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Daily devotional

August 10 – Unending provision

For thus says the LORD God of Israel: The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth. – 1 Kings 17:14 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 17:1-16 The land flowing with milk and honey now turns into a dry wilderness. There is a famine. Worse yet, there is a famine of the Word of God. The LORD sent His prophet Elijah to the northern kingdom, Israel. She had rejected the Word of the LORD. The people of Israel were worshipping other gods, like Baal, the sky god, to provide the clouds, the rains and the crops. They expected a strong economy while rejecting the God of heaven and earth! During this famine, the LORD blesses Elijah by sending him to the Brook Cherith. There He marvelously provides for him through ravens which brought him meat and bread. When the brook runs dry, the LORD sends His prophet to a Gentile widow in Zarephath, Sidon, even though there were many widows in Israel at that time (Luke 4:25). God’s Word finds a place where it is welcomed, outside of Israel. This simple widow had no more bread, just a little remaining flour and oil. She was preparing the last meal for her son and herself. Yet, wherever the Word goes and is received, you see life, blessing and a table! God chose to bless the home of this foreign widow. The bin of flour was not used up. The jar of oil did not run dry until the day the LORD sent the rains on the earth. In our land of many gods, will we find our shelter under God’s Word and seek our endless provision in Christ? Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s mercy on His church as we see the famine of the Word in our nation. Pray that His church may seek the true bread, find the blessing of endless life in Christ and be a blessing to the nations! Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 9 – A land flowing with milk and honey

You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey. I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples. – Leviticus 20:24 Scripture reading: Leviticus 20:22-26 There are many references in the Old Testament to the land “flowing with milk and honey.” This is an agricultural metaphor picturing the abundant fertility and richness of the land of Canaan. This was the Promised Land, the inheritance, which God promised His people. God saves His people not only from something, but also to something. When He rescued His people from the life of slavery in Egypt, He did not leave them in the wilderness. He brought His people into the land flowing with milk and honey. It is a picture of Eden. It also points to the reality of the new creation to come. They had a taste of it in the wilderness. The manna tasted “like wafers made with honey” (Exodus 16:31). In Jesus our Saviour, Who died and rose again from the dead, you also have a taste of it! If you trust in Christ, He has saved you from your old life and brought you into the promise of a new creation! This shapes how we live out our faith today. How so? Your life of faith is no longer to be shaped by the world and its futile ways. It is now shaped by the glorious promise of the new creation to come. You no longer belong to the nations. You belong to God. “I am the LORD your God.” How are His promises (“You shall inherit . . . I will give”) encouraging you in your journey of faith toward the promised land? Suggestions for prayer In light of many temptations and distractions, ask God to help us to keep our focus on the inheritance to come. May we faithfully serve Christ all our days. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 8 – A feast in God’s presence

But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank. – Exodus 24:11 Scripture reading: Exodus 24:1-11 It is the third month since God delivered His people from slavery in Egypt. His people are at Mount Sinai in the wilderness. A special event takes place on this mountain: a wedding. The holy God, in His love and grace, weds His sinful people formally, entering into an intimate relationship with them. The wedding service continues from Exodus 19-24. The LORD reminds His people of what He has done for her (Exodus 20:1-2). He gave Himself for her. He calls His people to give herself to Him by faith, expressed in love and obedience (Exodus 20-23). How does she respond? “I do! All the words which the LORD has said we will do!” (24:3). But a blood sacrifice is essential for God to wed His sinful people. The blood of Jesus is pictured in the sacrifice of the oxen. Moses sprinkles half the blood on the altar; the other half he sprinkles on God’s sinful people. Without blood, this marriage cannot take place. The wedding ceremony ends with a feast in God’s presence. Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy elders see God, not His face lest they die, but His feet. They see Him, the Holy One, exalted on His throne. Yet God’s forgiven people eat and drink in fellowship with Him! Do you have peace with God through Christ, Who shed His blood for sinners? God justifies sinners by faith in Christ. In His fellowship with us this Lord’s Day, may we, by faith, anticipate the marriage feast to come. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that we may feast in His presence, Sunday by Sunday. May God keep us from growing cold in our relationship with Him. May we always prize it. As you prepare yourself for corporate worship, sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 7 – Grace for grumblers

For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. – John 6:33 Scripture reading: Exodus 16:1-12 One month earlier, God’s people departed from Egypt. God graciously delivered them and was leading them to the land flowing with milk and honey. In the meantime, they are in the wilderness. There is a crisis, a food crisis. How are they going to get food? They begin to cherish their old life in Egypt. There they sat by pots of meat and ate bread to the full! They impugn God for bringing them out into the wilderness, killing them with hunger. This is more than a food crisis. It is a faith crisis. God is testing them and their relationship with Him. May they come to know Him, His love and grace, as they learn to depend on Him. God answers their charges by graciously providing, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you.” The Lord wants them to grow by depending on Him and by learning the discipline of trust. He emphasizes this through His gracious and miraculous provision of bread. He provides each day. Do not worry about tomorrow. Rest one day in seven. The Lord will provide. Trust Him. He brings you into a new pattern of life! God’s provision of bread in the wilderness points to His greater provision, Jesus, the true Bread from heaven! He gave His life as a sacrifice on the cross, even for grumblers. He gives life to all who trust in Him. That’s grace! Forsake your old life of grumbling. Depend on Him. He will graciously provide for all your needs. Suggestions for prayer Do you struggle with grumbling? Take it to the Lord in prayer. Ask the Lord to help you grow by depending more on Him and to grow in your discipline of trust, resting in Christ. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 6 – The feast of the Passover lamb

For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. – 1 Corinthians 5:7b Scripture reading: Exodus 12:1-13; Matthew 26:26-30 In Exodus 12, the supper follows the sacrifice; fellowship comes through the forgiveness of sins. God’s people were instructed to select a lamb without blemish, a one-year-old male. After slaughtering the lamb, they were to take some of its blood and smear it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where they ate it. God, as it were, was the Host offering His fellowship and food. Five times we read “eat” to describe eating the lamb in verses 8-11. So why did God instruct them to do this? God was going to pass through Egypt that night and bring His wrath on the land of Egypt. God’s people are equally deserving of His wrath due to their sin. Yet the LORD says, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” Notice, He does not say, “When I see you…” No, “when I see the blood…” In the shedding of the blood of the lamb, we see God’s provision of forgiveness of sin through the greater Lamb to come! Years later, at the last Passover meal, Christ stood before His disciples as the Passover Lamb. Through His perfect sacrifice on the cross, God secures forgiveness for all who trust in Jesus. Have you run to Christ for covering from God’s wrath? Don’t delay! God secures forgiveness and fellowship through Jesus, our Sacrifice. This fellowship, we see in a meal Christ instituted namely, bread and wine, as signs and seals of His fellowship with us. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks to God for the sacrifice of His Son Who became the Lamb for sinners. Ask Him to grow in your assurance that He passes over us, not because He sees us, but because He sees the blood of Christ covering us. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 5 – Entertaining angels

Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. – Hebrews 13:1-2 Scripture reading: Genesis 18:1-8; Hebrews 13:1-2 What a glorious scene! In His grace and because of His promise in Christ, the LORD comes to visit Abraham. Abraham is sitting at the door of his tent. He looks up and sees three men standing in front of him. They are not ordinary people, but angels appearing in human form.  One of the three is the Son of God, appearing in His pre-incarnate human form (18:30; 19:1). Abraham meets the three men, bends low to the ground and offers them food and rest. How did Abraham have the courage to ask the Son of God, the Holy One, to come into his tent, into the presence of a sinful man? The LORD sits down with the two angels. Abraham tells Sarah to bake some cakes and tells his servants to prepare the best calf for the meal. He sets the calf before them with butter and milk. They are eating at Abraham’s table in intimacy and fellowship! The Son of God, Who visits Abraham later, became flesh and dwelt among us, eating and drinking with sinners. Jesus, the promised Son of Abraham, gave Himself as the perfect sacrifice for sinners. Through faith in Jesus, the holy God reconciles sinners to Himself, so that we may enjoy intimate fellowship with Him again. God comes to us in Christ, calling us to exercise our faith through love. In Hebrews, God reminds us to show the love of Jesus practically. Don’t forget to entertain strangers. Welcome them in the name of Jesus. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God may use us to entertain strangers in the name of Jesus and that they may be drawn to Christ and His love through table fellowship. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 4 – Receiving your food with thanks

...for every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving. – 1 Timothy 4:4 Scripture reading: Genesis 9:1-7; 1 Timothy 4:1-5 After destroying the world with a flood, God begins again with Noah and his descendants. As with the first Adam, God renews His mandate to Noah. He calls him to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” But God now provides an expanded menu. God provides not only green herbs and fruit (Genesis 1:29), but also meat for food. God gives explicit permission for eating meat. “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you... Even as the green herbs” (Genesis 9:3). The apostle Paul warns Timothy of those who depart from the faith, speaking lies, “commanding people to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (v.3). What God has made, we may eat, including meat. Nothing is to be refused. But there is one condition: that we receive the food God provides with thanksgiving. It is set apart “by the Word of God and prayer.” Practically, we may show this by setting apart our meals to God through prayer and reading the Bible. As one writer says, “Every meal is a dialogue with heaven.” There is the saying, “Christ is the head of the home, the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener to every conversation.” May our meal practices reflect a life of thanks for God’s abundant grace in Jesus for all who trust in Him for salvation from sin. He sets us free from manmade rules to enjoy what He provides. Suggestions for prayer In light of our busy lives and distractions, let us ask God for His grace to take the time to enjoy the food He provides, giving thanks and enjoying table fellowship. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 3 – Jesus’ obedient non-eating

But He answered and said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” – Matthew 4:4 Scripture reading: Matthew 4:1-11 Adam, in his rebellion, ate of the forbidden fruit through the instigation of the devil. In Matthew 4, we meet the Christ, the second Adam, the promised Saviour, not in the garden, but in the wilderness. He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. The wilderness is everything opposite of what the garden was. It is barren. The wilderness is not a picture of life and communion with God. Our Saviour, God’s Son, was sent into the wilderness on our behalf. He fasted forty days and forty nights. He was hungry. The tempter offered Him bread, saying “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” As the second Adam, Jesus’ obedience to the Father is tested on behalf of Adam’s race. Will He, like the first Adam, give in to Satan’s temptation? We need a second Adam who will undo the disobedient eating of the first Adam. He must not eat. He must also be willing to take the punishment on the cross for the rebellion of the first Adam. Christ answers with God’s Word! “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Through His death and resurrection, Christ obtained the victory for all who believe in Him. A feast follows. He sets a table with bread and wine. You have Christ and His Word, to overcome temptations. He gives you His food to strengthen you in your battles. Suggestions for prayer What temptations are you currently facing? Bring these before God. Pray that, by His Spirit, He will give you strength to resist and overcome, trusting His promises. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

August 2 – A disobedient eating

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” – Genesis 2:16-17 Scripture reading: Genesis 2:8-17; 3:1-6, 15-19 The generosity of God and His promise of life precedes His commandment. Our hearts are warmly rekindled, reading of the generosity of our gracious Host. Man was free to eat of every tree of the garden. Genesis 2 exudes God’s overflowing, self-giving love and fellowship with man in the garden. But the LORD God also tested man’s love and obedience to Him. He commanded man not to eat from the forbidden tree, “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Sadly, in Adam, we chose to disobey, willfully choosing to believe the lie of Satan. Satan made it sound like God was very stingy, placing an unreasonable demand on man, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’” Eve makes God’s word more severe by adding her words, “...Nor shall you touch it…” Satan then blatantly contradicts God’s Word, saying, “You will not surely die.” Then “the woman saw... Took... Ate... Gave... And he ate” (v. 6). God keeps His Word, “For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Pain, alienation and death mark our world. But the light of God’s promise breaks out in Genesis 3:15. God graciously sets out to restore life and fellowship through His Son. He bore the death sentence for our disobedient eating so that all who believe in Him may sit at His table again! Suggestions for prayer Pray that God’s love and grace may motivate us to flee from disobeying Him and continually trust in His Son Who came, fulfilling God’s promise to crush the head of Satan. Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introduction to August: on feasting and fellowship

I recall the words of one of my professors at seminary about how the Bible speaks so much about food and feasting. I never forgot those words. Serving as missionary-pastor, largely among family-based cultures who have immigrated from the East, the rich “eastern hospitality” brings us to the theme of food and feasting for this month. God’s people have more reason than anyone in the world to feast! Table, food, fellowship and feasting is covenantal. These are practical expressions of covenant, of living in a right relationship with God and of a new life in Christ lived in the power of His Spirit. Our hospitality is an overflow of God’s hospitality toward us. In His hospitality toward us in Christ, God opens His home to us with His Word and His Table. “Singing” is uniquely Christian. But “feasting” is also uniquely Christian. Why is it that the family of Christ, more than any other, has reason to feast and celebrate? Because in Christ, God defeated death, sin and Satan. Feasting follows victory. In Christ, we live among defeated, though real enemies. We live in the sure hope of the full victory to come when Christ returns. Feasting also marks fellowship. God is reconciling a people to Himself, in Christ, and to one another into one body, a people from every nation, tongue, language and people. The Bible begins and ends with a menu. The joyful gospel note is that He prepares “a table before me in the presence of my enemies. . . “ (Psalm 23:5). The Bible begins with a menu And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.” – Genesis 1:29 Scripture reading: Genesis 1:26- 2:3 God ends the sixth day of creation by setting a table for man. The climax of the six days of creation is God’s gift of food. God creates man and He then offers him food. “See, I have given you…” A table is set for him. He provides the menu: “every herb that yields seed... And every tree whose fruit yields seed…” Creation shows that even an unfallen man was dependent on God for His provision. God is good. He is generous. But above all, in His gift of food, He, the Triune God, desires to share His love and His fellowship with man. He shows us that life and sustenance come from Him alone. God also desires to strengthen us so that we may carry out our callings to rule over the earth and subdue it for His glory. We eat so that we may serve Him for His glory. We are dependent on Him entirely for life and sustenance. This is what God wants us to see when He says, “I have given you…” Our food comes from His hand. “To you it shall be for food”. It’s His gift. God finds pleasure and delight in giving. He says, “See!” Or “Behold!” We find true satisfaction when we hunger for Him, the One Who opens His hand to satisfy our desires. On this Lord’s Day, may our worship inspire us to serve Him this coming week. Our appropriate response, each time again, is to give heartfelt thanks to Him. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we may grow in our dependence upon Him. Pray that we do not give ourselves to worry, but give ourselves to Him by trusting Him to provide for our daily needs. Sing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Rev. Tony Zekveld currently serves as missionary-pastor in the Hope Congregation in East Brampton, Ontario, sent by Covenant Christian Church (URCNA) of Wyoming, Ontario. Rev. Zekveld and his wife, Arley-Ann, have five children and, so far, eight grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 31 – The Sojourner’s lasting hope

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. – 1 Peter 5:10 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 5:10-14 Peter wraps up his letter with an encouragement of hope, not a mere wish, but a joyful promise. The God of all grace will perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. And God will get all the glory! He is the God of all grace and of every grace. Because He is our God, we know that from Him it is always grace. Through every circumstance, in every trial – all grace! Nothing but His tender and loving care, nothing but His working all things for our good and His glory. His all-sufficient grace is more than enough. Yes, you will have suffered, but only for a little while. The God of all grace has all of it under control. His is the glory and the dominion forever. The work He has begun in you, He will faithfully complete. He will establish you. He gives solid footing and promises that we shall not be moved from this confidence. Nothing will snatch us from His hands. We are weak, but He is strong. He will provide the strength we need to be the people He calls us to be. In all the dangers, toils and snares we are called to face as sojourners in exile, and over against all of our anxious cares, He promises to settle us, to ground us on His firm foundation. He will get all the glory. We are left with that great confidence. We are sojourners in exile, but we need not fear. We have living hope in the sovereign, loving God of all grace, in Christ. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for all the grace you receive from Him, in Jesus. Try to count the ways. Praise God for the hope and stability He gives you. Pray that He may equip you to live so He gets all the glory! Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 30 – Sojourners resist the Devil

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him. – 1 Peter 5:8, 9a Scripture reading: 1 Peter 5:5-9 Being humble does not mean we are to be weak, timid or unengaged in the Christian life. The next exhortations make clear that humble servants are called to action: be sober, be vigilant, resist the devil! When we humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and know that He cares for us, He picks us up and enables us to resist the devil-only then. Do not try this on your own. The devil is not a plaything. He is your enemy, the accuser. He is pleased to devour you with lies that lure you into disobedience. And, when you fall, he is pleased to paralyze you with guilt and fear, “I can’t believe you did that, God will never forgive you!” “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). It’s not a matter of the flashy spiritual warfare tactics. You resist him, says Peter, when you are steadfast in the faith and stand firm with the Word of God. When you are tempted, you resist him when you go back to the Word and say, “It is written.” You stand firm in the faith when you draw near to God, cry out with prayer and supplication, casting all your cares on Him. These challenges are experienced by your brothers and sisters all over the world. But God is faithful. He has given us one another to encourage one another. He is the God of all grace! Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Suggestions for prayer Reflect on the schemes the devil is using as your enemy. Ask God to uphold and encourage you in His grace, to help you be steadfast in the faith. Pray for those who experience the same sufferings throughout the world. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 29 – Sojourners humble themselves

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:6,7 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 5:1-7 Have you ever been told to be more humble? You probably didn’t take it well. It’s humiliating. By nature, we have difficulty with Peter’s exhortation to humble ourselves. The challenge is not just for young people who need to submit to their elders. “All of you,” Peter says, “be submissive to one another and be clothed with humility.” Humility is what Christians should be known for. We may think humility might be the last thing sojourners in exile need. They are facing hostile opposition. Don’t they need courage and boldness? Yes, but that will only be found in the way of true humility under the mighty hand of God. Being humble is not the same as being weak or timid. It is not merely the absence of pride or awareness of our limitations. Christian humility recognizes our deep need for grace, for Jesus. We know we are not self-made people. We did not redeem ourselves. God resists the proud. Whenever we are arrogant so as to think we can do it ourselves, God will oppose that. It is like God is in our way. He is the most powerful opposition ever imagined. In all your distress, in all of life, humble yourself under His mighty hand and He will exalt you in His good time. When we stop looking to our heavenly Father, we fall into worry. Cast your cares on Him! Throw them all at the Lord’s feet with serious, helpless abandon. He is sovereign and wise – you are under His mighty hand. He is loving and good – He cares for you! Suggestions for prayer Reflect on all that you have in God’s grace and humbly give thanks. Ask Him to make you humble and dependent that you may thrive in His service. Take time to throw all your cares on Him. He is mighty and He cares for you. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 28 – The sojourners’ shepherds

Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. – 1 Peter 5:2-3 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 5:1-4 Life for sojourners in exile will not always be easy. Amid trials, the easiest thing for us would be like sheep to go astray. But we have come under the care of the Chief Shepherd, Jesus. One of the ways He sees to it that we make our way through exile with hope is by the care of under-shepherds, our pastor-elders. Peter calls the elders to the work of shepherding, not giving them a title, so much as a task to care for the sheep. They are the flock of God, chosen and precious, bought and paid for with the blood of Christ. Sometimes sheep are frustrating. Our weaknesses and their wanderings can be tiresome. But these shepherd-elders must always remember they are dealing with the flock of God. Elders are to be among the flock, not domineering over them, but as fellow sheep. When they help us deal with our real struggles in the real world, they are not surprised. They can be both tough and tender at the same time because they know their own hearts. They can be both sympathetic and urgent because they know they have the same need for Jesus. By God’s grace we will be blessed with a model of humility when we see Christ-like, Christ-dependent, Christ-exalting men not in it for themselves, but for the good of God’s flock. By God’s grace they do not look for the praise of men, but the affirmation of the Chief Shepherd Himself, the crown of glory that does not fade away. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the blessing of elders in the church. Pray they may shepherd well, love us as God’s own flock, challenge us when we go astray and direct us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 27 – Sojourners are not surprised by suffering

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you. – 1 Peter 4:12 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 4:12-19 Amid the current struggles, do you ever think, “I thought being a Christian was going to be easier?” Have we been so spoiled by prosperity and comfort that we are caught completely off-guard when difficulties come our way? Peter says we should not be surprised. When we experience suffering as Christians, our inclination may be to lash out in anger, or languish in despair. Perhaps we may become bitter and begin to see the world and its leaders as the enemy. Rather than react, Peter says we should rejoice that we share in Christ’s sufferings. If we are ridiculed for Christ, we are blessed. Not cursed. Blessed. These are fiery trials, but you share in Christ’s suffering. You are not being asked to atone for your sins. Christ bore our sins in His suffering (1 Peter 2:24). He suffered to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). We suffer with Christ because we identify with Him. Therefore, we will be like Him and be willing to suffer for Him. But we are not alone in these trials. He is with us. The trials are sent by the loving Master Refiner Who knows what He is doing. As with Daniel’s three friends, Christ is with you in the furnace of affliction (Daniel 3:25). Be sure not to suffer as an evildoer. Do not be afraid to suffer as a Christian. Jesus has got this. If you suffer for doing the will of God, do not be ashamed, rest confidently in Him, He is your faithful and loving Lord. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the finished work of Jesus. If you are suffering, rejoice in the privilege that you may do so with and for Christ. Ask God to help you not to be so comfortable that you are caught off-guard by suffering. Pray that you may suffer well that God will be seen to be glorious. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 26 – Sojourner hospitality

Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. – 1 Peter 4:9 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 4:7-11 Hospitality ought to set us apart as Christians. It takes work and will put us on the stretch. That is why Peter has to urge that it be done, “without grumbling.” How discouraging it would be to be a guest at someone’s home and get the sense that they really wished they didn’t have to take time for you. They sense that, “I have more important things to do, but since you’re here anyway, here’s a sandwich.” We need to remember, as aliens and strangers, that we are living in exile. We are homeless outsiders who have found our true home in the household of God, and out of gratitude, we want others to know that blessing. The word Peter uses for hospitality here is literally “the love of the stranger.” Do not forget that by nature you too were once a stranger to God’s covenants of promise. That is why it can be said that the pattern of hospitality in our lives expresses the heart of the gospel. Putting ourselves on the stretch in love will mean we seek to find ways to open our homes to one another, but also to those who are still strangers to God’s covenants of promise. We break bread together, open the Word together, pray together and have fun together. We are showing what grace-based, Christ-centered fellowship is. We have received much from God. By the grace of God, when everyone seeks to use what they have been given to minister to others the blessing is rich, and God gets all the glory. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that you have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Pray for a spirit of rich gratitude in order that you may use what you have been given for the love of others, even those who are strangers to God’s covenants of promise. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 25 – Sojourners’ love covers a multitude of sins

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 4:7-11 For the Christian, love must take priority. As he continues to encourage sojourners in their care for one another, Peter writes, “Above all things, have fervent love for one another.” When he speaks about fervency here, he is speaking about its intensity in action. Think of a horse stretching towards the finish line. What is envisioned is, love that puts us on the stretch for one another, a willingness to put ourselves out for one another. Think of the lengths to which Jesus has put Himself on the stretch when He gave Himself for us on the cross. One of the most challenging ways we are put on the stretch is in the demand that our love should cover a multitude of sins. Peter is not talking about a cover-up as such that sins are never dealt with. It is something far more glorious. Its roots are in the blessing that by God’s grace, through repentance and faith, our sins have been atoned for (covered) by the precious blood of Jesus. When we know the blessing of Jesus’ covering, then out of love, we also want others to know it. Sometimes that will put us on the stretch because some sins against us hurt very, very much. We must remind ourselves of the blessing of our own covering. A body of fervent loving sojourners is not a place for fault-finding, where people delight in uncovering pesky details of each other’s struggle with sin. Fervent love means our greatest joy is to see sin covered by the blood of Jesus. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the blessing and privilege of worship where you could be assured again of the blessing of sins covered. Pray that you may be put on the stretch in loving action toward others. Pray for God’s grace to be a cover-er of sins, pointing to Jesus. Rev. John A. Bouwers is pastor of the Hope Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brampton, ON, where he has served since December 2017. He is married to Julie and they have been blessed with six children and twelve grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 24 – Sojourners are serious about prayer

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

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

July 22 – Sojourners hope in their baptism

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

Daily devotional

July 21 – Sojourners are always ready to speak of hope

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

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