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Daily devotional

September 13 – Let us draw near in full assurance of faith

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. – Hebrews 10:22 Scripture reading: Hebrews 10:19-25 Based on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and His continued work as our Great High Priest, we are exhorted to draw near to God. How should we draw near to God in Christ? “Let us draw near with a true heart.” We are to approach God in worship with sincerity and with right affections for God. Let’s be honest, sometimes we don’t feel like going to church. But let us nevertheless draw near to God with a true heart, even admitting to God that our hearts aren’t where they should be, and asking Him to help us worship Him with a true heart. Often if we are faithful to attend, even when we don’t feel like it, God changes our heart in the process. And “Let us draw near…in full assurance of faith.” Some of you may struggle with the assurance of God’s promises which prevents you from going to worship or from joy and confidence in worship. Let me assure you as a Minister of God’s Word, that if you trust in Christ alone for your salvation, then God forgives you, loves you, and welcomes you in His presence in worship. And so, worship God in the full assurance of faith because of Christ’s once for all sacrifice on the cross and because He ever lives to make intercession for you at God’s right hand. In Christ, we draw near to God, “with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Spirit would assure you and other worshippers of the promises of God in Christ so that all would draw near to God with a true heart in full assurance of faith. Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 12 – The fruit of the Spirit is love: the necessity of love

But the fruit of the Spirit is love… – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Matthew 22:34-40; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Love is central to the Christian life. Without it, we are a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal. Without it our gifts add up to nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Jesus summarized our entire duty to God and neighbour in the law, as love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbour as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40). Jesus says that love for one another is evidence that one is His disciple (John 15:8-12). After listing several virtues, Paul says, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14). Indeed, it’s probably not a coincidence that Paul mentions love first in the list of the fruit of the Spirit. John writes, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” He goes on to say, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:7-8; 5:1-3). Today we see the necessity of love and that love for God and neighbour are intimately connected. Beloved in Christ, let us love one another by the Spirit! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the Spirit’s strength to love God more by keeping His commandments in gratitude for God’s grace (1 John 4:19; 5:3). Pray that God will help you by His Spirit to love others, especially brothers and sisters in Christ, and even your enemies. Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 11 – The fruit of the Spirit: general observations

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy…patience, kindness…1 Corinthians 13:4, 6 Love is patient and kind…rejoices. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Before we look at each aspect of the fruit that Paul mentions, it’s worth noting a few general observations. First, it is important to note that it is all one fruit. Paul doesn’t refer to his list as the fruits of the Spirit (plural), as if they are distinct from one another and you can have one without the other. Rather, Paul speaks in the singular and refers to it all as the one “fruit of the Spirit.” As we move on to joy and peace and patience, we are in one sense still talking about love and vice versa. We can see the close connection of the fruit in 1 Corinthians 13 when Paul says that love IS patient (a fruit of the Spirit). Love IS kind (a fruit of the spirit). Love rejoices (joy is a fruit of the Spirit). We are talking about the one fruit of the Spirit when we talk about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are like different facets of one diamond that we behold from different angles. Second, like the list of the works of the flesh (see September 6), this is not an exhaustive list. There are more aspects to the fruit of the Spirit than the nine virtues that Paul mentions in Galatians 5. We certainly could add humility, compassion, forgiveness and other virtues that the Spirit produces in us. All these virtues grow together in us as the one fruit of the Spirit. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would produce more of the fruit of the Spirit in your life, conforming you to the image of Christ. Thank God that, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 10 – The fruit of the Spirit: produced in us

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5 Scripture reading: John 15:1-17 Yesterday we heard about Christ’s fruitfulness for us. Today we learn about Christ’s fruitfulness in us. We deserve to be judged for our unfruitfulness (the works of the flesh, Galatians 5:19-21). But thanks be to God that Christ bore the judgment in our place! (Galatians 3:13). When we repent and believe in Christ, God forgives all our sins and credits the fruitfulness of Christ to our account. Even more, we receive the promised Spirit from the moment we first believe (Galatians 3:14). And now, that same Spirit Who bore good fruit for the Father, in the ministry of Christ for us, bears His fruit in our lives as we abide in Christ through faith (John 15:1-5). You see the secret of bearing fruit in the Christian life is not a self-help manual. Nor is it looking to the law for the power to obey. The law cannot give you the power to obey. It can only give you guidance on how to truly love God in gratitude. Only the Spirit can produce His fruit in your life. You need an inward heart renewal, which is a blessing promised in the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27). If you want more of the Spirit’s fruit in your life, you must be nourished by God’s Word and the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper). The Word and sacraments point you to Christ, and the Spirit uses these means to transform you into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Suggestions for prayer Meditate on Christ’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as revealed in the Word and sacraments. Pray that the Spirit will conform you more into His image and produce Christ-likeness in your life. Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 9 – The fruit of the Spirit: Christ’s fruitfulness

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him… – Isaiah 11:1-2 Scripture reading: Isaiah 11:1-5; 27:6; 32:14-17 Yesterday we saw Israel’s unfruitfulness. Today we learn more about how Christ is True Israel, Who bears fruit pleasing to the Heavenly Father. In Isaiah 11, we find that One will arise from within Israel, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit” (v. 1). And He is fruitful because He is anointed with the Holy Spirit (vv. 2-5). The justice and righteousness that Israel failed to produce in Isaiah 5 would be produced in THIS faithful Servant. And not only righteousness, but also the fruit of faithfulness, peace, and joy (Isaiah 11:5; 32:17; 51:3; Galatians 5:22). And this True Israel would be so fruitful that one day the whole world would be filled with good fruit (Isaiah 27:6). This is because He will pour out His Spirit on His people (Isaiah 32:14-17; 44:2-4; 45:8). This is the work of Christ for us. He is fruitful so that we might be fruitful unto God. He was anointed with the Spirit at His baptism and God the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” He bore fruit for God that was perfect, that yielded good wine, wine that has no blemish, no sour or bitter notes and has a perfect finish. And yet, He became like wild rotten grapes for us. Our unfruitfulness was imputed to Him. He was judged in our place, forsaken, so that we would never be forsaken by God. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the fruitfulness of Christ on your behalf. Rest and rejoice in the good news that God will never leave you nor forsake you because of Christ. Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 8 – The fruit of the Spirit: Israel’s unfruitfulness

My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill…and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes…Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is… – Isaiah 5:1-2 Scripture reading: Galatians 5:22-23; Isaiah 5:1-7 Most Christians today are familiar with this passage on the fruit of the Spirit. But few are aware of the significance of this passage in light of the Old Testament. Just as there is an Old Testament background to what it means to “walk by the Spirit,” so too there is an Old Testament background to Paul’s language of “fruit of the Spirit.” In Isaiah 5:1-7 we see that God redeemed Israel as His beloved bride from slavery in Egypt. He mercifully rescued and married her when no one wanted her. He provided for her and protected her.  He gave Israel His law for how she was to live as His people in gratitude for her deliverance from Egypt. But when God looked at His vineyard, what did He see? Instead of good grapes they produced wild grapes that are of no use for wine, but only for producing vinegar. God was looking for the fruit of justice and righteousness, but instead, they produced bloodshed and an outcry. They were unfruitful. Thus, they came under God’s judgment. Israel is a microcosm of all of fallen humanity. Apart from Christ, none of us are any better. The works of the flesh taint our record. But the good news is that True Israel would one day come in the person and work of Christ and bear the fruit of the Spirit perfectly on behalf of His chosen bride, the church, made up of Jews and Gentiles who have faith in Christ. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that Jesus is the True Vine (John 15:1). Rest in His completed work on the cross for you. Abide in Him by faith and pray for the Spirit to unite you with Christ and His life-giving benefits more and more. Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 7 – The works of the flesh

Now the works of the flesh are evident…I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. – Galatians 5:19, 21 Scripture reading: Galatians 5:19-21 We’ll spend most of our time focusing on the fruit of the Spirit. But today we consider the works of the flesh. Paul says that “the works of the flesh are evident.” They are those actions that flow out of our “flesh” (sin nature) and its desires. Apart from God’s grace in Christ and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, we all gravitate towards these things. The sins Paul mentions don’t need much explanation. But it’s worth mentioning that this is not an exhaustive list, as Paul adds, “and things like these,” at the end of the list (v. 21). Other works of the flesh are mentioned elsewhere (e.g. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Ephesians 5:3-6; Colossians 3:5-9). Paul mentions the sins that the particular church to which he is writing tends to struggle with the most. He also always warns them, “that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” It’s important to note that this does not mean that Christians never commit these sins and achieve sinless perfection in this life (Galatians 5:17). Rather, it means that Christians don’t walk in these sins habitually as a committed lifestyle. They also repent of these sins with genuine sorrow and hatred and turn from them more and more. Furthermore, they grow in a heartfelt desire to walk in righteousness and the Spirit produces in them His righteous fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). Suggestions for prayer Confess your sins to God, rest in the complete forgiveness of all your sins in Christ and ask for the Spirit to enable you to turn more and more from the works of the flesh and to walk in Christ-like love for God and neighbor. Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 6 – Confidence to enter the holy places

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus…and since we have a great priest over the house of God… – Hebrews 10:19-21 Scripture reading: Hebrews 10:19-25 Today, as you worship God, remember that you have “confidence to enter the holy places.” Adam and Eve were expelled from God’s holy place in the Garden of Eden because of sin. God placed the cherubim with a flaming sword to bar anything unholy from entering. The only way back into God’s holy presence would be through judgment. This was impressed upon God’s people in the Old Testament in the tabernacle and temple, where cherubim were embroidered on the inner curtain that marked off God’s presence in the “most holy place.” No one could enter that most holy place except for the high priest, once a year on the Day of Atonement, where he offered a sacrifice for his sins and the sins of the people. How can we have confidence in worship if we have all sinned? Because Christ is our Great High Priest, He is true God and true man, Who always kept God’s law and offered up Himself as a once for all sacrifice for all our sins. He bore the judgment in our place on the cross and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. He rose again, ascended to heaven and now lives to make intercession for us at the Father’s right hand in the true temple. Through His precious blood, we have permanent open access to God’s holy presence (Hebrews 10:19-21). Therefore, worship God through faith in Christ, with confidence, and be thankful for Christ’s priestly work on your behalf. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and His continued priestly work on your behalf. Pray that you and other worshippers would “make a joyful noise to the LORD” and “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise!” (Psalm 100). Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 5 – Walk by the Spirit: not under the law?

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. – Galatians 5:18 Scripture reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Galatians 3:13-14 Are Christians really not under the law? What does Paul mean here? He doesn’t mean that you don’t have to obey God’s moral law anymore. You still are required to love God and love your neighbor as a Christian (Galatians 5:13-14; Romans 13:8-10). What then does He mean? Paul means that we are no longer under the law’s condemnation. Earlier he said Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13). And so, it can no longer condemn you, but it still commands you. In terms of the former, the words of the hymn, Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder, by John Newton, are very comforting: Let us love and sing and wonder, let us praise the Saviour’s name, He has hushed the law’s loud thunder, He has quenched Mt. Sinai’s flame: He has washed us with His blood, He has brought us nigh to God. For Christians, the law of God functions as a rule of love for God and neighbour. And, “we love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Finally, as Christians we have the law of God written on our hearts by the Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31-34). But the law doesn’t produce love. Rather, love is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). The Spirit produces His fruit as we hear both the law and the gospel preached, and He conforms us into the image of Christ Who fulfilled the law and died for our sins in sacrificial love for us. Suggestions for prayer Praise God with the words of Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder, by John Newton. Meditate on Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:25-27 and thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 4 – Walk by the Spirit: a daily fight

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. – Galatians 5:17 Scripture reading: Galatians 5:16-18 We’ve seen that walking by the Spirit is an echo of Israel’s exodus and includes the following ideas: freedom in Christ from the curse of the law, strength by the Spirit to turn from sin and to walk in obedience to God, and being led by the Spirit according to God’s Word. At this point, the Christian life may sound easy. Indeed, we have heard much good news so far to strengthen us for the journey! But the journey is not without its struggles. Here we are reminded that if we are led by the Spirit there will be a daily fight within, between our sinful nature (“desires of the flesh”) and the Holy Spirit Who dwells within us. Do you ever feel like there are two of you? Do you ever do something sinful and think, “Why did I just do that? I hate that! I never want to do that again!” only to do it again. Know that you are not alone. This is the ordinary Christian life. It’s a fight, but it’s a good fight. It’s the good fight of the faith. As Christians, we have peace with God because we have been justified through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). But the peace we have with God in justification marks the beginning of the war on sin in our sanctification. Thanks be to God that the Spirit Who raised Christ from the dead dwells within us and will give us ultimate victory! (Romans 8:11; Philippians 1:6). Suggestions for prayer Confess your sins to God and be assured that He forgives you and accepts you in Christ (1 John 1:9; 2:1-2). Pray that the Spirit would govern you more and more in your thoughts, words and deeds for the glory of God and the good of others. Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 3 – Walk by the Spirit: led by God’s word

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. – Galatians 5:16 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:22-2:3; 2 Timothy 3:14-17 So far we’ve seen that to walk by the Spirit means that we are free in Christ from the curse of the law and free in Christ to obey God’s law in the Spirit’s strength. To walk by the Spirit is to be led by the Spirit (v. 18), walking in His strength and following His guidance. But where does this strength and guidance come from? Does it just happen to us? No. Both the strength and guidance come by the Spirit through the means of grace, the Word and sacraments, and through prayer. We must pray for the Spirit’s strength to obey God’s law, revealed in the Spirit-inspired Word. We must pray for the Spirit to use God’s Word to expose the lies of the world, the flesh and the devil. And we must pray that the Spirit would conform us more into the image of Christ as we behold Him by faith in the Word and sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper). The Spirit ordinarily works through these means. To be led by the Spirit is to be led by God’s Word. To walk by the Spirit is to walk by God’s Word. The Spirit and the Word go hand in hand. Therefore, if we want to walk by the Spirit we must be a people of prayerful meditation on God’s Word. God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). Let us walk by the Spirit according to God’s Word! Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His Spirit-inspired Word. Pray that the Spirit would draw you into God’s Word daily and especially in corporate worship on the Lord’s Day. Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 2 - Walk by the Spirit: led by the Spirit

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. – Galatians 5:16 Scripture reading: Isaiah 63:11-14; Nehemiah 9:19-20 Yesterday we began to see how Paul has in mind the exodus of Israel when he exhorts us to “walk by the Spirit.” Israel’s freedom from Egypt foreshadowed our greater freedom in Christ from the curse of the law, the power of sin and the tyranny of the devil. Indeed, freedom in Christ is a key theme of Galatians (e.g. 2:4; 3:13; 4:5; 5:1, 13). This is why it is often referred to as “The Magna Carta of Christian Liberty.” But there is more to the story with Israel and with us. God didn’t just free the Israelites from bondage to Egypt only to leave them to themselves to roam wherever they wanted. Rather, once He liberated them He then led them by His Spirit (Isaiah 63:11-14; Nehemiah 9:19-20). So too, God liberates us in Christ and leads us by His Spirit as pilgrims in this world. In other words, we are not left to ourselves to fight against sin and the devil in our own strength. Rather, we have been given the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit Who enables us to walk in God’s ways (Ezekiel 36:25-27). This is what it means to walk by the Spirit. It means we are not only free in Christ from the curse of the law but we are also free in Christ to obey God’s law in the Spirit’s strength. Therefore, let us walk by the Spirit! Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Pray for the Spirit’s strength to turn from the desires of the flesh more and more and to obey God’s law in gratitude for Christ. Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September introduction: the Vine, and the fruits of the Spirit

The fruit of the Spirit is not a coconut, as one children’s Sunday school song puts it. I’m sure you all know that! But it’s a fun song for memorizing the list of nine virtues that Paul mentions. You are probably also familiar with the topic of the fruit of the Spirit to some extent. But this month we’ll meditate more deeply on Galatians 5:16-25. We look forward to exploring some of the lesser-known Old Testament background on the fruit of the Spirit as well as the background to Paul’s exhortation to “walk by the Spirit.” We’ll also see how it connects with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ Who is the True Vine and the Last Adam, Who has been raised from the dead and gives the promised Spirit of life to His people (John 15:1; 1 Corinthians 15:45). My prayer is that through this study we will come to better understand the Bible’s teaching on the fruit of the Spirit and marvel at the unity of the whole Bible on this topic. Even more, it is my prayer that we will actually grow in the fruit of the Spirit during this study; that we will be equipped to grow in maturity in Christ throughout the Christian life for the glory of God and the good of others. As Jesus put it, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8). Also, on Sundays throughout this month we’ll be meditating on Hebrews 10:19-25 and how it calls us to worship God. September 1 – Walk by the Spirit: freedom in Christ But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. – Galatians 5:16   Scripture reading: Galatians 3:13-14; 4:4-7; 5:16-18 Why does Paul say walk by the Spirit? Why not, “live by the Spirit” or “seek the Spirit”? It’s because Paul pictures the great redemptive event of the Old Testament, namely the exodus. Remember that Israel was in bondage to Egypt and the Pharaoh. That bondage was a picture of our bondage to the curse of the law, the power of sin and the tyranny of the devil. As Paul says earlier in Galatians, “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed…Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods” (Galatians 3:23; 4:8). You see, Christ set us free from those things by being born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law so that we might no longer be slaves but sons (Galatians 4:4-7). Paul’s point is that when we look to Christ by faith, we are freed from the bondage of the curse of the law, justified in God’s sight and are adopted as God’s own dear children. And so, we have the greatest freedom of all in Christ that the exodus of Israel foreshadowed. What does this have to do with the exhortation to “walk by the Spirit”? We’ll answer that in tomorrow’s devotional. For now, rest and rejoice in the remarkable freedom that you have in Christ by grace alone through faith alone. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the freedom you have in Christ from the curse of the law, the power of sin, and the tyranny of the devil. You’ve gone from slavery to sonship, from wrath to riches! Rev. Brian Cochran has been serving Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, Saskatchewan since 2010. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 31 – Trust the psalms of God

I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. – Psalm 52:8B Scripture reading: Psalm 52 We started with Psalm 1 and the comparison between the good and the wicked man. We sang from Psalm 50, the words of God Who calls us to right worship and living. He promises curses upon the wicked and blessings for the good man. In Psalm 51, we repented because of the renewal that the creation of a new heart and pure spirit brings. Then we sang from Psalm 52, “Do not take God’s mercy for granted; see the foolishness and destruction of the wicked. Trust in God.” Some of the verses of these Psalms make us cringe just a bit. Let us trust that these songs are given by God, Whose love is steadfast. We are coming out of darkness into light. He is bringing us from the destruction of wickedness and into the blessings of obedience that we may live and prosper like a tree planted beside the living waters—like a green olive tree. These songs sing about our God, Who is God with us and in us. But we also sing to minister to one another, always with thanksgiving in our hearts. Singing the Psalms, we love God and our neighbor as ourselves. Let us never forget God’s love to us in the One Who is the olive tree, yet hung on a tree that we may know the love of God. Sing of the faithfulness and trustworthiness of the LORD. Trust in the steadfast love of God forever. Suggestions for prayer Pray for joy to sing of all the Psalms of God, trusting His inspired words as being the excellent, right and true things that we and the whole world need to hear. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 30 – Worship of the fruitful tree

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. I will thank you forever because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly. – Psalm 52:8-9 Scripture reading: Psalm 52:8-9 We have dealt with some heavy stuff this past week. But today we can go to Church and be encouraged. The world is a messy and sad place to live in. Then God says, “Come to Church. Remember that I warned you. Come by faith, repenting, believing and trusting, worship Me.” We come together to confess our sins and sing praises to God, thanking Him that we are like the green olive tree standing in the house of God. Did you know that a well-tended olive tree can last for hundreds of years? It, in David's day and the Middle East today, is known for its usefulness and loveliness. It can be used as an ornamental tree and for its fruit—what a great picture of the faithful man. Remember Psalm 1? "The good man is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers." Are you baptized? Romans 6 teaches us that if we are baptized into Christ's death, we are raised in His new life. He is that perfect olive tree and in His goodness we become that tree by faith. Let us, in Christ, produce the fruits of worship. Come to the Father; He calls you by the elders to honour and adore Him. He has made us, and we are His. Let us enter His gates with thanksgiving and flourish like the olive tree. Suggestions for prayer Pray for hearts of love and thanksgiving and blessings for the Church as she gathers together to worship God. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 29 – Sing the truth in love

See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and sought refuge in his own destruction! – Psalm 52:7 Scripture reading: Psalm 52:6-7 Tomorrow we are going to church. We know that we ought to sing verses like Psalm 52:6,7. They are in line with Psalm 2, where the Anointed laughs in derision at the intent of the wicked. With Christ, we laugh at the foolishness. God reminds us of our need to repent using our song of warning. That ought to be part of worship. If we love God, we must sing the truth, in love, to warn of the darkness. As a social worker, I remember coming into the homes of addicts. The first thing that hits you is the stink and then the poverty. In one home, a toddler was walking around. It was winter, and there was snow in the living room while she wandered about in her sagging diaper looking for some comfort. Yet her guardians took pleasure in their own destruction because they were addicts. What is supposed to be euphoric turns into the nightmare of desperation. But sin is like that. Hardly aware of it, we can put our trust in our idols. When God comes and brings punishment, one of two things will happen: we are enlightened and turn to Him, or we dig in our heels and take refuge in our destruction. Let us listen to God today. Let us understand that we sing to warn one another and the lost. Sin is ugly and so are the results. Run to Christ! Suggestions for prayer Pray for blessings for our worship and the courage for our pastor to speak the truth in love, to each other and to the lost. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 28 – Singing about the destruction of the wicked

But God will break you down forever; he will snatch and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living – Psalm 52:5 Scripture reading: Psalm 52:5 Here is a sensitive issue for the church. In the Book of Romans (12:19-21), we read, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'” On the contrary, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Is it loving for us to sing about the destruction of the wicked? Jesus never shied away from warning the wicked of His day. The Church in Revelation 19 sings with joy about the destruction of the great harlot—a symbol of the wicked. Remember that David sings to God about the destruction of the man who persecuted the righteous priests of God. The wicked boast of the Christians they kill, even today. What would you think of a God who did not shield His chosen? What would you think of a Father who did not protect His children? The love of God is steadfast, and He will repay the wicked. God will send Jesus, and the Risen One will come to judge the living and the dead. If we do not believe this, or sing about it, likely we will not be all that engaged in reaching out to the lost. But, being sure of the end of the wicked, let us call them out of the darkness and into life. Let us sin no more! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the salvation of the wicked, the protection of the saints, a heart for pure living and the lost. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 27 – Evil men and the love of God

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

Daily devotional

August 26 – Evil men and the love of God

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

Daily devotional

August 25 – Singing the truth about God

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

Daily devotional

August 24 – Singing about our restoration to worship

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

Daily devotional

August 23 – Singing to bless the Church daily

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

Daily devotional

August 22 – Singing to declare God’s praise

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

Daily devotional

August 21 – Singing to declare God’s praise

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

Daily devotional

August 20 – Sing for restoration

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

Daily devotional

August 19 – Cleanse me with hyssop

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

Daily devotional

August 18 – Singing a confession about ourselves

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

Daily devotional

August 17 – A song begging for mercy

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

Daily devotional

August 16 – A personal lament for sin

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

Daily devotional

August 15 – Singing of the covenant blessings and curses

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

Daily devotional

August 14 – Singing of the covenant faithfulness of the Lord

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

Daily devotional

August 13 – Singing to love God and our neighbor

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

Daily devotional

August 12 – Singing about the judgement of God

But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips?” – Psalm 50:16 Scripture reading: Psalm 50:16-17 The conversation between the LORD and his subjects continues through the choir of the congregation. The King has called the people of God to new obedience, but looking into the hearts of the people, He calls out the wicked. Now, we must be clear that this call to repentance is for the covenant breaker. The wicked are the circumcised rebellious children of God who simply will not listen and obey. Where do we find ourselves? On the one hand, we confess the importance of reaching out to those who are wandering and living in sin. We perhaps are dealing with that wandering baptized child of God who will not repent. Our elders and pastor deal with these wayward children in an intense way. But we also need to look into our souls and ask ourselves about our walk with God. Are you handling difficulty and sorrow well? Are we able to accept God’s way without resistance? God has come to us in grace and peace in Christ. Let us hear the words of the LORD today and not cast them away. Suggestions for prayer Pray for a heart for the wandering and lost that God will turn their hearts. Pray for the pastors and elders of the church in their care for the flock. Ask for a pure and thankful acceptance of God’s way. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 11 – Singing to call others repentance

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

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

August 9 – Enter His gates with thanksgiving

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

Daily devotional

August 8 – Singing the testimony of God

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

Daily devotional

August 7 – Singing a call to worship

Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice! – Psalm 50:5 Scripture reading: Psalm 50:5-6 Here is the Church sounding the voice of God — come and worship! As I write this, we are in the Spring of isolation, online church and missing the gathering together. The language of verse 5 and 6 is lovely and comforting. The LORD calls His people, the faithful ones to gather and worship. And they do. He gathers them together using the songs of the Church to call His people. The Church in Zion, more than just the temple, is the imperfect “Immanuel” that looks forward to the unification of God and His people in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Israel shed the blood of many animals as part of their relationship with the LORD. Now we come in the shed blood of Jesus. "Therefore, brothers, since we have the confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” (Hebrews 10:19-20). The LORD who rules the Church rules the heavens too. The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). What do the heavens declare? His righteousness and right to judge. He has absolute authority, and the Church sings of His power now to enter in conversation with His people. The LORD does this as a King with His subjects or as a Father with His children. Let us prepare our hearts to hear what He will tell us so that we can respond and tell others. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the blessings of worship. Give thanks for the death and resurrection of Christ. Ask for a blessing on the fellowship and the ministry of the Church on earth and fearlessness to declare the whole truth about the LORD. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 6 – Singing our theology

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth – Psalm 50:2 Scripture reading: Psalm 50:1-4 The Psalms are not just songs to sing, but are the revelation of God. Psalm 50 provides a proper theology that leads to a good confession about God. As the Church, we confess, "God is certainly merciful, but he is also just. His justice demands that sin, committed against his supreme majesty, be punished with the supreme penalty— eternal punishment of body and soul" (Heidelberg Catechism QA 11). God is the creator and ruler of the universe. He has the right to expect that all humanity would fall and worship Him. He had revealed Himself to Israel in Zion. There the temple served to remind Israel of His presence and power, and their obligation to love and worship Him. But Israel tended to backslide. So, what are we called to do when we forget about His power? On Good Friday, when the Almighty One darkened the sun and poured His consuming anger upon our sin, He confronted us with His holiness. He loves His people and calls us to love Him. He calls the world, and especially the Church in the world, to repent and worship Him. True faith confesses His right to judge the nations and His mercy. God inspires Asaph to write to His people to confess their sin, His awesome name and shine the light of this profession to His glory. Today we sing these verses and reflect upon the Mighty One of Israel, the Lord our King. Suggestions for prayer Pray for courage to sing these verses to each other and the world. Pray to get to know the LORD and let Him be God and to accept this Psalm as necessary for the Church today. Ask to be aware of the Lord's right to call us to love and obedience and never take Him for granted. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 5 – The Church sings of the Lord’s rights

The Mighty One, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting – Psalm 50:1: Scripture reading: Psalm 50 What a powerful Psalm! I am not sure many in our modern church world would write a song like this. The Church sounds the voice of God, warning us against empty rituals. I think of Paul’s words, “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). Sacrifices and worship outside of a real personal relationship with God are empty and it makes God angry. In Revelation 2 and 3, Christ, through the angels, warns the churches of backsliding, pride, losing their first love and toleration of evil. If the churches do not repent, Jesus will remove the lampstand. It is good to sing Psalm 50 to remind one another of the holiness of God and His right to our devoted love. Worship ought never to be a way to get something from God, but ought to adore Him. Let us consider the mercy in this. The LORD is not going to let Israel slide into eternal damnation without confrontation and warning. We, as the Church, have seen the wrath of God when poured out on the Son. It is severe and we ought not to place our faith in our baptism or church membership, but only in Christ alone. Let us see the glory of God and sing of it before God, warning one another when we go astray. Let us listen to what the Spirit says to the churches and be blessed. Suggestions for prayer Pray to be aware of the majesty of God and to be deeply mindful of the temptation to empty worship—even in our time of devotions today. Pray for the Church in the world that we may sound the voice of God in boldness and truth. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 4 – The Lord knows his people

…the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. – Psalm 1:6: Scripture reading: Psalm 1 Psalm 1 is simply the covenant put into inspired verse and it provides the theme of all the subsequent Psalms. Psalm 1 directs us to Christ, the godly man in Whom we find blessing. I direct you to the words of John 3:16,18: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life… but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” That is a summary of the covenant. God is saying, “Walk with me, and I will bless you. If you do not, you will be cursed now and eternally." What are we to make of all this? God knows what to make of it. He is intimate with the lifestyle of the righteous and with the hearts of the upright themselves. The way of the righteous is the way that God provided for prosperous living. The covenantal blessing is issued, “Fear the Lord and live and prosper.” Whom will you serve? See the portrait of the righteous and the wicked. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt 5:6). Sing of the covenant of God. Yes, sing of the covenant of God! We are His people, the sheep of His pasture…” (Psalm 100). When the LORD is our shepherd, and we follow Him, surely, we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever! (Psalm23). Suggestions for prayer Pray that the church will be blessed and remain faithful. Pray for your congregation, leaders and the church around the world. Ask for blessings to trust and obey for you and loved ones. Ask that the Lord would turn the hearts of our neighbors to Him that they might be blessed and not be lost forever. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 3 – Curses for covenant breakers

The wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. – Psalm 1:5 Scripture reading: Psalm 1:4-6 The beatitude, "Blessed is the godly man," is juxtaposed with the curse upon the rebel. The wicked man is not like a tree planted by the water. He is like the chaff, the lifeless remains from a once vibrant but now harvested stalk. When the wind blows, the chaff is blown away, not by the fierce storms of life, but instead, by the warm breezes of lust and desire that are enough to scatter the wicked so that they are no more. Do you see the picture of the rebel? What is going through your mind now? Sometimes it seems that the wicked have all the fun, money and power (see Psalm 73:1-17). They are free to live the way they want, which Psalm 1 tells us is a living death. They mock the God of holiness, ridiculing Him in grand displays of celebration, opinions, lofty and false doctrine that leads to open sin. Still, when the winds of life blow, they fly away and in the end, they wither away and die-cut off from the faithful children of God. But we must also look at ourselves. Jesus said when speaking about being the vine and we the branches bearing fruit, "If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned" (John 15:6). We thank God for Christ, Who redeemed us so that we can repent and no longer be fruitless branches bound for the fire. Suggestion for prayer Pray for God's Kingdom to come and His will to be done in our lives. Ask that God would bring down the forces of evil in this world. Pray for those who are wandering or under discipline. Ask to be led to new repentance, understanding and strength to strive to make our calling and election sure. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 2 – Blessings for covenant keepers

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. – Psalm 1:3 Scripture reading Psalm 1:1-3 The first verses of Psalm 1 reveal to us the faithful children of God. We are looking forward to worshipping with them today. They do not walk with or live like the ungodly, but love the LORD. We sing and we take stock. How do we measure up? Godly people live life obeying the law of God. We trust them because they bear good fruit in due season. This picture leads us to think of the type of men we would have to lead the church or who are good sons, friends, or fathers and husbands. The picture gives us a notion of the kind of women we would have to love, teach and serve us. When we walk with the Lord by the light of His Word, and we trust and obey, the promise is sure: that man is blessed. Such a person is free to blossom and always produce the fruit of righteousness—living to love, serve and glorify God. Verses 1-3 point us to the perfect man, Jesus Christ. By His perfect obedience, we have redemption. Jesus, the perfect man, died on the cross, the righteous for the unrighteous and our lives are changed in Him. We are reminded for a moment of the words of Jesus as recorded by John in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Suggestions for prayer Pray for faith, faithfulness and blessing on our fellowship and worship services today. Ask for inspiration to be better able to love God and our neighbor and to be given the Spirit of grace so that we can produce good fruits and be blessed. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introduction to August’s study of Psalm 1 and 50-52

Paul calls both the Ephesians and Colossians to: “Address/admonish one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence to Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:16). God, by His Holy Spirit, has given us psalms to sing in order to praise Him. But the psalms are also given to us to minister to each other in the church and to those outside of it. They have also been given to us so that we may sing, live and worship together as God’s people in spirit and truth. This month I hope to lead you through Psalms 1, 50, 51, and 52 to help you to better understand God, the covenant He has made with us and how we are to live with Him and one another. Psalm 1 will set the perspective and then Psalms 50-52 will provide a unit by which we will come to know God Who calls us to obedience and repentance. We end up where we started, understanding the blessings upon obedience and the curses upon those who do evil. My hope is that we will no longer be conformed to this world, but be renewed in the transforming of our minds seeking God’s good and pleasing will, striving for holy singing and worship (Romans 12:1-2). **** A psalm of the covenant Scripture reading: Psalm 1 The 150 psalms are given by God on which to meditate on and sing. More than just songs to sing or poetry to recite, they are the revelation of God to us. Psalm 1 sets out the way to sing and understand the next 149 Psalms. Before we can sing the songs to His praise and glory, we must know what pleases the LORD God. The psalms spring from the context of the covenant and are given to the children of the covenant. Psalm 1 provides an inspired perspective. In Psalm 1, Israel then, and the church today, sings of the LORD our covenant God and the difference it makes to belong to God. Psalm 1 sets out for us the way of blessing and curses and the proper understanding of life before the face of God. It also sets before us the beauty of belonging to the Christian community. The church sings of her convictions about living in the promises of the LORD. We sing not only to glorify the LORD, but to reveal Him to the world and one another. The LORD knows the heart of man, both the righteous and the wicked man. Over the next few days, we will consider Psalm 1 from the perspective of verse 6, “The LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” May God bless the assembly as we worship Him tomorrow. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for the Word of God, the Psalms and the promises of God. Pray for help to understand and live out the Psalms and for blessings to live in grace with God and one another. Pray for blessings for our Sunday worship tomorrow. Rev. Al Bezuyen serves the Covenant Reformed Church of Toronto. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 31 – Glimpse of home

“I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them,” says the LORD your God. – Amos 9:15 Scripture reading: Amos 9:13-15; Revelation 21:1-8 We already possess the beginning of eternal joy through the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ. The fullness of life described by Amos is one that believers have already now in part. And there is more to come! The notes of God’s judgment have dominated Amos’s preaching, but the Spirit ends by giving us a glimpse of the new heavens and new earth. C.S. Lewis helps to focus us: “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea” (C.S. Lewis, Weight of Glory). Sin offers empty pleasures. Idols are unforgiving tyrants. Trusting in self is a dead-end. Every human being is made in the image of God, designed to know Him, to love Him, and to live with Him in eternal happiness. Sin has ruined that and subjected this world to futility and judgment. The tragedy of rebellion against God is that the rebel rejects the King who gave His life for the world so that sinners can come home. Home. When your soul aches for permanence in a world of change and your heart longs for holiness in a world stained with sin, rest in the finished work of Christ and set your heart on home. Grace will lead you there. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the hope of heaven to deepen your life already now and to draw you forward in persevering faith. Amen! Even so, come, Lord Jesus! Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 30 – Abundant life

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.” – Amos 9:13 Scripture reading: Amos 9:13-15; Ephesians 1:3-14 The final words of Amos’s ministry set forth a glorious picture of the blessings of Christ’s rule and government. Drawing from farming imagery, Amos gives us a glimpse of a better day. The seed-planter overtaking the harvester, the hills flowing with wine – these are descriptions of abundance. The return of captives means true liberty. Living in the cities they build and drinking wine from the vineyards they plant points to the end of futility. No longer being pulled up from the land refers to permanence. This is a glimpse of life with God, the life that was ruined by sin in the Garden, and the life for which we long: abundance, liberty, permanence. Are these blessings spiritual or physical? The answer is “Yes!” The kingdom of God embraces all of creation. Rather than distinguish between spiritual and physical, we can distinguish between the blessings of this present age and the blessings of the age to come. In Christ, we have abundant life. He is the living water and the bread of life. He satisfies our thirsty and hungry souls. In Christ, we already possess the liberty of being adopted children of God. We are no longer slaves to the dominion of sin. In Christ, we have a living hope in the midst of the futility of death. His resurrection is the guarantee that our labor is not in vain. In Christ, we have security in life and death. Our heavenly inheritance is reserved for us who are kept by the power of God. Seek Him and you will truly live! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the Spirit to show you the riches that is yours in Christ Jesus. Pray for the Spirit to feed your soul with Living Water and the Bread of Life. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 29 – God’s outreach

“That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,” says the LORD who does this thing. – Amos 9:12 Scripture reading: Amos 9:11-12; Acts 15:6-21 Amos prophecies that the kingdom of David will be restored so “that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name.” Beyond the dark days of Israel’s apostasy and Judah’s fall, a light shone in the darkness – the Light of the world. He rules His kingdom from the heavenly Jerusalem and has commissioned His church to be His witness in Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. The boundaries of the kingdom of David’s Son stretch across the whole world and embrace people from all nations. Do you see how the end of Amos brings us back to the beginning? Edom was one of those unbelieving nations against whom Amos prophesied judgment. And yet even for them, hope remains along with all the other Gentile nations. The history of God’s covenant people Israel is one of stiff-necked rebellion. In spite of their faithlessness, God remained faithful to His promise to Abraham to bring blessing to all the nations of the earth. Our God is truly a missionary God. The apostles in Acts 15 saw clearly that Amos 9:12 was being fulfilled in their midst as the Gentiles began to receive the Holy Spirit. We also are living in “that day” prophesied by Amos as the gospel continues to conquer sinners from all nations. As disciples of Christ, we ourselves are living testimonies to Amos 9:12. We are raised with Christ from the ruins. “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev.7:10). Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for God’s missionary heart, for seeking you out in love, and for giving you the salvation that is His alone to give. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 28 – Raise up the ruins

On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old. – Amos 9:11 Scripture reading: Amos 9:11-12; John 4:19-26 God’s focus shifts to the southern kingdom of Judah. After Israel was destroyed, Judah alone was left. Then in 586 BC, Judah also was brought to ruin. But unlike the tribes of Israel, Judah was restored to the Promised Land beginning in 536 BC. Jerusalem and the temple were rebuilt and the law restored. Faithful leaders like Ezra and Nehemiah led the Jews in repentance. Thus, God preserved Judah for the coming of Christ. Ultimately, David’s “tabernacle” or royal house was raised up in Jesus Christ. The Lord God gave Him the throne of His father David (Lk.1:32). He is the true and eternal King (Phil.2:9-11). He is the true Temple (John 2:19-22). He did what no other king could or would do: He was held responsible for our sin! He was laid low in the ruins of death in payment for our sin and He was raised up from the ruins for our restoration. The Samaritan woman to whom Jesus offered living water was a descendant of the mixed race and mixed religion that populated northern Israel after its demise. Salvation came to a Samaritan woman that day! Jesus told her that a day was coming and has now come that true worshipers would not come to Mt. Gerizim or to Mt. Jerusalem to worship the Lord. True worshipers worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. The King is risen! We enter the kingdom of God not by going to Jerusalem but by believing in Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer Bless the Lord Jesus for His exalted Lordship over all. Thank Him for stooping to the manger and the cross. Pray for the increase and consummation of His kingdom. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 27 – A remnant spared

“Yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,” says the LORD. – Amos 9:8b Scripture reading: Amos 9:8-10 As the curtain closes on Amos’s prophecy to Israel, there is a shaft of light in the darkness: there will be a remnant from Israel that will be saved. God will destroy the sinful kingdom from the face of the earth, but He will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob. By using the name of Israel’s covenant ancestor, Jacob, God is directing our attention to His promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God will destroy the kingdom of Israel in keeping with His covenant curses; He will be faithful also in keeping His covenant promise by preserving a remnant from the 10 northern tribes. Consider two examples of how this is witnessed in redemptive history. The first example happened in 715 BC, just a few years after the kingdom of Israel was removed by Assyria. King Hezekiah restored the Passover and sent runners to the remaining people of the land of Israel with an invitation to worship with them. Many mocked the invitation, but some from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came (2 Chron.30:11). The second example is the prophetess Anna, from the tribe of Asher, who welcomed the Lord Jesus with great joy when He was brought to the temple as an infant (Lk.2:36-38). With the Lord, “not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground” (vs.9). Even in the midst of catastrophic destruction, not one of Jesus’ sheep shall be snatched from His hand. And you are His sheep if you hear His voice and follow Him (Jn.10:27-28). Suggestions for prayer Bless God for His unfailing mercy and steadfast love. Pray for ears to hear His voice and a renewed will to follow. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 26 – Bring down the house

I saw the Lord standing by the altar, and He said, “Strike the doorposts, that the thresholds shake, and break them on the heads of them all.” – Amos 9:1 Scripture reading: Amos 9:1-7 The house of Israel – filled with false worship and injustice – will be brought down. They will take refuge by the altar, but those idols in which we have sought comfort and meaning will offer no protection from the wrath of God. He is the LORD God of hosts, who created and rules all things (vs.5-6). When God is against you, where will you turn for help? Will Israel turn to her covenant membership? Will she point to God’s covenant at Sinai for protection? Israel has turned away from God and will now reap the covenant curses as a covenant-breaking nation. The covenant of grace is not an automatic guarantee of immunity to judgment. It is a personal relationship with the almighty God that includes promises and demands. Israel has filled up the covenant land with sin. She will receive no special treatment from the impartial Judge (vs.7). The awesome majesty of God cuts two ways: For those who are living apart from Him, trusting in created things, the majesty of God is and will be truly terrifying. But, for those who serve the Lord in reliance on His grace, His majesty is a tremendous comfort. “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom.8:38-39). Suggestions for prayer Pray for the fear of God, for the trembling joy that comes from beholding the holiness and love of God. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 25 – Spiritual famine

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord GOD, “that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.” – Amos 8:11 Scripture reading: Amos 8:11-14 What if you went to the grocery store to restock your empty fridge and there was nothing there? It’s hard for us to imagine! Well, far worse than a natural famine is a spiritual famine of hearing the words of the LORD. If an individual or nation responds with indifference and ingratitude to the Word of God, there comes a point when He removes the Word from them. Are you allowing worldly pleasures to choke your love for Jesus? Are you quenching the work of grace in your heart by withdrawing from communion with the Lord? Let this warning from Amos move you in godly fear to repair your walk with God. What a tragic picture this is! The children of God running to and fro, from sea to sea, north to east seeking the word of the Lord but not finding it. But didn’t God promise that those who seek Him will find Him? Yes, and that promise remains true. The problem is that the Israelites will run everywhere trying to find the word of God except in the place where God promised to speak to them: the temple in Jerusalem. It is like Esau who sought the blessing with tears but did not obtain it because he found no place for repentance (Heb.12:17). Today, you can be assured of God’s grace for you by responding in faith and repentance. Go to God. Bring your sin and guilt and faithlessness to the cross of Jesus Christ. If you seek God in Christ, you will find Him. Suggestions for prayer Confess where your heart has grown cold to the things of God. Pray that He would not remove the Word from you or your loved ones. Seek His help in committing yourself to renewed study of His Word. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 24 – The day of the Lord

“And it shall come to pass in that day,” says the Lord GOD, “that I will make the sun go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in broad daylight.” – Amos 8:9 Scripture reading: Amos 8:7-10 We might think by this point that Amos is laying the judgment on a little thick! But this is not just an idiosyncrasy of Old Testament prophets. The Lord Jesus talked about hell more than He talked about heaven. Threats and warnings are one way that our faithful God bids us to repent and live. Amos describes the coming judgment on Israel as a day of catastrophe and grief. On that day, the land will tremble (vs.8), the sun will go dark at noon (vs.9), and it will end with mourning as for an only son (vs.10). It is quite probable that these things literally took place in the years leading up to Israel’s destruction in 722 BC. At the same time, the Word of God points us to events beyond 722 BC. The Day of the LORD came upon Israel. And the Day of the LORD will come in final fulfillment upon the whole earth when Jesus comes again. That will be a day of cosmic catastrophe. The heavens and earth will pass away and all men, the living and the dead, will stand before the Lord Jesus. The wicked will be thrown into everlasting fire and the righteous into eternal life. The Day of the LORD was visited upon Jesus at the cross. The earth quaked, the sun went dark, and God turned His face away as the Son of God became a curse for us to redeem us from the curse. Will you be exposed in your pride on the Day, or will you be found sheltered in the safety of the cross? Suggestions for prayer Adore the Lord Jesus for His atoning sacrifice on the cross. Be specific. Ask the Father to shelter you under His wings of refuge. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 23 – The least of these

When will the New Moon be past, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may trade wheat? – Amos 8:5a Scripture reading: Amos 8:4-6; Matthew 25:31-46 Amos presents the charges against Israel for which she will be judged. In so doing, he returns to a familiar theme: abusing the poor and needy in the land (vs.4). Israel’s guilt is aggravated by the fact that their injustice is committed against the backdrop of worshipping the LORD. They observe the Sabbath and other special feast days; the stores are closed on Sundays and the churches are full. But they can’t wait for worship to be over so that they can get to what they really want to be doing: making money (vs.5-6). They were not explicitly thinking to themselves, “How can I lie and cheat and exploit?” Amos speaks with biting satire to get to the root: what they call “just doing business” is, in fact, trampling their brother to serve self. Our regard for our fellow human beings reveals our regard for God. “He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy” (Prov.14:31). This is why the apostle John cuts to the chase and says: if you don’t love your brother, you don’t love God. It’s that simple. Jesus teaches us in the parable of the sheep and the goats that He will judge us according to how we ministered to the needy. This is not because our good deeds earn us fellowship with God. It is because those who turn away the “least of these” have never truly had fellowship with God. What will He say to you on that day? Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to work the fruit of love in your heart – love for God and for neighbour. If you are withholding mercy from the needy or forgiveness for your brother, confess those sins and ask the Lord Jesus to give you a servant's heart. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 22 – Ripe for judgment

The end has come upon My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. – Amos 8:2b Scripture reading: Amos 8:1-3; 2 Kings 17:5-18 Amos receives a fourth and final vision of a basket of summer fruit with the explanation that the end has come, God will no longer pass by. Israel is now ripe for judgment and the Lord is no longer going to withhold His hand. Israel has been growing fruit of sin and rebellion for several centuries and her opportunity for repentance will very shortly expire. Vs.3 describes what will take place in Israel when God comes to judge through the Assyrian scourge. The worship songs at the temple will turn to wailing. The dead bodies will be flung about everywhere, thrown out in silence. Those who have fought in major battles attest to the silence that follows a battle. It is the silence of death. The children of Israel had the covenant promises, the Law of Moses, the witness of the prophets, and providential warnings through natural disasters. God stretched out His hands all day long to a rebellious people (Is. 65:2). But they did not turn from their sinful ways. When their punishment finally came, they had no grounds with which to accuse God of wrongdoing. Friend, are you living apart from Christ? Are you clinging to a sin from which you will not turn? Are you telling yourself that you’ll deal with it later? “Repentance and faith are the gifts of God, and they are gifts that He often withholds, when they have been long offered in vain. I grant you, true repentance is never too late, but I warn you at the same time, late repentance is seldom true.” – Thoughts for Young Men, J.C. Ryle Suggestions for prayer Pray for grace to be on your guard against the deceitfulness of sin. Ask Him to show you sins that you are protecting and to lead you out of them. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 21 – Sword of the Spirit

I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a herdsman and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said to me, “Go, prophesy to My people Israel.” – Amos 7:14-15 Scripture reading: Amos 7:10-17 Wherever the Word of God is active it will provoke opposition from the kingdom of Satan. The Word of God is the seed of the kingdom, the sword of the Spirit, and “mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” (2 Cor.10:4). It is no surprise, then, that the enemies of Christ conspire against the Word. Amaziah, priest of Bethel, opposed Amos bitterly. Note his tactics. He attacks Amos’s person by accusing him of a conspiracy against the king (vs.10) and then misrepresents the message by only talking about the judgment part and not the reasons for judgment (vs.11). Some things never change. God’s enemies still use these tactics. Rather than engage the issues, they cry “Bigot!” to shut down the discussion or twist the words of the godly to make a damning news headline. It is becoming increasingly difficult to speak the truth of God’s Word into the public arena. Amos’s reply to Amaziah gives us a two-fold encouragement. First, he is convicted of his prophetic calling from God (vs. 14-15). If you are a child of Christ, God called you to Himself that you may proclaim His praises (1 Peter 2:9). Secondly, Amos reminds us of the tragic end of all those who resist the Word (vs. 17). When we remember that the enemies of the gospel are headed to eternal destruction, we can fear for their souls instead of being afraid of them. When you are taken aback by the world’s hostility to the Word of God, remember that Satan hates the Word because he is fully aware of its truth and power. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for the active and powerful presence of God’s Word in this world. Pray for confidence in the truth of the Bible and the courage to carry it into every aspect of life. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 20 – God’s plumb line

Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. – Amos 7:8b Scripture reading: Amos 7:7-9 Amos receives a third vision in which he sees God standing on a wall with a plumb line in His hand. Like a contractor tests the straightness of a wall with a level, God tests the true state of Israel’s faithfulness. His words to Amos reveal that the plumb line has exposed His people’s covenant unfaithfulness and that He will no longer spare them from judgment. The leading religious and political institutions will be desolated. This time, Amos does not plead for God to relent. It is clear to him that Israel’s window of opportunity has passed. What is God’s standard for determining whether to save or punish? Does the vision of the wall and plumb line suggest that He demands perfect righteousness from us? If so, none of us can ever measure up! Perhaps God allows for a little wiggle-room for sin in an “out-of-level” person? But that would contradict the holiness of God, in whom there is no darkness at all. Indeed, the vision of God and the plumb line are a reminder not to think of ourselves as more deserving than Israel – or any unbeliever, for that matter. We are all crooked; we have all fallen short of the grace of God. We all deserve eternal hell. But the righteousness of God that is given through faith in Jesus Christ has been revealed. We are declared “spot-on level” based on His perfect righteousness. What God’s plumb line looks for is this: Do you truly believe in Jesus for salvation? And is your faith proved true by your obedience? Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His perfect righteousness and justice. Pray for the two-fold gift of forgiving grace and transforming grace in Christ. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 19 – God’s mercy

“O Lord GOD, forgive, I pray! Oh, that Jacob may stand, for he is small!” – Amos 7:2b Scripture reading: Amos 7:1-6 Amos has been readily announcing the judgment of God on His sinful people, but at the sight of the locusts and fire he pleads with the Lord to relent. What is it that moves Amos to intercede on behalf of Israel? Perhaps this was the first time he had actually seen with his eyes the judgments of God and it overwhelmed him. Or maybe he saw that the poor and weak would bear the brunt of these judgments. The locust swarm at the crops “after the king’s mowings” which probably means that the king and his friends would be well-fed while the poor farmers starved. We don’t know what exactly it was that Amos saw that moved him to pray for God to relent. What we do know is that Amos’s prayer reveals the merciful heart of God. It was in His mercy for stubborn sinners that God sent Amos to preach to Israel and pray for them. And when Amos pleaded, God relented because it had been His will all along to show mercy through the intercession of His prophet. The interceding Amos directs our faith to our eternal High Priest who ever lives to make intercession for us (Heb.7:25). In Jesus we see the heart of God perfectly revealed and all those who trust in Christ will never be excluded from His mercy. “Since it has pleased God to give us His Son as our Intercessor, let us not leave Him for another…For when God gave Him to us He knew well that we were sinners” (Belgic Confession, Art.26). Suggestions for prayer Give thankful praise for God’s indescribable gift of His Son. Thank Him for His patience and ask for humble confidence in the perfect High Priesthood of Jesus. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 18 – Unshakeable

The LORD God has sworn by Himself, “I abhor the pride of Jacob, and hate his palaces; therefore I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.” – Amos 6:8 Scripture reading: Amos 6:8-14 The Israelites think that their nation is unshakable. Therefore, Amos declares to them that God abhors the pride they take in their palaces (vs.8) and the way they boast in their own military strength (vs.13). Not only is this arrogant, it is foolish. This same proud folly was witnessed around the world recently when numerous leaders praised the success of human efforts in containing the coronavirus pandemic and gave no glory to God. “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1). God will bring Israel’s pride to nothing through the scourge of the Assyrian army. The city of Samaria will be delivered up (vs. 8) and the palace broken into little bits (vs.11). Perhaps the most chilling part of Amos’s message is found in vs. 9-10. When the Assyrians do eventually come, death and destruction will be so great that the survivors will be filled with superstitious dread of even saying the name of the LORD lest He bring even more judgment. In other words, the opportunity for turning to the Lord in godly fear unto salvation will be over. Economies will fall. Nations will crumble. This flesh will fail. The only secure refuge is the kingdom of God. And the only door into the kingdom is through the Lord Jesus. He bore the wrath of God against the sin of Israel and against the sin of the whole world so that we can receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:28). Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s kingdom to come through the defeat of Christ’s enemies, the increase of His church, and submission in your own life. Praise Him for His unshakable rule. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 17 – Complacency

Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, and trust in Mount Samaria. – Amos 6:1 Scripture reading: Amos 6:1-7 Amos exposes Israel’s false sense of security that has led to spiritual complacency. The danger of spiritual complacency is witnessed in the seed that fell among thorny soil where “the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). The Bible repeatedly calls us to watch out, be on our guard, and to persevere in faithfulness. It is a scary thing to develop a spirit of apathy toward the things of God. Amos helps us to diagnose this sin in our own lives. In vs.1, he warns those “who are at ease in Zion, and trust in Mount Samaria”. The economy is good, their borders are secure. What can go wrong? They do not see their weakness and their need for God. The spiritually complacent lose a sense of dependence upon God. In vs.3-6a, he opposes those who “put far off the day of doom” because they are too busy enjoying worldly comforts. There is no longer earnestness for spiritual things, a noticeable lack of “fear and trembling” (Phil.2:12). In vs.6b, Amos tells us that they “are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph”. That is, they are indifferent to the spiritual decline of the nation. This happens, for example, when we become desensitized to immorality in the entertainment we consume. Has the Word of God diagnosed spiritual complacency in you today? The apostle James tells us that the pathway to healing begins by humbling ourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift us up (James 4:10). Suggestions for prayer “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps.139:23-24). Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 16 – Formalism

Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! For what good is the day of the LORD to you? It will be darkness, and not light. – Amos 5:18 Scripture reading: Amos 5:16-27 Israel assumed that the day of the LORD was going to be a happy day for them. After all, they were the descendants of Abraham, God’s covenant people. They observed the feast days, gathered for sacred assemblies, and offered the sacrifices of Moses. Why wouldn’t the day of the LORD be a day of blessing for the children of Israel? God’s answer is blistering. He hates their worship. He won’t accept their sacrifices. He can’t stand the noise of their songs and won’t hear their skilled music. He has two reasons for despising their worship: First of all, they are only Sunday Christians and do not practice justice and righteousness in the rest of life (vs. 24). Secondly, like the wilderness generation, they have kept foreign gods on the side (vs. 25-26). The Israelites drew near with their lips, but not with their hearts. One of the ways that the same root spiritual issue shows up in our lives is the sin of formalism. Formalism consists of placing our trust in outward religious forms rather than in Christ Himself. This can happen even when our worship is correct, our theology sound – when we’re doing everything right. Baptism, profession of faith, church attendance, and correct theology, though they are good things, cannot in themselves save. We can sit under faithful preaching week after week and love the form of the sermon rather than the Christ who is preached. Do you see the sin of formalism in your worship and life? Don’t throw out the forms, but lean upon the Spirit of grace to revive your use of them. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for public worship and the means of grace. Pray for reformation of your worship that it may be truly faithful to the Word of God and governed by the Spirit. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 15 – Trust and obey

Seek good and not evil, that you may live; so the LORD God of hosts will be with you. – Amos 5:14 Scripture reading: Amos 5:10-15 In the story A Christmas Carol, the hard-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge receives a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The ghost takes Scrooge to visit his own grave and shows him the contemptuous responses of people when they hear of his death. Scrooge trembles, falls to the ground, and pleads "Good Spirit, your nature intercedes for me and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!" This is what the Lord is looking for from Israel: an altered life. He has given them a glimpse of their own funeral, a picture of their own doom, and called them to seek Him. That is the first aspect of biblical repentance that Amos teaches us: “Seek Me and live” (vs.4). He is the only One who can deal with our sin. Forgiveness and life-change are found in Jesus Christ. The second aspect of repentance, or the other side of the same coin, is a changed life: “Seek good and not evil, that you may live…Hate evil, love good” (vs.14,15). Those who have believed in Jesus for forgiveness will obey His commandments in love (John 14:15). When we have been rescued from eternal hell, clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and brought into favor with God, we will also desire to do His will. Those who persist in rebellion without repentance reveal a heart unchanged by grace. Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the living fruit of repentance in your life. Pray for the Spirit to lead you into the joy and freedom of walking in the ways of the Lord. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 14 – Seek the Lord

The virgin of Israel has fallen; she will rise no more. She lies forsaken on her land; there is no one to raise her up. – Amos 5:2 Scripture reading: Amos 5:1-9 What if you could watch your own funeral while you were still living? It would help to put life into perspective, wouldn’t it? Sometimes it is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart (Eccl.7:2). That’s what Amos is doing in this passage. In vs.3 he prophesies her coming death at the hand of an invading nation. But in vs.2 he sings a funeral lament for Israel while she’s still alive. Israel feels alive, like a maiden full of youth (vs.2), but in reality she’s at death’s door. She has the appearance of being alive, but spiritually she is terminally ill. Amos gives her a glimpse of her own funeral so that she will be awakened to her desperate situation and repent. God continues to hold out HIs hands to the rebellious nation: “Seek Me and live”. If they will turn away from idol worship at Bethel and serve the living God who made the Pleiades and Orion, they will be saved. Amos shows us the way of repentance. An essential part of biblical repentance is to seek the Lord. That means that we turn away from all the dead-end roads of sin and idols and entrust our lives to Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He gives life. He cleanses and renews. Biblical repentance is not primarily feelings or methods or tears: it is faith in Jesus for salvation from sin. Suggestions for prayer Confess your sinfulness to the Lord and acknowledge that only Christ can cleanse and save you from your sin. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 13 – Warning signs

“Yet you have not returned to Me,” says the LORD. – Amos 4:6b Scripture reading: Amos 4:6-13 All the warning signs were there, but they ignored them to their peril. God sent famine (“cleanness of teeth”) on their land (vs.6). He shut up the heavens and caused drought (vs.7,8). He sent disease, mold, and locusts to destroy their crops (vs.9). He sent plagues and invaders (vs.10). There were even times when Israel was on the brink of defeat (vs.11). But they refused to take the message to heart. What is that message? It is that God holds all things in His hand and we are not in control of the circumstances of life. Therefore, when disasters and hardships come into our lives we should never think of them as purely the result of natural cause. God uses secondary causes to carry out His purposes, but ultimately all things – both pleasant and painful – come to us from His fatherly hand. It is “He who forms mountains, and creates the wind”. Moreover, Israel should be asking the question: what is the Lord telling us? Had they turned to His Word they would have recognized the covenant curses of Deuteronomy 28 being visited on them. These were divine messages from their Saviour, trumpet calls to repentance, warning signs pointing to the cliff of judgment to which they were hurtling. When the Lord sends disasters upon this world, it is not for us to say what exactly God is up to and why He sent the disaster where He sent it. But there is one question that we should ask ourselves: am I ready to meet God on that Day? Suggestions for prayer Pray for spiritual sensitivity to God’s trumpet calls of repentance. Pray for the Lord to use His providences to awaken unbelieving loved ones and neighbors to their need for Christ. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 12 – Empty religion

Come to Bethel and transgress, at Gilgal multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days. – Amos 4:4 Scripture reading: Amos 4:1-5 One man puts a large donation into the offering plate to assuage the guilt of his deceitful business dealings. Another sits through worship services he despises in order to keep the family happy. And someone else raves about how much she likes worship at the new church in town because it feels so amazing. We could come up with a thousand examples of the same root problem that Amos confronts: attending worship for selfish reasons rather than going to meet God. “Cows of Bashan” is not a reference to four-legged beasts with horns, but to the wealthy women of Samaria. Amos is not very flattering, but he is simply telling these women what their husbands didn’t have the courage to say: that they are pampered and cruel. As long as they were being served, they were content – even if it meant crushing the poor. Their day will come. Amos proceeds to issue a sarcastic call to worship: “Come to Bethel and transgress, at Gilgal multiply transgression”. Go on, says the LORD through Amos, bring your sacrifices and tithes, your praise and worship, for I know you love it. Israel still observed many of the biblical worship ceremonies. But they did that while they crushed the needy during the rest of the week. They loved religious acts and rituals of worship, but they didn’t love the God whom they professed to worship. Worship is not a series of favors that we do for God to get Him on our side. Worship is a response of thanksgiving to the One who has purchased us with His blood. Suggestions for prayer Pray for deliverance from all man-centered, self-focused worship to wholehearted thankfulness and awe towards God. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 11 – Spiritual poverty

I will destroy the winter house along with the summer house; the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end,” says the LORD. – Amos 3:15 Scripture reading: Amos 3:9-15 Amos addresses the wealthy in Israel: one man has a winter house in the city and a summer cottage on the sea; another man has an extravagant house of ivory, and still, another has a house that’s far bigger than he’ll ever need. Israel’s situation sounds similar to North America. We should listen very carefully to what God is saying through Amos: all those nice houses filled with beautiful stuff will be destroyed one day. Is God against being wealthy and enjoying nice things? No, God is the one who gives power to get wealth (Deut.8:18) and who blesses man with good things for his enjoyment (Ps.104:14,15). The love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim.6:10), not the money itself. We are called to a joyful and God-pleasing use of His gifts by enjoying them with thanksgiving (1 Tim.4:4) and sharing generously with the needy (Eph.4:28). The wealthy in Samaria made their money on the backs of the poor and filled their houses with the proceeds of injustice (vs.9,10): God will see to it that their wealth is all taken away (vs.11). Like the rich fool of Jesus’ parable, they placed their security in their possessions and hoarded them: God will destroy it (vs.15). Prosperity has a way of lulling us into a sense of false security and blinding us to our spiritual poverty. There is only one currency that will count when we stand in the judgment: the infinite value of Jesus’ righteousness. It is a gift, freely given through faith. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Father for all His good gifts. Pray for the Spirit to lead you away from trust in possessions to finding lasting security in the righteousness of Christ. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 10 – Cause and effect

A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy? – Amos 3:8 Scripture reading: Amos 3:3-8 Amos poses seven questions to Israel. The first five questions (vs.3-5) expect the answer “no” and the last two (vs.6) expect the answer “yes”. The questions are simple to answer and assume the basic law of cause and effect. At first, the questions seem to have no point to them until we come to the last two. Then we notice that Amos is getting close to home: If a trumpet sounds a warning blast, will not people be afraid? He is talking about Israel. Israel can readily see and live by the law of cause and effect in worldly things, but they have ignored God’s principles of cause and effect that govern spiritual life. They do not see that sin leads to judgment. They think that they can live like they are and that disaster will not strike. Amos drives his point home in vs.8: “A lion has roared, who will not fear? The LORD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” God doesn’t act arbitrarily. If He roars through His prophet, then Israel should be doing something about it! God is sovereign and free. We cannot put Him in a box. But He has revealed to us in Scripture what we can expect of Him and how we ought to respond to Him. He is faithful in judgment and salvation. When He roars, we ought to fear because He will judge. When we persist in sin, we know that His anger will rest upon us. But His promise is just as true and dependable: the one who comes to Jesus, He will by no means cast out (Jn.6:37). Suggestions for prayer Pray for faith to believe the truth of the warnings and promises of God’s Word. Pray also for faith to respond obediently. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 9 – You only

You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. – Amos 3:2 Scripture reading: Amos 3:1-2; Deuteronomy 7:1-11 The LORD had exposed the ugliness of Israel’s transgressions (2:6-8), but they displayed no conviction of sin. He reminded them of His redeeming grace (2:9-11), yet their hearts remained hard. The most tenacious of us would have written off Israel long ago. But God persistently pursues His beloved and here He speaks to her in terms of covenant love: You only. Israel (along with the kingdom of Judah) is His family that He brought up from Egypt and settled in the Promised Land. Out of all the families of the earth He chose Israel. They were no better than any other nation. There was nothing about Israel that merited His love. In free and sovereign grace He had made Israel His treasured possession, set apart from the rest. His covenant of grace was exclusively for Israel. And then come God’s shocking words: “Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” They expected to hear “therefore I will bless you.” Instead, God says that Israel’s special status is the very reason for their judgment. They have taken His grace for granted and defiled His holy love with their iniquities. Therefore, the covenant relationship will testify against them if they do not repent. The promises of God are received only in the way of faith and obedience. Anyone who thinks that it is possible to be forgiven and live in willful disobedience is living in a dream world. All of God’s saving blessings are found in Christ alone. And it is impossible to be in Christ without walking with Christ in the way of faith and repentance. “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” Suggestions for prayer Thank the Father for His immeasurable love for you in His Son. Ask the Spirit to lead you and your loved ones into thankful obedience. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 8 – Amazing grace

Behold, I am weighed down by you, as a cart is weighed down that is full of sheaves. – Amos 2:13 Scripture reading: Amos 2:9-16 The LORD God is weighed down by Israel like an overloaded cart. Of course, there is no weakness or shortcoming in God who “neither faints nor is weary” (Is.40:28). He is simply speaking in terms we can understand. The years of rebellion and hard-heartedness keep piling up and God will not bear with Israel much longer. God is weary of their contempt for His grace. Their indifference to the plight of the poor and weak demonstrates a graceless heart. If they had truly grasped the overwhelming grace of God in their redemption, they would love their neighbor. When they were weak, He “destroyed the Amorite before them” and brought them into the land of Canaan. When they were oppressed in the land of Egypt, He rescued them. When they were vulnerable in the desert, He protected and provided for them. Their history was one of undeserved kindness. Yet their hearts remain unchanged. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. He blesses the poor in spirit with the kingdom of heaven. The humble and the poor in spirit are those who know that they owe God an unpayable debt of sin and that God has forgiven that debt at infinite cost to Himself. If we sing “Amazing Grace” in church on Sunday and then remain indifferent to the plight of the needy, what does that reveal about our hearts? Who is the hungry person in your life right now? Or the stranger, the orphan, the widow? By grace you were saved. Now live it. Suggestions for prayer Confess to God where you have been taking His grace for granted. Pray for a heart that is transformed by the power of grace. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 7 – The tyranny of sin

For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals. – Amos 2:6 Scripture reading: Amos 2:6-8 Amos paints a devastating picture of injustice. Wealthy creditors preyed upon the poor, forcing them into slavery for the smallest of debts. The law did nothing to protect the little guy as court verdicts could be bought by the wealthy. Daughters, robbed of the protection of their fathers, were used and abused by shameless men. Meanwhile, at the houses of worship, Israelites reveled on the backs of the poor – sleeping on their garments and drinking their wine. Whenever a nation turns away from the Lord, the weak and vulnerable suffer the most. The Law of Moses provided explicit protection for the poor, the orphan, and the widow. God set Himself apart from all the other gods of the nations as “a father of the fatherless, a defender of widows” (Psalm 68:5). But sin is a tyrant that preys on those who need our protection the most: preborn children, trafficked girls, the neglected elderly, to name a few. His anger burns against the injustice in our nations as it did against Israel in the days of Amos. But we should not forget that Amos was directing his message to the church, God’s covenant people. We must allow God’s gaze to search our hearts and lives. Do you open your hand and home to the needy? What plays on your computer screen? Are you refusing to forgive a brother as God in Christ forgave you? Are you upright in your business dealings? The world’s greatest need is also our greatest need: a Saviour from the guilt and tyranny of sin. Suggestions for prayer Pray for God to arise and defend the oppressed. Ask Him to show you where you are complicit in the injustice in the land and for opportunities to do justice and love mercy. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 6 – Pathway to apostasy

For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they have despised the law of the Lord, and have not kept His commandments. Their lies lead them astray, Lies which their fathers followed. – Amos 2:4 Scripture Reading: Amos 2:4-5; Deut. 30:11-20 The nations surrounding Israel and Judah were without excuse for their transgressions. How much more so the people of Judah who had the benefit of His Word! “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). Judah had tremendous spiritual blessings: the royal house of David, the temple of the Lord, the priesthood, and the law of God. But they had exchanged these gifts of God’s covenant love for vanity. Amos describes Judah’s descent into apostasy in three steps: despising the law, not keeping His commandments, and following after lies. It began as a heart attitude towards the law, became a settled habit of disobedience, and ended in the embrace of idols. Apostasy doesn’t happen overnight. It begins unseen in the heart. The heart is the battleground for faithful endurance. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov.4:23). How do we keep our heart? The Spirit has given us a toolbox for keeping our hearts. These include corporate worship, Bible study, and prayer. There simply are no substitutes for these means. But as we use them, we must not make them ends in themselves, as simply another set of duties to maintain. Keep your eyes fixed on the goal: knowing God. “Love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days.” Suggestions for prayer Ask the Father to guard your heart and the hearts of your loved ones. Pray for the Spirit to revive and bless your communion with God through the means of grace. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 5 – One way of salvation

I will not turn away its punishment – Amos 1:11b Scripture reading: Amos 1:11-2:3 The prophecy of Amos won’t tolerate talk of “my truth” and “your truth.” There is one God, one way of salvation, and one judgment. God does not speak as Israel’s tribal deity – just one god among many. He rebukes the nations with universal authority as their Creator and Judge: Syria for savagery in war (1:3), Philistia for kidnapping (1:6), Phoenicia for trafficking slaves (1:9), Edom for endless vengeance (1:11), Ammon for tearing open pregnant women (1:13), and Moab for desecrating a human corpse (2:1). God condemns crimes of murder and violence committed against human beings made in His image. Edom’s hatred for his brother, Ammon’s unthinkable cruelty to women and children, and Moab’s desecration of an enemy king’s corpse were not only crimes against humanity – they were crimes against God who created them and cares for them. All violations of human rights are ultimately violations of God’s rights. And He will see to it that justice is done. The punishments that Amos prophesies for each nation are proportionate to the crime. Final judgment has been entrusted to Christ, who will execute perfect and comprehensive justice. For a world of stolen lives and broken hearts, this is good news! But it is also a sobering call to self-reflection and repentance, for each sin that you and I commit are violations of the infinite majesty of God. His justice demands the proportionate penalty of infinite hell. Are you covered by the blood of the Lamb? Only the infinite merits of His atoning sacrifice provide the payment for what we have done to God. Suggestions for prayer Pray for Christ to bring justice against those who oppress the weak and to stop the hand of the wicked. Confess that you deserve eternal hell because of your sins and thank the Father for giving His Son as an atoning sacrifice for your sins. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 4 – Patterns of sin

“For three transgressions…and for four” – Amos 1:3a Scripture reading: Amos 1:3-10 The LORD confronts deeply-rooted habits of sin in Israel and seven neighboring nations. Beginning with Syria (Damascus), Philistia (Gaza), and Tyre, Amos announces that divine judgment is coming upon them and will not be turned back. The repeated phrase “for three transgressions…and for four” refers to entrenched patterns of sin. Each nation is guilty of not just one or two sins, but a multitude of sins. God is patient with sinful people and nations. When wickedness prevailed in the days of Noah, He gave 120 years for the ungodly to repent while the ark was being built. He patiently abided with the nation of Israel through centuries of rebellion and idolatry. Every sunrise welcomes another window of opportunity for sinners to repent and find refuge in the blood of Jesus. But that window of opportunity does not last forever. The repeated “for three transgressions…and for four” pattern points not only to a multitude of sin, but to a lifestyle of sin. It describes the unrepentant and unbelieving. We are all sinners in need of forgiveness in the blood of Jesus. It is a gift freely given to all those who trust in the Son of God who bore the wrath of God in the place of sinners. But those who harden themselves in sin show by their lives that they are living apart from the Saviour. They will not inherit the kingdom of God. Therefore, we are to “exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 7:13). Suggestions for prayer Pray for the Spirit to give you a deeper conviction of sin and eyes to see where there are patterns of sin in your life. Thank the Lord Jesus for His forgiving grace. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 3 – Lord of life

The pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers. – Amos 1:2b Scripture reading: Amos 1:2; Deuteronomy 8:1-20 Amos could see Mt. Carmel in the northwest, with its fertile soil and abundant rain. He saw the rich valley pasture lands where the sheep were grazing. These were symbols of fertility and growth for a kingdom that was enjoying unprecedented peace and prosperity. Amos declared what must have seemed unthinkable to the average Israelite: the pastures will mourn under the burden of drought; Carmel will wither in the blistering heat of the sun. The LORD is God. If He should choose to shut up the skies and dry up the economy, there is nothing Israel could do about it. When the source of their wealth and pleasure and power was removed, to whom then would they turn? Baal, the Canaanite god of rain and fertility, in whom they trusted, was powerless to save them. All the idols on all the high places could not deliver them. We know a whole lot more about weather and agriculture today than the Israelites of Amos’s day. The progress of climate and agricultural science in the last century alone has been staggering. And yet, we are still no closer to being in control of our lives. There is only One who rules the wind and makes plants grow and upholds the laws of nature He designed. “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). When God withholds blessings from His people it is to remind us that man cannot live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His works in creation. Be specific. Pray for a deepening of your trust in Him, especially where He is withholding blessings in your life. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 2 – The roar of the lion

And he said: “The LORD roars from Zion, and utters His voice from Jerusalem.” – Amos 1:2a Scripture reading: Amos 1:2; Rev. 5:1-10 The LORD is described as a roaring lion, like a king of beasts announcing its intention to attack. Thus God’s voice thunders from Zion, the temple in Jerusalem that represented His heavenly throne. This is the main point of God’s message for Israel through the prophet Amos: the King of heaven and earth approaches and will soon fall upon you in judgment. Amos was not what we would call a motivational speaker. His words were hard, his message devastating. Indeed, the prophet’s description almost seems inappropriately severe. Should we compare God to a lion that is ready to seize its prey? How does one reconcile this terrible image of a lion with the God of love and mercy? The truth is: God is terrible. He is terrible not in the sense of bad or evil, but in terms of His awesome holiness and majestic power. He roars against sin. His wrath is “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom.1:18). We are sinners living in the presence of a holy God. Tremble before Him with godly fear! But remember that this does not exhaust the unsearchable depths of God. His love is as infinite as His holiness; His mercy is as wide as His justice. He “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The Son of God is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He is also the Lamb that was slain. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His awesome majesty and His great love. Pray for growth in godly fear. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introduction to July’s study of Amos

This month’s devotionals are a study of the book of Amos. The prophets can be difficult to understand and, at times, abrasive in tone. Amos is no exception. He speaks with very tough words to a stiff-necked people. And yet, we must make no mistake about this: these are words of tough love from our covenant God. Even as His people plunge headlong down the pathway of apostasy, He never stops calling, warning, pleading – even roaring like a lion. Some historical background will be helpful: The year is approximately 750 BC. It is nearly 200 years after the dividing of the kingdoms. In 722 BC, Israel will be defeated by the Assyrian army and will never rise again. Judah will continue on for another 130 years or so until its exile to Babylon in 586 BC. The prophet Amos comes from the southern kingdom of Judah (along with Benjamin) and preaches to the northern kingdom of Israel (the other 10 tribes of Jacob). The two kingdoms split during the reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. Under the leadership of Jeroboam I, the 10 northern tribes of Israel seceded from Judah. From that time forward, the southern kingdom was usually referred to as Judah and the northern kingdom was called Israel. Judah had a number of faithful kings throughout its history. Israel never had one truly faithful king. Jeroboam I had built altars to golden calves at Dan and Bethel as replacements of the temple in Jerusalem. He still professed to follow the LORD, but told Israel to worship the LORD through the golden calves. It was a political move to prevent Israelites from going to Jerusalem, but it determined the spiritual course of Israel. No king of Israel removed the altars at Dan and Bethel. From day one, the northern kingdom of Israel was engaged in false worship. I have been greatly blessed by meditating on the book of Amos. In particular, it has deepened me in the fear of the Lord. May God give us all ears to hear what the Spirit has to say to us through His faithful servant Amos. In the days of Jereboam The words of Amos, who was among the sheepbreeders of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. – Amos 1:1 Scripture reading: Amos 1:1; 2 Kings 14:23-29 “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. This opening line from Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities might as well have been describing the nation of Israel in the days of Amos. It was the best of times. Life was good in the kingdom of Israel. King Jeroboam II enjoyed a long and peaceful reign. He extended the nation’s borders to what they had once been under David and Solomon. He had an impressive list of military achievements. And the economy was booming. The Kingdom of Israel had never enjoyed this kind of prosperity since separating from the kingdom of Judah almost 200 years earlier. It was also the worst of times. King Jeroboam walked in the ways of his fathers and propped up idol worship. It was a time of empty religion and social injustice. The prophet Hosea, a contemporary of Amos, said of Israel, “There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land. By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed” (Hosea 4:1-2). Underneath the surface, Israel was rotten and the axe was about to be laid to the root of the tree. The Word of God has a telling evaluation: Jeroboam “did evil in the sight of the LORD”. Peace, prosperity, success – these are gifts from the Lord. But apart from God, they have no lasting value, no eternal legacy. One thing matters above all: what is God’s evaluation of your life? Suggestions for prayer Pray for civil leaders to align their priorities with God’s priorities. Pray for grace to set apart the Word of God as your authority in everything. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 30 – The fruit of God’s wisdom in one’s life

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.” – Proverbs 31:30 Scripture reading: Proverbs 31:10-31 and 1 Peter 3:1-7 Here we see that the book of Proverbs comes full circle! In Proverbs 1:1-7 we’re told of the importance of wisdom and that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (v.7). And in Proverbs 31, we see the glorious fruit of wisdom in the wise and godly woman. What a woman she is! She’s a model for all Christian women! In fact, in the Hebrew Bible, the book right after Proverbs is the book of Ruth, a woman who exemplifies this godly character! Thus, what is important for a godly woman is not her appearance, clothing, or jewellery, but having the “fear of the LORD”! That is, having a sincere, reverent view of God and His Word. This “fear” guides how we live and how we use our gifts for others. For the virtuous wife, her whole life is affected by this wisdom and the fruits are endless! And because of it she is a blessing to her children and is praised by her husband! (v.28). This, young women, is an encouragement for you when it comes to how you live your life. Don’t get caught up in all the fads, fashions and trends of the day, rather, make your spiritual life and your walk with God the priority! For such a life is “very precious in the sight of God”, as Peter says in 1 Peter 3:7. It’s also a powerful witness for Christ in a world enslaved to a false view of charm and beauty! Suggestions for prayer Pray for proper “fear of the LORD” leading to a holy life. Pray for our wives and daughters that virtuousness would grow in them and that God would protect them from worldly views of beauty and charm which are deceitful and passing. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 29 – Trusting in God’s provision

“Give me neither poverty nor riches - feed me with the food allotted to me... “ - Proverbs 30:7-9 Scripture reading: Matthew 6:10 and Matthew 6:25-34 Our words here are spoken by Agur (Proverbs 30:1) and reflect the seriousness with which he lived his life before God. For there are two things he desires to see in his life before he dies, “Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches - feed me with the food allotted to me…” (v.8). Here is a man who desires to live a holy and thankful life before God. In fact, Agur’s words remind us of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:10, “Give us this day our daily bread.” It’s a petition that speaks of our dependence upon God for all of our needs and also addresses our sinful tendency to be greedy and unsatisfied with what we have. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, do we realize what we’re saying? Do we really pray for the food allotted for that specific day? We can take for granted that the cupboard will be full, or the freezer stocked with plenty. And yet, it is God who provides for us, as Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:25-34. For our concern is not “if” God will provide for our needs, but that we have the right heart when it comes to His provision! Do we see our own sinful tendencies to be unthankful when we have plenty or to complain when we have little? God wants us to have this humble view of ourselves and our daily needs. For in poverty or in abundance we’re to be thankful for His gracious provision. Suggestions for prayer Pray God would grant you daily bread and that you would be thankful and content with what you have, whether it’s plenty or little for God is your great Provider and will never fail in giving you your daily bread. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Sunday, June 28 – Living in the joy of God’s forgiveness

“He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” – Proverbs 28:13  Scripture reading: Psalm 32 and 1 John 1:5-2:2 One of the great blessings God’s people have in Sunday worship is to hear the good news of the forgiveness of sins in Christ! How comforting is that assurance of pardon after hearing God’s Law and being reminded of our daily sins? For again, we see the infinite love of God for us through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross! Yet, it’s not easy to confess our sin, for sin comes with guilt, and with that, shame! Thus, instead of confessing our sin, at times we try to hide it, ignore it, or justify it to quiet our guilty conscience. David was a man whose unconfessed sin affected his body and soul! (Ps.32:3-5). For the more he sought to “cover” his sin before God, the more He laid His hand upon him until it led to his confession! (v.5). And what blessing came to David’s life with that confession! The apostle John also reminds us of our need to confess our sin, but also of God’s rich grace! “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (v.9). Do we daily come to God confessing our sins? Do we come humbly pleading the blood of Christ? And further, do we seek to “forsake” our sinful ways as forgiven people? May our worship today bring us to our knees over our sin, but also cause us to praise God for His rich forgiveness in Christ! Suggestions for prayer If you are living with unconfessed sin, humbly confess your sin, forsake it and ask the Lord to help you to grow strong in your faith that you may daily live a holy and godly life for His praise! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 27 – The God who drives away all fear

“The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.” – Proverbs 29:25 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 19:1-18 As Christians, “fear” can fill our hearts as we look at the fallen world around us! We live in a world where Christian persecution is on the rise, not only in foreign lands, but also in our own cities, schools and workplaces. Thus, “fear,” especially, the “fear of man” is a real and present danger for God’s people! When we look at Elijah, we can see just how greatly the “fear of man” can affect one’s life and work! (v.3). Elijah was so overwhelmed at Jezebel’s threats that he wanted to die (v.4). Yes, such “fear” is a “snare”; it’s a trap! Something that constricts around you like a python with its prey! But for the Christian, the “fear of God” is to abide in his heart and not the “fear of man.” When we see God for Who He is, it drives out fear and instills in us new courage. This happened for Elijah when God spoke to him in the still small voice! (v.12). God humbled him and charged him to take up his work boldly and without fear! Do you live with such fear? Well, as one who “trusts” in God, you are “safe”, that is, lifted above the swirl of enemies about you! You’re set on the Rock, Who is Christ and in Him you’ll never be shaken! Therefore, go forth boldly in the fear of the Lord for that will drive out the “fear of man” from your heart! Suggestions for prayer Confess your fears to God and ask Him to fill you with courage and boldness. Read God’s Word daily, focusing on His power, attributes and promises for that will feed your fear for God and help to fight against your fear of man. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 26 – Keep fighting the good fight of the faith

“Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but such as keep the law contend with them.” – Proverbs 28:4  Scripture reading: Psalm 10, Ephesians 5:1-21, and Jude 3 We’ve seen in the last years a rapid moral decline in our society and politics. And it’s not surprising seeing that God’s Law, His 10 commandments, are no longer taught or obeyed. With that, the persecution of the church has increased and the good news of salvation in Christ is more offensive than ever! Thus, with this increased rejection of God’s Word, we see increased “praise” given to those who promote what is radical, offensive, and that which is contrary to His revealed will to us. But what are we to do? Should we ignore it, hoping it will go away? No! Our text says, “...but such as keep the law contend with them”! That is, we’re to take a stand for God’s truth as those who love the truth. We’re to address our leaders about these issues, and pray for them that they might see the truth of God! Paul says in Ephesians 5:11, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” Jude also says, “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (v.3). This is what we’re called to do as members of Christ’s kingdom! For though the wicked may be shameless in their defiance of God, as Psalm 10 says, it also declares, “The LORD is King forever and ever”! (v.16). This truth should encourage us to continue to fight the good fight, knowing that Christ will continue strengthening us in this great calling! Suggestions for prayer Continue to pray for your leaders and your nation. Pray that they may honour God with just laws and fairness. Pray for the conversion of those who reject God’s law and promote wickedness that they might come to saving faith in Christ. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 25 – Living by faith one day at a time

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. “ - Proverbs 27:1 Scripture reading: James 4:13-17 and Matthew 6:34 Time seems to fly by fast! Just look at your children; they go from diapers to walking, and then before you know it you’re seeing them off to college! Yes, time flies by, but it goes as God has ordained it! And our proverb rightly reminds us that God is in control of time. But often we forget that! We look at the calendar and say, “I will do this today, or work there tomorrow, or visit that person next month”, but how often do we pray, “Lord, your will be done”? Or how often do we ask, “Lord, if this is your will, so let it be?” James understood the sinful tendency of our hearts and so he reminds us that even in our planning, we have to consider the Lord’s will! Do we “boast” about tomorrow? Do we confidently decree our path for tomorrow when it comes to work, school, or church life? Or do we humbly seek the Lord’s will in prayer? This we must do! For as our text says, “You do not know what a day may bring forth”! It’s out of our hands and we need to be spiritually ready for the unknown events to come. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:34, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” This is wise advice! For when we seek the Lord’s will for today, it helps us to keep from anxiety about tomorrow! Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s will as you plan and prepare for the future, and trust that He will provide for all your needs! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 24 – Fainting in the day of adversity 

“If you faint on the day of adversity, your strength is small.” – Proverbs 24:10 Scripture reading: Mark 4:35-41 and Philippians 4:10-13 As we know, tests and trials are part of the Christian life! Living in a fallen world, contending with contrary world-views and battling our own sinful natures are a daily challenge! But the key for God’s people is not to look to themselves, or to others, or to sports or leisure to escape life’s trying times, but to look to Christ! To “faint” means to be overcome by the circumstances surrounding you. In other words, your faith gives out! You’re not actively trusting in God, but only doing so in words. This was the reality that faced the disciples on the Sea of Galilee! They took their eyes off of Jesus Who was resting in the boat and fixed them on the wind and the waves. This led to their frantic question, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (v.38). How often have such words been on our lips in the midst of adversity? Yes, our strength is small and so we need to be reminded daily of our need for Christ! For as He powerfully reassured His disciples of His loving care by stilling the wind and waves, so does He bring peace to our lives when we call upon Him in our weakness! The apostle Paul learned the secret of being content in any situation, he says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”! May this be a truth we grow to know more and more in our lives! Suggestions for prayer Ask Christ to help you fix your eyes on Him every day. Memorize Philippians 4:13 and call it to mind when you find your strength “small” in the day of adversity for Christ gives His strength to all who call on Him in their time of need! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 23 – Keeping the proper focus on life

“Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day; for surely there is a hereafter, and your hope will not be cut off.” – Proverbs 23:17-18  Scripture reading: Psalm 73 Now “envy” can be a terrible influence on our lives as we see the status and wealth of those around us. Envy can fill our hearts when someone is promoted ahead of us at work, or when we see our neighbour’s business doing well, or when we see our friend always getting better grades than we do. Psalm 73 is a powerful example of how “envy” can affect our hearts before God! Asaph saw the wicked around him and how blessed their lives seemed to be even though they mocked God (vv.9-11). And yet, we’re not to be filled with “envy” over the wicked and their earthly blessings. Instead, we’re to be “zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day.” That is, we’re to live daily with reverent awe and wonder for our holy God. And how can we not, when we daily ponder the blessings He’s lavished upon us in Christ? This view of God gives us a much-needed perspective, as it did for Asaph. He fell into the trap we so often do when it comes to “envy.” But then, when he entered God’s sanctuary all was made plain! (v.17). For there is a “hereafter,” a future for mankind where everyone will have to stand before God and give an account of their lives! (2 Corinthians 5:10). The wicked have no hope, but for the righteous our hope “will not be cut off,” for it’s rooted in the victorious Christ Who reigns in heaven! Suggestions for prayer Pray for a growing “fear of the LORD” and that you would die to sinful envy. Ask the Lord to help you focus on the blessings you have in Christ and that He would create in you a thankful heart and a growing contentment in Him. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 22 – The Folly of laboring to get worldly wealth

“Do not overwork to be rich...for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven.” – Proverbs 23:4-5  Scripture reading: Luke 12:13-21 and 1 Timothy 6:6-10 One of the tragedies of life is our tendency to fix our hearts on earthly things, rather than on heavenly things. Jesus warns us of that in Luke 12:15, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” For many, life is what you make of it, or better, what you can buy for yourself! But this mentality as Paul shows us in 1 Timothy 6 is foolish! He says in v.9, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts....” Yes, a sinful desire for wealth is a terrible snare that many get themselves into, even God’s own people! We work, toil and sweat. We work overtime, save our money and invest our savings, all of which are not sinful things, but when we’re trusting in them for our security or happiness, then we’re in trouble! Earthly wealth is elusive and deceptive. As our text says, your wealth can sprout wings and take off, leaving you empty handed and unsatisfied (v.5). Therefore, we need to be wise and not engage in such dangerous behaviour. In Christ, we have all we’ll ever need. Yes, the key to a blessed life is to be “rich toward God”, as Jesus says in Luke 12:21. For when our hearts are fixed on the heavenly treasure found in Him, we never have to fear that it will sprout wings and fly away! Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to give you a proper view of your wealth, work, and priorities, not working only for things that will fade away, but trusting that God will meet all your needs. Pray that God would give you that heavenward focus. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Sunday, June 21 - Laying down a lasting foundation

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6  Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 6:1-9 and 2 Timothy 3:14-17 Sunday worship is one of the great training grounds for the faith of our children! Here the gospel is proclaimed faithfully, our little ones learn to sing the songs of Zion and they learn to pray to their heavenly Father. What a blessing! But worship is only one component in the instruction of our covenant children. Another is found in the Christian home as parents instruct their children in the vital truths of Scripture. Now, this is not something we’re to take lightly! Rather, we’re to actively “train up” our children in the truth of God’s Word, while at the same time trusting that God will be faithful to His promises. For in Deuteronomy 6:1-9, we see the great importance of this task, but also the great confidence we can have as parents! God will use His Word to the good of our children! We see a powerful example of that in Timothy who learned from “childhood” the Holy Scriptures “which are able to make you wise for salvation…” (2 Timothy 3:15). Do we teach with that kind of trust in God? Do we make time for meaningful devotions? Do we impress upon our children the importance of faithful Sunday worship? As v.6 says, if we properly train our children, then even when they’re old they will not depart from it. Yes, they may have times of rebellion or uncertainty about their faith, but God will bring them back to that path of daily trust and dependence upon Him! Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would bless your children and young people in worship, strengthen their faith and deepen their understanding. Pray for God’s strength to faithfully instruct your children so that you may lay a lasting foundation for their future! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 20 – The great value of a good name

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold.” – Proverbs 22:1  Scripture reading: Psalm 112 Is having a “good name” a priority in your life? Unfortunately, many today don’t see the need for it. They do what they want without any concern for their name. They think, “As long as I feel good, who cares about what people think of me?” But is that the kind of attitude we’re to have as Christians? What then is a “good name”? Well, to have a “good name” means to be a person of integrity, one who is trustworthy, truthful and loyal. It means to be gracious, respectful and willing to put your neighbour’s interests above your own (Philippians 2:1-4). This is the fruit of Christ’s ongoing work in our lives! (Philippians 1:6). We are also to have a desire for a “good name”! We need to pray to God about it and strive to live our lives in a godly and consistent way. We’re not to be those who say one thing and then do another. We’re to walk with integrity, for this brings about the “loving favour” of men, which is a testimony to how our lives make an impact on them. Therefore, we’re to desire a “good name” more than “great riches”! By our words and deeds, we point people to Christ and it opens up doors for us to share the gospel! Psalm 112:6 reminds us that the righteous life leaves a lasting memory on those around us! Is this true of you? May Christ so work in us to bring about this blessed result! Suggestions for prayer Pray for a “good name” among men that they might see Christ in you! Pray that the “loving favour” of others would open doors for you to share the good news of Christ by your words, deeds and way of life. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 19 – Each stage of life has its own glory

“The glory of young men is their strength; the splendor of old men is their gray head.” – Proverbs 20:29 Scripture reading: Psalm 92:12-15, Proverbs 16:31, and Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 How do you view your life? Some see growing older as a miserable thing. They look back upon their youth and mourn the loss of their strength and vitality. They look at their grey hair, or failing eyesight, or lack of mobility and they’re filled with regret. But is that how we should view the passing of our years? No! In fact, as v.29 teaches us, each stage of life, whether youth or old age, has its own glory! The strength and activity of our younger years are blessings from God. But it’s also a blessing to grow older! Thus, for the Christian, having grey hair is a sign of God’s blessing! Proverbs 16:31 says, “The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness.” You see, having silver hair is a sign of honour for the Christian of maturing years. It's a sign of wisdom and that you’re to be shown respect! (Leviticus 19:32). How are you spending your younger years? Are you using your youth for the good of God’s kingdom and to glorify your Creator? (Ecclesiastes 12:1). And if you are older, do you see it as a blessing and that you can still be useful in God’s kingdom? (Psalm 92:12-15). Never regret growing older. See it as a change from one stage of glory to the next. Be diligent in the things of God while you’re young so that you might have wisdom to share when you’re older. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks to God for His blessings at the stage of life you’re at now, whether old or young. Ask the Lord to help you be always useful in His kingdom, serving Him wholeheartedly as a younger member of the church or as one of many years. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. ...

Daily devotional

June 18 – Get up you sluggard

“Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty; Open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread.” – Proverbs 20:13  Scripture reading: Proverbs 6:6-11, Psalm 127:1-2, and Colossians 3:22-25 When I was in Bible College there were students who liked to sleep too much, even at the expense of attending classes! Thus, often you’d hear the cry, “Get up you sluggard!” Such a statement was meant to be funny, but it was also meant to remind the lazy student that you can’t sleep when there are important things to do. Our proverb reminds us of that as well. For “sleep” is a gift of God to man because he was created to work in order to grow his food. We’re reminded in Psalm 127 that the LORD gives “sleep” to the trusting laborer. Sleep is a good thing, but it’s not to be abused. Today many don’t understand the purpose of work and prefer to be lazy and depend on others to provide. However, we need to keep in mind that work is meant to be for God’s glory. Paul says in Colossians 3:23-24 “And whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not to men…for you serve the Lord Christ.” Do we have that mindset as we get up for school, or go to the office, or take care of the children at home? Our proverb reminds us in v.13b that, we’re to “open” our eyes, that is, we’re to be alert when it comes to our labors! For as God’s Word promises, when we labor for the Lord, we can be assured that He will give us our daily bread and provide for all our needs. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to give you the proper perspective on your work. Pray for alertness and energy if you love to sleep at the expense of school or work. In all your labour, seek to honour and please God, for He will bless your efforts! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 17 – Listening today brings wisdom for the future

“Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days.” – Proverbs 19:20  Scripture reading: Psalm 78:1-8 and Ephesians 6:1-4 The instruction of covenant children is a vital thing in the life of the church. Passing on to each generation the truth of God’s Word and the salvation that comes in Christ is imperative! Often in the proverbs, we see instruction given to “sons” (Proverbs 1-7), stressing for us our covenantal obligations and also God’s demands on faithful parenting. Yet, as is clear from v.20, the focus is on the hearer, that the child, young person, or church member in the pew would “listen” intently to God’s counsel and humbly “receive” His instruction. That’s the idea here. In fact, we’re commanded to listen and to receive. It’s not an option! For this is how we grow, this is how we mature in our faith and gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). It’s also vital that we learn from the past so that we won’t walk in the sinful ways of those who have gone before us! (Psalm78). Yes, it’s important that we take godly counsel and instruction seriously, for with it comes blessing! (Ephesians 6:2-3). Through it we gain wisdom and grow in discernment, and that is a blessing for us in our “latter days”, when we become older and we’re called to live out our faith in many challenging situations, especially when we’re persecuted! Thus, if we humble our hearts, heed instruction and pray for God’s direction, He will bless us with wisdom for today, for tomorrow and for whatever challenges may come! Suggestions for prayer Pray for strength as you instruct your children, students or employees. Ask God for a humble heart to receive godly counsel and instruction. Pray for growing wisdom and discernment for your life of faith in the world. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 16 – Godly discipline is not to be avoided

“Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction.” – Proverbs 19:18  Scripture reading: Proverbs 29:15-17, and Hebrews 12:3-11 It’s clear from Scripture that corporal punishment, or physical discipline for sin when it comes to our children, is a godly practice. For as we know, our children are born in sin and if they’re left to follow their own way, it will lead to their destruction. Thus, parental discipline is meant to bring correction to the rebellious heart, as Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” In godly discipline we have “hope” that God will use it, not only to bring about outward obedience, but also to draw our children closer to Him as they see such obedience as part of their life of faith! “Correct your son, and he will give you rest. Yes, he will give delight to your soul.” (Proverbs 29:17) Now there are many who reject the biblical teaching of discipline and call it harmful and cruel. But when discipline is done lovingly, explaining why one’s behavior is sinful, and showing how God wants them to live, it’s a blessing! Hebrews 12:11 says, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Thus, to let children go their own way leads to their shame and “destruction”, but through godly discipline, correction comes to rebellious hearts and turns them to God. This is God’s gracious promise to us as parents. Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s strength to consistently discipline your children. It is not easy. But when we see the fruit God brings from it in their lives we realize the great blessing it brings for today and for their future! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 15 – A good lesson about restraint and mercy

“The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” – Proverbs 19:11 Scripture reading: Ephesians 4:31-5:1, Colossians 3:5-10, and James 1:19-20 For many, lashing out and yelling is the way to deal with those who wrong or hurt them. But is that how it should be for Christians? We’re told in Colossians 3:5-10 that we’re to die to the ways of the sinful nature rather than encourage them. Yet for the Christian, as time goes by God grants wisdom, which when applied leads to “discretion,” the ability to discern a situation and act appropriately, that is, in a Christ-like manner. For as James rightly reminds us in James 1:20, “The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Do you exercise self-control when you’re provoked and want to retaliate? Well, as our text says it’s to our “glory” to overlook a transgression. In other words, it’s honorable and praiseworthy to show grace and forgiveness to those who hurt us. And it is because this is the way God has dealt with our transgressions! Paul says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31). Is this the way we live with our fellow believers and with those who don’t know the Lord? Do we shine the light of Christ’s mercy upon them in our response, or do we seek revenge? Paul reminds us in Romans 12:17-21 that instead of revenge we’re to confront people with kind deeds. For such compassion may open the door for the gospel to come to many who are hurting and far from God! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would grant you restraint when others wrong you. Ask Him to fill you with mercy for others, leading to forgiveness. Pray that God might open doors for the gospel to work powerfully in those who are without Christ! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Sunday, June 14 – The greatest of all friendships

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” – Proverbs 18:24 Scripture reading: Proverbs 13:20, John 15:9-17, and 1 Corinthians 15:33 As we gather for worship today, in whatever fashion we are able to, we bask in the glory of knowing that Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, is our Lord and Saviour! He has redeemed us with His blood and purchased us for Himself, and we are eternally His! (John 10:28-30). Jesus is our Lord, but He’s also the greatest friend the Christian has! He is the fulfillment of Proverbs 18:24b, “...but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother”! But how often do we use Jesus as the barometer for gauging the friends we make? Proverbs 18:24a says, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly,” and this is very true! But this verse could also be rendered, “A man who has friends may come to ruin.” The idea being that not all friends are proper friends, for some can have bad influences on us affecting our behavior, our words and our choices. As Paul says, “Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Proverbs 13:20 adds, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” But John 15:9-17 teaches, Jesus is the greatest friend because of His sacrificial love for us! He laid down His life for our salvation and because of His saving work, He calls us “friends.” What a blessing! Thus, out of this saving relationship, we can have the kind of friendships that will encourage us in our walk with God and in our Sunday worship! Suggestions for prayer Pray for wisdom when it comes to your friendships. Pray that you would choose your friends according to God’s Word rather than according to your sinful desires. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 13 – Where is your place of refuge?

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own esteem.” – Proverbs 18:10-11 Scripture reading: Psalm 91 Psalm 91 is a psalm of assurance that our faithful God is with us regardless of the situation. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust’” (vv.1-2). This is the comforting confession of God’s believing people in any age! Proverbs 18:10 talks about the “name of the LORD”, a name that reminds us that He is the faithful, unchanging God Whose promises are eternally dependable! Thus, when difficulties arise, we may call on that Name, we may look to God and know that He is with us. In fact, we are “safe,” that is, high and lifted up above our enemies! As Psalm 91:14 says, “I will set him on high, because he has known My name.” Where do others find their comfort? Many find it in earthly riches, power and fame. But are they lasting? Can they give the peace the soul craves? No! As v.11b says, the rich man’s “strong city” is “like a high wall in his own esteem”, or we may say, in his “imagination”! He thinks he’s secure, but really, he’s deceived and it will lead to his downfall! Where is your refuge? Is it in Jesus Christ, the Saviour? Acts 4:12 says, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” What name are you trusting in? Suggestions for prayer Give thanks that your eternal refuge is in Jesus alone, that Name that is above every name! Pray that you may always look to God for your help rather than the wealth, fame and power that the world rests in. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 12 – Wise advice for daily living

“He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he.” – Proverbs 16:20  Scripture reading: Psalm 1 and Psalm 19 Spiritual growth and maturity is something all Christians desire and it’s something we also desire for our children and young people. Two key parts to that in the Christian life are obedience to God’s Word and an active trust in the Lord! As our text makes clear, there are rich blessings that come with it! For when we obey God’s Word “wisely,” that is, with discernment and prayer, God brings about “good” in our lives! He causes us to be leafy and green and to bear spiritual fruit, as Psalm 1 says. In keeping God’s commands there is great reward, Psalm 19. Do we have a love for the Word and do we model that for our children with regular devotions and prayer? This wise heeding of the Word helps little ones to grow in God’s wisdom! But the other side of the spiritual coin is “trust”; this is the fruit of being daily in the Word! What joy daily putting your trust in God and His promises, brings to your life; for “Whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he”! And “happy” in the sense of having true joy in our hearts through Jesus Christ. This is not a worldly kind of happiness that’s based on our circumstances or so-called luck. No, our joy is only in Christ! Therefore, may we come to see that the only way to grow in God’s wisdom and to have true joy in our hearts is to trust and obey! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to give you a growing love for His Word and also an active trust in His promises. For as you do, you’ll experience the good things God brings into your lives and you’ll be filled with true spiritual joy and gratitude. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 11 – Entrusting all of our plans to God

“Commit your works to the LORD, and your thoughts will be established.” – Proverbs 16:3  Scripture reading: Psalm 37:1-8, Psalm 55:22, and Philippians 4:6-7 Yesterday we looked at the blessing of prayer and how as God’s “righteous” people in Christ we ought to have every confidence that He hears our prayers and answers according to His will! Many Scriptures speak of prayer and of committing all of our works, plans or projects to God. Our proverb is very clear in that it says, “Commit your works to the LORD…” Literally, that means, “roll onto” the LORD all your works! Philippians 4:6 speaks of not being anxious, but of making our requests known to God; of committing or entrusting our works or plans to Him. This is so important for our faith, lest we become self-reliant and depend upon our own strength and wisdom. Do you daily “roll onto” your covenant God your plans, hopes and fears? Do you make it a daily habit to entrust your needs to God and then believe that He will answer? Sometimes we pray, but we don’t commit matters into His hands. Instead, we do so in word only and end up worrying and having many sleepless nights. Does this sound like you? Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the LORD and He shall sustain you…” Do you trust in God’s sustaining power for your life? He wants you to because He is faithful and will grant you what you ask according to His will - “and your thoughts will be established." Yes, by engaging daily in believing prayer we’ll “roll onto” our gracious God our works and plans! Suggestions for prayer Make a list of your plans, works or projects and daily pray to God about them. Trust in Him to give you direction, strength or help for daily life. Commit your works to God and believe He will establish your plans! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 10 – Having confidence in prayer

“The LORD is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.” – Proverbs 15:29 Scripture reading: Proverbs 15:8, Psalm 34:15-19, and Romans 8:26-27  Prayer is one of the great gifts we’ve been given as Christians! It’s a means by which we can bring our requests, praises and confessions to God’s holy throne, as Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer (Mt.6:5-13). But one thing is clear; apart from a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we cannot pray to God and expect Him to hear us! Many today wonder, “Does God hear all prayer?” No, He does not. For as we see from v.29, “The LORD is far from the wicked,” and as v.8 reveals, “the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD”! So you can go through all outward motions of prayer, but if you’re not right with God through Jesus Christ, such prayer will avail you nothing! And yet, how gloriously do the Psalms sing of the confidence believers can have when praying to God! Psalm 34 is a glorious testimony to that fact! David knew this blessing of prayer. He says, “The righteous cry out and the LORD hears”! Furthermore, Paul reminds us in Romans 8, that we have the Holy Spirit Who helps us in our prayers and intercedes for us with God! Thus, in heaven, Christ and the Holy Spirit intercede for us. For although we might not always know what to pray for, we have divine Helpers Who assist us as we come to the throne of our heavenly Father! What confidence we should have in our daily prayers to God! Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to help you grow in your prayer life. Make a daily list of things to pray for: your family, school, work and for the life and mission of the church. Lift them daily to God and trust in Him to hear and to answer your prayers! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....