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Daily devotional

April 26 - Counterfeit joy (4)

May my meditation be pleasing to Him, for I rejoice in the Lord.- Psalm 104:34 Scripture reading: Psalm 104:1-35 I live in Colorado and most days I can see the Rocky Mountains. When on a clear day, I see the distant white-capped peaks, my heart rejoices in wonder and praise. But I’m sure that when unbelievers see the same sight, though they do not acknowledge the Creator, they still experience a certain awe and wonder. Simply living in this world is a blessing. Although many will not acknowledge it, God has blessed us humans. We have talents and abilities, enjoy good health, have material possessions, have family and friends. We can appreciate beautiful art, wonder at a colorful sunset, and be in awe of majestic mountains. Whether a Christian or not, there is a joy that comes with living. It is the joy of God’s common grace. Psalm 104 recounts God’s great creative work. The psalmist looks at the mountains and is in awe. He recognizes that God sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. He hears birds singing, watches animals feed, sees ships navigate the oceans. At the end of the Psalm he says, “I rejoice in the Lord.” Not the ships, the rain, the animals, the mountains, but I rejoice in the Lord. Joy in God’s creation will not last because there is so much more. Jesus asked, ”For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mark 8:36). True, lasting joy comes not in the earthly gifts we enjoy from our Creator, as wonderful as they are, but in trusting and rejoicing in the Creator Himself. Suggestions for prayer Pray that your joy would not consist simply in the gifts God has given, but would be in God Himself and that you would have a thankful heart for all of God’s gifts. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 25 - Counterfeit joy (3)

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?- Mark 8:36 Scripture reading: Mark 8:31-38 C.S. Lewis once said: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” Lewis was right. We have infinite joy offered us, but we are satisfied with that which is much less. We’ve already looked at the counterfeit joy of sin and of circumstances. Today, I want to consider things that are not necessarily bad, but are ultimately trivial. I like playing sports and enjoy following my favorite players and teams. I’ll watch an occasional game on TV, or play a round of golf with friends. But I can honestly say that I can do without these things. Yet, I’m sure you’ve noticed that some people’s lives revolve around sports. My wife is artistic and enjoys making crafts. But she wisely does not allow that activity to run her life. If sports, or crafts, or recreation, or stamp-collecting or some other activity is what fills you with joy and meaning, you’ve settled for something far too little. You are making mud pies in a slum when you are offered a holiday by the sea. You are, as Lewis would say, “Far too easily pleased.” Don’t settle for the trivial. God, in Christ, is your true and infinite joy. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would not find your joy and meaning in the small, trivial things. Repent for desiring and being satisfied with too little. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 24 - Counterfeit joy (2)

Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.- Mathew 13:5-6 Scripture reading: Matthew 13:1-23 Every nation has strict laws against making and using counterfeit money. People who deal in commerce and handle money regularly must learn to distinguish fake money from real money. Banks, for example, have classes to train their employees how to tell the difference. In the parable of the sower, Jesus taught about a certain kind of counterfeit joy. When He explained the point about the seed that fell on rocky soil, He said, “This is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy…” But when trials and hardships arise, this person fell away. Far from being true and lasting joy, this was a counterfeit joy because it was contingent on circumstances. When everything is going smoothly in life, when things are going well, it is easy to confuse that sense of well-being with lasting joy. But this is not really joy at all because it depends on circumstances. Remember that Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer (be joyful), I have overcome the world.” The true joy of a believer is one that does not fall away due to tribulation and hardship. True joy’s foundation is far greater, far deeper than this world’s ups and downs. Its foundation is Jesus Christ. Therefore, pleasant circumstances cannot produce true joy and difficult circumstances cannot detract from true joy. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would grant you wisdom to distinguish true from false joy and that you will rest in Jesus and have a joy that cannot be shaken by hardship. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 23 - Counterfeit joy (1)

By faith Moses… refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. - Hebrews 11:24-25 Scripture reading: Hebrews 11:23-28 Hebrews 11 is an entire chapter that focuses on the faith of Old Testament believers. And speaking about Moses, the writer says that Moses rejected the “fleeting pleasures of sin.” This is instructive to us as we focus on joy. It is important to distinguish between true, lasting joy and a counterfeit of joy. One such counterfeit is pleasure that comes from sin. When tempted, the devil would have us believe that if we give in to the temptation, we will be more joyful than now. And the reason it is so effective is that there are often certain pleasures that accompany sin. Moses, as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter, could have lived in palatial opulence and had every sensual desire met. Instead, he chose the difficulties of wilderness living. Why? Because he understood that true joy comes in trusting and following the Lord. David learned that the hard way. When he committed adultery with Bathsheba, he did so for the “joy” of sexual gratification. He soon discovered that while this may have brought him “fleeting pleasure,” it brought him no joy at all. This is why when he finally repented of his sin, he asked God: “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Psalm 51:12). He had discovered that the fleeting pleasure of sin is a counterfeit to true lasting joy in the Lord. Suggestions for prayer Repent of your sins and, like David, ask God to restore your joy. Pray that God would give you faith like Moses to see beyond fleeting pleasures. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 22 - The joy of believing

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.- Hebrews 11:1 Scripture reading: John 20:24-29 Thomas wasn’t present when the resurrected Jesus revealed Himself to the other disciples a week earlier. When they told Thomas about it, he said he wouldn’t believe unless he had visible and tangible proof. Thomas was ever the practical skeptic. It wasn’t that Thomas had no faith, but I think it is fair to say that he had weak faith. In John 11, when Jesus told the disciples that He was going to Bethany because of Lazarus’ death and they all knew this was dangerous because the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus, it was Thomas who said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” In John 14, when Jesus prepared His disciples for His imminent departure and said to them, “That where I go you may be also,” it was Thomas who said, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” And here in John 20, the loving Jesus humbly submitted to this skeptic’s demands. All the disciples were gathered behind locked doors and Jesus came to them and spoke directly to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side…” And that was enough for Thomas who responds with a beautiful profession, “My Lord and My God!” That’s when Jesus mentioned you and me. He said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” This means that if you are a Christian, a believer in Jesus Christ and the gospel, Jesus says you are blessed! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Holy Spirit would work to increase your faith and that the knowledge that you are blessed would fill you with joy. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 21 - Resurrection joy

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord." - John 20:18 Scripture reading: John 20:1-18 It is clear from reading John’s account of Jesus’ resurrection that Mary Magdalene didn’t expect Jesus to rise from the dead. When she went to the tomb early in the morning and found it empty, her first reaction was not, “He arose” but rather, “Someone has taken the body” (v. 1). Then a little later, when the angels asked her why she was weeping, she answered, “They have taken away my Lord” (v. 13). You see, Mary and Jesus’ other followers lived in the same world we live in, a world in which dead people don’t rise again. That is precisely John’s point in this passage. While our experience tells us that dead people don’t rise again, Jesus actually did. People who weren’t expecting to see Jesus alive again saw and believed. Some speak of the resurrection as a “symbol” of Jesus’ continuing influence in the world, but scoff at the idea that He actually rose from the dead, bodily. But John and the other Gospels record eyewitness accounts that Jesus, after He was laid in the tomb, was actually seen upright and walking, heard talking, ate meals and was touched. And this must be the case, else we have no Saviour. His death on the cross conquered death so that death could not hold Him. His resurrection was the Father’s approbation of Christ’s atonement. His resurrection is the promise and guarantee of the resurrection of His people. It was no “symbol” or metaphor. He really rose from the dead. Hallelujah! Christ arose! Suggestions for prayer Give thanks that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the guarantee that when He returns, your body will be raised to eternal life. Pray that the church will never compromise the message that Jesus actually, bodily rose from the dead. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 20 - For the joy set before him

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:2 Scripture reading: Hebrews 12:1-17                                                                Yesterday was Good Friday, the day that Christ, the Lamb of God, in full obedience to the Father, gave His life as a substitutionary atonement for our sins. He was wounded for our transgressions and was bruised for our iniquities. And yet, despite the pain and shame and rejection, Jesus was joyful. He had spoken about His joy just before His arrest in the Upper Room with His disciples. In Hebrews 12, we are encouraged to keep running the race of faith, all the while looking to Jesus. Not only was Jesus joyful while on earth, but He looked forward to a fuller and greater joy ahead. It was the joy of a mission accomplished. He endured the pain, suffering and shame of the cross because He knew that there was even greater joy on the other side. We too are blessed with joy today, but there is a greater joy ahead. And realizing that blessedness should encourage us to keep running the race of faith. We might be discouraged, weary and worn out, but “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9). For the joy that is set before you, keep running! Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would take your eyes off your circumstances and be focused on Jesus. Rejoice that Christ your Saviour is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 19 - Jesus’ seventh word on the cross

“Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!” - Luke 23:46 Scripture reading: Luke 23:44-49 This word, like the fourth and fifth, is a quotation from Psalms. Psalm 31:5 says, “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.” Jesus began His ministry with the Scriptures on His lips when Satan tempted Him and now He breathes His last with the Word of God on His lips. Luke tells us that Jesus spoke this seventh word after the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Since Christ had accomplished His mission, the way into the Holy of Holies is now open. Christ Himself is the way, the truth and the life. Luke also says that He spoke this word with a loud voice. This is significant. Jesus had said,“No one takes My life from Me; I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18). This means that death didn’t come until Jesus allowed it to come. When He was ready, He embraced it. He didn’t die in weakness, but in strength. He didn’t speak with a whimper, but with a loud voice. And further, He says, “Into Your hands I commit My spirit.” I commit, not as some passive, helpless victim, but as the One Who holds the keys of death. Jesus died, safe and secure in the Father’s hands. Understand that He did so as our mediator and substitute. As He committed His spirit into His Father’s hands, He is committing our spirits into His Father’s hands. Like Jesus, we can die safely and securely because our covenant head and Saviour died safely and securely. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would have the joy and peace of being secure in the Father’s hands. Give thanks that Jesus has conquered death. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 18 - Jesus’ sixth word on the cross

“It is finished.” - John 19:30 Scripture reading: John 19:28-30 You and I might not finish something we’ve begun. Due to laziness, weakness or for reasons outside our control, that project you were working on or letter you were writing or diet you started, didn’t get completed. But that can never be said of Christ. Jesus’ sixth word on the cross is a word of triumph. He fully completed what He came to do. In 1 John 3:5 we read, “You know that He appeared to take away sins.” A few verses later John says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” These purposes are not separate, but the same. Christ came to take away our sins and thereby to free us from the tyranny of the devil. There are times when I’m keenly aware of my own sins and conclude, as did Paul, “O wretched man that I am” (Rom. 7:24). At those times, when the devil points his finger at me and says “guilty,” I remind myself of this sixth word on the cross. “It is finished.” Christ paid it all. That truth restores the joy. Horatio Spafford got it right when he penned this stanza in his well-loved hymn, “It is Well with My Soul”: “My sin – O the bliss of this glorious thought! – My sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more; praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!” Suggestions for prayer Pray thatGod would forgive your sins because of Christ’s sacrifice for you and that He would grant you a deeper assurance that your sins are forgiven and that it is well with your soul. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 17 - Jesus’ fifth word on the cross

“I thirst.” - John 19:28 Scripture reading: John 19:28-30 Jesus’ fifth word on the cross is only one word in Greek which, when translated is, “I thirst.” And while His mouth was most certainly parched, Jesus is telling us something deeper. First, this word expresses that Jesus was fully human so that He could justly bear the sins of humans. He didn’t simply appear to be human, He became flesh. While on earth He slept, wept, grew weary, ate, walked and got thirsty. This means that today Jesus knows your aches and weaknesses. He is a High Priest who sympathizes with your infirmities. Second, John tells us that Jesus spoke this word “to fulfill the Scriptures.” Psalm 69:21 says, “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” Jesus is identifying Himself with the godly sufferer of Psalm 69. He is the Suffering Servant of the Lord. And third, Jesus spoke this word to declare that His death was for you. In the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the rich man was in hell and called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.” Jesus’ thirst is a declaration that He was experiencing and enduring the unquenchable anguish of hell, of divine wrath. He thirsted because the wages of our sins were poured out on Him. Here is our joy: Jesus thirsted so that you and I will never thirst that unquenchable anguish in hell. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks that you have a Saviour Who understands and sympathizes with your weaknesses and infirmities. Pray for the salvation of your unbelieving loved ones. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 16 - Jesus’ fourth word on the cross

…"My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" - Matthew 27:46 Scripture reading: Matthew 27:45-56 I wonder if the onlookers at Jesus’ crucifixion were starting to get uncomfortable at this point. For three hours “there was darkness over all the land.” Were they starting to realize that something about this crucifixion was different from all the others they had witnessed? Then, out of the darkness they hear the agonizing voice of Jesus quoting Psalm 22:1 – “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” The anguish He experienced while bearing the full wrath of God and being forsaken of God wrenched from Him those amazing words. But while this fourth word is a question, the Son of God knew precisely the answer. Jesus was not seeking some information that He lacked but, in fact, was making a remarkable statement. He is saying: “I am the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Psalm 22 is about Me. Isaiah 53 is about Me.” And He is saying: “I am forsaken by God.” The eternal Son of God, Who had always been in perfect fellowship with the Father, was now forsaken. That bond was broken. Jesus wanted the crowd, and us, to know this. Why? Because the only possible reason that the Father would ever forsake the Son is if the Son were bearing our sins. This is the fount of our joy! Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us. Jesus was forsaken of the Father so that you and I would NEVER be forsaken! Suggestions for prayer Give thanks that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Pray that your pastor, and every pastor everywhere, would boldly preach the gospel of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 15 - Jesus’ third word on the cross

…He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.- John 19:26, 27 Scripture reading: John 19:17-27 About 33 years earlier, Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the temple. While there, Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God for letting him see God’s salvation. While Joseph and Mary marveled at all this, Simeon blessed them also and prophesied about what Christ would do. As he spoke, he turned to Mary and said, “And a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (See Luke 2:22-35). That sword thrust came as she watched her Son hanging, nailed to the cross. But Jesus, loving her in spite of His agony, cared for His earthly mother. Many may wonder why He addressed her as “woman” thinking it sounds rather cold and heartless. But Jesus is actually telling her that she must see Him not simply as her Son, but as her Saviour and Lord. At the same time, as a faithful Son, He appointed John to take her in and care for her. From that point on, John would be her guardian, provider and protector. Jesus’ third word on the cross is a word of love and affection. But while this particular word is directed toward Mary and John, it is that very same love and affection for you and me that compelled Him to give His life. Christ, by taking our sins upon Himself, provided us with our greatest need – forgiveness and reconciliation with God. Oh, what love! Oh, what joy! Suggestions for prayer Give thanks that God has provided your needs, both materially as well as spiritually. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 14 - Jesus’ second word on the cross

And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."- Luke 23:43 Scripture reading: Luke 23:35-43 We might view the conversion of the thief on the cross as a peculiar and singular event. There are aspects of this encounter that are unique. The criminal was near death, had no opportunity to join the church in Jerusalem and was hanging next to Jesus on a cross. But, his conversion is really very similar to that of every person who is saved. We are all saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ. Notice the faith of this criminal. What he saw with his eyes was a beaten, bleeding man hanging in agony on a cross. Jesus didn’t appear to be the King of Glory and Son of God. Yet, in spite of the mocking unbelief of others, this man put his trust in Jesus and said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” God opened his eyes of faith so that he saw Jesus for Who He really was. And he believed. Jesus’ response shows His power and grace. Even on the cross, in agony, He is powerful to save. Christ made that sinful criminal fit for heaven in a moment. The thief didn’t have to spend time in purgatory or try to clean up the mess of his life. Jesus’ atonement is sufficient and effective to save right now. “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” See what joy this brings. Your salvation does not depend on your works, your efforts, or your abilities. Like the criminal, we come to Jesus saying, “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would open the eyes of faith of friends and family who do not yet believe and that God would restore to you the joy of your salvation. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 13 - Jesus’ first word on the cross

And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."- Luke 23:34 Scripture reading: Luke 23:18-34 Looking forward to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, I want to spend the next several days looking at the seven words of Christ on the cross. My prayer is that you will find and experience great joy in hearing and understanding them. The spiritual leaders of Israel, in hatred and jealousy, brought charges of blasphemy and sedition against Jesus. The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, cowardly washed his hands of this debacle. The Roman soldiers scornfully beat and mocked Jesus. Finally, they nailed Him to the cross between two criminals so that the sinless Son of God was, as Isaiah had prophesied, “numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah53:12). Jesus didn’t rant and rave against His oppressors, He didn’t defend Himself against the injustice of it all. Instead, the first words from His lips are, “Father, forgive them.” Forgiveness. This is why Jesus came into the world – to forgive sins. When Joseph wondered what to do about Mary when she was pregnant, the angel reassured him and said, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” This first word of Christ on the cross brings great joy to sinners like you and me. We cannot out-sin His grace. And just as He interceded for the sinners of His day, so He continues to lovingly intercede for you and me today. Hebrews 7:25 says, “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Hallelujah! What a Saviour. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will forgive your sins for the sake of Jesus Christ and give thanks that Jesus is your great High Priest Who continues to intercede for you. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 12 - Jesus’ joy

But now I am coming to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. - John 17:13 Scripture reading: John 17:1-13 Jesus prayed that we would have His joy. What does that look like? How are we to understand His joy, much less experience it? First, Jesus’ joy is a holy joy. It is, if I may put it this way, a “serious” joy. It is not flippant. It is not showy or boisterous. It is not produced. It is the joy that results in being in fellowship with the Father. And that is precisely what Christ has accomplished for us – fellowship with the Father. He has the joy of that fellowship and prays that you and I may have the same joy. Second, when Jesus speaks of His joy, He is speaking of the joy that comes from Himself. As we’ve already seen, Jesus is the source of all joy. It is impossible to have true, lasting joy apart from Jesus. Third, Jesus’ joy is a joy completely independent of earthly circumstances. Jesus was about to be crucified and He knew it, but that didn’t affect His joy. He would soon be leaving His disciples in this world full of hatred, anger and murderous intent. Yet, He prayed that they would be more than conquerors filled to overflowing with His joy. And that is His prayer for you and me. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will be able to know Jesus' joy in spite of your circumstances. Rejoice that though you were once alienated from God, in Christ you’ve been reconciled. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 11 - Joy in this world

But now I am coming to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.- John 17:13 Scripture reading: John 17:1-13 In John 17, just before His arrest, trial and crucifixion, Jesus prayed to the Father with the disciples listening in. Often referred to as His High Priestly prayer, Jesus prayed several petitions for His followers. He was fully aware of what was about to transpire, yet one of His petitions was that the disciples would have His joy. In spite of His imminent crucifixion, Jesus had joy. There are some people who think that being a Christian is a joyless life in which you will miss out on all the fun. Or they say that whatever joy a Christian might experience will only be in the future. Satan, the father of lies, would have us think that we’re missing out. But that clearly isn’t Jesus’ position. Remember that Jesus had just said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Jesus intentionally prayed this prayer in the disciples hearing so that they would have His joy immediately. Yes, Jesus has gone to prepare a place for them (and us), and our eternal existence in the “new heavens and the new earth” will be joyful beyond our imagining. But it isn’t only for that future that He has redeemed us. We are to enjoy the blessings of our redemption in this world as well as in the world to come. And one of those blessings is joy. The Christian is meant to be joyful today. Suggestions for prayer Be thankful that your future is one of joy unimaginable and pray that you will experience the true foretaste of that joy today. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 10 - The fruit of joy (ii)

…rejoice that your names are written in heaven. - Luke 10:20 Scripture reading: Luke 10:1-10 The reason that joy is a fruit of the Spirit is because the Spirit always brings us back to Jesus. When Jesus was comforting His disciples, He told them that after His departure, the Holy Spirit would come. He said, “He (the Spirit) will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14). The Holy Spirit’s primary purpose is to reveal, to shine the light on Jesus. Where Jesus is preached, where Jesus is praised, where Jesus is glorified, there the Spirit is at work. And since Christ is the ultimate source of joy, joy is an inevitable fruit of the Spirit. We have a tendency to find joy in lesser things – our marriage, our work, sports and recreation, our children or grandchildren, etc. We might even find joy in “spiritual” things like our church, our teaching responsibilities or our serving as office-bearers. But even here Jesus sets us straight: Luke 10 tells us that Jesus sent out His followers on a mission and gave them extraordinary, miraculous powers. They went out into the villages and were able to heal diseases and cast out demons. When they returned to Jesus they were filled with joy because they were able to do all these things. But Jesus reoriented their focus and said, “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that your pastor would faithfully preach Christ and Him crucified and give thanks that your name has been written in the Book of Life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 9 - The fruit of joy (i)

But the fruit of the Spirit is… joy…- Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Galatians 5:16-25 My family and I lived in Hawaii for seven years. We lived on the island of Kauai, nicknamed “The Garden Island.” In our backyard, we had a lime tree, an orange tree and a few banana trees. Every year, without fail, we enjoyed the fruit that those trees produced. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he used this same agricultural reality as a metaphor to describe the results of being in the Spirit. These are, as he calls them, “the fruit of the Spirit.” His list describes what I should expect to experience as a Christian and see in other Christians. Where the Holy Spirit is, these Spiritual characteristics, to some extent, will be present also. Paul’s list is not set forth in a loose and arbitrary way. There is a purposeful order and inter-connectedness. Love is the first fruit and out of love flows joy; and out of love and joy flows peace, etc. Joy is the disposition of one’s personality toward cheerfulness that is rooted in Christ. And since joy is a fruit of the Spirit, we may rightly conclude that the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, is not a grump – or a Scrooge, or a Grinch. He is God. And God is joyful. That is why, when the people in Nehemiah’s day wept over their sins, he comforted them with this very truth. He said, “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah8:10b). Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Spirit’s fruit of joy would be present and growing in your life and repent if you’ve given the impression to others that the Spirit is a grump. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 8 - Joy in tribulation

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.- James 1:2 Scripture reading: James 1:1-8 Hardship in life is never fun, but we all have these “trials of various kinds.” Five and a half years ago, when my doctor informed me that I had cancer, my whole existence was jolted. After getting over the shock, I started thinking “I want to be at my children’s weddings” and “I want to hold my grandchildren.” I shed tears and wondered about my uncertain future. Five months later I underwent major surgery that removed the cancer. Thankfully, I have been “clean” ever since. But how can you “count it all joy” when you hear such news? Or when your child dies? Or when you lose your job? The unbeliever finds this incredible. Instead of joy, he will get angry at life. Or she will drown her pain in drugs or alcohol. But the child of God knows that nothing happens by chance, but everything comes from God’s fatherly hand. God’s purposes are always for our good (Romans 8:28). They are productive, not destructive, moulding us into the image of Christ. When you experience trials, it isn’t bad luck. Rather, God is working to make you beautiful – your dross to consume and your gold to refine. During those five months of uncertainty about my health, God strengthened my heart. Far from shaking my fist at God, by His grace, I rested in His goodness and faithfulness. The faith that I had always professed was confirmed and that has brought me unspeakable joy. Why? Because “the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that when the Lord sends trials in your life, He will confirm your faith and that your joyful response to hardships will be an encouragement to others. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 7 - Worship with gladness

Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence with singing! - Psalm 100:2 Scripture reading: Psalm 100:1-6 Since joy in our salvation carries over to joy in all God’s blessings, it is not surprising that when the psalmist writes about worship he often includes joy. Throughout the Psalms, God’s people are often instructed to lift up their voices in praise. Think, for example, of how often the word “Hallelujah” is used in the Psalms. Psalms 113-118 are called the “Hallel” Psalms and the final five Psalms (146-150) all end with the same word, “Hallelujah.” Hallelujah means “Let us praise the Lord.” It seems to me that joy is an essential ingredient in praise. Praise is the believer’s joyful response to who God is and what He has done. I cannot help but wonder what is happening in a person’s heart when we begin worship with singing that great hymn “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” and it looks as though he or she is singing about their next dentist appointment. I cannot judge such a thing, but it appears as though there’s little praise going on. When you gather for worship, are you “serving the Lord with gladness?” To praise the Lord with joy does not mean that the Christian never experiences sorrow or pain. In fact, true repentance means there is a real sorrow for our sins. But even so, the believer’s sorrow should never be separated from the conviction that, as the hymn writer so beautifully penned, “It is well with my soul.” Christ has overcome and I am His. That conviction cannot help but overflow into joyful praise! Suggestions for prayer Pray that as you worship today, your worship would be a sincere response of joyful praise to God who is worthy, and that not only you, but your church congregation would have the reputation of worshipping the Lord with gladness. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 6 - Joy in God’s revelation

In the way of Your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches… I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget Your Word.- Psalm 119:14,16 Scripture reading: Psalm 119:1-16 While joy in our salvation in Christ is the fountain, that joy naturally carries over to all the blessings we have in Christ. The Christian’s joy is multi-faceted. We find joy in the reality that we’ve been saved and justified in Christ Jesus, but as a result, we find joy in all aspects of Christian life. We recognize that because we are in Christ, all that we are and have are blessings from God. These increase our joy. And one of those blessings is His Word. The Psalmist in Psalm 119 delights in God’s Word. God’s Word always has been and continues to be a source of joy to God’s people. Meditating on God’s written revelation will bring joy to the Christian. But what is it about the Word of God that causes the Psalmist, and us, to delight in it? First, the primary purpose of God’s Word is to reveal to us the way of salvation. After Adam and Eve sinned, God promised that the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head (Genesis3:15). The rest of the Bible tells us how God has fulfilled that promise, culminating in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Second, the Bible is the clearest revelation of God. In God’s Word, God tells us about Himself. Third, the Bible instructs us on the kind of life that is pleasing to God. We delight in God’s Word because our natural reaction to our supernatural salvation from God is to love Him and live for Him. And God’s Word tells us what that looks like. Suggestions for prayer Pray that when you read the Bible, the Holy Spirit would open your mind and heart to understand and thatGod’s Word would be your delight. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 5 - Joy in the God of my salvation

I will take joy in the God of my salvation. - Habakkuk 3:18b Scripture reading: Habakkuk 3:1-19 When the Bible speaks of our joy, we discover that it is the Christian’s response to all the blessings we have from God. But the wellspring, the fount of joy is our salvation in Jesus Christ. For example, James instructs us to “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…” (James 1:2). But we cannot be joyful in our trials apart from our salvation in Christ. In Psalm 119 the Psalmist says that he delights in God’s Word, in God’s commands and in God’s testimonies. But we cannot find joy in God’s revelation without being in Christ. At the end of Luke’s gospel, just after Jesus’ ascension, we read that His disciples “worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:52). But we cannot worship joyfully apart from being in Christ. Habakkuk was a prophet during very difficult days. In the short, Old Testament book of Habakkuk the prophet raises complaints to God about the sorry state of affairs in Judah. He is burdened because God seems to be indifferent to the appalling spiritual condition of His people (Habakkuk 1:2-4). But after God answers his complaints, Habakkuk responds with those beautiful words, “I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Is that your joy? God sent His only begotten Son to save you. He is the God of your salvation. Do you take joy in Him? Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would impress on you His great love for you. So great is His love that He gave Jesus to be your salvation. Pray that your joy would be evident and recognized by others. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 4 - Joy & peace

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.- John 16:33 Scripture reading: John 16:25-33 Being a Christian does not mean you become immune to the hardships of life. Anyone who’s lived long enough knows that we suffer pain and sickness, financial hardships, death of family or friends, inter-personal conflicts and are scorned by the world for holding Biblical convictions. Granted, there are some false teachers that preach a “health and wealth” gospel, but they didn’t learn that from Jesus. He made it clear that if they persecuted Him, they will persecute His followers. And, in the passage above, He says, “in this world you will have tribulation.” Not “might have,” but “will have.” But Jesus then says “take heart.” Do not wallow in your hardships. Do not despair. Take heart! He isn’t saying “just grin and bear it.” He tells us that He has overcome the world. The hurts and pains we experience are temporary. As Paul says in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Why? Because Christ has overcome the world and He will make all things new. This truth affords the Christian a “peace that passes understanding” because by faith the Christian can see beyond the present circumstances. And that, in turn, brings great joy to the believer. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would remove the hardships, or reconcile the conflicts in your life and that if it is His will to allow these to remain, you will trust in the future grace of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 3 - Abide in me

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.- John 15:11 Scripture reading: John 15:1-11 In chapters 13-17 of John’s Gospel, Jesus is alone with His disciples in the upper room. These chapters are often referred to as “The Upper Room Discourse” because in them our Lord teaches and speaks words of comfort to His beloved disciples. In the middle of that discourse, Jesus tells the disciples, and us, that He is the Vine and we are the branches. Apart from Him, He says, we can do nothing. Apart from Jesus, we cannot bear fruit. Apart from Jesus, we are nothing but withering branches, only good for being “gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (v. 6). So Jesus lovingly instructs and encourage us to abide in Him. Only then will we thrive, bear fruit and live. Only then will we know the joy that Jesus promises. As we focus our attention this month on Christian joy, I want to impress on you that it is only by abiding in Christ that we can and will have joy. Romance will not bring lasting joy. Recreation and sports cannot offer lasting joy. Politics and governments cannot bring you joy. Only by abiding in Christ will you have joy. Why? Because He is the ultimate and only source of joy! To abide in Jesus means that you believe the good news of the gospel. It means that you are resting in and trusting in His righteousness, not your own. It means that you humbly embrace His atonement on your behalf – so that your joy may be full. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we would truly believe and know the comfort and joy of belonging to Jesus and that we would bear fruit for Christ’s glory and our neighbor’s good. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 2- Tidings of comfort and joy

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… – Romans 3:21-23 Scripture reading: Romans 3:9-26 Yesterday I began by saying: “I want to live in joy, and I want to die in joy.” And we saw that Jesus is the only true source of joy. But Jesus lived over 2000 years ago. How can my joy in 2019 have anything to do with Jesus? The Heidelberg Catechism is a summary of biblical teaching and begins by asking the question, “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” The answer can be summarized: “That I belong to Jesus.” But notice what the second question asks: “What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?” Then it lists three things. That is, if you desire (as I do) to live in joy and to die in joy, you need to know and understand these things: First, that I am a sinner. And not only am I a sinner, but I have no hope of earning or meriting God’s favor on my own. Because I am a sinner, I deserve only God’s punishment. Second, that God in love sent His only begotten Son to save sinners like me. There is no other Saviour but Jesus Christ and I am trusting in His salvation. Third, that my gratitude is the inevitable response to God’s grace in Christ. This gratitude is not only a feeling, but shows itself in a life of obedience to God’s will. When you know, understand and believe those three things, you will have joy. Suggestions for prayer Pray for a deeper appreciation for the gospel. Pray that the gospel will be the pillar and foundation of your church’s ministry. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 1 – Good news of great joy

Introduction April's theme is “The Christian's Joy.”Joy is the possession of every child of God. The triune God is a God of joy and the source of joy to all who trust in Him. In Deuteronomy 16:15 Moses told the children of Israel: “The Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.” Jesus told His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). And the second fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5 is “joy.” This means that those in whom the Holy Spirit dwells will possess, to some extent, joy. This month we explore this great blessing given us by God. We will distinguish between true Christian joy, which is lasting, and the fleeting “joy” of this world. We will look at what is the basis of this joy, focusing on Christ’s atonement, His words on the cross and His resurrection. And we will consider those things that hinder our joy and how God graciously restores our joy. May God bless you abundantly as you study His Word this month and may you be strengthened because“the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). **** Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.- Luke 2:10-11 Scripture reading: Luke 2:8-14 I want to live in joy and I want to die in joy. I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in this world who does not want the same thing. Joy is a desirable thing. Granted, there are people who seem to thrive on difficulty and even wallow in their unhappiness. To use a modern description, their lives have far too much drama. But I think it’s fair to say that even so, they would prefer a life of joy over their difficulties if they could find it. When the angel spoke to the shepherds at Jesus’ birth, he said, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). So it isn’t surprising that when we celebrate Christ’s birth we often see and use the word “JOY.” We find it in our decorations, on the front of Christmas cards, in our church bulletins, even on store windows. Why? Because joy and Jesus are inseparable! The good news that the angel told was joyful news; more than that, it was news of GREAT joy. The arrival of Jesus changed everything. He came on a rescue mission and He accomplished it. This means that if you desire joy, believe in and cling to Jesus. You simply will not find joy anywhere else. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Holy Spirit would use this month’s devotions to increase your joy. Pray for friends or loved ones that you know who seem to lack joy. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....