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Book excerpts, Book Reviews, People we should know, Teen non-fiction

Edith Cavell: a brave guide

Some 150 years ago, on December 4, 1865, English woman Edith Cavell was born. And 100 years ago, on October 12, 1915, during the First World War, she was executed. Instilled with a desire to please her Creator God, Edith Cavell became a nurse; she lived what she professed, and died bravely at the hands of German soldiers. Her crime? Assisting Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium. In a seemingly hopeless situation, she persevered and did not shun the victor's crown. She was a gift given by God to His Son Jesus Christ and, as such, saved for eternal life. Throughout the fifty years of Edith Cavell's life, she was content to work hard and live humbly. She was a godly woman and, therefore, a godly historical example. The Bible instructs us to teach our children about such historical examples. Psalm 78:4 reads: "We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord and His might, and the wonders that He has done." At a time in history when examples of godly women are few and far between, much needed strength and encouragement can be drawn from the life of this lady who put all her trust in Jesus Christ, her Savior. 
 The following is an excerpt from the Christine Farenhorst historical fiction novel of Edith Cavell’s life, called A Cup of Cold Water, (P&R Publishing, 2007). At this point Edith has been helping many Allied soldiers escape out of German territory.

***

December 4, 1914 - Brussels, Belgium Breakfast was generally served at an early hour in the L’Ecole Belge d’Infirmieres Diplomees, the Belgian School of Lay Nurses. Too early some of the nurses said. “It is actually 7 o’clock, you know,” José said at 6 o’clock one morning, as he bit into a thin piece of toast. Puzzled, everyone stared at him and he went on. “The Germans changed our time yesterday. We are now on German time and no longer on Belgian time. All the public clocks have been put ahead.” “Well, I’m not going to pay the slightest bit of attention,” Gracie said, glancing at her wristwatch, “That’s just plain silly.” “Well maybe,” Pauline added hopefully, “we should get up later.” She eyed Edith but Edith was looking at cook in the doorway. “Excuse me, Madame,” the cook said, “there is someone to see you in the kitchen.” Edith got up, wiped her mouth on a napkin and left the dining room quietly after glancing at Elisabeth Wilkins. Elisabeth nodded to her, indicating that she would supervise while Edith was gone. Two more Louise Thuliez, one of the resistance workers Edith had come to know, was waiting in the kitchen. She had come in through the back entrance. Brown hair hidden under a kerchief, the young woman was obviously relieved when Edith walked in. Ushering her through the hall towards her own office, Edith could feel the woman’s tenseness. As soon as the door closed behind them, Louise spoke. There was urgency in her tone. “I have two men waiting to come to the clinic.” Edith nodded. “Fine. Direct them here. I’ll see to them.” Louise nodded, brusquely put out her hand, which Edith shook, and disappeared. Left alone in her small office, Edith passed her right hand over her forehead in a gesture of weariness. Running a hospital in peacetime was not easy, but running it in wartime, with mounting bills for food and medicines which would never be paid by the patients, was next to impossible. She had received some money from Reginald de Cröy and Monsieur Capiau but the men who had been sent to her regularly since Monsieur Capiau’s first appearance all had hearty appetites. Resources were at the breaking point. With a glance at the calendar, she saw it was her birthday and with a pang she realized that it would be the first year she had not received letters from Mother, Flo, Lil, Jack and cousin Eddie. She swallowed. Jack growled softly and she looked out the window. Two men were approaching the walkway. Bracing herself, she smoothed her hair, patted the dog and went out into the hall to await their knock. Although most of the men sent to the school only stayed one or two nights, some of them stayed a longer. As Edith awaited the arrival of the new refugees, she wondered how long she would need to provide them with shelter. If they were ill, they would be nursed right alongside German patients. Many of the nurses in the school were unaware of what was going on. All they saw were extra patients — bandaged, limping and joking patients. The Café Chez Jules was situated right next to the school. To recuperating soldiers, as well as to idle men with nothing to do for a few days, it became a favorite gathering place. The Café served watered-down wine and at its tables the men played cards, chatted and lounged about. But even if the Germans were not yet suspicious, word quickly spread around the Belgian neighborhood that Allied soldiers were hiding in the nursing school. Once again, as she had done so often, Edith opened the door. A short, thickset man looked Edith full in the face. “My name is Captain Tunmore, sole survivor of the First Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment.” He spoke with a heavy English accent. “And this,” Captain Tunmore went on, indicating the man at his side, “is Private Lewis of the Cheshire Regiment. Password is yorc. We’re both looking to get across to border.” Edith shook their hands. They were a little nonplused that this small, frail-looking lady whose hand totally disappeared in their grasp, was rumored to be so tough. Captain Tunmore, noting a picture on the wall, remarked, “Hey, that’s Norwich Cathedral!” “Do you know Norwich?” Edith asked. “It’s my home. I was born on its outskirts.” Edith took another look at the man. The fact that he said that he was Norfolk born, gave her, for just a small moment, the feeling that she was home, that she was looking into her mother’s face. “Well, gentlemen,” she smiled, “I’m afraid you’ll have to spend Christmas here with us as there is no guide to take you until after the twenty-fifth.”

***

Captain Tunmore and Private Lewis had come without identity cards. Edith, consequently, took photographs of the men herself and had contacts make identity cards for them. After Christmas, she arranged to have them travel towards Antwerp in a wagon but they were discovered and barely made it back safely to the clinic a few days later. Edith, therefore, prepared to guide them out of Brussels herself. “Gentlemen, be ready at dawn tomorrow. I’ll take you to the Louvain road. From there you’re on your own.” “I was thirsty…” At daybreak, Edith taking the lead and the men following her at a discreet distance, the trio made their way to a road outside of Brussels. Once there, Edith passed the soldiers a packet of food as well as an envelope of money. “In case you need to bribe someone – or in case you get a chance to use the railway,” she said. Shaking their hands once again, she turned and disappeared into the mist. On the walk back, Edith reminisced about how she had walked these very paths as a young governess with her young charges. It now seemed ages ago that they had frolicked about her, collecting insects, drawing, running and pulling at her arm to come and see some plant which they had found. Now she understood that God, in His infinite wisdom, had used that time to intimately acquaint her with this area. How very strange providence was! At the time she had sometimes felt, although she loved the children dearly, that her task as a governess was unimportant – trivial perhaps. Yet it had equipped her for the role she now played. Smiling to herself she thought, “Why am I surprised? After all, does not the Bible say that it is important to be faithful over a few things. A noise to her left interrupted her reverie and she slowed down. A German guard suddenly loomed next to her. “Halt! Papieren, bitte — Stop! Papers, please.” Silently she took them out and waited. He waved her on after a moment and she resumed her way. What would her father have thought about these activities, she wondered? “Out so early, my Edith?” she imagined him asking. “Yes, father. Just a little matter of helping some soldiers escape to the front lines. If they are found, you see, they’ll be sent to an internment camp somewhere, or they might be shot.” “What about you, my Edith?” “Oh, don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. And besides, what else can I do? These men, these refugee soldiers, father, they just come to me. They arrive on my doorstep and look so helpless, so afraid that I will turn them away.” “Well, my Edith, you are doing right. Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, child: “I was thirsty and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in.” “I remember, father. I remember.” “And in the end ... in the end, Edith, He will say ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” “I know, father.” No time for childhood Throughout the spring of that new year, 1915, Edith continued to rise early on the mornings that soldiers were to leave for the frontier. English, French, and Belgians – they were all men eager to leave so that they could help the Allies. Between five and seven in the morning, she would accompany the men to the planned rendezvous point with the next guide, generally a tramway terminus or a point in some street. Arriving back after one such venture, in the early days of March, she found Elisabeth waiting for her in her office with a very guilty-looking Pauline and José at her side. “What is the trouble?” Edith asked as she took off her coat. “Would you like me to tell her, or shall I?” Elisabeth’s voice was angry. José shuffled his feet but he met Edith’s gaze head-on. Then he spoke. “I encouraged all the families on Rue Darwin to set their alarm clocks at the same time. I told them to set it for six o’clock in the morning, the time I knew a single patrol would be passing.” He stopped. Edith sighed. “And,” she encouraged, “what happened?” “Well, when all the alarms went off at the same time, the soldier jumped a mile into the air. You should have seen– ” “Was anyone hurt?” Edith interrupted him. “No, no one,” Pauline took over, “everyone only let their alarms ring for five seconds exactly. After that they shut them off at the same time. It was deathly quiet in the streets and all the people watched the silly soldier through their curtains as he looked behind him and around corners and pointed his silly rifle at nothing. We laughed so hard.” Edith sat down. “Do you have any idea what could have happened if that soldier had shot up at a window? Or if he had kicked open a door and ...” She paused. They really had no idea about the seriousness of the times in which they were living. She sighed again and went on. Pauline looked down at the floor and José appeared fascinated with the wall. “You ought to know better than anyone, José, how dangerous it was what you did. After all, you have come with me many times to help soldiers find their way through and out of Brussels so that they can escape to safety. War is not a game.”

***

After they left her office, thoroughly chastened, Edith sat down at her desk, put her head into her hands and wept. Childhood seemed such a long way off and the Germans were stealing much more than blackberry pie. [caption id="attachment_11944" align="alignleft" width="1280"] Edith Cavell's death was memorialized on propaganda posters like this one.[/caption]

Family, Movie Reviews

The Wild Brothers: 8-episode DVD series (+ free vlog series)

Reality / Documentary Each episode is 28-30 min / 2015-2016 Rating: 7/10 Everyone in our family enjoyed this DVD series, from our 2-year-old all the way up to mom and dad. At series start, the Wild family lives in the deep jungles of Papua, Indonesia, where dad is a missionary to the Wanu tribe. The four Wild brothers are the sort of boys who collect pets in their pockets, and who love to explore the jungle with a butterfly net in one hand and a slingshot in the other. In their first adventure, titled Welcome to our World, we get introduced to the family, and the boys introduce us to God’s creation. We go hunting with them, we’re introduced to their best friend, a native Indonesian child named Pu, and we get to watch their facial expressions as Pu introduces them to a local delicacy, raw echidna brain. A fun extra is the boys skinning a ten-foot python that even after it has been dead for an hour is still moving! The second in the series, called Jewels of the Jungle, follows the family as they go butterfly and moth-hunting. Our girls wanted to buy butterfly nets of their own after that one. Then in the third, Paradise Lost, the family is on vacation with another missionary couple, the Browns, and their three girls. My own girls love this series even though it is all about boys, but I think they appreciated how the girl-to-boy ratio was upped for this adventure. The two families head from the inland missions to on the coast of a beautiful island. From this home base they head out each day to explore reefs and bays and check out sea turtles, manta rays, and sea snakes and so many gorgeous fish. Some misadventures also occur, some painful, like mom getting stung by a jellyfish, and some hilarious, like the boys contending with a large snake (8-12 feet long) that decided to take up residence in their cabin roof. As they do in each episode, the boys bring a solid Christian perspective to their exploration: when they come across an old bone deposit – a burial grounds where skulls are haphazardly stacked by each other – they take the opportunity to talk about how despite the beauty of this world, it is still fallen, and waiting for restoration. There are five other episodes, and each is just as interesting as the next. The only disappointment is maybe in the way the series concludes. In the last two episodes they are make preparations to sail across the ocean in a giant canoe. It is fascinating, as they carve the boat out with local help, and point out parallels to what Noah had to do. But because this is real life, and because in real life sometimes plans get upended, the finale doesn't end on the triumphant note we might have wished for. Cautions There are no cautions to note. While it isn’t clear what denominational background the family is from, the Christian reflections the boys and their parents share with viewers are thoughtful and solid. In one episode a brief shot of some human skulls is seen, and an encounter with a snake in the extra features of one episode was just a tiny bit scary for my little ones. That said, my girls, at the time 2 though 6, enjoyed this immensely – that little bit of tension didn't scare them away! Conclusion The Wild Brothers are very adventurous boys, the sort who play with bugs, and even eat the odd one now and again...at least when they are properly cooked! And they are very godly boys too, very aware of how God makes Himself evident in the creation all around us. And while they are boys, this was exciting for me girls too – I don't know that they fully appreciate bugs yet, but this did move them in that direction. I'd recommend this as great viewing for families with young kids from 10 and under. Mom and dad will enjoy it too, but there might not be enough action for the teenagers. You can buy the series on DVD or via download at AnswersInGenesis.org and as DVDs at Amazon. The trailer below is for the first episode, Welcome to our World. Addendum: free vlog series The Wild Brothers also now have a free vlog series, called "Highlands to Island" that you can find here. While you should watch the first episode, my daughters and I found the later episodes, from maybe 8 onward (there are 30 so far) more interesting than the first few. The vlog isn't quite the DVD series, but until new DVDs come out, this sure is a nice way to reconnect with this wonderful missionary family. https://assets.answersingenesis.org/vid/prod/etc/trailer/30-9-507_wild-brothers-1-trailer.mp4

Pro-life - Euthanasia

They shoot horses, don't they?

If the stress of euthanizing animals drives some vets to suicide, what will happen to euthanasia doctors?

****

Every year, about 1.5 million cases of euthanasia take place in the United States. Does this have a negative impact on healthcare workers? Sorry, about 1.5 million cases of cat and dog euthanasia take place. But the question is still relevant. Veterinarians, veterinary assistants and shelter workers experience great stress at having to put animals down. Vets are idealists. They love animals and choose a career so that they can help them. Instead, many find that a significant part of their daily routine is killing animals, often for frivolous or utilitarian reasons. Bernard E. Rollin, a philosopher at Colorado State University who specializes in veterinary ethics, recently observed: The consequences are manifest. One recent study showed that one in six veterinarians has considered suicide. Another found an elevated risk of suicide in the field of veterinary medicine. Being asked to kill healthy animals for owner convenience doubtless is a major contribution. What makes the vets so uncomfortable with the deaths of cats and dogs? Professor Rollin attributes it to a condition which he has called “moral stress” which “grows out of the radical conflict between one's reasons for entering the field of animal work, and what one in fact ends up doing.” With euthanasia, or assisted suicide, or both, legal in seven jurisdictions in the United States, plus Canada, the Netherland, Belgium and Luxembourg, it’s worthwhile examining the experiences of vets to see what the future may hold for doctors. The emotional connection between the work of human doctors and animal doctors is closer than you might think. Rollin points out that most pet owners feel that their companion animals are “part of the family.” In some surveys the proportion reaches 95 percent. Owners often react to a pet’s death with the intensity of grief which appears equivalent to the loss of a beloved relative. So the moral stress which vets experience is relevant. Rollin points out that moral stress is different from other kinds of workplace stress, which can be relieved with psychological techniques. Furthermore, normal avenues for alleviating stress are not available in this area. Whereas if one is stressed by normal stressors, standard stress management vehicles are quite helpful, for example relaxation techniques or talking it out with peers and family, these modalities are not available for moral stress. He explains that vets may not be supported when they try to share the stress of having to kill animals. As one woman who worked in a shelter told me, "I tried to explain to my husband at dinner that I had killed the nicest dog earlier in the day. He responded by clapping his hands over his ears and telling me he did not want to hear about it." If the stress is not handled properly, it can have very serious consequences for their health. The eventual effect of such long-term, unalleviated stress is likely to be deterioration of physical and mental health and well-being, substance abuse, divorce, and even, as I encountered on a number of occasions, suicide. Suicide amongst vets has been the topic of several studies. “Veterinarians are four times more likely than members of the general population and two times more likely than other health professionals to die by suicide,” according to a 2012 study in the journal of The American Association of Suicidology, Suicide and Life-Threatening Behaviour. Australian research found that “veterinarians who perform a greater number of euthanasias each week experience greater levels of job stress than those who perform less” – and job stress is a significant factor in suicide. Why? Performing euthanasia day in, day out, also appears to make some vets less able to resist the temptation to commit suicide. The authors of the 2012 study found that: ... individuals who have had more experience with euthanasia were less fearful regarding the prospect of their own death, and this was accounted for by the diminished distress about euthanasia that comes with repeated exposure ... That performing euthanasia is something relatively unique to the veterinary profession may explain why veterinarians die by suicide more often than members of other professions ... ... all else being equal, veterinarians may be more likely than members of other professions to enact a lethal attempt when they desire suicide because their exposure to euthanasia has rendered them less fearful of death. Aren’t there lessons in these finding which are relevant to doctors who euthanize their patients? Sometimes doctors in Belgium or the Netherlands are quoted as saying that the death they helped was beautiful or peaceful. Could that be bravado masking their own nonchalance about human death? No matter how much affection people feel for their companion animals, the similarity between veterinary euthanasia and human euthanasia is far from being exact. But there are lessons to be learned. How many times have we all heard the argument, “They shoot horses, don’t they?” Its logic is that if the suffering of animals and humans is essentially the same, they both should be released from suffering in the same way. “You wouldn’t let a dog suffer like this...” But if the animal-human parallel works for the patient, why not the doctor? If we allow euthanasia, surely we can expect the same burn-out rates and the same suicide rates as veterinarians ... at least the same. That should scare us all – especially the doctors who will be responsible.

This article by Michael Cook was originally published on MercatorNet.com under a Creative Commons Licence. MercatorNet.com is not Reformed, but holds to a general Judeo-Christian outlook, defending the inherent dignity of Man. If you enjoyed this article, you can find many more like it at MercatorNet.com. 

Assorted

On tidying up with and without Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo has been famous in Japan for almost a decade, but only gained fame in North America in 2014 when an English translation of her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was released here. Then at the beginning of 2019 Netflix released an 8-episode series Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, and since then her name has been everywhere. I started watching the series mostly out of sheer curiosity. I saw articles floating around the Internet back when her first book came out, and again when the Netflix show aired, so I decided to see what all the hype was about. After two episodes, here’s what I learned. Don't hoard I’m really glad I watched this show at this particular season in my life. I just got married a few months ago, and I am in the fun and overwhelming process of setting up our home. I’m organizing, decorating, and decluttering. I am making a lot of decisions that are going to impact the way that our family is run in the future. I can so easily see myself accumulating a house full of stuff over the years and then feeling overwhelmed. Getting to step into the lives of the people on the show for a few minutes was a wake-up call for my own life! I want my possessions to serve me, not for me to serve them – that’s why I don’t want to have too many things, disorganized things, or be a slave to the idea of a perfect home. Things really do spark joy Marie Kondo says her tidying approach is inspired in part by the Shinto religion. So when she speaks about keeping possessions that “spark joy” that might sound a little too mystic. But some things really do spark joy and that’s okay! God gives us good gifts to enjoy. Every morning, I make my espresso and drink it from mugs that I got from Target. They are from Joanna Gaines’ Hearth and Hand collection. I get a little spark of joy every time I get to use one.  God delights in our delight, just as we delight in a small child’s joy over a silly toy. We don’t care much about the toy itself, but we love taking part in their delight. Folding I learned how to fold my shirts in a really cool way, so they all stand upright in my drawer. Boom. Be grateful As a Christian, I have to evaluate what Marie does through God’s perspective. I don’t believe in “greeting” a house, thanking items of clothing, or even living as minimalistically as possible. These ideas come from Marie’s worldview of Eastern mysticism. However, I still found those scenes powerful. Marie thanked an inanimate shirt, with no ability to hear or appreciate her (Ps. 135:17). But what she got right, and what I too often forget, is that a shirt is something to be grateful for. What would it look like for me to thank God for the house I live in? What would it look like for me to thank God in prayer when I throw something out? Gratitude changes our hearts from feeling discontented when we have to leave Joanna’s cute home décor at Target, to feeling grateful for the things God has abundantly given. As Charles Spurgeon said: “It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.” Love the Giver Taking that idea a step further, we need to lift our eyes to the One who has given us these gifts. What if God gives you these gifts as a reminder of His love, to draw your affections to Him? John Piper says that God gives us good gifts… “to be with us as our all-satisfying Treasure and Father and Friend and Savior.” We all would cringe at a story of a man who proposed to a woman, and the woman’s response was to fawn over the ring and never thank and love the giver! We get that concept on a human level, but do we believe it about God? Pray for what I need One of the things I want to grow in, is the discipline of praying for items I need. Instead of having constant feelings of want, what if I learned to wait expectantly for God to provide? I would not only be more grateful for the things God provides, but I would be more likely to link those blessings to the Giver Himself. As Augustine once said, “God could have bestowed these things upon us without our prayers, but He wished that by our prayers, we should be taught from where those benefits come.”

Rachel Tenney and her husband blog at bytesizedtheology.com where a version of this article first appeared. It is reprinted here with permission.


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Daily devotional

February 25 – Qoph: Reliance

“Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O LORD, according to your justice give me life.” – Psalm 119:149 Scripture reading: Psalm 119:145-152 With his enemies attacking, the psalmist cries out to God to answer him (145), to save him (146) and to grant him help (148). In return for deliverance, he promises obedience to God’s law. He doesn’t believe God will deliver him because of what he will do. Rather, he describes what has already been central in his life – a devotion to God, a love for His law and a desire to serve. In thankful covenant response, he has been continually meditating on God’s Word. Every day, he is deep in God’s Word well before dawn: “I rise before the dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise” (148,149). He is and always will be up and at it before the sun rises. Thus, the psalmist expresses confidence that the LORD will answer his cries willingly. First, he relies on God’s love and justice. “Hear my voice, according to your steadfast love; O LORD, according to your justice give me life” (149). According to His mercy and having sworn an oath by Himself, because there is nothing greater by which to swear, God will keep His word. Second, the psalmist relies on God’s nearness (150,151). Even when deep in enemy territory, even when the enemy taunts, “Where is your God, now?”, the psalmist depends on the truth that God is always near. Third, he relies on the LORD’s faithfulness (152). Enemies, powers, civilizations, come and go, rise and fall. But God is as dependable as the sun rising every morning. God’s covenant promises are absolutely reliable. Suggestions for prayer Call upon the Lord, on the basis of His promises, for the sake of Jesus Christ, to help you in your needs. Plead on His faithfulness and nearness, to grant you forgiveness of your sins and to guide you by the Holy Spirit in the renewal of your life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 24 – Tsadhe (2): Righteous by faith

“My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words…Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.” – Psalm 119:139, 144 Scripture reading: Romans 1:16-25 In this stanza, we see that the psalmist is in agreement with that greatest of scholars, the apostle Paul himself, and with the greatest of his writings, the book of Romans. He is also especially in agreement with the central theme of Scriptures, the gospel of salvation, which is, “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16,17). Through faith, by God’s grace alone, we can be righteous. Washed through the cleansing of Christ’s blood and filled with Christ’s righteousness, we are blessed with salvation and life forever. Also, filled with the Spirit, we walk in newness of life and begin already in this life to live in the righteous (obedient) deeds of thankfulness. We are conceived and born in sin and thus subject to all sorts of misery in this life, even to condemnation: “I am small and despised” (141), and, “Trouble and anguish have found me out” (143). Nevertheless, we experience the coming to life of the new nature, the rebirth, regeneration and renewal through the Holy Spirit, so that “zeal consumes me” (139) and “your commandments are my delight” (143). Further. “Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it” (140)! By the grace of God, working faith, we are saved from sin and misery and God’s law is our joy and delight! Suggestions for prayer Pray that God fills you continually with His Holy Spirit so that you are assured of your righteousness before God through faith alone and that you are zealous for good deeds in His kingdom. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 23 – Tsadhe (1): Righteousness

“Righteous are you, O LORD, and right are your rules…Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true.” – Psalm 119:137, 142 Scripture reading: Psalm 119:137-144 This is one of the letters the psalmist has been eagerly waiting for as he writes this psalm. It begins one of the greatest words of Scripture: righteousness. Three of the eight verses in this stanza begin with this letter, and it is found two more times as well. The theme of this stanza speaks for itself! God is righteous! That’s how the stanza begins. His law is righteous forever (144). That’s how it ends. His righteousness is righteous forever (142)! What else could it be? In the book of Revelation the holy God is revealed as righteous and just, Who exacts His holy wrath and vengeance against evil and the evil one. God pours out the bowls of His wrath against His enemies and the enemy of His church (Revelation 16:5,7). God’s wrath is pure and right. He judges the wicked righteously (Revelation 19:2). When you go to church today, realize what is happening…or better yet, what is allowed to happen! We sinners are being invited into the presence of the holy and just God! Since God is righteous, that should never be allowed. But it is, because God sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus’ payment covers God’s wrath. Jesus Christ bore the fullness of God’s wrath for His people, so that we may become righteous and holy, and enjoy God’s presence and blessing forever! As we are justified through faith, let us also seek to grow in sanctified living. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks that it is possible to be in the presence of our holy and righteous God. Pray earnestly for the forgiveness of your sins. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 22 – Pe: Revelation

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make your face shine upon your servant and teach me your statutes.” – Psalm 119:130, 135  Scripture reading: Psalm 119:129-136 In giving His law, God revealed Himself to us. He is being intimate with us, so that whenever we read the Bible, or listen to His law, we discover something about God. We know Him more. We know His holiness, justice, majesty, power, etc., filling us with awe. “Your testimonies are wonderful” (129). Though He is great and we are small, yet God has created us in His image and seeks to intimately commune with us in covenant relationship. Equally amazing is the revelation that God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He turns His face toward us in tender compassion. “Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name” (132). “Make your face shine upon your servant” (135). We are reminded of the Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:24-26). God is blessing us when He gives His law. “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (130). How sad when God looks down upon mankind and sees unbelief and disobedience! “My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law” (136). It is spiritual adultery. Ultimately, God has revealed His love for us by sending His Son, Who died on the cross because He loved those whom God had given. He looked on us with compassion, saying, “Father, forgive them.” Are we not amazed at the tender love of our God? Does not His intimacy cause us to “open our mouths” (131) in responsive praise to God? Suggestions for prayer Pray that God reveals Himself to you through His law and Word. Ask that you respond with whole-hearted affection and love for Him. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 21 – Ayin: Action

“I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors…It is time for the LORD to act, for your law has been broken.” – Psalm 119:121, 126  Scripture reading: Psalm 119:121-128 Three times the same word comes up in this section, using the stanza letter, shaping the stanza’s theme. It can be translated “act.” God is a God of action. Ultimately, He has reached out to mankind with the promise of salvation. Graciously, He promised a Saviour and God has followed through by sending the Redeemer. His covenant actions mean salvation. As a covenant child, the psalmist has sought to obey God’s commandments and followed the covenant demands. He loves God and his neighbor not just in words, but also in deeds. He has sought the Lord in his times of need. His responsive actions indicate faithful thankfulness. So, why then does the psalmist continue to experience oppression and hatred from God’s enemies? Why doesn’t God seem to deal with his servant according to His steadfast love? The psalmist cries out his complaint. Isn’t it a valid complaint? Why do we suffer at times? Why doesn’t God vindicate us now, today, against that which or the one who afflicts us? In some ways, the questions are left unanswered and the complaints go unheeded. But the psalmist, in the end, trusts His heavenly Father. Things may not go well all the time, things may be unfair on occasion, but God is sovereign, true and faithful always. The psalmist rightfully complains, but he also rightfully trusts and patiently waits. The psalmist will stay true to God in every circumstance, knowing that God is all-wise and perfectly just. God will act exactly according to His plan. Suggestions for prayer In true faith and humility, do not be afraid to bring your complaints to God. At the same time, pray for trust and patience in all circumstances. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 20 – Samekh (2): Justice

“You spurn all who go astray from your statutes, for their cunning is in vain. All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies.” – Psalm 119:118-119  Scripture reading: Psalm 119:113-120 God is not only merciful; He is also just. He is also holy and righteous. “Our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). “For we know him who said, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:30,31). Sin against God and His law, therefore, provokes God’s holy and righteous wrath. It is because of His wrath against sin that God promised and sent a Saviour. He sent His only Son to deal with His righteous wrath against sin, by placing it on Jesus in our place. Therefore, to live in God’s sight while not depending on His mercy is to invoke and invite His wrath. God “will spurn all who go astray from your statutes, for their cunning is in vain” (118). “All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross” (119). All evildoers will “depart” (115) from God and His holiness and His holy people. There is no place for disobedience in God’s sight. This is also true for the hypocrite, the actor, the play-Christian. In line with Psalm 139, the psalmist expresses his hatred for those whom God also hates. “I hate the double-minded” (113). God is holy. The appropriate response to God’s majesty and holiness is holy fear. “My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments” (120). When that holy fear of God is combined with respectful obedience and living thankfulness, there you have a living Christian. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God gives you a balanced understanding of His mercy and wrath, so that you live each day in humble thankfulness, holy fear and respectful obedience. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 19 – Samekh (1): Mercy

“You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word...Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually!” – Psalm 119:114, 117 Scripture reading: Psalm 119:113-120 From this stanza is it clear that there are two sides to God. On the one hand, He is just. “You spurn all who go astray from your statutes…All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross” (118,119). On the other hand, He is merciful, “You are my hiding place and my shield” (114). It’s also clear on which side of God the psalmist wants to be – the side of His mercy! That God shows mercy means He is our hiding place and shield. He is our strong shelter in the storms of life. He protects us from the attacks of the evil one. In this way, the law reveals God’s mercy. By it, we are guarded from evil. By it, we may live (116). God will hold us up and make us safe (117). The picture is that of a loving Father Who holds us in His arms. It’s a picture of trusting children who turn to the Lord for comfort, encouragement and safety. This is wonderful covenantal language. God’s Word promises us life and assures us of His care. God is loving, gracious, and merciful. God made a promise to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden when they had fallen into sin and were in a state of sin and corruption. He promised a seed, a child, one who will be born of a woman, in order to save mankind from its state of fallenness. He promised and He delivered, sending His One and Only Son to be our Saviour. Don’t we love that side of God? Suggestions for prayer Pray that we always know and are assured that we are children of God through Christ. Let us through faith turn to Him and find help, grace and mercy in our time of need. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 18 – Nun (2): Resolve

“I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.” – Psalm 119:112  Scripture reading: Psalm 119:105-112 The psalmist is “severely afflicted…the wicked have laid a snare for ” (107,110). Nevertheless, he is resolved to overcome such challenges or afflictions and serve his God. How will he outface such challenges? By learning to live according to the will of God and involving his whole being in that pursuit. He expresses a deep confidence in the power of God’s Word, and therefore he can go forward with resolve. So, he confirms his oath to keep God’s Word (106). He acknowledges his devotion by referencing his worship and sacrifices (108). He highlights his determination, “I do not forget your law…I do not stray from your precepts…your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart” (109-111). He has his heart set on obedience, “I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end” (112). The psalmist shows that his resolve to serve God involves his whole being: he offers his feet (105), his mouth (106,108), his hand (109) and his heart (111,112). He is fully and wholly committed to serving his God. It’s a picture of what God’s true Servant will do perfectly and faithfully to the end, for us, in our place. Jesus Christ came down to be our righteousness before God. Therefore, He had His eyes resolutely set on Jerusalem, for there He would go to deliver us from our sins by dying on the accursed cross. May we in response to God’s faithfulness and Christ’s righteousness, be resolved to live thankfully with our whole lives to God’s glory. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will give you a full resolve and a whole commitment to live for Him. Pray for His Holy Spirit to fill you. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 17 – Nun (1): A lamp for my feet

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” – Psalm 119:105  Scripture reading: Psalm 19 Today we live in an age of light. We enjoy the benefit of light in so many ways. Lights indicate our laptops are on and our phones are charging. Lights keep our homes safe from intruders and street lamps keep our roads safer. By means of our car’s headlights, our hand-held flashlights, our headlamps, etc., the ways in front of us are illuminated. This section of the psalmist’s prayer continues where the previous stanza left off. The psalmist continues to expound the blessing and benefit of the law, thus praising God and testifying of His love and faithfulness. The law is a lamp for his feet. It sheds light as he walks along the paths of life. The psalmist praises God for the many ways the law enlightens his life. The picture here is of an Israelite traveler walking along a darkened path. Walking along paths was treacherous at the best of times, even in daytime. Darkness only increased the dangers. The oil lamp the traveler holds keeps him from stumbling over rocks and roots, or into holes, or on snakes. It keeps him from slipping and falling or wandering off the path and becoming lost. So, the law of God directs the believer’s “feet” and keeps him from every evil “way”. Ultimately, the law reveals and points us to Jesus Christ, Who is the way, the truth, the life and the light Himself. Look to Christ, follow Christ, allow Christ to illumine your way. Let the gospel of Christ illumine your darkened community. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will enlighten your mind and heart, which are naturally darkened by sin. Ask that Jesus Christ will be revealed to you, so that you live and walk in His light. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 16 – Mem: Praise for the God of the book

“I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me.” – Psalm 119:102  Scripture reading: Psalm 119:97-104 Many churches today are limiting or even abandoning the reading of God’s law in the worship service. That is an unfortunate development. Today’s stanza shows why. This part of the psalmist’s prayer contains no requests, but consists entirely of testimony and praise to God for His law. The psalmist explains what God’s law does for him. First, the law brings delight. “Oh how I love your law!” (97) “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth…therefore I hate every false way” (103,104). The darkness and danger of worldly ways stand in stark contrast to the joy and delight of faithful living. Second, the law is a constant companion. “It is my meditation all the day…it is ever with me” (97,98). Like a good friend, the law is always at our side, teaching, admonishing and helping us to understand God, ourselves and the world. Third, the law produces wisdom. “Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies…I have more understanding than all my teachers…I understand more than the aged” (98-100). Through the law, we ordinary believers gain a wisdom greater than some of the smartest people around. Fourth, the law is a guide. “I hold back my feet from every evil way…I do not turn aside from your rules” (101). The law helps us to make good and happy decisions. Finally, the law reveals God. “For you have taught me” (102). Whatever we learn from the law, we learn from God Himself. God’s law does a lot for us. But don’t worship the book; rather, praise the Lord of the book. Suggestions for prayer Pray that when you hear God’s law in church today, you will receive it as a catalyst for praise and an opportunity to testify of God’s goodness and grace! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 15 – Lamedh: God has the whole world in his hands

“You have established the earth, and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants. If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.” – Psalm 119:90b-92  Scripture reading: Psalm 119:89-96 Without God’s help, the psalmist would have perished in his affliction. The difference between life and death is the contrast between God and man. God is in control of all things. Man is part of what is controlled. God is limitless. Man is limited. “I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad.” This contrast is accentuated in the two parts of the stanza, the word “forever” starting both parts. “Forever your word is fixed,” and “Forever I will not forget.” This contrast is emphasized further in the chiastic structure describing God’s Word: The vastness of its scope (89-91) and what it has done for me (92), then, what it has done for me (93-95) and the vastness of its scope (96). Thankfully, everything in the universe is fixed according to God’s decree. “For all things are your servants” (91). That all things serve God has a comforting spin-off for us. The Word that sustains the structure of the universe and the processes of history is the same Word that comforts and guides us, God’s servants. It’s the same Word that directed the eternal Son to become like one of us and die for our sins. It’s the same Word that sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts, working faith and preserving His saints to the end. Whatever is of this world is limited and finite. But following God’s commandments brings us beyond those limitations. If we only serve God as all things already do, we would find perfect freedom and life. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you keep looking outside of yourself to Jesus Christ and God the Father. Ask God to help you see the contrast between Himself and you, so trusting that He is in full control. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 14 – Kaph: Longing

“My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word. My eyes long for your promise; I ask, ‘When will you comfort me?’” – Psalm 119:81, 82  Scripture reading: Psalm 119:81-88 This stanza picks up on a recurring theme in the Psalms, the Scriptures and our lives: the longing for God to save and deliver us, to come to our aid and help. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1-2). “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD” (Psalm 84:1-2). Longing implies we are often going through experiences in life in which we don’t have what we naturally should have. Longing indicates we are living in a broken and fallen world. Particularly, longing reveals that the communion between God and man is severed because of sin. We long for God’s presence and comfort. Sin and sinfulness have led to all sorts of difficulty and ugliness in the lives of God’s believers. There is suffering, sickness, straying, sinning, persecutions, etc. “I have become like a wineskin in smoke” (83). Life is fraught with trouble and danger. In this brokenness, there is one thing we can cling to, one hope that we have: God’s certain Word. He has especially fulfilled His greatest word of all – to send His Son into this world to die for our sins, to restore us to Himself forever and to redeem all of creation. Therefore, our souls are consoled. In God’s steadfast love we have life! Let us, every day, find endurance and strength in God’s written Word and promises. Suggestions for prayer Long for God to save you and deliver you from your troubles. Tell God that you trust His Word and pray for comfort in His steadfast love. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 13 – Yodh: Fear God and keep his commandments

“Let those who fear you turn to me, that they may know your testimonies.” – Psalm 119:79  Scripture reading: Psalm 119:73-80 In the Bible “fear” means several things. It can refer to the terror or dread a person feels in a frightening situation. It can also point to the respect a servant has toward his master and so serves him faithfully. Finally, it can indicate the reverence and awe a person experiences in the presence of greatness. The fear of the Lord is a combination of all these. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Fearing God is in many ways the same as knowing God. Reading, learning, meditating and obeying God’s revealed Word and law leads us to that knowledge and fear of God, which in turn makes us truly wise. The fear of God is foundational to true wisdom. In this section, the psalmist desires that his fear of God, evident in his obedience, will in turn spur on others who likewise fear God. He wants others, just like him, to serve God according to His Word. He wants his actions to promote his neighbor’s life before God, not take away from it. Do you know God? By studying God’s Word and commandments you understand that He is holy and all-knowing. You learn that His Son, Jesus Christ, is Lord and Master of all and knows your works (Revelation 11:17). Those who fear the Lord have a continual awareness of Him, a deep reverence for Him and a sincere commitment to obey Him. “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will truly come to know God through the study of His Word and thus have a fear of Him, so that fearing Him, you will become wise, and that those who see your good works will also praise God and fear Him. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 12 – Teth: God is good

“You have dealt well with your servant, O LORD, according to your word…You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.” – Psalm 119:65, 68 Scripture reading: Psalm 119:65-72 God is good, no matter what happens. God turns everything to my benefit. Working with the letter “teth” the psalmist has latched on to words in Hebrew like well, good, and better. These occur frequently in this section and emphasize that God is good and that His Word and law are good too. The key is to trust and obey the Lord in every circumstance. For example, it was affliction that helped the psalmist come into a better relationship with God. “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word” (67). “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (71). Trouble and hardship have driven the believer to turn to God’s Word and promises and therefore trust in God even more! Ultimately, God’s revealed His goodness by handing over His only Son to the affliction that takes away our sins. Therefore, our response to negative events should be calm and peace. We learn to make good judgments and expound good knowledge. We open God’s Word daily and consider His will in every circumstance and seek to live by it. We rejoice always! “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (72). About God’s commandments David said, “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10). We confess, “Father, You have dealt well with me. It is well with my soul.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that God uses every circumstance in your life for good. Ask Him to open your eyes, so that you also see God’s goodness in your afflictions. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 11 – Heth: Permanence

“The LORD is my portion; I promise to keep your words…The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes.” – Psalm 119:57,64  Scripture reading: Psalm 119:57-64 Two great Old Testament words which begin with the Hebrew letter heth have the poet’s attention in this stanza. They are the words “portion” (57) and “steadfast love” (64). They set the theme here: the believer’s deep and secure relationship with the Lord. Portion describes the inheritance God gave to His people upon entering the promised land. The Israelites didn’t really own their land; it was apportioned to them by God, Who remained the owner, the Israelites serving as tenants. This was underlined when God didn’t give any land to the Levites. God was their share (Num 18:20). Today, in Christ, God graciously gives us all things (Rom 8:32). God is our portion. God is all we really want. It is God’s steadfast (unchangeable) love that brings about such a relationship and maintains it. A third word that begins with the letter heth, having a strategic place, is “statutes” (64). It’s one of the eight words for the law used regularly throughout this Psalm. Having this word for law at the end of the stanza, because of its first letter, is appropriate. However, it is equally appropriate to use this word in connection with our response to God’s grace and steadfast love. “The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes.” Also translated “decrees,” God’s law is permanent, as if carved in stone. According to God’s faithfulness, we are engraved into the palm of God’s hands and His Word is given to us as an everlasting witness. Therefore, in thankfulness, let us commit our lives to God and serve Him. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks that we have a God Whose Word is steadfast. Pray that you experience in your life how your relationship with God through faith in secure and permanent. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 10 – Zayin: Living and active comfort

“This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” – Psalm 119:50  Scripture reading: Psalm 119:49-56 “Remember” (Hebrew zakar) is the first word the psalmist uses in three of the next eight verses. In verse 49, the Psalmist asks God to remember His Word and promise. In verses 52 and 55, the Psalmist, in turn, promises to remember God. In Scripture, remembering is less a matter of memory than it is of action. The believer asks God to act in accordance with His prior commitment and promises, and then dedicates himself to knowing and applying God’s demands for his life. That the Lord remembers His covenant promises, forms the basis for the psalmist’s hope. It gives him true comfort (50,52). The greatest promise is that God will no more remember His wrath against my sin, because He poured it out on His only Son. Jesus Christ paid the full penalty, so that God looks on us with love and mercy. The response is that we remember God. “When I think of (or, remember) your laws” (52), and “I remember your name…” (55). Like God, this is not just a matter of recalling to memory certain things about ourselves, or about God. When we remember God, then we are recalling our own confession as well as our own commitment to serve Him and love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We are acting on those thoughts! Reflecting on the gospel, we are filled with hope and comfort. God in His love remembers us, and we, in turn, commit ourselves to remembering God and His will for our lives. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God remembers His promise to you that He shows His love and grants His mercy. Ask God to help you remember God and His will for your lives. In this way, you will be comforted and be active in God’s kingdom. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 9 – Waw: Walking and talking

“And I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts. I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame, for I find delight in your commandments, which I love.” – Psalm 119:45-47 Scripture reading: Psalm 119:41-48 In English, especially in writing and prose, we are not supposed to start a sentence with the word “and.” That rule does not apply in Hebrew, which is evident in this stanza. Every verse in this stanza begins with a special Hebrew prefix that means “and” or “for.” The effect is that the psalmist conveys excitement, listing off way after way how he wants to live obediently for God. He is so thankful, so alive and so bursting with desire to live his whole life for God. He is responding to God’s grace and covenant promises with a child-like faith. There is a close connection between what we believe and what we do and say. What is in the heart is also what comes out of the mouth and is clear from our actions. Love for and meditation on God’s law translates into obedience to and communication of God’s will. As we are filled with the truth of the gospel in Jesus Christ, we should be bubbling over with excitement to live for God and to tell of His wonderful goodness. At one time the Lord Jesus asked: can a good tree bear bad fruit? Can a good well bring forth brackish? The answer is, no! Love for God and our neighbor means walking the talk and talking the walk. Heart, hands, feet, voice, all in tune with the melody of God’s law! As you attend church today and hear the gospel, may you be filled with hope and eagerness to similarly devote your life to God again! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Father places on your heart the earnest desire to communicate His love, His grace and His covenant demands. Pray that God will give you the words to speak when the opportunity or requirement arises. Pray for those who are persecuted for their faith, that they will witness to those in authority. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 8 – He: Put on the new self

“Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” – Psalm 119:36-37  Scripture reading: Ephesians 4:17-32; Psalm 119:33-40 The Psalmist, through faith, recognizes the battle that goes on within, between the two selves, between his old nature and his new nature. He wants to do what is right, but he finds that he often struggles against the desire for riches (36) and his heart is turned toward idols (37). The apostle Paul shows in Romans 7 that this is an age-old problem for believers and a normal struggle for Christians. The wonderful news is that because of Jesus Christ there is a possibility of inner struggle and spiritual battle! Christ came to this world to battle sin. He has done that decisively through life-long obedience, through His death on the cross and by way of His resurrection from the dead. True faith is to look outside of yourself to Jesus Christ. Paul teaches this in Ephesians 4. You did not so learn Christ, he says. True faith is no longer relying on yourself to fight sin, but looking to Christ, praying for His Spirit to work faith and renewal, and so die to the old nature and put on the new nature. In that power, our hearts are inclined more and more to God’s will and way. We turn our eyes from worthless, worldly things and focus on the true treasure which is in heaven. Let us turn our eyes from evil. Let us turn our hearts from worshiping idols. Let us keep our mouth from speaking lies. And we will find rest for our souls. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks that you experience spiritual struggle and inner warfare against sin, the devil and his whole dominion. Without Christ we would have no ability to fight. Pray that you follow Christ and win the battles in His name. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 7 – Daleth: Give me life

“My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!...My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!” – Psalm 119:25, 28 Scripture reading: Psalm 119:25-32 The Psalmist bemoans the fact that often his soul “clings to the dust” (25). He intensely describes how he often experiences a dying spirit. He means the same when he mentions “my ways” (26), or his “false ways” (29), or being “put to shame” (31). With similar intensity, the psalmist indicates that at times his “soul melts away for sorrow” (28). Sometimes a believer feels nothing at all. Don’t we all, at times, know those feelings? It’s important in these moments to remember that our Saviour, Jesus Christ, came to this earth for us. His strength was dried up like a potsherd, His tongue stuck to His jaws and He was laid in the dust of death (Psalm 22:15). Knowing God as Saviour, then, the psalmist prays, “Give me life” (25). His desire is that God “enlarge” his heart (32). He wants to experience the “way of faithfulness” (30). He pleads that he might “run in the way of commandments”(32). He wants to know that he is spiritually alive! Don’t we all want that too? Look to the psalmist. He knows that the way out of feeling nothing is by way of submitting to God’s will. These are two contrasting experiences. They are the consequences of two ways of living. Either we follow our ways and cling to the dust, or we cling to God’s testimonies (31), running in the way of His commandments, serving Jesus Christ, relying on His Spirit. The second way leads to brighter days and a happier life. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to give you life and to enlarge your heart by way of obedience to His commandments. Thank God for Jesus Christ, Who felt nothing at all in our place. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 6 – Gimel: Open my eyes

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” – Psalm 119:18  Scripture reading: 2 Corinthians 3:14-18; Psalm 119:17-24 The psalmist asks God to open his eyes so that he sees how wonderful God is, how wonderful His law is and how wonderful are God’s blessings upon those who fear and obey Him. He is asking for the eyes of faith. As Paul explains to the Corinthians, without knowing and believing Jesus Christ, it’s like there’s a veil over our eyes. We may read and know of many Biblical facts. We may even follow God’s commands. But without the Spirit’s help and without faith in Christ, we will know, but not understand, we will see, but remain blind. We will not be filled with a wonder of God and His Word; we will not understand the glory of Christ. “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed…and we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” Today’s verse has inspired Clara Scott’s hymn Open My Eyes, That I May See: Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me; place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free. Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see. Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine! May the Lord open our eyes to see the truth of Jesus, open our ears to hear the gospel, open our mouths to spread the good news and open our hearts to love God always! Suggestions for prayer Pray that God opens your eyes of faith to see the truth. Pray that when you read and meditate on God’s Word, you will see with clarity God’s grace and demands for your life. Ask that you will see the wonder and delight of His law, as well as the beauty and glory of God Himself, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 5 – Beth: Pure living

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” – Psalm 119:9 Scripture reading: Psalm 119:9-16 This second stanza is about being cleansed and washed in the Holy Spirit through a living faith. How can we be cleansed and washed in such a way? How will our young people be that? By being in God’s Word every day. The psalmist makes use of the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, beth, in an interesting way. In most of the eight verses he uses the letter in a preposition meaning “in,” “on,” or “with.” We read: with my whole heart, in my heart, with my lips, in the way, on your precepts, in your statutes. Do you see the pattern? The way to holiness and purity is to envelop our whole lives with, to give our whole hearts to and to bathe ourselves completely in seeking to do God’s will. We must dedicate our mouths, ears, eyes, minds and hearts to God and His ways. That leads to blessed purity and holiness! It means looking to our Lord Jesus Christ. First, He is the ground of our righteousness and purity through His death on the cross. Second, He is our example to follow, showing us the way of delightful obedience. In Christ’s blood, we are made pure and in Christ’s Spirit, we make our way pure. Looking to Jesus, searching the Scriptures for Him, listening to God’s law, acting on it, we are led to pure living. O Lord, perfect us in Your love, so that we are cleansed and conformed unto Your will. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you really devote yourself every day to being enveloped and bathed in God’s Word and law, thus seeking His will. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 4 – Aleph (4): I will praise you

“I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!” – Psalm 119:7, 8 Scripture reading: Psalm 103 The Psalmist commits to praising God through word and deed. The idea here is to throw the hand out or point out with the hand. He will throw himself completely into learning and living God’s commandments. He will praise God with his whole body! His thanksgiving and praise will be in body and soul. This is the response of the true believer who understands God’s blessings, and yes, also the blessing of the law. The meaning is this: as God blesses us, we, in turn, bless Him! Do you see here the “back and forth” of covenant blessing going on? God blesses us with His love, His salvation and His indwelling Spirit. In turn, we through faith respond with thanksgiving, holiness and obedience. We praise God (bless God) with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We are reminded of the psalmist’s conscious desire in Psalm 103:1, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name!” Today, let’s remember that God has forgiven us all our sins and granted us newness of life through His only Son, Jesus Christ. Let’s not forget all His benefits. Let’s call to mind that His steadfast love “is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep His covenant and remember to do His commandments” (Psalm 103:17,18). As He has blessed us in this way, let’s also bless His holy name! Today, in all we do, let’s throw ourselves completely into praising God! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help you live responsibly, that is, responsively. Pray that your whole life is an act of covenant worship and praise to God. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 3 – Aleph (3): Blessed

“Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways.” – Psalm 119:2,3 Scripture reading: Psalm 119:1-6 Every verse in stanza 1 begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which is aleph. It basically corresponds to the first letter of the English alphabet. Even the very little children, who don’t know their alphabet yet, already know this first letter. What most people don’t know, however, is that the Hebrew word translated in our English text blessed begins with that first letter. That’s the very first thing we should consider and understand about Psalm 119. As we begin going through this great Psalm, let us realize that the law is foremost about blessing and especially about our covenant God blessing us! The word means “happy” or “fortunate.” When we, out of true faith, seek to live our lives according to God’s law, when we focus on making our ways blameless, keeping the Lord’s testimonies, seeking Him with our whole heart, aspiring to do no wrong, walking in His ways, there is abundant happiness! Then God will look upon us favorably! Let us remember that as we walk in the Lord’s ways, we are doing so out of thankfulness. We are following our Lord Jesus Christ, Who walked before us and is the pioneer of our salvation. Because Jesus was faithful and obedient to His heavenly Father, even obedient unto death on a cross, He has brought true happiness and blessing back into the world. As we begin our work week, let’s look to Jesus, thankfully follow in His footsteps, and experience real spiritual blessing. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the preaching yesterday, and your devotions today and going forward, will lead and direct you to thankfully walk in the Lord’s ways, so that you are truly blessed and happy. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

February 2 – Aleph (2): Delighting in Torah

“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!” – Psalm 119:1 Scripture reading: Psalm 1 Oh, blessed day which God has given to us! On Sunday we may rest our bodies from our daily labors and rest our minds from our regular concerns. We can go to church and rest in the love and faithfulness of our heavenly Father. Our covenant God greets and welcomes us into His fellowship. He also speaks to us with His law. Listening intently, we reflect on the past week and realize we have fallen short again and again. It’s not pleasant to experience this purpose of the law; however, it is necessary and good to be reminded that we are sinners, unworthy to be in God’s presence and in need of salvation. But, that’s not the end of the law! The law also directs us to our Saviour Jesus Christ, Who has fulfilled the law in our place. God graciously sent Him to be our obedience and righteousness! Further, in faith and repentance, we receive the forgiveness of our sins and renewal of Christ’s Spirit. In blessed assurance, we are filled with thanksgiving. We are motivated by Christ’s Spirit to renewed living! It is a joy and delight to live according to the law of God in all good works. Yes, indeed, oh blessed day! The Torah is held up as the source of blessing. That blessing from God is the desire of this psalmist’s prayer and the reason for his delight in God and His law. Let us all on this day of rest delight in and dedicate ourselves to God’s law. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you and all your brothers and sisters in the Lord will joyfully go to church today and delight in God’s law. Pray for the minister who brings to you God’s revelation, His gospel, His Word and law, and His will for your lives. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....

Daily devotional

Introduction to the month of February – Aleph (1): Torah

Psalm 119 is special in several ways. It is the longest chapter in the Bible, containing 176 verses. How often we like to joke about its length! All joking aside, we readily admit this chapter in the book of Psalms is a treasure trove in itself. It is a song in honor and praise of God’s Word, the law. Psalm 119 is also an acrostic. That means each section or stanza in this psalm starts with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Since there are 22 letters, there are 22 stanzas, each containing eight verses. Even more amazing, each of the eight verses within a stanza begins with that same letter! Psalm 119 is an alphabet of prayers and praise about God’s Word. It is made clear in our English translation when each section is headed by the next Hebrew letter spelled out: Aleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, etc. Believe it or not, the purpose for this acrostic was to aid memorization! Memorizing, in turn, allows a person to meditate on God’s Word. As there are 29 days in February this year, we hope to cover each section day by day, dividing some up to bring us to the total of 29 devotions. My prayer is that through this month we, as God’s covenant children, will all the more come to appreciate, value and love the wonderful truths of God’s law for our lives. ***** “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!” – Psalm 119:1 Scripture reading: Psalm 19 Psalm 119 is about the Torah, which means “teaching” or “directing”. In verse 1 it is “the law.” The Bible is not merely given for our knowledge and interest, but also for our instruction and obedience. James 1:25 says, “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” In the remaining 175 verses (except for five) we find the term torah or one of seven synonyms. In almost every stanza, each having eight verses, these eight different words for law are found. The acrostic form (see introduction) and the use of these eight torah words throughout the Psalm form the framework for an elaborate prayer. The chief aim of the psalmist is to ask God to fill his heart with a love for His law, to fill his mind with the truth of its instruction and to help him so he delightfully obeys it to the glory of God his Saviour. One tradition states that King David used this psalm to teach his young son Solomon the alphabet. If true, that was very clever of Dad! For then father David could also teach his son the alphabet of spiritual life! His son could learn the abc’s of daily prayer too, living for, and obedience of his heavenly Father. His son could come to know the God Who saves and delivers His people from the slavery of sin so that they may freely live for Him! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to fill your heart with a love for His law, to fill your mind with the truth of its instruction and to help you so that you delightfully obey God Who has saved you from your sins. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada....