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Daily devotional

November 8 – Reckless, restless living

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

Daily devotional

November 7 – Into a far country

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

Daily devotional

November 6 – The Father’s response

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

Daily devotional

November 5 – I want your stuff, not you

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

Daily devotional

November 4 – Storytime with Jesus

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

Daily devotional

November 3 – “Godly” grumblers

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

Daily devotional

November 2 – Drawn to Jesus

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

Daily devotional

Introducing November’s prodigal devotions

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

Daily devotional

October 31 – Faith without works is dead

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

Daily devotional

October 30 – Loving the brother

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

Daily devotional

October 29 – Following Jesus brings joy

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

Daily devotional

October 28 – Keeping Christ's commands

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

Daily devotional

October 27 – Motivation for pure living

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

Daily devotional

October 26 – It takes disciples to make disciples

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

Daily devotional

October 25 – The Church's role in making disciples

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

Daily devotional

October 24 – Making disciples starts at home

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

Daily devotional

October 23 – The basis for living as disciples

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

Daily devotional

October 22 – Jesus' love of his people

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

Daily devotional

October 21 – The Father's love of the son

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

Daily devotional

October 20 – Remaining in Christ's love

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

Daily devotional

October 19 – Renewing our minds

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

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