering was followed by a fellowship offering. There is a feast after the fire - wonderfully depicted in the Lord’s Supper. We remember the sacrifice of Christ and then eat His flesh and drink His body. Fellowship restored. Then there is the rain but before it comes down, prayer must go up. Yes, God said He was going to send rain but He still wishes to be asked for His promise to be fulfilled. So with humility (notice Elijah’s posture) and persistence (seven times) Elijah prays on behalf of his people as their mediator even as Christ intercedes for us so the blessings may fall. And the Lord answers. How much we owe to our Mediator’s prayers. Then there is that peculiar detail at the end of the chapter. It must be significant because the hand of the Lord is involved. He gives Elijah energy to lead Ahab on the 17-mile journey back to Jezreel. It appears that for a while anyway, things are as they should be in Israel. There is confession, fellowship, rain, and the Word of the Lord(represented by Elijah) leading the way of the king. The king was never meant to follow his own wisdom. Nor are we. Suggestions for prayer Praise God that He is willing to have fellowship with sinners through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ and thank Him for the Lord’s Supper. Pray that God would make us men and women, boys and girls, who pray for His promised blessings that we may glorify and enjoy Him. Ask Him to teach us His Word so that we would know His promises and live according to His commands. 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 3 – God’s gracious judgement

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? – Romans 2:4 Scripture reading: Matthew 3:1-12; 1 Kings 17:1-7 Talk about a short-term ministry! No sooner does Elijah begin than he is sent away. What is God doing? He’s judging his people. They refused to listen to His Word. Now He refuses to speak it. He’s sending a famine, not only of food, but of the hearing of the Words of the Lord (Amos 8:11). Sobering, isn’t it? But in God’s judgment, we see grace. In the midst of the famine, He preserves Elijah by feeding him with ravens because God has a plan to send him back. He has not completely deserted His people. Prophets communicated God’s message both by their lives and their mouths. We hear God’s judgment in “Neither dew nor rain these years.” That’s God’s response to incessant rebellion. But even this announcement is gracious. First, God is going to showcase the incompetence of the storm god, Baal, so that Israel would abandon him and return to the Lord. Second, threatened judgment is always a call to repentance so that we might experience God’s forgiving grace. Notice how John the Baptizer warns in preparation for the coming of grace in Christ. What a mercy when your engine temperature warning light brightens your dashboard! Imagine if God had abandoned them to their sin like He had the other nations. Jesus, the greater Prophet has come. We have heard the warnings from His mouth and have seen the seriousness of God’s wrath in His death. What have we learned? Though not soft on sin, our God is gracious in His judgments. How much more gracious is He in His grace! Suggestions for prayer Pray for His Spirit so that we would cherish the Word of God we have, both as we read it and hear it preached. Praise the Holy God that He is gracious and forgiving. 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 25 – God of food and finance

That our barns may be full, Supplying all kinds of produce; That our sheep may bring forth thousands, And ten thousands in our fields; – Psalm 144:13 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 “Give us this day our daily bread,” a prayer we have probably uttered countless times. He does hear us. He does. God hears each and every prayer made by His people. Our struggle is probably in believing that He has time to care for us, or is really interested in the minute details of our lives. But this verse admonishes those faithless notions. King David prays that the covenant people have barns full of all kinds of produce and sheep that keep bearing young. He asks for plenty of food and money. In the agrarian culture of the ancient near east, food and flocks meant survival. Do those things come from God? Does He tend to the sprouting, growth and completion of a seed planted in the ground? I would guess many of us can think of different Bible passages (mustard seed; seeds and soils; etc.) which we know prove that God causes agricultural growth. Likewise, God makes or halts pregnancy, as Jacob knew well. Those sheep were money to Jacob! This is what our God is like, dear people. He gives us food and finance to keep us alive. He creates and sustains life in this world, with an abundance of those, such that the Christian can ever prosper. Out of our excess, we offer thanks to the Lord and supply the needs of those less fortunate than we are, and we do so with voluntary generosity. Why? Because our God is like this! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to give you confidence that He will provide all your needs and will give you enough so that you can share with others out of your abundance. 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 17 – The God worthy of song

I will sing a new song to You, O God; On a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You, – Psalm 144:9 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 Martin Luther once wrote something to the effect of…next to the Bible itself, music is God’s greatest gift to mankind. We each probably know something of the power of music. Concert venues are usually packed to overflowing when a popular musician is in town. Many people have their favourite songs playing in their vehicle or on their personal listening devices. We love music. God says here that He loves music that is dedicated to Him. He created music as a means to glorify Him. You probably already know that life in the new heavens and new earth will be music-full! But what we are asking in this series of devotionals is, first, Who is God? Why would music bring Him pleasure? Well, He is creative and loves artistry and aesthetic beauty. I believe He gave songs to whales that they might sing to bring Him pleasure. He is enthroned upon the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3) and that praise-full enthronement is via music. For reasons not fully revealed, His nature and being resonate with joy to the sounds of musical praise. When we then seek to answer the question, Who is God, in relationship to music, we seek to say that He is able to be joyful. God is pleased by praise through music. Does this knowledge of an aspect of God change how you plan to worship Him on the coming Lord’s Day? He is delighted by music, and singing that praises Him is most excellent music indeed! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to give you a new appreciation for music. Pray that you would love to praise Him as much as He delights to receive joy through praise. 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 9 – The blaze of His glory

Bow down Your heavens, O LORD, and come down; Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke. – Psalm 144:5 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 I believe it was C.S. Lewis who, in a book he wrote, posed the rhetorical question, “Do you think God is safe?” The answer expected was “no.” There is an important sense in which that is true. “Our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29). Verse 5 surely drives that point home. To bow or bend the heavens is to ask God to “interrupt” creation – to cause a rift or a break in the elements that are above us, the unchanging nature of which we probably take for granted. When God enters the scene, nothing is unchanged. Were He to “touch the mountains” they would smoke. This is what Israel experienced at Sinai. They heard the sound, saw the sights of God impacting His creation. Let’s ask the question again – from this verse – Who is God?? We remember that this Psalm is set in the context of warfare. This is spiritual warfare for us and often we are overwhelmed by it. Then this verse teaches us that we can call out to God Who can break into this creation, into our reality. We need to remember this and believe. To put a truth into practice we first need to accept it as truth. God is this One Who can powerfully come down to save us. This new day and new work week afford us the opportunity to take God at His Word for everything we face. Believe! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to give you an expanded view of His majestic glory. Ask Him to impress you with Himself! 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 1 – Introduction to Psalm 144

Repetition. If you have lived for a few years, you have already learned the value of repetition. God has placed repetition into the Bible as a very helpful learning tool for us. A word or concept is repeated in the Bible because God wants that truth emphasized. For example, God is holy, holy, holy! We are going to use repetition this month as a key tool to come to grips with what God says about Himself and what we should do in response. More than anything, we must know well Who God is and who we are. Repetition will help us focus on those two things. This devotional will be very narrow and limited. We will spend the whole month in Psalm 144. God makes Himself known in His Word and His Word is a mirror by which He shows us who we are. The Bible is the richest food to feed our souls and lead us in the way everlasting. Are you ready to go?! Here’s our plan. Each day we will read Psalm 144. This should take less than 5 minutes to accomplish. But first, pray. Ask God to give you understanding of the Psalm we are studying. Then, read the entire Psalm each day. Don’t rush. Read slowly. Meditate on this Psalm; come to know it. Know God through the Word He wrote through King David. Know yourself. The devotional material will focus on one verse of the Psalm, in order, for two days. On the first day, we will see Who God is from that verse. On the second day, we will come face to face with who we are from that verse. As we look carefully at God’s Word we learn Who He is and who we are, and grow in grace and knowledge. Let’s go! My stable teacher Blessed be the LORD my Rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle - Psalm 144:1 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 If you were asked to give an answer to the question, “Who is God; how would you describe Him?” How would you answer? There are many proper ways to answer that question. God created all things. God is in control of all things. God knows all things, He has power over all things, He is present everywhere, all the time. He is the God Who saves His people.  But would you say that He is the One Who trains you for battle? Maybe you have never thought of God that way before. Maybe this first verse is a statement limited to Who King David knew God to be – the God Who trained Him for war. Yet, it seems the Apostle Paul knew God to be a battle-trainer. That comes out in how Paul wrote Ephesians 6. There is a battle to be fought and our God makes us ready for battle. His will for us includes the reality that we will need to fight. He strengthens us for the fight, but this first verse says He also trains us. He uses the Bible, sermons, studies, books, conversations with other Christians, prayer, and other means to teach us the art of what John Bunyan called “Holy Warfare.”  This Psalm is God’s way of teaching us that He plans to train us to “fight the good fight of the faith.” Suggestions for prayer Pray, “Lord make me aware that You give grace for real life.” Pray this with thanks for His daily grace. 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 24 – Wholly following the Lord

“Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the LORD my God.” – Joshua 6:8 Scripture reading: Joshua 14:6-15 Today we focus on Caleb, one of only two faithful spies who gave a good report to Moses. Ten spies reported that the land was filled with fortified cities and that giants lived there, so Israel would never be able to conquer it. The people believed this bad report, rebelled against Moses and rejected the Lord. As a result, they never set foot in the Promised Land. In direct contrast to this unbelief, Caleb, “wholly follows the Lord” and is blessed by God. Notice the repetition in this passage. Five times Caleb speaks of what God said or promised (vs. 6, twice in vs. 10, and twice in vs. 12). Because Caleb based his faith on the sure promises of God, he was able to “wholly follow the Lord” (repeated three times, vs. 8, 9, and 14). In this whole-hearted following of God, Caleb is more than just a good moral example for us. He is an Old Testament picture of Christ! Caleb had a strong faith and followed the Lord with all his heart, but he still sinned. Caleb needed to look, as we all do, to the Lord. Jesus came and fully accomplished and perfectly completed every command of Almighty God with His righteous life. He laid down his life, paying for all our sins with His sacrificial death on the Cross. Caleb’s obedience foreshadows Christ’s. God’s plan for the history of redemption is carried out fully and completely in Jesus Christ alone. Look to Jesus and whole-heartedly follow Him. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks to God for the whole-hearted obedience of Christ, lived out for us. Thank God for the sacrificial death of our Lord in our place. Pray that this message of the Gospel would go forth powerfully from faithful churches tomorrow. 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 16 – From conquest to covenant

“...and afterward read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law.” – Joshua 8:34 Scripture reading: Joshua 8 At first, it may seem that the last verses of Joshua 8 are out of place and don’t belong here. Why the sudden shift from combat and conquest in the first part of the chapter, to covenant and commandments in the last part of the chapter? It is because the detailed account of Ai’s defeat by Israel given to us in the first 29 verses of this chapter establishes the reason why Israel praises God so profusely in the last part of the chapter! This is seen even more clearly when chapters 7 and 8 are viewed as a whole. For remember that in chapter 7, Israel was experiencing the curse of the LORD’s anger because of unconfessed sin. But once that sin is propitiated, in chapter 8, Israel experiences the great blessing of the Lord in its defeat of Ai. So how appropriate for Joshua to take a break from fighting and to gather all of Israel to Mount Ebal in order to give praise and thanksgiving to God. Joshua reminds them of both the promised blessings of God and of the promised curses of God found in the covenant. The covenant renewal in verses 30-35 teaches Israel that their success in the conquest of the Promised Land comes not because of them, but in spite of them. Their success comes not when Palestine is rid of pagans, but when their heart is rid of sin! With Israel, may we too praise our mighty, majestic, and merciful God. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for His covenantal faithfulness. Thank Him for sending His Son to be our curse for us. Thank Him for crediting us with Christ’s righteousness. 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 8 – The glory of God

“The waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.” – Joshua 3:13 Scripture reading: Joshua 3:7-13 In our text, Joshua tells the people of Israel that God is going to do a great miracle among them, but even before that miracle is done, Joshua focuses the attention of the people onto their mighty, majestic and merciful God. In verse 10, Joshua reminds them that “the living God is among you,” but how will the people know that God is really with them and will do for them what He has promised? Once again, it is because the Ark of the Covenant is with them! This ark symbolized God’s might and majesty. The same God who dried up the waters of the Red Sea will also dry up the waters of the Jordan River. This ark also represents God’s mercy, for covering the ark is the mercy seat where once a year the blood of a sacrifice is sprinkled. This sprinkling of blood testified to the principle of substitutionary atonement, how God had ordained that an innocent victim could die in the place of guilty sinners. This mercy seat foreshadowed the Messiah. The faith of the old covenant people was pointed to the day when the new covenant would be sealed in the shed blood of Jesus. So the blood-covered mercy seat is a type and shadow of the great and finished work of Christ. So in the ark, the might, the majesty and the mercy of God is proclaimed. In the ark, the glory of God is revealed. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His glory. Thank Him for opening your eyes to see that He is the living God of all the earth. Thank Him that your salvation is found in the finished work of 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 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

July 31 – The way to victory

“As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city.” – Joshua 6:20 Scripture reading: Joshua 6:8-21 God’s strategy for defeating Jericho was completely unrealistic. You can’t defeat a city with walls so thick that you can build a house into them, by having a parade around it. Israel was going to look absolutely foolish; it would show that they had no strategy – that they didn’t know what they were doing. Do you recognize the logic of these instructions? What did Israel have to do? In a way, we say, They didn’t have to do anything. You can hardly call that waging war, just marching and shouting. Exactly. God said, Take heart from everything that I have done to show you that I am with you. Believe that I have come to judge My enemies and to give the land to you. The way to victory for Israel was by working out their faith in God’s promises, by following God’s strange strategy. God has promised us victory over the world in the very same way. John wrote, This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (I John 5:4-5) We have to work out our confidence that Jesus is the Son of God by preaching the gospel, taking up our cross and following Him. The world will think we’re fools, but that’s what Jericho thought too, before the walls fell down. Take heart, said Jesus; Ihaveovercometheworld. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that Jesus Christ has overcome the world, that by faith, we already now share in His victory, and when He comes again, we will share fully and eternally in His victory. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 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 23 – Trust, and obey, for there’s no other way

“And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” – Deuteronomy 30:6 Scripture reading: Joshua 5:1-9 We confess (Belgic Confession Article 34) that in circumcision, God taught Israel the same things He teaches us in our baptism. He said to them, You’re born sinners, but I promise that I will forgive your sins, when you repent and believe in the (foreshadowed) blood of Jesus Christ, and by grace, through faith, I will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love Me with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live (Deuteronomy 30:6). That helps us to understand that when the LORD commanded Israel to circumcise their sons at Gilgal, He was not just saying, Look, it has been bothering Me for 38 years that your sons have not been circumcised, and we are going to get this fixed up before you take another step. God was saying, This is the answer to the question, How can people like you be My people, and receive the inheritance I promised you? That’s a very personal question, and we need to know the answer, too. How can I be God’s child? How am I going to make it all the way to the end? God says in His Word and in your baptism, You’ll make it by grace, through faith. I will do it. God puts an end to the doubts of our own souls by providing us with a salvation that is all His work, that is all by grace. All you need to do is trust, and obey. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Holy Spirit to help you believe what God has promised you in the gospel, and confirmed in your baptism, that your sins are washed away in Christ, and that He is redeeming you from the power of 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 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....

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