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Daily devotional

June 26 – Covenantal allegiance

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. – Deut. 6:7 Scripture reading: Deut. 6:20-25 In verse seven, the move from a call to live according to the love of God, to the call to educate one’s children may be a bit jarring. This call is not merely the “evangelization” of one’s children, but it is connected to the call for all covenant people to fear Him. God is working with Israel so that, “You may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son”(v.2). You are to teach your children because the promise belongs to them as much as to you. There is a sense of a new creation here. God placed Adam and Eve in the garden so he could commune with them. He brought Israel through the baptism of the Red Sea for the same purpose. He brought a people out of Egypt and put them in a new garden, the Promised Land, so that He may dwell among them. In the same way, God brings us through the baptism of Christ, or the death and resurrection of Christ, so that He may create a new people. As Paul says, “You are a new creation.” and Peter, “You are a holy nation.” Just as children belonged to the holy nation of Israel, so children belong to the holy nation that is the church today. But we cannot presume our children’s salvation any more than we can presume our own. They need the regeneration of God. God has given them His promises and we are obligated to train our children up in the fear of the Lord. Suggestions for prayer Pray for your children and pray that God may give you all that you need in raising them in the fear of the Lord. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveldis the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 25 – Centered on God

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. – Deut. 6:5-6 Scripture reading: Deut. 6:4-9 God is one. He has one law, one Christ, one Spirit and one Bible. God calls us to worship Him in Spirit and Truth and to love His mercy and His justice. He calls us to love Him with heart, soul, and mind. With our heart: Our heart is our center; all things we do come from the heart, so it needs to be set on God. We can think of our heart as a compass. For accurate direction, the needle must be set toward the north. Our heart must always be directed toward God. We should be immersed in the Scriptures, the revelation of God, always seeking to obey it. With our soul: The soul refers to the whole animating force of the body and to all bodily action. To love God with our soul is to love Him with everything we do, to love God in the very way that we use our bodies. For example, when we stand at the beginning and end of worship, we honor God as we enter and leave His presence. With our mind: God teaches our hearts through the mind. We use our mind to contemplate God’s Word, to apply it to our lives, to judge those who live in disobedience to God and to judge those who teach heresy and error. In the freedom that Christ brings in the Spirit, the mind grows even more important in using the wisdom that comes from above to apply God’s Word. This is the way of flourishing. Suggestions for prayer Acknowledge your failure in loving God. We have all fallen short of God’s commands. We have only a small beginning of obedience to this, the greatest of all commands in this life. Seek God’s help in calibrating your life toward His righteousness. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveldis the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 24 – The only Holy God

Hear, Oh Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. – Deut. 6:4 Scripture reading: Deut. 6:1-6 There is more in these words than the assertion that God is one. If that was all this text was teaching, we might be left with the arbitrary God of the Muslims or the silent God of the Deists. The oneness of God reveals He is uniquely God, uniquely one in His love and promises to Israel. He is one in being and will. There is no contradiction or change in Him. There is no division or disagreement within Himself. We call this the simplicity of God. Any attribute of God describes the fullness of God. He is mercifully just. He is righteously loving. He is lovingly holy. The unique goodness of God, His constancy, His faithfulness, is something we can rely on. Those who claim that there are many ways to God, contradict the truth that God is one. God does not provide contradictory ways to Himself. In the Old Testament, the way was through the promise He gave to Abraham and through Israel, whom He set apart as holy. In the New Testament, that way is found in Christ. Israel was tempted by the teaching that there are many ways to God, just as we may be today. Remember the story of the golden calf? Israel had received the Ten Commandments and instead of waiting for God, they choose to directly contradict the second commandment. They set up an image of the Lord God, a golden calf. They replaced the center of God’s worship, drawing near to fellowship with God through sacrifice, with a golden calf. Suggestions for prayer Pray for growth in your relationship with the one true God. Seek His grace as you seek to love Yahweh before all other gods. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 23 – God's prayer

Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever! – Deut. 5:29 Scripture reading: Deut. 5:22-33 The Lord sees that Israel’s request for a mediator comes out of a recognition of who He is and who they really are. The request is a humble one. Israel recognizes her weak and sinful nature and that she does not have any inherent right to speak to God. God praises her for that and He grants her a mediator. But God goes further; He reveals something about Himself in the wish that He expresses in verse 29. He desires that the same heart that responded in a proper fear of God on hearing His voice on the mountain, would continue in that fear and keep all His commandments. God’s prayer should be at the forefront of the minds of all those who are tempted to question their salvation. God is not an arbitrary God, willfully sending some to hell and some to heaven. He is a God of compassion and love, Who desires that those who are in covenant with Him might live out the commandments that He has given them. He is a loving Father, for all who are willing to humble themselves before Him, recognizing their rebellious nature. This is because God has made men to glorify and enjoy Him forever. The fact that God chooses out a people for Himself is rooted in His loving nature. He has proven this through the cross of Christ. Ask, and He will give. He offers the sacrifice of Christ and the Holy Spirit to strengthen you in the task of living as a Christian. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for how He reveals a disposition of love and kindness toward His people. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 22 – Israel's prayer

For who is there of all flesh that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire as we have and has still lived? – Deut. 5:26 Scripture reading: Deut. 5:22-33, Hebrews 12:18-29 Israel is devastated. The unveiled Word is before them. They know that they cannot continue to stand before God and live. The leaders come to Moses as soon as God has finished and told him that if they continue listening to God, they will die. They need a mediator between God and their sinful flesh. God affirms their prayer. They have rightly understood their status before Him. They affirm God’s choice of Moses as mediator. He will pass on the words of God to Israel. But Moses prefigures someone far greater. In Christ, God will provide a Mediator Who brings us to Mt. Zion, where we may hear the Word of God in the light, not in the darkness and flame as Israel did. Our recognition of the holiness of God is often missing in the church today. People tell us that we can approach God in any way we want, but the advent of Christ makes this recognition of holiness more important. Christ brings us to a new intimacy with God, but Christ also calls us to come before Him having purified our hearts and prepared our hands and feet to approach His throne. This is done through a knowledge of our sin and the One who takes away our sin… and a desire to do His will. Israel’s fear is demonstrating the importance of preparing our hearts for worship. We are called to prepare and examine ourselves as we approach God on Sunday to hear the Word of God and to partake of the sacrament. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God may strengthen you as you approach Him both in your daily worship and your worship among the people of God. Acknowledge the Lord’s almighty works and His holiness. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveldis the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 21 – The unveiled word

These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. – Deut. 5:22 Scripture reading: Deut. 5:22-33 You are going to church at a mountain. You approach, but not too close. You’ve been warned against touching the mountain. You probably wouldn’t want to. It is full of fire, smoke and wind and shakes as you approach. You feel the ground trembling. This is not your regular church service. Then out of the fire, God speaks. His words? The Ten Commandments. God gives these words in the midst of the fire and smoke and speaks no more. I have called this the unveiled Word, but this is not entirely true. The Word of God is still veiled in darkness, fire and smoke. However, Israel does hear that Word directly from God. That God chooses to speak this Word from the mountain, underlines its significance. God meets His people in this unique way and chooses that moment to give these Ten Words. They are a summary of God’s holiness and righteousness. In following these Ten Words, we reflect the holiness of God. This is the closest that the people of Israel ever came to God near the mount. We experience a far more fearsome unveiling, for we approach Mt. Zion by the Spirit, a place of glory and light. We are only able to bear it because the Word spoken on the mountain has become incarnate in Jesus Christ. Yet, even now we cannot properly speak of the Word as completely unveiled for someday Jesus Christ will step down from His role as Mediator and we shall have unveiled access to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the closeness of the communion we have with Him in Jesus Christ. Pray for continual humility and thankfulness for this gift of God. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveldis the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 20 – Trust and obey

Know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on earth beneath; there is no other. Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today… – Deut. 4:39-40a Scripture reading: Deut. 4:32-40 Israel can learn from the works that God has done. “Know therefore that the Lord is God and there is no other.” The implied command is “Trust in Him.” God has revealed Himself to you and given you the way of salvation. What is left to do – but acknowledge Him as your Lord? You want this God on your side – not against you. He has proven that He is a good God and cares about you. Don’t ignore Him. This is the first half of the command “trust and obey.” Here is your God, Who you can trust and Who will reward your trust with good things. This is faith. And it is only by faith that you can fulfill the second part: obedience. Obedience springs naturally from trust in God. If you believe that what He says is true then you will obey Him. “Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today.” Moses uses the word “keep.” It has the sense of both guarding and watching with close attention. Israel is to use the law as a guard to keep herself from sin, so that she might prosper. Think of the “happy man” of Psalm 1. The law is a source of life to him because he trusts the Giver of the law. We have the same instruction, “Trust and obey.” This sums up the central command of Scripture. This is also your call: submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Suggestions for prayer Seek the Lord in prayer for the Spirit who works in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveldis the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 19 – Knowing God and the discipline of God

Out of heaven He let you hear his voice, that He might discipline you. And on earth He let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire. – Deut. 4:35 Scripture reading: Deut. 4:32-40 Deuteronomy notes two different ways that God made Himself known to Israel: through the mountain where He spoke to her through fire and through the works that He did in rescuing her from Egypt. He shows her that He is the one true God. He shows Israel His faithfulness and love so that He might discipline her and train her to have the same love He has. God speaks in the midst of the fire, or in verse 36, “out of heaven” so that He might discipline Israel. God’s self-revelation in the law is a boundary to teach His people how to live in relationship with Him. The revelation of God here is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Just as God spoke in the fire, God spoke through Christ. You can even see the same response of fear that Israel had toward the fire of God on Mt. Sinai in the Disciples of Christ when they see the works of Christ. The coming of Christ disciplines his Disciples. God continues to discipline us as Sons in Christ. It’s easy to respond to the discipline of God with anger and fear like Israel did. Let us respond to the discipline of God by seeking Him. We know that the Son is better than the law, for He sends His enlivening Spirit of wisdom to help us obey His law. Seek Christ, through the Spirit, by learning what He desires in the Scriptures. Seek Him by looking to the love that Christ demonstrated in His life on earth. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that we have the discipline of the Spirit. Pray that through His Spirit you may grow in knowing His desires for your life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveldis the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 18 – Going deep into history

For ask now of the days that are past which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. – Deut. 4:32 Scripture reading: Deut. 4:32-40 Our faith is a historical faith. The mighty acts of God are a foundation for our faith. God has revealed himself to us through Abraham, Moses, David and ultimately, Jesus. Deut. 4 is a call for Israel to remember her history so that she might live in faithful obedience to God. God calls Israel to remember what happened when she sinned at Baal Peor and to remember that she did not see any form or image at Mt. Sinai. God calls Israel to dig deep into history to see if anything has happened to other people like what has happened to her. Christians are a people of history. They are the only people who understand that the uniting theme of history is the work God is doing so that He may have a people who glorify Him. God is bringing many sons to glory so that He may delight in and enjoy communion with His people. We can look into our past, two thousand years of Christianity and another four thousand since the earth was created, and see the hand of God through it all, leading and guiding His people. The calls of Deut. 4 are just as much a call for us to search into the history God gives here as it was for the Israelites of that time. It is our history and it reveals the glory of our God which is the history given in Scripture. In this way, know the only God Who has given us His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer Pray for a knowledge of the wonders that God has done. Thank God for His gifts, especially for the gift of our Lord Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 17 – A fading glory

Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes westward and northward and southward and eastward, and look at it with your eyes, for you shall not go over this Jordan. – Deut. 3:27 Scripture reading: Deut. 3:23-29, 2 Corinthians 3 The covenant that God established through Moses was glorious. We read about the glory of God in Moses’ face in 2 Corinthians 3. When Moses descended from Mt. Sinai after talking to God, his face shone so brightly that the people could not look at him and he had to veil his face. The glory that Moses had at the foot of the mountain faded away. He would not live forever and would not continue to stand as a mediator between Israel and God. Even as the glory faded from Moses, so it faded from the people. They eventually rebelled against God and not long after Moses and Joshua died, the people began to fade again. Flesh decays and is corrupt. It cannot be overcome unless a new principle of life can be found to overcome it. What can be done about this problem? God gives glory in the Old Covenant, but it fades away under the weight of the sin of the people. Moses eventually died and stayed dead. He sent a successor into the Promised Land: Joshua. Joshua had a short-lived glory. He died and the people failed to take the rest of the Promised Land successfully. Therefore, his death could not take care of sin. But the ministry of the law of Moses, or as Paul calls it, the ministry of condemnation, has been replaced by the ministry of the Spirit through the righteousness of Jesus. Christ died. Through Him, death becomes an entrance into the Promised Land. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the great glory that is given in Jesus Christ. Pray that we may live by the Spirit in all that we do. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 16 – Punished in order to picture Christ

But the Lord was angry with me because of you and would not listen to me. – Deut. 3:26 Scripture reading: Deut. 3:23-29, Romans 4:16-25 The Father of all good things, the fount of mercy denies Moses' request. Why? Moses says, “The Lord was angry with me because of you.” To clarify this, we need to go back to chapter 1:37, “Even with me the Lord was angry on your account and said you shall not go in there.” If Numbers 20 tells us that the Lord was angry at Moses for his sin, how is it that God’s anger is on account of the people? Ps. 106:32-33 gives us helpful words: “They angered him at the waters of Meribah, and it went ill with Moses on their account, for they made his spirit bitter, and he spoke rashly with his lips.” The evil of the people partly accounts for Moses’ anger. This in no way clears Moses of fault, but it helps us understand why he was angry. Moses, like Christ, is called to accept the consequences of the sin of the people. God has a reason for denying Moses’ request. He wants to typify the life and death of the Son that He will send for the sake of the sins of the world. Of course, Moses' death does not cover sin, but it foretells Christ’s coming. It is only in the resurrection of Christ that the faith of God's people is vindicated, for it is by His resurrection that we are justified. When we suffer the consequences of other peoples’ sin, we too point to the suffering of our Lord and Saviour. Suggestions for prayer Pray to the Lord that He might give you the strength to sacrifice yourself for the sake of others. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 15 – The prayer of a righteous man

Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon. – Deut. 3:25 Scripture reading: Deut. 3:23-29, Numbers 20:2-13 In God’s denial of Moses’ request, we see some of the complexity of God’s relationship to us. God is a good Father. God freely forgives sins in Jesus Christ. But God does not acquiesce to Moses’ request. The book of James tells us, “The prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Is Moses’ prayer the prayer of a righteous man? Moses failed to represent the righteousness of God before His people. In Numbers 20, we read that God told Moses to speak to a rock so that water would come from it. Instead of reflecting God’s merciful answer to a selfish request, Moses struck the rock with his rod and shouted at the people, calling them “rebels.” He failed to present God’s holiness to the people. But Moses was also a righteous man through faith in God. He pleads with a heart that loved the Lord. We need to think of the prayer of Moses along the lines of Christ in Gethsemane. Like Moses, Christ prays, “Let this cup pass from me.” Christ’s desire is not evil. Moses’ desire is not evil. Moses prayer is a good prayer. However, it doesn’t seem to be a perfect prayer. Christ, unlike Moses, adds, “Lord, let your will be done.” Jesus, the truly righteous man, is better able than Moses to accept the verdict of the Lord. Moses sets an example, just as Christ does, in bringing all our burdens and hopes before God. However, we should also be willing to accept the verdict of the Lord, even a verdict we do not understand. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for being a faithful Father as our Lord Jesus Christ showed us. Pray that He may strengthen us in accepting His will in our lives. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 14 – United in rest

All your men of valour shall cross over armed before your brothers, the people of Israel… until the Lord gives rest to your brothers, as to you, and they also occupy the land that the Lord your God gives them beyond the Jordan. Then each of you may return to his possession which I have given you. – Deut. 3:18-20 Scripture reading: Deut. 3:12-22 Moses reminded Reuben, Gad and Manasseh of the promise they made back in the book of Numbers. They asked for the lands that Israel took from Sihon and Og. Moses was concerned that their request was selfish and worried that they would ignore the needs of their brothers when they attacked the main body of the Promised Land. But the tribes offered, not only to fight with their brothers, but to be in the front line. That meant they would be the first to die if things went badly. The goal was rest. Moses wanted all Israel to participate in the rest that was coming. He wanted brothers to be concerned for each other. How does that apply to us? According to Matthew 28, Christ, our ascended King, wants us to bring His rest to the world through the gospel. That means that while the task of evangelism remains and the task of discipling remains, the church should not imagine that it can kick back and enjoy its rest in God. Our prayers, our gifts, our resources should be used to expand the kingdom of God. There is a danger of merely focussing on local needs. At times this is necessary, but at other times, we can lose the desire to bring the gospel and focus inward on our family, our church, or our community. We are called to declare God’s gift of rest to the world. We have to have kingdom thinking. How do I best develop myself so that I model God’s generosity in giving rest? Suggestions for prayer Pray that God may give us the grace to find opportunity to give rest to others through physical and spiritual gifts, so that we may be united in rest. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveldis the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 13 – God overflows with good things

Jair the Manassite took all the region of Argob, that is, Bashan, as far as the border of the Geshurites and the Maacathites, and called the villages after his own name, Havvoth-Jair, as it is to this day. – Deut. 3:14 Scripture reading: Deut. 3:12-22 Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh saw that the land Israel had taken from Og and Sihon was good and asked Moses for it. God heard their request. In this way, God gave Israel assurances that they would enter the land. This teaches us that God is a God Who moves us from glory to glory. Our cup overflows and He continues to add to it. God assured Abraham of his place in the Promised Land by allowing him to purchase some of it. Now Israel receives the area next to the Promised Land as a down payment. The syntax of the passage teaches us something of God’s goodness. Moses arranges verses 12-17 in a chiastic structure, or a verbal sandwich. Verses 12 and 16-17 give us the inheritance of the Reubenites and the Gadites. Verses 13 and 15 tell us the land that is given to the half tribe of Manasseh. That points us to the centre, to a seemingly random story of a future leader named Jair, who conquers an area next to Manasseh. He takes a number of villages and calls them Havvoth-Jair, meaning “the villages of Jair.” God shows His blessing on these tribes and their faith by relating this little story in the middle of this section. The name Jair means “splendid.” God is adding splendor to what He has done in giving these lands to the half tribe of Manasseh, reminding us again of God’s goodness. He is the One Who overflows with good things for the man who walks faithfully before Him. Suggestions for prayer Remember God’s goodness. Be reminded that even as Israel was promised a good land, you too are promised a far better land. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 12 – Trembling at God's judgment

This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you. – Deut. 2:25 Scripture reading: Deut. 2:26-3:11 Christ’s death and resurrection are the greatest moments of judgment in history. On the day of Pentecost, Peter used that judgment to put the fear of God on the Jews that had gathered in Jerusalem. When God the Holy Spirit came down in fire on His people, the commotion drew others from all over the city. Peter’s sermon convicted them about what they had done to Jesus, and they feared God. Today, the world continues to be reminded of God’s judgment in raising Christ from the dead through the ministry of the church. Since Christ has come, we don’t need the destruction of physical enemies to cause the nations to tremble. We’ve graduated to more powerful enemies, principalities and powers. We battle against these through the preaching of the Word of God. We declare our victory in Christ when we baptize babies, demonstrating God’s claim on us from birth to death and again when we assemble around the Lord’s Table, proclaiming a victory won on the cross of Christ. The faithful preaching of the Word and administration of the sacraments make the principalities of this world tremble. Why do our modern unbelieving leaders, animated by the false philosophies of this world, first attack speech? They threaten the claims of Christianity by attacking its claims about nature, sin and sex. They undermine the content of the Word because they are afraid. We should not be afraid. Remember Christ’s promise, “The gates of hell will not prevail against you.” God will use the church to take the gates of hell by storm. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God may continue to provide His church with the necessary means to obey His commands to baptize and disciple the nations. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 11 – So that the nations might fear God

This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you. – Deut. 2:25 Scripture reading: Deut. 2:26-3:11 God tells Israel why He is giving them victory. It is 40 years since God showed His mighty acts in Egypt. He wants to refresh the memories of the nations and show them that He is the same God who brought Israel out of Egypt. He is fighting psychological warfare. When Israel enters into the land, all the nations are hiding in their cities. They are afraid. Whereas Sihon and Og came out against them, Israel now has to attack the wJune11alls of the city of Jericho. This is not the only type of fear that God is looking for. Fear can cause us to run away from God, or it can teach us to run to God. We know His greatness. We know He is our Creator. So, instead of running away from God, we take the way of forgiveness He has given us, that we may fear Him properly. God uses the cross of Jesus Christ in the same way. When the world wonders at the death of Christ, God wants the world to wonder at the love that He showed. In the Gospel of John, Christ tells us, “I will be lifted up before the world.” The world will see the righteousness of God and the wrath that sin deserves. In the Gospel of Mark, the Roman centurion sees the darkness God sends on the world at the crucifixion of Jesus. He hears Jesus’ words on the cross. God strikes the centurion’s heart. He cries out, “Surely this is the Son of God.” He is struck with the fear of God. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God may continue to work through His church so that the nations might fear God. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 10 – Rise up and take the salvation God has given

Rise up, set out on your journey and go over the Valley of the Arnon. Behold I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to take possession, and contend with him in battle. – Deut. 2:24 Scripture reading: Deut. 2:26-3:11 Reformed scholastics makes a distinction between receiving salvation and taking hold of salvation. In the conquest of Palestine, we see something of what that means. The people of God are commanded to make war on the seven nations of the Canaanites. To encourage his people, Moses reminds them of two victories on the east side of the Jordan, against Sihon and Og. These battles are templates for what will happen in the Promised Land. The people of Israel have left Moab and crossed over into the territory of Sihon. Having warned them to refrain from attacking Ammon, God promises Israel that He will give them the land of Sihon. Verse 24 gives a number of commands, “Rise up! Set out! Go over! Behold! Look! Begin! Take Possession! Contend with him in battle!" God has already promised to give the land to Israel. He has ordained the outcome. Israel is called to take this gift through faith. This is no less true in Christ. God says to us “Rise up and cast down the arguments of those principalities and powers that I have already placed under the feet of Christ.” In terms of our struggle with sin, Paul tells us that Christ has conquered the power of sin. According to Romans 6, we are freed from sin, so we are to “present our members to God as instruments for righteousness.” That means our hands, our feet, our heart, our eyes should be doing righteousness. We are to work out the salvation God has already won. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for the victory He has won. Acknowledge your complete inability to do any good apart from His life-giving Spirit. Plead for His strength as you seek to walk in the way of righteousness. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 9 – A greater purpose

And when you approach the territory of the people of Ammon, do not harass them or contend with them for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession because I have given it to the sons of Lot as a possession. – Deut. 2:19 Scripture reading: Deut. 2:1-23 God ensures that every life on earth works out according to His plan. Acts 17 states, “He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.” This is suggestive of what is going on in Deut. 2. God gives a place to Esau and a place to the sons of Lot. He arranges the nations around Israel so they may see His great works and how He is bringing salvation to the world. God has set up Israel’s relatives along her border. They have first row seats for the coming of Christ. God gives the same gift to the Philistines. Later in Scripture, we read how God uses the Israelites for His glory in Tyre. God is using Israel to draw the nations to Himself. God continues to guide the affairs of the world today. In North America, we live in a moment where God is bringing thousands upon thousands of immigrants into our cities. Even if there are some legitimate concerns about immigration, that is an opportunity for the church of North America. Our job is to lift the cross of Christ so that seekers can hear the call of Christ through His Word and Spirit and come to Him by faith. We trust that God has put us here for His purposes. If we do not take hold of that purpose, the church will fail in North America. Let us take hold of that purpose. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the opportunities he has given us in the way he has shaped the course of history. Pray that the church may be bold in showing Christ to her neighbors. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveldis the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 8 – A failure in holy war

The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place. – Deut. 1:30-31 Scripture reading: Deut. 1:19-46 Israel rejected the call of God to wage holy war, despite Moses’ assurance that God would be with her. She rejected the Word of the Lord Who was with her in fire by night and cloud by day. God was with her, showing Himself in a visible form, teaching her to trust in Him and she rejected Him utterly. That raises the question, do you believe the promises of God? God has commanded us to baptize and disciple the nations. He promised that all nations will be blessed through the seed of Abraham, which is Christ. And God has promised to be with you by His Holy Spirit so that you are enabled in working out God’s mission. Do you believe His promises? Sometimes we focus on the weakness of mankind and despair of the work of God in the mission of the church. Yes, we should be aware of our weakness. If we do not completely humble ourselves before God, we will fail. But that is not the primary message of the Old Testament. The message is that God is powerful to accomplish what He promises. We don’t want to hear this and respond with the same attitude the Israelites had, “Has God brought the church to North America to die?” The church has died in certain areas before, but not because God brought it there to die. It died because the people were afraid, afraid of the giants, afraid of various arguments, afraid of sacrifice, afraid of confessing God’s truth. We are called to fear God, not man. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the love of God may overcome the improper fear that is in your life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 7 – Self-deception

And you murmured in your tents and said, “Because the Lord hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us.” – Deut. 19:27 Scripture reading: Deut. 1:19-46 Are you honest with yourself? About yourself? One of the key tools of Satan is self-deception. Romans 1 tells us that the unrighteous man suppresses the truth. He knows the truth. He knows that God exists and he knows something of His righteousness, but suppresses it and is self-deceived. He believes Satan’s lies concerning the existence of the God of Scripture. Self-deception is just as prevalent among Christians; God gives us stories of failures to teach us about our self-deception. God wants us to know our hearts. God doesn’t whitewash the history of His people. We are stupid, hard-headed, worse, a people with evil hearts and corrupt flesh. We need to know that, otherwise we are self-deceived and begin to trust in our wisdom rather than God’s wisdom. God gives us the story of how he punished the Israelites in the wilderness for forty years so that we may examine ourselves and put our faith in Him. Self-deception comes in many forms. Some deny the justice of God as a way to serve their lusts. Some deny the truth of God’s Word or twist it so that they are more comfortable with its contents. Often it begins with fear. In response to fear, our wicked imaginations feed us lies, so we reach some inescapable “logical” conclusion. In Israel’s case, their fear of the Amorites led them to question the love and kindness of God; love and kindness they had seen in their rescue. They accused God of bringing them in the wilderness to die. Are we so different? Suggestions for prayer Pray that God may uncover your self-deception, so that you may more fully grasp the righteousness and holiness of God. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 6 – You have the anointing of the Holy One

And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My Lord Moses, stop them.” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them.” – Numbers 11:28-29 Scripture reading: Deut. 1:9-18, Numbers 11:16-29 Moses delegates authority and God gives a portion of His Spirit with that authority. In Numbers 11, the people have complained against God again and Moses cries out, “I am not able to carry all these people alone; the burden is too heavy for me.” God responds by giving Moses a gift, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel… and I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them.” This is a mini-Pentecost. God fills seventy men with His Spirit. And then… the Spirit breaks out beyond that and dwells in other men, Eldad and Medad, so that they begin to prophesy. Moses has been given the wisdom of God to rule according to God’s heart. But Moses could not share that Spirit of wisdom with his people. Then God works in Moses so that he prophesies something far bigger, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets!” Pentecost fulfills that prophecy. In the words of Joel, repeated by Peter,“ I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” Pentecost is a sign that God has restored the office of all believers in Christ. You are now called to exercise your office of prophet, priest, and king. You now have a responsibility as mature people in Christ to judge without partiality, even as the seventy elders were called to help Moses. Exercise that responsibility through His Word and Spirit in all that you do. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Spirit of God might strengthen you in your calling, whatever it is, so that you may do it wholeheartedly. Thank God for the gift of His Spirit and for the close fellowship you may have with Him in Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 5 – Moses’ inability

At that time I said to you, “I am not able to bear you by myself.” – Deut. 1:9 Scripture reading: Deut. 1:9-18 Moses tells his audience that “the numerous people of Israel” are too great a burden for him. This is not a problem in itself. The fact that Moses can’t do everything is evidence of God’s overflowing blessing to the people of Israel. He has blessed their families so that they are as many “as the stars of the sky.” Moses doesn’t want that to end. He tells the people, “May the Lord, the God of your fathers, increase you a thousand times and bless you as he has promised!” Moses’ burden is a glorious thing. However, it is too big a task for him. Moses has a whole nation to look after. Any of you who exercise leadership, at work, at home, probably know how tiring it can be to give judgment after judgment in the arguments that arise. Like Moses, we’re limited; weak. We don’t have a perfect grasp of justice for every situation. We aren’t able to deal with every problem. Sometimes we hurt ourselves when we assume that we need to deal with every problem and answer every injustice. We need to rely on God, the One who provides. He provides through Jethro. He provides Moses with the wisdom to make judgments in the first place. God has all wisdom, all authority, and all power. God does not give the work of the church to one person, but through Christ, He pours out His good gifts so each part of the body may rely on the others in the body. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God may strengthen you in the responsibilities He has given you. Pray for the leaders that God has given to the church to strengthen her. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 4 – Authority comes from God

Choose from your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads. – Deut. 1:13 Scripture reading: Deut. 1:9-18 Moses needs help in ruling over Israel. Two stories in Exodus and Numbers help us understand this. In Exodus 18, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, encourages Moses to appoint elders to help him. In Numbers 11, God shares the Spirit He has given to Moses with the elders of Israel. Deut. 1 summarizes both stories. Notice how Deut. 1:13 is written. First, the tribes choose men who are wise, understanding and experienced. Then Moses appoints them over the people of Israel. God, through Moses, recognizes the natural authority that belongs to certain individuals, men who have a reputation for wisdom, whom others would come to for advice. On top of their natural authority, God gives these men the authority to judge others with regards to God’s law. Even though we see human action today in electing men to office in the church, it is not the congregation that gives elders authority. It is God. This is applicable to civic authority as well. We know this from Romans 13, where we are told that civil servants are God’s servants. Both church governors and civil governors serve God. Is this good news? Does God sanction every action of our rulers? Absolutely not! Everyone who is in authority over you, everyone whom God has appointed, is first and foremost responsible to God. If local authorities misuse their office in relation to you, God will vindicate you on the final day. God holds our leaders responsible. Our hope for justice finds realization in Christ. Suggestions for prayer Pray for your ecclesiastical and civic leaders. Remember and give thanksgiving that God has established true righteousness, by placing our Lord Jesus Christ on His throne in heaven. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 3 – Who defeated Sihon and Og?

Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him in commandment to them, after he had defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth and Edrei. – Deut. 1:3b-4 Scripture reading: Deut. 1:1-8 In verse four, the Spirit does something interesting through the grammar of the text, teaching what God’s grace looks like in our lives. The subject of the word “defeated” is ambiguous. “He” could refer to the Lord or to Moses. Are we told that Moses defeated Sihon and Og or that the Lord defeated Sihon and Og? We know that it is ultimately the Lord who wins the battles of Israel. Later in Deut. 2, we are told that the Lord gave Sihon over to Moses. However, we know that Moses is also acting here. He obeys the command of God to “rise up and attack. "Moses can say, “I attacked Sihon and Og,” with the understanding that he only did that by the strength of God. This ambiguity is instructive for us as we look back at the goodness of God in our own lives. From one perspective, our lives can look very human. We make choices and we receive the consequences. But when we examine the evidence, we have to say that there is no boasting. We know our hearts are full of corruption. If we depended on ourselves, we would accomplish nothing. It is God who is at work in our prayers, our tears and our desire to do good works. We realize the victory God has given in our own lives. It is amazing how God uses little moments in the grammar of the sentences of Scripture to teach us deep truths about His works. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His work in your life and meditate on the ways God has worked within you and those around you. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 2 – Sin and grace at the boundary

It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-Barnea. – Deut. 1:2 Scripture reading: Deut. 1: 1-8 Just as the boundary is an opportunity for reflection on God's instruction, so it is an opportunity for reflection on sin and grace. The first generation of Israel had forgotten the grace of God. They had walked through the Red Sea, eaten manna and heard the very voice of God at Mt. Sinai. Despite this, Israel rebelled against God at Kadesh-Barnea. They were afraid of the giants in the land. Moses’ statement that it only takes 11 days to journey from Horeb to Kadesh-Barnea is a reminder that, due to their sin, it took Israel 40 years to enter Palestine instead of a couple of weeks. Now Israel is there. Her new position is a testament to the grace of God. We are the same, forgetting God’s mercies and lapsing into apathy. This can produce long periods of failure: our wilderness. These sins have consequences in our families and our churches that sometimes can last over generations. Despite our folly, God is gracious. Even before Israel was ready to enter the Promised Land, God was beginning to give her victories. God destroyed Sihon and Og through Israel. If we look back at our wilderness, we will see that God has already been working in our times of wandering. Boundaries are an opportunity for us to remember lost opportunities and failures, to remind us to watch and pray, to guard our hearts and to remember we are here by God’s grace. When we remember that and turn to God, He provides. He will renew and strengthen you. Suggestions for prayer Meditate on how God has worked in your life. Thank Him for how He has shown His grace. Express your confidence in His work as you look to the future. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Daily devotional

June 1 – Introduction, and Reflection at the boundary

Pastor James Zekveld started his ministry with a sermon series on the book of Deuteronomy. June’s devotions are a summary of some of the insights gained while preaching through that book. Deuteronomy is a book of covenant renewal. This comes out in the continual call to remember God’s works, to search the Scriptures for God’s wisdom, and to remain faithful. Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to explain this law saying… – Deut. 1:5 Scripture reading: Deut. 1:1-5 You’ve decided to move, or you’re headed to University, or about to get married. All these activities invite reflection: kingdom reflection. Who are you? Who is your Master? How will you follow Him in your new situation? How do you advance the kingdom of God? Israel stops at the boundary of the Promised Land. They are about to receive the gift for which they have been waiting forty years. They rest at the borders and Moses explains the law again, preparing them for a big change. They will no longer be slaves or wanderers. They are about to be landowners. They are called to reflect on the law that the Lord their God has given them. Israel is to remember what God has done for them and what He has taught them. God will continue to be God to them and they must not forget Him as He prepares Israel for her new world. Do you look for renewal at the boundaries of your life? It’s a new day. How will I live for God today? How do I live for God’s kingdom in my marriage? In my job? As a student? God brings us new opportunities, so that we may reflect on Him and His Word. God brings us to greater maturity. Forgetting God is easy. A new boundary is an opportunity to reflect and grow. Take the time to reflect on who God is and what His desires are at the boundaries of your life. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the Lord’s Holy Spirit so that you may grow in wisdom and maturity at the boundaries in your life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Zekveld is the pastor of the Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church In Niverville, MB....

Assorted

The Pursuit of Wisdom: do it ‘til you die

Some might assume that, as they grow older, they will grow in wisdom. But the Bible tells us that’s hardly a given. One of the themes of the book of Proverbs is that wisdom is something that has to be pursued. We can see this in three of the characters we are introduced to in Proverbs. One of these characters is “the righteous” – humble and actively seeking out God’s wisdom. The wicked, on the other hand, are proud, and in their selfish ambition they are active too, but actively seeking out folly. They get into trouble because they are looking for it. But perhaps it is the third character who should most interest us. This third sort is also seeking folly…but not actively. In a sense he finds folly only because he isn’t seeking wisdom. He is the sluggard. So both the wicked and the righteous go out and make choices – they choose between wisdom and folly. The sluggard? He just stays home. And folly finds him. Between wicked and wise That’s why the sluggard is encouraged to stir. We find him in Proverbs 6 being told: “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Observe her ways and become wise.” The ant doesn’t have somebody telling her what to do. She acts on her own initiative. She goes out and finds a job, so that she may learn her trade. The sluggard needs to get up out of his bed and learn from the ant. The author of this proverb wants to encourage his readers in godly ambition. Then again, in Proverbs 26:13 and onward, we see a warning against sloth. Here the sluggard cries out, “There is a lion in the streets.” The sluggard makes excuses for himself, for why he just wants to stay home. He won’t risk any effort. Again, we see the need for godly ambition. We can’t be afraid of risks when we go out into the world. We have to be wise and prudent in our actions, but if we live in fear of what might happen, we will never find the prize. The reward will be gone. Christians have no excuse for sitting around and waiting; we have no excuse for endless leisure time. We either have to go out and seek wisdom, or we will lose it. Then we’ll become the fool, fearing even imaginary lions. And ultimately, we will lose the Wisdom of God; Jesus Christ. We are all called to that search for wisdom in so far as God has given us the ability to do so. Wisdom put to use Wisdom, in our passages, is the ability to discern between to choices. Practically speaking, wisdom is the means by which we make business decisions, choose a marriage partner, or make any number of other choices that come to us each day. But within Proverbs all wisdom ultimately points to the Wisdom of God, the Wisdom that God reveals in Jesus Christ and the Wisdom by which God made the world. He is the one who holds the universe together. We can distinguish between practical wisdom and the Wisdom of God in Proverbs, but they cannot truly be separated. If we do not seek wisdom, we ultimately lose the Wisdom of God; Jesus Christ. We are all called to that search for wisdom in so far as God has given us the ability to do so. So one of the messages of proverbs is, “get up, get out and find wisdom.” Search then. Seek out the wisdom of the universe. We need to have the attitude of the man Jesus speaks of in the parable of the pearl of great price. This man sells everything in order to find what is most precious; the kingdom of God. Search for the Wisdom; Christ. That is a life-long search, a life-long desire, for those who have found him. Do not cease from scouring the Scriptures. Do not cease from praying for understanding. Search until God gives you the fullness of eternal life and rest with Him. James Zekveld blogs at JamesZekveld.com where a version of this article first appeared....