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Daily devotional

November 23 – Big brother today

“You never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came… you killed the fattened calf for him.” – Luke 15:29c-30 Scripture reading: Luke 15:28b-30; Jeremiah 17:5-8 Who is Big Brother today? He is the church member who says, “I’ve served and sacrificed, but you haven’t _________.” She is the church member who resents a little brother’s joy in the Lord. He is the church member who looks down on the person beside him in the pew and says, “Thank God I don’t have his issues!” (Luke 18:9-12). She is the church member who feels resentment slowly replacing her joy as she serves. She feels unloved and unappreciated by God and others. She needs to step back awhile to find her identity and worth in her Father’s love, not in her performance. He is the critic quick to point out what is wrong with the church but cannot see or celebrate the wonderful things God is doing in people’s lives. She is the member who resents the pastor for spending too much time with little brothers. He rewards himself with pornography because he sacrifices so much to serve God and others. Big Brother is the church that does not share our Father’s heart for little brothers. Do you see yourself above? Our greatest need is to know the gospel of Jesus deeply in our hearts! The more we see ourselves as great sinners, the more humility replaces our pride. The more we see Jesus as our Great Savior, the more confidence replaces our insecurity. The more we rest in our Father’s radical love for us, the greater is our freedom to love, enjoy and serve God and others. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for revealing to you Christ in the gospel. Pray that the gospel might take deep root and bear fruit in your life. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 22 – I want your stuff, not you

“Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.” – Luke 15:29b Scripture reading: Luke 15:28b-30; Philippians 3:3-11 Big Brother is rude to his father. He does not address him as “Father.” Instead, he says, “Look here, you!” His outburst reveals how he really feels about his father in the relationship. “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends” (Luke 15:29). The upshot: “I’ve slaved for you, but what have you ever given me? Instead, you give the good stuff to my messed-up brother who did nothing to deserve it.” Little Brother and Big Brother were the same in one important way. Both wanted their father’s stuff instead of fellowship with him. They just took different paths to get it. Little Brother took the rebellious path. Big Brother took the religious path. Big Brother is the church member who insists “I am justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.” However, his heart theology drives him to earn God’s blessings through external obedience. Then, when God doesn’t meet his expectations or answer his prayers, he says, “Look! All these years I have slaved for you, but you didn’t ________.” How might you fill in that blank? Might this, in part, explain the unwelcome anger and resentment that arise in your heart? Let’s go back to the gospel. “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20b). Suggestions for prayer Thank our Father for His free, unearned gifts of forgiveness, righteousness and adoption. Ask Him for grace to enjoy Him and those gifts. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 21 – The Father’s heart

His father came out and entreated him… – Luke 15:28b Scripture reading: Luke 15:25-28; Matthew 11:28-30 We saw the father’s heart for Little Brother. We saw his radical love in the shocking way he ran out to Little Brother and restored him to full sonship. We usually focus our attention on the father’s radical love for Little Brother. However, his love for Big Brother was just as radical! Big Brother is seething outside. His father could have said, “It’s his own stubborn choice to be miserable outside alone. I’m not going to let him ruin the party.” Instead, this father does the unexpected, once again. In those days, no self-respecting father would leave the party he is hosting to beg his own son to participate. He certainly would not do so for a disrespectful son creating a scene outside. Yet the father did just that. He “came out and entreated him” (Luke 15:28b). He could have ordered his son to come in. Instead, he begged him. This father wanted his son’s heart, not just his service. He desired his presence at the feast, not just his performance in the field. This is our Father’s heart for you too! Maybe you are in the family of God, but your heart is outside the party. Your father and others are celebrating the return of little brothers and the life-transforming grace of Jesus in people’s lives. But you find yourself stuck in your own insecurities, resentments, self-righteousness and legalistic hang-ups. Hear your Father’s voice. “My child, let’s deal with these things together. I want you at the party.” Suggestions for prayer Thank our Father that His radical love is for Big Brothers too. Pray for a soft and humble heart to receive and respond to that love. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 20 – The heart revealed (Part 2)

But he was angry and refused to go in. – Luke 15:28a Scripture reading: Luke 15:25-28a; 1 John 1:5-10 Big Brother trudged home from the field after another hard day’s work in the hot sun. Chances are, he just wanted to eat a hearty meal, then kick back before going to bed. Instead, he walked into the mother of all parties. He heard festive music. He saw people dancing. Befuddled, he asked a servant what was going on. The servant informed him, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound” (Luke 15:27). Put yourself in Big Brother’s shoes. What is bubbling up inside of you right now? What is coming to the surface? For Big Brother, its anger. His anger is like smoke rising from the front of a car. He must look under the hood into his heart to diagnose what is really going on. This will become clearer to him and us as we read on in the story. Do you ever have such moments? You’re chugging along in big brother mode, taking care of business and living up to expectations. But from time to time, anger and resentment boil up inside of you, unbidden and unwelcome. You tell yourself, “It’s wrong to feel that way.” You press it down and press on. It’s time to look under the hood. “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out” (Proverbs 20:5). Jesus is that man of understanding. He will help you. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for sending us His Spirit to convict our hearts. Pray for grace to diagnose your anger. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 19 – The heart revealed (Part 1)

But he was angry and refused to go in. - Luke 15:28a Scripture reading: Luke 15:25-28a; Mark 7:14-23 Every winter, we tapped trees to produce maple syrup on the farm. Forty gallons of sap produce one gallon of syrup. This requires a lot of boiling down. Near the end of the process, the syrup looked and tasted thick and delicious! The process, however, was not complete until my mother poured milk into the boiling syrup. I would watch, mesmerized, as scum surfaced. It formed a thick, globulous mass on top. I would never have known there was so much scum in that delicious syrup if milk had not caused it to surface. The ugly exposure of scum, however, had a positive purpose. My mother could now remove the scum with a strainer, leaving a purer product. We all have scum in our hearts that needs to surface. Because big brothers are typically “good church people,” however, that scum is usually harder to see and deal with. Sometimes our Father injects the milk of providential events into our lives to surface that scum. This is what happened to Big Brother in Luke 15. What milk has our Father poured into your life to surface the issues and idols of your heart? What has he used to expose your self-righteousness, resentment, lack of love, sense of entitlement or thirst for human approval? Pray with the psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24). Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the ‘milk’ of providential events He pours into our lives to reveal our sin. Pray Psalm 139:23-24. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 18 – Introducing big brother

Now his older son was in the field… – Luke 15:25a Scripture reading: Luke 15:25a; Psalm 139:23-24 The spotlight shifts from the younger son to the older son. This is Big Brother. Ah, Big Brother, the responsible first-born! He is exactly where we would expect to meet him, out in the field, working hard. When his little brother took off, Big Brother stuck around to take care of business. You can count on him. He is the one you call on when you need a thing done and you need it done right. Can you relate to Big Brother? Every year, they look to you to plan the family reunion. It goes without saying. You are always on a committee at church and often the chair. You have served multiple terms as elder or deacon in your church. When something goes wrong, you get the text or call. You are known as that person at home, church and work. Thank God for the big brothers among us! We appreciate who you are and all you do. God is using you in your spheres of service. Big brothers are like reliable cars that keep chugging. They require minimal maintenance and never break down. However, even reliable cars – and big brothers – need a look under the hood now and then. We need to check our hearts before God. “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out” (Proverbs 20:5). Our Father sometimes uses little brothers to surface sin and idols lurking in the hearts of big brothers. Stay tuned. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the opportunities He has given you to serve Him. Ask Him for grace to examine your heart before Him. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 17 – Party time!

And they began to celebrate. – Luke 15:24b Scripture reading: Luke 15:22-24; Isaiah 25:6-9 Redemption calls for celebration! The Bible is full of parties, complete with lavish feasts to celebrate the mighty acts of God in redemption. For Israel, God prescribed three annual feasts to celebrate His mighty acts of redemption and restored fellowship with His people (Leviticus 23:4-8,15-22,33-43). The Bible describes the restored kingdom of heaven as a great feast (Isaiah 25:6-9; Matthew 22:1-10; Revelation 19:6-9). Jesus said, “I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). Jesus knew how to party. He once noted, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Matthew 11:19a). Does our gratitude and joy for God’s grace in Christ spill over into celebration? Do we experience the Lord’s Supper as a joy-filled feast in fellowship with our Triune God? Do we share our Father’s heart, a heart that celebrates the salvation of lost people? Our world is a dark, despairing place. People attempt to escape through destructive, degrading parties. We need to befriend them and invite them into our feasting and fun. Let them know we are Christians by the way we party. May our parties point them to Jesus, our Reason we can celebrate. Many find themselves cut off from their former friends and party scene when they come to Christ. We need to include them in our sanctified celebrations. Let’s show them how to party for real. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for one or two blessings you are grateful for today. Ask Him to fill you with contagious joy. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 16 – Restoration

“Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.” – Luke 15:22b-23 Scripture reading: Luke 15:22-24; Revelation 7:9-17 Now we reach the third “but” of our story. Little Brother has just begun his prepared speech (see Luke 15:18b-19). “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” He is about to add, “Treat me as one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:19b), but the father cuts him off. The father’s exuberant, extravagant reaction makes clear that he has no intention of demoting his son to servant. He restores him to sonship. He replaces Little Brother’s rags with an impressive robe. He now stands cleansed and clothed before his father, forgiven and accepted. Our Father cleanses repentant sinners in the blood of Christ. He then clothes us in Christ and His righteousness. This was already our Father’s heart for His lost children in Genesis. “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skin and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). He puts a signet ring on his finger. This gave Little Brother signing authority over the estate. It restored his decision-making power in the family. Little Brother had just blown one-third of that estate. Yet his father trusts him to manage the estate again! Our Father, too, restores us to our kingdom calling in His family. Finally, there is great rejoicing! The mother of all parties erupts in celebration of the lost son’s return. “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). Suggestions for prayer Thank our Father for lavish grace that restores us in His family. Pray that you might experience the liberating power of the gospel in your own life. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 15 – Humility

And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ – Luke 15:21 Scripture reading: Luke 15:21; James 4:8-10 Stunned by his father’s welcome, the son speaks. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” This is humility. To humble yourself is to lower yourself whereas our default is to raise ourselves. We put ourselves on the throne in place of God. We say, “I am Number One. What I want is Number One.” We need to lower ourselves before God. “But I struggle with low self-image, even self-hatred,” you say. “I already feel low.” True enough. May God deliver you! But when we feel badly about ourselves, we tend to be self-absorbed. We focus on ourselves and our happiness over God and others. Even in self-hatred, we are on the throne. We humble ourselves when we lower ourselves from our thrones to bow before God. We humble ourselves when we turn our focus from self to Him. We humble ourselves when we admit that our self-exaltation makes us unworthy of His grace. We humble ourselves when we marvel at His undeserved forgiveness. Then we rejoice in our exalted position as children, loved and valued by our Father. How does humility respond to the gospel? Elizabeth Clephane states it beautifully in Beneath the Cross of Jesus: “And from my smitten heart with tears, two wonders I confess: The wonders of His glorious love and my unworthiness.” “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6). Suggestions for prayer Praise God for “the wonders of His glorious love.” Pray for humility. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 14 – The Father’s heart

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. – Luke 15:20b Scripture reading: Luke 15:20b; Psalm 103:6-14 “But…” This beautiful word introduces the shocking contrast between the father’s heart and what the son deserves. This father never stopped loving his son. Every day, he watched and waited at the gate for his lost son. Then, one day, he spotted him in the distance. At this point, a string of verbs describes the father’s response. Like ocean swells, they roll over us (and the son!) in quick succession. The father “saw-felt-ran-embraced-kissed. How undignified! How embarrassing! No self-respecting father would have behaved this way back then, especially toward such a son. The father’s heart moved his feet. First, he felt compassion. Then he ran to his son. The Greek verb translated “felt compassion” is related to the Greek word for “guts” or “intestines.” Compassion is a deep-in-the-gut mercy that moves one to act. It was this same deep-in-the-gut mercy that moved our Father to pursue us in His Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us, and bring us home. When you return to the Father to confess your sin and seek His forgiveness, how do you think He receives you? Does He roll his eyes, sigh, and reluctantly receive you? No. He welcomes you warmly. He delights in you as His child. Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV) describes the Father’s heart for his children who return home: “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you with his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Suggestions for prayer Thank our Father for the compassion that moved Him to send His Son to pursue us. Ask Him to give you that same heart of compassion. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 13 – But…

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. – Luke 15:20b Scripture reading: Luke 15:20b; Ephesians 2:1-10 “But” is a disruptive word. It signals an event that will redirect, even reverse the trajectory of a story. Often, it introduces a surprise. “I didn’t see that coming!” we say. The first “but” of our story showed up in Luke 15:17a: “But when he came to himself…” The son was headed for destruction, “but” his change of heart marked the beginning of a dramatic reversal in his story. So it is for us when God moves our hearts to turn from sin to Him. The second “but” signals the radical redemptive reversal which arises from the father’s heart. It introduces the shocking response of the father that dramatically alters the conclusion of the story for Little Brother. It is the “but” of scandalous grace. The Bible is full of such “buts”: But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20a). If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared (Psalm 130:3-4). But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:20). How have you experienced the “but” of God’s surprising grace in your life? Suggestions for prayer Thank God for any redemptive reversals He has worked in your life. Pray that He will work a redemptive reversal in the life of someone you know. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 12 – The road home (Part 2)

And he arose and came to his father. – Luke 15:20a Scripture reading: Luke 15:17-20a; Luke 19:1-10 Little Brother did not say, “I will arise and go to my father,” then stay in his pigpen. No. “He arose and came to his father.” Repentance is a U-Turn. It begins with a change of heart that leads to a change of direction. Leaving Walmart, you discover the cashier forgot to charge you for a coffee maker. You rejoice! It was his mistake, after all. But halfway home you have a change of heart. You think, “This is not right. I need to turn back.” You feel badly for the cashier so you make a U-Turn and return to Walmart and settle accounts. Your change of heart led to a change of direction. What about you? You and your brother are not on speaking terms. The Lord is showing you that this is due, in part, to your pride and stubbornness. What will you do?  You’re sleeping with your girlfriend and the Lord is convicting you. What will you do? Repentance takes you first to the cross of Christ. There you find your sins washed away by the blood of Christ. This assures you that your Father will forgive and receive you when you confess your sin to him. “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7). Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the gift of forgiveness and the blood of Jesus that washes away our sins. Pray for the assurance of forgiveness and power of the Spirit to grow and change. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 11 – The road home (Part 1)

But when he came to himself, he said… “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.’” – Luke 15:17a,18 Scripture reading: Luke 15:17-20a; 2 Corinthians 7:8-12 He had been a prince in his father’s house but now he is a peasant, barely surviving in a pigpen. He’s on the road to destruction. There is only one exit ramp off this road. It is called repentance. For Little Brother, repentance began “when he came to himself.” It began when he came to his senses. One day, it dawned on him, “I got myself here, but I don’t have to stay here. I have a home and a Father to go to. There I will have plenty to eat.” Two things keep us in prisons of our own making: pride and shame. Pride says, “I’d rather starve among pigs than admit I was wrong and grovel for mercy”. Shame says, “How can I show my face after what I did?” Repentance, however, says, “I will arise and go to my father.” This is faith in the loving and merciful heart of his father. Repentance says, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants”. This is humility. Little Brother knows he has wronged his father and it grieves him. He knows he doesn’t deserve mercy. He will be grateful with the crumbs of his father’s grace. Are you stuck in a prison of your own making? Are pride and shame keeping you there? Will you use the exit ramp of repentance to reconcile with your Father and others? Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the way His Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see our sin and our Savior. Pray for the gift of repentance. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 10 – The end of the road (Part 2)

And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. – Luke 15:14 Scripture reading: Luke 15:14-16; Proverbs 3:11-12 In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis says that pain is God’s megaphone. Sometimes pain is God’s severe mercy to get our attention, bring us to our knees in repentance and faith, and draw us back to Him. It was God’s mercy that landed Little Brother in the pigpen, knee deep in manure. What if his money had never run out and no famine had struck? He might have lived for his own pleasure the rest of his life and landed in hell. What if the prophet Jonah had succeeded in running away from the LORD? It was the LORD’s mercy that landed him in the smelly belly of a fish. The psalmist says, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word… It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:67,71). Have you experienced pain as God’s megaphone? Maybe your pain was the bitter fruit of your sinful choices. Maybe your suffering was not caused by your own sin. Either way, God used it to draw you to Him or to deepen your fellowship with Him. Maybe you know others pursuing “the” good life apart from God. It seems to be working for them. It looks like they are thriving apart from God. Pray for them. If possible, maintain relationships with them. One day, pain will cast a shadow over their lives. You will want to be present and available to point them to Christ. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the way He uses pain redemptively as His megaphone. Ask Him for opportunities to point lost people in your life to Christ when they are in pain. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 9 – The end of the road (Part 1)

And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. – Luke 15:14 Scripture reading: Luke 15:14-16; Psalm 130:1-8 Little Brother blew through his fortune. One day his bank account bottomed out. To make matters worse, famine struck and jobs were scarce. He hit rock bottom. He landed a job with a local farmer, feeding his pigs. Pig farming is an honourable vocation today but Little Brother grew up in a first-century Jewish home under the Law of Moses. Pigs were not kosher; they were unclean. Distinctions between clean and unclean in the Law of Moses had a purpose. They reminded God’s people that He had set them apart from the world and its sinful beliefs and practices. He had set them apart for His redemptive purposes. But Little Brother had plunged into uncleanness long before he was knee deep in manure. Proximity to pigs drove that point home. Worse yet, he didn’t make a living wage. The pigs ate better than he did. Today, too, people hit rock bottom. In desperation, they do things they wouldn’t have dreamed of before: binge drink, settle for abusive relationships, steal from loved ones, or isolate from everyone. They spiral into shame and despair. Maybe this is your story. Corrie ten Boom said that no pit is so deep that God’s love is not deeper still. Jonah ran from God and hit rock bottom – the sea bottom. Yet God heard his cry and rescued him (Jonah 2:1-10). Jesus died for us in the deepest of pits to rescue us from ours! Cry out to Him to forgive and rescue you. He will. Suggestions for prayer Thank Jesus for suffering in the deepest of pits to rescue us from ours. Pray for someone who has hit rock bottom or is about to hit rock bottom. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 8 – Reckless, restless living

Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. – Luke 15:13 Scripture reading: Luke 15:13; Jeremiah 2:11-13 Today is the Lord’s Day. Jesus calls us to set this day aside to rest and be refreshed in fellowship with Him and one another. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We need all the help we can get! Our hearts quickly turn from our true Source of rest to find rest in other things and people. This leaves us restless. We all chase rest apart from God. Little brothers just do so in more obvious, dramatic ways. They usually leave the covenant community to do so. The younger son “took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living” (Luke 15:13b). Who is Little Brother today? She is the estranged sister who did not show up for mom’s funeral. He is the church member behind bars for molesting a child. She is the sister who comes out as gay, then marries her lover. He is the son who moves in with his girlfriend. She is the young woman who has an abortion, then slides into addiction. He is the child who returns from college ‘woke’, but wandering. She is your friend who is bitter toward the church. He is your friend, Mark, who became Mallory. As you read the previous paragraph, what surfaced in your heart? Compassion? Something else? In our Father’s eyes, we are all little brothers who need Jesus, our big brother, to bring us home. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His offer of rest in Christ. Ask the Lord to help you rest, be refreshed and rejoice in His presence today. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 7 – Into a far country

Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. – Luke 15:13 Scripture reading: Luke 15:13; Joel 2:12-14 Little Brother pocketed his cheque and packed his belongings. Then he left home. He went far from his father and brother. He “took a journey into a far country” (Luke 15:13b). Here he was free from the identity and expectations assigned to him by his home, synagogue and community. Here, no one knew him. He could define his own identity and chart his own course. He could escape the voices and visuals that reminded him of his father’s God. Or so he thought. You need not be physically far from home to be spiritually and relationally far from home. Little Brother is anyone who is spiritually and relationally no longer at home with God. Maybe you are Little Brother. No matter how far you are from home, you are not beyond your Father’s reach! With the psalmist, cry out, “From the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint… let me dwell in your tent forever!” (Psalm 61:2a,4a). He will hear and forgive you. He will rescue and receive you. Maybe you have little brothers in your life right now. Do not stop praying for them. Do not stop caring for them. The Holy Spirit can do in their hearts what you cannot! As church communities, we may also need to do some soul-searching before God. Have we thrown up any stumbling-blocks before the little brothers among us? Have we contributed to a distorted image of their Father that has formed in their hearts? Suggestions for prayer Thank God that no matter how far we wander, we are never beyond His reach. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of “little brothers” in your life. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 6 – The Father’s response

And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. – Luke 15:11b-12 Scripture reading: Luke 15:11-12; Romans 1:18-25 Little Brother might as well have slapped his father’s face. “Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me” (Luke 15:12a). In other words, “Father, I want your stuff, not you.” The father could have refused. Instead, “he divided his property between them” (Luke 15:12b). The Father said to his son, “Your will be done. I will hand over to you what you want. I will also hand you over to what you want.” In Romans 1:18-32, Paul describes God’s judgment on those who turn from Him to idols. The passage states that he ‘gave them up’ to their desires. He said, “I will give you what you want… and the misery that follows.” This is a chilling thought. What is the end of the road for those God hands over to their desires? It is hell. In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis puts these words into the mouth of his mentor George MacDonald: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says in the end, ‘Thy will be done’.” What about you? Are you clinging to an idol or sinful pattern you refuse to confess and surrender? Is your heart saying to Him, “I value this more than you.”? God may give you what you want… and the misery that follows. But thank God that He uses our misery to drive us into His arms of mercy! Run to Him. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the ways He gets our attention to turn us from sin. Ask Him to deliver you from any idol or sinful pattern that He reveals to you. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 5 – I want your stuff, not you

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’” – Luke 15:11-12a Scripture reading: Luke 15:11-12; Psalm 73:23-28 “There was a man who had two sons.” So begins our two-part story. Part One focuses on the father and his younger son. Let’s call him “Little Brother”. Little Brother tells his father to give him his share of the inheritance His share was one-third since the oldest received two-thirds of the inheritance in ancient Israel. Likely, the younger son’s third of the estate was tied up in assets. The father would have to liquidate a third of his estate to free up the cash his younger son demanded. More to the point, a slap in the face would have hurt less than the son’s demand. The younger son did not want to wait for his father to die to get what was coming to him. He wanted it now so he could get away from his father and enjoy the good life apart from Him. In short, he did not want his father. He just wanted his father’s stuff. Imagine a young woman engaged to a young man. She invites him for dinner. She spends all day preparing a gourmet meal. She can’t wait to spend time with him. He shows up right on time but then, to her horror and hurt, he demands two plates to go. He whisks those dinners out the door to enjoy with another woman. This is often how we treat our Father in heaven. We crave His presents more than His presence. In our prayers, we seek His hand and not His face. Suggestions for prayer Thank our Father for His daily kindness and generosity. Ask Him to forgive you for the times you value His gifts over Him, the Giver. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. ...

Daily devotional

November 4 – Storytime with Jesus

And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man received sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: – Luke 15:2-3 Scripture reading: Luke 15:1-3; Hebrews 4:12-13 When the Pharisees and scribes grumbled against Jesus, He didn’t respond with rebuttal or rebuke. Instead, He told them stories. When rebuttals or rebukes come our way, we tend to throw up our defenses to deflect them. Stories, however, often bypass our defenses to engage our hearts. Jesus was a master of such storytelling. Jesus’ stories had a way of getting under people’s skin and often struck a nerve with His listeners. They hit close to home… and hearts. Listeners found themselves identifying with one or more of the characters. By the end of the story, the heart issues addressed in the story were clearly their own. That’s why Jesus’ stories sparked strong reactions. The stories Jesus told were parables. Their purpose was to surface the spiritual heart condition of listeners and demand a response. Who would receive Him and His message? Who would resist? In the coming days, we will listen to Jesus tell the third story of His trilogy. Listener beware! Storytime with Jesus is dangerous. His words may pierce your heart, like the scalpel of a skilled surgeon, to expose assumptions, attitudes and even animosity to God and His Word that you would rather not face. For this we will need grace to listen with open and humble hearts. Grace to pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there is any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24). Suggestions for prayer Thank our Triune God for the way His Word exposes our hearts. Pray the prayer of Psalm 139:23-24. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 3 – “Godly” grumblers

And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” – Luke 15:2 Scripture reading: Luke 15:1-2; Matthew 9:9-13 A caricature is a drawing that exaggerates a feature on your face – say, your nose or ears – to make you look ridiculous. We caricature the Pharisees and scribes in our minds, then roll our eyes at them. However, the Pharisees and scribes treasured the Bible in a world that trashed it. They copied it carefully. They struggled to preserve the ancient faith in a culture that undermined it. They called God’s people to trust, love and serve Him as those set apart from the world. With Isaiah, they said, “Depart, depart, go out from there, touch no unclean thing…” (Isaiah 52:11a). With James, they might have said, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:4b). Today, too, our culture’s worldview is infecting the church. The Pharisees and scribes would say, “Maintain social distancing. Separation is the key to reformation.” Jesus did not practice social distancing. He welcomed the tax collectors and "sinners" into His life. He spent time with them. He accepted their dinner invitations and enjoyed their hospitality. That’s why the Pharisees and scribes grumbled about Him. In their view, He put Himself and the church at risk for spiritual infection. They had forgotten God’s vision and heart for the lost. God saves and sets us apart from the world so that the world might be drawn to Him through us. How will this happen if we practice social distancing? Does this involve risk? Yes. But Jesus overcomes those risks. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that He saved you and set you apart from the world. Pray for wisdom to be in the world yet not of the world so that others might be drawn to Christ through you. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 2 – Drawn to Jesus

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. – Luke 15:1 Scripture reading: Luke 15:1-2; John 10:11-16 Jesus crossed the chasm between pulpit and publican, between synagogue and “sinner.” Luke tells us that the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to Jesus. They were drawing near to hear Him. Why? In Christ, God’s word went out with almighty power to create faith in the hearts of His listeners and change their lives. Christ, however, did not wait for them to enter the synagogue to hear His message. He went to them as the Word-made-flesh. He embodied among them the gospel as He preached in the middle of their mess. He did not condone their sin, but He cared deeply about them and they knew it. They drew near to Him because He drew near to them. They loved him because He loved them first (1 John 4:19). What if Jesus had not crossed the chasm from His Father’s presence into our sinful mess? What if He had not become flesh to dwell among us? What if He had simply posted “Tax collectors and Sinners Welcome” on the sign outside heaven’s sanctuary and waited for us to walk through the doors? We know the answer. Not one of us would belong to the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Not one of us would turn from idols that we crave to the One Who can satisfy and save. Do you love the “tax collectors” and “sinners” in your life? Do you pray for them regularly? Do you seek opportunities to love them across the chasm? Suggestions for prayer Thank Jesus for crossing the chasm into our world to save us. Pray for specific people in your life that need to be saved. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introducing November’s prodigal devotions

Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son is well-loved for good reason. However, the title reveals that our primary focus tends to be on the younger son. We call him prodigal because prodigal means “wastefully or recklessly extravagant” (Dictionary.com) and the younger son blew his money in reckless living. In The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith, Timothy Keller points to the father as the main character. Keller calls the father prodigal for the recklessly extravagant way he lavishes his love and grace on his two sons. Keller’s book has influenced my work here. In this parable, Jesus draws our attention to both sons. He invites us to see ourselves in one or both sons and to see that both were lost and needed the father’s prodigal love to bring them home. Finally, as Keller has noted, the parable points us to the lavish love of our Father and to Jesus as our True Big Brother. We don’t want to lose the forest for the trees. This parable has three main points, built around its three main characters and their conduct. The Younger Son represents those who leave the covenant community for the world but repent and return to their Father. The Older Son represents those who are inside and even lead the covenant community, but whose hearts are far from God and react negatively to the father’s prodigal grace in Christ. The Father represents our Father in heaven Who pours out His prodigal grace and love on lost children to return them home. With parables, we must be careful not to press every detail to find a deeper, spiritual meaning. I hope I haven’t fallen into that trap! My aim is simply that this story and its details prompt us to: consider the dynamics of our own hearts and communities today, bask in the wonder of our Father’s prodigal love for us in Christ, and join our Father and True Older Brother in pursuit of the lost as those who share His heart. Tax collectors and sinners Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. – Luke 15:1 Scripture reading: Luke 15:1-3,11-32 Tax collectors and sinners: Israel’s God had welcomed them into His family as infants. They grew up hearing God’s Word. They knew what God had done for His people but they had walked away from God and the church. They had not darkened the synagogue door in years. They were cut off from God and the covenant community. The tax collectors had Roman government jobs. Their supervisors assigned them a territory and a sum to collect. It was up to them to levy surcharges to cover their costs and supplement their salaries. They abused their power to fleece their people. Others despised them as traitors. The “sinners” had drifted away from God. They immersed themselves in the surrounding Greco-Roman culture. They partied hard, slept around and embraced pagan ideas and customs contrary to God’s Word. They turned from their God, the fountain of living water, and dug for themselves broken cisterns that could hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13). A great chasm separated the tax collectors and sinners from the pulpits where God’s Word was proclaimed. The same is true in our society today. Many, cut off from Christ in our culture, grew up in churches or can trace their lineage to Christian ancestors. Maybe one of them is your son or daughter and you feel it deeply. The gospel proclaimed in pulpits is still the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). Who will cross the chasm to enflesh that gospel among the tax collectors and “sinners”? Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the gift and power of the gospel. Ask God to use you and your church to proclaim and embody that gospel among the lost. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 31 – Faith without works is dead

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? – James 2:14 Scripture reading: James 2:1-17 This month we have thought about the work of Christ in uniting His people in His church for holy worship and service. We are called to live in fellowship with God and each other, showing the love of God to all. Ongoing Reformation requires that we examine all areas of our living, including how we treat others. We must not only get the gospel right, but gospel living right. All too often, believers are guilty of favoritism. We can easily ignore those we disagree with, those of another color or race, those of a different cultural standing or lifestyle. We judge by sight even though we know we cannot see the heart. Thus as Christ loved us and sacrificed Himself for us while we were yet sinners, so we must love and give ourselves for others, even obvious sinners and people who are different. Later in the chapter, James speaks of wishing others well, but never taking any action to resolve their needs. Faith without deeds is useless. Martin Luther, over 500 years ago today, acted for the common man in a way that transformed the church. He taught that salvation was not by works, but faith. He did so knowing that this faith must be proved true by works of love and mercy toward all people. The reformation begun is not yet complete. Today we must devote ourselves to the love of Christ, seeking the ongoing reformation of the church until we reach the full stature of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer Pray for a blessed day of worship and praise. Give thanks for the return of the church to the Scriptures and pray that today also the church might be reformed by Scripture to be the perfect body of Christ on earth. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 30 – Loving the brother

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart… – 1 Peter 1:22 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:17-25 Christians are those who, forgiven of sin and clothed in Christ's righteousness, have fellowship with the Triune God. As God is perfect love, we are called to love one another deeply from the heart. This is because our love for one another is an expression of the common fellowship we have in Christ. The acid test of the love we profess for God is how we relate to others. Sadly this is an area of one of the greatest failings of the Christian church. Not loving each other as Christ loved us (forgiving us and sanctifying us) has produced much sorrow and division in the church and great skepticism in the world about the claims of Christ. Yet the love of Christ in us can bridge great differences of views and customs. Think of this searching statement of John: We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brothers. He who does not love his brothers abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and … no murderer has eternal life abiding in him (John 3:14ff). We cannot excuse a lack of love for sinners since Christ's love was extended to us while we were sinners. We are to love even our enemies! Love that is only for "good" people and not for sinners, does not reflect Christ's love, Who was the Just dying for the unjust to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). We must love deeply, from the heart. Suggestions for prayer The church needs reforming in the area of Christian fellowship and love for others. Pray for increasing love among brothers in the church and for lost sinners. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 29 – Following Jesus brings joy

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. – John 15:11 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:3-9 Many criticize Christians for their lack of joy. This might stem from not keeping the love of Jesus before us so that living for Him seems more like law-keeping rather than enjoyment of Him and His purposes. Joyful Christians are those who keep Jesus as the focus of living, working, playing, worshipping, and loving. They rejoice in Jesus and have no confidence in their own goodness, for they find their life in Jesus, not themselves. Thus they can rejoice always (Phil 4:4). Of course, some people are by nature melancholic. This is a challenge for them. They need to continually be reminded of the beauty of Christ and the hope of salvation in Him. This is an antidote to their discouragement and depression. Admittedly, our joy will always be tempered by sin's presence. Too many yet live for self, for this life. They can get very passionate about such things, but always find an emptiness. We were made to glorify God and enjoy Him. Apart from this, we will remain unfulfilled and lack joy. We must die to ourselves and find our life in Christ. The less we focus on self and the more we focus on Jesus, the more we experience His Joy. This is why Jesus calls us to follow Him, so that our joy may be complete. Focus on His love and saving grace, and you will be able to rejoice more fully, despite all difficulties (See 1 Peter 1:6-8). Suggestions for prayer Pray that you and all God's people may be filled with joy daily. Pray that in everything our focus today may be on Jesus. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 28 – Keeping Christ's commands

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in His love. – John 15:10 Scripture reading: 1 John 2:1-6 Jesus calls us to abide in His love. He is not vague about what this means. Jesus quickly and clearly pinpoints that love is a keeping of His commandment. As He loved His Father and did all that His Father required of Him, we are to follow Jesus, doing all that He commands. The way to enjoy Jesus and His love is to walk in His footsteps. Our good works do not earn for us salvation, but by walking in Christ's ways we enjoy the fullness of life He gives us. We are to give ourselves wholeheartedly to Him. As the Psalmist says, I delight to do your will, O my God, and your law is within my heart (Ps. 40:8). This verse sums up the heart of Christian discipleship and devotion. Jesus is the focus of our love, and His will is our delight. This is not some cold, rigid law-keeping, but an enthusiasm for Him and His perfect will and plan of salvation. When we embrace God's perfect will the result is a growing experience of remaining in the love of our Saviour. Jesus doesn’t just tell us to do as He says, but as He does: As I have kept my father's commands. In following His example of love, our love grows, so that it is ever deeper. In this loving obedient devotion, our joy is made complete. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you may follow Christ in obedience to His word. Pray for a deeper love and joy in His ways, His great plan of salvation. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 27 – Motivation for pure living

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died… – 2 Corinthians 5:14 Scripture reading: 2 Corinthians 5:9-15 If we know ourselves, we know how hard it is for us to change our ways. Our passions and desires are strong. We want to have things our way. We love our personal sins and do our best to redefine them in ways that make us feel comfortable with them. We may be told that our sin is wrong, but we learn not to take such rules so seriously. It takes more than merely being told something is wrong or being warned of the consequences of our ways, to be motivated to follow Jesus in holy living. The law of God, with all its warnings, cannot change our hearts. The gospel alone can make our sin odious and holiness delightful. The way the gospel does this is by revealing the love of God in Jesus. Paul says the love of God compelled him to reach others with the gospel because he knew that all must appear before the judgment seat of God. Jesus died so that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died for us. Jesus, in John 15, sets His love before us as a motivation for bearing fruit and then calls us to remain in His love. We are to live in the awareness of God's love, letting His love overwhelm us and then out of that love to love God and others. His love compels us to reach out to others that they might also enjoy His love. Suggestions for prayer As Christ died so that we might be made pure, pray for a life of purity in thought, emotion and action. Pray for a heart for lost sinners. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 26 – It takes disciples to make disciples

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. – Deuteronomy 6:6 Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 11:1-19 We read in Deuteronomy 11:18  Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. If we are to lead children in the Lord's ways, we must be walking in them ourselves. Example speaks volumes! We must know Him and what He has done if we would love Him and follow Him with full hearts. If we instruct children by just giving them laws and morals, then they have no incentive to keep them. But when they see us in love following Jesus, thankful for what He has done, they are inclined to follow. Receiving rules without knowing Jesus is slavery. In knowing Jesus and loving Him, we find that His yoke is easy, His burden is light.  Let children see this in us! Many parents think that loving their children is giving them things they couldn't have as kids. But children would rather have the loving leadership of parents. If we want children to follow us, they must see that we love them. So with God. If we want our children to follow Jesus, they must see His love and forgiveness. They must see us loving as He loves and forgiving as He forgives. Seeing His love in us, they will walk in those ways too. Proverbs 22:6 says, Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you might love God more and be a more faithful disciple, being examples of love and faith to others. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 25 – The Church's role in making disciples

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. – Deuteronomy 6:6 Scripture reading: Ephesians 4:11-16 In these verses, God is not just speaking to parents, but to the covenant community, the church.  Notice that 'hearts' is plural in the verse above. Today we tend to think more individualistically. In a Biblical view, God is in Jesus, saving for Himself a people, a bride, His church! There is a great emphasis on the unity of believers in a common faith and purpose. This training disciples, including children, is a mutual responsibility. This is why He has given pastors and teachers to unite us all as followers who reflect Jesus. In 2 Timothy 2:2, Timothy is told to teach other men what he had been taught, so that they, in turn, will be able to teach others. In 2 Timothy 4, he is to continue in what he has learned, (the Scriptures), which are able to make him wise...  for salvation, … and are useful for teaching rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. These passages teach that the church must not only proclaim the truth, but teach it in a way that people will be able to repeat it to others and always be able to give an answer for the hope that is within them. Thus the goal of the church is to have a vibrant educational ministry. Never shun this ministry, but utilize it. Attend worship, but also be involved in education, that you might be fully equipped for ministry. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the educational ministry of the church. Pray for ways you can be involved in this ministry. Pray for those who teach others in the way of faith. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 24 – Making disciples starts at home

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4 Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 6:1-9 Parents are the first to instruct and train their children. Fathers, in particular, are singled out as responsible for this. Note the two words. Discipline and instruction imply a focused purpose, not a casual approach. Think of how a coach operates. He instructs players about plays and moves, makes them practice them over and over again (training), encouraging and admonishing them to excel. So parents are to instruct their children and train them. Parents are to teach them about God and Jesus. Tell Bible stories so that they can see God and Jesus as revealed in them. Teach them how God has provided salvation in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and how by His Word and Spirit He transforms them. Explain the sacraments to them. Teach them about the place and necessity of the church. Teach them how the righteousness of Christ is ours. Teach them how the world is passing away and that Christ is making all things new. Give them the vision of the coming of the new heavens and earth. Such things are foundational to holy living and such instruction begins at home, not at church or school. This is to be constant. Deuteronomy 11:19 says You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. At all times! For example, your reaction when you hit your thumb with a hammer speaks volumes about your love for the Lord. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you can be a faithful parent, or that parents you know can be faithful in training and instruction. Pray for children to know and love God. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 23 – The basis for living as disciples

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. – Deuteronomy 6:4-5 Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 6:1-5 The book of Deuteronomy is basically a long sermon reminding God's people how they should live in the kingdom they are being given. Central to kingdom living are two things revealed in the verse above. The first is the basic Jewish Confession, Hear, O Israel, The Lord (Yahweh) our God, the Lord (Yahweh) is one. This confession takes some central truths about God and unites them in a confessional statement. Who is God? What has He done? What is He like? He is the Lord (Yahweh), the God who redeemed His people as He promised. He is the one and only God. He is our God! If we are going to be disciples of Jesus, we need to ask these questions about our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The answer is crucial if we are to keep the second part of the text, namely, to love Him with all our being. This pattern is consistent throughout Scripture. God tells us about Himself as He reveals His great works. He also illustrates His love before He asks us to love. Thus it is important to keep God and His plan of salvation clearly in our minds if we are going to fulfill His command to love Him, to follow Him, to be like Him! So this is the pattern for making disciples. Speak of God, who He is, what He has done and what He is doing. Then call people to believe and, denying themselves, to follow Him in love, keeping His commands. Suggestions for prayer Pray for guidance in reading and studying Scripture, that you may come to know God. Pray for the Spirit to shape you to be like Him, loving God and others as He has loved you. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 22 – Jesus' love of his people

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. – John 15:9 Scripture reading: Ephesians 3:12-21 As the Father loves the Son, so the Son loves His disciples. He loves them with the same quality of love - as deeply and selflessly and purely. In love, Jesus sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24). Jesus promised us when He left that He would be with us until the close of the age. In Hebrews 13:5, He reiterates the promise, I will never leave you or forsake you. So sure is that love that we need not fear anything, but can simply rest in Him. Hebrews 13:6 says: so we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? John 15:13 says, Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. Never doubt His love. Romans 5:10 says if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Jesus reigns in glory and works in everything for the good of those who love Him. Paul prays that we might grasp how vast the love of Christ is, Whose goal is to save us completely. He is coming again for us, to take us home, that we might enjoy eternal fellowship with God. The love of God, which sent Jesus to take away the guilt of our sin, is sufficient to do far more than all we ask or imagine. Rest in His love! Suggestions for prayer Pray that you understand the depth of Christ's love and His desire to save you completely. Pray that you may love others as deeply. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 21 – The Father's love of the son

For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. –  John 5:20 Scripture reading: John 5:19-24 The love of Jesus is rooted in the love of the Father for Him. Love motivated the plan of salvation, a plan that would result in ultimate glory for each other. Love motivated the Father to send the Son into the world. The Father spoke of His love, saying, This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him! (Mark 9:7). God took great pleasure in Jesus. At the time of Jesus' baptism, God said,  You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased (Mark 1:11). This love remained even on the cross, as God poured out His wrath on Jesus. It was love that sent Jesus to the cross to bear the curse. On the cross, Father and Son are united in restoring sinners to eternal fellowship with God. In so loving the world that He gave His Son, the Father did not love His Son any less. It was love at every point that worked salvation: love of sinners, love of the Son, love of perfect justice and righteousness. The love of the Father spoken of here is not one of pity or compassion, but of pure delight. It is the love of heaven where there is no misery to pity or show compassion to. It is the love that enjoys the company of the other. The Father's love through Jesus to His people is also a delight. Jesus showed compassion for us in going to the cross because He delighted in those He would redeem. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may be able to grasp the width, length and depth of Christ's love (see Ephesians 3:17-19). Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 20 – Remaining in Christ's love

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. – John 15:10 Scripture reading: John 15:1-17 A flower picked will die. Anything severed from its source of life will die. This is a vital spiritual lesson. Jesus calls Himself the vine and believers the branches. He gives life. Jesus says that the Father is glorified in our lives bearing fruit, showing us to be disciples. Jesus says that apart from Him, we cannot do this. In Him, we can bear much fruit, the fruit of a life of praise. We have seen earlier this month that this is the purpose for which we were created and are saved. We live in a world that inhibits spiritual growth. Jesus tells us that following Him will bring hardship (John 16:33). So He reminds us of His love so that we might love one another, encouraging each other to follow Jesus. Interestingly, He tells us in v 9, As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Jesus' love is rooted in the Father's love. God, Himself is love. Between Father, Son and Holy Spirit there is perfect love and harmony. They are one in passion, vision, and purpose.  The reason Jesus was so focused on His work was because He shared the same vision of redemption and glory as His Father had. He obeyed His Father perfectly and calls us to the same obedience, with the same passion. Once we know His love we will want to remain in His love. Thus we follow Jesus' words, for they are life abundant and eternal. Suggestions for prayer Pray for a love that reflects the love of Jesus for His Father, so that we will follow Him just as He perfectly obeyed His Father. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 19 – Renewing our minds

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2 Scripture reading: Romans 12:1-10 Today we begin a new week of work. If we are Christians, we should be unique in the way we approach our work and various activities. It is important to think on these things because otherwise, we will simply do things the way the world around us does them. Our work and thoughts will then be conformed to this world rather than focused on the kingdom that Jesus is bringing in by His Word and Spirit. So we must set our minds on the purpose for which God made us and for which God saves us, which is ultimately that everything be brought into submission to Jesus for God's glory. Whether you go to school, a worksite, work at home, or are on vacation, how can you submit your activities to Jesus and bring God glory? It takes a whole new mindset. We must be willing to follow Jesus' teaching and example. It means we have to take ourselves out of the centre of our thoughts and plans and put Christ there. When Jesus came, He came proclaiming the kingdom of God. This required repentance, that is a change of heart and mind to put God's glory as our utmost goal. We all have abilities that are to be used for the sake of others in service to Christ. It is only when we view everything in light of the purposes of God, that we can begin to discern what is good, acceptable and perfect. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would rearrange the way you think so that He is the focus of your affections, work, studies, play - everything. Submit in everything to Jesus. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 18 – United in prayer

…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel – Ephesians 6:18-19  Scripture reading: Ephesians 6:10-20 Today is a worship day. So we sit under the preaching of the Word, fellowship with God's people in the sacraments, lift our voices in song, and unite in prayer. Prayer is an essential part of Christian fellowship and worship. We pray as individuals, but in worship, we pray with united heart and voice as one body. Prayer is speaking to God, laying our hearts before Him so that He knows our needs and desires. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 says: I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. The church's prayers are never to be simply self-focused. We are concerned not just for ourselves, but that the cause of the gospel be advanced. Thus we pray for political leaders, that we may have peace in which to live godly lives and to speak the truth with love toward others, making disciples. So we pray for those who do not know Christ, but are yet bound by sin and its consequences, that they too may know the peace we enjoy in Jesus. And we also pray for each other, lifting up our praises, needs and desires to our God. Prayer is a primary way in which we communicate our love and thanksgiving to God for all He has done. Make sure today to pray with and for the church and for all people. Suggestions for prayer Pray for ministers today. Pray that all believers may gather for worship. Pray that all sinners may find forgiveness and rest in Jesus' forgiving grace. Pray for those in authority over us, that they receive wisdom. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 17 – Our primary duty

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. – Acts 2:42 Scripture reading: Acts 2:36-47 The church faces a lot of skeptical criticism today. What should the church be like? Many think that Acts 2:42-47 describes the ideal church. Yet, further reading in Acts reveals that they had not yet arrived. They needed further organization and had to deal with many problems.  Yet, these verses display something that is true of an ideal church, that worshipping together is a primary pleasure and duty of the church. The new converts in Acts had just come to faith in Jesus as the only Saviour from sin. And the first thing we see them doing is worshipping. The first mark of a Spirit-filled church is that they are devoted to the preaching of the Word and the sacraments, and to prayer and fellowship, key elements in worship. They could have devoted themselves to seeking the Pentecost experience all over again, but they did not. Rather, understanding what Pentecost meant they sought to equip themselves for worship and witness in the world. Often today preaching and sacraments are diminished in worship. Yet historically, whenever the church has focused on preaching the gospel, she has seen revival and reformation. This is because faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ. A Spirit-filled church (and person) will always be a Word-focused one. Tomorrow is a day for worship. Do not neglect the worship (Hebrews 10:25) and the fellowship of God's people, or your personal devotions (reading, studying and meditating on the Word, and praying). Suggestions for prayer Pray that you are a Word-centred person. Pray that the church in her worship remains focused on the Word, which is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 16 – Striving for the maturity of Christ

…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. – Ephesians 4:13 Scripture reading: Ephesians 4:1-14 The apostle gives three reasons for the gift of pastors to equip us for ministry. First, to reach the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Second, that we become mature and third, that we reach the whole measure of the stature of Christ. As one body we are to follow Christ, becoming like Him, until we are exactly like Him. Through continual and mutual submission to the Word preached, we become of one mind and heart with Jesus and each other. A sign of an immature faith is holding on to grudges, refusing to forgive. This is not being childlike, but childish. Another sign of immaturity is to be easily led by the dramatic and charismatic. Young children are easily led by emotions and are tossed about by every new fad that comes along. This should not characterize the church. Using daily ordinary activities such as prayer, Bible reading, worship, sacraments, and acts of kindness, we are to follow Christ. Grounding ourselves in truth, in Jesus, we are to remain faithful, reflecting His character to the world. We are to do this as individuals, but also as a church. Mature Christians, knowing their own shortcomings, always correct their emotions and actions by the standard of Scripture and always forgive others according to the standard of Christ. Thus they always work toward unity of heart and mind in the church, so that as a body we reflect the fullness of our awesome Saviour. Suggestions for prayer Pray that as Christians we increasingly reflect the character of Jesus in our relationships with each other and towards the world. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 15 – United in ministry

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. – Hebrews 10:24 Scripture reading: Hebrews 10:19-25 We have seen that as believers we are called to ministry jointly with other Christians. Christ has organized us in His church for this purpose, that we may encourage each other in doing good, including in worship. Genuine religion is, of faith, serving the Lord in ministry to others. James says: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27). Galatians 6 reminds us we have a duty to gently restore sinners. We are to be attentive to the needs of others in order to encourage them. We all have a duty to comfort the distressed, show hospitality, gather in the lost sheep and pray for one another. Romans 15 says that we who "are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak… to please his neighbor for his good, to build him up." This follows the pattern of Christ Who did not please Himself. One way to encourage others is to be faithful in worship. We know what it feels like to worship in an empty church. When you decide not to worship, think of how your absence might discourage others. 1 Corinthians 12 reminds us that we all have gifts to use for the upbuilding of the body. As part of the body, we must seek the welfare of the whole body, not just ourselves. This is part of our joint ministry. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you are filled with a concern for ministering to the needs of others, particularly those who are straying. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 14 – The purpose of ministers

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus....preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. – 2 Timothy 4:1-2 Scripture reading: 1 Timothy 4 Ministers are pastors or shepherds. Together with the elders of the church, they are to equip the people of God for ministry. Ministers do this primarily through two means: the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments. God's Word feeds us since it reveals to us the living Word, namely Jesus Christ, who is the bread of life. 1 Timothy 4 teaches us that a good preacher uses the Word to expose false teachings and points to the truth. The Word is like a sharp double-edged sword, that penetrates to our deepest parts to expose our sins and expose us to the light of Christ. Thus Paul teaches Titus (Titus 1:9) to encourage living in accord with sound teaching so that no one will malign the Word of God, but rather be led to glorify God. It is not an easy task to reprove, rebuke and exhort with complete patience and teaching. Thus it is crucial that pastors continually pray for themselves and the people under their charge. We should constantly be keeping them in prayer that they may faithfully bring the word and so equip us for ministry. Because of their work, ministers are often the recipients of criticism. Because they are sinful they often fail. Forgive them and love them and let them know that you do. Enable them to do the work of ministry with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no blessing to you (Hebrews 13:17). Suggestions for prayer Pray for your minister that he may faithfully bring the Word.  Pray that you might have a teachable spirit. Pray also for missionaries. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 13 – Called to ministry

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ… – Ephesians 4:11-12 Scripture reading: Ephesians 4:1-12 We all need the proper tools to do our work. Yet all the tools in the world do not help us if we do not know how to use them. Our children also need to know how to use the tools we give them. We not only give them Bibles, but we teach them how to use them! Every Christian is given a gift (gifts) to be used for the Lord. We need to learn how to use it (them). This is why we were given the apostles and prophets (the Bible), evangelists, pastors, and teachers. They are to equip us for ministry, teaching us how to be faithful ministers using the gifts God has given us. Many think that ministry is something ministers and missionaries are called to and that as church members, they are just to be ministered to. This is out of step with what the Spirit says in these verses. We have a joint ministry. We all are anointed to build up the church, helping fellow Christians and bringing in the lost sheep so that the church increasingly becomes one. If you are not engaged in this ministry in some form, you must repent of your sin and begin to fulfill the ministry to which the Spirit of God is calling you. While all are gifted, we all need each other in order to be built up, to grow in grace and truth. We must be active in our mutual ministry. Suggestions for prayer Pray for courage to use your gifts to build others up and to fulfill your ministry. Pray for your pastors and elders that they may help you in your ministry. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 12 – Grateful praise-worthy living

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. – 1 Peter 2:9 Scripture reading: Ephesians 2:1-10 Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving Day today. Christians will above all thank and praise God for calling them out of darkness into His wonderful light. We do so best by speaking of Him and showing Christ's character in our living. In the Old Testament, we read that God redeemed a people in order to bring praise to His name. In Jeremiah 13:11, God says: I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the LORD, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory. This God-centered focus should be ours. Often we fall into the trap of thinking about our success, our honour, our benefits, even in times of worship and praise, yet God's purpose for all of our living is His glory. When we forget this, our witness is poor and God's name is not glorified as it ought to be. Today is a day for prayer and song, for speaking to others about the greatness of our God. Salvation is not simply for our welfare and pleasure, but that we might serve God and witness for Jesus. We have a natural tendency to conform to the pattern of life around us as Israel did. We need to discipline ourselves to live holy lives reflecting God's character. As kingdom citizens, we are aliens and strangers here. Focus your living on Jesus, abstain from selfish desires to living holy lives for our Saviour's praise. Suggestion for prayer Give thanks for all of God's blessings, above all the wonderful life we have in Jesus. Pray for a Christ-centered focus in all you do. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 11 – A peculiar people

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. – 1 Peter 2:9 Scripture reading: Psalm 135 Today we consider the phrase a people belonging to the Lord. This phrase is based on Old Testament language as in Psalm 135:4. Some versions use the phrase a peculiar people; peculiar not in the sense of strange, but because God has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. He made us His own, to be light in this world. Thus we are different from all other peoples. You find this idea in Exodus 19:5 where God says, now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. All the earth belongs to the Lord, but believers are special to Him (peculiar, treasured). The Old Testament often refers to God's people this way. Malachi 3:17 calls those who serve the Lord, His treasured possession; there God is speaking of those who would yet come to Him. The church is God's treasured possession because we have been bought by the blood of Christ. He loved us so much that He sent His Son to die to remove the guilt of our sin. As you gather for worship today remember how the sacrifice of Jesus has brought us to God. All who confess their sins and believe in Jesus as their atoning sacrifice are His special people, His treasured possession. Jesus is coming again to take us to be with Him forever. Treasure Him who treasures you! To God be the glory! Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for all God's people, His church. Give thanks that He forgives all our sin and calls us His children. Pray for a heart that treasures Him who treasures us. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 10 – A holy nation

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. – 1 Peter 2:9 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:1-12 In this text, the church is defined as a holy nation. A nation is a group of people combined by common laws and government, privileges, obligations and customs. Jesus Christ is our King. We are to live by His Word. We have privileges such as freedom from sin and freedom to enjoy fellowship with God. We have common traditions (worship, devotions, sacraments). We have a passion to welcome new citizens to the kingdom. Our citizenship is in the heavenly kingdom of Jesus. We are a holy nation - that is, one set apart, consecrated to bringing glory to God in this world. We seek His kingdom and righteousness first of all. Zechariah 14:20-21 foretells this kingdom where: HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the LORD's house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the LORD Almighty. Indeed, our clothes, cars, tools, homes, cell phones, pots and pans are set apart, holy to the Lord. We are holy to the Lord. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. (Romans 14:7). Whatever we do, whether in word and deed, we do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17). We must use our citizenship in this world for the advancement of Christ's heavenly kingdom, to bring praise to Him. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we use all we are and have in service to Jesus. Pray that we may be ambassadors for our King, calling all people to faith. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 9 – God's chosen people

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. – 1 Peter 2:9 Scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 To be chosen for honour in our community, school, or on our team, fills us with a determination to be worthy of that honour. We who believe were chosen to a particular task. This is not just as individuals, but as a body of believers. The words "people, priesthood, and nation" imply a united people. This is the church! God takes us, strangers, from each other, and unites us as one body - not because we are so beautiful or wise, so organized or skillful, but so that through us He might be glorified. We boast not in ourselves but in Him! In Exodus 19:5-6, God says, Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Priesthood implies brotherhood. We are a family! God adopted us in Christ so that we would bring Him glory and praise, as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). Whatever we do, even eating and drinking, it is for His praise (1 Corinthians. 9:31). The honour of being chosen is to declare the praises of God. This takes place in worship but is not limited to worship. All of our living is to be a harmony of praise to God. We declare His praise by living like Him. 1 Peter 2:12 says, Live such good lives among the pagans that …they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.  Good living includes our conversations, sports, entertainment and music. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the church may work in harmony for the sake of God's glory. Pray that in word and deed you may bring praise to God. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 8 – Made for praise

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 2:4-5 Scripture reading: Ephesians 2:1-10 It is a marvelous blessing to be gifted with faith and to be united to Christ and His people in His church. But we may not just sit back and say, 'We have it good!' We are saved and united to bring praise to God. This was His purpose from the beginning. In Exodus 19:6 God declared His intent to make His people a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. Isaiah 61:6 echoes this when He says, you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God. In Revelation 1:6, glory and praise is given to God by those who have been made a kingdom and priest to serve His God and father. The purpose of a temple is worship. We are not united simply to be saved, but to do good works of praise (Ephesians 2:10). Hebrews 13:15 says, Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name. God unites us as a temple, in order to glorify Him, to praise Him. Some day all believers will be united in praise. The New Jerusalem will consist of believers from all nations and times united in praise. Our worship services are but a foretaste of this. Although far from perfect, when we feed on the pure Word of God and allow ourselves to be shaken, shaped and renewed, as we come to Christ, we are being united to bring Him glory and praise. Suggestions for prayer Pray that believers will devote themselves to worship God and give Him glory. Pray that you may discover ways to give God glory in daily living. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 7 – A living unity with Jesus

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 2:4-5 Scripture reading: Ephesians 2:1-22 We have considered this verse for several days. Have we noticed the living and dynamic nature of the church? As we come implies a process. Also, notice the phrase are being built. Then notice the phrase like living stones. We are not church simply because of a death on a cross. We are not united because in the past we made a confession. Our unity is not in a past event, but a present reality, or rather, a present relationship. We are still coming, still being built up. We are living stones. As we learn more about Jesus, as we follow Him, we become like Him and become more united with each other. If you are married, your unity with your wife is not just (I hope) based on a past wedding date. It is something ongoing, something enjoyed and worked at. So with Jesus. We are His bride and we want to know and enjoy Him more and more. We are not just coexisting until He comes again, but we are being built up as we strengthen our relationship, exercising our faith in Jesus.  As we love as He loves, forgive as He forgives, we grow in unity as a body of believers. Jesus is the living stone. As we come to Him, His life fills us; in Him, we grow and bear fruit. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. In Him, we are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for the living fellowship you have with Jesus. Give thanks for the beauty of a church growing in holiness and in numbers. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 6 – Rejected, but precious

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 2:4-5 Scripture reading: John 1:1-13 Yesterday, we saw that Jesus is the foundation of the church. It is in coming to Jesus that we are united to form the church. Peter, however, says that He was rejected by men. In John 1, we read that He came unto his own but His own received him not. Many Jews did not receive Him as the promised Saviour. This is also true of all people. Unless moved by the Spirit of God, we do not believe in Him. Romans 1 teaches that there is no one who seeks after God, no, not one. Many today take offense at Jesus. He is a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. They stumble because they disobey the message (see v.8).  The Jews rejected salvation through Jesus because they pursued salvation as if it were by works (by the law) (see Romans 9:32). We preach ...Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). Although many reject Him, He is chosen by God. From before the foundation of the world, Jesus was the chosen Redeemer, and although despised and rejected by men, He is God in the flesh, full of grace and truth. He now reigns in glory to bring us to glory. To know Him is to be forgiven of sin and given newness of life. Suggestions for prayer Pray that Jesus may be preached and that sinners might come to repentance and faith in him. Pray that your faith might be strengthened. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 5 – The Church's one foundation!

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 2:4-5 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:18-1 Peter 2:5 Many see the church as a voluntary organization of believers for encouraging one another in Christian living. They do not see it as a living and struggling organism, the growing body of Christ, the temple of God. 'As you come to him … you are being built into a spiritual house.' These words demonstrate a dramatic shift. The Jewish people thought the law was the cornerstone of God's people, but here we are directed to Jesus as the rock on which the church is built. God had promised that He would lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation, who gives security for believers, but judgment for those who rejected Him. God, Himself would be that stone (Isaiah 28:16ff). In Acts 4, Peter tells us Jesus is the stone the builders rejected which has become the cornerstone (Psalm 118). 1 Corinthians 3:11 says, No one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. A cornerstone is crucial in a foundation, uniting two walls together. The point is, that in our relationship with Jesus, we are being built up together as a spiritual house. The church is built of those blessed by the Spirit with faith in Jesus. He is the one and only Saviour given to men through whom we can be forgiven and restored to fellowship with God. In Jesus, we are united together and are being built into a spiritual house of worship. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you continue to grow in your relationship with Jesus and thus your unity with other believers. Pray that unbelievers may come to Jesus and enjoy unity with Him. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 4 – Gathered for praise

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. – Acts 2:42  Scripture reading: Acts 2:37-47 Today Christians gather for worship. Worship and praise are our primary duty. Public worship stands at the heart of daily service to God. When in Acts 2 the Spirit applied the gospel to the hearts of the hearers, they responded by uniting together with other believers for worship. They devoted themselves to the apostle's teaching, that is, to hear how Jesus fulfills all of the Old Testament and is the only Saviour and Lord. Around this searching of Scripture, they united in fellowship, prayer and sacraments. These are the basic elements of worship. In Acts 2:46, we see how eagerly they devoted themselves to this with glad and sincere hearts. The indwelling Spirit united them for worship in the Word and sacraments. Today we tend to minimize such ordinary activities. We want to dwell on the experiences of faith. Yet it is more crucial for us to hear about Jesus and how all Scripture focuses on Him, calling us to follow Him. This stress of the early church on the Word and sacraments is something we must regain. All too often we forget the crucial nature of worship and the need for such fellowship in the Word and Sacraments. A Spirit-filled church will be a Word and worship focused church. To praise God as He desires, we need to know Him as He reveals Himself to us. Devote yourself to such worship and fellowship in a church where Jesus is faithfully preached and the Triune God wholeheartedly worshipped. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will bless the preaching of His Word today. Pray that you and the church will be devoted to faithful praise and worship. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 3 – To God be the glory

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen. – Romans 11:36 Scripture reading: Romans 11:30-36 One rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation was Soli Deo Gloria (To God only be glory). On reading the Scriptures in the original language, the reformers discovered that God's glory is a major theme of Scripture. God is the creator of the world. He made us to enjoy him and glorify him. The Westminster Confession of Faith says that the primary purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. God's eternal plan for us, not only in our creation but even in our salvation (we were brought out of darkness into His light to declare His praise) is to show His glory – even our eating and drinking is to be for the praise of His name. To glorify God is to show forth His excellence. His love is perfect and we praise Him for that! His justice is absolute and we exalt His justice. His mercy is pure, His compassion knows no bounds. He provides all we need, so His care is complete, even in the middle of adversity. His grace is always sufficient. To glorify God is to show His perfection and praise Him for it. It is easy to talk about things we think highly of. After the Patriots' last Super Bowl comeback victory, everyone had to praise the skill of Tom Brady and his team. They glorified him! This is something we were saved to do concerning our God and Saviour! Speak of His excellent deeds and character! Suggestions for prayer Pray that God enables you to see and believe the mighty works of God and that you can glorify Him for them. Pray that you come to enjoy Him in all His excellence! Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

October 2 – Our God reigns

And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church. – Ephesians 1:22 Scripture reading: Ephesians 1:15-23 The sovereignty of God over all of life is something we should treasure and meditate on often. The hairs of our head are numbered (Luke 12:7) so that not one falls without His knowledge. He works in everything for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). He works to preserve the church He purchased with His blood, and He will lose none of those who were given to Him by His Father (John 6:39). His sovereign grace is so comforting. Since we are born dead in our sins and trespasses, we must be born again (by the Spirit) if we would see the kingdom. This is God's gracious act. Jesus is the author and finisher of our salvation (Hebrews 12:2). While we were enemies of God, Christ died for us! Now that He reigns in glory, how much more shall we not be fully saved by His life (Romans 5:10). This sovereign grace is such that He even controls the minds and decisions of kings and directs nations in a way that accomplishes His purposes. Nothing in all creation can ever separate a believer from God. Since He is king over all of life, we must submit all of our living to Him for His glory. Not just Sunday worship, but everything is to bring praise to God. Since we so often fail in this, we may be comforted that God will yet accomplish His purposes. His Kingdom will come, His will be done! Suggestions for prayer Praise God for giving Jesus all authority. Praise God that Jesus is working in everything for the salvation of His people. Serve Him as your Lord! Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introduction to the month of October

October 31 is the anniversary of Martin Luther's nailing of the 95 Thesis to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, sparking what is known as the Protestant Reformation.  The reformers rediscovered that salvation was by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone, through the Word alone! And they discovered that all this was for the glory of God alone! The result was that great changes took place in worship and church organization. There was also a renewed enthusiasm for missions and a deeper understanding of how all of life is to be lived for the glory of God. This month we will focus on some of these things, particularly the nature of the church and her duty, and the wholehearted worship and service to which Christians are called. October 1 – What is the gospel? For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith." – Romans 1:16-17 Scripture reading: Romans 1:1-17 The Scriptures (the Bible) are able to make us wise unto salvation. The Scriptures are inspired by God (2Timothy 3:15-16). The Apostle Paul was not ashamed of the gospel, but most excited to proclaim it since it provided the only way to be at peace with God. At the time of the Protestant Reformation, which many will celebrate later this month, many rediscovered in the Bible that Salvation is not something we obtain by our works, but is a gift of God, obtained for us by the work of Jesus on the cross. While the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven by God (Romans 1:18), which is a scary thought since all of us have sinned and fall short of God's glory (Romans 3:23), in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed. Since we cannot save ourselves through doing good works, since we are all transgressors and since the righteous shall live by faith, God himself provided righteousness for us in the person and work of Jesus. In love, He sent Jesus to live a perfect life for us and to make the atoning sacrifice for our sins, so that we would be restored to fellowship with God. The Bible reveals the only way of salvation, namely, that in Jesus, God saves sinners, so that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13). The Bible fully contains whatever we need to believe for salvation. No other revelation is necessary. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the Bible. Thank God that Jesus has done everything necessary for our salvation. Pray for faith to rest in this truth. Rev. Calvin Tuininga is the Pastor Emeritus of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, North Carolina. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 30 – Crucifying the flesh and keeping in step with the Spirit

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. – Galatians 5:24-25 Scripture reading: Galatians 2:15-21; 5:16-25 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). This is what is true of those who have faith in Christ. We are no longer in union with Adam. We are in union with Christ, our Second Adam. When He died, we died. When He rose again, we rose again. Therefore, we are no longer under the curse of the law. Instead, we have God’s eternal blessing in Christ and have received the promised Spirit (Galatians 3:13-14; 4:4-7). The Spirit is now producing His righteous fruit in our lives, and, “against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). In light of these things, Paul says that we who belong to Christ crucify our sinful desires. Like a crucifixion, sanctification is a process of killing our sin, which is painful (cutting out idols of the heart), progressive (imperfect in this life), and guaranteed to be completed (perfected at death or when Christ returns). On the flip side is new life in Christ, by the Spirit, “If  we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” This is a military image. The Spirit is like our drill sergeant and we are soldiers who are to keep in step with His commands. Through the means of grace (Word and sacraments) let us follow His lead to our promised land in the new heavens and new earth, where we will see Christ and be like Him! Suggestions for prayer Thank God that He graciously redeemed you in Christ from slavery to sin, death, and the devil and gave you His Spirit. Pray for more Christ-like fruit by the Spirit and thank God that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (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 29 – The fruit of the Spirit is self-control

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls…– Proverbs 25:28 But the fruit of the Spirit is…self-control. – Galatians 5:22-23 Scripture reading: Romans 6:1-14; 8:1-4 Proverbs 25:28 says that a person who lacks self-control is like a city without walls. Why is that a problem? In those days, a city without walls was vulnerable to enemy attacks. So too, unless a person learns, by God’s grace, to master his/her lusts, temper and all sorts of evil inclinations,  he/she will be vulnerable to attacks from the world, the flesh, the devil and will be overrun and destroyed by the dominion of sin, which ultimately leads to death. But thanks be to God that, for those who have faith in Christ, God graciously delivers them from both the guilt and bondage of sin (Romans 6:11-14; 8:1). By the Spirit they have the fruit of self-control. What is self-control? Self-control is like a wall of defence against our sinful desires that wage war against our souls. J.V. Fesko describes it this way, “Self-control is the ability to deny ourselves the indulgence of our sinful desires even when no one can see us, even when no one can know our thoughts. Self-control is ultimately the ability to be controlled, not by the sinful self, but by the Holy Spirit.” We need to learn self-control in every area of life: eating, drinking, sex, thoughts, emotions, leisure time, work, and more. Even something good can become idolatrous if we overindulge and lack self-control. Let us walk by the Spirit and we will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). Suggestions for prayer Do you struggle with self-control? Thank God that Christ never lacked self-control and redeemed you from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13). Pray for more self-control and look forward to the day when you will walk perfectly by the 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 28 – The fruit of the Spirit is gentleness: Christ-like gentleness

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench. – Matthew 12:20 Scripture reading: Matthew 11:25-30; 12:15-21 The power and gentleness of God are supremely revealed in the person and work of Christ. Jesus said: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). People found rest in Jesus’ presence. This is one of the marks of a person who is gentle. Do people get nervous and tense up in your presence or are they calm and relaxed in your presence? People could rest in the presence of Jesus Who was gentle and lowly in heart. Matthew 12:20 says, “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not quench.” The bruised reed and smoldering wick is the person who has been hurt in some way, either due to his/her own sin, the sin of others or the harsh circumstances of life, and is barely hanging on by a thread. That kind of person could find healing and hope in Jesus’ presence. His words and actions would not be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Rather they would bind up the broken-hearted. You see, the same Jesus Who could calm the storm with His almighty power could also calm the troubled soul with His powerful gentleness. Are your words and actions powerfully gentle towards others? Suggestions for prayer Repent of harsh, abrasive, inconsiderate thoughts, words and deeds. Reflect on the following Scriptures and pray for the Spirit to give you Christ-like gentleness (Proverbs 15:4; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 1 Peter 3:15-16; Titus 3:1-2; Galatians 6:1; James 3:17). 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 27 – Let us consider how to stir one another up to love

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works… encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:24-25 Scripture reading: Hebrews 10:19-25 When we are called to worship on the Lord’s Day, we are not only called to draw near to God, we also are called to draw near to God’s people. Because Christ first considered us in love, we are called to consider one another in love. As you draw near to your brothers and sisters in Christ today, consider, is someone doubting? Is someone discouraged? Is someone struggling with sin? Is someone grieving? Is someone not there? Consider what your brothers and sisters are going through, and consider how to stir them up to love and good works. In order to do these things we need to diligently attend to the means of grace in corporate worship, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some.” We need the public means of grace and we need each other. We need others to stir us up to love and good works, and we need to stir up others to love and good works. Furthermore, we need to be, “encouraging one another.” How can you encourage others as you gather for worship today? Just your presence alone is an encouragement to others. Singing with all your heart is an encouragement. Listening attentively to the preached Word is an encouragement to your pastor. Telling others you are praying for them is an encouragement. How else can you be an encouragement? Let us be, “encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will make you an encouragement to someone today as you gather for worship. Pray that you would be stirred up to love and good works. 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 26 – The fruit of the Spirit is gentleness: the gentleness of God

But the fruit of the Spirit is…gentleness. – Galatians 5:22-23 Scripture reading: Isaiah 40 George Bethune once said, “Perhaps no grace is less prayed for, or less cultivated than gentleness…seldom do we reflect that not to be gentle is sin.” When is the last time you prayed for more gentleness? When is the last time you repented of not being gentle? But what is gentleness? It’s not shyness, timidity or fearfulness. A lot of people think of it in those terms and view it as a weakness. R.C Sproul rightly points out, “Gentleness does not preclude the possibility of strength but presupposes it.” Gentleness is power under self-control. Jerry Bridges notes that “Gentleness is illustrated by the way we would handle a carton of exquisite crystal glasses: it is the recognition that the human personality is valuable but fragile and must be handled with care.” The opposite of gentleness is abrasiveness and arrogance. We see in Isaiah 40 that God is both the all-powerful God Who created and sustains the world and the God Who speaks tenderly to His people (40:1-2). “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in his arms; He will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (40:11). The Psalmist declares, “Your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.” The best teachers have a good balance of power and gentleness, toughness and tenderness. This is why Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, is the greatest teacher of all! Suggestions for prayer Confess your sins of not being gentle in your thoughts, words and deeds. Pray for the Spirit to work Christ-like gentleness in you towards 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 25 – The fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness

But the fruit of the Spirit is…faithfulness. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Lamentations 3:22-23; Hebrews 6:13-20 We live in a world of broken promises. But thanks be to God we belong to a promise-keeping God Who is always faithful to His covenant promises to us in Christ (Hebrews 6:13-20). And if you trust in Christ, God has promised you that He is your God and that He will never leave you nor forsake you, but will pardon all of your sins forever, protect you from all of your enemies, and provide richly for you in Christ in this life and the life to come. He is unswervingly You will see this with your own eyes when Christ returns. But now, we walk by faith in God’s Word. His Word is absolutely honest and utterly dependable. How should we live in light of God’s faithfulness to us in Christ? In gratitude for God’s steadfast love and faithfulness we walk by the Spirit in faithfulness. Faithfulness includes being loyal, honest and dependable. It means, following through on your commitments, letting your “Yes” be “Yes” and your “No” be “No.” Where have you been flaky? In what relationships have you been a fair-weather friend? Where have you been dishonest? What commitments is God calling on you to follow through? Where you have failed, confess your sins and walk in faithfulness. God is faithful to forgive and to sanctify you by His Spirit (1 John 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). Suggestions for prayer Sing and meditate on the words of the hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” or “How Firm a Foundation.” Pray that God would produce the fruit of Christ-like faithfulness in you by the 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 24 – The fruit of the Spirit is kindness and goodness

But the fruit of the Spirit is…kindness, goodness. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Ephesians 2:1-10; Titus 3:4-8 Kindness and goodness are often used interchangeably in the Bible. We’ll consider them together. Kindness and goodness flow out of patience. Kindness and goodness are the positive manifestations of patience. In the words of Gordon Fee, “The Spirit not only empowers us to endure the hostility or unkindness of others; He also enables us to show kindness to them, actively to pursue their good. If longsuffering means not to “chew someone’s head off” (see Gal. 5:15), kindness means to find ways of binding up their wounds.” This is motivated by the fact that God not only withholds wrath from us, but also shows eternal kindness and goodness towards us in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-7). Jerry Bridges describes kindness as, “a sincere desire for the happiness of others; goodness is the activity calculated to advance that happiness.” How can you show kindness and goodness to those in your home? At church? At work? In your neighborhood? To your enemies? “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). If you are weary of doing good, remember God’s kindness and goodness to you in Christ. In Christ, God’s kindness and goodness toward you are saving, merciful, life-transforming, generous and eternal (Titus 3:4-7). If God has been so kind and good to us in Christ, let us walk by the Spirit in Christ-like kindness and goodness toward others. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Spirit would make you sensitive to the opportunities in your family, church and society to show kindness and goodness. Pray for the Spirit to enable you to walk in those good works, “which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10). 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 23 – The fruit of the Spirit is patience: long-tempered

Love is patient…it is not irritable… – 1 Corinthians 13:4,7 But the fruit of the Spirit is…patience. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Exodus 34:5-7; James 1:19-21 Here we might describe patience as being long-tempered. We have the word short-tempered in our dictionary, but interestingly you won’t find the word long-tempered. And that’s probably because being long-tempered is so rare. We are all too easily provoked. We are all too easily quick to anger. We tend to be irritable. We need to be long-tempered by the Spirit. Jerry Bridges put it this way, “This kind of patience does not ignore provocations of others; it simply seeks to respond to them in a godly manner. It enables us to control our tempers when we are provoked and to seek to deal with the person and his provocation in a way that tends to heal relationships rather than aggravate problems. It seeks the ultimate good of the other individual rather than the immediate satisfaction of our own aroused emotions.” The opposite of these things is to be short-tempered, quick to anger, to blow up or clam up. How do we begin to walk in patience? We begin by asking, “What am I defending in my anger? Is it something good or is it my own selfish agenda or ego?” If I’m defending something good, I then ask, “Where and how am I directing my anger? Am I attacking the person to tear down or the problem in a mercifully constructive way?” If love is patient then we could say, “Beloved, if God , we also ought to ” (1 John 4:11). Suggestions for prayer Who is God asking you to be more patient with this week? In what circumstances are you irritable? Pray that the Spirit would remind you of God’s patience in Christ towards you and produce the fruit of patience 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 22 – The fruit of the Spirit is patience: long-suffering

Love is patient… Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things… – 1 Corinthians 13:4,7 But the fruit of the Spirit is…patience. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:13-25 One form of patience is to be long-suffering. Jerry Bridges says long-suffering is: “the ability to suffer a long time under the mistreatment of others without growing resentful or bitter. The occasions for exercising this quality are numerous; they vary from seemingly innocent practical jokes all the way to malicious wrongs. They include ridicule, scorn, insults, and undeserved rebukes, as well as outright persecution. The Christian who is the victim of office politics or organizational power plays must react with long-suffering. The believing husband or wife who is rejected or mistreated by an unbelieving spouse needs this kind of patience.” This doesn’t come easy. Again, we find both the pattern and the power to be a long-suffering people as we behold the long-suffering of Christ in the Gospel (1 Peter 2:21-25). The person who is patient under mistreatment by others is the person who is thankful for the long-suffering of Christ in our salvation and who, by the Spirit, is being conformed into His image. As we look to Christ in the Gospel, the Spirit produces Christ-like confidence in the wisdom, power, justice and steadfast love and faithfulness of God so that we are able to entrust our circumstances into His hands. Whatever sufferings we go through, we trust that God has a good purpose behind it (Romans 8:28-30). Whatever injustice we suffer, we know that one day God will right every wrong and wipe away all tears from our eyes (Romans 12:19; Revelation 21:4). Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will give you the immeasurable power of the Spirit to be long-suffering under mistreatment by others. Pray for God’s mercy and strength for the persecuted church. 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 21 – The fruit of the Spirit is peace: peace with others

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God…Romans 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. – Matthew 5:9 Scripture reading: Isaiah 9:6-7; Ephesians 4:1-7; 4:25-5:2 Don’t you long for world peace? The good news is that we have this hope in Christ, Who will come again to usher in an eternal age of peace (Isaiah 9:6-7; John 16:33). But to experience that everlasting peace you must first know peace with God, as we saw Saturday. As we grow in our assurance of the peace we have with God, we grow in peace within. From that gospel foundation in Christ, we are empowered by the Spirit to be peacemakers in this world, a central call of discipleship in Christ (Matthew 5:9; Romans 12:17-21; Ephesians 4:1-7; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 3:10-11; James 3:17-18; 2 Corinthians 13:11, and more!). Being a peacemaker is not easy. As Ken Sande has put it, we tend to be peace-breakers or peace-fakers. How can we grow as peacemakers? In order to grow in peacemaking, we must grow in patience with others, in love and humility towards others, gentleness in speech, confessing our sins to others, forgiving others and more. The pattern and power for these things are found in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Remember how great your sins are, how you deserve God’s wrath, but you have peace with God through the precious blood of Christ. Rest in perfect peace with God in Christ. In gratitude, walk by the Spirit in patience, love, humility and gentleness, confessing your sins and forgiving others, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:31-5:2). Suggestions for prayer Confess your sins against others to God. Pray for the strength to seek forgiveness from them. Pray for the strength to forgive others who have sinned against you and to strive for reconciliation. Look forward to the day of perfect peace when Christ returns. 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 20 – Let us hold fast our hope

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. – Hebrews 10:23 Scripture reading: Hebrews 10:19-25 We live in a world of suffering and pain. We sometimes want to throw in the towel and quit. We cry out, “How long, O LORD?” We say with the preacher of Ecclesiastes, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Life is like a breath. Sometimes the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. There is a bentness and brokenness to this life under the sun. But the preacher of Hebrews exhorts us, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” Why? “For he who promised is faithful.” It is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18). God promises us unfading glory in a new creation where we will see Christ face to face and be like Him (1 Peter 1:3-9; 1 John 1:9). He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death will be no more, neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore. Nothing will be accursed (Revelation 21:1-4; 22:3). Righteousness dwells there (2 Peter 3:13). We will know perfect peace, eternal joy and consummate love for God and each other forever. The sufferings of this age aren’t even worth comparing with the glory that awaits us (Romans 8:18). These promises have been sealed with the precious blood of Christ! (Romans 8:32). And so, as we draw near to God in worship today, let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for He who promised is faithful! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Spirit would sustain and strengthen the hope of God’s people in Christ as they gather for worship today and hear God’s Word proclaimed. 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 19 – The fruit of the Spirit is peace: peace with God and peace within

Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… – Romans 5:1 But the fruit of the Spirit is…peace. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Romans 5:1-11; Philippians 4:4-9 Peace within and peace with others flows out of our peace with God. Apart from Christ, our biggest problem is that we are under God’s just condemnation and almighty wrath (John 3:16-18, 36). God is at enmity with you and me (e.g. Psalm 5:4-6; 7:12-13). That’s the bad news. But the good news is that if you repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, God forgives you and declares peace to you in Christ (Galatians 1:3-5). For those who believe, Christ bore the wrath of God on the cross in our place, fully satisfying God’s justice. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins…” (1 John 1:9). If we have faith in Christ we have peace and reconciliation with God (Romans 5:1, 9-11). We need not fear His wrath, for as John Newton once put it, “justice smiles and asks no more.” This glorious declaration of peace with God in Christ is the ground of our peace within. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Through the promises of God’s peace in Christ and through prayer, the Spirit produces the fruit of inner peace. “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5-7; see also John 14:26-27). Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Spirit would assure you of the promise of peace with God in Christ and grant you inner peace because of it. Sing the great hymn of the faith, “It Is Well with My Soul/When Peace Like a River.” 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 18 - The fruit of the Spirit is joy: the joy of glorification

But the fruit of the Spirit is…joy. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: John 16:20-24; 1 Peter 1:3-9 As we saw yesterday, Christian joy is rooted in the forgiveness of sins in Christ. Christ was, “delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Even more, “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 4:25-5:2). Christian joy is also rooted in the glories of the age to come which cannot perish, be defiled, or fade away (1 Peter 1:3-9). There is nothing wrong with rejoicing in blessings such as a wedding, the birth of a child, a new job, a Mozart symphony, etc. But ultimately our joy is in the glory that awaits us. Jesus said, “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). The joy of the age to come will far outweigh the sufferings of this present evil age (2 Corinthians 4:17; Romans 8:18). We are able to endure the sufferings of this age because the Spirit dwells within us and gives us a foretaste of the joy of the new heavens and earth, promised in God’s Word (Revelation 19:6-8; 21:1-4). The sufferings of this age are like the pains of a woman in labor. At times the pain is intense. But as a woman endures for the joy that awaits when the baby is born, so too we press on for the joy that awaits us when Christ returns (John 16:20-22). Suggestions for prayer Pray Ephesians 1:3-14 and rejoice that you have been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Rejoice that it’s a gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). 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 17 – The fruit of the Spirit is joy: the joy of justification

But the fruit of the Spirit is…joy. – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Psalm 32; Philippians 4:4 Sadly, too often, Christians lack joy in their life. But the Apostle Paul exhorts us, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). As Christians, joy ought to be a characteristic of our life. Others should know of our joy in the Lord. Jesus said that one of the reasons that He came is so that His joy may be in us and so that our joy may be full (John 15:11). But what is Christian joy? Joy is not so much happiness or elation that is rooted in temporary pleasures or present circumstances in this world. Rather, Christian joy is rooted in the good news of the Gospel. Paul doesn’t simply say, “Rejoice!” or “Rejoice in your circumstances!” Rather, he says, “Rejoice IN THE LORD.” The Spirit produces the fruit of joy in our lives when we prayerfully meditate on the joy of the complete forgiveness of all of our sins in Christ. “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered…Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity…Be glad IN THE LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:1-2, 11). Our justification by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone is the ground of our joy in the Lord. Even more, “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2). Tomorrow, we’ll consider how the Spirit gives us joy in the hope of glory. Suggestions for prayer Rejoice that you are forgiven of all your sins in Christ and are clothed in His righteousness through faith alone as a gift of grace! Sing Psalm 32 if you have a Psalter. 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 16 – The fruit of the Spirit is love: the test of love

But the fruit of the Spirit is love… – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: Ephesians 1:15-20; 3:14-21 Sometimes we have a counterfeit love. This is where we love others not for their intrinsic dignity and worth, but for how they make us feel or what we can get from them. As we saw yesterday, love is sacrificial and selfless, patterned after the cross of Christ. But love doesn’t come easy to us because bearing a cross isn’t easy and our sinful nature wants to turn us in on ourselves. Some people are also difficult to love. But when love doesn’t come easy, it tests our love. Do we really love as Christ loved us? Do we love this person, even when it’s difficult, or do we only love them when they make us feel good or we get something from them? There are times where relationships can be so extremely harmful that we need to remove ourselves from them. But in most relationships our tendency is to bail too soon, right when the opportunity to truly love arises. Martin Luther put it this way: "Whenever you are angry with your brother for any cause, repress your violent emotions through the Spirit. Bear with his weakness and love him. He does not cease to be your neighbour or brother because he offended you. On the contrary, he now more than ever before requires your loving attention." Where do we find the strength to love when it’s difficult? As we saw yesterday, it’s a fruit of the Spirit produced in us through prayer and meditation on the cross. Suggestions for prayer Sing and meditate on the words of the great hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” Pray for the Spirit’s immeasurable strength to love others, even when it’s difficult (Ephesians 1:15-20; 3:14-21). 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 15 – The fruit of the Spirit is love: the pattern and power of love

But the fruit of the Spirit is love… – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: 1 John 3:16-18; 4:9-11, 19 What is love? God is the source of love (1 John 4:7-8). If we want to know what love is, we must look to God as He has revealed His love in His Word, supremely in the Word made flesh. Jesus is love incarnate. When we look to Jesus, we discover that love is not simply an emotion, a warm fuzzy feeling that you have for another person. Rather, love is sacrificial and selfless. It gives to another (John 3:16), even to one’s enemies (Romans 5:6-8). We see this supremely displayed in the cross: “By this we know love, that he laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” Here we see that the cross gives us both the pattern and power to love. Love is defined by the cross (“by this we know love”).  The Spirit uses the preaching of the cross to empower us to love (“and we ought to lay down our lives”; also 1 John 4:9-11, 19). No doubt love involves our emotions. But at the center of love is sacrifice and selflessness. In the words of John Stott, “Christian love is not the victim of our emotions but the servant of our will.” Loving others isn’t always easy (Galatians 5:17). We need the Spirit to produce the fruit of love in us. He does it as we behold the love of Christ proclaimed in the Word and sacraments and pray for the fruit of love. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will empower you by the Spirit to love others as Christ first loved you and gave Himself for you. Pray for the Spirit’s strength to love others not for what you get from them, but rather, self-sacrificially. 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 14 – The fruit of the Spirit is love: love for one another

But the fruit of the Spirit is love… – Galatians 5:22 Scripture reading: 1 John 4:7-11; 5:1-3 We’ve begun to see that love for God and love for each other are intimately connected. To say you love God, while you hate your brother/sister in Christ or your neighbour, is a contradiction. Love for God is obeying His commands. And He has commanded you to love your neighbour. Therefore, to hate your neighbour is also to hate God, in whose image he/she was created, and Who commands you to love him/her. In the words of Jerry Bridges: “We cannot love God without loving one another. To recognize that there is someone I do not love is to say to God, ‘I do not love you enough to love that person.’ This is not to deny the reality of spiritual struggle in loving a particular person, because it often exists. I am referring to the attitude of not even wanting to love the person, of being content to allow a lack of love for someone who resides in my heart unchecked and unchallenged.” Thankfully, the Holy Spirit has been given to us to challenge our loveless hearts. Those who truly have faith in Christ have been born of God and have the Holy Spirit reproducing the character of Christ from within so that they more and more love others from the heart in word and deed. As we’ve seen previously, this was promised long ago, that God would give us His Spirit to cause us to walk in His ways and be careful to obey His commands (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Suggestions for prayer Is there someone you struggle to love? Pray for the Spirit’s strength to love that person. Remember the sacrificial love of Christ for you, while you were a sinner and deserved God’s wrath (1 John 4:9-10; Romans 5:6-8). There is no greater love! 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 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....