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Daily devotional

August 12 – Singing about the judgement of God

But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips?” – Psalm 50:16 Scripture reading: Psalm 50:16-17 The conversation between the LORD and his subjects continues through the choir of the congregation. The King has called the people of God to new obedience, but looking into the hearts of the people, He calls out the wicked. Now, we must be clear that this call to repentance is for the covenant breaker. The wicked are the circumcised rebellious children of God who simply will not listen and obey. Where do we find ourselves? On the one hand, we confess the importance of reaching out to those who are wandering and living in sin. We perhaps are dealing with that wandering baptized child of God who will not repent. Our elders and pastor deal with these wayward children in an intense way. But we also need to look into our souls and ask ourselves about our walk with God. Are you handling difficulty and sorrow well? Are we able to accept God’s way without resistance? God has come to us in grace and peace in Christ. Let us hear the words of the LORD today and not cast them away. Suggestions for prayer Pray for a heart for the wandering and lost that God will turn their hearts. Pray for the pastors and elders of the church in their care for the flock. Ask for a pure and thankful acceptance of God’s way.

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

Daily devotional

August 7 – Singing a call to worship

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

Daily devotional

August 6 – Singing our theology

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

Daily devotional

August 5 – The Church sings of the Lord’s rights

The Mighty One, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting – Psalm 50:1: Scripture reading: Psalm 50 What a powerful Psalm! I am not sure many in our modern church world would write a song like this. The Church sounds the voice of God, warning us against empty rituals. I think of Paul’s words, “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). Sacrifices and worship outside of a real personal relationship with God are empty and it makes God angry. In Revelation 2 and 3, Christ, through the angels, warns the churches of backsliding, pride, losing their first love and toleration of evil. If the churches do not repent, Jesus will remove the lampstand. It is good to sing Psalm 50 to remind one another of the holiness of God and His right to our devoted love. Worship ought never to be a way to get something from God, but ought to adore Him. Let us consider the mercy in this. The LORD is not going to let Israel slide into eternal damnation without confrontation and warning. We, as the Church, have seen the wrath of God when poured out on the Son. It is severe and we ought not to place our faith in our baptism or church membership, but only in Christ alone. Let us see the glory of God and sing of it before God, warning one another when we go astray. Let us listen to what the Spirit says to the churches and be blessed. Suggestions for prayer Pray to be aware of the majesty of God and to be deeply mindful of the temptation to empty worship—even in our time of devotions today. Pray for the Church in the world that we may sound the voice of God in boldness and truth. 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

July 22 – Ripe for judgment

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

Daily devotional

July 21 – Sword of the Spirit

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

Daily devotional

July 20 – God’s plumb line

Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. – Amos 7:8b Scripture reading: Amos 7:7-9 Amos receives a third vision in which he sees God standing on a wall with a plumb line in His hand. Like a contractor tests the straightness of a wall with a level, God tests the true state of Israel’s faithfulness. His words to Amos reveal that the plumb line has exposed His people’s covenant unfaithfulness and that He will no longer spare them from judgment. The leading religious and political institutions will be desolated. This time, Amos does not plead for God to relent. It is clear to him that Israel’s window of opportunity has passed. What is God’s standard for determining whether to save or punish? Does the vision of the wall and plumb line suggest that He demands perfect righteousness from us? If so, none of us can ever measure up! Perhaps God allows for a little wiggle-room for sin in an “out-of-level” person? But that would contradict the holiness of God, in whom there is no darkness at all. Indeed, the vision of God and the plumb line are a reminder not to think of ourselves as more deserving than Israel – or any unbeliever, for that matter. We are all crooked; we have all fallen short of the grace of God. We all deserve eternal hell. But the righteousness of God that is given through faith in Jesus Christ has been revealed. We are declared “spot-on level” based on His perfect righteousness. What God’s plumb line looks for is this: Do you truly believe in Jesus for salvation? And is your faith proved true by your obedience? Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His perfect righteousness and justice. Pray for the two-fold gift of forgiving grace and transforming grace in Christ. 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 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 6 – Pathway to apostasy

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

Daily devotional

July 5 – One way of salvation

I will not turn away its punishment – Amos 1:11b Scripture reading: Amos 1:11-2:3 The prophecy of Amos won’t tolerate talk of “my truth” and “your truth.” There is one God, one way of salvation, and one judgment. God does not speak as Israel’s tribal deity – just one god among many. He rebukes the nations with universal authority as their Creator and Judge: Syria for savagery in war (1:3), Philistia for kidnapping (1:6), Phoenicia for trafficking slaves (1:9), Edom for endless vengeance (1:11), Ammon for tearing open pregnant women (1:13), and Moab for desecrating a human corpse (2:1). God condemns crimes of murder and violence committed against human beings made in His image. Edom’s hatred for his brother, Ammon’s unthinkable cruelty to women and children, and Moab’s desecration of an enemy king’s corpse were not only crimes against humanity – they were crimes against God who created them and cares for them. All violations of human rights are ultimately violations of God’s rights. And He will see to it that justice is done. The punishments that Amos prophesies for each nation are proportionate to the crime. Final judgment has been entrusted to Christ, who will execute perfect and comprehensive justice. For a world of stolen lives and broken hearts, this is good news! But it is also a sobering call to self-reflection and repentance, for each sin that you and I commit are violations of the infinite majesty of God. His justice demands the proportionate penalty of infinite hell. Are you covered by the blood of the Lamb? Only the infinite merits of His atoning sacrifice provide the payment for what we have done to God. Suggestions for prayer Pray for Christ to bring justice against those who oppress the weak and to stop the hand of the wicked. Confess that you deserve eternal hell because of your sins and thank the Father for giving His Son as an atoning sacrifice for your sins. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 4 – Patterns of sin

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

Daily devotional

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 20 – The great value of a good name

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

Daily devotional

June 19 – Each stage of life has its own glory

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

Daily devotional

June 18 – Get up you sluggard

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

Daily devotional

June 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 4 – Christian fruitlfulness leads to Christian witness

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

Daily devotional

June 3 – The joy of God’s blessing

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

Daily devotional

June 2 – You must guard your heart

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

Daily devotional

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

May 19 – To the angel of the Church in Sardis (1)

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

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

SUNDAY, May 17 – To the angel of the church in Thyatira (2)

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

Daily devotional

May 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....