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Daily devotional

September 17 – The fruit of the Spirit is joy: the joy of justification

But the fruit of the Spirit is…joy. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Psalm 32; Philippians 4:4 Sadly, too often, Christians lack joy in their life. But the Apostle Paul exhorts us, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). As Christians, joy ought to be a characteristic of our life. Others should know of our joy in the Lord. Jesus said that one of the reasons that He came is so that His joy may be in us and so that our joy may be full (John 15:11). But what is Christian joy? Joy is not so much happiness or elation that is rooted in temporary pleasures or present circumstances in this world. Rather, Christian joy is rooted in the good news of the Gospel. Paul doesn’t simply say, “Rejoice!” or “Rejoice in your circumstances!” Rather, he says, “Rejoice IN THE LORD.” The Spirit produces the fruit of joy in our lives when we prayerfully meditate on the joy of the complete forgiveness of all of our sins in Christ.

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered…Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity…Be glad IN THE LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:1-2, 11).

Our justification by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone is the ground of our joy in the Lord. Even more, “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2). Tomorrow, we’ll consider how the Spirit gives us joy in the hope of glory. Suggestions for prayer Rejoice that you are forgiven of all your sins in Christ and are clothed in His righteousness through faith alone as a gift of grace! Sing Psalm 32 if you have a Psalter.

Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional.

Daily devotional

September 12 – The fruit of the Spirit is love: the necessity of love

But the fruit of the Spirit is love… – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Matthew 22:34-40; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Love is central to the Christian life. Without it, we are a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal. Without it our gifts add up to nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Jesus summarized our entire duty to God and neighbour in the law, as love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbour as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40). Jesus says that love for one another is evidence that one is His disciple (John 15:8-12). After listing several virtues, Paul says, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14). Indeed, it’s probably not a coincidence that Paul mentions love first in the list of the fruit of the Spirit. John writes, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” He goes on to say, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:7-8; 5:1-3). Today we see the necessity of love and that love for God and neighbour are intimately connected. Beloved in Christ, let us love one another by the Spirit! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the Spirit’s strength to love God more by keeping His commandments in gratitude for God’s grace (1 John 4:19; 5:3). Pray that God will help you by His Spirit to love others, especially brothers and sisters in Christ, and even your enemies. Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 11 – The fruit of the Spirit: general observations

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy…patience, kindness…1 Corinthians 13:4, 6 Love is patient and kind…rejoices. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Before we look at each aspect of the fruit that Paul mentions, it’s worth noting a few general observations. First, it is important to note that it is all one fruit. Paul doesn’t refer to his list as the fruits of the Spirit (plural), as if they are distinct from one another and you can have one without the other. Rather, Paul speaks in the singular and refers to it all as the one “fruit of the Spirit.” As we move on to joy and peace and patience, we are in one sense still talking about love and vice versa. We can see the close connection of the fruit in 1 Corinthians 13 when Paul says that love IS patient (a fruit of the Spirit). Love IS kind (a fruit of the spirit). Love rejoices (joy is a fruit of the Spirit). We are talking about the one fruit of the Spirit when we talk about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are like different facets of one diamond that we behold from different angles. Second, like the list of the works of the flesh (see September 6), this is not an exhaustive list. There are more aspects to the fruit of the Spirit than the nine virtues that Paul mentions in Galatians 5. We certainly could add humility, compassion, forgiveness and other virtues that the Spirit produces in us. All these virtues grow together in us as the one fruit of the Spirit. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would produce more of the fruit of the Spirit in your life, conforming you to the image of Christ. Thank God that, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 10 – The fruit of the Spirit: produced in us

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5 Scripture reading: John 15:1-17 Yesterday we heard about Christ’s fruitfulness for us. Today we learn about Christ’s fruitfulness in us. We deserve to be judged for our unfruitfulness (the works of the flesh, Galatians 5:19-21). But thanks be to God that Christ bore the judgment in our place! (Galatians 3:13). When we repent and believe in Christ, God forgives all our sins and credits the fruitfulness of Christ to our account. Even more, we receive the promised Spirit from the moment we first believe (Galatians 3:14). And now, that same Spirit Who bore good fruit for the Father, in the ministry of Christ for us, bears His fruit in our lives as we abide in Christ through faith (John 15:1-5). You see the secret of bearing fruit in the Christian life is not a self-help manual. Nor is it looking to the law for the power to obey. The law cannot give you the power to obey. It can only give you guidance on how to truly love God in gratitude. Only the Spirit can produce His fruit in your life. You need an inward heart renewal, which is a blessing promised in the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27). If you want more of the Spirit’s fruit in your life, you must be nourished by God’s Word and the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper). The Word and sacraments point you to Christ, and the Spirit uses these means to transform you into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Suggestions for prayer Meditate on Christ’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as revealed in the Word and sacraments. Pray that the Spirit will conform you more into His image and produce Christ-likeness in your life. Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 9 – The fruit of the Spirit: Christ’s fruitfulness

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him… – Isaiah 11:1-2 Scripture reading: Isaiah 11:1-5; 27:6; 32:14-17 Yesterday we saw Israel’s unfruitfulness. Today we learn more about how Christ is True Israel, Who bears fruit pleasing to the Heavenly Father. In Isaiah 11, we find that One will arise from within Israel, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit” (v. 1). And He is fruitful because He is anointed with the Holy Spirit (vv. 2-5). The justice and righteousness that Israel failed to produce in Isaiah 5 would be produced in THIS faithful Servant. And not only righteousness, but also the fruit of faithfulness, peace, and joy (Isaiah 11:5; 32:17; 51:3; Galatians 5:22). And this True Israel would be so fruitful that one day the whole world would be filled with good fruit (Isaiah 27:6). This is because He will pour out His Spirit on His people (Isaiah 32:14-17; 44:2-4; 45:8). This is the work of Christ for us. He is fruitful so that we might be fruitful unto God. He was anointed with the Spirit at His baptism and God the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” He bore fruit for God that was perfect, that yielded good wine, wine that has no blemish, no sour or bitter notes and has a perfect finish. And yet, He became like wild rotten grapes for us. Our unfruitfulness was imputed to Him. He was judged in our place, forsaken, so that we would never be forsaken by God. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the fruitfulness of Christ on your behalf. Rest and rejoice in the good news that God will never leave you nor forsake you because of Christ. Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 27 – Evil men and the love of God

You love evil more than good… – Psalm 52:3 Scripture reading: Psalm 52:1-4 Are you ever surprised by evil? In my earlier life counseling teenaged sex offenders, I remember being struck by what people can do to one another. Some of the young men I worked with seemed to have no conscience or remorse for the cruelty they inflicted upon others. Yet, most, if not every one of them had suffered the same kind of brutality. The cycle of sin is real and ugly. When I read the news, I wonder about the state of the world in the days before the flood. How bad was it? Was it worse than the days we live in? When we read about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, is our society any different than that corrupt society? David speaks about Doeg who bragged about killing the priests of God with no conscience or remorse. The wicked abound and it seems like they have the control. We see the growing drug problems and bizarre sexuality, and we are concerned. We cannot help but think about those words, “You love evil more than good.” The love of God is steadfast. I see the love of God flowing, mingled down in the blood of Christ on the cross, and I cannot help but be driven to the love of God. With Paul, we will fight against sin the rest of our lives and slowly, but surely, love good more than evil. David gave us the words to sing about and to take it to the Lord in prayer. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we will have the perspective of God’s love and let go of what is evil in our lives. 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 26 – Evil men and the love of God

Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man? The steadfast love of God endures all the day. – Psalm 52:1 Scripture reading: Psalm 52:1 How great is God’s love? How enduring and amazing! If God always is, then love always is too. We can trust in that. It is that love that helps us understand what wickedness is all about. It helps us understand the absolute foolishness, not only of the deeds of wicked men, but their utterly empty understanding about life. When we think of the love of God in Christ Jesus, that the Father so loved us that He gave His only Son for us, we begin, at least in part, to understand the love Paul wrote about in I Corinthians 13. The wicked man cannot grasp this. He does what he does because he rejects the love of God. He exalts himself. He wants to make himself great. He speaks as if he were great. But he is completely deceived. We need only to look back at men like Stalin, or Hitler who thought they would build lasting kingdoms. But the mighty have fallen and their dominions are no more. What of us? Do we understand this? Is there some sin we cling to? I suppose we would know enough to not brag about our sins. Sometimes we do. We can revel in our past, forgetting that we ought not to remember the sins of our youth. The love of God is pure. Let our lives and love be genuine too. Let us seek wisdom. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we will see the evil in us, around us and in our leaders and neighbors, praying that they will repent and find the love of God. 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 25 – Singing the truth about God

The righteous shall see and fear – Psalm 52:6 Scripture reading: Psalm 52 Have you walked through a forest after a strong wind has blown? You can see a big old tree toppled over; its roots are exposed. David compares wicked Doeg to that tree. Doeg killed the priests of Nob who helped David. David makes clear that all the wicked, like Doeg, will taste the judgment of the LORD. It is good to be reminded that God is forever and always God. He is the great King, as we have seen from Psalm 50 and merciful as we have seen from Psalm 51. But let us not take that mercy for granted. It is good to think about the end of wickedness and folly. The conclusion is the tumbling down of the wicked. That covenant theme presented by Psalm 1 runs its course. If we love God, we are like the green and verdant tree that lives in the House of God. We, who live in the wonder of the work of Christ, have good reason to believe that God forgives, so let us trust God to order our lives and set the direction of our paths. If we love God, we will live by His commandments. Then we will bear those fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:21,22). If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). Then our God will be honored and perhaps our neighbors will be won to the good life. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we will respect God and His desire for our lives, for His glory, and the blessing for the lives of our loved ones, neighbors and selves. 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 24 – Singing about our restoration to worship

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. – Psalm 51:8 Scripture reading: Psalm 51 What if God did not come to David and simply left David in his sin? Would David have returned to God? Would he have written Psalm 51? Would David have looked so fondly for the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ? I cannot help but think about Paul teaching us that all things work together for the good of those who love Him. God, the Father, can take the darkest stain and wash it out white in Jesus’ blood. He makes the broken sinner whole. The God who comes in judgment moves in grace so that we can experience the blessings of full salvation and worship. Psalm 51 is the sinner’s song to answer to Psalm 50. Here are the words of a broken spirit and a contrite heart. I think my best prayers have been when I was searching and crying out for God in the utter depth of misery. It was like when blind Bartimaeus cried out to the Son of David for mercy—there was no other hope. These are the inspired words of response. We sing to an angry God offended by empty worship. Yet, these words cannot be ours until we have suffered and sorrowed over our sins. Then we run to God and, when He forgives us, we worship and adore Him. In Christ’s resurrection, we have a new life, clean hearts and a renewed spirit! Psalm 52 will lead us to a song of trust and assurance. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we will no longer be conformed to the things of this world, but be renewed in the transformation of our minds to do the good and pleasing will of God. 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 11 – Singing to call others repentance

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me – Psalm 50:14-15 Scripture reading: Psalm 50:14-15 There is always hope with God. He will not stay angry forever. He warns so that we will turn. As He spoke through Ezekiel: "Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?'" (Ezekiel 33:11). With Israel, the LORD calls us to offer our lives as a gift to Him. Worship without the heart is empty worship. But if we come in full repentance, the LORD will forgive us. The LORD calls the Church, through the congregation, to worship in spirit and truth. The soul of worship is thanksgiving. We come in the joy of what He has already given us rather than to get more from His Fatherly hand. God reveals the proper attitude for worship. How much more for us living in the death and resurrection of Christ? The LORD provided the sacrifice we needed and now calls us to offer our lives in services to Him. Do we pray from a position of thankful humility or arrogant desire? The LORD calls us to keep our promises to love, honor and obey Him. In time He will deliver us from all our trials and troubles and glorify us. Praise Him today and every day. Thank Him. Let us turn from our sins and find the blessings of the covenant now and forever. Suggestions for prayer Pray for a heart of thankfulness and a life of loving obedience to win others to Christ and bring joy to our Father in heaven. 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 10 – Singing to call the Church to respect the Lord

If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. – Psalm 50:12 Scripture reading: Psalm 50:12-13 The LORD calls Israel to remember that He is the Creator-King Who is their Father. Did Israel think that God needed all their smoked meat because of His ravenous hunger? Did they believe that God would starve without them? Or that the LORD could not take care of Himself? He calls them to bring offerings because they love Him, not because He needed anything from them. God asks them and us to think about this: The covenant people are the last place He would go to get His needs met if He had needs. He does not have any physical requirements. He is spirit and is to be worshipped in spirit and truth. How could they ever help Him? Every bull and goat they brought belonged to Him in the first place. He asks them for their honour and pure love—true worship. It may be more subtle for us, but I think it is easy to buy into this thinking. It is easy to believe that God needs our offerings, witness or daily work. We think that the Christian school or church building exists because of our planning and giving. It is hard for us to fully worship from the place of grace. We also forget how immense the grace of the LORD is. He helped us by coming down to us in the form of Christ. He provided the sacrifice. What can I give Him? Let us love Him and give Him the respect due His Holy name. Suggestions for prayer Pray for humility before God, a pure sense of His greatness, an understanding of our need of Him and to be able to respond in gracious, thankful living. Ask to properly confess God with our words and lives of worship. 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

July 26 – Bring down the house

I saw the Lord standing by the altar, and He said, “Strike the doorposts, that the thresholds shake, and break them on the heads of them all.” – Amos 9:1 Scripture reading: Amos 9:1-7 The house of Israel – filled with false worship and injustice – will be brought down. They will take refuge by the altar, but those idols in which we have sought comfort and meaning will offer no protection from the wrath of God. He is the LORD God of hosts, who created and rules all things (vs.5-6). When God is against you, where will you turn for help? Will Israel turn to her covenant membership? Will she point to God’s covenant at Sinai for protection? Israel has turned away from God and will now reap the covenant curses as a covenant-breaking nation. The covenant of grace is not an automatic guarantee of immunity to judgment. It is a personal relationship with the almighty God that includes promises and demands. Israel has filled up the covenant land with sin. She will receive no special treatment from the impartial Judge (vs.7). The awesome majesty of God cuts two ways: For those who are living apart from Him, trusting in created things, the majesty of God is and will be truly terrifying. But, for those who serve the Lord in reliance on His grace, His majesty is a tremendous comfort. “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom.8:38-39). Suggestions for prayer Pray for the fear of God, for the trembling joy that comes from beholding the holiness and love of 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 25 – Spiritual famine

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord GOD, “that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.” – Amos 8:11 Scripture reading: Amos 8:11-14 What if you went to the grocery store to restock your empty fridge and there was nothing there? It’s hard for us to imagine! Well, far worse than a natural famine is a spiritual famine of hearing the words of the LORD. If an individual or nation responds with indifference and ingratitude to the Word of God, there comes a point when He removes the Word from them. Are you allowing worldly pleasures to choke your love for Jesus? Are you quenching the work of grace in your heart by withdrawing from communion with the Lord? Let this warning from Amos move you in godly fear to repair your walk with God. What a tragic picture this is! The children of God running to and fro, from sea to sea, north to east seeking the word of the Lord but not finding it. But didn’t God promise that those who seek Him will find Him? Yes, and that promise remains true. The problem is that the Israelites will run everywhere trying to find the word of God except in the place where God promised to speak to them: the temple in Jerusalem. It is like Esau who sought the blessing with tears but did not obtain it because he found no place for repentance (Heb.12:17). Today, you can be assured of God’s grace for you by responding in faith and repentance. Go to God. Bring your sin and guilt and faithlessness to the cross of Jesus Christ. If you seek God in Christ, you will find Him. Suggestions for prayer Confess where your heart has grown cold to the things of God. Pray that He would not remove the Word from you or your loved ones. Seek His help in committing yourself to renewed study of His Word. 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 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 10 – Cause and effect

A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy? – Amos 3:8 Scripture reading: Amos 3:3-8 Amos poses seven questions to Israel. The first five questions (vs.3-5) expect the answer “no” and the last two (vs.6) expect the answer “yes”. The questions are simple to answer and assume the basic law of cause and effect. At first, the questions seem to have no point to them until we come to the last two. Then we notice that Amos is getting close to home: If a trumpet sounds a warning blast, will not people be afraid? He is talking about Israel. Israel can readily see and live by the law of cause and effect in worldly things, but they have ignored God’s principles of cause and effect that govern spiritual life. They do not see that sin leads to judgment. They think that they can live like they are and that disaster will not strike. Amos drives his point home in vs.8: “A lion has roared, who will not fear? The LORD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” God doesn’t act arbitrarily. If He roars through His prophet, then Israel should be doing something about it! God is sovereign and free. We cannot put Him in a box. But He has revealed to us in Scripture what we can expect of Him and how we ought to respond to Him. He is faithful in judgment and salvation. When He roars, we ought to fear because He will judge. When we persist in sin, we know that His anger will rest upon us. But His promise is just as true and dependable: the one who comes to Jesus, He will by no means cast out (Jn.6:37). Suggestions for prayer Pray for faith to believe the truth of the warnings and promises of God’s Word. Pray also for faith to respond obediently. 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 9 – You only

You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. – Amos 3:2 Scripture reading: Amos 3:1-2; Deuteronomy 7:1-11 The LORD had exposed the ugliness of Israel’s transgressions (2:6-8), but they displayed no conviction of sin. He reminded them of His redeeming grace (2:9-11), yet their hearts remained hard. The most tenacious of us would have written off Israel long ago. But God persistently pursues His beloved and here He speaks to her in terms of covenant love: You only. Israel (along with the kingdom of Judah) is His family that He brought up from Egypt and settled in the Promised Land. Out of all the families of the earth He chose Israel. They were no better than any other nation. There was nothing about Israel that merited His love. In free and sovereign grace He had made Israel His treasured possession, set apart from the rest. His covenant of grace was exclusively for Israel. And then come God’s shocking words: “Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” They expected to hear “therefore I will bless you.” Instead, God says that Israel’s special status is the very reason for their judgment. They have taken His grace for granted and defiled His holy love with their iniquities. Therefore, the covenant relationship will testify against them if they do not repent. The promises of God are received only in the way of faith and obedience. Anyone who thinks that it is possible to be forgiven and live in willful disobedience is living in a dream world. All of God’s saving blessings are found in Christ alone. And it is impossible to be in Christ without walking with Christ in the way of faith and repentance. “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” Suggestions for prayer Thank the Father for His immeasurable love for you in His Son. Ask the Spirit to lead you and your loved ones into thankful obedience. 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

June 24 – Fainting in the day of adversity 

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

Daily devotional

June 23 – Keeping the proper focus on life

“Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day; for surely there is a hereafter, and your hope will not be cut off.” – Proverbs 23:17-18  Scripture reading: Psalm 73 Now “envy” can be a terrible influence on our lives as we see the status and wealth of those around us. Envy can fill our hearts when someone is promoted ahead of us at work, or when we see our neighbour’s business doing well, or when we see our friend always getting better grades than we do. Psalm 73 is a powerful example of how “envy” can affect our hearts before God! Asaph saw the wicked around him and how blessed their lives seemed to be even though they mocked God (vv.9-11). And yet, we’re not to be filled with “envy” over the wicked and their earthly blessings. Instead, we’re to be “zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day.” That is, we’re to live daily with reverent awe and wonder for our holy God. And how can we not, when we daily ponder the blessings He’s lavished upon us in Christ? This view of God gives us a much-needed perspective, as it did for Asaph. He fell into the trap we so often do when it comes to “envy.” But then, when he entered God’s sanctuary all was made plain! (v.17). For there is a “hereafter,” a future for mankind where everyone will have to stand before God and give an account of their lives! (2 Corinthians 5:10). The wicked have no hope, but for the righteous our hope “will not be cut off,” for it’s rooted in the victorious Christ Who reigns in heaven! Suggestions for prayer Pray for a growing “fear of the LORD” and that you would die to sinful envy. Ask the Lord to help you focus on the blessings you have in Christ and that He would create in you a thankful heart and a growing contentment in Him. 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 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....