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Daily devotional

December 3 – Joseph’s obedience

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife. – Matthew 1:24 Scripture reading: Matthew 1:18-25 In our modern celebration of Christmas, Joseph seems to have disappeared. He is in the Gospel story and in many manger scenes, but his place in the blessed event seems overlooked or forgotten. Why? Satan has filled our modern world with the sin of rebellion. When we read the Christmas story, Joseph appears as a man of obedience, the opposite of rebellion. The Lord called Joseph to his part and Joseph obeyed. It seemed that all the forces of the world conspired against Joseph to impel him to disobey the bidding of the Lord's angel. Why should he give up his legal right to divorce Mary? Why should he go through all the emotional turmoil of dealing with this unexpected turn of events? Yet, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. He took Mary home and protected her. He established a family and home into which the Son of God was welcomed. Such an example of wholehearted obedience is not popular in our sinful, rebellious age. Through His Word in Matthew 1, the Lord is calling us to respond as people of faith, who hear the Gospel message and respond with faith, but also with obedience. How do you plan on celebrating Christmas? God calls each of us to be a witness to our own family and to a watching world. Your obedience to the Lord, when others see you actually do what the Lord commands, is a powerful witness. May that witness shine brightly this Christmas season and always! Suggestions for prayer Pray for inner spiritual strength for yourself and your loved ones that your witness will be strong and bright this Christmastide through practical acts of obedience to the Lord's will. Rev. Gregg V. Martin has pastored a total of five congregations in three Canadian provinces since he was ordained in 1977, and also served for more than seven years in Latin America as a missionary. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

December 2 – Preparing the way

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways. – Luke 1:76 Scripture reading: Luke 1:67-80 Big events require preparation and Christmas is no exception. The first Christmas was no afterthought of God. He had His divine preparations. As part of that, God sent the Archangel Gabriel to Zachariah, the priest. In the temple, where Zachariah was performing his priestly duties, Gabriel gave him a message. He and his wife, Elizabeth, were going to have a son, John, whose task would be to prepare the hearts of the people to receive the Messiah. John's message was a call to repentance. The heart that is prepared for Jesus is a repentant heart. None other will do. John's message was gracious, true to his name which means “the Lord is gracious.” He was preparing the people to receive God's gracious gift, His Son, Who would earn forgiveness for His people through His death and establish forgiveness in the power of His resurrection. John did his work. He preached about sin, repentance and forgiveness. The way was prepared for Jesus by His cousin, John the Baptist. Today we are called to prepare a way for the Lord. How? We must be prepared to show those around us, by word and deed, that Christmas is a remembrance of God's great gift of His Son. God also calls us to prepare personally by receiving into our hearts, by faith, the Lord Jesus Christ. Only a person who truly trusts by faith that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour is really prepared to rejoice in the glad celebration of Christmas. May you, by grace through faith, be well prepared. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you and those around you will prepare for your Christmas celebrations with a focus on our need to repent and on the power of Christ Jesus to forgive. Rev. Gregg V. Martin has pastored a total of five congregations in three Canadian provinces since he was ordained in 1977, and also served for more than seven years in Latin America as a missionary. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introduction to December’s devotionals

As one might expect, the focus of our attention in this month of December is the incarnation of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. There is no end to the blessing of reflecting upon the great gift of God the Father, namely, His beloved Son, Whom He gave to us for our salvation. Most of us live in places where, sadly, those around us celebrate a merely secular Christmas. We must confess that all too often we can get caught up in the hectic, almost frantic, pace of such celebrations, which are the sole object of attention for our neighbours, co-workers and friends. How important it is, then, to make sure that on a daily basis our attention is fixed on the true meaning of Christmas, the holy birth of Jesus, our Saviour. It is my hope and intention that by delving into the Scriptures day by day throughout this month of December, we can lift up our hearts heavenward and nourish our souls by reflecting upon the true meaning of Christmas. May this daily devotional, together with personal prayer and public worship, help us to praise and thank God for sending us His Son. Have a blessed Christmas! Rejecting Christmas He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. – John 1:11 Scripture reading: John 1:1-18 The Christmas rush is already in full swing. All around us, people are frantically busy purchasing presents, planning parties and decorating their homes as they prepare to celebrate a secular Christmas. Santa, not Jesus, is the main character for them. Parties, not worship, are their priority. As Christians, we view this with sadness and we might quickly say that such folks are rejecting the true meaning of Christmas. Our Scripture reading speaks of a rejecting of Christmas, but not by the secular multitudes. Our text says, "He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him." As we begin our month of devotions, I urge you to reflect on this. Remember that at the first coming of our Lord, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes and the leadership of God's Old Testament people rejected the Saviour with devastating consequences. The shepherds and the wise men rejoiced in Jesus' birth, but the vast majority of people did not, even though they claimed to be awaiting the Messiah. We, many of us, know the promises of God. We share in the life of the church. What a shame it would be if we rejected the very truth of Christmas by failing to crown the Prince of Peace as Lord of our lives. It can happen. Years ago, at the actual event, Jesus came, and His own people did not receive Him. Today, let us receive Him by faith as He truly is, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Lord and Saviour! Rejoice, for the Messiah has come! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Holy Spirit will work in your heart and the hearts of those around you and that as the Christmas season begins, your focus of attention will be on the gift of God, Jesus, Whom you are to receive humbly by grace through faith. Rev. Gregg V. Martin has pastored a total of five congregations in three Canadian provinces since he was ordained in 1977, and also served for more than seven years in Latin America as a missionary. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 30 – A story that demands a response

He who has ears, let him hear. – Matthew 13:9 Scripture reading: Luke 15:1-3,11-32 Earlier, we noted that Jesus told parables to surface the heart condition of listeners and demand a response. His stories got under people’s skin. They hit close to home… and hearts. How has the Master Storyteller spoken to your heart this month? Has anything gotten under your skin? Has any part of the story hit close to home or your heart? How have you identified with Little Brother or Big Brother? How is Jesus calling you to respond? Maybe you need to confess your sin. Maybe you need to confess that you’re in a pigpen, far from home. Maybe you need to confess that you want your Father’s stuff, not Him. Maybe you need to confess that you do not share His heart for the lost. Maybe you need to confess that you’re so locked in your self-righteousness, resentment, pride and insecurity that you are unable to join the party. Pray, “Father, forgive me.” Believe the gospel. Believe that your True Big Brother took your place to die the death you deserve. He removed your guilt before the Father. Believe that your True Big Brother took your place as the perfect Son, to live the life you should have lived. Your Father credits Christ’s righteous record to you. He receives you as His precious child. Finally, Jesus calls us to share His heart for the lost. He calls us to go out with Him into the messy places of this world, to seek the lost and lead them home. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the ways He has spoken to your heart in Luke 15. Ask Him for grace to respond to what He has said. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 29 – The one who pursues

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14 Scripture reading: John 1:14; Philippians 2:5-11 Our Father has a long history of pursuing His rebellious children. In Genesis 3, our first parents defied our Father and declared independence from Him. They did so by eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:1-7). They left their perfect home, plunging themselves and all humanity into the pigpen of our sinful, broken world. Our Father could have left them in their sin and misery, trembling in the bushes. He could have said, “You put yourself in the pigpen. Now you can marinate in the manure.” But He didn’t. Instead, “the LORD God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” (Genesis 3:9). He sought them out to save them. He called them out of the bushes into His presence to deal with their sin and to restore them to their place and purpose in His family. This began a long history of relentless pursuit. From Genesis to Revelation, we see our Father at work, pursuing lost people to restore them to life in fellowship with Him. In Christ, we see just how far He was willing to go to bring us home. Christ Jesus “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8). Today, your Father calls you to encounter Him in covenant worship. Remember what that privilege cost Him. Then rejoice in His presence! Suggestions for prayer Thank Jesus for the price He paid to redeem you. Pray that you and all worshipers might encounter Him in His glory and grace in worship today. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 28 – Our true big brother

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God... – John 1:12 Scripture reading: John 1:10-13 Yesterday, we discovered who was missing from the third story in the trilogy. We were missing the One Who would leave home to seek out Little Brother, find him in his pigpen, and bring him home. We discovered that this missing Someone is the Storyteller Himself, our True Big Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the shepherd our Father sent to pursue lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7). He is the woman our Father sent to seek lost coins (Luke 15:8-10). Our Father sent Him to seek us and save us. Our True Big Brother left home and joined us in our pigpen. He entered it to rescue us from it and return us home to our Father. He pursued us all the way to death on a cross to rescue us and bring us home. “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Have you received Jesus as your True Big Brother Who bled and died to wash away your sin and guilt? Have you believed in Him as the One Who reconciles us with our Father and restores us to our place and purpose in His family? Little brothers and big brothers need Jesus! Cry out to Him to forgive you, rescue you, and restore you. “See, what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are…” (1 John 3:1a). Suggestions for prayer Thank God for sending our True Big Brother to pursue us, rescue us and bring us home. Pray for someone who still needs to be rescued. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 27 – Missing

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? – Luke 15:4 Scripture reading: Luke 15:1-10 Have you ever lost a tooth? Your tongue keeps going to the empty space in your mouth. You sense something is missing, even when you are not thinking about it. Jesus intends for us to feel that way about the parable we just studied. We are supposed to sense that someone is missing. We find out who is missing when we compare the third parable with the first two. In the first parable, a sheep wanders away. The shepherd goes out to find it (Luke 15:3-7). In the second parable, a precious coin rolls away. Its owner turns the house upside down to find it (Luke 15:8-10). Now it dawns on us who is missing in the third parable. When Little Brother wanders away and gets lost, no one pursues him. No one heads out to bring him home. That was Big Brother’s job. But, as we discovered in the story, Big Brother did not share his father’s heart for Little Brother. He did not go out to find him and bring him home. Instead, the father had to seek out Big Brother as well as Little Brother! (Luke 15:28b). The Pharisees and scribes were the big brothers to whom Jesus told these stories. They were to seek out tax collectors and sinners and lead them home into covenant fellowship with God. Instead, they needed their Father to seek them out! Thank God there is another Brother Who seeks and saves the lost. He is the one telling the stories. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for pursuing you to redeem you from sin and death. Ask God to fill you with the love, conviction and courage that will send you out to pursue a lost person in your life. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 26 – The (He)art of celebration

“It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” – Luke 15:32 Scripture reading: Luke 15:32; Psalm 107:1-9 Today is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. It is a day to celebrate our Father’s lavish gifts to us in creation and redemption. In Luke 15, each parable ends with a celebration of redemption. Let’s think about the heart and the art of celebration. Let’s use the story-line of redemption – guilt, grace, gratitude – to fuel celebration. Imagine Little Brother at the party. Humble awe overwhelms him as he considers past guilt. He does not deserve such lavish love and celebration! He had turned his back on his father. He had said, “I want your stuff, not you.” He had squandered one-third of the estate. At Christian celebrations, big brothers and little brothers remember together that they are unworthy of their place at the Father’s table. Memories of past guilt intensify Little Brother’s marvel at his father’s grace. His father had not only received him back as his son, he had done so with lavish joy and generosity. Against the dark backdrop of our guilt, our Father’s amazing grace for us in Christ shines still more. At Christian celebrations, big brothers and little brothers bask in God’s grace together. The wonder of such grace in the face of such guilt floods Little Brother with gratitude. When wonder fills you for all God has done for you in Christ, it overflows in thanksgiving and praise. Big brothers and little brothers declare, “Let me tell you what the Lord has done for me!” Their lives, also, become offerings of gratitude (Romans 12:1-2). Suggestions for prayer Acknowledge out loud what the Lord has done for you. Ask Him to fill your heart with gratitude today. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 25 – A cliff-hanger

“It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” – Luke 15:32 Scripture reading: Luke 15:31-32; Jonah 4:1-11 The father has said to Big Brother, “My son, I love you and want you at the party. I don’t want you to miss out on this celebration of amazing grace. The lavish grace I’ve poured out on Little Brother is for you too. Will you receive it?” “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad,” his father says, “for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:32). Does your heart rejoice at the miracle of amazing grace?  Do you love to see the spiritually dead come to life? Does it thrill you when the lost are found? Does it, even when it means sharing a pew with people who don’t know how to behave in church? Does it, even when it makes church life complicated and messy? This story is a cliff-hanger. It ends with Little Brother inside and Big Brother outside. It ends with one who had turned from God and the church, now filled with the joy of the Lord in worship. It ends with the established church member far from his Father, trapped in self-righteousness, resentment, pride and insecurity. The story ends with Big Brother at a fork in the road. It ends with Jesus’ listeners at the same fork in the road. Like the prophet Jonah, they must decide, “Will we join the party? Will we embrace the purpose for which our Father redeemed us – partnership in His mission to rescue the lost?” Will you? Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His amazing grace. Ask Him to help you join the party and embrace your purpose in His family. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 24 – The Gospel for big brother(s)

And he said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” – Luke 15:31 Scripture reading: Luke 15:31-32; Ephesians 1:3-14 The father’s answer reveals His heart for Big Brother too. “Son, you are always with me and all that is mine is yours (Luke 15:31). First, he calls him “Son” even though Big Brother rudely refused to call Him “Father”. This points us right back to the gospel of Christ that big brothers need to internalize. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Big brothers tend to believe and behave like servants rather than sons in the family of God. Whatever their official doctrine, they aim to earn God’s approval and blessings. This leads to pride, insecurity and resentment in our relationship with God and others. We need to remember that, through faith in Christ, we are God’s children! In Christ, our Father not only offers us a covenant relationship. He also lavishes on us His covenant resources. “All that is mine is yours,” our Father says (Luke 15:31b). Big Brother had groused, “These many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends” (Luke 15:29b). But that young goat, and everything else on the estate, was already his, by grace! Augustus M. Toplady summarized it well in How Vast the Benefits Divine. “How vast the benefits divine which we in Christ possess! We are redeemed from sin and shame and called to holiness.” Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the “benefits divine which we in Christ possess.” Ask Him to reassure you of your identity as His child. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 23 – Big brother today

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

Daily devotional

November 22 – I want your stuff, not you

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

Daily devotional

November 21 – The Father’s heart

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

Daily devotional

November 20 – The heart revealed (Part 2)

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

Daily devotional

November 19 – The heart revealed (Part 1)

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

Daily devotional

November 18 – Introducing big brother

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

Daily devotional

November 17 – Party time!

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

Daily devotional

November 16 – Restoration

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

Daily devotional

November 15 – Humility

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

Daily devotional

November 14 – The Father’s heart

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

Daily devotional

November 13 – But…

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

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