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Daily devotional

July 12 – Empty religion

Come to Bethel and transgress, at Gilgal multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days. – Amos 4:4 Scripture reading: Amos 4:1-5 One man puts a large donation into the offering plate to assuage the guilt of his deceitful business dealings. Another sits through worship services he despises in order to keep the family happy. And someone else raves about how much she likes worship at the new church in town because it feels so amazing. We could come up with a thousand examples of the same root problem that Amos confronts: attending worship for selfish reasons rather than going to meet God. “Cows of Bashan” is not a reference to four-legged beasts with horns, but to the wealthy women of Samaria. Amos is not very flattering, but he is simply telling these women what their husbands didn’t have the courage to say: that they are pampered and cruel. As long as they were being served, they were content – even if it meant crushing the poor. Their day will come. Amos proceeds to issue a sarcastic call to worship: “Come to Bethel and transgress, at Gilgal multiply transgression”. Go on, says the LORD through Amos, bring your sacrifices and tithes, your praise and worship, for I know you love it. Israel still observed many of the biblical worship ceremonies. But they did that while they crushed the needy during the rest of the week. They loved religious acts and rituals of worship, but they didn’t love the God whom they professed to worship. Worship is not a series of favors that we do for God to get Him on our side. Worship is a response of thanksgiving to the One who has purchased us with His blood. Suggestions for prayer Pray for deliverance from all man-centered, self-focused worship to wholehearted thankfulness and awe towards God.

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

July 7 – The tyranny of sin

For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals. – Amos 2:6 Scripture reading: Amos 2:6-8 Amos paints a devastating picture of injustice. Wealthy creditors preyed upon the poor, forcing them into slavery for the smallest of debts. The law did nothing to protect the little guy as court verdicts could be bought by the wealthy. Daughters, robbed of the protection of their fathers, were used and abused by shameless men. Meanwhile, at the houses of worship, Israelites reveled on the backs of the poor – sleeping on their garments and drinking their wine. Whenever a nation turns away from the Lord, the weak and vulnerable suffer the most. The Law of Moses provided explicit protection for the poor, the orphan, and the widow. God set Himself apart from all the other gods of the nations as “a father of the fatherless, a defender of widows” (Psalm 68:5). But sin is a tyrant that preys on those who need our protection the most: preborn children, trafficked girls, the neglected elderly, to name a few. His anger burns against the injustice in our nations as it did against Israel in the days of Amos. But we should not forget that Amos was directing his message to the church, God’s covenant people. We must allow God’s gaze to search our hearts and lives. Do you open your hand and home to the needy? What plays on your computer screen? Are you refusing to forgive a brother as God in Christ forgave you? Are you upright in your business dealings? The world’s greatest need is also our greatest need: a Saviour from the guilt and tyranny of sin. Suggestions for prayer Pray for God to arise and defend the oppressed. Ask Him to show you where you are complicit in the injustice in the land and for opportunities to do justice and love mercy. 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

July 6 – Pathway to apostasy

For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they have despised the law of the Lord, and have not kept His commandments. Their lies lead them astray, Lies which their fathers followed. – Amos 2:4 Scripture Reading: Amos 2:4-5; Deut. 30:11-20 The nations surrounding Israel and Judah were without excuse for their transgressions. How much more so the people of Judah who had the benefit of His Word! “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). Judah had tremendous spiritual blessings: the royal house of David, the temple of the Lord, the priesthood, and the law of God. But they had exchanged these gifts of God’s covenant love for vanity. Amos describes Judah’s descent into apostasy in three steps: despising the law, not keeping His commandments, and following after lies. It began as a heart attitude towards the law, became a settled habit of disobedience, and ended in the embrace of idols. Apostasy doesn’t happen overnight. It begins unseen in the heart. The heart is the battleground for faithful endurance. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov.4:23). How do we keep our heart? The Spirit has given us a toolbox for keeping our hearts. These include corporate worship, Bible study, and prayer. There simply are no substitutes for these means. But as we use them, we must not make them ends in themselves, as simply another set of duties to maintain. Keep your eyes fixed on the goal: knowing God. “Love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days.” Suggestions for prayer Ask the Father to guard your heart and the hearts of your loved ones. Pray for the Spirit to revive and bless your communion with God through the means of grace. 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

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

July 4 – Patterns of sin

“For three transgressions…and for four” – Amos 1:3a Scripture reading: Amos 1:3-10 The LORD confronts deeply-rooted habits of sin in Israel and seven neighboring nations. Beginning with Syria (Damascus), Philistia (Gaza), and Tyre, Amos announces that divine judgment is coming upon them and will not be turned back. The repeated phrase “for three transgressions…and for four” refers to entrenched patterns of sin. Each nation is guilty of not just one or two sins, but a multitude of sins. God is patient with sinful people and nations. When wickedness prevailed in the days of Noah, He gave 120 years for the ungodly to repent while the ark was being built. He patiently abided with the nation of Israel through centuries of rebellion and idolatry. Every sunrise welcomes another window of opportunity for sinners to repent and find refuge in the blood of Jesus. But that window of opportunity does not last forever. The repeated “for three transgressions…and for four” pattern points not only to a multitude of sin, but to a lifestyle of sin. It describes the unrepentant and unbelieving. We are all sinners in need of forgiveness in the blood of Jesus. It is a gift freely given to all those who trust in the Son of God who bore the wrath of God in the place of sinners. But those who harden themselves in sin show by their lives that they are living apart from the Saviour. They will not inherit the kingdom of God. Therefore, we are to “exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 7:13). Suggestions for prayer Pray for the Spirit to give you a deeper conviction of sin and eyes to see where there are patterns of sin in your life. Thank the Lord Jesus for His forgiving grace. 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

Sunday, June 21 - Laying down a lasting foundation

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6  Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 6:1-9 and 2 Timothy 3:14-17 Sunday worship is one of the great training grounds for the faith of our children! Here the gospel is proclaimed faithfully, our little ones learn to sing the songs of Zion and they learn to pray to their heavenly Father. What a blessing! But worship is only one component in the instruction of our covenant children. Another is found in the Christian home as parents instruct their children in the vital truths of Scripture. Now, this is not something we’re to take lightly! Rather, we’re to actively “train up” our children in the truth of God’s Word, while at the same time trusting that God will be faithful to His promises. For in Deuteronomy 6:1-9, we see the great importance of this task, but also the great confidence we can have as parents! God will use His Word to the good of our children! We see a powerful example of that in Timothy who learned from “childhood” the Holy Scriptures “which are able to make you wise for salvation…” (2 Timothy 3:15). Do we teach with that kind of trust in God? Do we make time for meaningful devotions? Do we impress upon our children the importance of faithful Sunday worship? As v.6 says, if we properly train our children, then even when they’re old they will not depart from it. Yes, they may have times of rebellion or uncertainty about their faith, but God will bring them back to that path of daily trust and dependence upon Him! Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would bless your children and young people in worship, strengthen their faith and deepen their understanding. Pray for God’s strength to faithfully instruct your children so that you may lay a lasting foundation for their future! 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 20 – The great value of a good name

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold.” – Proverbs 22:1  Scripture reading: Psalm 112 Is having a “good name” a priority in your life? Unfortunately, many today don’t see the need for it. They do what they want without any concern for their name. They think, “As long as I feel good, who cares about what people think of me?” But is that the kind of attitude we’re to have as Christians? What then is a “good name”? Well, to have a “good name” means to be a person of integrity, one who is trustworthy, truthful and loyal. It means to be gracious, respectful and willing to put your neighbour’s interests above your own (Philippians 2:1-4). This is the fruit of Christ’s ongoing work in our lives! (Philippians 1:6). We are also to have a desire for a “good name”! We need to pray to God about it and strive to live our lives in a godly and consistent way. We’re not to be those who say one thing and then do another. We’re to walk with integrity, for this brings about the “loving favour” of men, which is a testimony to how our lives make an impact on them. Therefore, we’re to desire a “good name” more than “great riches”! By our words and deeds, we point people to Christ and it opens up doors for us to share the gospel! Psalm 112:6 reminds us that the righteous life leaves a lasting memory on those around us! Is this true of you? May Christ so work in us to bring about this blessed result! Suggestions for prayer Pray for a “good name” among men that they might see Christ in you! Pray that the “loving favour” of others would open doors for you to share the good news of Christ by your words, deeds and way of life. 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 19 – Each stage of life has its own glory

“The glory of young men is their strength; the splendor of old men is their gray head.” – Proverbs 20:29 Scripture reading: Psalm 92:12-15, Proverbs 16:31, and Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 How do you view your life? Some see growing older as a miserable thing. They look back upon their youth and mourn the loss of their strength and vitality. They look at their grey hair, or failing eyesight, or lack of mobility and they’re filled with regret. But is that how we should view the passing of our years? No! In fact, as v.29 teaches us, each stage of life, whether youth or old age, has its own glory! The strength and activity of our younger years are blessings from God. But it’s also a blessing to grow older! Thus, for the Christian, having grey hair is a sign of God’s blessing! Proverbs 16:31 says, “The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness.” You see, having silver hair is a sign of honour for the Christian of maturing years. It's a sign of wisdom and that you’re to be shown respect! (Leviticus 19:32). How are you spending your younger years? Are you using your youth for the good of God’s kingdom and to glorify your Creator? (Ecclesiastes 12:1). And if you are older, do you see it as a blessing and that you can still be useful in God’s kingdom? (Psalm 92:12-15). Never regret growing older. See it as a change from one stage of glory to the next. Be diligent in the things of God while you’re young so that you might have wisdom to share when you’re older. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks to God for His blessings at the stage of life you’re at now, whether old or young. Ask the Lord to help you be always useful in His kingdom, serving Him wholeheartedly as a younger member of the church or as one of many years. 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 18 – Get up you sluggard

“Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty; Open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread.” – Proverbs 20:13  Scripture reading: Proverbs 6:6-11, Psalm 127:1-2, and Colossians 3:22-25 When I was in Bible College there were students who liked to sleep too much, even at the expense of attending classes! Thus, often you’d hear the cry, “Get up you sluggard!” Such a statement was meant to be funny, but it was also meant to remind the lazy student that you can’t sleep when there are important things to do. Our proverb reminds us of that as well. For “sleep” is a gift of God to man because he was created to work in order to grow his food. We’re reminded in Psalm 127 that the LORD gives “sleep” to the trusting laborer. Sleep is a good thing, but it’s not to be abused. Today many don’t understand the purpose of work and prefer to be lazy and depend on others to provide. However, we need to keep in mind that work is meant to be for God’s glory. Paul says in Colossians 3:23-24 “And whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not to men…for you serve the Lord Christ.” Do we have that mindset as we get up for school, or go to the office, or take care of the children at home? Our proverb reminds us in v.13b that, we’re to “open” our eyes, that is, we’re to be alert when it comes to our labors! For as God’s Word promises, when we labor for the Lord, we can be assured that He will give us our daily bread and provide for all our needs. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to give you the proper perspective on your work. Pray for alertness and energy if you love to sleep at the expense of school or work. In all your labour, seek to honour and please God, for He will bless your efforts! 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 5 – Words of blessing to those in need

“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.” – Proverbs 12:25   Scripture reading: Proverbs 15:13-30 and Matthew 6:25-34 As we know “anxiety” or worry can come upon the Christian in many ways whether it be through our work situation, stress in our marriage, financial crisis, or prolonged sickness. As a result, such stressful burdens can make us feel as if we’re under a great weight, or “depressed.” Thus, the “heart,” the seat of our emotions, the place where love, joy and peace abound, can become terribly affected and troubled. Yet, how blessed we are to have fellow believers come alongside and comfort our hearts with their words, as v.25b says, “a good word makes it glad”! Proverbs 15 also speaks of the blessing of such words: v.23 says, “a word spoken in due season, how good it is”, v.30 says, “a good report makes the bones healthy.” Or think of Proverbs 16:24, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” Yes, being able to comfort one another is a real blessing, for we’re able to comfort others with the comfort we have in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:4)! Some of the most blessed words of comfort in times of anxiety come from Jesus in Matthew 6:25-34 as He speaks of the Father’s loving care for us! For if He so cares for His creation, won’t He care for us, as those made in His image? Yes, as we ponder the precious words of Scripture and come to God in prayer, we’ll find our anxiety lifted and replaced by true peace! (Philippians 4:6-7) Suggestions for prayer Ask God to lift the anxiety that fills your life. Give your struggles to God in prayer and reflect on His precious promises of love, protection and care for all your needs. Pray that God would use you to help others who are struggling. 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 4 – Christian fruitlfulness leads to Christian witness

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.” – Proverbs 11:30 Scripture reading: Matthew 5:13-16 and 1 Peter 2:9-12 The life we have in Christ is an awesome reality! By grace, we go from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive (Ephesians 2:4-5), and blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3)! Thus, because of Christ, we are “righteous” in God’s sight and through the inner working of the Holy Spirit, we produce spiritual “fruit” which can be a rich blessing to others! Our text calls such fruit “a tree of life,” that is, a place of refreshment, joy and blessing! Its language speaks of the “tree of life” in Revelation 22, which brings eternal blessing and healing to the nations. What a reality to ponder! That our lives can be a blessing to those who are hurting, in need of help, comfort, or encouragement! Such “fruit” is a blessing to the Church as we use our gifts, give of our time and seek to live out our faith. But also this “fruit” is a “tree of life” for the lost and broken of our world! As v.30b says, “...he who wins souls is wise.” It has the idea of capturing a prisoner or wild animal. How are we in living out our faith? Do we want to just influence people morally, or do we desire to see them come to saving faith in Christ? This is how the “wise” seek to live their lives! So let your light shine before men that they might see your good works and glorify God on the Day He visits us! Suggestions for prayer Pray for God to continue to make you fruitful for the sake of your life in the Church and for your witness to the world. Pray for ways that God can use you so that you can let your light shine for the salvation of the lost! 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 3 – The joy of God’s blessing

“The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” - Proverbs 10:22 Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 8:11-18 and Psalm 127 As Christians, we are blessed because we are God’s people and we know how faithful and good He is! We see that especially in the “blessing of the LORD” upon our lives. God’s “blessing” is the bestowal of His loving favor, of His covenant kindness upon us, which affects all of life. And that includes our work, family, worship and our witness! As our proverb says, through that blessing the LORD makes us “rich” or “wealthy.” That is, He provides for all of our needs. He’s the One Who blesses the work of our hands and makes it fruitful! (Psalm 90:17). The children of Israel were to learn that lesson well, as Deuteronomy 8 reminds us. Psalm 127 also reminds us that we labor in vain if the LORD’s blessing is not upon the work that we do! Therefore, we should always pray for God’s blessing! For when we do, we’ll see God’s mighty hand at work in so many ways, for as Prov. 10:22 says, “He adds no sorrow with it.” In other words, God’s blessing is not meant to harm us, but is an expression of His love! It shows the depth of His care and concern. That means, even the blessings that seem at first to bring struggle or trial, are really meant for a greater purpose: that we might be drawn closer to God in our walk with Him and in our service in the kingdom! Yes, how rich we are because of God’s blessing upon us! Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s blessing on your life, family, work and worship. Also, give thanks to God for how He turns various trials and spiritual struggles into blessings in your life! For God’s blessing reveals His loving care for our lives. 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 2 – You must guard your heart

“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” – Proverbs 4:23 Scripture reading: Proverbs 4 Guarding your “heart” is something all believers need to do, not just the young! Solomon writes to his children (v.1) in a very personal and passionate way. As he was instructed from his youth, now he has the responsibility to charge his sons to “Get wisdom! Get understanding…wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding” (vv.5a-7). Isn’t this our desire for our children, as well as for our own lives? Solomon says in v.23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it springs the issues of life.” Do we guard our hearts, as we should? Sadly, often the movies we watch or our favorite TV shows leave much to be desired! We need to pray about these things, especially as we hope to set good examples for our children and grandchildren. How much time do we spend in the Word, setting our minds on things above where Christ is (Colossians 3:1-2), or in setting our minds on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8)? These are things that strengthen our faith and build up a strong defense against the temptations that daily confront us. As Solomon says, “When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble. Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life” (vv.12-13). May these be words we all take to heart! Suggestions for prayer Pray for obedience to God’s Word and for growing in wisdom. Ask for spiritual discernment that you may be careful with your life and the choices you make. Guard your heart and fill it with things that will strengthen your walk with God. 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 20 – To the angel of the Church in Sardis (2)

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 3:1-6 Scripture reading: Matthew 7:13-23 Now all of the aforesaid is not to say there were no followers of Jesus in Sardis, but it seems those who confessed Christ were more than a little bit sleepy. Our Redeemer wants His church to be wide awake. As Spurgeon once said, “Christian beware of thinking lightly of sin; take heed lest you fall little by little.” Discipline is one of the marks of a true church. God-glorifying governance is essential in the church. Biblical standards within the church are hard to reach, but that must not dissuade us from exerting our energies, desiring to please the King of the church. If we aim low it is not too hard to hit the target. Let us not be blind to our own shortcomings. The church is to be a reflection of God’s glory. Christ warns (His warnings are gracious) Sardis and every church by extension to take heed. If not, His judgments will fall upon the church. We see that clearly in times past. Many churches no longer live; their life for Christ has vanished. You say the church you go to is faithful, that is well and fine. Be sure to give thanks to the Lord. But the point is that the danger of becoming unfaithful is always lurking around the corner. Never forget Satan's intention to seek and destroy. Give attention so that life in the church is not taken for granted. As churches, we are to seek diligence lest we become careless. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for confessing the perseverance of the saints. Pray God’s ongoing blessing for the preservation of the church. Pray that God’s people would with diligence, be watchful and fruitful! 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 19 – To the angel of the Church in Sardis (1)

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 3:1-6 Scripture reading: James 2:14-26 What a terrible, soul-shaking pronouncement!! You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead! Again King Jesus addresses His church. Once more our Lord and Saviour does not mince words. He will not coddle His church. Previously, we heard Jesus addressing some of the other churches of Asia Minor. Along with a word of encouragement and commendation, there also came a warning calling for correction. With Ephesus, she had lost her first love; with Smyrna, no warning, but a call to endure; with Pergamos, a call to discipline those who did not believe doctrine and life hold together; with Thyatira, a warning to uproot the seeds of compromise which marked the church. But now Sardis—she is dead! This is dreadful! While it is true that in this life we only have a small beginning of the obedience the Lord requires of us (cf. Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 114) there must be a beginning—also in the church. Faith without works is dead! A faithful church seeks to be built up in the most holy faith (cf. Jude vs. 17-21); she desires not only to be faithful to the faith delivered once for all, and she also wishes to live out of that faith in word and deed. Sardis has fallen far. Only Jesus can bring life back to what has become unrecognizable. Oh, she has a name, but it appears to be a façade. May the Lord find us to be in earnest for the well-being of His church. Suggestions for prayer Pray for a faithful and fruitful faith life, not only for yourself but also for the church to which you belong. Pray that God would help His people ever to be lively and living members 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

May 18 – To the angel of the Church in Thyatira (3)

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 2:18-29 Scripture reading: Psalm 2 A church is a church by means of her unity in Christ and His Word. She has been purchased by His blood. The Belgic Confession (Article 27) teaches the church is a “holy congregation of true Christian believers, all expecting their salvation in Jesus Christ, being washed by His blood, sanctified and sealed by the Holy Spirit." The church is Christ’s possession and she must listen when He speaks. A well-ordered church understands she is to be the pillar and ground of truth and God’s people must know how to conduct themselves in His household. (cf. I Timothy 3:15). Reading our text again today, we can not escape the fact that Jesus speaks in such a way that there can be no doubt that the church in Thyatira has corrective work to do. This is true of every true church in some form or fashion. Jesus does not close His eyes to either false doctrine or false living. Nothing can be hidden from Him. He speaks of even killing the children. Oh, these are hard words! Soul piercing words! The children (vs.23) are the second generation and they are no longer holding to the pure gospel. From church history, beginning with the Old Testament congregation, we know it only takes one generation for the church to become lifeless. The experiential life of the church must always be rooted on the rock-solid truth of God’s most Holy Word. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Suggestions for prayer Matthew Henry once wrote, “When the law of God is written in our hearts, our duty will be our delight”. Pray that we may grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. II Peter 3:17&18). 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 17 – To the angel of the church in Thyatira (2)

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 2:18-29 Scripture reading: Matthew 16:5-12; 1 Kings 19:1-2 Today it is again our calling to gather as the body of Christ in corporate worship. Worship is to be seen as our greatest privilege and highest responsibility. The Lord calls us to worship in Spirit and in Truth. Worship is to be Word saturated. God’s Word touches every area of life and at certain points, the Word pinches and even cuts deeply. Christ’s words to Thyatira are hard-hitting and direct. There is no subtlety here. Thyatira was in grave danger. There is corruption in the church of Thyatira needing radical surgery. It seems that there is a prominent woman in the congregation, calling herself a prophetess, who promoted tolerance toward certain pagan practices. There is a Jezebel in the ranks. Jezebel, oh the name ought to bring a sense of dread. Jezebel (don’t name your daughter this) in the days of Elijah was a seducer working underhandedly. Jezebel brazenly sought to undermine true faith and promoted the wickedness of Baal worship. Shamelessly, she directed her attack against God of the covenant. Jesus calls us to walk the narrow road. Compromise leads to the broad road and those remaining on that path will ultimately be lost for eternity. The church is always to live with a view to eternity. But at the same time, as we look to the Lord for help and strength, we must do so desiring faithfulness day by day. Let us never forget that a church that does not shine gospel light, will ultimately have her lampstand removed. Suggestions for prayer Seeking God’s will helps us live a life of Soli Deo Gloria. Pray for a heart to do so both for yourself and the church. Pray that God would help us to see (and fight against) how terribly dangerous compromise is when it enters our lives. 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 4 – The Alpha and Omega is coming

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” – Revelation 1:7-8 Scripture reading: Genesis 1:1-2; Revelation 22:12-22 Today as we take up our customary task, we ought to do so with the understanding that Jesus is everything. In all our comings and goings, we are to do so with eternity in view. Christians prepare for what is yet to come realizing the Kingdom is a prepared place for a prepared people (cf. John 14:1-6). With Scripture, we confess Christ is the Beginning and the End and everything in between. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus Christ is the pivot of history. Our Redeemer is the Wonderful One, Wise Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). A 250-word devotion can not begin to scratch the surface in speaking of our beautiful Saviour — nor could two hundred and fifty million! But for today, think of that word "behold." It is a word that calls us to pay attention. It is a word that calls us to look, to take notice. What are we to take notice of – Jesus is coming! Are you ready? What comfort to believe: "According to the Word of God, when the time appointed by the Lord (which is unknown to all creatures) is come and the number of the elect complete, that our Lord Jesus Christ will come from heaven, corporally and visibly, as He ascended, with great glory and majesty to declare Himself Judge of the living and the dead, burning this old world with fire and flame to cleanse it” (Belgic Confession Article 37). Suggestions for prayer Pray for the convicting of the Holy Spirit so that we are ready for that great day of days when Jesus returns. Ask that we would use our time wisely in preparation for that day when time as we know it, will be no more. 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 3 – From and to

“John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – Revelation 1:4-6 Scripture reading: Romans 11:33-36; Ephesians 3:14-21 Today we have the blessed privilege and remarkable responsibility to gather with the body of Christ, His holy bride, His church. It was on the Lord’s Day (vs. 10) that John received the Revelation which we still have with us to this day. Our text tells us that the original recipients of this letter were the seven churches in the province of Asia. This is the area we today know as Turkey. Each of the seven churches held their own significance in the various areas of the region. In worship, we are busy in covenantal dialogue. The Lord speaks and we may answer. And as the Lord begins His conversation with us in worship, He gives us His comforting greeting. To be greeted by God – what an encouraging, soul strengthening blessing!! Pause and think about this in your meditations today (Don’t read God’s Word too quickly; I confess I do far too often). To have grace and peace announced to the congregation  – that is precisely what we need. Grace is not our deserving. Peace with God, secured by our Redeemer in this sin-stained world (including the sin in our lives), gives us life heartening perspective. These words are from Christ Himself Who, “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (vs. 5). He calls us to His service – to be His kings and priests. Amazing! Amazing grace! Do not take God’s greeting to us for granted. All glory and dominion belongs to Christ forever!! Suggestions for prayer Earnestly and prayerfully reflect on the wonder-working love of our Saviour. May the song in our heart be “Glory to God the Father, glory be to God the Son, glory be to God the Spirit, God Almighty, Three in One! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Glory be to Him alone.” (Trinity Psalter Hymnal 213:1) 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 2 – Blessed are those who read, hear, and keep…

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” – Rev. 1:3 Scripture reading: Proverbs 8:32-36 How would you respond if someone were to ask you questions along the following lines, “What do you do with the Bible? How does the Bible influence your thinking and decisions? What difference does the Bible make in your life?” Our text today is the first of seven beatitudes (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7,14) in the book of Revelation. It lays forth a blessing to the one who reads, hears and who keeps the words that are about to follow. By extension, our text applies to all of Scripture. We have a three-fold calling to take the Scriptures with the utmost seriousness and sincerity. Spurgeon once said, “Nobody ever outgrows the Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years." Augustine wrote, “Holy Scripture are our letters from home.” Indeed, God, in gracious mercy, has given us His Word and we have a blessed responsibility to take up the word, listen closely and uphold the Word in faith and faithfulness. Our riches in receiving light so that we need not be in darkness are profound. Jesus is that light! The Bible records for us what God has done, is doing, and will yet do. It is as the Psalmist says, "a lamp to our feet and light for our path." It is a great blessing to be in the Word and for the Word to be in us! For Further Study: Romans 10:17; 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12 Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Holy Spirit would deepen our love for the Holy Word of God expounding Christ. May the Lord help us understand that many books can inform, but only the Bible, in the power of the Holy Spirit, can transform. 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 1 – Introduction to the Apostle John's letters to the seven churches

I have been asked to give some consideration to the letters that the Apostle John sent to the seven churches as we find them in the book of Revelation. They are also messages to the church today. From the onset, let me say that it is impossible to do justice to the full scope of the Scriptures’ teaching in short meditations of some 250 words. There is much we reluctantly pass over. And yet, within each devotion reflecting on Scripture, there is a great deal to ponder, not only concerning our personal walk with the Lord, but also our corporate, communal fellowship with the Lord in the church to which we belong. May the following reflective meditations be both comforting and sobering. We will begin with six devotions setting the context from chapter 1 (following the text of the NKJV) and then devote three days of reflection to each of the seven churches. We will conclude the month reflecting on the wonder of the throne room of heaven and the blessed worthiness of the Lamb Who was slain, now exalted in glory above. As we go forward this month, let us do so with our gaze, rooted in God’s love, on what is yet to come. But let us also engage in some self-examination, honest contemplation and consideration remembering life is short, death is sure, sin the cause, Christ the cure. I wish you the Lord’s blessings as you devote your attention to God and His Word. Sincerely in His grace and peace, Rev. P.J. Vellenga  THE WORD AND THE TESTIMONY  "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw." – Rev. 1:1-2 Scripture reading: John 12:37-50  To be a Christian is to have the eye of one’s heart opened by the grace of God. It is not our deserving. The world says seeing is believing. The Christian confesses believing is seeing. As we learn in the sermon to the Hebrews of long ago, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (11:1). The book of Revelation, albeit mysterious at times, helps us to see in faith. The Apostle John is given a revelation. The word revelation from the original Greek means uncovering, unveiling, disclosure. What is revealed to John? The book of Revelation unveils Jesus Christ in all His glory. Now, of course, this is evident throughout the Holy Scriptures, but like a mighty crescendo, the book of Revelation unveils for us a wonderful message of the full fruition of Christ’s victory in His soon, second coming. So very important to the believer is the revelation of Jesus Christ — it is our very life’s breath. The last surviving Apostle, John, exiled for the faith on the island of Patmos, had the great privilege of receiving this revelation of what had taken place and what will yet take place. He was called to bear “witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw." By God’s grace, John was a faithful witness to the most holy faith. We too are called to be Christ’s witnesses and His testimony to this very day—Praise God! Suggestions for Prayer Pray with heartfelt thanksgiving, acknowledging both the witness and testimony of Jesus Christ. Pray for the leading of the Holy Spirit so that we would be found to be faithful witnesses of the truth. 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 18 – The God of all grace will do it

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” – 1 Peter 5:10 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 5:6-11 We saw this week how Peter learned humility and the blessing of grace. Now about 30 years later, Peter is writing to encourage believers to rely on God’s grace in times of suffering. Do you put your hope in the Lord? Do you hear Him calling you to trust Him? That is the only way we can make it through this life in service to God. We don’t have it in ourselves to persevere in faith until death. But in the Lord we have what we need. Think about what it means that God is the God of all grace.  This fact is easy to forget. We are quick to think that God will not help us in our troubles. We might believe the lies of Satan and start to think we are better off looking for help or comfort in ourselves, in possessions, in other people, or in other things. But there is no grace in other things. God, however, is a fountain; there is more and more grace so we can say, even in our suffering, “our cup overflows”. Keep turning to the Lord. Do not wonder if God will have the grace to forgive you when you stumble for the umpteenth time. Do not wonder if God is able to uphold you when your world is turned upside down or when you feel so utterly disappointed and hopeless. There is grace. Turn to the Lord and find His grace. It is always sufficient. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for His faithfulness in holding onto us. Ask God to forgive our grumbling and doubt of His goodness, and pray for patience and trust in all circumstances. 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 17 – To glorify God

“When you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” – John 21:18b Scripture reading: John 21:15-25 Does this sound like happy news? To go where you do not want to go? Peter is told he will walk down a path of suffering and die a terrible death. The Bible does not give us the account of Peter’s death, but historians tell us that after preaching in many places, Peter went to Rome. Nero was the emperor and the common story is that Peter was crucified upside down. What we know for sure is that Peter would die as a martyr. Now, how is that comforting? It is good news to hear that Peter will not be led by his selfish desires, but by his commitment to Christ. It would be hugely comforting for Peter to know that in his death he would glorify God. Peter once claimed he would die with Jesus, but he ended up being afraid of a servant girl. Thanks be to God, Peter will not go down in history as a coward, but as a faithful servant. We will all face trials and some of us might face persecution; our faith is tested when hardships from disease or loss come to our lives. How can we glorify God in life and in death? Only when we stop looking to ourselves. Like Peter, we learn how weak we are and this must, like Peter, direct our gaze, not to ourselves and our cares, but every single day to Christ Who gives us what we need so we can be faithful unto death. By His grace and mercy, we wretches can glorify God. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that you do not need to have a meaningless life. Ask God to give you faith and humility in all circumstances to live a life which glorifies Him. 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 16 – Confidence in Peter?

“He said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’” – John 21:17b  Scripture reading: Matt 16:13-23  Jesus said, “Feed my lambs”, “Tend my sheep”, and “Feed my sheep”. Jesus once praised Peter’s confession of Who He was and promised Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. But Peter, in turn, denied Jesus; Satan came and Peter gave in. How can the church be built on the ministry of one who falters so easily? Peter is not a rock; he is crumbling sandstone. Perhaps you have wondered how you can be useful to the Lord when you have failed in the past and continue to fail. It is no small matter to feed the precious sheep of Christ. Peter is going to be looked up to. If the shepherd does wrong, the sheep suffer. We are tempted to say that Peter cannot be trusted. And we might suspect the same of ourselves, thinking we should not try to be a blessing to others or are not fit to lead our family because we have failed in the past. But Jesus knows how to build His church; it is not built on man’s power, but on God’s grace. Remember what Jesus said to Peter before? “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). Peter will lead the way in calling sinners to believe in the Lord Jesus. Peter knows what grace is, and Peter knows how a wretch can be saved. Salvation is not by man’s doing, but by the grace of God. Do you rest in this grace? Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His grace given to you. Ask God to keep you humble and firm in your faith so that you may be a blessing to those around you. 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 15 – A trusting Peter

“He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’” – John 21:16a  Scripture reading: Psalm 116  Jesus asks again, “Do you love me?” How do we respond to that? How can we say, “I love you” to God? Especially when we, like Peter, know how weak and pale our love is compared to God’s pure and perfect love for us. Peter does not dare to claim perfect love. The word Peter uses to say, I love you is not the same as the word Jesus uses; he uses a lesser word for love. Why? Because talk is cheap. We see it today. People claim to love their spouses, but go on to forsake them. Hypocrites will boast how much they love God, acknowledging Him with their lips, but in their hearts loving other things more. Peter was there. Now there is no boasting with words. “Lord you know my heart, you know I am frail and my love is not perfect, but you know that I love you.” So is that the answer to how we say “I love” you to God? Is the key to just use humble language? No, talk is still cheap. We need to show our love. Peter had a heart that was willing to be rebuked and to serve or to go wherever the Lord would lead him. Peter’s life will show his love. That is the key. Do you love the Lord? Recognize every good thing we have is only by the grace of God who is loving toward us and call on His name in trust, in praise and in thanksgiving. Show your love with your life. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will keep your relationship with Him honest, that we will not lie when we sing and confess our love to God, but that we will be keenly aware of His great mercy toward us. Pray that God will help you show your love with a life devoted to Him. 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....