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Daily devotional

August 14 – Singing of the covenant faithfulness of the Lord

Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver. – Psalm 50:22 Scripture reading: Psalm 50:22-23 How do these last verses make you feel? We know that God is speaking through the songs of the Church. We like it when the congregation speaks the blessings of the covenant to the faithful people of God. Why do we need to talk about the curses and judgment of God? We are the New Testament Church. We live by grace and not by law. Perhaps it is best to read these Psalms and possibly meditate on them – but should we sing this in our worship? It is so judgmental. Doesn’t this psalm drive people away? Perhaps it is better to sing praise and worship songs about God and His love, leaving these verses alone. Yes, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. We do that from our love for God. We know that glory waits for the faithful. That glory goes far beyond the benefits for this life into eternity. We want that for our brothers and sisters in the Church. Psalm 50 forces us to recognize that the key to the kingdom of church discipline starts with us. When we sing this song together before God, we hope that we will turn from our wicked ways. We hope others will too. Psalm 50 is an expression of singing the warning in love. We need to have faith that God will glorify Himself through our faithful singing and that our songs will encourage thankful and obedient worship. For Psalm 50 testifies: This is our God! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the purity of the Church and our lives and for courage to call the wicked to repentance. Pray for the LORD to change hearts and minds.

Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional.

Daily devotional

August 9 – Enter His gates with thanksgiving

I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. – Psalm 50:9 Scripture reading: Psalm 50:8-11 Yesterday we considered God. Israel had not. Oh, they were engaged in the activity of worship. It seems that they were pretty busy. The sacrifices were brought to the temple and offered. I think that what happened is that Israel worshipped the LORD in the way that other nations worshipped their idols. See, the idol always needs something. The idol needs to be aroused for it to do something. Every other kind of religion is works-oriented. If we do something, then the gods will do something for us. Israel had applied this kind of thinking to God. It was the worship of manipulation. They wanted good crops or healthy children—the good life and if they kept the rules and offered the animals, they figured God would bless them. That kind of worship belittles God. Everything on the planet already is His. We are His people. Israel had forgotten that God had blessed not because of what they did, but because He is good and gracious. He needed nothing from them or us—but our love and devotion. Today we will worship the LORD. But why are you going to do that? Is it so you can feel better, to be happier? Worship must be a response to grace received and applied. Psalm 100 teaches us that we are His people not because we give something to Him, but because He saved us. That is why we are His! Let us enter His gates with thanksgiving. Suggestions for prayer Ask for inspiration for the church to know God and honor Him in our worship and songs of praise Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 8 – Singing the testimony of God

Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. – Psalm 50:7 Scripture reading: Psalm 50:7 The Israelites probably understood the language of a covenant court case better than we do. We ought to understand the covenant as the declaration of the King towards His people. If the subjects obeyed, the LORD would give them peace and blessing. Trouble only arises when the covenant people disobey. It seems clear that the LORD, the King of Israel, is not pleased with His people. It is time for them to listen. God says, “Hear O Israel: I am God, your God.” The LORD identifies Himself as their creator and provider. He uses the language of the first five books of the Bible, “I Am the Lord your God.” Israel knows that God became their God not because they chose Him, but because He saved them from Egypt. He gave them the Promised Land. He sent the rain and dew. He fed them from the bounty of the earth. He gave and needed nothing from them. He demands their devotion and their good confession. He is God, their God, and they ought to love Him above everything and or anyone. They best listen to Him. God has become our God in Christ. We must listen to Him, Who so loved us that He gave His Son to die for us. He needs nothing from us. He asks that we love Him. This is our God! How can we not love and honor Him? Let us think about that as we gather together for worship tomorrow. Suggestions for prayer Pray for a blessing for our preparation for worship and a blessing for those who are preparing to preach the Word. Ask for inspiration for the church to know God and honor Him in our worship and songs of praise. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 7 – Singing a call to worship

Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice! – Psalm 50:5 Scripture reading: Psalm 50:5-6 Here is the Church sounding the voice of God — come and worship! As I write this, we are in the Spring of isolation, online church and missing the gathering together. The language of verse 5 and 6 is lovely and comforting. The LORD calls His people, the faithful ones to gather and worship. And they do. He gathers them together using the songs of the Church to call His people. The Church in Zion, more than just the temple, is the imperfect “Immanuel” that looks forward to the unification of God and His people in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Israel shed the blood of many animals as part of their relationship with the LORD. Now we come in the shed blood of Jesus. "Therefore, brothers, since we have the confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” (Hebrews 10:19-20). The LORD who rules the Church rules the heavens too. The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). What do the heavens declare? His righteousness and right to judge. He has absolute authority, and the Church sings of His power now to enter in conversation with His people. The LORD does this as a King with His subjects or as a Father with His children. Let us prepare our hearts to hear what He will tell us so that we can respond and tell others. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the blessings of worship. Give thanks for the death and resurrection of Christ. Ask for a blessing on the fellowship and the ministry of the Church on earth and fearlessness to declare the whole truth about the LORD. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 6 – Singing our theology

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth – Psalm 50:2 Scripture reading: Psalm 50:1-4 The Psalms are not just songs to sing, but are the revelation of God. Psalm 50 provides a proper theology that leads to a good confession about God. As the Church, we confess, "God is certainly merciful, but he is also just. His justice demands that sin, committed against his supreme majesty, be punished with the supreme penalty— eternal punishment of body and soul" (Heidelberg Catechism QA 11). God is the creator and ruler of the universe. He has the right to expect that all humanity would fall and worship Him. He had revealed Himself to Israel in Zion. There the temple served to remind Israel of His presence and power, and their obligation to love and worship Him. But Israel tended to backslide. So, what are we called to do when we forget about His power? On Good Friday, when the Almighty One darkened the sun and poured His consuming anger upon our sin, He confronted us with His holiness. He loves His people and calls us to love Him. He calls the world, and especially the Church in the world, to repent and worship Him. True faith confesses His right to judge the nations and His mercy. God inspires Asaph to write to His people to confess their sin, His awesome name and shine the light of this profession to His glory. Today we sing these verses and reflect upon the Mighty One of Israel, the Lord our King. Suggestions for prayer Pray for courage to sing these verses to each other and the world. Pray to get to know the LORD and let Him be God and to accept this Psalm as necessary for the Church today. Ask to be aware of the Lord's right to call us to love and obedience and never take Him for granted. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 24 – The day of the Lord

“And it shall come to pass in that day,” says the Lord GOD, “that I will make the sun go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in broad daylight.” – Amos 8:9 Scripture reading: Amos 8:7-10 We might think by this point that Amos is laying the judgment on a little thick! But this is not just an idiosyncrasy of Old Testament prophets. The Lord Jesus talked about hell more than He talked about heaven. Threats and warnings are one way that our faithful God bids us to repent and live. Amos describes the coming judgment on Israel as a day of catastrophe and grief. On that day, the land will tremble (vs.8), the sun will go dark at noon (vs.9), and it will end with mourning as for an only son (vs.10). It is quite probable that these things literally took place in the years leading up to Israel’s destruction in 722 BC. At the same time, the Word of God points us to events beyond 722 BC. The Day of the LORD came upon Israel. And the Day of the LORD will come in final fulfillment upon the whole earth when Jesus comes again. That will be a day of cosmic catastrophe. The heavens and earth will pass away and all men, the living and the dead, will stand before the Lord Jesus. The wicked will be thrown into everlasting fire and the righteous into eternal life. The Day of the LORD was visited upon Jesus at the cross. The earth quaked, the sun went dark, and God turned His face away as the Son of God became a curse for us to redeem us from the curse. Will you be exposed in your pride on the Day, or will you be found sheltered in the safety of the cross? Suggestions for prayer Adore the Lord Jesus for His atoning sacrifice on the cross. Be specific. Ask the Father to shelter you under His wings of refuge. 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 23 – The least of these

When will the New Moon be past, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may trade wheat? – Amos 8:5a Scripture reading: Amos 8:4-6; Matthew 25:31-46 Amos presents the charges against Israel for which she will be judged. In so doing, he returns to a familiar theme: abusing the poor and needy in the land (vs.4). Israel’s guilt is aggravated by the fact that their injustice is committed against the backdrop of worshipping the LORD. They observe the Sabbath and other special feast days; the stores are closed on Sundays and the churches are full. But they can’t wait for worship to be over so that they can get to what they really want to be doing: making money (vs.5-6). They were not explicitly thinking to themselves, “How can I lie and cheat and exploit?” Amos speaks with biting satire to get to the root: what they call “just doing business” is, in fact, trampling their brother to serve self. Our regard for our fellow human beings reveals our regard for God. “He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy” (Prov.14:31). This is why the apostle John cuts to the chase and says: if you don’t love your brother, you don’t love God. It’s that simple. Jesus teaches us in the parable of the sheep and the goats that He will judge us according to how we ministered to the needy. This is not because our good deeds earn us fellowship with God. It is because those who turn away the “least of these” have never truly had fellowship with God. What will He say to you on that day? Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to work the fruit of love in your heart – love for God and for neighbour. If you are withholding mercy from the needy or forgiveness for your brother, confess those sins and ask the Lord Jesus to give you a servant's heart. 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 22 – Ripe for judgment

The end has come upon My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. – Amos 8:2b Scripture reading: Amos 8:1-3; 2 Kings 17:5-18 Amos receives a fourth and final vision of a basket of summer fruit with the explanation that the end has come, God will no longer pass by. Israel is now ripe for judgment and the Lord is no longer going to withhold His hand. Israel has been growing fruit of sin and rebellion for several centuries and her opportunity for repentance will very shortly expire. Vs.3 describes what will take place in Israel when God comes to judge through the Assyrian scourge. The worship songs at the temple will turn to wailing. The dead bodies will be flung about everywhere, thrown out in silence. Those who have fought in major battles attest to the silence that follows a battle. It is the silence of death. The children of Israel had the covenant promises, the Law of Moses, the witness of the prophets, and providential warnings through natural disasters. God stretched out His hands all day long to a rebellious people (Is. 65:2). But they did not turn from their sinful ways. When their punishment finally came, they had no grounds with which to accuse God of wrongdoing. Friend, are you living apart from Christ? Are you clinging to a sin from which you will not turn? Are you telling yourself that you’ll deal with it later? “Repentance and faith are the gifts of God, and they are gifts that He often withholds, when they have been long offered in vain. I grant you, true repentance is never too late, but I warn you at the same time, late repentance is seldom true.” – Thoughts for Young Men, J.C. Ryle Suggestions for prayer Pray for grace to be on your guard against the deceitfulness of sin. Ask Him to show you sins that you are protecting and to lead you out of them. 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 21 – Sword of the Spirit

I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a herdsman and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said to me, “Go, prophesy to My people Israel.” – Amos 7:14-15 Scripture reading: Amos 7:10-17 Wherever the Word of God is active it will provoke opposition from the kingdom of Satan. The Word of God is the seed of the kingdom, the sword of the Spirit, and “mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” (2 Cor.10:4). It is no surprise, then, that the enemies of Christ conspire against the Word. Amaziah, priest of Bethel, opposed Amos bitterly. Note his tactics. He attacks Amos’s person by accusing him of a conspiracy against the king (vs.10) and then misrepresents the message by only talking about the judgment part and not the reasons for judgment (vs.11). Some things never change. God’s enemies still use these tactics. Rather than engage the issues, they cry “Bigot!” to shut down the discussion or twist the words of the godly to make a damning news headline. It is becoming increasingly difficult to speak the truth of God’s Word into the public arena. Amos’s reply to Amaziah gives us a two-fold encouragement. First, he is convicted of his prophetic calling from God (vs. 14-15). If you are a child of Christ, God called you to Himself that you may proclaim His praises (1 Peter 2:9). Secondly, Amos reminds us of the tragic end of all those who resist the Word (vs. 17). When we remember that the enemies of the gospel are headed to eternal destruction, we can fear for their souls instead of being afraid of them. When you are taken aback by the world’s hostility to the Word of God, remember that Satan hates the Word because he is fully aware of its truth and power. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for the active and powerful presence of God’s Word in this world. Pray for confidence in the truth of the Bible and the courage to carry it into every aspect of life. 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 8 – Amazing grace

Behold, I am weighed down by you, as a cart is weighed down that is full of sheaves. – Amos 2:13 Scripture reading: Amos 2:9-16 The LORD God is weighed down by Israel like an overloaded cart. Of course, there is no weakness or shortcoming in God who “neither faints nor is weary” (Is.40:28). He is simply speaking in terms we can understand. The years of rebellion and hard-heartedness keep piling up and God will not bear with Israel much longer. God is weary of their contempt for His grace. Their indifference to the plight of the poor and weak demonstrates a graceless heart. If they had truly grasped the overwhelming grace of God in their redemption, they would love their neighbor. When they were weak, He “destroyed the Amorite before them” and brought them into the land of Canaan. When they were oppressed in the land of Egypt, He rescued them. When they were vulnerable in the desert, He protected and provided for them. Their history was one of undeserved kindness. Yet their hearts remain unchanged. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. He blesses the poor in spirit with the kingdom of heaven. The humble and the poor in spirit are those who know that they owe God an unpayable debt of sin and that God has forgiven that debt at infinite cost to Himself. If we sing “Amazing Grace” in church on Sunday and then remain indifferent to the plight of the needy, what does that reveal about our hearts? Who is the hungry person in your life right now? Or the stranger, the orphan, the widow? By grace you were saved. Now live it. Suggestions for prayer Confess to God where you have been taking His grace for granted. Pray for a heart that is transformed by the power 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 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

June 22 – The Folly of laboring to get worldly wealth

“Do not overwork to be rich...for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven.” – Proverbs 23:4-5  Scripture reading: Luke 12:13-21 and 1 Timothy 6:6-10 One of the tragedies of life is our tendency to fix our hearts on earthly things, rather than on heavenly things. Jesus warns us of that in Luke 12:15, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” For many, life is what you make of it, or better, what you can buy for yourself! But this mentality as Paul shows us in 1 Timothy 6 is foolish! He says in v.9, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts....” Yes, a sinful desire for wealth is a terrible snare that many get themselves into, even God’s own people! We work, toil and sweat. We work overtime, save our money and invest our savings, all of which are not sinful things, but when we’re trusting in them for our security or happiness, then we’re in trouble! Earthly wealth is elusive and deceptive. As our text says, your wealth can sprout wings and take off, leaving you empty handed and unsatisfied (v.5). Therefore, we need to be wise and not engage in such dangerous behaviour. In Christ, we have all we’ll ever need. Yes, the key to a blessed life is to be “rich toward God”, as Jesus says in Luke 12:21. For when our hearts are fixed on the heavenly treasure found in Him, we never have to fear that it will sprout wings and fly away! Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to give you a proper view of your wealth, work, and priorities, not working only for things that will fade away, but trusting that God will meet all your needs. Pray that God would give you that heavenward focus. 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

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 6 – Enjoying true satisfaction

“The righteous eats to the satisfying of his soul, but the stomach of the wicked shall be in want.” – Proverbs 13:25  Scripture reading: Psalm 34:8-10 and 1 Tim.4:1-4 For the Christian, our daily meals ought to be a spiritual act and not merely a physical response to hunger. Yes, God has given us work and work makes us hungry so we need to eat, but our food is not to be the end-all and be-all of life! Rather, as those who pray for their daily bread (Matthew 6:11), we ask for the Lord to bless our food, for without God’s blessing our food and drink will not truly profit us (1 Timothy 4:4). But as Christians, we believe that God will nourish us, in fact, we know true satisfaction - “the righteous eats to the satisfying of his soul.” This means that God truly nourishes us so that we can be productive members of His kingdom. The wicked of the world are not so blessed. For though they might have more than we do, it only goes so far. Yes, their bodily needs are met, but they’re not drawn closer to the Giver of their food. They’re not built up in their faith because they do not understand God’s providential care nor do they know His saving grace in Christ. So their spiritual hunger continues! Thus, comes the cry of Psalm 34:8-9, “O taste and see that the LORD is good…there is no want to those who fear Him!" Let us be truly thankful for God’s gracious provision and pray for the lost that they might know true satisfaction of body and soul in Christ’s saving work! Suggestions for prayer Give thanks to God for His generous provision and for the spiritual strength and blessing He brings to your life! Pray that the lost of our world might come to know Christ by faith and be truly satisfied in their souls! 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

May 21 – To the angel of the Church in Sardis (3)

“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: Psalm 47 Today the church marks Ascension Day. It was that magnificent remarkable glorious moment in salvation history where Christ returned to heaven above where He is now seated and exalted at the right hand of our heavenly Father. Just before Jesus returned to glory He gave us the command to teach those who would become His followers to observe everything He commanded (cf. Matt. 28:20). Everything means everything. The great commandment to love God with the whole of who we are and the great commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves will always bring us to the great commission. How thankful that within the church at Sardis there was a remnant which lived a life faithful to observe what Christ taught. There is wheat among the tares. That being said, the remnant needed to step up and look up; look up to their interceding Saviour for needed strength to be an overcomer. They are promised, out of the storehouse of grace, to be clothed in white garments symbolizing the righteousness of purity and the great gift of justification by faith; garments graciously washed white in the blood of our Ascended King. What comfort to hear that our Saviour confesses those who are His before our Father in heaven and His angels! Let us never forget “that we have no access to God except through the one and only Mediator and Intercessor: Jesus Christ the Righteous.” (Belgic Confession Art. 26) "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Suggestions for prayer In our own strength we are nothing. Rejoice that our ascended Jesus, from the throne room in heaven, will supply the need of His people. Give thanks that Christ’s disciples will find their names in the Book of Life! 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 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....