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Daily devotional

July 5 – One way of salvation

I will not turn away its punishment – Amos 1:11b Scripture reading: Amos 1:11-2:3 The prophecy of Amos won’t tolerate talk of “my truth” and “your truth.” There is one God, one way of salvation, and one judgment. God does not speak as Israel’s tribal deity – just one god among many. He rebukes the nations with universal authority as their Creator and Judge: Syria for savagery in war (1:3), Philistia for kidnapping (1:6), Phoenicia for trafficking slaves (1:9), Edom for endless vengeance (1:11), Ammon for tearing open pregnant women (1:13), and Moab for desecrating a human corpse (2:1). God condemns crimes of murder and violence committed against human beings made in His image. Edom’s hatred for his brother, Ammon’s unthinkable cruelty to women and children, and Moab’s desecration of an enemy king’s corpse were not only crimes against humanity – they were crimes against God who created them and cares for them. All violations of human rights are ultimately violations of God’s rights. And He will see to it that justice is done. The punishments that Amos prophesies for each nation are proportionate to the crime. Final judgment has been entrusted to Christ, who will execute perfect and comprehensive justice. For a world of stolen lives and broken hearts, this is good news! But it is also a sobering call to self-reflection and repentance, for each sin that you and I commit are violations of the infinite majesty of God. His justice demands the proportionate penalty of infinite hell. Are you covered by the blood of the Lamb? Only the infinite merits of His atoning sacrifice provide the payment for what we have done to God. Suggestions for prayer Pray for Christ to bring justice against those who oppress the weak and to stop the hand of the wicked. Confess that you deserve eternal hell because of your sins and thank the Father for giving His Son as an atoning sacrifice for your sins.

Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional.

Daily devotional

June 27 – The God who drives away all fear

“The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.” – Proverbs 29:25 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 19:1-18 As Christians, “fear” can fill our hearts as we look at the fallen world around us! We live in a world where Christian persecution is on the rise, not only in foreign lands, but also in our own cities, schools and workplaces. Thus, “fear,” especially, the “fear of man” is a real and present danger for God’s people! When we look at Elijah, we can see just how greatly the “fear of man” can affect one’s life and work! (v.3). Elijah was so overwhelmed at Jezebel’s threats that he wanted to die (v.4). Yes, such “fear” is a “snare”; it’s a trap! Something that constricts around you like a python with its prey! But for the Christian, the “fear of God” is to abide in his heart and not the “fear of man.” When we see God for Who He is, it drives out fear and instills in us new courage. This happened for Elijah when God spoke to him in the still small voice! (v.12). God humbled him and charged him to take up his work boldly and without fear! Do you live with such fear? Well, as one who “trusts” in God, you are “safe”, that is, lifted above the swirl of enemies about you! You’re set on the Rock, Who is Christ and in Him you’ll never be shaken! Therefore, go forth boldly in the fear of the Lord for that will drive out the “fear of man” from your heart! Suggestions for prayer Confess your fears to God and ask Him to fill you with courage and boldness. Read God’s Word daily, focusing on His power, attributes and promises for that will feed your fear for God and help to fight against your fear of man. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 26 – Keep fighting the good fight of the faith

“Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but such as keep the law contend with them.” – Proverbs 28:4  Scripture reading: Psalm 10, Ephesians 5:1-21, and Jude 3 We’ve seen in the last years a rapid moral decline in our society and politics. And it’s not surprising seeing that God’s Law, His 10 commandments, are no longer taught or obeyed. With that, the persecution of the church has increased and the good news of salvation in Christ is more offensive than ever! Thus, with this increased rejection of God’s Word, we see increased “praise” given to those who promote what is radical, offensive, and that which is contrary to His revealed will to us. But what are we to do? Should we ignore it, hoping it will go away? No! Our text says, “...but such as keep the law contend with them”! That is, we’re to take a stand for God’s truth as those who love the truth. We’re to address our leaders about these issues, and pray for them that they might see the truth of God! Paul says in Ephesians 5:11, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” Jude also says, “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (v.3). This is what we’re called to do as members of Christ’s kingdom! For though the wicked may be shameless in their defiance of God, as Psalm 10 says, it also declares, “The LORD is King forever and ever”! (v.16). This truth should encourage us to continue to fight the good fight, knowing that Christ will continue strengthening us in this great calling! Suggestions for prayer Continue to pray for your leaders and your nation. Pray that they may honour God with just laws and fairness. Pray for the conversion of those who reject God’s law and promote wickedness that they might come to saving faith in Christ. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 25 – Living by faith one day at a time

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. “ - Proverbs 27:1 Scripture reading: James 4:13-17 and Matthew 6:34 Time seems to fly by fast! Just look at your children; they go from diapers to walking, and then before you know it you’re seeing them off to college! Yes, time flies by, but it goes as God has ordained it! And our proverb rightly reminds us that God is in control of time. But often we forget that! We look at the calendar and say, “I will do this today, or work there tomorrow, or visit that person next month”, but how often do we pray, “Lord, your will be done”? Or how often do we ask, “Lord, if this is your will, so let it be?” James understood the sinful tendency of our hearts and so he reminds us that even in our planning, we have to consider the Lord’s will! Do we “boast” about tomorrow? Do we confidently decree our path for tomorrow when it comes to work, school, or church life? Or do we humbly seek the Lord’s will in prayer? This we must do! For as our text says, “You do not know what a day may bring forth”! It’s out of our hands and we need to be spiritually ready for the unknown events to come. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:34, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” This is wise advice! For when we seek the Lord’s will for today, it helps us to keep from anxiety about tomorrow! Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s will as you plan and prepare for the future, and trust that He will provide for all your needs! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 24 – Fainting in the day of adversity 

“If you faint on the day of adversity, your strength is small.” – Proverbs 24:10 Scripture reading: Mark 4:35-41 and Philippians 4:10-13 As we know, tests and trials are part of the Christian life! Living in a fallen world, contending with contrary world-views and battling our own sinful natures are a daily challenge! But the key for God’s people is not to look to themselves, or to others, or to sports or leisure to escape life’s trying times, but to look to Christ! To “faint” means to be overcome by the circumstances surrounding you. In other words, your faith gives out! You’re not actively trusting in God, but only doing so in words. This was the reality that faced the disciples on the Sea of Galilee! They took their eyes off of Jesus Who was resting in the boat and fixed them on the wind and the waves. This led to their frantic question, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (v.38). How often have such words been on our lips in the midst of adversity? Yes, our strength is small and so we need to be reminded daily of our need for Christ! For as He powerfully reassured His disciples of His loving care by stilling the wind and waves, so does He bring peace to our lives when we call upon Him in our weakness! The apostle Paul learned the secret of being content in any situation, he says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”! May this be a truth we grow to know more and more in our lives! Suggestions for prayer Ask Christ to help you fix your eyes on Him every day. Memorize Philippians 4:13 and call it to mind when you find your strength “small” in the day of adversity for Christ gives His strength to all who call on Him in their time of need! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 11 – Entrusting all of our plans to God

“Commit your works to the LORD, and your thoughts will be established.” – Proverbs 16:3  Scripture reading: Psalm 37:1-8, Psalm 55:22, and Philippians 4:6-7 Yesterday we looked at the blessing of prayer and how as God’s “righteous” people in Christ we ought to have every confidence that He hears our prayers and answers according to His will! Many Scriptures speak of prayer and of committing all of our works, plans or projects to God. Our proverb is very clear in that it says, “Commit your works to the LORD…” Literally, that means, “roll onto” the LORD all your works! Philippians 4:6 speaks of not being anxious, but of making our requests known to God; of committing or entrusting our works or plans to Him. This is so important for our faith, lest we become self-reliant and depend upon our own strength and wisdom. Do you daily “roll onto” your covenant God your plans, hopes and fears? Do you make it a daily habit to entrust your needs to God and then believe that He will answer? Sometimes we pray, but we don’t commit matters into His hands. Instead, we do so in word only and end up worrying and having many sleepless nights. Does this sound like you? Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the LORD and He shall sustain you…” Do you trust in God’s sustaining power for your life? He wants you to because He is faithful and will grant you what you ask according to His will - “and your thoughts will be established." Yes, by engaging daily in believing prayer we’ll “roll onto” our gracious God our works and plans! Suggestions for prayer Make a list of your plans, works or projects and daily pray to God about them. Trust in Him to give you direction, strength or help for daily life. Commit your works to God and believe He will establish your plans! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 10 – Having confidence in prayer

“The LORD is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.” – Proverbs 15:29 Scripture reading: Proverbs 15:8, Psalm 34:15-19, and Romans 8:26-27  Prayer is one of the great gifts we’ve been given as Christians! It’s a means by which we can bring our requests, praises and confessions to God’s holy throne, as Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer (Mt.6:5-13). But one thing is clear; apart from a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we cannot pray to God and expect Him to hear us! Many today wonder, “Does God hear all prayer?” No, He does not. For as we see from v.29, “The LORD is far from the wicked,” and as v.8 reveals, “the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD”! So you can go through all outward motions of prayer, but if you’re not right with God through Jesus Christ, such prayer will avail you nothing! And yet, how gloriously do the Psalms sing of the confidence believers can have when praying to God! Psalm 34 is a glorious testimony to that fact! David knew this blessing of prayer. He says, “The righteous cry out and the LORD hears”! Furthermore, Paul reminds us in Romans 8, that we have the Holy Spirit Who helps us in our prayers and intercedes for us with God! Thus, in heaven, Christ and the Holy Spirit intercede for us. For although we might not always know what to pray for, we have divine Helpers Who assist us as we come to the throne of our heavenly Father! What confidence we should have in our daily prayers to God! Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to help you grow in your prayer life. Make a daily list of things to pray for: your family, school, work and for the life and mission of the church. Lift them daily to God and trust in Him to hear and to answer your prayers! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 9 – Having joy in the midst of suffering

“All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.” – Proverbs 15:15  Scripture reading: 2 Timothy 3:12, Hebrews 12:1-4, and 1 Peter 4:12-19 The Christian life is filled with many challenges, especially that of persecution! This is a growing reality for the church today. Thus, when affliction comes, the days of our lives are “evil,” that is, filled with grief and sorrow. Yet, as Christians, we’re not surprised, for both Peter and Paul warned us that such would come to those who follow Christ (1 Peter 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:12). Though we suffer for our faith, our joy in Christ is not quenched in the least! Rather, as Peter says in 1 Peter 4:13, you “rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings…” For we know that our present suffering will lead to glory at His return! Yes, in Christ we have “merry” hearts in the midst of our sorrow and we will also have a continual “feast,” that is, a banquet for our faith because of His saving work. For you see, Jesus is the fulfillment of Proverbs 15:15. For “all the days” of His life as the Afflicted One were “evil”, that is, marked by humiliation and suffering, especially on the cross! But through His resurrection we have victory and thus we’re able to “feast” on His saving benefits and have “merry hearts” in spite of our circumstances! Are you suffering for your faith? Are you growing weary? Then, look to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith, and rejoice! For His victory is your victory and at His return, your affliction will end and your joy will be full! Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s strength as you suffer for your faith. Keep your eyes on Jesus’ once-for-all finished work and be comforted, knowing that in Him you have the victory! Pray for the persecuted church around the world that it may continue to feast on Christ with a merry heart! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 8 – Take care of the paths you tread

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” - Proverbs 14:12 Scripture reading: Proverbs 7:21-27 and Matthew 7:13-14 This powerful proverb is repeated exactly in Proverbs 16:25. It’s a bit of wisdom that all people, especially our covenant youth should take to heart. Today we hear so much that our youth need to be free, think for themselves and choose their own way. This is the mentality of the world, but it ought not to be so of the Church! Covenant children and youth need to be taught the truth of God’s Word so that they will know God’s perfect will, embrace it, love it and walk in it every day! Now to be sure Jesus reminds us in Matthew 7:13-14 that entering by the narrow gate, the way of faith, is not easy. It means sacrifice and suffering and few are those who find the way. For the broad way, or the easy way, appeals to our sinful natures. Why can’t we enjoy the world’s pleasures, treasures and securities along with Christ? Why can’t we enjoy the wicked life and still rest comfortably in Christ’s salvation? Proverbs 7 paints the sad picture of the careless fool who enters the house of a harlot and suffers the sad consequences for it! But this is what happens when we plot the course of our lives apart from having God’s infallible Word as our guide. What is the path you follow? Are you following the broad way, leading to destruction, or the narrow way, leading to life? May the Lord continue to guide us on the narrow way that leads to life! Suggestions for prayer Pray for wisdom as you live your life before God. Ask the Lord for discernment so that you can obey His Word and follow His ways in spite of the temptations to follow the broad way to destruction. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 26 – To the angel of the Church of the Laodiceans (2)

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked – I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” – Revelation 3:14-22 Scripture reading: Proverbs 10:9; Isaiah 55:1-3 Alongside Christ’s Word of rebuke comes a Word of counsel. Jesus is urging the congregation of Laodicea to turn to Him. She supplied neither healing for the spiritually sick nor refreshment for the spiritually weary. She was quite full of herself. Jesus tells her that she is rather quite empty. “When with rebukes You correct man for iniquity, You make his beauty melt away like a moth; surely every man is vapor” (Psalm 39:11). Laodicea had to learn that her beauty was a façade and her opinion of herself a lie. Our Redeemer counsels us to buy from Him. Now of course, we can not buy God’s grace. But Jesus is using it as a figure of speech to draw His people back to Himself. In so doing, Jesus is bringing censure to the church as a whole. “Church censures are necessary, for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren, for deterring of others from the like offenses, for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump, for vindicating the honour of Christ, and the holy profession of the gospel, and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the church, if they should suffer His covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.” – Westminster Confession Chapter 30.3 Christ’s censures are given in love. In Christ, we have all the riches we need. No church has arrived and we must do all we can to press forward, keeping our hand to the plough. Suggestions for prayer Unity in the church is important, but we may not sacrifice biblical truth for unity. Satan loves for Christians to be united in a lie. Pray we would not fall prey to the horrible errors of the Laodicean church. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 25 – To the angel of the Church of the Laodiceans (1)

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked – I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” – Revelation 3:14-22 Scripture reading: Psalm 119:65-80 The church is to proclaim the beauty of Christ through the power of the gospel. Christ loved the church and gave His life for her life. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to live as a community practicing gospel culture with a sense of vibrancy and urgency. This was not true of the church of the Laodiceans. Jesus rebukes in the strongest language. He knows the condition of the church. They were neither hot nor cold, not characterized by refreshment (cold waters) nor the spiritual zeal of healing balm (hot waters). They were lukewarm, without vitality and Christ says He will spit/vomit them out of His mouth. Oh, what a soul disturbing judgment! The congregation at Laodicea had a high opinion of themselves, smug we might say, resting in self-righteousness. Jesus says you do not know yourself. You are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. Again, we must ask ourselves how Christ’s judgments apply to us. Perhaps you are privileged to gather in a beautiful building with a fancy sign. There may even be all sorts of programs and activities. But what is the heartbeat? A church must have a beating heart for the glory of God. The danger of succumbing to the apostasy of the Laodicean Age is ever real. Where do we find ourselves in the midst of those judgments? J.I. Packer once said, “Most churches today have passengers rather than practitioners.” Is that true of you? Is it true of the church you belong to? Suggestions for prayer Pray for something of the experience of the Psalmist (119:65-80)that it may be our own, both individually and corporately. Pray for the continued leading of the Holy Spirit to be found faithful. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

SUNDAY, May 24 – To the angel of the Church in Philadephia (3)

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie – behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Rev. 3:7-13 Scripture reading: Psalm 23 Long ago David declared “I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the LORD” (Psalm 122:1). The closing words of Psalm 23 speak of David’s conviction to “dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (vs. 6). As the body of Christ, we come together to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. The preaching of the Word, together with the celebration of the sacraments are the means of grace. We come together as one church, in one faith and one hope. And we are to come as overcomers. Several times now in our devotions this month we have received the call to overcome. How do you understand that for your life and how do you understand that for the church to which you belong? How is it that you approach worship and what is your perspective as you enter the sanctuary, the place set apart? What does it mean to live as overcomers day by day? To overcome is to prevail, to withstand, to gaining mastery over obstacles. It is to live out of Psalm 28:7a, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped”. Jesus promises the overcomer a name and a place. He promises that His people will have His Name written upon them. That promise is real because we know Him Who has “overcome the world” (John 16:3). He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Suggestions for prayer Pray for the grace to live as an overcomer, to hold fast. May that be true for the life of the church and our families. Thank God He holds His people fast. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 23 – To the angel of the Church in Philadelphia (2)

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie – behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Rev. 3:7-13 Scripture reading: Philippians 1:1-11 The Bible’s teaching concerning perseverance is a great comfort to all true believers. Jesus has assessed the church at Philadelphia and commends her with the promise of preservation. The Bible’s teaching concerning the Perseverance of the Saints is soul strengthening. The struggle against sin is great, also in our corporate life as the church. We must be thankful that believers may confess: “Because of these remnants of sin dwelling in them and also because of the temptations of the world and satan, those who have been converted could not remain standing in this grace if left to their own resources. But God is faithful, mercifully strengthening them in the grace once conferred on them and powerfully preserving them in it to the end.” – Canons of Dort 5:3 God enables this perseverance by means of the grace of preservation. We can be confident in His promise that when He begins a good work in His people, He will bring it to completion (Phil. 1:6). Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow Me (John 6:37). And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” – John 10:28-29 Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His tender mercies. He will hold us fast. Pray that we would persist in living out His persevering care, all the while rejoicing in the perseverance of the saints. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 10 – To the angel of the Church in Smyrna (1)

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’” – Revelation 2:8-11 Scripture reading: Luke 12:1-11 Today, we again come before the Lord in corporate worship. This is the day of all the week the best, emblem of eternal rest. We may celebrate in joyful worship as the body of Christ, the glorious life of Christ. We may hold fast to the hope that does not disappoint. We, in God’s grace, may happily confess; God is great and greatly to be praised. Many, if not most, reading this devotion can do so in peace and without fear or alarm. But that is not the case for a large portion of Christ’s church scattered across the face of the globe. Accounts of believers dying for Christ can be read daily. In certain quarters, there is fierce opposition and terrible suffering. It has been that way since the beginning of the church (not only in the New Testament as the church of Smyrna would attest, but also in the Old Testament era). How important for us to hold tightly to the conviction that the: “Son of God through His Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects and preserves for Himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member.” – Heidelberg Catechism Answer 54 Let us not take for granted our blessings. Let us not put our heads in the sand as to the encroaching restrictions of our own freedom to confess Christ the King of Glory! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the persecuted church and do so often. Pray to be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees (Luke 12:1). Thank the Lord He will never leave or forsake His people. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 9 – To the angel of the Church of Ephesus (3)

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’” – Revelation 2:1-7 Scripture reading: Ephesians 1:15-23 Office bearers in the church have been given a tremendous responsibility. They are far more than administrators. They must give focused time to consider the spiritual condition of the flock. As they labour amongst God’s people, they must point the congregation over and again to the wonders of the Heavenly Father’s love for us in Christ and then to what must be our first love. Together with the congregation, we are to give expression to a zeal for the LORD and His service. To be warned is to be blessed. If we are in imminent danger, it is life-saving to be warned, also in the church. Many churches through the ages have become apostate because they lost their first love. The church at Ephesus, can she be found today? With open minds and humble hearts, we need to deeply think concerning the spiritual condition of the church of which we are members, praying for constant renewal and revival and ongoing reformation and repentance. Think again of the reading in Ephesians 1, how we need spiritual wisdom to remain faithful! To have our candlestick removed would be a terrible and dreadful indictment. When the lamp is snuffed out there is only darkness. Jesus, the Light of the world, tells us that the overcomers have the right to eat from the tree of life which is in paradise. Let us strive to be an overcomer. “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Suggestions for prayer God’s Spirit lives in His people in order to work through them. Call on God, "Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). Pray for faithfulness and God’s patience toward us. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 8 – To the angel of the Church of Ephesus (2

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’” – Revelation 2:1-7 Scripture reading: Ephesians 1:7-14 After some very encouraging words, the Lord reveals to the church of Ephesus that she has a major problem. He does not overlook their shortcoming, nor is His message sugar-coated. Jesus tells them they have left their first love; they are no longer filled with the same loving enthusiasm that belonged to them in their early history. The next generation does not hold the torch as brightly as those who had gone before them. We get the sense they have lost their passion for Christ, becoming mechanical in their approach to their life with Christ. This is a great danger for any church. Does the church you belong to have a passion for the Lord Jesus and is she on the march? It is easy for a church (and for believers) to simply go through the motions. When that happens there is something obviously wrong. When zeal is lacking, renewed repentance must be sought. Many in our society believe the church is simply a relic of a by-gone age. But the church remains the body of Christ and we who are part of that body must love our head—to love our Triune God with heart, soul, mind, body and strength remains our calling in answer to the first great commandment. Jesus has given us His life so that we would receive ours. In turn, we must ever learn to present ourselves to the Lord and His service – “My heart I offer to you LORD promptly and sincerely” (from Calvin’s motto). Suggestions for prayer Remind yourself, as Paul did to the church at Ephesus, of the many spiritual blessings we have in Christ! It is our privilege to give everything we have to the One who gave us everything on the cross. Give thanks. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 7 – To the angel of the Church of Ephesus (1)

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’” – Revelation 2:1-7 Scripture reading: Ephesians 1:1-6 Out of the mouth of Jesus went a sharp two-edged sword (cf. Revelation 1:16; Hebrews 4:12) speaking with authoritative voice. John is given the words of Jesus to be sent to the church of Ephesus. Ephesus stood at the crossroads of four major trade routes and became known as the gateway to Asia and, sadly, for the idol worship of the so-called goddess, Diana. Paul ministered in Ephesus for some three years (cf. Acts 19) and, in God’s sovereign good pleasure, a church of the Way was established. The angel is the messenger who speaks the Word to the congregation — ordinarily an ordained pastor. The message begins with a word of commendation/approval. As churches, we can use encouragement for we face many struggles. Clearly, Christ knows in detail the works of all seven churches and of course also of the church where you are a member. Nothing can be hidden from our Redeemer. Jesus acknowledges the hard work of the believers gathered in Ephesus. He makes mention of their perseverance. Wicked men are not tolerated. Those claiming to be apostles have been tested and rejected. They have exercised discernment, they have endured hardship, they have labored for the Lord’s name’s sake, certainly an endurance to be much-admired. Many who read this devotion also belong to a local church with a specific address. How would the church you are a member of be characterized? What place do you hold in upholding the life and times of the church? Suggestions for prayer Keep the church to which you belong in your daily prayers. Pray to be a church full of true faith and enduring faithfulness. Pray for the grace to be active in the life and times of the church. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 24 – Obedience that is good

“But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge.’” – Acts 4:19  Scripture reading: Acts 4:18-31 In this section, Peter and John refuse to listen to the authorities of the world. Sometimes Christians take this verse and use it as an excuse to avoid taxes or to do something illegal. But is that the point? May a Christian ignore the rules of government and the law because we are going to instead serve God? No. Peter writes about a corrupt and anti-Christian government in 1 Peter 2:17, Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. But what about when obedience to the authorities means we must disobey God? What if the government says we must proclaim that the Bible is false and the Koran is true? What if the government says we may not speak of or warn people of hell? Then we must listen to God and not man. This is where being a disciple of Jesus can get costly. It can mean losing jobs, friends, money or comforts. This is why we need to be constantly in prayer, asking God for the strength and boldness that only He can provide. Who are you looking to please today? Are you more concerned with keeping others off your back than you are with serving the Lord? Do you listen to others or your own sinful nature rather than to God? Suggestions for prayer Pray for wisdom to see when others want us to disobey God. Ask that God help you to be respectful of all those in authority and give you boldness to serve Him faithfully. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 23 – Shockingly bold

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” – Acts 4:13-14 Scripture reading: Acts 4:5-18 Healing in the name of Jesus Christ caused an uproar in the temple courts. Peter and John are placed in prison and put on trial. They know that at any minute they could be stoned to death or sentenced to crucifixion. And yet it seems they are not afraid. Are they relying on their own thorough training and expertise? Are they relying on the name they have made for themselves? No. We read that they are nobodies. But that makes no difference for they know the strength of the Lord Who is with them. Jesus once told them “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” They no longer fear man; instead, they have a healthy fear of the Lord. Not only do they not back down, but we read that Peter continually challenges the ones who put him on trial to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. He doesn’t apologize for what he did, but declares that they too should confess their wrong and follow Jesus. All this boldness is very impressive. The leaders do not know what to say, because they know Peter was with Jesus and they can see the lame man standing right there with him. This is the power of God in His servants. How do you act when the pressures of life and the world want you to give up or compromise your faith? Do people see that your strength doesn’t come from yourself, but instead comes from knowing and trusting the Lord God? Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that He is stronger than all the powers of the world. Confess your sin of fearing man and ask the Lord to give you strength to stand bold in your faith. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 22 – Better than money

“But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’” – Acts 3:6   Scripture reading: Acts 3:1-10 Peter and John could not give the man what he asked for, but they had something much greater –  the good news of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:7-8 speaks of this wealth saying, In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. Peter and John had learned this, and now they share their wealth with the lame beggar, saying to him, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Jesus Christ healed this man; Peter was merely an instrument. But Peter was sure. He reached out his hand, pulled the lame man up and the man stood. The healing the man experienced on the outside shows us what God was doing on the inside. As the apostles ministered in Jesus' name, so they brought the authority and blessings of Jesus Christ, namely life and restoration to all who believe. This is good news as we are all lame beggars and we must all find strength and comfort in Christ Jesus Who is gracious to us. Better than silver or gold, in Jesus’ name, we have forgiveness of sins. In Jesus’ name we have a new life.  Let this bring you to rejoice today, even as you still see and feel the burden of sin and brokenness in this life. Suggestions for prayer At times we feel like lame beggars and only want the things the world wants. Pray that God will help you give thanks for His blessings and share the riches of His grace. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 21 – What is a sinner to do?

“Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” – Acts 2:38 Scripture reading: Acts 2:22-36 Peter is tending the flock. The lost sheep of Israel are gathered and, in the strength of the Holy Spirit, Peter is explaining to them that Jesus, Whom they crucified, is their only hope for salvation. Now what? It might feel to the crowd as if they missed the only bus. After all, Jesus was rejected and crucified. The crowd knows their sin, so they cry out, “What shall we do?” The answer Peter gives is a summary of the Christian life. This is what Peter, a sinner, learned to do and now he speaks as one sinner to another, explaining the only way to be saved. Repent. That is, we must deny ourselves. We must flee from the idols of this world and devote ourselves wholly to God. This takes trust. We must trust that if we confess our sins, God will forgive them. This takes faith. We must have faith in Jesus Christ, knowing that if we turn from our sins, God will give us what we need to live a new life to His glory. We receive these from Christ in the gift of the Holy Spirit. By the Holy Spirit we are assured of God’s grace and given a new life wherein we can glorify God. Peter knew this gift and now he spreads the news so other sinners can know forgiveness and a new life. Do you know what it means to be forgiven and have the Holy Spirit? How can you share this good news in order that others may also know? Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will never cease to be amazed at God’s grace to you. Ask the Lord to help you point others to the only way of salvation in Jesus Christ. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 8 – Prayer and temptation

“And when he came to the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’” – Luke 22:40  Scripture reading: Luke 22:31-46  Yesterday we saw the great blessing and comfort in the fact that Jesus prays for His people. Now Jesus commands His disciples to pray for themselves. This is not just offering a quick prayer, but to be praying. We all need to be praying so we can face the temptations and hardships that lie before us. Even Jesus needed to pray. He went off on His own, where in agony, He laid His prayers before the Father. While Jesus pleads for mercy, the disciples fall asleep. I see myself there. Do you ever have it when you know you need to look to the Lord and lay your needs before Him, but you feel even that is too hard? Or does it happen that you know God has given you a task, but you can only focus on your own desires and you forget about what you are called to do? It is ironic how we think prayer is so hard when what Jesus did is infinitely more difficult. Jesus was going to the cross. Jesus would drink the cup of God’s wrath right down to the dregs. Jesus would suffer and die for the sins of many. And Jesus stayed up all night, praying and trusting, and then would go to the cross. Let this be a wakeup call for us. We are often spiritually asleep and vulnerable. We need to be living in prayer, laying our burdens before God in prayer, and looking to the Lord in trust. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will teach you and help you to pray. Turn to Psalm 62 and make that your prayer to God. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 7 – Prayer and protection

“I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  – Luke 22:32  Scripture reading: Luke 22:31-34, John 17:6-13  Jesus is the High Priest Who had just given the disciples the Passover. Now as High Priest, He prays for them. Jesus prays specifically for Simon Peter, knowing the trial he will face, and He prays for all the disciples as well as all His followers today. And we need this. We saw last time how weak we are; apart from the Lord intervening and praying on our behalf, there is no hope. And it really is amazing that Jesus prays, asking the Father to have mercy on us. Is anyone worthy of God’s care and protection? Is there anyone who has not slandered God when they grumble, who has not insulted God in the way they boast in themselves? No one. Peter will deny Jesus, leaving Jesus without any companions. And yet, Jesus says He will pray for Peter. Jesus’ prayer is a great strength for Peter. By Jesus’ prayer, Peter does not lose faith. Though he trips, he will stand in faith again. Like Peter, we too have Jesus praying on our behalf; when we face temptations, when we have trouble in our home, in our life, with our relationships, Jesus is praying that our faith may not fail. Take courage and look to the Lord to uphold you by His love in the difficult times. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help you realize His grace and love. Pray for specific situations where you need the Lord to help and protect you. Thank the Lord for His patient prayer for you. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 6 – Through the thresher

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.” – Luke 22:31 Scripture reading: Luke 22:31-34, Job 1:6-12 These are words of serious warning from Jesus. As He approaches the cross, Jesus warns one of His closest disciples that Satan has him in his rifle scope. As wheat is picked up tossed in the wind, Satan wants to pick Peter apart, toss him around so he cannot keep himself together. Satan aims for Peter’s ruin. Satan tried this with Job and Satan is still doing this today. Satan’s attacks are not always the same; his tactic may change, but expect it. When you are given a responsibility, when you face a hardship, or when there is something about following God that you do not understand, be ready. Satan’s mission is to get you to deny Jesus and give up the Christian faith. On hearing this, Simon Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and death.” Peter made the mistake of counting on his own strength. Peter did not think his faith would ever fail. We do this when we underestimate the devil and overestimate ourselves. In those moments we need to hear 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands, take heed lest he fall.” If we were swimming and were told there was a shark circling us, we would not turn and put up our fists; instead, we would climb into the boat. There we are safe. Against the enemy, Satan, we need to turn to Jesus. Pray for His help, His strength, that He will give us faith to withstand the attacks of Satan. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God gives you a keen awareness of both your own weakness and frailty and also of God’s strength and power. Ask God to protect you and to preserve you to hold fast to Him in faith all your days.  Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 5 – Seeking greatness

“For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” – Luke 22:27 Scripture reading: Luke 19:37-40, Luke 22:23-30 On Palm Sunday Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem. Being on a donkey makes a statement. The donkey is not like a Rolls Royce or even a Cadillac. No, it is more like an old Hyundai –a modest mode of transport. But that did not deter the crowds; they saw their king. In Jesus they saw the One Who could lead them to the deliverance of which the Passover spoke. Like Moses to Israel, they thought Jesus would rescue them from Rome, give them Rome’s gold and establish them as a glorious nation. You see, when Jesus rode in, they thought more of themselves than of God and God’s will. And we do the same when we want God’s blessings more than we want God’s will. But Jesus came to serve. And this is what we need. We don’t need more money, more earthly freedoms or land, but we need to be cleansed of our sin. Only Christ can give this cleansing, and He did. Jesus came as a servant and brought salvation by letting Himself be nailed to the cross where He would die a humiliating death. Phil 2:8 says, “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  Rejoice and praise God! Christ, who died on the cross, is our greatest treasure! Go to church today and serve and worship your God Who provided a way of reconciliation. Rejoice as you believe the good news! Christ came and lay down His life for you. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to help us show our love and thankfulness. Pray for God to help you be humble and faithful in times of trials, and to be quick to serve, considering others more highly than ourselves.  Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...