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Daily devotional

August 27 – Evil men and the love of God

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

Daily devotional

August 26 – Evil men and the love of God

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

Daily devotional

August 25 – Singing the truth about God

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

Daily devotional

August 24 – Singing about our restoration to worship

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

Daily devotional

August 23 – Singing to bless the Church daily

May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem. – Psalm 51:18 Scripture reading: Psalm 51:18-19 Do you think that we sometimes take worship for granted? Pure and spiritual worship can only happen when God is busy with His people. Our Father must discipline His children, so that they turn to Him and love Him. Sometimes that means He allows some grave sin in our lives in order to drive us back to worship Him. When David was at his worst with Bathsheba, he still went to worship with guilt hanging around his neck. He knew that he was fooling himself. But it was God He had offended. The wonder of it all is that unlike Saul, God did not abandon David. I think about that often. God did not abandon me, either. He could have. He had the right. It is by grace that I am saved and forgiven. Grace inspires us to keep the law of God for worship. Do you find yourself in this scenario? We who know our sin and forgiveness, love God. We want to live better lives. We want our worship to be authentic. That is our desire for the churches we attend too. Let us be in prayer today for the Church of Jesus Christ. Israel prayed that the LORD would prosper Zion. We pray for the blessings upon the Church. May Jesus Christ be praised, not only in Word, but with hearts clean and pure. Then the curses of the covenant that we warned one another of singing in Psalm 50, will be turned to blessings and peace. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will bless our churches and the Church around the world, so that our worship will be good and pleasing to Him. 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 22 – Singing to declare God’s praise

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. – Psalm 51:17 Scripture reading: Psalm 51:16-17 We recall that Israel sang in Psalm 50 about bogus sacrifices that were nothing but empty form and function. It was going through the motions. We can do that too. Tomorrow is Sunday. Where are we at as we prepare for worship tomorrow? Tomorrow we will get up, get dressed, and go to church. Christ, through the elders, calls us to do that twice! It all looks good, until we realize we are caught in some sin; we have not let Christ be all in all of our lives. We sing the words, but we do not live them. Then God comes and redirects, and we cannot wait to get to church to sing praises. What does God delight in? “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” In my sin and pride, my spirit is not broken and my heart not contrite. We pray, “Create in me a clean heart that our worship becomes acceptable in your sight.” Baptized in Christ's death, we are renewed in His life and restored to salvation. What I need I am unable to provide, but God can and does in Christ. Let us bless His holy name! Worship is something God has produced! He changes hearts so that we can worship Him in spirit and truth. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will work in our hearts, broken spirits and worship that is pleasing to Him, individually and as the congregation 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

August 21 – Singing to declare God’s praise

Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise – Psalm 51:15 Scripture reading: Psalm 51:13-15 David leads the church in repentance. Knowing what repentance means, he wants to serve God. Our desire is to be restored to fellowship with a great and loving Father. When we know that God still wants us, we desire Him and yearn to give ourselves to Him. We want to tell everyone what He has done! The heart of evangelism is the praise of God and the desire to teach others His way. In some ways, it is a simple concept. Consider Psalm 51 with the concepts of Psalm 50. We sang about our God, Who is angry with our sin. Psalm 51 helps to sing of our conviction, that we hate it and that God is angry with us. Hence we cry out to God for salvation, a new heart and then a new way of life. When that happens, our hearts overflow and with an open mouth we tell others what He has done, teaching them to call on His name. In grace, He comes to us, accuses us and then gives faith and repentance that we may be restored to God and the community of believers. Experienced forgiveness causes a reaching out to the community and drawing others in. Repentance makes us want to minister to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, thanksgiving and prayer. Thanksgiving bursts forth from a bursting heart! My heart cup overflows! My mouth sings the praises of God! Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will restore you, using you to teach others in the church and the community and to sing praises and live for Him. 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 20 – Sing for restoration

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me – Psalm 51:10 Scripture reading: Psalm 51:10-12 How can I be restored to the joy of salvation if God does not create in me a clean heart? So, we sing with David, “Create in me a clean heart.” Have you ever been so utterly aware of your sin and guilt and the horror of your life that you cower before God? When God comes to get you (as when He came to David via Nathan) there is an overwhelming sense of the need for renewal in our lives. We of the Reformed faith might wonder what David meant when he asked that God would not withdraw His Spirit. David saw God take his Spirit from King Saul. Saul disobeyed God and did not wait for Samuel to bring the sacrifices taking matters into his own hands. The Bible tells us that God withdrew His Spirit from Saul and sent an evil spirit. From that point on, his life was filled with jealousy, depression and murderous wrath ending in pathetic suicide. Yes, David saw what God did and it horrified Him. Didn’t we learn from Psalms 1 and 50 of the wrath of God? David understood and we with him sing, “Create in me a clean heart, do not withdraw your spirit or cast me from your presence.” The LORD answered David’s prayer because He moved David to that prayer. When He moves in our hearts, in the confidence of the Holy Spirit, convicted of our sin let us repent and ask for a clean heart. Suggestions for prayer Pray for restoration, hope, comfort and confidence in the love and mercy of God. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 19 – Cleanse me with hyssop

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow – Psalm 51:7 Scripture reading: Psalm 51:7-9 David now stands in the right place. God ought to have destroyed him then and there. David has no defense. He sings and we ought to sing with him, “I have sinned, Lord, I am helpless, broken, and in pain! Cleanse me; I will be whiter than snow!” Have you ever been there? That place where the sense of sorrow and shame overcomes you so that it physically hurts? Then run to God the Father and cry out for cleansing. Just a note about the hyssop. The hyssop branch was filled with many small branches and had leaves and was used in ceremonial cleansing. In Leviticus 14, we read that the priests used the hyssop to wash the cured lepers symbolically and from Numbers 19, to cleanse the repentant person who had touched or been near a dead body. With these words, we are asking, “Lord, I am a leper; my sin causes me to rot and decay, making me unclean. I cannot do anything about it. I need you to cleanse me! Wash me and I will be whiter than snow.” Now we sing our confession of sin and faith in the grace and mercy of God! Come now in Christ to receive forgiveness through faith in His purifying and cleansing blood that you may rejoice that all your sins are blotted out! Now, hear the joy! Suggestions for prayer Pray to repent, be washed, forgiven and to rejoice. Ask for faith to believe and comfort for your soul. 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 18 – Singing a confession about ourselves

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. – Psalm 51:3 Scripture reading: Psalm 51:3-6 It is perhaps the most challenging thing that we must do as human beings. Indeed, it is difficult to admit how very sinful we are. David is not all that surprised that he fell so far. He knows what he is. He confesses that truth. You and I need to admit that we sin because we are sinners. We were born sinful and as the Heidelberg Catechism puts it: prone to hate God and my neighbor. (QA 5) There are two difficulties in being entirely honest about ourselves. They are comparing ourselves with others and finding excuses. We can add to that, the fact that confession brings shame. Now, the Lord in His faithfulness does not punish us each time we sin and so it seems like there is no immediate repercussion for sins. Then we feel safe until the bottom falls out, our life is in shambles and it looks like there is no way out. Sin may mean a loss of dignity or the breaking of a relationship and then we feel remorse. But remorse is not repentance. We need to get to that place of complete humility, like the tax collector in Jesus’ parable (Luke 18). We, with David, must see that we have offended and rebelled against God. When we can finally admit who we are and how we have offended God, we can repent. Then we will experience the mercy of God to us in Christ Jesus. Suggestions for prayer Pray to be able to be honest with yourself and what you have done. Pray to trust that God will hear you and bless you if you ask for mercy from a place of humility and to rest on His grace. 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 17 – A song begging for mercy

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. – Psalm 51:1 Scripture reading: Psalm 51:1-2 David asks for mercy. How does he even dare? David knew he had fallen, but God is great and glorious. David has nowhere else to go with His sin. He believed that God’s love was more powerful than his sin and so he, as the sinning saint, cries out to God. His words ought to become ours. Have you ever done something so wrong that at least in your own eyes, you felt like God would forsake you? Then Satan has you and accuses you. You dirty rotten sinner! There is no hope for you! But the wonder is that, by faith, like David, we can cry out to God for mercy. He cries out that God would have mercy on him because he has no hope! There is nothing he can do to undo it. David turns to God. That is why this Psalm is given to us. All things are working for your salvation. Sorrow for sin drives you to flee to Him! He is all that you have. David trusted in the Lord even after all of that! You, too, must lament your sin and ask God for mercy. If Christ is your Lord, you will be saved! (Romans 10:9). Even if there is despair, that perhaps you have done the unthinkable or the unforgivable, think of the Lord who says, “I will be a God to you!” Ask Him to forgive you. Trust Him. Repent and believe! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help our unbelief and for trust that He will forgive us. Pray for strength to confess the name of Jesus for God’s mercy. 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 16 – A personal lament for sin

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so that you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. – Psalm 51:4 Scripture reading: Psalm 51 It is interesting that on the heels of the application of the covenant, including the warning to sinners, comes this well-known psalm of restoration. The experts define Psalm 51 as a psalm of individual lament. Psalm 51 is one of those psalms well used in both the Israelite and Christian church eras to confess sin before God. Even though it has a historical association as David’s lament after his fall with Bathsheba, we ought to also understand the psalm was given by inspiration to David for us to sing and use to confess our sins. I think that it is vital that we pay attention to the setting as given by the heading of the psalm. It is also essential that we do not see Psalm 51 only as the words of David. Most Reformed churches have a place in the worship service for a corporate confession of sins. As you head to church today, pay attention to that part of the worship service. It is easy to pass through that portion of worship to get to the sermon. After the call of Psalm 50 to order our way rightly with the promise of the salvation of God, Psalm 51 provides the appropriate attitude and words. Confession of sin ought to be a part of our worship of God and ministering to one another. Through repentance and the mercy of God to us in Christ, we begin to order our way right to the glory of our God. Suggestions for prayer Pray for blessings on our worship today, the forgiveness of the people of God and for God’s mercy that we may teach sinners the way they should go. Ask for grace that inspires joy and worship. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 15 – Singing of the covenant blessings and curses

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” – Psalm 50:23 Scripture reading: Psalm 50 We come to the end of our meditations on Psalm 50. This Psalm is an application of Psalm 1, that gateway to the covenant. In our singing, we bring the case to a close for God as the people of God. The faithful sing to the congregation made up of the faithful and unfaithful. We must listen so we can sing and we must sing that God will be heard. Tomorrow we will gather for worship. Too often today, worship is only about praise, joy and our personal happiness. I think we can agree that prayer ought to have elements of joy and appreciation. But is there a place in worship for warning, calling and pleading? In Psalm 50, the words of judgment are clear. The righteous will be blessed and delivered. We find hope. But not so the wicked man. His end is horrible. Who can deliver us from hell once our lives are over without repentance? Then it is too late. But while we have life and breath, let us love our neighbor as ourselves and call each other to the grace and mercy of God. Let us call them to thankful living. Let us call them to sing the songs of praise with us. But let us also worship God in a way that sounds the warnings against sin and calls us to repentance. Let us sound the good news and the warnings of God. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord will use our churches, worship and songs tomorrow to bring people to devote their lives to God. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 14 – Singing of the covenant faithfulness of the Lord

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

Daily devotional

August 13 – Singing to love God and our neighbor

These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. – Psalm 50:21 Scripture reading: Psalm 50:18-21 Remember those words from Psalm 1 about the wicked? “The wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.” The LORD is consistent and so are the songs we sing as the people of God. Praise God for His truth. The wicked have lost their love for God, as revealed in the way they live with their neighbors. Their lives are characterized by lust, hate and darkness. We must be willing to make sure that the wicked know there is no place for the fruits of evil. The wicked cannot enter the Kingdom of God. The LORD’s love is pure, and that means He hates evil and removes the wicked from His sight. That is why He punished Christ for our sins. The LORD, through the Church, identifies the corrupt for who they are. But why are we singing about this? First, that God might be praised and we might sing and proclaim His truth and righteousness. But we also do it because we love our neighbor and want them to repent and believe. Finally, we do it to keep one another on the straight and narrow path that leads to glory. Yes, we do that to minister to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs as we have been commanded to do. Singing is part of our witness to the Church and the world! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the purity of the Church and our lives and for courage to call the wicked to repentance and for the LORD to change hearts and minds. Ask the Lord to use our churches and songs to bring people to devote their lives to God. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 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 11 – Singing to call others repentance

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

Daily devotional

August 10 – Singing to call the Church to respect the Lord

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

Daily devotional

August 9 – Enter His gates with thanksgiving

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

Daily devotional

August 8 – Singing the testimony of God

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

Daily devotional

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

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....