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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 4 – The Lord knows his people

…the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. – Psalm 1:6: Scripture reading: Psalm 1 Psalm 1 is simply the covenant put into inspired verse and it provides the theme of all the subsequent Psalms. Psalm 1 directs us to Christ, the godly man in Whom we find blessing. I direct you to the words of John 3:16,18: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life… but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” That is a summary of the covenant. God is saying, “Walk with me, and I will bless you. If you do not, you will be cursed now and eternally." What are we to make of all this? God knows what to make of it. He is intimate with the lifestyle of the righteous and with the hearts of the upright themselves. The way of the righteous is the way that God provided for prosperous living. The covenantal blessing is issued, “Fear the Lord and live and prosper.” Whom will you serve? See the portrait of the righteous and the wicked. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt 5:6). Sing of the covenant of God. Yes, sing of the covenant of God! We are His people, the sheep of His pasture…” (Psalm 100). When the LORD is our shepherd, and we follow Him, surely, we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever! (Psalm23). Suggestions for prayer Pray that the church will be blessed and remain faithful. Pray for your congregation, leaders and the church around the world. Ask for blessings to trust and obey for you and loved ones. Ask that the Lord would turn the hearts of our neighbors to Him that they might be blessed and not be lost forever. 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 3 – Curses for covenant breakers

The wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. – Psalm 1:5 Scripture reading: Psalm 1:4-6 The beatitude, "Blessed is the godly man," is juxtaposed with the curse upon the rebel. The wicked man is not like a tree planted by the water. He is like the chaff, the lifeless remains from a once vibrant but now harvested stalk. When the wind blows, the chaff is blown away, not by the fierce storms of life, but instead, by the warm breezes of lust and desire that are enough to scatter the wicked so that they are no more. Do you see the picture of the rebel? What is going through your mind now? Sometimes it seems that the wicked have all the fun, money and power (see Psalm 73:1-17). They are free to live the way they want, which Psalm 1 tells us is a living death. They mock the God of holiness, ridiculing Him in grand displays of celebration, opinions, lofty and false doctrine that leads to open sin. Still, when the winds of life blow, they fly away and in the end, they wither away and die-cut off from the faithful children of God. But we must also look at ourselves. Jesus said when speaking about being the vine and we the branches bearing fruit, "If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned" (John 15:6). We thank God for Christ, Who redeemed us so that we can repent and no longer be fruitless branches bound for the fire. Suggestion for prayer Pray for God's Kingdom to come and His will to be done in our lives. Ask that God would bring down the forces of evil in this world. Pray for those who are wandering or under discipline. Ask to be led to new repentance, understanding and strength to strive to make our calling and election sure. 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 2 – Blessings for covenant keepers

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. – Psalm 1:3 Scripture reading Psalm 1:1-3 The first verses of Psalm 1 reveal to us the faithful children of God. We are looking forward to worshipping with them today. They do not walk with or live like the ungodly, but love the LORD. We sing and we take stock. How do we measure up? Godly people live life obeying the law of God. We trust them because they bear good fruit in due season. This picture leads us to think of the type of men we would have to lead the church or who are good sons, friends, or fathers and husbands. The picture gives us a notion of the kind of women we would have to love, teach and serve us. When we walk with the Lord by the light of His Word, and we trust and obey, the promise is sure: that man is blessed. Such a person is free to blossom and always produce the fruit of righteousness—living to love, serve and glorify God. Verses 1-3 point us to the perfect man, Jesus Christ. By His perfect obedience, we have redemption. Jesus, the perfect man, died on the cross, the righteous for the unrighteous and our lives are changed in Him. We are reminded for a moment of the words of Jesus as recorded by John in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Suggestions for prayer Pray for faith, faithfulness and blessing on our fellowship and worship services today. Ask for inspiration to be better able to love God and our neighbor and to be given the Spirit of grace so that we can produce good fruits and be blessed. 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

Introduction to August’s study of Psalm 1 and 50-52

Paul calls both the Ephesians and Colossians to: “Address/admonish one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence to Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:16). God, by His Holy Spirit, has given us psalms to sing in order to praise Him. But the psalms are also given to us to minister to each other in the church and to those outside of it. They have also been given to us so that we may sing, live and worship together as God’s people in spirit and truth. This month I hope to lead you through Psalms 1, 50, 51, and 52 to help you to better understand God, the covenant He has made with us and how we are to live with Him and one another. Psalm 1 will set the perspective and then Psalms 50-52 will provide a unit by which we will come to know God Who calls us to obedience and repentance. We end up where we started, understanding the blessings upon obedience and the curses upon those who do evil. My hope is that we will no longer be conformed to this world, but be renewed in the transforming of our minds seeking God’s good and pleasing will, striving for holy singing and worship (Romans 12:1-2). **** A psalm of the covenant Scripture reading: Psalm 1 The 150 psalms are given by God on which to meditate on and sing. More than just songs to sing or poetry to recite, they are the revelation of God to us. Psalm 1 sets out the way to sing and understand the next 149 Psalms. Before we can sing the songs to His praise and glory, we must know what pleases the LORD God. The psalms spring from the context of the covenant and are given to the children of the covenant. Psalm 1 provides an inspired perspective. In Psalm 1, Israel then, and the church today, sings of the LORD our covenant God and the difference it makes to belong to God. Psalm 1 sets out for us the way of blessing and curses and the proper understanding of life before the face of God. It also sets before us the beauty of belonging to the Christian community. The church sings of her convictions about living in the promises of the LORD. We sing not only to glorify the LORD, but to reveal Him to the world and one another. The LORD knows the heart of man, both the righteous and the wicked man. Over the next few days, we will consider Psalm 1 from the perspective of verse 6, “The LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” May God bless the assembly as we worship Him tomorrow. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for the Word of God, the Psalms and the promises of God. Pray for help to understand and live out the Psalms and for blessings to live in grace with God and one another. Pray for blessings for our Sunday worship tomorrow. 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 19 – God’s mercy

“O Lord GOD, forgive, I pray! Oh, that Jacob may stand, for he is small!” – Amos 7:2b Scripture reading: Amos 7:1-6 Amos has been readily announcing the judgment of God on His sinful people, but at the sight of the locusts and fire he pleads with the Lord to relent. What is it that moves Amos to intercede on behalf of Israel? Perhaps this was the first time he had actually seen with his eyes the judgments of God and it overwhelmed him. Or maybe he saw that the poor and weak would bear the brunt of these judgments. The locust swarm at the crops “after the king’s mowings” which probably means that the king and his friends would be well-fed while the poor farmers starved. We don’t know what exactly it was that Amos saw that moved him to pray for God to relent. What we do know is that Amos’s prayer reveals the merciful heart of God. It was in His mercy for stubborn sinners that God sent Amos to preach to Israel and pray for them. And when Amos pleaded, God relented because it had been His will all along to show mercy through the intercession of His prophet. The interceding Amos directs our faith to our eternal High Priest who ever lives to make intercession for us (Heb.7:25). In Jesus we see the heart of God perfectly revealed and all those who trust in Christ will never be excluded from His mercy. “Since it has pleased God to give us His Son as our Intercessor, let us not leave Him for another…For when God gave Him to us He knew well that we were sinners” (Belgic Confession, Art.26). Suggestions for prayer Give thankful praise for God’s indescribable gift of His Son. Thank Him for His patience and ask for humble confidence in the perfect High Priesthood of Jesus. 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 18 – Unshakeable

The LORD God has sworn by Himself, “I abhor the pride of Jacob, and hate his palaces; therefore I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.” – Amos 6:8 Scripture reading: Amos 6:8-14 The Israelites think that their nation is unshakable. Therefore, Amos declares to them that God abhors the pride they take in their palaces (vs.8) and the way they boast in their own military strength (vs.13). Not only is this arrogant, it is foolish. This same proud folly was witnessed around the world recently when numerous leaders praised the success of human efforts in containing the coronavirus pandemic and gave no glory to God. “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1). God will bring Israel’s pride to nothing through the scourge of the Assyrian army. The city of Samaria will be delivered up (vs. 8) and the palace broken into little bits (vs.11). Perhaps the most chilling part of Amos’s message is found in vs. 9-10. When the Assyrians do eventually come, death and destruction will be so great that the survivors will be filled with superstitious dread of even saying the name of the LORD lest He bring even more judgment. In other words, the opportunity for turning to the Lord in godly fear unto salvation will be over. Economies will fall. Nations will crumble. This flesh will fail. The only secure refuge is the kingdom of God. And the only door into the kingdom is through the Lord Jesus. He bore the wrath of God against the sin of Israel and against the sin of the whole world so that we can receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:28). Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s kingdom to come through the defeat of Christ’s enemies, the increase of His church, and submission in your own life. Praise Him for His unshakable rule. 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 17 – Complacency

Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, and trust in Mount Samaria. – Amos 6:1 Scripture reading: Amos 6:1-7 Amos exposes Israel’s false sense of security that has led to spiritual complacency. The danger of spiritual complacency is witnessed in the seed that fell among thorny soil where “the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). The Bible repeatedly calls us to watch out, be on our guard, and to persevere in faithfulness. It is a scary thing to develop a spirit of apathy toward the things of God. Amos helps us to diagnose this sin in our own lives. In vs.1, he warns those “who are at ease in Zion, and trust in Mount Samaria”. The economy is good, their borders are secure. What can go wrong? They do not see their weakness and their need for God. The spiritually complacent lose a sense of dependence upon God. In vs.3-6a, he opposes those who “put far off the day of doom” because they are too busy enjoying worldly comforts. There is no longer earnestness for spiritual things, a noticeable lack of “fear and trembling” (Phil.2:12). In vs.6b, Amos tells us that they “are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph”. That is, they are indifferent to the spiritual decline of the nation. This happens, for example, when we become desensitized to immorality in the entertainment we consume. Has the Word of God diagnosed spiritual complacency in you today? The apostle James tells us that the pathway to healing begins by humbling ourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift us up (James 4:10). Suggestions for prayer “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps.139:23-24). 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 16 – Formalism

Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! For what good is the day of the LORD to you? It will be darkness, and not light. – Amos 5:18 Scripture reading: Amos 5:16-27 Israel assumed that the day of the LORD was going to be a happy day for them. After all, they were the descendants of Abraham, God’s covenant people. They observed the feast days, gathered for sacred assemblies, and offered the sacrifices of Moses. Why wouldn’t the day of the LORD be a day of blessing for the children of Israel? God’s answer is blistering. He hates their worship. He won’t accept their sacrifices. He can’t stand the noise of their songs and won’t hear their skilled music. He has two reasons for despising their worship: First of all, they are only Sunday Christians and do not practice justice and righteousness in the rest of life (vs. 24). Secondly, like the wilderness generation, they have kept foreign gods on the side (vs. 25-26). The Israelites drew near with their lips, but not with their hearts. One of the ways that the same root spiritual issue shows up in our lives is the sin of formalism. Formalism consists of placing our trust in outward religious forms rather than in Christ Himself. This can happen even when our worship is correct, our theology sound – when we’re doing everything right. Baptism, profession of faith, church attendance, and correct theology, though they are good things, cannot in themselves save. We can sit under faithful preaching week after week and love the form of the sermon rather than the Christ who is preached. Do you see the sin of formalism in your worship and life? Don’t throw out the forms, but lean upon the Spirit of grace to revive your use of them. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for public worship and the means of grace. Pray for reformation of your worship that it may be truly faithful to the Word of God and governed by the Spirit. 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 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

July 2 – The roar of the lion

And he said: “The LORD roars from Zion, and utters His voice from Jerusalem.” – Amos 1:2a Scripture reading: Amos 1:2; Rev. 5:1-10 The LORD is described as a roaring lion, like a king of beasts announcing its intention to attack. Thus God’s voice thunders from Zion, the temple in Jerusalem that represented His heavenly throne. This is the main point of God’s message for Israel through the prophet Amos: the King of heaven and earth approaches and will soon fall upon you in judgment. Amos was not what we would call a motivational speaker. His words were hard, his message devastating. Indeed, the prophet’s description almost seems inappropriately severe. Should we compare God to a lion that is ready to seize its prey? How does one reconcile this terrible image of a lion with the God of love and mercy? The truth is: God is terrible. He is terrible not in the sense of bad or evil, but in terms of His awesome holiness and majestic power. He roars against sin. His wrath is “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom.1:18). We are sinners living in the presence of a holy God. Tremble before Him with godly fear! But remember that this does not exhaust the unsearchable depths of God. His love is as infinite as His holiness; His mercy is as wide as His justice. He “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The Son of God is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He is also the Lamb that was slain. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His awesome majesty and His great love. Pray for growth in godly fear. 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

Introduction to July’s study of Amos

This month’s devotionals are a study of the book of Amos. The prophets can be difficult to understand and, at times, abrasive in tone. Amos is no exception. He speaks with very tough words to a stiff-necked people. And yet, we must make no mistake about this: these are words of tough love from our covenant God. Even as His people plunge headlong down the pathway of apostasy, He never stops calling, warning, pleading – even roaring like a lion. Some historical background will be helpful: The year is approximately 750 BC. It is nearly 200 years after the dividing of the kingdoms. In 722 BC, Israel will be defeated by the Assyrian army and will never rise again. Judah will continue on for another 130 years or so until its exile to Babylon in 586 BC. The prophet Amos comes from the southern kingdom of Judah (along with Benjamin) and preaches to the northern kingdom of Israel (the other 10 tribes of Jacob). The two kingdoms split during the reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. Under the leadership of Jeroboam I, the 10 northern tribes of Israel seceded from Judah. From that time forward, the southern kingdom was usually referred to as Judah and the northern kingdom was called Israel. Judah had a number of faithful kings throughout its history. Israel never had one truly faithful king. Jeroboam I had built altars to golden calves at Dan and Bethel as replacements of the temple in Jerusalem. He still professed to follow the LORD, but told Israel to worship the LORD through the golden calves. It was a political move to prevent Israelites from going to Jerusalem, but it determined the spiritual course of Israel. No king of Israel removed the altars at Dan and Bethel. From day one, the northern kingdom of Israel was engaged in false worship. I have been greatly blessed by meditating on the book of Amos. In particular, it has deepened me in the fear of the Lord. May God give us all ears to hear what the Spirit has to say to us through His faithful servant Amos. In the days of Jereboam The words of Amos, who was among the sheepbreeders of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. – Amos 1:1 Scripture reading: Amos 1:1; 2 Kings 14:23-29 “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. This opening line from Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities might as well have been describing the nation of Israel in the days of Amos. It was the best of times. Life was good in the kingdom of Israel. King Jeroboam II enjoyed a long and peaceful reign. He extended the nation’s borders to what they had once been under David and Solomon. He had an impressive list of military achievements. And the economy was booming. The Kingdom of Israel had never enjoyed this kind of prosperity since separating from the kingdom of Judah almost 200 years earlier. It was also the worst of times. King Jeroboam walked in the ways of his fathers and propped up idol worship. It was a time of empty religion and social injustice. The prophet Hosea, a contemporary of Amos, said of Israel, “There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land. By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed” (Hosea 4:1-2). Underneath the surface, Israel was rotten and the axe was about to be laid to the root of the tree. The Word of God has a telling evaluation: Jeroboam “did evil in the sight of the LORD”. Peace, prosperity, success – these are gifts from the Lord. But apart from God, they have no lasting value, no eternal legacy. One thing matters above all: what is God’s evaluation of your life? Suggestions for prayer Pray for civil leaders to align their priorities with God’s priorities. Pray for grace to set apart the Word of God as your authority in everything. 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 30 – The fruit of God’s wisdom in one’s life

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.” – Proverbs 31:30 Scripture reading: Proverbs 31:10-31 and 1 Peter 3:1-7 Here we see that the book of Proverbs comes full circle! In Proverbs 1:1-7 we’re told of the importance of wisdom and that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (v.7). And in Proverbs 31, we see the glorious fruit of wisdom in the wise and godly woman. What a woman she is! She’s a model for all Christian women! In fact, in the Hebrew Bible, the book right after Proverbs is the book of Ruth, a woman who exemplifies this godly character! Thus, what is important for a godly woman is not her appearance, clothing, or jewellery, but having the “fear of the LORD”! That is, having a sincere, reverent view of God and His Word. This “fear” guides how we live and how we use our gifts for others. For the virtuous wife, her whole life is affected by this wisdom and the fruits are endless! And because of it she is a blessing to her children and is praised by her husband! (v.28). This, young women, is an encouragement for you when it comes to how you live your life. Don’t get caught up in all the fads, fashions and trends of the day, rather, make your spiritual life and your walk with God the priority! For such a life is “very precious in the sight of God”, as Peter says in 1 Peter 3:7. It’s also a powerful witness for Christ in a world enslaved to a false view of charm and beauty! Suggestions for prayer Pray for proper “fear of the LORD” leading to a holy life. Pray for our wives and daughters that virtuousness would grow in them and that God would protect them from worldly views of beauty and charm which are deceitful and passing. 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 17 – Listening today brings wisdom for the future

“Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days.” – Proverbs 19:20  Scripture reading: Psalm 78:1-8 and Ephesians 6:1-4 The instruction of covenant children is a vital thing in the life of the church. Passing on to each generation the truth of God’s Word and the salvation that comes in Christ is imperative! Often in the proverbs, we see instruction given to “sons” (Proverbs 1-7), stressing for us our covenantal obligations and also God’s demands on faithful parenting. Yet, as is clear from v.20, the focus is on the hearer, that the child, young person, or church member in the pew would “listen” intently to God’s counsel and humbly “receive” His instruction. That’s the idea here. In fact, we’re commanded to listen and to receive. It’s not an option! For this is how we grow, this is how we mature in our faith and gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). It’s also vital that we learn from the past so that we won’t walk in the sinful ways of those who have gone before us! (Psalm78). Yes, it’s important that we take godly counsel and instruction seriously, for with it comes blessing! (Ephesians 6:2-3). Through it we gain wisdom and grow in discernment, and that is a blessing for us in our “latter days”, when we become older and we’re called to live out our faith in many challenging situations, especially when we’re persecuted! Thus, if we humble our hearts, heed instruction and pray for God’s direction, He will bless us with wisdom for today, for tomorrow and for whatever challenges may come! Suggestions for prayer Pray for strength as you instruct your children, students or employees. Ask God for a humble heart to receive godly counsel and instruction. Pray for growing wisdom and discernment for your life of faith in the world. 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 16 – Godly discipline is not to be avoided

“Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction.” – Proverbs 19:18  Scripture reading: Proverbs 29:15-17, and Hebrews 12:3-11 It’s clear from Scripture that corporal punishment, or physical discipline for sin when it comes to our children, is a godly practice. For as we know, our children are born in sin and if they’re left to follow their own way, it will lead to their destruction. Thus, parental discipline is meant to bring correction to the rebellious heart, as Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” In godly discipline we have “hope” that God will use it, not only to bring about outward obedience, but also to draw our children closer to Him as they see such obedience as part of their life of faith! “Correct your son, and he will give you rest. Yes, he will give delight to your soul.” (Proverbs 29:17) Now there are many who reject the biblical teaching of discipline and call it harmful and cruel. But when discipline is done lovingly, explaining why one’s behavior is sinful, and showing how God wants them to live, it’s a blessing! Hebrews 12:11 says, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Thus, to let children go their own way leads to their shame and “destruction”, but through godly discipline, correction comes to rebellious hearts and turns them to God. This is God’s gracious promise to us as parents. Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s strength to consistently discipline your children. It is not easy. But when we see the fruit God brings from it in their lives we realize the great blessing it brings for today and for their future! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 15 – A good lesson about restraint and mercy

“The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” – Proverbs 19:11 Scripture reading: Ephesians 4:31-5:1, Colossians 3:5-10, and James 1:19-20 For many, lashing out and yelling is the way to deal with those who wrong or hurt them. But is that how it should be for Christians? We’re told in Colossians 3:5-10 that we’re to die to the ways of the sinful nature rather than encourage them. Yet for the Christian, as time goes by God grants wisdom, which when applied leads to “discretion,” the ability to discern a situation and act appropriately, that is, in a Christ-like manner. For as James rightly reminds us in James 1:20, “The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Do you exercise self-control when you’re provoked and want to retaliate? Well, as our text says it’s to our “glory” to overlook a transgression. In other words, it’s honorable and praiseworthy to show grace and forgiveness to those who hurt us. And it is because this is the way God has dealt with our transgressions! Paul says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31). Is this the way we live with our fellow believers and with those who don’t know the Lord? Do we shine the light of Christ’s mercy upon them in our response, or do we seek revenge? Paul reminds us in Romans 12:17-21 that instead of revenge we’re to confront people with kind deeds. For such compassion may open the door for the gospel to come to many who are hurting and far from God! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would grant you restraint when others wrong you. Ask Him to fill you with mercy for others, leading to forgiveness. Pray that God might open doors for the gospel to work powerfully in those who are without Christ! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Sunday, June 14 – The greatest of all friendships

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” – Proverbs 18:24 Scripture reading: Proverbs 13:20, John 15:9-17, and 1 Corinthians 15:33 As we gather for worship today, in whatever fashion we are able to, we bask in the glory of knowing that Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, is our Lord and Saviour! He has redeemed us with His blood and purchased us for Himself, and we are eternally His! (John 10:28-30). Jesus is our Lord, but He’s also the greatest friend the Christian has! He is the fulfillment of Proverbs 18:24b, “...but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother”! But how often do we use Jesus as the barometer for gauging the friends we make? Proverbs 18:24a says, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly,” and this is very true! But this verse could also be rendered, “A man who has friends may come to ruin.” The idea being that not all friends are proper friends, for some can have bad influences on us affecting our behavior, our words and our choices. As Paul says, “Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Proverbs 13:20 adds, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” But John 15:9-17 teaches, Jesus is the greatest friend because of His sacrificial love for us! He laid down His life for our salvation and because of His saving work, He calls us “friends.” What a blessing! Thus, out of this saving relationship, we can have the kind of friendships that will encourage us in our walk with God and in our Sunday worship! Suggestions for prayer Pray for wisdom when it comes to your friendships. Pray that you would choose your friends according to God’s Word rather than according to your sinful desires. 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 1 – Introduction to Proverbs

The book of Proverbs is a wonderful book for getting our focus on the Christian life. There are so many powerful verses that challenge our faith and encourage us in our walk with God! Over the years I have been blessed by going through the book of Proverbs in my preaching, but also in my personal devotions. It’s an enriching experience. I have selected some of my favorites, ones that you may know well and some not so well. But regardless, I pray that you will find these various proverbs to be a blessing to your own walk with God and to your family as well. The book of Proverbs speaks to all of life and to the many situations we often find ourselves in as Christians. And so the more we read and apply these great truths to our own lives the more we’ll be equipped as servants for living faithful lives in God’s kingdom! Daily trusting in God “Trust in the LORD will all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6 Scripture reading: Proverbs 3 The first four chapters of Proverbs show us the great need for knowledge and wisdom in the life of God’s people. Solomon, writing to his son in chapter 3, impresses that upon him in verses 1-4. But then in verse 6, we have this wonderful affirmation of why we’re to trust in our faithful covenant God: “He shall direct your paths”! The idea here is of someone clearing the way and making your path smooth, of taking out the obstacles. This is what God does for those who “trust” and “acknowledge” Him. He is faithful to guide them and take care of their lives! The Christian life is marked by an active, daily trust in God! The idea is that we’re leaning upon Him and not ourselves. But that’s the great challenge for us! For we often see ourselves as wise and capable of handling life’s difficulties, trials, or temptations on our own, but we can’t! Solomon makes that clear, “Trust in the LORD…and lean not on your own understanding.” There is to be no self-reliance! So as we “trust” in God, we “acknowledge” Him, that is, we confess His rule over our lives and that His Word is to be obeyed above all things! Thus, this humble life of faith and confession of God’s authority leads to our blessing. For God graciously and lovingly leads His sheep as a faithful Shepherd! As Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that the LORD would cause you to daily trust in Him and acknowledge His control and direction of your life. Pray that you would die more and more to relying on yourself and rest in His faithfulness, for He will direct your paths! 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 31 – Everlasting worship

“And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!’ Then the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.” – Revelation 5:13-14 Scripture reading: Acts 2:14-28 Today, by God’s grace, we gather to worship as part of the thronging worshippers from all over the world. Today we may especially focus on that great event in redemptive history known as Pentecost. What a joy to be led in the conviction of the Holy Spirit to bring our worship to God. God is worthy of our praise and adoration! His Word to us is life. To live out of the covenant congregationally is a rich treasure. Today is a foretaste of what is yet to come in greater abundance. The vision John receives in our text depicts something of both the worship and activity in heaven. John has been permitted to see the inner area of God’s heavenly dwelling. What wonder and glory!! The song sung in verse 13 is a testimony to God’s glory, truth, justice, holiness and His awe-inspiring deeds. God is great and greatly to be praised! How is it possible that His Name not be glorified and feared? A heart in tune with God can’t help but sing His praise and so also does as the congregation, the body of Christ. On that first Pentecost Day, those who were given ears to listen could hear what Jesus has accomplished for those given Him by the Father. Today as we go to church, we can again hear through the work of the Holy Spirit (applying the Word) what great things our Heavenly Father has done for His children. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Suggestions for prayer Pray with heartfelt thanksgiving, acknowledging the glory of our thrice Holy God. “Unto God Almighty, sitting on the throne, and the Lamb victorious, be the praise alone. God has wrought salvation; He did wondrous things; who shall not extol Thee, Holy King of kings?” – Psalter Hymnal 469:3 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 30 – Worthy is the Lamb!!

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” – Revelation 5:8-12 Scripture reading: Acts 17:22-34 Immediately, when Jesus took the scroll, a song in heaven breaks out. That song testifies to the glory of our salvation. Even more importantly it is a song that testifies to the abounding glory of the Saviour who has purchased with His blood those from every tribe and language and people and nation (vs. 9). In Christ we live and move and have our being (cf. Acts 17:28a). How important it is for our hearts to join the mighty chorus. “Glory be to Him who loved us, washed us from all sin and stain! Glory to Him who bought us, made us kings with Him to reign! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Praise the Lamb that once was slain! Glory to the King of angels, glory to the church’s King, glory to the King of nations; heaven and earth your praises bring! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! To the King of glory sing! ‘Glory, blessing, praise eternal!’ Thus the choir of angels sings. Honour, glory, power, dominion! Thus its praise creation brings.” – Trinity Psalter Hymnal 213:2-4a “Christ was born of a virgin that we might be born of GOD. He took our flesh that He might give us His Spirit. He lay in a manger that we might lie in paradise. He came down from heaven that He might bring us to heaven. And what was all this but love? If our hearts be not rocks, this love of Christ should affect us. Behold the love that surpasses all knowledge.” – from the pen of Thomas Watson Suggestions for prayer Rejoice in knowing that Jesus is worthy! Pray for the gospel to go forth to the ends of the earth so others too might rejoice in the worthiness of Christ. 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 29 – Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah!!

“And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.” º Rev. 5:1-7 Scripture reading: Revelation 22:12-17 The Scriptures trace the beautiful line of promise which leads to The Lord of lords and the King of kings. Christ is not only King of the church, but He is also King over all creation, every facet/area of life. A sealed scroll is set before us (cf Isaiah 29:11; Daniel 12:40; Ezekiel 2:9&10). The scroll presented in Revelation 5 is sealed tight and no one has been found to reveal what has been written. This made John weep. He knows the contents are very important. His sorrow is short-lived because he is told there is one worthy to reveal the contents of the scroll. That worthy one is Christ, the Lamb of God. This Lamb is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Already in Genesis 49:8-10, we receive the prophecy of the One who will rule for eternity. This Lamb/Lion did not come out of nowhere. As attested to in many places, His root (cf. Isaiah 11:1-10) can be traced to the great King David. Jesus is greater. What has been hidden throughout the ages is revealed in the coming of Christ and the imminent (just around the corner) second coming. What royal splendor is described for us! King David of long ago was highly acclaimed, but it was nothing compared to the greater David. David fought many battles, but the ultimate battle he could not win. The greater David, Jesus, has triumphed and God’s people live in the light and strength of that triumph!! Suggestions for prayer Pray with humble thankfulness and praise for all that Jesus has accomplished on our behalf. Jesus has prevailed! Express your joy to the Lord for the anticipation of what is yet to come in the Kingdom fulfillment. 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 16 – To the angel of the Church in Thyatira (1)

"And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 2:18-29 Scripture reading: 1 John 4:1-6 The all-seeing eye of Christ penetrates into the heart and soul of the church in all places and all ages. Our text today takes us to Thyatira where we hear Christ evaluate and assess the life and times of the congregation. The basics of what is to be a well-ordered church are scrutinized. As we read of the character of the church in Thyatira, we are given the initial impression that things are well. Jesus knows their works. It is as if our Redeemer has a check-list: Love-yes; Service-affirmative; Faith-checkmark; Patience – indeed so. In fact, Jesus tells them they are doing more than they did when they began! Our first impressions are WOW, this is a healthy lively church! I want to join! But as we are to find out tomorrow there is a "never-the-less." The LORD asks a great deal of the church that is to be vibrant in both word and deed. If Jesus gave your elders a check-list of the condition of the church to which you belong what would it look like? Together we must know what it is to reach upward to God in true faith and Godly worship, to reach inward toward one another in love and service, to reach out in witness to those far and near and also to reach ahead toward future generations ministering to all those whom God has included in His covenant. May God so help us! Suggestions for prayer Christians serve the all-sufficient God Who has secured the victory. Let us pray for faithful churches to press forward in their lofty calling! Pray that churches would engage in healthy self-examination. 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 15 – To the angel of the Church in Pergamos (3)

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’” – Revelation 2:12-17 Scripture reading: Proverbs 15:31-33; Matthew 11:20-24 When Jesus began His public ministry, He spoke of the nearness of the kingdom and the command to repent and believe the good news (cf. Mark 1:15). Repentance is not negative, but a positive response to the call of God’s Word. To repent means a change in thought or behavior; it means to reverse direction. It is to submit to God’s Kingdom rule for every area of our lives. The church in Pergamos was called to repent, to reverse direction. Those who held to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans were to be confronted with the truth so they might reverse direction. The Bible teaches that when the church fails to exercise spiritual discipline, she might expect to experience severe chastening from God’s almighty hand. The church at Ephesus hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans, but the church at Pergamos tolerated them. The Nicolaitans held a view of life that perverted grace and exchanged their liberty with license. Jesus reproves the church at Pergamos for allowing heretical teachers and abominable practices into her midst and calls her to be faithful to the truth. Every believer and every Christian church needs to take to heart the fact that sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay and cost you more than you want to pay. When there is a cancer in the church that cancer needs radical treatment. It must be cut out. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Suggestions for prayer Pray for growth in repentance and faith. Pray that the church to which you belong would be steadfast in the life of repentance and faith and thus in fighting against compromise. Pray for that same grace for yourself. 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 14 – To the angel of the Church in Pergamos (2)

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’” – Revelation 2:12-17 Scripture reading: Proverbs 3:11-12; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 Even though the church at Pergamos was commended for holding fast, there was a serious problem. There is no perfect church, but that does not mean we should not strive to be more than we presently are. There were within the congregation those holding to the doctrine (false) of Balaam. Many of you know the story of Balaam and even his famous talking donkey. Balaam was offered money by Balak to curse the covenant community. When that didn’t work, he devised a plot to have Moabite women seduce Israelite men into intermarriage. There are still so-called Balaams around today peddling their version of the gospel (false) in exchange for riches and fame. To belong to a faithful church is an incredible blessing. But such a church should never rest on her laurels. The temptation to be sidetracked by way of compromise needs to be fought against continually. As is clear in this letter, the church of Pergamos did not discipline where discipline was sorely needed. A church that does not turn the key of discipline (cf. Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 85) does not really love her members as she ought. Discipline is to be an exercise of loving discipleship. Christ’s disciples listen to the voice of the loving Shepherd. He knows what is best for His church—after all, He is the Head and we are to serve Him as His body. A listening ear must be an obeying heart. May God grant us grace to be found faithful! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Holy Spirit, by means of the Word and Sacrament, would keep us close to the voice of Jesus. Pray that the church to which you belong would remain faithful. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 13 – To the angel of the Church in Pergamos (1)

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’” – Revelation 2:12-17 Scripture Reading: 2 Kings 18:1-9 Holding fast is a very important quality in Christian discipleship. The church must keep the truth as received and not accommodate the whims of doctrinal or social change. In the final exhortations the Apostle Paul gave to the church at Corinth, he writes, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (I Corinthians 16:13-14). In the sermon to the Hebrews we read, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for He who has promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). The all-seeing eye of Christ commends the church gathered in Pergamos for holding fast. The city of Pergamos was no stranger to the adultery of idolatry. It was home to many pagan cults and was the first city in Asia to build a temple to Caesar. It was a city where people believed in the greatness of man and had eyes closed to the living Almighty God. Also in our age, the pressures both from within and without to cave in are great. Never must we forget that we live in a world which is not a friend to grace. Societal sin is growing stronger and presses against the church and we who are faithful members must know something of what it is to push back. Does the church you are a part of make any difference at all in the community you live? Are you a stick-tu-ative Christian? Jesus never said it would be easy. Suggestions for prayer: Christ’s followers are called to hold fast to the truth and to live out of the truth. Pray that would also be true for the church where you are a member. Pray for the same graces Hezekiah enjoyed. 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....