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Daily devotional

July 24 – Sojourners are serious about prayer

But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. – 1 Peter 4:7 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 4:7-11 Are you serious about prayer? Many of us struggle with the reality that our prayer life is not what it ought to be. The concern is not that we should be more eloquent, or more disciplined and have a routine. We want to be serious and watchful! Peter must have been reflecting on his own failings at prayer. Jesus agonized in prayer, then three times found his three closest disciples sleeping. How could he forget Jesus’ disappointment, “Simon (Peter) are you sleeping?” (Mark 14:37). Jesus was so agonized in prayer that He sweated drops of blood. Peter, James, and John could not even take it seriously enough to stay awake. Thanks be to God; Jesus has gone to the cross! Now we can come boldly to the throne of grace. We have a new eagerness and urgency. The end of all things is at hand! All God’s glorious purposes are coming to wonderful fulfillment! We are living in days that require serious attention to prayer. Being serious and watchful in our prayers means we are wide awake to the needs in our day. We know we do not have the strength to be the people God calls us to be apart from His blessing. Like Jacob, we need to wrestle with God to hold Him to account for all that He has promised. We need to be alert and awake to the challenges of our day, to be serious about the needs of God’s people and have a passion for God’s glory – the end of all things! Suggestions for prayer What are the things you are watchful about, and what are the things you need to be more watchful about? Pray about them. Ask God to give you a spirit of prayer and supplication as you rejoice to know the end of all things is at hand. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 23 – Sojourners are ready to do God’s will

...that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. – 1 Peter 4:2 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 4:1-6 When we think about what Christ has suffered for us, we find a new eagerness to say, “I am done with sin!” By nature, we were soft on sin. In our selfishness, we were committed to a life of ease and sinful, selfish pleasure. It was easy to slip into ways of living that were not good. But it was never helpful. It has not been God-glorifying and it has not been good for us. We want to say, with Peter: “Enough!” We need to arm ourselves with the mind of Christ. It was always Christ’s commitment to do the will of His Father. We must arm ourselves with Jesus’ mindset. That will take effort and resolve, but because of Christ’s glorious work, it becomes something we want to do, and by God’s grace, are able to do. It will also mean there will be those who think you are weird, and who will wonder, “Hey, why don’t you run with us in these wicked ways like you used to?” It will not be easy. Arming yourself with the mind of Christ means you will think of what you have received in Christ and think of who you have become, in Christ. Judgment is coming. Knowing this puts a different perspective on our lives and those who may taunt us. Those who taunt us are in danger. There should be no joy and no pride over them. That is why the gospel is preached! They need the gospel just like you did, and they need to hear it from you. Suggestions for prayer Ask yourself, have I had enough of sin? Ask God to arm you with the mind of Christ, with joy in what He has suffered for you, and with a readiness to do His will. Pray for grace to speak gracious gospel words to those who think it strange of you. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 22 – Sojourners hope in their baptism

There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 3:21  Scripture reading: 1 Peter 3:18-22 The great, worldwide flood of Noah’s day was one of the most momentous events in history. In our passage, Peter also makes reference to the Great Flood and says it is a picture of what is promised to us in our baptism. Your baptism is that momentous. Just as believing Noah and his family were saved through water, your baptism now saves you. Amid all the challenges we face as sojourners in this world, it is a wonderful blessing to be able to answer the question, “How do I know I am a Christian?” In the same way the Reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin would have answered it: “I have been baptized!” We know of course that salvation is not the result of a ceremony. We know people can presumptuously rest in their baptism without resting in Jesus, by faith. Baptized people who remain unrepentant will drown in the waters of their baptism. It is not the ceremony, not the water, not the physical washing of dirt from the body. It is the answer of a good conscience; the realization that the answer is Jesus. Our appeal is to Jesus. In Jesus and by His resurrection we know the blessing of all that is promised us in baptism. There is something deeply comforting for us in all our struggles, and over against all our failings, to be able to say that my hope is not my righteousness, or in my efforts, but in the promises of God, signified and sealed to me in my baptism. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for your baptism. Use your baptism and take hold of everything God has promised to you and your children by it, taking hold of Jesus. Appeal to God for a good conscience, leading to blessed assurance and a consistent life. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 21 – Sojourners are always ready to speak of hope

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. – 1 Peter 3:15 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 3:13-17 People who seem to have an answer for everything can be a bit annoying. Peter also encourages us always to be ready with an answer, but this answer is: hope in Jesus. It is not annoying, but precious. It is not obnoxious, but comes with grace, meekness and fear, gentleness and respect. We recognize that our day is much like Peter’s day. We should expect that standing with Jesus will bring us into some difficulty. He asks – who is going to harm you for following what is good. And the ultimate answer is, no one! But sometimes you will still suffer. Don’t be surprised. Don’t fear what the rest of the world fears. Here is the secret: Jesus is your Lord! He is Lord of your life, Lord of history and Lord of your present circumstances. He is your hope! Our confidence is not only that we have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13), but that we know Jesus is with us (Matthew 28:20). Then we cannot help but speak of this glorious hope. So now we seek to lead “questionable” lives. That is, we seek to live in such a Christ-like way that it raises questions and people ask, “What is it with you?!” And we may answer, “It’s not me, it’s Jesus; it’s the hope I have, in Jesus.” Our goal must never be to taunt unbelievers with pride or smugness. Our gracious gentleness and respect will come from the deep realization that we have this hope only by God’s amazing grace. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help you to live in the fear of God and not in the fear of man. Ask Him to help you to lead a gracious, godly life that provokes questions and to make you ready to speak of your hope in Jesus. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 20 – Sojourners love life and see good days

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous, not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. – 1 Peter 3:8,9 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 3:8-12 Some of you may have been thinking that since you are not a wife, a husband, a servant, or an employee, that none of what Peter writes applies to you. But here Peter brings it all home. “Finally,” he says, this call to loving, compassionate, Christ-like surrender and service of one another, applies to all of you. Peter calls us to love one another as brothers. This call to compassion and tender-heartedness is a beautiful description of the church of God. It also remains for us exiles the most effective cultural strategy there could be. They will know we are Christians by our love. When we are sinned against, or when we are reviled, because of what Christ has done for us, we may follow His example of not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling. That is never easy. It may cost us, but never more than what we have been given in the gospel. By God’s grace, we seek to be at peace, to overcome evil with good and put up with ridicule. Because we know the hope of our calling, we have the certainty of our inheritance. That is why, even in trying circumstances, we can say, “We love life! These are good days!” That’s astounding if you think about it. But we have been born again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus! Peter also gives us this assurance from Psalm 34: The eyes of the Lord are fixed upon us; His ears are attentive to our cries. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to increase your love for one another in the church. Thank God that by grace we may love life and see good days. Thank Him for His loving, watchful care. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 19 – Sojourner men understand their wives

Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. – 1 Peter 3:7 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 3:1-7 Men sometimes joke about the fact that they cannot understand the ways of the woman God gave them. According to God’s challenge in this verse, however, that is unacceptable. We are literally called to know our wives well. That means a depth of love and intimacy. It means a husband should take the time to know his wife’s thoughts, concerns, fears, what she loves and what she delights in. He should know her vulnerabilities and weaknesses, her hopes and dreams, and her day-to-day frustrations, the challenges of the world, and the promises of God’s Word. He should spend much time with her talking about these things, reflecting and praying together. He will also honour her as the “weaker vessel.” This is not a put-down. It does not mean she is less than him. Think about a precious vase, beautiful, delicate and significant. This preciousness of his wife must never be abused or taken advantage of. Rather, he honours her for it. He knows she is precious in God’s sight. He knows she is precious to him. He needs her. No Christian husband and wife would ever presume they could know any of this blessing without a life of fervent prayer. The challenge is that as we often fail in our relationships, our prayers can be hindered. We feel guilty and lose the passion for prayer. Please don’t get stuck there. Confess your sins to one another and to God. You will receive mercy and your prayers will be helped. We are heirs together of the grace of life! Suggestions for prayer Is there anything in your relationships that hinders your prayers? Talk about it and pray about it. Confess your failings and draw near to God. If you are married, do it together. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 18 – Sojourner wives are precious to God

...rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. – 1 Peter 3:4 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 3:1-6 The traditional, Biblical understanding of marriage between one man and one woman is considered odd today. But by God’s grace, a joyful obedient understanding of Christian marriage remains a significant part of our witness to the world. When it comes to sojourner wives, Peter speaks encouragingly here of submission. It is a concept that has fallen out of favor today, but Peter speaks of it as a glorious opportunity for Christian women to be Christ-like. It is also something they are enabled to do, in Christ. There is no hint at all that women are inferior to men. Men and women have both been created in God’s image. Also, in our redemption in Christ, we are heirs together of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7). Peter is not condoning any sort of harshness or abuse. Neither is he recommending marriage of Christians to unbelievers; God clearly forbids that. Peter addresses a situation where marriage has already taken place, then perhaps only the wife was converted after the marriage. God can use her quiet confidence in Him and gracious, respectful conduct toward her husband for his conversion! In the gospel, her joyful reverence for God takes away any sense of inferiority. She fears God, not her husband. She is concerned for God’s honor, not about what people think. Though God is not opposed to physical beauty, she does not make that her focus. She would rather turn hearts to Jesus than turn heads toward herself. By God’s grace in Christ, she knows she is precious in God’s sight. Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s blessing on the gospel preached throughout the world today. Pray for our marriages. Pray that because of the gospel, our marriages may give clear testimony to the world of how precious we are in the sight of God, by His grace. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 17 – Sojourners follow in Jesus’ steps

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps. – 1 Peter 2:21 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:21-25 Have you seen a little child trying to follow a parent at the beach, wanting to place his feet in each of the footprints? Sometimes it can be quite a stretch! That is a picture of what Peter says is the calling of sojourners: to trace the steps of Jesus Himself. Talk about big shoes to fill! Jesus is, of course, more than our example, He is our Saviour! Praise the Lord! But in accomplishing our salvation, He has also left us an example. And, because of His suffering, it is an example we can actually follow. By His death and resurrection, Jesus enables us to die to sin and to live for righteousness. He enables us to stretch and to commit ourselves to the service of God. So, even when others may make fun of us for living the Christian life, like Jesus, when we are reviled, we will not revile in return. We were weak and straying sheep, but by God’s grace we have returned to Jesus. If anyone knew how huge a blessing it was to be returning to Jesus, surely it was Peter (Luke 22:32). We too may live in the bold confidence that this loving Saviour has become the tender shepherd of our souls. Nothing will snatch us from His hands. He goes before us and with us as He leads the way. It makes you want to be like Him in the way you face challenges. It makes you want to stretch and take big steps for Jesus. Suggestions for prayer Thank Jesus for what He did for you on the cross. Thank Him for being with you and leading you in paths of righteousness. Ask Him to help you take big steps forward as you seek to follow in His steps. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 16 – Sojourners endure hard things

For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully… But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. – 1 Peter 2:19, 20b Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:18-21 Many whom Peter addressed were slaves. Without approving slavery as a way of life, Peter seeks to equip his readers to live as Christians where they are. Most of us can relate to the challenge of having to experience hard things – in life generally, or specifically in our work. It is not that we should never work for change, but how do we respond with endurance when hard things happen? The sojourner should never take the approach – “I give as good as I get.” The sojourner is mindful of God. He learns to ask: Where is God in this? What does God say? How will God help? It would be understandable if you were having a hard time at work because you were lazy, or mouthy, always late for work, or known for doing shoddy work. See to it that doesn’t happen. Since you know God and His grace, when you mess up, own up to your failings. But how can you persist in doing good when you are doing your best and still receiving a hard time? Prayerfully seek to live conscious of the presence of God. Think about Jesus, what He endured for you on the cross. Remind yourself that He has redeemed you, you are His! As you respond, ask God to help you follow in Jesus’ steps. Do it for the Lord. Trust that He will help you through this. God sees and cares. He will teach you about your need for Jesus and His grace, and He will help you. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help you endure hardship, to carry out your work, and to live your whole life mindful of Him. Thank God for what Jesus has done for you on the cross. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 15 – Sojourners are free to serve

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men — as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. – 1 Peter 2:15,16 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:13-17 Peter continues to flesh out the importance of doing good before a watching world. Do it as those who are free! By God’s grace, we are free from having to earn our salvation, free from guilt, and from the ruling power of sin in our lives. We are free from worrying about what other people think, or what the world is going to do to us. We are free from being selfishly concerned about ourselves. We are free from being enslaved to the lie that we are going to have our best life now. We are free to live and love. But, we are not free to live as we please nor sin. We are free to serve. Do not live as those who have no time for the world around them. Do not think yourself above the laws of the land: love your city, your region and your country. Submit yourself to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake. Obey the speed limit, pay your taxes, be a model citizen, seek to be a blessing to your neighbor – for the Lord’s sake. That means you honor God when you honor people and when you submit to the government in all things lawful. It means when you know you are being asked to do something God forbids, you are free and required to stand with God. But remember that it also means that your humble, grace-filled posture can be used by God for the silence and salvation of those who still need to know Him. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for all the ways you are free in Jesus Christ. Ask Him to help you to use your freedom to be a servant, to live as a good citizen for the silencing and salvation of unbelievers. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 14 – Sojourners abstain from fleshly lusts

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul. – 1 Peter 2:11 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:9-12 Peter has just reminded and encouraged his readers in the fact that they are chosen and precious to God. Beloved, he calls us. We are deeply loved. But that does not mean that the sojourning life is always going to be easy. In the life of the sojourner, we should expect serious challenge and opposition. Peter becomes very urgent here, I beg you, he says, to abstain from fleshly lusts. Stay entirely away from sinful desires. Any of us who know ourselves will know that the warning Peter gives is serious, urgent and necessary. Should we ever think that we have gotten beyond the need for this kind of challenge, we would be deceiving ourselves. Sinful desires must not be given an inch in our lives. They war against our souls! When we flirt or dabble with sin, and become more comfortable with unconfessed sin, our souls are in danger of being numbed and destroyed. I beg you, Peter says, take this seriously. Remember, you are sojourners. Remember who you are and where you are headed. Remember your purpose, to proclaim God’s praises in everything you do! It is not going to be easy. You can expect people may even begin to call your desire for obedience, evil. Don’t be surprised. Don’t be haughty. Don’t give up. Seek to do good. Keep proclaiming His praises. Be encouraged. It could very well be that God uses what others see and hear from you, to bring those people to glorify God too! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help you deal honestly with sinful desires in your life. Ask Him for persevering grace to live godly lives and to speak well of God even to those who may be speaking evil of you. Praise God that He will use even our witness to let the nations praise Him! Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 13 – Sojourners are God’s own special people

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. – 1 Peter 2:9 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:4-10 You are special! And don’t you ever forget it. Have you ever been encouraged by being told you are special? How about knowing that is what God thinks about you? Building on rich Old Testament language from when God called His old covenant people into existence (Exodus 19:5,6), Peter is saying all those things about believers! You are a holy nation, a royal priesthood. You are God’s own special people. You are chosen and precious! It’s not flattery; it’s not empty talk. It’s not just saying something to make you feel good, like the kind of meaningless gestures we see today when everyone gets a ribbon at the race. This is who you are, in Christ, the chosen and precious One! And it’s all by grace. By the same powerful Word by which the Lord spoke and called light into existence from nothing, He has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. The life we come to know in Christ is just as powerful, amazing and miraculous. Remember where we came from. Once we were not a people, now we are the people of God. Once we had not known mercy and now God has shown us mercy! We brought nothing to the table, yet this is what God has done for us, His own special people. Don’t ever forget it! Doesn’t that make you want to shout His praises! In fact, as these verses tell us, that is exactly what it’s all about. That is our great task and privilege now as sojourners – proclaim His praises! Suggestions for prayer Thank God for calling you out of darkness. Ask God to help you always remember that in Christ you are chosen and precious. Ask Him to help you to shout His praises so others can know this blessing too. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 12 – Sojourners are built up as living stones

...you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 2:5 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:1-8 We have been hearing wonderful things about Jesus the living stone, chosen and precious. He is the rock of our salvation, but He is not a dead, inanimate object. He is a living stone, the resurrected Saviour. The blessing we get to consider now is that, as we come to Christ and find our life in union with Him, all of the things that are said about Jesus can also be said of us. In Christ, we are also chosen and precious to God. In Christ, we are also being built up as living stones. We who once had hearts of stone are made alive together with Christ! Christ, the master church builder is at work, building us into a living, thriving, spiritual house. Peter is not talking about the church in terms of bricks and mortar, but as a people, an exciting and dynamic building project of mutual love and devotion. Do you see the church that way? Thank God if you were encouraged in this hope in worship yesterday. Christ is building you up in your faith, building us up together and doing this in us and with us so that we too may be involved in the work of building. Through Jesus, we can now offer spiritual sacrifices. He offered the once-for-all atoning sacrifice for our sins, but now, through Him we can offer ourselves in sacrificial service, as living stones, for the building of His spiritual house. How are you involved in Christ’s church building work? Are you a living, active member of His church? Suggestions for prayer Thank God for how He uses the church to build you up in your faith. Ask Him to help you be a living, active, sacrificial builder of the church. Bring Him the sacrifice of praise! Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 11 – Sojourners come to Jesus

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious. – 1 Peter 2:4 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:1-8 As sojourners, we understand we are nothing apart from Jesus Christ. We need Him; we come to Him for life and hope. We want to walk with Him because to know Him is more precious than anything else in the world. Rejoice in Him as you go to Him in worship, today. We have learned that in coming to Christ, we find rest for our sin-burdened souls (Matthew 11:28), we find sustenance for our hungry and thirsty souls (John 6:35) and we can live in the hope-filled confidence that we will be raised up with Jesus on the last day (John 6:44). Have you come to Christ? Have you found the forgiveness, life and hope you need, in Him? Be encouraged; Jesus has promised that all who come to Him, He shall by no means cast out (John 6:37). He who has the Son, has life, he who does not have the Son, does not have life (1 John 5:12). Coming to Christ is more than a one-time event; it is an ongoing privilege and need. We get to keep coming to Christ. What do you do in your ongoing struggle with sin? You come to Christ! In the difficulties and perplexities of life? You come to Christ! When you are painfully aware that you are too weak to stand up and take on the challenges of the life of a sojourner? You keep coming to Christ! You will find in Him a resting place and He will make you glad! Suggestions for prayer Come to the Father through the Son in your prayers and in worship today. Go to Jesus with your sin and struggles and with your desire to serve Him. As you keep coming to Him, ask that you may know Him to be more and more precious. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 10 – Sojourners desire the pure milk of the Word

...as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby. – 1 Peter 2:2 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:1-3 We have seen how the beginning of our spiritual lives comes by the Word, through the gospel preached to us. If we want to grow in that life, that is also something God works by His living and abiding Word. Have you ever seen a baby who is desperately hungry for its mother’s milk? Babies can get very passionate about this desire! And that is the picture Peter gives here of our need as sojourners. Amid the battles and challenges of life, where sometimes the biggest enemy is our own sinful flesh, sojourners hunger with the passion of newborn babies for the pure milk of the Word. Do not be like some people who misapply Peter’s emphasis. The point here is not that there is something praiseworthy about remaining immature as a Christian, only wanting milk and not solid food. That’s embarrassing! (Compare to Hebrews 5:12). We are not being encouraged here to remain as weak and helpless babies in our Christian walk. Sojourners want to grow! And sojourners want to get rid of sin in their lives: all hatred, lies, superficiality, and sinful talk. If we know ourselves well, we will know these are demanding tasks that work up an appetite. So, we hungrily crave more and more of God’s Word. And, in the Word, as our hungry souls are refreshed in looking to Jesus, we taste again and again that the Lord is gracious. It tastes like more! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to give you a passionate hunger and thirst for His Word and for the grace we taste, in Jesus. Pray for the passion of a newborn babe, as well as the growing maturity of one who cannot get over the blessing of God’s grace in Jesus. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 9 – Sojourners are born of the Word

...having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever. – 1 Peter 1:23 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:22-25 Peter continues to unpack for us, sojourners, some details of what the call to holiness entails. Sojourners obey the truth. By the work of God’s gracious Spirit, we take hold of the truth and want to live according to it. Peter says this comes to expression in our loving one another fervently with a pure heart. The reason we want to do this and the reason we can, is because we have been born again. That means the seed of life that has been implanted by God’s Spirit through the gospel is incorruptible, or imperishable. It cannot and will not die. We’ve probably all planted seeds and been disappointed when they proved useless, dead, or rotten and never germinated. Not so with the life God gives through the gospel. We didn’t give life to ourselves when we were born the first time. We don’t give life to ourselves when we are born the second time, either. It is life that comes from above and it will never die. The seed God brings to life in you has been planted and is being watered by the living Word. He has done that through the preaching of the gospel. If you have taken hold of the gospel, believed the good news, obeyed the truth through the Spirit and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of your soul, you can be encouraged in your call to holiness and love. God has given you life. You have the life that you need. By God’s grace, you have what it takes. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the new life He gives through the gospel. Thank God for the gospel that is preached to you. Pray that those who do not have this life may also know this blessing. Pray that it will show in fervent love for others. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 8 – Sojourners know Jesus’ blood is precious

… with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. – 1 Peter 1:18,19 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:17-21 Peter urges that throughout the time of our sojourn on earth, we should live in fear. That must not be misunderstood. He is not suggesting we need to live in dread, terror of God, or in a panic about what’s going to happen next. He has assured us that, as sojourners, we can live in joyful hope! The fear of God he is talking about is better understood as a reverent sense of awe. Too often, we forget. The awe is lacking and it shows in aimless living. So, how can we maintain reverent awe? Peter says it comes from a continual sense of grateful amazement about what our Saviour has done for us in shedding His precious blood. Say you receive two chocolate cakes. One, casually picked up at the store, no big deal; the other, equally as delicious, from your young child who put everything into making it. Which is more precious? Our salvation cost Jesus everything. He gave His lifeblood. As a lamb without blemish or spot, He was perfectly suited to be the Saviour of sinners! This was not something we could ever have earned, or bought, even with all the gold or silver in the world; it was obtained for us at the infinite cost of the blood of the Son of God. He loved you and gave Himself up for you! Never get over this! Always remember and be amazed! By His precious blood, He has saved us from sin’s guilt and power. Sojourners who are amazed by His grace will never be aimless. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the precious blood of Jesus! Ask Him to help you to know this blessing with a sense of awe, always. Thank God for redeeming you from aimlessness and ask Him to help you live for Him with purpose and reverent awe. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 7 – Sojourners’ hope leads to holiness

...but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:15,16 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:13-16 After assuring us with the riches of the blessed hope that is ours as sojourners by God’s grace to us, in Jesus, Peter arrives at the inevitable call to holiness: Be holy, because God is holy. So, be like God. Not so easy, right? The bare command leads either to despair in the defeated recognition, “I can’t!” Or, it leads to arrogant, self-confident Pharisaical pride that says, “Of course, look at me!” But, as a bare command, this call to holiness actually is unattainable for us. Thanks be to God, it never comes to us in Scripture in that way. In the Bible, the call to holiness always comes in the context of hope. Hope leads to holiness. As sojourners set apart from sin and devoted to God, we want to be holy as God is holy. But we have probably learned the hard way that holiness is not attained by our seeking to do more and trying harder. Peter encourages us that it comes by setting our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Do you want to be holy? Remind yourself of the grace God has shown you in Christ. Rest in that. Take your stand again in that. Then you can be forward-looking in hope. You know there will always be more grace. It’s that hope that gives us an eagerness, willingness and the ability to want to be like God. Pray it will show in grace-filled, hopeful lives that set you apart. Suggestions for prayer Reflect on whether the call to holiness causes you to despair, or to boast. Ask for God’s grace to overcome both. Thank God for the holiness that is ours in the Holy One (1 Corinthians 1:30). Pray for growth in hope-filled holiness and pray that it will be seen. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 6 – News so good, even angels can’t get enough

Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you… things which angels desire to look into. – 1 Peter 1:10,12b Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:10-12 Have you ever been so excited about good news that you were sitting on the edge of your seat? Well, the good news of our salvation is something that has the angels on the edge of their seats. They can’t get enough of it. The angels have always been enthusiastic cheerleaders of God’s great work. When they witnessed God’s speaking the physical world into existence at Creation, they sang for joy! (Job 38:7). When Jesus was born, the heavenly host sang, “Glory to God in the highest!” (Luke 2:14). At Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension, they sing, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!” (Revelation 5:12). When one sinner comes to repentance, they rejoice with God in heaven (Luke 15:7,10). It is like they are sitting on the edge of their seats, waiting to see what happens next. Prophets in the past received a faint outline of what was to come. By God’s grace and by His Spirit, we have come to see the suffering and glory of Jesus in its full accomplishment! It’s like the difference between receiving a message by Morse code and seeing something in technicolour on an ultra-HD TV; only what we have come to know in Christ is even far, far more glorious. Jesus did suffer. He completed His atoning work. He is glorified! Now, by God’s Word and Spirit, we know that this hope of glory is ours. If even the angels can’t get enough of this, shouldn’t we also desire to look into this blessing more? Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the finished Word and work of Christ. Thank Him for the work of the Spirit in helping us to see and know the hope that is ours because of the suffering and glory of Jesus. Pray for a desire to know and appreciate this blessing more. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 5 – Sojourners love Jesus

, Whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory. – 1 Peter 1:8 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:6-9 Sometimes trials are all we see. We don’t see Jesus, only hardship. That is where faith comes in. What can keep sojourners going amidst trials? Only the love and presence of Jesus! When Peter denied Jesus three times, he failed the test. Then, Jesus catches his eye with a look of love (Luke 22:61) and Peter weeps bitterly. But Jesus had prayed for Peter, died for him, rose again and pursued him in love. Jesus asked him the simple question – do you love me? By God’s grace Peter could respond, “Lord, you know all things, you know I love you!” (John 21:17). Peter was graciously restored in the love of Jesus. Peter was an eyewitness of His majesty (2 Peter 1:16), but we have not seen Him. Maybe you think that makes it harder for us, but remember Jesus’ words, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe” (John 20:29). By God’s grace we are blessed to say, “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19), He loved us and gave Himself up for us (Galatians 2:20). We love Him because we know He is with us in the furnace of affliction (Daniel 3:25). We love Him because we know nothing will separate us from His love (Romans 8:39). We love Him because the salvation of our souls is certain! So, though trials may be all we see, we can “rejoice with joy inexpressible.” We can’t even find words to express our joy. We love you, Jesus! Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His love to you in Jesus. Speak to God of your love for Jesus for Who He is and what He has done. Ask Him for help to show your love for Him to all around you. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 4 – The sojourners’ fiery trials

...that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:7 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:6-9 Sojourners have reason to rejoice in every circumstance because of the living hope we have been given. That does not mean there will not be trials, however. In fact, trials should be expected. And fiery trials can sometimes be very grievous and difficult. “Lord, what are you doing?” We may ask. Some of our trials seem to last forever. But as sojourners of hope, who know where we are going, we know that compared with our eternal future, trials are only “for a little while.” They will come to an end. God, Who is faithful to His promises, will bring us through. The inspired words “if need be,” also remind us that all our trials are in the hands of our gracious God, the Master Refiner. They only, ever come to us in His sovereign and loving care. We may even learn to look back and say with humble gratitude, “I needed that!” That may not be easy to appreciate when you are in the fire. Take heart, though. A refiner of gold, who knows what he is doing, never leaves the fire when gold is being refined. He knows the gold is purified when He can see his face in it. In His refining fire, our gracious God always has a good and loving purpose in view. He wants us to be more like Jesus. Praise God, He is at work in all our trials so we may know Him, love Him, be like Him and serve Him better! We shall come forth as gold! (Job 23:10). Suggestions for prayer Reflect on trials God has brought into your life in His refiner’s fire. Thank Him for what you have learned and seek His face for further refining. Thank God for corporate worship and how He uses it to refine your faith. Pray for those near you and around the world who are experiencing trials that they may come forth as gold. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 3 – The sojourners’ imperishable inheritance

...to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. – 1 Peter 1:4 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:3-7 One of the great joys of a sojourner is knowing we are “going somewhere.” Despite times of spinning our wheels, we know we have a glorious future to look forward to. It gives meaning and purpose. We’ve all broken things, made things dirty, and have watched things we love dearly, rust away into uselessness. Our inheritance, our hope of blessed and eternal fellowship with God, is not like that. It will never perish or fade away. We cannot break it or defile it. Maybe amid the struggles you face in this world, you live in fear that you have defiled or broken your inheritance by your sins, like when you were a child you sometimes forfeited your allowance by your misdeeds. Can our living hope just fade away? Could you one day arrive in God’s presence only to be told, “I am sorry, I do not see a reservation?” By God’s grace, through faith, you may be encouraged to know your inheritance will not fade away. Sojourners who acknowledge their sin and turn to God, can be assured of two things. First, God keeps your inheritance, your place is reserved. Second, God keeps you and prepares you for your inheritance. An inheritance is something graciously given, not earned. Again, it’s all grace. God is eager and ready to reveal this blessing in the days to come. He makes you eager and ready to receive it and enjoy it. Having that hope makes us eager and ready to live for Him today! Suggestions for prayer Thank God for preserving your inheritance for you and for preserving you for your inheritance. Confess ways we might tend to defile this blessing. Ask Him to make you eager and ready to live for Him today in the hope of your certain future. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 2 – The sojourners’ living hope

has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. – 1 Peter 1:3b Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:1-4 When people say, “I hope so,” they are typically speaking of a faint hope, or something not certain at all. But Christian hope, the hope of sojourners, is not like that. Though we do not yet see and touch everything we hope for in Christ, we have the blessing as a sure and certain hope. It is a living hope. We can think of situations where people’s hopes have died. Dead hope is not hope. It is terribly sad. A lot of people are going nowhere. And we need to pray that we may be deeply sympathetic to the hopelessness that surrounds us. As sojourners, we have been given a living hope. It is a vibrant, thriving, lasting and certain hope. It is living because it comes from the living, thriving, loving, Blessed Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is so happy to be God, so thrilled to give life. He delights to pour out His abundant mercy. He gives life to our dead souls! We who were dead in sins and trespasses, without hope and without God in the world, have been born again and given new life and a living hope. This blessing is sure and lasting because it is ours through the life of our resurrected Saviour, Jesus. It is because He lives that we come to share in the blessing and certainty of His life. Remember, that in a world of darkness and hopelessness, we have been given a living hope. It is ours to enjoy and to share! Suggestions for prayer Is your hope alive? Ask God to give you great joy in the hope we have in Christ and to make us beacons of hope amidst the darkness. Pray earnestly for someone you know who is struggling with hopelessness, that you may encourage them in living hope. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introduction to July – Hope for sojourners in exile

When you think about your life in this world, do you ever feel like a fish out of water, or that you stand out like a sore thumb? Are you ever surprised by the fiery trials the Lord chooses to bring your way? Do you get overwhelmed with how it seems that more and more the world looks at us and thinks we Christians are strange? Are you ever shocked by how the world wonders why we just cannot go along with the flood of sinful changes that are drowning our culture today? Do you feel as though we are entering into a new era of exile? But do you desire with all your heart to stand up and stand out by being ready to speak to all about the hope we have been given? Take heart, pilgrim, we have been given a message of hope! We find it wonderfully summarized for us in the inspired words of 1 Peter. Peter, a man who knew all about failure and opposition, was once blundering and proud, but as an eyewitness of Christ’s majesty, a recipient of His restorative grace, also became someone who knew a thing or two about God’s grace and hope. Peter writes to pilgrims, aliens, exiles and strangers who are dispersed throughout Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). They are sojourners who can live by grace with strong hope because as sojourners they can live with the assurance that they are on their way to an incorruptible inheritance with Jesus that is reserved in heaven for them and does not fade away. The relevance for us today, as sojourners living in exile in a post-Christian culture, should be obvious. We are given a message of hope – a living, lasting and secure hope. Let us dig into this hope together and pray that we may be encouraged, as well as equipped to share it with others!  Grace for sojourners Grace to you and peace be multiplied. – 1 Peter 1:2c Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:1-2 The life of a Christian, a pilgrim, a sojourner is not always easy. There are trials, opposition and the challenge of being perceived as different. Peter begins his letter to sojourners with grace. Grace to you and peace! Peter had come to know through hard and blessed experience that his salvation and place as the Lord’s servant was all because of grace. He was amazed by grace and could not stop talking about it. Peter’s tone will be a tone of grace. We come to know ourselves as God’s sojourners – by grace! The loving and gracious plan of the Father, the powerfully gracious work of the Spirit to make this blessing real in our lives, and the obedience and sprinkling of Jesus to give us peace with God – is all undeserved grace. We rest in the obedience and sacrifice of Jesus once and for all – that too is grace. And, as we continue to struggle against sin, we continue to take refuge in the blood, passion and death of our Saviour. That is enduring grace! In Christ, we are chosen by God and precious. We have also been chosen for such a time as this and for these struggles. As elect pilgrims, we have been chosen to be sojourners. That too is grace. Living in exile will not always be easy, but God’s grace is more than enough. The grace God gives us and the peace we enjoy, as a result, is a blessing that is multiplied. God is not cheap with His grace. His grace abounds. Blessed be God! Suggestions for prayer Reflect on the wonder of God’s grace in your life. Count the ways you experience God’s grace and ask Him to help you talk to others about it with a tone of grace. Pray that you will always begin with and return to a deep appreciation of grace. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....