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Daily devotional

July 3 – Lord of life

The pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers. – Amos 1:2b Scripture reading: Amos 1:2; Deuteronomy 8:1-20 Amos could see Mt. Carmel in the northwest, with its fertile soil and abundant rain. He saw the rich valley pasture lands where the sheep were grazing. These were symbols of fertility and growth for a kingdom that was enjoying unprecedented peace and prosperity. Amos declared what must have seemed unthinkable to the average Israelite: the pastures will mourn under the burden of drought; Carmel will wither in the blistering heat of the sun. The LORD is God. If He should choose to shut up the skies and dry up the economy, there is nothing Israel could do about it. When the source of their wealth and pleasure and power was removed, to whom then would they turn? Baal, the Canaanite god of rain and fertility, in whom they trusted, was powerless to save them. All the idols on all the high places could not deliver them. We know a whole lot more about weather and agriculture today than the Israelites of Amos’s day. The progress of climate and agricultural science in the last century alone has been staggering. And yet, we are still no closer to being in control of our lives. There is only One who rules the wind and makes plants grow and upholds the laws of nature He designed. “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). When God withholds blessings from His people it is to remind us that man cannot live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His works in creation. Be specific. Pray for a deepening of your trust in Him, especially where He is withholding blessings in your 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

June 25 – Living by faith one day at a time

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

Daily devotional

June 24 – Fainting in the day of adversity 

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

Daily devotional

June 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

June 9 – Having joy in the midst of suffering

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

Daily devotional

June 8 – Take care of the paths you tread

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

Daily devotional

Sunday, June 7 – The blessing of the fear of the Lord

“In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.” – Proverbs 14:26-27 Scripture reading: Psalm 90 Psalm 90 reminds us of the frailty and brevity of human life, but it also comforts us with the truth of who God is to His people; “You have been our dwelling place in all generations…even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (vs.1-2b). Thus, to live with the “fear of the LORD” in our hearts means that we look at our God with awe and wonder! He is our holy God and we seek to honor and praise Him with our lives. Therefore, in Him we have a “strong confidence,” for He is a faithful, covenant God Who does not forsake His people, even when they sin, but is gracious to forgive and to keep us in our salvation. Thus, like Moses’ audience in Psalm 90, we know that we have a place of refuge! Proverbs 14:26 says, “His children will have a place of refuge.” This is true for us today! Jesus Christ is our refuge in the midst of the storms of life (Mark 4:35-41). This “fear” is also a blessing to us, or “a fountain of life" for it guards our hearts and helps steer us away from sinful living to pursue what is right and good in God’s sight, as v.27 says, “to turn one away from the snares of death.” Do we “fear” the LORD and does this “fear” affect our living? Let us pray that our words, our deeds and our worship would reflect reverence and awe for God! Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would worship God today out of a humble heart and in reverent fear! Pray that the “fear of the LORD” would fill your life and help you to honor and glorify God in all your words and deeds in this new week! 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

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

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

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

May 22 –  To the angel of the church in Phiadelphia (1)

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie – behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Rev. 3:7-13 Scripture reading: Acts 14:21-28 What an encouragement the faithful church at Philadelphia must be to us. Jesus, who holds the key of David, grants an open door. He, in fact, is the door (cf. John 10:1-10). Christ is the only way to the blessings of the world to come. Sovereign authority belongs to our Redeemer. He controls the entrance into the Kingdom. The church at Philadelphia was characterized by faithfulness. Even though she was of little strength, she kept the Word of God and did not deny the Lord’s Name. Philadelphia may have been a small church and perhaps even beleaguered, but she had a big heart. Like Smyrna, she was not rebuked. She was not ashamed of the gospel; she kept Christ’s Word and did not deny His Name. The open door to kingdom life has been secured by the blood of the Good Shepherd. From the book of Acts, we know that God in His sovereign wisdom opened doors and consequently new believers were brought to saving faith and added to the church. But there were also doors that were closed. We see the same principle in effect to this very day. Gospel Light in the Western world is dimming, but in other parts of the world, it is a blazing light. Nevertheless, we still have the freedom to witness, to call others to the Open Door. Philadelphia was commended by our LORD. Would the church you are a member of receive the same commendation? Suggestions for prayer Pray for growing zeal and to remain faithful in your personal walk and in the life of the church. Pray that the church to which you belong works for that open door, testifying to the One Who is the Door. Praise God – Jesus is the open door to life eternal. 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 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 8 – To the angel of the Church of Ephesus (2

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

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

May 6 - Christ appears in blazing glory!

“Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand, he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.’” - Revelation 1:12-20 Scripture reading: Daniel 7:9-14 As John is commissioned to his consecrated task, he is greeted by the incomparable Christ in all His blazing glory. It is similar to what the prophet Daniel experienced more than once many years earlier. What they both saw is enough to take your breath away. John is permitted to see the majestic Christ Who appears in radiating brilliance that can hardly begin to be grasped. Christ who stands at the junction of heaven and earth, Christ Who is the meeting place between time and eternity comes to John and speaks to him with a loud voice. The meek Christ is also the authoritative Christ. The title Son of Man is the one used most often by Christ Himself during His earthly ministry—some 81 times according to one counter. Soak in what John saw – head and hair glowing white and countenance like the shining sun reminding us of the glory cloud, the Shekinah (cf. Exodus 13) and the Transfiguration (cf. Luke 9). John saw eyes like a flame of fire, as someone else has said, like two lasers looking with penetrating gaze into the depth of His church. John saw feet like that of fine brass reminding us that the altar of burnt offering was covered with brass (cf. Exodus 38) and also taking us back to the glorious cross where Jesus was the offering. John heard the voice – a voice like that of the sound of many waters. It was and is incredible! No wonder John fell at the feet of Jesus as dead! Suggestions for prayer God’s people are to be filled with the wonder and awe of Christ. Pray in the conviction of Rev. 15:3: “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed.” 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 5 - Write and send

"I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, 'Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.'” - Revelation 1:9-11 Scripture reading: John 20:30-31; 21:24-25  Our Scripture text today records John’s marching orders. He is to write about what he will see and send it to the seven churches in Asia. In verse 9, John identifies himself to his readers. He is a brother in the faith. He is addressing family in the LORD. He is their companion in a season of persecution. (There still continues to be seasons of persecution all around the world.) But John also recognizes that He is part of the Kingdom—the Kingdom of Christ. He is learning patient endurance and perseverance despite difficult times. John has been exiled on a barren rocky island. He has been exiled for standing firm on the Word and for his testimony concerning Jesus. He is devoted to his Lord and Master. (Let us ask ourselves: Are we standing firm? What characterizes our devotion to the One we have been called to follow?) John has had first-hand experience with the Lord Jesus. He has witnessed our Redeemer’s authoritative preaching and teaching, Christ’s compassion, the miracles confirming Christ’s Deity and Christ's ultimate sacrifice as our substitute on the cross. John, in God’s grace, knows what he is talking about. John is obedient to the Master’s call to write and send. What a privilege it is for us to share in that message to this day. What a blessing for this same word from Genesis to Revelation to go out to all those who have been given ears to hear! Suggestions for prayer Pray for strength, day by day, to persevere in the most holy faith, to honor and serve the Lord in selfless devotion and to remember the more we serve Christ, the less we will serve self. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 22 – Better than money

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

Daily devotional

April 21 – What is a sinner to do?

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

Daily devotional

April 20 – Going forward in faith

“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’” – Luke 24:44 Scripture reading: Acts 1:12-26 Jesus has ascended and the apostles and other followers are gathered together, but something is wrong. There are eleven apostles. During the whole of Jesus’ ministry, there were twelve apostles; twelve, like the number of the sons of Jacob. The number twelve showed the continuity of God’s plan of salvation for His chosen people. Now, with only eleven, it might feel like one stone has been pulled out of the foundation. Peter sinned and was reinstated, but Judas, though he grieved over his sin, did not turn to the Lord for forgiveness. Surely this brought much grief and discouragement to the disciples. But their faith is strengthened when they look to God’s Word. Peter takes the lead and reminds the brothers that both Judas’ betrayal and death were prophesied in Scripture (Psalm 69:25, Psalm 109:6-8). Scripture also said that another will take his office. Peter finds direction from Scripture and through this, he is able to guide the disciples. Jesus was not physically present with them, but God was still speaking to them by His Word. This is how God provides for His people. The disciples will pray and God will show them whom He has chosen to be the twelfth apostle. Where do you find your strength in difficult times? When others falter or the church struggles, do you still trust God’s care? Do you look to God’s Word during difficulties and come to God in prayer so that you are able to go forward with faith and encourage others to do the same? Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for His perfect plans which will work out all things for the good of those who love Him. Pray that God gives you trust, especially when things go “wrong” in our minds. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 19 – Give all glory to God

“In order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 4:11b  Scripture reading: 1 Peter 4:7-11 Why does God do what He does? Why did Jesus die and rise from the dead? Why did Jesus put His arm around Peter and reinstate him as a disciple? Why didn’t Jesus get off the cross and leave Peter and every other sinner to their misery? If we are asking about motive, the answer is God’s love. For God so loved the world… If we are asking about purpose, the answer is for God’s glory. God made the world and everything in it for His glory. He made us for His glory. Sin entered the world and destroyed our ability to glorify God, but Christ came to restore us to the Father. We saw this for Peter, and we must know it for our own lives. When we humble ourselves, the Lord lifts us up and restores us. Why? That we may glorify God. Is this your goal in life? Today is set apart by God as a day of rest and worship. Are you eager to gather with God’s people and glorify Him? What about during the rest of the week? In your work, play, school, socializing and leisure, do you seek to glorify God? That is an awesome thing about the rescuing work of Jesus Christ. Jesus gives gifts and supplies all for us so that in everything, when we do it with love to God, God is glorified. How good this is, as there is no one else worthy of all glory! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for not only rescuing us but giving us gifts by which we can serve others and glorify Him. Ask God to help you see how you can serve Him and to give you strength to live a life for His glory. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 6 – Through the thresher

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

Daily devotional

April 5 – Seeking greatness

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

Daily devotional

April 4 – A new supper, the Lord’s Supper

Luke 22:19b–20 “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”  Scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 Jesus gives Himself. My body, given for you. Isaiah 53 says, “He was crushed for our iniquities.” His body is given over to death in our place. Think of what this means. A substitute goes in the place of another. Sometimes, someone will find a friend to take a shift for them at work. But Jesus came to suffer the punishment for sin and die in substitution for all who will believe in Him. Jesus is talking to the disciples. They don’t know it, but it is like Jesus will jump on a grenade so he can die instead of them. But what Jesus was bringing had eternal consequences.  So Jesus gives this bread and message to His disciples. Will they understand? Will they believe? Their response and our response must be, “Yes, this is what I need! He must be crushed for my iniquities.” Jesus told the disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me.” And that is what we do as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. The sacrifice has been made. Christ’s death was the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins. And so we partake of the supper in remembrance and faith. This meal must teach us to see anew what Christ has done. Believe and be strengthened in your faith! Know deep in your hearts that this is real. Jesus Christ has given His body and blood for those who believe. Suggestions for prayer What is the role of Lord’s Supper in your life? Pray that you will look forward to partaking, and that Jesus will strengthen and assure your faith when you do partake. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 3 – A longed-for Passover

“And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’” – Luke 22:15-16 Scripture reading: Luke 22:7-23 With everyone sitting down, Jesus explains His eager desire to celebrate Passover with them. As they eat bread dipped in bitter herbs to remind them of the years of bitter slavery, Jesus speaks of a kingdom. He says, “I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then Jesus takes the Passover cup, gives thanks to God for what they are given and tells the disciples to divide the wine among themselves. And He says, “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” How odd. A cup of celebration and yet Jesus speaks of fasting. Something is coming. Jesus is no longer looking back on the Passover, but He is looking forward to a kingdom! The kingdom He looks forward to will be shown in part when Jesus rises from the dead, declaring victory over sin, death and Satan. They are conquered on the cross. But it is also a kingdom coming, to be here in full when Christ comes again in glory. Then the struggle comes to the final end. Then we will celebrate, Christ will take the bread and wine and feast with the church at the marriage supper of the Lamb. All believers will then drink of the fruit of the vine and eat of the bread in celebration. Where is your hope? Where do you find peace? Do you long for the return of Jesus and the celebration that it will bring? Suggestions for prayer Pray that as you look to what Christ has done, you will also look forward to what Christ will bring. So often we try to build our own kingdoms, so let us live for and pray for the Kingdom that is to come. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...