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Daily devotional

July 8 – Amazing grace

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

Daily devotional

July 7 – The tyranny of sin

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

Daily devotional

July 6 – Pathway to apostasy

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

Daily devotional

July 5 – One way of salvation

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

Daily devotional

July 4 – Patterns of sin

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

Daily devotional

July 3 – Lord of life

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

Daily devotional

July 2 – The roar of the lion

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

Daily devotional

Introduction to July’s study of Amos

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

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

June 29 – Trusting in God’s provision

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

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

June 27 – The God who drives away all fear

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

Daily devotional

June 26 – Keep fighting the good fight of the faith

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

Daily devotional

June 25 – Living by faith one day at a time

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

Daily devotional

June 24 – Fainting in the day of adversity 

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

Daily devotional

June 23 – Keeping the proper focus on life

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

Daily devotional

June 22 – The Folly of laboring to get worldly wealth

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

Daily devotional

Sunday, June 21 - Laying down a lasting foundation

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

Daily devotional

June 20 – The great value of a good name

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

Daily devotional

June 19 – Each stage of life has its own glory

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

Daily devotional

June 18 – Get up you sluggard

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

Daily devotional

June 17 – Listening today brings wisdom for the future

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

Daily devotional

June 16 – Godly discipline is not to be avoided

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

Daily devotional

June 15 – A good lesson about restraint and mercy

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

Daily devotional

Sunday, June 14 – The greatest of all friendships

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

Daily devotional

June 13 – Where is your place of refuge?

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

Daily devotional

June 12 – Wise advice for daily living

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

Daily devotional

June 11 – Entrusting all of our plans to God

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

Daily devotional

June 10 – Having confidence in prayer

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

Daily devotional

June 9 – Having joy in the midst of suffering

“All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.” – Proverbs 15:15  Scripture reading: 2 Timothy 3:12, Hebrews 12:1-4, and 1 Peter 4:12-19 The Christian life is filled with many challenges, especially that of persecution! This is a growing reality for the church today. Thus, when affliction comes, the days of our lives are “evil,” that is, filled with grief and sorrow. Yet, as Christians, we’re not surprised, for both Peter and Paul warned us that such would come to those who follow Christ (1 Peter 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:12). Though we suffer for our faith, our joy in Christ is not quenched in the least! Rather, as Peter says in 1 Peter 4:13, you “rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings…” For we know that our present suffering will lead to glory at His return! Yes, in Christ we have “merry” hearts in the midst of our sorrow and we will also have a continual “feast,” that is, a banquet for our faith because of His saving work. For you see, Jesus is the fulfillment of Proverbs 15:15. For “all the days” of His life as the Afflicted One were “evil”, that is, marked by humiliation and suffering, especially on the cross! But through His resurrection we have victory and thus we’re able to “feast” on His saving benefits and have “merry hearts” in spite of our circumstances! Are you suffering for your faith? Are you growing weary? Then, look to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith, and rejoice! For His victory is your victory and at His return, your affliction will end and your joy will be full! Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s strength as you suffer for your faith. Keep your eyes on Jesus’ once-for-all finished work and be comforted, knowing that in Him you have the victory! Pray for the persecuted church around the world that it may continue to feast on Christ with a merry heart! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 8 – Take care of the paths you tread

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” - Proverbs 14:12 Scripture reading: Proverbs 7:21-27 and Matthew 7:13-14 This powerful proverb is repeated exactly in Proverbs 16:25. It’s a bit of wisdom that all people, especially our covenant youth should take to heart. Today we hear so much that our youth need to be free, think for themselves and choose their own way. This is the mentality of the world, but it ought not to be so of the Church! Covenant children and youth need to be taught the truth of God’s Word so that they will know God’s perfect will, embrace it, love it and walk in it every day! Now to be sure Jesus reminds us in Matthew 7:13-14 that entering by the narrow gate, the way of faith, is not easy. It means sacrifice and suffering and few are those who find the way. For the broad way, or the easy way, appeals to our sinful natures. Why can’t we enjoy the world’s pleasures, treasures and securities along with Christ? Why can’t we enjoy the wicked life and still rest comfortably in Christ’s salvation? Proverbs 7 paints the sad picture of the careless fool who enters the house of a harlot and suffers the sad consequences for it! But this is what happens when we plot the course of our lives apart from having God’s infallible Word as our guide. What is the path you follow? Are you following the broad way, leading to destruction, or the narrow way, leading to life? May the Lord continue to guide us on the narrow way that leads to life! Suggestions for prayer Pray for wisdom as you live your life before God. Ask the Lord for discernment so that you can obey His Word and follow His ways in spite of the temptations to follow the broad way to destruction. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Sunday, June 7 – The blessing of the fear of the Lord

“In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.” – Proverbs 14:26-27 Scripture reading: Psalm 90 Psalm 90 reminds us of the frailty and brevity of human life, but it also comforts us with the truth of who God is to His people; “You have been our dwelling place in all generations…even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (vs.1-2b). Thus, to live with the “fear of the LORD” in our hearts means that we look at our God with awe and wonder! He is our holy God and we seek to honor and praise Him with our lives. Therefore, in Him we have a “strong confidence,” for He is a faithful, covenant God Who does not forsake His people, even when they sin, but is gracious to forgive and to keep us in our salvation. Thus, like Moses’ audience in Psalm 90, we know that we have a place of refuge! Proverbs 14:26 says, “His children will have a place of refuge.” This is true for us today! Jesus Christ is our refuge in the midst of the storms of life (Mark 4:35-41). This “fear” is also a blessing to us, or “a fountain of life" for it guards our hearts and helps steer us away from sinful living to pursue what is right and good in God’s sight, as v.27 says, “to turn one away from the snares of death.” Do we “fear” the LORD and does this “fear” affect our living? Let us pray that our words, our deeds and our worship would reflect reverence and awe for God! Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would worship God today out of a humble heart and in reverent fear! Pray that the “fear of the LORD” would fill your life and help you to honor and glorify God in all your words and deeds in this new week! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 6 – Enjoying true satisfaction

“The righteous eats to the satisfying of his soul, but the stomach of the wicked shall be in want.” – Proverbs 13:25  Scripture reading: Psalm 34:8-10 and 1 Tim.4:1-4 For the Christian, our daily meals ought to be a spiritual act and not merely a physical response to hunger. Yes, God has given us work and work makes us hungry so we need to eat, but our food is not to be the end-all and be-all of life! Rather, as those who pray for their daily bread (Matthew 6:11), we ask for the Lord to bless our food, for without God’s blessing our food and drink will not truly profit us (1 Timothy 4:4). But as Christians, we believe that God will nourish us, in fact, we know true satisfaction - “the righteous eats to the satisfying of his soul.” This means that God truly nourishes us so that we can be productive members of His kingdom. The wicked of the world are not so blessed. For though they might have more than we do, it only goes so far. Yes, their bodily needs are met, but they’re not drawn closer to the Giver of their food. They’re not built up in their faith because they do not understand God’s providential care nor do they know His saving grace in Christ. So their spiritual hunger continues! Thus, comes the cry of Psalm 34:8-9, “O taste and see that the LORD is good…there is no want to those who fear Him!" Let us be truly thankful for God’s gracious provision and pray for the lost that they might know true satisfaction of body and soul in Christ’s saving work! Suggestions for prayer Give thanks to God for His generous provision and for the spiritual strength and blessing He brings to your life! Pray that the lost of our world might come to know Christ by faith and be truly satisfied in their souls! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 5 – Words of blessing to those in need

“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.” – Proverbs 12:25   Scripture reading: Proverbs 15:13-30 and Matthew 6:25-34 As we know “anxiety” or worry can come upon the Christian in many ways whether it be through our work situation, stress in our marriage, financial crisis, or prolonged sickness. As a result, such stressful burdens can make us feel as if we’re under a great weight, or “depressed.” Thus, the “heart,” the seat of our emotions, the place where love, joy and peace abound, can become terribly affected and troubled. Yet, how blessed we are to have fellow believers come alongside and comfort our hearts with their words, as v.25b says, “a good word makes it glad”! Proverbs 15 also speaks of the blessing of such words: v.23 says, “a word spoken in due season, how good it is”, v.30 says, “a good report makes the bones healthy.” Or think of Proverbs 16:24, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” Yes, being able to comfort one another is a real blessing, for we’re able to comfort others with the comfort we have in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:4)! Some of the most blessed words of comfort in times of anxiety come from Jesus in Matthew 6:25-34 as He speaks of the Father’s loving care for us! For if He so cares for His creation, won’t He care for us, as those made in His image? Yes, as we ponder the precious words of Scripture and come to God in prayer, we’ll find our anxiety lifted and replaced by true peace! (Philippians 4:6-7) Suggestions for prayer Ask God to lift the anxiety that fills your life. Give your struggles to God in prayer and reflect on His precious promises of love, protection and care for all your needs. Pray that God would use you to help others who are struggling. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 4 – Christian fruitlfulness leads to Christian witness

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.” – Proverbs 11:30 Scripture reading: Matthew 5:13-16 and 1 Peter 2:9-12 The life we have in Christ is an awesome reality! By grace, we go from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive (Ephesians 2:4-5), and blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3)! Thus, because of Christ, we are “righteous” in God’s sight and through the inner working of the Holy Spirit, we produce spiritual “fruit” which can be a rich blessing to others! Our text calls such fruit “a tree of life,” that is, a place of refreshment, joy and blessing! Its language speaks of the “tree of life” in Revelation 22, which brings eternal blessing and healing to the nations. What a reality to ponder! That our lives can be a blessing to those who are hurting, in need of help, comfort, or encouragement! Such “fruit” is a blessing to the Church as we use our gifts, give of our time and seek to live out our faith. But also this “fruit” is a “tree of life” for the lost and broken of our world! As v.30b says, “...he who wins souls is wise.” It has the idea of capturing a prisoner or wild animal. How are we in living out our faith? Do we want to just influence people morally, or do we desire to see them come to saving faith in Christ? This is how the “wise” seek to live their lives! So let your light shine before men that they might see your good works and glorify God on the Day He visits us! Suggestions for prayer Pray for God to continue to make you fruitful for the sake of your life in the Church and for your witness to the world. Pray for ways that God can use you so that you can let your light shine for the salvation of the lost! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 3 – The joy of God’s blessing

“The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” - Proverbs 10:22 Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 8:11-18 and Psalm 127 As Christians, we are blessed because we are God’s people and we know how faithful and good He is! We see that especially in the “blessing of the LORD” upon our lives. God’s “blessing” is the bestowal of His loving favor, of His covenant kindness upon us, which affects all of life. And that includes our work, family, worship and our witness! As our proverb says, through that blessing the LORD makes us “rich” or “wealthy.” That is, He provides for all of our needs. He’s the One Who blesses the work of our hands and makes it fruitful! (Psalm 90:17). The children of Israel were to learn that lesson well, as Deuteronomy 8 reminds us. Psalm 127 also reminds us that we labor in vain if the LORD’s blessing is not upon the work that we do! Therefore, we should always pray for God’s blessing! For when we do, we’ll see God’s mighty hand at work in so many ways, for as Prov. 10:22 says, “He adds no sorrow with it.” In other words, God’s blessing is not meant to harm us, but is an expression of His love! It shows the depth of His care and concern. That means, even the blessings that seem at first to bring struggle or trial, are really meant for a greater purpose: that we might be drawn closer to God in our walk with Him and in our service in the kingdom! Yes, how rich we are because of God’s blessing upon us! Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s blessing on your life, family, work and worship. Also, give thanks to God for how He turns various trials and spiritual struggles into blessings in your life! For God’s blessing reveals His loving care for our lives. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 2 – You must guard your heart

“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” – Proverbs 4:23 Scripture reading: Proverbs 4 Guarding your “heart” is something all believers need to do, not just the young! Solomon writes to his children (v.1) in a very personal and passionate way. As he was instructed from his youth, now he has the responsibility to charge his sons to “Get wisdom! Get understanding…wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding” (vv.5a-7). Isn’t this our desire for our children, as well as for our own lives? Solomon says in v.23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it springs the issues of life.” Do we guard our hearts, as we should? Sadly, often the movies we watch or our favorite TV shows leave much to be desired! We need to pray about these things, especially as we hope to set good examples for our children and grandchildren. How much time do we spend in the Word, setting our minds on things above where Christ is (Colossians 3:1-2), or in setting our minds on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8)? These are things that strengthen our faith and build up a strong defense against the temptations that daily confront us. As Solomon says, “When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble. Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life” (vv.12-13). May these be words we all take to heart! Suggestions for prayer Pray for obedience to God’s Word and for growing in wisdom. Ask for spiritual discernment that you may be careful with your life and the choices you make. Guard your heart and fill it with things that will strengthen your walk with God. Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

June 1 – Introduction to Proverbs

The book of Proverbs is a wonderful book for getting our focus on the Christian life. There are so many powerful verses that challenge our faith and encourage us in our walk with God! Over the years I have been blessed by going through the book of Proverbs in my preaching, but also in my personal devotions. It’s an enriching experience. I have selected some of my favorites, ones that you may know well and some not so well. But regardless, I pray that you will find these various proverbs to be a blessing to your own walk with God and to your family as well. The book of Proverbs speaks to all of life and to the many situations we often find ourselves in as Christians. And so the more we read and apply these great truths to our own lives the more we’ll be equipped as servants for living faithful lives in God’s kingdom! Daily trusting in God “Trust in the LORD will all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6 Scripture reading: Proverbs 3 The first four chapters of Proverbs show us the great need for knowledge and wisdom in the life of God’s people. Solomon, writing to his son in chapter 3, impresses that upon him in verses 1-4. But then in verse 6, we have this wonderful affirmation of why we’re to trust in our faithful covenant God: “He shall direct your paths”! The idea here is of someone clearing the way and making your path smooth, of taking out the obstacles. This is what God does for those who “trust” and “acknowledge” Him. He is faithful to guide them and take care of their lives! The Christian life is marked by an active, daily trust in God! The idea is that we’re leaning upon Him and not ourselves. But that’s the great challenge for us! For we often see ourselves as wise and capable of handling life’s difficulties, trials, or temptations on our own, but we can’t! Solomon makes that clear, “Trust in the LORD…and lean not on your own understanding.” There is to be no self-reliance! So as we “trust” in God, we “acknowledge” Him, that is, we confess His rule over our lives and that His Word is to be obeyed above all things! Thus, this humble life of faith and confession of God’s authority leads to our blessing. For God graciously and lovingly leads His sheep as a faithful Shepherd! As Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” Suggestions for prayer Pray that the LORD would cause you to daily trust in Him and acknowledge His control and direction of your life. Pray that you would die more and more to relying on yourself and rest in His faithfulness, for He will direct your paths! Rev. Ancel Merwin is the minister of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

SUNDAY, May 31 – Everlasting worship

“And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!’ Then the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.” – Revelation 5:13-14 Scripture reading: Acts 2:14-28 Today, by God’s grace, we gather to worship as part of the thronging worshippers from all over the world. Today we may especially focus on that great event in redemptive history known as Pentecost. What a joy to be led in the conviction of the Holy Spirit to bring our worship to God. God is worthy of our praise and adoration! His Word to us is life. To live out of the covenant congregationally is a rich treasure. Today is a foretaste of what is yet to come in greater abundance. The vision John receives in our text depicts something of both the worship and activity in heaven. John has been permitted to see the inner area of God’s heavenly dwelling. What wonder and glory!! The song sung in verse 13 is a testimony to God’s glory, truth, justice, holiness and His awe-inspiring deeds. God is great and greatly to be praised! How is it possible that His Name not be glorified and feared? A heart in tune with God can’t help but sing His praise and so also does as the congregation, the body of Christ. On that first Pentecost Day, those who were given ears to listen could hear what Jesus has accomplished for those given Him by the Father. Today as we go to church, we can again hear through the work of the Holy Spirit (applying the Word) what great things our Heavenly Father has done for His children. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Suggestions for prayer Pray with heartfelt thanksgiving, acknowledging the glory of our thrice Holy God. “Unto God Almighty, sitting on the throne, and the Lamb victorious, be the praise alone. God has wrought salvation; He did wondrous things; who shall not extol Thee, Holy King of kings?” – Psalter Hymnal 469:3 Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 30 – Worthy is the Lamb!!

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” – Revelation 5:8-12 Scripture reading: Acts 17:22-34 Immediately, when Jesus took the scroll, a song in heaven breaks out. That song testifies to the glory of our salvation. Even more importantly it is a song that testifies to the abounding glory of the Saviour who has purchased with His blood those from every tribe and language and people and nation (vs. 9). In Christ we live and move and have our being (cf. Acts 17:28a). How important it is for our hearts to join the mighty chorus. “Glory be to Him who loved us, washed us from all sin and stain! Glory to Him who bought us, made us kings with Him to reign! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Praise the Lamb that once was slain! Glory to the King of angels, glory to the church’s King, glory to the King of nations; heaven and earth your praises bring! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! To the King of glory sing! ‘Glory, blessing, praise eternal!’ Thus the choir of angels sings. Honour, glory, power, dominion! Thus its praise creation brings.” – Trinity Psalter Hymnal 213:2-4a “Christ was born of a virgin that we might be born of GOD. He took our flesh that He might give us His Spirit. He lay in a manger that we might lie in paradise. He came down from heaven that He might bring us to heaven. And what was all this but love? If our hearts be not rocks, this love of Christ should affect us. Behold the love that surpasses all knowledge.” – from the pen of Thomas Watson Suggestions for prayer Rejoice in knowing that Jesus is worthy! Pray for the gospel to go forth to the ends of the earth so others too might rejoice in the worthiness of Christ. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 29 – Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah!!

“And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.” º Rev. 5:1-7 Scripture reading: Revelation 22:12-17 The Scriptures trace the beautiful line of promise which leads to The Lord of lords and the King of kings. Christ is not only King of the church, but He is also King over all creation, every facet/area of life. A sealed scroll is set before us (cf Isaiah 29:11; Daniel 12:40; Ezekiel 2:9&10). The scroll presented in Revelation 5 is sealed tight and no one has been found to reveal what has been written. This made John weep. He knows the contents are very important. His sorrow is short-lived because he is told there is one worthy to reveal the contents of the scroll. That worthy one is Christ, the Lamb of God. This Lamb is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Already in Genesis 49:8-10, we receive the prophecy of the One who will rule for eternity. This Lamb/Lion did not come out of nowhere. As attested to in many places, His root (cf. Isaiah 11:1-10) can be traced to the great King David. Jesus is greater. What has been hidden throughout the ages is revealed in the coming of Christ and the imminent (just around the corner) second coming. What royal splendor is described for us! King David of long ago was highly acclaimed, but it was nothing compared to the greater David. David fought many battles, but the ultimate battle he could not win. The greater David, Jesus, has triumphed and God’s people live in the light and strength of that triumph!! Suggestions for prayer Pray with humble thankfulness and praise for all that Jesus has accomplished on our behalf. Jesus has prevailed! Express your joy to the Lord for the anticipation of what is yet to come in the Kingdom fulfillment. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 28 – The throne room of heaven

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.” – Rev. 4 Scripture reading: Psalm 117 What glorious chapter giving us an awesome sense of the throne room in heaven above. Here Christ is receiving never-ending, soul-stirring, heart-pumping praise. And to think that the heavenly Father’s children will add to that chorus for eternity. Revelation 4 describes and pictures the glorious worship of He Who is worthy to receive glory and honour and power. All of created reality has life through the King of the Church. Words such as amazing, astonishing, astounding, magnificent, marvelous and majestic hardly scratch the surface. “Put the beauty of ten thousand thousands worlds of paradise, like the garden of Eden, in one. Put all trees, all flowers, all smells, all colors, all tastes, all joys, all sweetness, all loveliness, in one. Oh, what a fair and excellent thing that would be! And yet that would be less to that fair and dearest Well-beloved, Christ, than one drop of rain to the whole seas, rivers, lakes, and fountains of ten thousand earths” – from the Letters of Samuel Rutherford Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! Suggestions for prayer May our prayer be: “To Thee all angels cry aloud: the heavens and all the powers therein. To Thee Cherubim and Seraphim continually do cry Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God. Heaven and earth are full of the majesty of Thy glory. The glorious company of the apostles praise Thee. The goodly fellowship of the prophets praise Thee. The noble army of the Martyrs praise Thee. The holy church throughout the world doth acknowledge Thee. The Father of an infinite immeasurable majesty; Thine honourable true and only Son—our redeemer and friend and the Holy Spirit our comforter.” – From the Anglican Prayer Book Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 27 – To the angel of the Church of the Laodiceans (3)

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked – I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” – Revelation 3:14-22 Scripture reading: Proverbs 10:17; Proverbs 17:10; Hebrews 12:4-12 Alongside the word of rebuke and counsel comes a divine summons. Those Jesus loves, He disciples/disciplines. As many as He loves He rebukes and chastens. He calls His disciples in Laodicea (and everywhere) to be zealous and repent of their lukewarmness. Worldliness and indifference must be expunged/removed. Jesus is calling and Laodicea must answer. Jesus continues to call to this day. Once again we come to the word “behold.” It is a word that calls us to look, to take notice. Jesus is demanding that the Laodicean church pay attention and stop going through the motions, to be a church with open eyes, to be aware of her need, to listen to His voice. There is yet great promise for the Laodicean church. Should she repent, she would enjoy a blessed fellowship with the LORD which she presently is not experiencing. Jesus is calling His church (in all ages and all places) to fellowship and communion with Him. The church is to be saturated with who Jesus is, what He has done and what He will yet do. The church is to be filled with the joy of living out of the glorious promise to join Jesus on the throne! May our song ever be: “I love Thy Church, O God! Her walls before Thee stand, dear as the apple of Thine eye, and graven on Thy hand.” – Timothy Dwight, Trinity Psalter Hymanl 405 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Suggestions for prayer In prayer ask the Lord to help us remember God affirms His love through His dependable and unchanging Word, which endures now and forevermore. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 26 – To the angel of the Church of the Laodiceans (2)

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked – I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” – Revelation 3:14-22 Scripture reading: Proverbs 10:9; Isaiah 55:1-3 Alongside Christ’s Word of rebuke comes a Word of counsel. Jesus is urging the congregation of Laodicea to turn to Him. She supplied neither healing for the spiritually sick nor refreshment for the spiritually weary. She was quite full of herself. Jesus tells her that she is rather quite empty. “When with rebukes You correct man for iniquity, You make his beauty melt away like a moth; surely every man is vapor” (Psalm 39:11). Laodicea had to learn that her beauty was a façade and her opinion of herself a lie. Our Redeemer counsels us to buy from Him. Now of course, we can not buy God’s grace. But Jesus is using it as a figure of speech to draw His people back to Himself. In so doing, Jesus is bringing censure to the church as a whole. “Church censures are necessary, for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren, for deterring of others from the like offenses, for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump, for vindicating the honour of Christ, and the holy profession of the gospel, and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the church, if they should suffer His covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.” – Westminster Confession Chapter 30.3 Christ’s censures are given in love. In Christ, we have all the riches we need. No church has arrived and we must do all we can to press forward, keeping our hand to the plough. Suggestions for prayer Unity in the church is important, but we may not sacrifice biblical truth for unity. Satan loves for Christians to be united in a lie. Pray we would not fall prey to the horrible errors of the Laodicean church. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 25 – To the angel of the Church of the Laodiceans (1)

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked – I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” – Revelation 3:14-22 Scripture reading: Psalm 119:65-80 The church is to proclaim the beauty of Christ through the power of the gospel. Christ loved the church and gave His life for her life. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to live as a community practicing gospel culture with a sense of vibrancy and urgency. This was not true of the church of the Laodiceans. Jesus rebukes in the strongest language. He knows the condition of the church. They were neither hot nor cold, not characterized by refreshment (cold waters) nor the spiritual zeal of healing balm (hot waters). They were lukewarm, without vitality and Christ says He will spit/vomit them out of His mouth. Oh, what a soul disturbing judgment! The congregation at Laodicea had a high opinion of themselves, smug we might say, resting in self-righteousness. Jesus says you do not know yourself. You are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. Again, we must ask ourselves how Christ’s judgments apply to us. Perhaps you are privileged to gather in a beautiful building with a fancy sign. There may even be all sorts of programs and activities. But what is the heartbeat? A church must have a beating heart for the glory of God. The danger of succumbing to the apostasy of the Laodicean Age is ever real. Where do we find ourselves in the midst of those judgments? J.I. Packer once said, “Most churches today have passengers rather than practitioners.” Is that true of you? Is it true of the church you belong to? Suggestions for prayer Pray for something of the experience of the Psalmist (119:65-80)that it may be our own, both individually and corporately. Pray for the continued leading of the Holy Spirit to be found faithful. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

SUNDAY, May 24 – To the angel of the Church in Philadephia (3)

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie – behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Rev. 3:7-13 Scripture reading: Psalm 23 Long ago David declared “I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the LORD” (Psalm 122:1). The closing words of Psalm 23 speak of David’s conviction to “dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (vs. 6). As the body of Christ, we come together to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. The preaching of the Word, together with the celebration of the sacraments are the means of grace. We come together as one church, in one faith and one hope. And we are to come as overcomers. Several times now in our devotions this month we have received the call to overcome. How do you understand that for your life and how do you understand that for the church to which you belong? How is it that you approach worship and what is your perspective as you enter the sanctuary, the place set apart? What does it mean to live as overcomers day by day? To overcome is to prevail, to withstand, to gaining mastery over obstacles. It is to live out of Psalm 28:7a, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped”. Jesus promises the overcomer a name and a place. He promises that His people will have His Name written upon them. That promise is real because we know Him Who has “overcome the world” (John 16:3). He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Suggestions for prayer Pray for the grace to live as an overcomer, to hold fast. May that be true for the life of the church and our families. Thank God He holds His people fast. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 23 – To the angel of the Church in Philadelphia (2)

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie – behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Rev. 3:7-13 Scripture reading: Philippians 1:1-11 The Bible’s teaching concerning perseverance is a great comfort to all true believers. Jesus has assessed the church at Philadelphia and commends her with the promise of preservation. The Bible’s teaching concerning the Perseverance of the Saints is soul strengthening. The struggle against sin is great, also in our corporate life as the church. We must be thankful that believers may confess: “Because of these remnants of sin dwelling in them and also because of the temptations of the world and satan, those who have been converted could not remain standing in this grace if left to their own resources. But God is faithful, mercifully strengthening them in the grace once conferred on them and powerfully preserving them in it to the end.” – Canons of Dort 5:3 God enables this perseverance by means of the grace of preservation. We can be confident in His promise that when He begins a good work in His people, He will bring it to completion (Phil. 1:6). Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow Me (John 6:37). And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” – John 10:28-29 Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His tender mercies. He will hold us fast. Pray that we would persist in living out His persevering care, all the while rejoicing in the perseverance of the saints. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 22 –  To the angel of the church in Phiadelphia (1)

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie – behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Rev. 3:7-13 Scripture reading: Acts 14:21-28 What an encouragement the faithful church at Philadelphia must be to us. Jesus, who holds the key of David, grants an open door. He, in fact, is the door (cf. John 10:1-10). Christ is the only way to the blessings of the world to come. Sovereign authority belongs to our Redeemer. He controls the entrance into the Kingdom. The church at Philadelphia was characterized by faithfulness. Even though she was of little strength, she kept the Word of God and did not deny the Lord’s Name. Philadelphia may have been a small church and perhaps even beleaguered, but she had a big heart. Like Smyrna, she was not rebuked. She was not ashamed of the gospel; she kept Christ’s Word and did not deny His Name. The open door to kingdom life has been secured by the blood of the Good Shepherd. From the book of Acts, we know that God in His sovereign wisdom opened doors and consequently new believers were brought to saving faith and added to the church. But there were also doors that were closed. We see the same principle in effect to this very day. Gospel Light in the Western world is dimming, but in other parts of the world, it is a blazing light. Nevertheless, we still have the freedom to witness, to call others to the Open Door. Philadelphia was commended by our LORD. Would the church you are a member of receive the same commendation? Suggestions for prayer Pray for growing zeal and to remain faithful in your personal walk and in the life of the church. Pray that the church to which you belong works for that open door, testifying to the One Who is the Door. Praise God – Jesus is the open door to life eternal. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 21 – To the angel of the Church in Sardis (3)

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 3:1-6 Scripture reading: Psalm 47 Today the church marks Ascension Day. It was that magnificent remarkable glorious moment in salvation history where Christ returned to heaven above where He is now seated and exalted at the right hand of our heavenly Father. Just before Jesus returned to glory He gave us the command to teach those who would become His followers to observe everything He commanded (cf. Matt. 28:20). Everything means everything. The great commandment to love God with the whole of who we are and the great commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves will always bring us to the great commission. How thankful that within the church at Sardis there was a remnant which lived a life faithful to observe what Christ taught. There is wheat among the tares. That being said, the remnant needed to step up and look up; look up to their interceding Saviour for needed strength to be an overcomer. They are promised, out of the storehouse of grace, to be clothed in white garments symbolizing the righteousness of purity and the great gift of justification by faith; garments graciously washed white in the blood of our Ascended King. What comfort to hear that our Saviour confesses those who are His before our Father in heaven and His angels! Let us never forget “that we have no access to God except through the one and only Mediator and Intercessor: Jesus Christ the Righteous.” (Belgic Confession Art. 26) "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Suggestions for prayer In our own strength we are nothing. Rejoice that our ascended Jesus, from the throne room in heaven, will supply the need of His people. Give thanks that Christ’s disciples will find their names in the Book of Life! Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 20 – To the angel of the Church in Sardis (2)

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 3:1-6 Scripture reading: Matthew 7:13-23 Now all of the aforesaid is not to say there were no followers of Jesus in Sardis, but it seems those who confessed Christ were more than a little bit sleepy. Our Redeemer wants His church to be wide awake. As Spurgeon once said, “Christian beware of thinking lightly of sin; take heed lest you fall little by little.” Discipline is one of the marks of a true church. God-glorifying governance is essential in the church. Biblical standards within the church are hard to reach, but that must not dissuade us from exerting our energies, desiring to please the King of the church. If we aim low it is not too hard to hit the target. Let us not be blind to our own shortcomings. The church is to be a reflection of God’s glory. Christ warns (His warnings are gracious) Sardis and every church by extension to take heed. If not, His judgments will fall upon the church. We see that clearly in times past. Many churches no longer live; their life for Christ has vanished. You say the church you go to is faithful, that is well and fine. Be sure to give thanks to the Lord. But the point is that the danger of becoming unfaithful is always lurking around the corner. Never forget Satan's intention to seek and destroy. Give attention so that life in the church is not taken for granted. As churches, we are to seek diligence lest we become careless. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for confessing the perseverance of the saints. Pray God’s ongoing blessing for the preservation of the church. Pray that God’s people would with diligence, be watchful and fruitful! Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 19 – To the angel of the Church in Sardis (1)

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 3:1-6 Scripture reading: James 2:14-26 What a terrible, soul-shaking pronouncement!! You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead! Again King Jesus addresses His church. Once more our Lord and Saviour does not mince words. He will not coddle His church. Previously, we heard Jesus addressing some of the other churches of Asia Minor. Along with a word of encouragement and commendation, there also came a warning calling for correction. With Ephesus, she had lost her first love; with Smyrna, no warning, but a call to endure; with Pergamos, a call to discipline those who did not believe doctrine and life hold together; with Thyatira, a warning to uproot the seeds of compromise which marked the church. But now Sardis—she is dead! This is dreadful! While it is true that in this life we only have a small beginning of the obedience the Lord requires of us (cf. Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 114) there must be a beginning—also in the church. Faith without works is dead! A faithful church seeks to be built up in the most holy faith (cf. Jude vs. 17-21); she desires not only to be faithful to the faith delivered once for all, and she also wishes to live out of that faith in word and deed. Sardis has fallen far. Only Jesus can bring life back to what has become unrecognizable. Oh, she has a name, but it appears to be a façade. May the Lord find us to be in earnest for the well-being of His church. Suggestions for prayer Pray for a faithful and fruitful faith life, not only for yourself but also for the church to which you belong. Pray that God would help His people ever to be lively and living members of the church. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 18 – To the angel of the Church in Thyatira (3)

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 2:18-29 Scripture reading: Psalm 2 A church is a church by means of her unity in Christ and His Word. She has been purchased by His blood. The Belgic Confession (Article 27) teaches the church is a “holy congregation of true Christian believers, all expecting their salvation in Jesus Christ, being washed by His blood, sanctified and sealed by the Holy Spirit." The church is Christ’s possession and she must listen when He speaks. A well-ordered church understands she is to be the pillar and ground of truth and God’s people must know how to conduct themselves in His household. (cf. I Timothy 3:15). Reading our text again today, we can not escape the fact that Jesus speaks in such a way that there can be no doubt that the church in Thyatira has corrective work to do. This is true of every true church in some form or fashion. Jesus does not close His eyes to either false doctrine or false living. Nothing can be hidden from Him. He speaks of even killing the children. Oh, these are hard words! Soul piercing words! The children (vs.23) are the second generation and they are no longer holding to the pure gospel. From church history, beginning with the Old Testament congregation, we know it only takes one generation for the church to become lifeless. The experiential life of the church must always be rooted on the rock-solid truth of God’s most Holy Word. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Suggestions for prayer Matthew Henry once wrote, “When the law of God is written in our hearts, our duty will be our delight”. Pray that we may grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. II Peter 3:17&18). Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

SUNDAY, May 17 – To the angel of the church in Thyatira (2)

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 2:18-29 Scripture reading: Matthew 16:5-12; 1 Kings 19:1-2 Today it is again our calling to gather as the body of Christ in corporate worship. Worship is to be seen as our greatest privilege and highest responsibility. The Lord calls us to worship in Spirit and in Truth. Worship is to be Word saturated. God’s Word touches every area of life and at certain points, the Word pinches and even cuts deeply. Christ’s words to Thyatira are hard-hitting and direct. There is no subtlety here. Thyatira was in grave danger. There is corruption in the church of Thyatira needing radical surgery. It seems that there is a prominent woman in the congregation, calling herself a prophetess, who promoted tolerance toward certain pagan practices. There is a Jezebel in the ranks. Jezebel, oh the name ought to bring a sense of dread. Jezebel (don’t name your daughter this) in the days of Elijah was a seducer working underhandedly. Jezebel brazenly sought to undermine true faith and promoted the wickedness of Baal worship. Shamelessly, she directed her attack against God of the covenant. Jesus calls us to walk the narrow road. Compromise leads to the broad road and those remaining on that path will ultimately be lost for eternity. The church is always to live with a view to eternity. But at the same time, as we look to the Lord for help and strength, we must do so desiring faithfulness day by day. Let us never forget that a church that does not shine gospel light, will ultimately have her lampstand removed. Suggestions for prayer Seeking God’s will helps us live a life of Soli Deo Gloria. Pray for a heart to do so both for yourself and the church. Pray that God would help us to see (and fight against) how terribly dangerous compromise is when it enters our lives. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 16 – To the angel of the Church in Thyatira (1)

"And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 2:18-29 Scripture reading: 1 John 4:1-6 The all-seeing eye of Christ penetrates into the heart and soul of the church in all places and all ages. Our text today takes us to Thyatira where we hear Christ evaluate and assess the life and times of the congregation. The basics of what is to be a well-ordered church are scrutinized. As we read of the character of the church in Thyatira, we are given the initial impression that things are well. Jesus knows their works. It is as if our Redeemer has a check-list: Love-yes; Service-affirmative; Faith-checkmark; Patience – indeed so. In fact, Jesus tells them they are doing more than they did when they began! Our first impressions are WOW, this is a healthy lively church! I want to join! But as we are to find out tomorrow there is a "never-the-less." The LORD asks a great deal of the church that is to be vibrant in both word and deed. If Jesus gave your elders a check-list of the condition of the church to which you belong what would it look like? Together we must know what it is to reach upward to God in true faith and Godly worship, to reach inward toward one another in love and service, to reach out in witness to those far and near and also to reach ahead toward future generations ministering to all those whom God has included in His covenant. May God so help us! Suggestions for prayer Christians serve the all-sufficient God Who has secured the victory. Let us pray for faithful churches to press forward in their lofty calling! Pray that churches would engage in healthy self-examination. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 15 – To the angel of the Church in Pergamos (3)

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’” – Revelation 2:12-17 Scripture reading: Proverbs 15:31-33; Matthew 11:20-24 When Jesus began His public ministry, He spoke of the nearness of the kingdom and the command to repent and believe the good news (cf. Mark 1:15). Repentance is not negative, but a positive response to the call of God’s Word. To repent means a change in thought or behavior; it means to reverse direction. It is to submit to God’s Kingdom rule for every area of our lives. The church in Pergamos was called to repent, to reverse direction. Those who held to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans were to be confronted with the truth so they might reverse direction. The Bible teaches that when the church fails to exercise spiritual discipline, she might expect to experience severe chastening from God’s almighty hand. The church at Ephesus hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans, but the church at Pergamos tolerated them. The Nicolaitans held a view of life that perverted grace and exchanged their liberty with license. Jesus reproves the church at Pergamos for allowing heretical teachers and abominable practices into her midst and calls her to be faithful to the truth. Every believer and every Christian church needs to take to heart the fact that sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay and cost you more than you want to pay. When there is a cancer in the church that cancer needs radical treatment. It must be cut out. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Suggestions for prayer Pray for growth in repentance and faith. Pray that the church to which you belong would be steadfast in the life of repentance and faith and thus in fighting against compromise. Pray for that same grace for yourself. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 14 – To the angel of the Church in Pergamos (2)

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’” – Revelation 2:12-17 Scripture reading: Proverbs 3:11-12; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 Even though the church at Pergamos was commended for holding fast, there was a serious problem. There is no perfect church, but that does not mean we should not strive to be more than we presently are. There were within the congregation those holding to the doctrine (false) of Balaam. Many of you know the story of Balaam and even his famous talking donkey. Balaam was offered money by Balak to curse the covenant community. When that didn’t work, he devised a plot to have Moabite women seduce Israelite men into intermarriage. There are still so-called Balaams around today peddling their version of the gospel (false) in exchange for riches and fame. To belong to a faithful church is an incredible blessing. But such a church should never rest on her laurels. The temptation to be sidetracked by way of compromise needs to be fought against continually. As is clear in this letter, the church of Pergamos did not discipline where discipline was sorely needed. A church that does not turn the key of discipline (cf. Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 85) does not really love her members as she ought. Discipline is to be an exercise of loving discipleship. Christ’s disciples listen to the voice of the loving Shepherd. He knows what is best for His church—after all, He is the Head and we are to serve Him as His body. A listening ear must be an obeying heart. May God grant us grace to be found faithful! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Holy Spirit, by means of the Word and Sacrament, would keep us close to the voice of Jesus. Pray that the church to which you belong would remain faithful. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 13 – To the angel of the Church in Pergamos (1)

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’” – Revelation 2:12-17 Scripture Reading: 2 Kings 18:1-9 Holding fast is a very important quality in Christian discipleship. The church must keep the truth as received and not accommodate the whims of doctrinal or social change. In the final exhortations the Apostle Paul gave to the church at Corinth, he writes, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (I Corinthians 16:13-14). In the sermon to the Hebrews we read, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for He who has promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). The all-seeing eye of Christ commends the church gathered in Pergamos for holding fast. The city of Pergamos was no stranger to the adultery of idolatry. It was home to many pagan cults and was the first city in Asia to build a temple to Caesar. It was a city where people believed in the greatness of man and had eyes closed to the living Almighty God. Also in our age, the pressures both from within and without to cave in are great. Never must we forget that we live in a world which is not a friend to grace. Societal sin is growing stronger and presses against the church and we who are faithful members must know something of what it is to push back. Does the church you are a part of make any difference at all in the community you live? Are you a stick-tu-ative Christian? Jesus never said it would be easy. Suggestions for prayer: Christ’s followers are called to hold fast to the truth and to live out of the truth. Pray that would also be true for the church where you are a member. Pray for the same graces Hezekiah enjoyed. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 12 – To the angel of the Church in Smyrna (3)

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’” – Revelation 2:8-11 Scripture reading: Matthew 24:1-14; 36-41 The call to faithfulness is high and demanding. The danger is faithlessness. Christ encourages the church at Smyrna and the church today to be faithful even if it means death. Those who can kill the body with the sword, can not kill the soul. The message for the persecuted church is: do not fear! The LORD, speaking to His people, tells them that they are not alone. He is with them. Believers are united to Christ by grace and through faith. Nothing can break that union. It has been sealed by the Holy Spirit in the blood of Christ, held fast by the love of our heavenly Father. As we wait to enter the glory land, we must constantly fix our eyes on Jesus (cf. Hebrews 12:1-3). By means of suffering, He endured the cross for our sake. As the church suffers (and in some places terribly so) we must remember the great comfort of Christ’s intercession. We may feel perplexed by evils of this present age, but Jesus is fully aware of the suffering of His church. As Scottish Presbyterian Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-43) once famously said, "If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference; He is praying for me.” For further study Look up the story of Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna, who was martyred for his faith at the age of 86. His story is soul strengthening! Suggestions for prayer Pray with conviction that even if it seems that the church is experiencing hell; she shall not be hurt in the second death. Pray for a listening ear: “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 11 – To the angel of the Church in Smyrna (2)

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’” – Revelation 2:8-11 Scripture reading: I Peter 4:12-19 Testing is never pleasant, but God’s word teaches it is necessary. The church gathered at Smyrna experienced a severe test—persecution for confessing Christ. Church members were going to be thrown into prison by the devil himself. The devil, the roaring lion prowling to devour, is the accuser, a slanderer who hates Christians with an undying hatred. There are particular seasons throughout the history of the church where suffering is intensified and the church at Smyrna knew that first hand. Jesus taught that if He was hated, so would be His followers. Jesus was persecuted and so will be His disciples (cf. John 15:18-25). We need to take Jesus’ words to heart, not with anxious hearts, but with the courage of the truth that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us. With resolve, we must remember that the power of the church in difficult and dangerous circumstances does not live within herself, but is only from Christ Himself. Persecution is used by God for His purpose. But never forget Jesus is fully aware of whatever trouble the church is called to endure. He does not want us to be afraid. The dominant religion/faith in the Western world is secular humanism and increasingly there is the pressure for the Christian church to compromise. God’s Word calls us to stand firm on the Word, to stand firm in Christ. All other ground is sinking sand. We do not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future. Suggestions for prayer Pray in the conviction that Jesus is proving our faith. Pray often for the church to be true to the holy faith, living faithfully before the Lord. When called to suffer for the sake of the gospel, pray for strength to commit our ways to the Lord (I Peter 4:19). Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 10 – To the angel of the Church in Smyrna (1)

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’” – Revelation 2:8-11 Scripture reading: Luke 12:1-11 Today, we again come before the Lord in corporate worship. This is the day of all the week the best, emblem of eternal rest. We may celebrate in joyful worship as the body of Christ, the glorious life of Christ. We may hold fast to the hope that does not disappoint. We, in God’s grace, may happily confess; God is great and greatly to be praised. Many, if not most, reading this devotion can do so in peace and without fear or alarm. But that is not the case for a large portion of Christ’s church scattered across the face of the globe. Accounts of believers dying for Christ can be read daily. In certain quarters, there is fierce opposition and terrible suffering. It has been that way since the beginning of the church (not only in the New Testament as the church of Smyrna would attest, but also in the Old Testament era). How important for us to hold tightly to the conviction that the: “Son of God through His Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects and preserves for Himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member.” – Heidelberg Catechism Answer 54 Let us not take for granted our blessings. Let us not put our heads in the sand as to the encroaching restrictions of our own freedom to confess Christ the King of Glory! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the persecuted church and do so often. Pray to be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees (Luke 12:1). Thank the Lord He will never leave or forsake His people. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 9 – To the angel of the Church of Ephesus (3)

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’” – Revelation 2:1-7 Scripture reading: Ephesians 1:15-23 Office bearers in the church have been given a tremendous responsibility. They are far more than administrators. They must give focused time to consider the spiritual condition of the flock. As they labour amongst God’s people, they must point the congregation over and again to the wonders of the Heavenly Father’s love for us in Christ and then to what must be our first love. Together with the congregation, we are to give expression to a zeal for the LORD and His service. To be warned is to be blessed. If we are in imminent danger, it is life-saving to be warned, also in the church. Many churches through the ages have become apostate because they lost their first love. The church at Ephesus, can she be found today? With open minds and humble hearts, we need to deeply think concerning the spiritual condition of the church of which we are members, praying for constant renewal and revival and ongoing reformation and repentance. Think again of the reading in Ephesians 1, how we need spiritual wisdom to remain faithful! To have our candlestick removed would be a terrible and dreadful indictment. When the lamp is snuffed out there is only darkness. Jesus, the Light of the world, tells us that the overcomers have the right to eat from the tree of life which is in paradise. Let us strive to be an overcomer. “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Suggestions for prayer God’s Spirit lives in His people in order to work through them. Call on God, "Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). Pray for faithfulness and God’s patience toward us. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 8 – To the angel of the Church of Ephesus (2

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’” – Revelation 2:1-7 Scripture reading: Ephesians 1:7-14 After some very encouraging words, the Lord reveals to the church of Ephesus that she has a major problem. He does not overlook their shortcoming, nor is His message sugar-coated. Jesus tells them they have left their first love; they are no longer filled with the same loving enthusiasm that belonged to them in their early history. The next generation does not hold the torch as brightly as those who had gone before them. We get the sense they have lost their passion for Christ, becoming mechanical in their approach to their life with Christ. This is a great danger for any church. Does the church you belong to have a passion for the Lord Jesus and is she on the march? It is easy for a church (and for believers) to simply go through the motions. When that happens there is something obviously wrong. When zeal is lacking, renewed repentance must be sought. Many in our society believe the church is simply a relic of a by-gone age. But the church remains the body of Christ and we who are part of that body must love our head—to love our Triune God with heart, soul, mind, body and strength remains our calling in answer to the first great commandment. Jesus has given us His life so that we would receive ours. In turn, we must ever learn to present ourselves to the Lord and His service – “My heart I offer to you LORD promptly and sincerely” (from Calvin’s motto). Suggestions for prayer Remind yourself, as Paul did to the church at Ephesus, of the many spiritual blessings we have in Christ! It is our privilege to give everything we have to the One who gave us everything on the cross. Give thanks. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 7 – To the angel of the Church of Ephesus (1)

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’” – Revelation 2:1-7 Scripture reading: Ephesians 1:1-6 Out of the mouth of Jesus went a sharp two-edged sword (cf. Revelation 1:16; Hebrews 4:12) speaking with authoritative voice. John is given the words of Jesus to be sent to the church of Ephesus. Ephesus stood at the crossroads of four major trade routes and became known as the gateway to Asia and, sadly, for the idol worship of the so-called goddess, Diana. Paul ministered in Ephesus for some three years (cf. Acts 19) and, in God’s sovereign good pleasure, a church of the Way was established. The angel is the messenger who speaks the Word to the congregation — ordinarily an ordained pastor. The message begins with a word of commendation/approval. As churches, we can use encouragement for we face many struggles. Clearly, Christ knows in detail the works of all seven churches and of course also of the church where you are a member. Nothing can be hidden from our Redeemer. Jesus acknowledges the hard work of the believers gathered in Ephesus. He makes mention of their perseverance. Wicked men are not tolerated. Those claiming to be apostles have been tested and rejected. They have exercised discernment, they have endured hardship, they have labored for the Lord’s name’s sake, certainly an endurance to be much-admired. Many who read this devotion also belong to a local church with a specific address. How would the church you are a member of be characterized? What place do you hold in upholding the life and times of the church? Suggestions for prayer Keep the church to which you belong in your daily prayers. Pray to be a church full of true faith and enduring faithfulness. Pray for the grace to be active in the life and times of the church. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 6 - Christ appears in blazing glory!

“Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand, he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.’” - Revelation 1:12-20 Scripture reading: Daniel 7:9-14 As John is commissioned to his consecrated task, he is greeted by the incomparable Christ in all His blazing glory. It is similar to what the prophet Daniel experienced more than once many years earlier. What they both saw is enough to take your breath away. John is permitted to see the majestic Christ Who appears in radiating brilliance that can hardly begin to be grasped. Christ who stands at the junction of heaven and earth, Christ Who is the meeting place between time and eternity comes to John and speaks to him with a loud voice. The meek Christ is also the authoritative Christ. The title Son of Man is the one used most often by Christ Himself during His earthly ministry—some 81 times according to one counter. Soak in what John saw – head and hair glowing white and countenance like the shining sun reminding us of the glory cloud, the Shekinah (cf. Exodus 13) and the Transfiguration (cf. Luke 9). John saw eyes like a flame of fire, as someone else has said, like two lasers looking with penetrating gaze into the depth of His church. John saw feet like that of fine brass reminding us that the altar of burnt offering was covered with brass (cf. Exodus 38) and also taking us back to the glorious cross where Jesus was the offering. John heard the voice – a voice like that of the sound of many waters. It was and is incredible! No wonder John fell at the feet of Jesus as dead! Suggestions for prayer God’s people are to be filled with the wonder and awe of Christ. Pray in the conviction of Rev. 15:3: “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed.” Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 5 - Write and send

"I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, 'Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.'” - Revelation 1:9-11 Scripture reading: John 20:30-31; 21:24-25  Our Scripture text today records John’s marching orders. He is to write about what he will see and send it to the seven churches in Asia. In verse 9, John identifies himself to his readers. He is a brother in the faith. He is addressing family in the LORD. He is their companion in a season of persecution. (There still continues to be seasons of persecution all around the world.) But John also recognizes that He is part of the Kingdom—the Kingdom of Christ. He is learning patient endurance and perseverance despite difficult times. John has been exiled on a barren rocky island. He has been exiled for standing firm on the Word and for his testimony concerning Jesus. He is devoted to his Lord and Master. (Let us ask ourselves: Are we standing firm? What characterizes our devotion to the One we have been called to follow?) John has had first-hand experience with the Lord Jesus. He has witnessed our Redeemer’s authoritative preaching and teaching, Christ’s compassion, the miracles confirming Christ’s Deity and Christ's ultimate sacrifice as our substitute on the cross. John, in God’s grace, knows what he is talking about. John is obedient to the Master’s call to write and send. What a privilege it is for us to share in that message to this day. What a blessing for this same word from Genesis to Revelation to go out to all those who have been given ears to hear! Suggestions for prayer Pray for strength, day by day, to persevere in the most holy faith, to honor and serve the Lord in selfless devotion and to remember the more we serve Christ, the less we will serve self. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 4 – The Alpha and Omega is coming

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” – Revelation 1:7-8 Scripture reading: Genesis 1:1-2; Revelation 22:12-22 Today as we take up our customary task, we ought to do so with the understanding that Jesus is everything. In all our comings and goings, we are to do so with eternity in view. Christians prepare for what is yet to come realizing the Kingdom is a prepared place for a prepared people (cf. John 14:1-6). With Scripture, we confess Christ is the Beginning and the End and everything in between. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus Christ is the pivot of history. Our Redeemer is the Wonderful One, Wise Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). A 250-word devotion can not begin to scratch the surface in speaking of our beautiful Saviour — nor could two hundred and fifty million! But for today, think of that word "behold." It is a word that calls us to pay attention. It is a word that calls us to look, to take notice. What are we to take notice of – Jesus is coming! Are you ready? What comfort to believe: "According to the Word of God, when the time appointed by the Lord (which is unknown to all creatures) is come and the number of the elect complete, that our Lord Jesus Christ will come from heaven, corporally and visibly, as He ascended, with great glory and majesty to declare Himself Judge of the living and the dead, burning this old world with fire and flame to cleanse it” (Belgic Confession Article 37). Suggestions for prayer Pray for the convicting of the Holy Spirit so that we are ready for that great day of days when Jesus returns. Ask that we would use our time wisely in preparation for that day when time as we know it, will be no more. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 3 – From and to

“John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – Revelation 1:4-6 Scripture reading: Romans 11:33-36; Ephesians 3:14-21 Today we have the blessed privilege and remarkable responsibility to gather with the body of Christ, His holy bride, His church. It was on the Lord’s Day (vs. 10) that John received the Revelation which we still have with us to this day. Our text tells us that the original recipients of this letter were the seven churches in the province of Asia. This is the area we today know as Turkey. Each of the seven churches held their own significance in the various areas of the region. In worship, we are busy in covenantal dialogue. The Lord speaks and we may answer. And as the Lord begins His conversation with us in worship, He gives us His comforting greeting. To be greeted by God – what an encouraging, soul strengthening blessing!! Pause and think about this in your meditations today (Don’t read God’s Word too quickly; I confess I do far too often). To have grace and peace announced to the congregation  – that is precisely what we need. Grace is not our deserving. Peace with God, secured by our Redeemer in this sin-stained world (including the sin in our lives), gives us life heartening perspective. These words are from Christ Himself Who, “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (vs. 5). He calls us to His service – to be His kings and priests. Amazing! Amazing grace! Do not take God’s greeting to us for granted. All glory and dominion belongs to Christ forever!! Suggestions for prayer Earnestly and prayerfully reflect on the wonder-working love of our Saviour. May the song in our heart be “Glory to God the Father, glory be to God the Son, glory be to God the Spirit, God Almighty, Three in One! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Glory be to Him alone.” (Trinity Psalter Hymnal 213:1) Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 2 – Blessed are those who read, hear, and keep…

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” – Rev. 1:3 Scripture reading: Proverbs 8:32-36 How would you respond if someone were to ask you questions along the following lines, “What do you do with the Bible? How does the Bible influence your thinking and decisions? What difference does the Bible make in your life?” Our text today is the first of seven beatitudes (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7,14) in the book of Revelation. It lays forth a blessing to the one who reads, hears and who keeps the words that are about to follow. By extension, our text applies to all of Scripture. We have a three-fold calling to take the Scriptures with the utmost seriousness and sincerity. Spurgeon once said, “Nobody ever outgrows the Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years." Augustine wrote, “Holy Scripture are our letters from home.” Indeed, God, in gracious mercy, has given us His Word and we have a blessed responsibility to take up the word, listen closely and uphold the Word in faith and faithfulness. Our riches in receiving light so that we need not be in darkness are profound. Jesus is that light! The Bible records for us what God has done, is doing, and will yet do. It is as the Psalmist says, "a lamp to our feet and light for our path." It is a great blessing to be in the Word and for the Word to be in us! For Further Study: Romans 10:17; 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12 Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Holy Spirit would deepen our love for the Holy Word of God expounding Christ. May the Lord help us understand that many books can inform, but only the Bible, in the power of the Holy Spirit, can transform. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

May 1 – Introduction to the Apostle John's letters to the seven churches

I have been asked to give some consideration to the letters that the Apostle John sent to the seven churches as we find them in the book of Revelation. They are also messages to the church today. From the onset, let me say that it is impossible to do justice to the full scope of the Scriptures’ teaching in short meditations of some 250 words. There is much we reluctantly pass over. And yet, within each devotion reflecting on Scripture, there is a great deal to ponder, not only concerning our personal walk with the Lord, but also our corporate, communal fellowship with the Lord in the church to which we belong. May the following reflective meditations be both comforting and sobering. We will begin with six devotions setting the context from chapter 1 (following the text of the NKJV) and then devote three days of reflection to each of the seven churches. We will conclude the month reflecting on the wonder of the throne room of heaven and the blessed worthiness of the Lamb Who was slain, now exalted in glory above. As we go forward this month, let us do so with our gaze, rooted in God’s love, on what is yet to come. But let us also engage in some self-examination, honest contemplation and consideration remembering life is short, death is sure, sin the cause, Christ the cure. I wish you the Lord’s blessings as you devote your attention to God and His Word. Sincerely in His grace and peace, Rev. P.J. Vellenga  THE WORD AND THE TESTIMONY  "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw." – Rev. 1:1-2 Scripture reading: John 12:37-50  To be a Christian is to have the eye of one’s heart opened by the grace of God. It is not our deserving. The world says seeing is believing. The Christian confesses believing is seeing. As we learn in the sermon to the Hebrews of long ago, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (11:1). The book of Revelation, albeit mysterious at times, helps us to see in faith. The Apostle John is given a revelation. The word revelation from the original Greek means uncovering, unveiling, disclosure. What is revealed to John? The book of Revelation unveils Jesus Christ in all His glory. Now, of course, this is evident throughout the Holy Scriptures, but like a mighty crescendo, the book of Revelation unveils for us a wonderful message of the full fruition of Christ’s victory in His soon, second coming. So very important to the believer is the revelation of Jesus Christ — it is our very life’s breath. The last surviving Apostle, John, exiled for the faith on the island of Patmos, had the great privilege of receiving this revelation of what had taken place and what will yet take place. He was called to bear “witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw." By God’s grace, John was a faithful witness to the most holy faith. We too are called to be Christ’s witnesses and His testimony to this very day—Praise God! Suggestions for Prayer Pray with heartfelt thanksgiving, acknowledging both the witness and testimony of Jesus Christ. Pray for the leading of the Holy Spirit so that we would be found to be faithful witnesses of the truth. Pastor Peter Vellenga serves as an itinerant preacher in the churches of Southern Ontario. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 30 – Praise

“When Peter came to himself, he said, ‘Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.’” – Acts 12:11 Scripture reading: Acts 12:11-19  Sometimes we have fantastic dreams. Maybe you have dreamt that you can fly, or you are at your favorite vacation place with your favorite people, but then you wake up and it was merely a dream. You think to yourself, “I knew it was too good to be true!” Peter thought he was having this bizarre and wonderful dream where he was walking past guards and through the gates. Peter has seen many miraculous things, but he thought this was all too good to be true. Then he came to himself and saw that the Lord has rescued him. Yesterday, we saw our need for prayer. God answers prayer in ways greater than we could imagine. This does not mean we should always expect miracles whenever a hardship comes, but as we earnestly seek the Lord, we can expect He will do what is good. When we come to ourselves, we see God is still doing great things, greater than we expected. The enemies we face are real. What sinful habits or troubles seek to take you hostage? Turn to the Lord in faith. We are not promised an easy life, but God does promise that all who turn to Him in faith are rescued from clutches of sin and Satan and will be brought to the glory of His presence. That is greater than our most fantastic dream come true. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His sure deliverance. Ask God to give you strength to trust Him in all the trials we face and to look forward to the glory that is to come. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 29 – A praying Church

“So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.” – Acts 12:5 Scripture reading: Acts 12:1-10, 20-25  Again Peter is in prison. Bringing the gospel to the Gentiles meant there would be no more sympathy from non-Christian Jews. And it was heartless Herod who was behind the arrest. Herod was not afraid to shed innocent blood, especially if it gained him favor with the general population. So what is the church to do? Herod has soldiers, prisons and weapons. How can the church avoid being snuffed out by the powers of the world? The church goes to God in prayer. Jesus teaches us to watch and pray. Why pray? Because God is more powerful than any ruler or government or weapon. As we strive to serve the Lord, we must be praying at all times in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18). How do your prayers reflect that your strength is not in yourself, but in the Lord? Are you praying for your needs, for strength against the enemies that seek to choke out your faith? What about the enemies of the church? The church is pressured by false teachings, pressured to be silent in this world and pressured to compromise on the truth. Will you pray for the leaders of the church? Herod went against God by wanting to put the apostles to death, but the gospel cannot be chained and God will always have the last word. Peter would be released by an angel and Herod would be struck down. The church prays and the Word of God increases and multiplies. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His awesome power over all things. Ask God to keep you humble and dependent on Him so that you remain steadfast in prayer. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 28 – Far-reaching love

“And he said to them, ‘You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.’” – Acts 10:28 Scripture reading: Acts 10:24-33  This is a huge moment in Peter’s life and ministry. We know Peter loved Jesus and was really committed to following Jesus, even if it meant Peter’s own death, but now Jesus is sending Peter to also bring the gospel to Gentiles, the non-Jews. In doing so, Peter would be extending an arm of fellowship to Gentiles, calling them to join in the family of those adopted into Christ. This was something a self-respecting Jew would never do. But God’s love and grace is greater than we think. Jesus came to Peter, an unworthy sinner, not because Peter was a Jew or was worthy, but because of God’s promises and mercy. Now that mercy goes out to the Gentiles. Peter swallows his Jewish pride, again humbles himself, and goes to the Gentiles with love and obedience to God. In what ways do you treat the love of God as something small or something that you cannot share? Do you turn up your nose and refuse to talk to those who are outside your church? We, like Peter, are called to join the ministry of Jesus Christ. This is often messy work and people, even from within the church, will criticize it. We are not all called to be evangelists in the way Peter was, but I pray that your devotion to God brings you to live a life that holds firm to Christ and all God’s truth, while in obedience extending God’s love and grace to the world. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to forgive you for treating His love as something small. Ask God to guide you to live in a way that shares God’s love with others. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 27 – Go to the nations

“And the voice came to him again a second time, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’” – Acts 10:15  Scripture reading: Acts 10:9-23  Why were the Jews commanded to not eat pork and various other meats? Leviticus 11 explains which animals are clean and unclean. Leviticus 20:25-26 instructs them, saying: “You shall, therefore, separate the clean beast from the unclean, and the unclean bird from the clean. You shall not make yourselves detestable by beast or by bird or by anything with which the ground crawls, which I have set apart for you to hold unclean. You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.” Sometimes the Jews thought that not eating certain foods made them holy, but the purpose of not eating certain foods was to remind them that they are holy because of the covenant God made with them and on account of this, they must not eat certain foods. Now, Jesus came to fulfill that law; through faith in Christ we are holy and we see the covenant extended beyond the children of Abraham. This was part of the intention of the covenant, as God told Abraham that in his seed all nations will be blessed. Jesus is preparing Peter to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles (non-Jews). Gentiles were considered unclean. Peter would have never entered the home of a Gentile. Now, can Peter trust the new work of Christ, bringing God’s grace that would make the Gentiles clean? Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that His cleansing grace comes to Gentiles like you and me. Pray that you will not be hindered by pride or love of comforts, but that you can be a blessing to those around you. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 26 – Resurrection message

“Turning to the body he said, ‘Tabitha, arise.’ And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.” – Acts 9:40b Scripture reading: Acts 9:36-43 Peter spoke to ears that could not hear. Some people ask if God first put life back into Tabitha so that she could hear the words of Peter. But the Lord used the words of Peter and by that word, brought Tabitha back to life. We see the blessing of the resurrected Christ. Tabitha is raised from the dead to display the power Christ has over the grave. With the medical technology we have today, this is all the more amazing. If someone has a stroke and there is no blood circulation in part of the brain for a certain amount of time, the brain will be damaged beyond restoration. But Tabitha was dead for hours, maybe even a whole day, and Christ gives restoration. This is the good news of the resurrection! Brothers and sisters, do you see for us the blessing of Jesus Christ? Like Tabitha was dead, we are dead on account of our sins. Like Tabitha, we cannot even call for or ask for help. But the Lord came to us. Though nothing could make us worthy of His mercy, the Lord speaks life into us. This is the power of the resurrection. His living Word awakens us. This is part of why it is important to go to church on Sundays. We receive His Word and Spirit and by these we are given restoration. What was damaged and what was lost is all restored. We have a Lord who has conquered death. He has authority to raise us from the grave! Suggestions for prayer Praise the Lord today for His mighty Word. Pray that God’s Word will be faithfully preached and thankfully heard, and that God will equip you by His Word for service to His glory. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. ...

Daily devotional

April 25 – The dangers of power and pride

“But Peter said to him, ‘May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!’” – Acts 8:20–21 Scripture reading: Acts 8:9-25 Simon was amazed by the power which the Holy Spirit worked through Peter. Simon figured that everything was for sale for the right price, so he asked to buy the power and the gift of the Holy Spirit. But God gave Peter discernment to see right through what Simon asks. Peter told Simon that his heart is not right before God. This is a difficult story. The man said he believes and he was baptized, but his heart is not right. Simon received the sign of the sacrament, but not the truth of it. We see his sinful heart exposed; he wants power and will not submit himself to the Lord. This must remind us of our need to humble ourselves before the Lord. Simon made himself his own god and in doing so became his own worst enemy. When we want to have God’s blessing, but live for our own glory, we end up with nothing. Peter sharply calls Simon to repent and pray for forgiveness. Even though Simon acknowledges the power of Christ, he would not let it change his life. The grace of God is a gift given freely. It can neither be bought nor bribed. Receive it, and let it change your heart and life so you are not only forgiven, but are made into a faithful servant of Jesus Christ our King. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Ask that the Holy Spirit be given to you, that you may grow in humble service to God’s glory. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. The painting is "Peter's conflict with Simon Magus" by Avanzino Nucci, 1620. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 24 – Obedience that is good

“But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge.’” – Acts 4:19  Scripture reading: Acts 4:18-31 In this section, Peter and John refuse to listen to the authorities of the world. Sometimes Christians take this verse and use it as an excuse to avoid taxes or to do something illegal. But is that the point? May a Christian ignore the rules of government and the law because we are going to instead serve God? No. Peter writes about a corrupt and anti-Christian government in 1 Peter 2:17, Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. But what about when obedience to the authorities means we must disobey God? What if the government says we must proclaim that the Bible is false and the Koran is true? What if the government says we may not speak of or warn people of hell? Then we must listen to God and not man. This is where being a disciple of Jesus can get costly. It can mean losing jobs, friends, money or comforts. This is why we need to be constantly in prayer, asking God for the strength and boldness that only He can provide. Who are you looking to please today? Are you more concerned with keeping others off your back than you are with serving the Lord? Do you listen to others or your own sinful nature rather than to God? Suggestions for prayer Pray for wisdom to see when others want us to disobey God. Ask that God help you to be respectful of all those in authority and give you boldness to serve Him faithfully. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 23 – Shockingly bold

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” – Acts 4:13-14 Scripture reading: Acts 4:5-18 Healing in the name of Jesus Christ caused an uproar in the temple courts. Peter and John are placed in prison and put on trial. They know that at any minute they could be stoned to death or sentenced to crucifixion. And yet it seems they are not afraid. Are they relying on their own thorough training and expertise? Are they relying on the name they have made for themselves? No. We read that they are nobodies. But that makes no difference for they know the strength of the Lord Who is with them. Jesus once told them “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” They no longer fear man; instead, they have a healthy fear of the Lord. Not only do they not back down, but we read that Peter continually challenges the ones who put him on trial to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. He doesn’t apologize for what he did, but declares that they too should confess their wrong and follow Jesus. All this boldness is very impressive. The leaders do not know what to say, because they know Peter was with Jesus and they can see the lame man standing right there with him. This is the power of God in His servants. How do you act when the pressures of life and the world want you to give up or compromise your faith? Do people see that your strength doesn’t come from yourself, but instead comes from knowing and trusting the Lord God? Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that He is stronger than all the powers of the world. Confess your sin of fearing man and ask the Lord to give you strength to stand bold in your faith. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 22 – Better than money

“But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’” – Acts 3:6   Scripture reading: Acts 3:1-10 Peter and John could not give the man what he asked for, but they had something much greater –  the good news of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:7-8 speaks of this wealth saying, In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. Peter and John had learned this, and now they share their wealth with the lame beggar, saying to him, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Jesus Christ healed this man; Peter was merely an instrument. But Peter was sure. He reached out his hand, pulled the lame man up and the man stood. The healing the man experienced on the outside shows us what God was doing on the inside. As the apostles ministered in Jesus' name, so they brought the authority and blessings of Jesus Christ, namely life and restoration to all who believe. This is good news as we are all lame beggars and we must all find strength and comfort in Christ Jesus Who is gracious to us. Better than silver or gold, in Jesus’ name, we have forgiveness of sins. In Jesus’ name we have a new life.  Let this bring you to rejoice today, even as you still see and feel the burden of sin and brokenness in this life. Suggestions for prayer At times we feel like lame beggars and only want the things the world wants. Pray that God will help you give thanks for His blessings and share the riches of His grace. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 21 – What is a sinner to do?

“Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” – Acts 2:38 Scripture reading: Acts 2:22-36 Peter is tending the flock. The lost sheep of Israel are gathered and, in the strength of the Holy Spirit, Peter is explaining to them that Jesus, Whom they crucified, is their only hope for salvation. Now what? It might feel to the crowd as if they missed the only bus. After all, Jesus was rejected and crucified. The crowd knows their sin, so they cry out, “What shall we do?” The answer Peter gives is a summary of the Christian life. This is what Peter, a sinner, learned to do and now he speaks as one sinner to another, explaining the only way to be saved. Repent. That is, we must deny ourselves. We must flee from the idols of this world and devote ourselves wholly to God. This takes trust. We must trust that if we confess our sins, God will forgive them. This takes faith. We must have faith in Jesus Christ, knowing that if we turn from our sins, God will give us what we need to live a new life to His glory. We receive these from Christ in the gift of the Holy Spirit. By the Holy Spirit we are assured of God’s grace and given a new life wherein we can glorify God. Peter knew this gift and now he spreads the news so other sinners can know forgiveness and a new life. Do you know what it means to be forgiven and have the Holy Spirit? How can you share this good news in order that others may also know? Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will never cease to be amazed at God’s grace to you. Ask the Lord to help you point others to the only way of salvation in Jesus Christ. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 20 – Going forward in faith

“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’” – Luke 24:44 Scripture reading: Acts 1:12-26 Jesus has ascended and the apostles and other followers are gathered together, but something is wrong. There are eleven apostles. During the whole of Jesus’ ministry, there were twelve apostles; twelve, like the number of the sons of Jacob. The number twelve showed the continuity of God’s plan of salvation for His chosen people. Now, with only eleven, it might feel like one stone has been pulled out of the foundation. Peter sinned and was reinstated, but Judas, though he grieved over his sin, did not turn to the Lord for forgiveness. Surely this brought much grief and discouragement to the disciples. But their faith is strengthened when they look to God’s Word. Peter takes the lead and reminds the brothers that both Judas’ betrayal and death were prophesied in Scripture (Psalm 69:25, Psalm 109:6-8). Scripture also said that another will take his office. Peter finds direction from Scripture and through this, he is able to guide the disciples. Jesus was not physically present with them, but God was still speaking to them by His Word. This is how God provides for His people. The disciples will pray and God will show them whom He has chosen to be the twelfth apostle. Where do you find your strength in difficult times? When others falter or the church struggles, do you still trust God’s care? Do you look to God’s Word during difficulties and come to God in prayer so that you are able to go forward with faith and encourage others to do the same? Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for His perfect plans which will work out all things for the good of those who love Him. Pray that God gives you trust, especially when things go “wrong” in our minds. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 19 – Give all glory to God

“In order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 4:11b  Scripture reading: 1 Peter 4:7-11 Why does God do what He does? Why did Jesus die and rise from the dead? Why did Jesus put His arm around Peter and reinstate him as a disciple? Why didn’t Jesus get off the cross and leave Peter and every other sinner to their misery? If we are asking about motive, the answer is God’s love. For God so loved the world… If we are asking about purpose, the answer is for God’s glory. God made the world and everything in it for His glory. He made us for His glory. Sin entered the world and destroyed our ability to glorify God, but Christ came to restore us to the Father. We saw this for Peter, and we must know it for our own lives. When we humble ourselves, the Lord lifts us up and restores us. Why? That we may glorify God. Is this your goal in life? Today is set apart by God as a day of rest and worship. Are you eager to gather with God’s people and glorify Him? What about during the rest of the week? In your work, play, school, socializing and leisure, do you seek to glorify God? That is an awesome thing about the rescuing work of Jesus Christ. Jesus gives gifts and supplies all for us so that in everything, when we do it with love to God, God is glorified. How good this is, as there is no one else worthy of all glory! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for not only rescuing us but giving us gifts by which we can serve others and glorify Him. Ask God to help you see how you can serve Him and to give you strength to live a life for His glory. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 18 – The God of all grace will do it

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” – 1 Peter 5:10 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 5:6-11 We saw this week how Peter learned humility and the blessing of grace. Now about 30 years later, Peter is writing to encourage believers to rely on God’s grace in times of suffering. Do you put your hope in the Lord? Do you hear Him calling you to trust Him? That is the only way we can make it through this life in service to God. We don’t have it in ourselves to persevere in faith until death. But in the Lord we have what we need. Think about what it means that God is the God of all grace.  This fact is easy to forget. We are quick to think that God will not help us in our troubles. We might believe the lies of Satan and start to think we are better off looking for help or comfort in ourselves, in possessions, in other people, or in other things. But there is no grace in other things. God, however, is a fountain; there is more and more grace so we can say, even in our suffering, “our cup overflows”. Keep turning to the Lord. Do not wonder if God will have the grace to forgive you when you stumble for the umpteenth time. Do not wonder if God is able to uphold you when your world is turned upside down or when you feel so utterly disappointed and hopeless. There is grace. Turn to the Lord and find His grace. It is always sufficient. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for His faithfulness in holding onto us. Ask God to forgive our grumbling and doubt of His goodness, and pray for patience and trust in all circumstances. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 17 – To glorify God

“When you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” – John 21:18b Scripture reading: John 21:15-25 Does this sound like happy news? To go where you do not want to go? Peter is told he will walk down a path of suffering and die a terrible death. The Bible does not give us the account of Peter’s death, but historians tell us that after preaching in many places, Peter went to Rome. Nero was the emperor and the common story is that Peter was crucified upside down. What we know for sure is that Peter would die as a martyr. Now, how is that comforting? It is good news to hear that Peter will not be led by his selfish desires, but by his commitment to Christ. It would be hugely comforting for Peter to know that in his death he would glorify God. Peter once claimed he would die with Jesus, but he ended up being afraid of a servant girl. Thanks be to God, Peter will not go down in history as a coward, but as a faithful servant. We will all face trials and some of us might face persecution; our faith is tested when hardships from disease or loss come to our lives. How can we glorify God in life and in death? Only when we stop looking to ourselves. Like Peter, we learn how weak we are and this must, like Peter, direct our gaze, not to ourselves and our cares, but every single day to Christ Who gives us what we need so we can be faithful unto death. By His grace and mercy, we wretches can glorify God. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that you do not need to have a meaningless life. Ask God to give you faith and humility in all circumstances to live a life which glorifies Him. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 16 – Confidence in Peter?

“He said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’” – John 21:17b  Scripture reading: Matt 16:13-23  Jesus said, “Feed my lambs”, “Tend my sheep”, and “Feed my sheep”. Jesus once praised Peter’s confession of Who He was and promised Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. But Peter, in turn, denied Jesus; Satan came and Peter gave in. How can the church be built on the ministry of one who falters so easily? Peter is not a rock; he is crumbling sandstone. Perhaps you have wondered how you can be useful to the Lord when you have failed in the past and continue to fail. It is no small matter to feed the precious sheep of Christ. Peter is going to be looked up to. If the shepherd does wrong, the sheep suffer. We are tempted to say that Peter cannot be trusted. And we might suspect the same of ourselves, thinking we should not try to be a blessing to others or are not fit to lead our family because we have failed in the past. But Jesus knows how to build His church; it is not built on man’s power, but on God’s grace. Remember what Jesus said to Peter before? “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). Peter will lead the way in calling sinners to believe in the Lord Jesus. Peter knows what grace is, and Peter knows how a wretch can be saved. Salvation is not by man’s doing, but by the grace of God. Do you rest in this grace? Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His grace given to you. Ask God to keep you humble and firm in your faith so that you may be a blessing to those around you. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 15 – A trusting Peter

“He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’” – John 21:16a  Scripture reading: Psalm 116  Jesus asks again, “Do you love me?” How do we respond to that? How can we say, “I love you” to God? Especially when we, like Peter, know how weak and pale our love is compared to God’s pure and perfect love for us. Peter does not dare to claim perfect love. The word Peter uses to say, I love you is not the same as the word Jesus uses; he uses a lesser word for love. Why? Because talk is cheap. We see it today. People claim to love their spouses, but go on to forsake them. Hypocrites will boast how much they love God, acknowledging Him with their lips, but in their hearts loving other things more. Peter was there. Now there is no boasting with words. “Lord you know my heart, you know I am frail and my love is not perfect, but you know that I love you.” So is that the answer to how we say “I love” you to God? Is the key to just use humble language? No, talk is still cheap. We need to show our love. Peter had a heart that was willing to be rebuked and to serve or to go wherever the Lord would lead him. Peter’s life will show his love. That is the key. Do you love the Lord? Recognize every good thing we have is only by the grace of God who is loving toward us and call on His name in trust, in praise and in thanksgiving. Show your love with your life. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will keep your relationship with Him honest, that we will not lie when we sing and confess our love to God, but that we will be keenly aware of His great mercy toward us. Pray that God will help you show your love with a life devoted to Him. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 14 – A humble Peter

“Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’” – John 21:15  Scripture reading: John 21:1-19 Peter once boasted, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” Peter dared to brag that he loved Jesus more than everyone else did. So when Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him more than the disciples, Peter appeals to the knowledge of God and says, “Lord, you know.” Jesus knew where the fish were and knew Peter would deny him. There is no sense bragging before God because Jesus knows the heart. Peter confesses, You know that I love you.  Are you ever tempted to brag before God? Do you ever try to make yourself appear to be a better follower of Jesus than the next person? It is inevitable; our actions will have the last word. If we love other things more, or focus more on our desires, it will show. Let us not brag; instead, trust the Lord. He knows our love is not what it should be; our love for Him is nothing to boast about. But Christ also knows when we have a broken spirit and a contrite heart. Peter knew his sin and weakness, but he still loved the Lord Jesus and would serve Him if the Lord would have him. And the Lord will. 1 Corinthians 1:27 says, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. When we recognize our weakness and throw ourselves before God, trusting His strength and mercy, then we have become the very ones the Lord loves to use to further His kingdom and bring glory to His Name.   Suggestions for prayer Give thanks to God for knowing and examining our hearts. Ask God to forgive our pride and arrogance and help us to offer Him heartfelt and sincere love.  Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 13 – Futile faith?

“And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:14 Scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Jesus is alive. And that changes everything for us in this life. It means that anything Jesus ever said is trustworthy and true. This means that everything Jesus did is real and accomplishes everything for us and our salvation. It means the message of the Bible is good. If Jesus is your Lord and Saviour, your sins are truly and completely forgiven and you are given eternal life – to live with the Lord God forever. This good news must lift our hearts every day. Through all of the bad days, stress, tears and sorrow, the knowledge that Jesus died, rose again and ascended into heaven gives us peace and hope. All the sorrows of this life, the losses of this life, are temporary. Imagine you are at war. You are on the battlefield, exhausted, basically out of ammo, and wounded, but you look up and see the enemy base engulfed in flames. Bullets are still flying, but you know that the kingdom of darkness has fallen and the kingdom of light has been established. Well, then you can hang in there. The injuries and wounds don’t hurt so much when you are celebrating victory. Is that your hope? Can you see and believe that our Lord is risen? Do you see what this means for this life and for eternity? Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we have hope. May we carry it and show it as we live certain of what we have not seen. Our Lord Jesus lives and reigns in heaven. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks that God not only sent His Son to bring forgiveness but also raised Him up so we may know that the mission has been accomplished. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 12 – Risen victorious

“But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.” – Luke 24:12 Scripture reading: Luke 24:1-12 When the women claimed Jesus was alive, Peter did not believe it but rather needed to investigate. After all, Peter once did not believe he would deny Jesus. But he did, as Jesus said he would. Peter also at one time did not believe he would catch fish if he cast out his net as Jesus asked him to, but again he was proven wrong. Peter ran to the tomb, looked in and what did he see? Not Jesus, but only the linen cloths used to wrap Jesus’ dead body. If Jesus was still dead, if Jesus’ body was stolen, or if someone had moved it, they would have kept the linen cloths on Him. No fool would unwrap a rotting corpse and take the naked body - of course not! But a living body would remove the burial linens, for they covered the face and bound the arms and feet. Peter looked at the linen cloths and marveled. The evidence is amazing!  Soon Peter and the other disciples will see Jesus Christ; they will touch Him and know He is real. They will know for certain. And that changes everything. We are not following a dead man; we are following the One who has risen, conquering sin and death and hell. We are following the One Who has all strength and authority over life and death. Our faith is not in vain, so let us keep following Jesus all our days. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the good news of the resurrection will strengthen your faith, that you will live your life not without hope or in fear, but with faith in the One who conquered the grave. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 11 – Darkness is my only friend

“It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” – Luke 23:44 Scripture reading: Luke 23:40-56 In the middle of the day, Jesus hangs in darkness. The darkness is a symbol showing that Jesus is bearing the curse of God. Think about what it would be like for the crowd on that day. Three hours of darkness is a long time. Does the crowd know Jesus is bearing the judgment of God? They too experience the darkness, but they were not facing God’s judgment; Jesus was. In the darkness, they would be able to hear the One on Whom God was pouring out His judgment struggling to breathe. There in the darkness, God has placed His own Son on the altar. Abraham did this with Isaac, but Isaac was never put to death because a ram was given to take Isaac’s place. Now the Son of God is placed on the altar, the ultimate substitute, to suffer in our place and He is put to death. Did the crowd remember how He healed their sick and raised the dead? Now Jesus, though innocent, is being put to death. Isaiah 53:10 says, “The Lord makes His life a guilt offering.” The crowd has those three hours to think about this. Let us also quiet our hearts and think about this. This is the sacrifice we need. This is the Lamb slain. See Him, believe in Him for your forgiveness and for your salvation. Here is your only hope to rescue you from the wages of your sin, to rescue you from hell and to open paradise for you. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will help you to consider today what Christ endured in your place. Praise God for taking the darkness that we may be brought into the everlasting light of His grace. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 10 – Forsaken by friends

“But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about.’ And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.” – Luke 22:60 Scripture reading: Luke 22:54-60, Luke 23:32-43 First Judas betrayed Jesus and now Peter denies Jesus. Peter was sure he would never do such a thing, but Peter shows us what happens when we rely on ourselves. J.C. Ryle writes, "The best and highest saint is a poor weak creature, even at his best times.” No matter how strong we might feel or godly we might appear, we are often on the edge of falling hard into sin if we do not watch and pray and if the grace of God does not hold us up. Now Christ will face the cross alone. The cross was a symbol of being cursed by God. Jesus would be nailed to the cross and, though innocent, everyone around would mock Him and no one would come to His defense. Isaiah 53 says, We esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions. That is the amazing part! Jesus endured rejection by man and God in order to give grace to those who by nature rejected Him. Two criminals hanging near Jesus also mocked Him. Later, one had his eyes opened to see that Jesus had done no wrong. This stranger received grace. See how our rejection does not prevent Christ from bringing salvation? He still is the Lamb Whose blood was shed to take away the sins of the world. Peter would weep over his sin, and as you consider Christ crucified today, weep for your sin, for godly sorrow produces a repentance that leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10). Suggestions for prayer Confess your sin and your need for Christ to suffer and die on the cross. Praise the Lord for willingly being rejected so that we may be forgiven and accepted by God in mercy. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 9 – Betrayal with a kiss

“But Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’” – Luke 22:48  Scripture reading: Luke 22:47-53  A kiss was a common greeting among close friends, a sign of sincere love. We wonder how Judas can approach the One Who is true and good and betray Him with a kiss. Unfortunately, this action is nothing new. Isaiah 29:13 speaks of God’s people who draw near to God with their mouth and honour Him with their lips, while their heart is far from Him.   If we are honest, we will admit that we too are guilty of this. How often do we come to church, sing songs that speak of adoring God, but yet in our heart we fantasize about something God hates, or we grumble in anger against God’s providence? When our hearts love anything more than Jesus, not only is our worship phony but we betray the Lord. Judas betrayed Jesus because he loved himself more. Jesus knew this and therefore warned Judas, asking him, “Would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” When in our hearts we don’t love the Lord, but we love other things more, we must hear the warning and repent. Psalm 2 closes with the call to “Kiss the Son… lest you perish in the way.” Yes, kiss the Son. Not with a traitor’s kiss, but with fear and trembling, with a humble heart of earnest love, seeking Christ’s forgiveness and grace. Kiss the Son, remembering that Christ let Himself be defenseless and handed over to death, so that those who confess their sin may find perfect forgiveness in Christ. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord will give you a heart that hates sin and idols, and loves Him above all. Pray that the Lord will help you to love Him with a whole heart. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 8 – Prayer and temptation

“And when he came to the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’” – Luke 22:40  Scripture reading: Luke 22:31-46  Yesterday we saw the great blessing and comfort in the fact that Jesus prays for His people. Now Jesus commands His disciples to pray for themselves. This is not just offering a quick prayer, but to be praying. We all need to be praying so we can face the temptations and hardships that lie before us. Even Jesus needed to pray. He went off on His own, where in agony, He laid His prayers before the Father. While Jesus pleads for mercy, the disciples fall asleep. I see myself there. Do you ever have it when you know you need to look to the Lord and lay your needs before Him, but you feel even that is too hard? Or does it happen that you know God has given you a task, but you can only focus on your own desires and you forget about what you are called to do? It is ironic how we think prayer is so hard when what Jesus did is infinitely more difficult. Jesus was going to the cross. Jesus would drink the cup of God’s wrath right down to the dregs. Jesus would suffer and die for the sins of many. And Jesus stayed up all night, praying and trusting, and then would go to the cross. Let this be a wakeup call for us. We are often spiritually asleep and vulnerable. We need to be living in prayer, laying our burdens before God in prayer, and looking to the Lord in trust. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will teach you and help you to pray. Turn to Psalm 62 and make that your prayer to God. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 7 – Prayer and protection

“I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  – Luke 22:32  Scripture reading: Luke 22:31-34, John 17:6-13  Jesus is the High Priest Who had just given the disciples the Passover. Now as High Priest, He prays for them. Jesus prays specifically for Simon Peter, knowing the trial he will face, and He prays for all the disciples as well as all His followers today. And we need this. We saw last time how weak we are; apart from the Lord intervening and praying on our behalf, there is no hope. And it really is amazing that Jesus prays, asking the Father to have mercy on us. Is anyone worthy of God’s care and protection? Is there anyone who has not slandered God when they grumble, who has not insulted God in the way they boast in themselves? No one. Peter will deny Jesus, leaving Jesus without any companions. And yet, Jesus says He will pray for Peter. Jesus’ prayer is a great strength for Peter. By Jesus’ prayer, Peter does not lose faith. Though he trips, he will stand in faith again. Like Peter, we too have Jesus praying on our behalf; when we face temptations, when we have trouble in our home, in our life, with our relationships, Jesus is praying that our faith may not fail. Take courage and look to the Lord to uphold you by His love in the difficult times. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help you realize His grace and love. Pray for specific situations where you need the Lord to help and protect you. Thank the Lord for His patient prayer for you. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 6 – Through the thresher

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.” – Luke 22:31 Scripture reading: Luke 22:31-34, Job 1:6-12 These are words of serious warning from Jesus. As He approaches the cross, Jesus warns one of His closest disciples that Satan has him in his rifle scope. As wheat is picked up tossed in the wind, Satan wants to pick Peter apart, toss him around so he cannot keep himself together. Satan aims for Peter’s ruin. Satan tried this with Job and Satan is still doing this today. Satan’s attacks are not always the same; his tactic may change, but expect it. When you are given a responsibility, when you face a hardship, or when there is something about following God that you do not understand, be ready. Satan’s mission is to get you to deny Jesus and give up the Christian faith. On hearing this, Simon Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and death.” Peter made the mistake of counting on his own strength. Peter did not think his faith would ever fail. We do this when we underestimate the devil and overestimate ourselves. In those moments we need to hear 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands, take heed lest he fall.” If we were swimming and were told there was a shark circling us, we would not turn and put up our fists; instead, we would climb into the boat. There we are safe. Against the enemy, Satan, we need to turn to Jesus. Pray for His help, His strength, that He will give us faith to withstand the attacks of Satan. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God gives you a keen awareness of both your own weakness and frailty and also of God’s strength and power. Ask God to protect you and to preserve you to hold fast to Him in faith all your days.  Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 5 – Seeking greatness

“For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” – Luke 22:27 Scripture reading: Luke 19:37-40, Luke 22:23-30 On Palm Sunday Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem. Being on a donkey makes a statement. The donkey is not like a Rolls Royce or even a Cadillac. No, it is more like an old Hyundai –a modest mode of transport. But that did not deter the crowds; they saw their king. In Jesus they saw the One Who could lead them to the deliverance of which the Passover spoke. Like Moses to Israel, they thought Jesus would rescue them from Rome, give them Rome’s gold and establish them as a glorious nation. You see, when Jesus rode in, they thought more of themselves than of God and God’s will. And we do the same when we want God’s blessings more than we want God’s will. But Jesus came to serve. And this is what we need. We don’t need more money, more earthly freedoms or land, but we need to be cleansed of our sin. Only Christ can give this cleansing, and He did. Jesus came as a servant and brought salvation by letting Himself be nailed to the cross where He would die a humiliating death. Phil 2:8 says, “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  Rejoice and praise God! Christ, who died on the cross, is our greatest treasure! Go to church today and serve and worship your God Who provided a way of reconciliation. Rejoice as you believe the good news! Christ came and lay down His life for you. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to help us show our love and thankfulness. Pray for God to help you be humble and faithful in times of trials, and to be quick to serve, considering others more highly than ourselves.  Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 4 – A new supper, the Lord’s Supper

Luke 22:19b–20 “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”  Scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 Jesus gives Himself. My body, given for you. Isaiah 53 says, “He was crushed for our iniquities.” His body is given over to death in our place. Think of what this means. A substitute goes in the place of another. Sometimes, someone will find a friend to take a shift for them at work. But Jesus came to suffer the punishment for sin and die in substitution for all who will believe in Him. Jesus is talking to the disciples. They don’t know it, but it is like Jesus will jump on a grenade so he can die instead of them. But what Jesus was bringing had eternal consequences.  So Jesus gives this bread and message to His disciples. Will they understand? Will they believe? Their response and our response must be, “Yes, this is what I need! He must be crushed for my iniquities.” Jesus told the disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me.” And that is what we do as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. The sacrifice has been made. Christ’s death was the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins. And so we partake of the supper in remembrance and faith. This meal must teach us to see anew what Christ has done. Believe and be strengthened in your faith! Know deep in your hearts that this is real. Jesus Christ has given His body and blood for those who believe. Suggestions for prayer What is the role of Lord’s Supper in your life? Pray that you will look forward to partaking, and that Jesus will strengthen and assure your faith when you do partake. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...