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Daily devotional

July 31 – Glimpse of home

“I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them,” says the LORD your God. – Amos 9:15 Scripture reading: Amos 9:13-15; Revelation 21:1-8 We already possess the beginning of eternal joy through the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ. The fullness of life described by Amos is one that believers have already now in part. And there is more to come! The notes of God’s judgment have dominated Amos’s preaching, but the Spirit ends by giving us a glimpse of the new heavens and new earth. C.S. Lewis helps to focus us: “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea” (C.S. Lewis, Weight of Glory). Sin offers empty pleasures. Idols are unforgiving tyrants. Trusting in self is a dead-end. Every human being is made in the image of God, designed to know Him, to love Him, and to live with Him in eternal happiness. Sin has ruined that and subjected this world to futility and judgment. The tragedy of rebellion against God is that the rebel rejects the King who gave His life for the world so that sinners can come home. Home. When your soul aches for permanence in a world of change and your heart longs for holiness in a world stained with sin, rest in the finished work of Christ and set your heart on home. Grace will lead you there. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the hope of heaven to deepen your life already now and to draw you forward in persevering faith. Amen! Even so, come, Lord Jesus! Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 30 – Abundant life

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.” – Amos 9:13 Scripture reading: Amos 9:13-15; Ephesians 1:3-14 The final words of Amos’s ministry set forth a glorious picture of the blessings of Christ’s rule and government. Drawing from farming imagery, Amos gives us a glimpse of a better day. The seed-planter overtaking the harvester, the hills flowing with wine – these are descriptions of abundance. The return of captives means true liberty. Living in the cities they build and drinking wine from the vineyards they plant points to the end of futility. No longer being pulled up from the land refers to permanence. This is a glimpse of life with God, the life that was ruined by sin in the Garden, and the life for which we long: abundance, liberty, permanence. Are these blessings spiritual or physical? The answer is “Yes!” The kingdom of God embraces all of creation. Rather than distinguish between spiritual and physical, we can distinguish between the blessings of this present age and the blessings of the age to come. In Christ, we have abundant life. He is the living water and the bread of life. He satisfies our thirsty and hungry souls. In Christ, we already possess the liberty of being adopted children of God. We are no longer slaves to the dominion of sin. In Christ, we have a living hope in the midst of the futility of death. His resurrection is the guarantee that our labor is not in vain. In Christ, we have security in life and death. Our heavenly inheritance is reserved for us who are kept by the power of God. Seek Him and you will truly live! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the Spirit to show you the riches that is yours in Christ Jesus. Pray for the Spirit to feed your soul with Living Water and the Bread of Life. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 29 – God’s outreach

“That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,” says the LORD who does this thing. – Amos 9:12 Scripture reading: Amos 9:11-12; Acts 15:6-21 Amos prophecies that the kingdom of David will be restored so “that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name.” Beyond the dark days of Israel’s apostasy and Judah’s fall, a light shone in the darkness – the Light of the world. He rules His kingdom from the heavenly Jerusalem and has commissioned His church to be His witness in Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. The boundaries of the kingdom of David’s Son stretch across the whole world and embrace people from all nations. Do you see how the end of Amos brings us back to the beginning? Edom was one of those unbelieving nations against whom Amos prophesied judgment. And yet even for them, hope remains along with all the other Gentile nations. The history of God’s covenant people Israel is one of stiff-necked rebellion. In spite of their faithlessness, God remained faithful to His promise to Abraham to bring blessing to all the nations of the earth. Our God is truly a missionary God. The apostles in Acts 15 saw clearly that Amos 9:12 was being fulfilled in their midst as the Gentiles began to receive the Holy Spirit. We also are living in “that day” prophesied by Amos as the gospel continues to conquer sinners from all nations. As disciples of Christ, we ourselves are living testimonies to Amos 9:12. We are raised with Christ from the ruins. “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev.7:10). Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for God’s missionary heart, for seeking you out in love, and for giving you the salvation that is His alone to give. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 28 – Raise up the ruins

On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old. – Amos 9:11 Scripture reading: Amos 9:11-12; John 4:19-26 God’s focus shifts to the southern kingdom of Judah. After Israel was destroyed, Judah alone was left. Then in 586 BC, Judah also was brought to ruin. But unlike the tribes of Israel, Judah was restored to the Promised Land beginning in 536 BC. Jerusalem and the temple were rebuilt and the law restored. Faithful leaders like Ezra and Nehemiah led the Jews in repentance. Thus, God preserved Judah for the coming of Christ. Ultimately, David’s “tabernacle” or royal house was raised up in Jesus Christ. The Lord God gave Him the throne of His father David (Lk.1:32). He is the true and eternal King (Phil.2:9-11). He is the true Temple (John 2:19-22). He did what no other king could or would do: He was held responsible for our sin! He was laid low in the ruins of death in payment for our sin and He was raised up from the ruins for our restoration. The Samaritan woman to whom Jesus offered living water was a descendant of the mixed race and mixed religion that populated northern Israel after its demise. Salvation came to a Samaritan woman that day! Jesus told her that a day was coming and has now come that true worshipers would not come to Mt. Gerizim or to Mt. Jerusalem to worship the Lord. True worshipers worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. The King is risen! We enter the kingdom of God not by going to Jerusalem but by believing in Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer Bless the Lord Jesus for His exalted Lordship over all. Thank Him for stooping to the manger and the cross. Pray for the increase and consummation of His kingdom. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 27 – A remnant spared

“Yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,” says the LORD. – Amos 9:8b Scripture reading: Amos 9:8-10 As the curtain closes on Amos’s prophecy to Israel, there is a shaft of light in the darkness: there will be a remnant from Israel that will be saved. God will destroy the sinful kingdom from the face of the earth, but He will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob. By using the name of Israel’s covenant ancestor, Jacob, God is directing our attention to His promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God will destroy the kingdom of Israel in keeping with His covenant curses; He will be faithful also in keeping His covenant promise by preserving a remnant from the 10 northern tribes. Consider two examples of how this is witnessed in redemptive history. The first example happened in 715 BC, just a few years after the kingdom of Israel was removed by Assyria. King Hezekiah restored the Passover and sent runners to the remaining people of the land of Israel with an invitation to worship with them. Many mocked the invitation, but some from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came (2 Chron.30:11). The second example is the prophetess Anna, from the tribe of Asher, who welcomed the Lord Jesus with great joy when He was brought to the temple as an infant (Lk.2:36-38). With the Lord, “not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground” (vs.9). Even in the midst of catastrophic destruction, not one of Jesus’ sheep shall be snatched from His hand. And you are His sheep if you hear His voice and follow Him (Jn.10:27-28). Suggestions for prayer Bless God for His unfailing mercy and steadfast love. Pray for ears to hear His voice and a renewed will to follow. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 26 – Bring down the house

I saw the Lord standing by the altar, and He said, “Strike the doorposts, that the thresholds shake, and break them on the heads of them all.” – Amos 9:1 Scripture reading: Amos 9:1-7 The house of Israel – filled with false worship and injustice – will be brought down. They will take refuge by the altar, but those idols in which we have sought comfort and meaning will offer no protection from the wrath of God. He is the LORD God of hosts, who created and rules all things (vs.5-6). When God is against you, where will you turn for help? Will Israel turn to her covenant membership? Will she point to God’s covenant at Sinai for protection? Israel has turned away from God and will now reap the covenant curses as a covenant-breaking nation. The covenant of grace is not an automatic guarantee of immunity to judgment. It is a personal relationship with the almighty God that includes promises and demands. Israel has filled up the covenant land with sin. She will receive no special treatment from the impartial Judge (vs.7). The awesome majesty of God cuts two ways: For those who are living apart from Him, trusting in created things, the majesty of God is and will be truly terrifying. But, for those who serve the Lord in reliance on His grace, His majesty is a tremendous comfort. “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom.8:38-39). Suggestions for prayer Pray for the fear of God, for the trembling joy that comes from beholding the holiness and love of God. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 25 – Spiritual famine

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord GOD, “that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.” – Amos 8:11 Scripture reading: Amos 8:11-14 What if you went to the grocery store to restock your empty fridge and there was nothing there? It’s hard for us to imagine! Well, far worse than a natural famine is a spiritual famine of hearing the words of the LORD. If an individual or nation responds with indifference and ingratitude to the Word of God, there comes a point when He removes the Word from them. Are you allowing worldly pleasures to choke your love for Jesus? Are you quenching the work of grace in your heart by withdrawing from communion with the Lord? Let this warning from Amos move you in godly fear to repair your walk with God. What a tragic picture this is! The children of God running to and fro, from sea to sea, north to east seeking the word of the Lord but not finding it. But didn’t God promise that those who seek Him will find Him? Yes, and that promise remains true. The problem is that the Israelites will run everywhere trying to find the word of God except in the place where God promised to speak to them: the temple in Jerusalem. It is like Esau who sought the blessing with tears but did not obtain it because he found no place for repentance (Heb.12:17). Today, you can be assured of God’s grace for you by responding in faith and repentance. Go to God. Bring your sin and guilt and faithlessness to the cross of Jesus Christ. If you seek God in Christ, you will find Him. Suggestions for prayer Confess where your heart has grown cold to the things of God. Pray that He would not remove the Word from you or your loved ones. Seek His help in committing yourself to renewed study of His Word. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 24 – The day of the Lord

“And it shall come to pass in that day,” says the Lord GOD, “that I will make the sun go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in broad daylight.” – Amos 8:9 Scripture reading: Amos 8:7-10 We might think by this point that Amos is laying the judgment on a little thick! But this is not just an idiosyncrasy of Old Testament prophets. The Lord Jesus talked about hell more than He talked about heaven. Threats and warnings are one way that our faithful God bids us to repent and live. Amos describes the coming judgment on Israel as a day of catastrophe and grief. On that day, the land will tremble (vs.8), the sun will go dark at noon (vs.9), and it will end with mourning as for an only son (vs.10). It is quite probable that these things literally took place in the years leading up to Israel’s destruction in 722 BC. At the same time, the Word of God points us to events beyond 722 BC. The Day of the LORD came upon Israel. And the Day of the LORD will come in final fulfillment upon the whole earth when Jesus comes again. That will be a day of cosmic catastrophe. The heavens and earth will pass away and all men, the living and the dead, will stand before the Lord Jesus. The wicked will be thrown into everlasting fire and the righteous into eternal life. The Day of the LORD was visited upon Jesus at the cross. The earth quaked, the sun went dark, and God turned His face away as the Son of God became a curse for us to redeem us from the curse. Will you be exposed in your pride on the Day, or will you be found sheltered in the safety of the cross? Suggestions for prayer Adore the Lord Jesus for His atoning sacrifice on the cross. Be specific. Ask the Father to shelter you under His wings of refuge. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 23 – The least of these

When will the New Moon be past, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may trade wheat? – Amos 8:5a Scripture reading: Amos 8:4-6; Matthew 25:31-46 Amos presents the charges against Israel for which she will be judged. In so doing, he returns to a familiar theme: abusing the poor and needy in the land (vs.4). Israel’s guilt is aggravated by the fact that their injustice is committed against the backdrop of worshipping the LORD. They observe the Sabbath and other special feast days; the stores are closed on Sundays and the churches are full. But they can’t wait for worship to be over so that they can get to what they really want to be doing: making money (vs.5-6). They were not explicitly thinking to themselves, “How can I lie and cheat and exploit?” Amos speaks with biting satire to get to the root: what they call “just doing business” is, in fact, trampling their brother to serve self. Our regard for our fellow human beings reveals our regard for God. “He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy” (Prov.14:31). This is why the apostle John cuts to the chase and says: if you don’t love your brother, you don’t love God. It’s that simple. Jesus teaches us in the parable of the sheep and the goats that He will judge us according to how we ministered to the needy. This is not because our good deeds earn us fellowship with God. It is because those who turn away the “least of these” have never truly had fellowship with God. What will He say to you on that day? Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to work the fruit of love in your heart – love for God and for neighbour. If you are withholding mercy from the needy or forgiveness for your brother, confess those sins and ask the Lord Jesus to give you a servant's heart. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 22 – Ripe for judgment

The end has come upon My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. – Amos 8:2b Scripture reading: Amos 8:1-3; 2 Kings 17:5-18 Amos receives a fourth and final vision of a basket of summer fruit with the explanation that the end has come, God will no longer pass by. Israel is now ripe for judgment and the Lord is no longer going to withhold His hand. Israel has been growing fruit of sin and rebellion for several centuries and her opportunity for repentance will very shortly expire. Vs.3 describes what will take place in Israel when God comes to judge through the Assyrian scourge. The worship songs at the temple will turn to wailing. The dead bodies will be flung about everywhere, thrown out in silence. Those who have fought in major battles attest to the silence that follows a battle. It is the silence of death. The children of Israel had the covenant promises, the Law of Moses, the witness of the prophets, and providential warnings through natural disasters. God stretched out His hands all day long to a rebellious people (Is. 65:2). But they did not turn from their sinful ways. When their punishment finally came, they had no grounds with which to accuse God of wrongdoing. Friend, are you living apart from Christ? Are you clinging to a sin from which you will not turn? Are you telling yourself that you’ll deal with it later? “Repentance and faith are the gifts of God, and they are gifts that He often withholds, when they have been long offered in vain. I grant you, true repentance is never too late, but I warn you at the same time, late repentance is seldom true.” – Thoughts for Young Men, J.C. Ryle Suggestions for prayer Pray for grace to be on your guard against the deceitfulness of sin. Ask Him to show you sins that you are protecting and to lead you out of them. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 21 – Sword of the Spirit

I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a herdsman and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said to me, “Go, prophesy to My people Israel.” – Amos 7:14-15 Scripture reading: Amos 7:10-17 Wherever the Word of God is active it will provoke opposition from the kingdom of Satan. The Word of God is the seed of the kingdom, the sword of the Spirit, and “mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” (2 Cor.10:4). It is no surprise, then, that the enemies of Christ conspire against the Word. Amaziah, priest of Bethel, opposed Amos bitterly. Note his tactics. He attacks Amos’s person by accusing him of a conspiracy against the king (vs.10) and then misrepresents the message by only talking about the judgment part and not the reasons for judgment (vs.11). Some things never change. God’s enemies still use these tactics. Rather than engage the issues, they cry “Bigot!” to shut down the discussion or twist the words of the godly to make a damning news headline. It is becoming increasingly difficult to speak the truth of God’s Word into the public arena. Amos’s reply to Amaziah gives us a two-fold encouragement. First, he is convicted of his prophetic calling from God (vs. 14-15). If you are a child of Christ, God called you to Himself that you may proclaim His praises (1 Peter 2:9). Secondly, Amos reminds us of the tragic end of all those who resist the Word (vs. 17). When we remember that the enemies of the gospel are headed to eternal destruction, we can fear for their souls instead of being afraid of them. When you are taken aback by the world’s hostility to the Word of God, remember that Satan hates the Word because he is fully aware of its truth and power. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for the active and powerful presence of God’s Word in this world. Pray for confidence in the truth of the Bible and the courage to carry it into every aspect of life. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 20 – God’s plumb line

Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. – Amos 7:8b Scripture reading: Amos 7:7-9 Amos receives a third vision in which he sees God standing on a wall with a plumb line in His hand. Like a contractor tests the straightness of a wall with a level, God tests the true state of Israel’s faithfulness. His words to Amos reveal that the plumb line has exposed His people’s covenant unfaithfulness and that He will no longer spare them from judgment. The leading religious and political institutions will be desolated. This time, Amos does not plead for God to relent. It is clear to him that Israel’s window of opportunity has passed. What is God’s standard for determining whether to save or punish? Does the vision of the wall and plumb line suggest that He demands perfect righteousness from us? If so, none of us can ever measure up! Perhaps God allows for a little wiggle-room for sin in an “out-of-level” person? But that would contradict the holiness of God, in whom there is no darkness at all. Indeed, the vision of God and the plumb line are a reminder not to think of ourselves as more deserving than Israel – or any unbeliever, for that matter. We are all crooked; we have all fallen short of the grace of God. We all deserve eternal hell. But the righteousness of God that is given through faith in Jesus Christ has been revealed. We are declared “spot-on level” based on His perfect righteousness. What God’s plumb line looks for is this: Do you truly believe in Jesus for salvation? And is your faith proved true by your obedience? Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His perfect righteousness and justice. Pray for the two-fold gift of forgiving grace and transforming grace in Christ. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 19 – God’s mercy

“O Lord GOD, forgive, I pray! Oh, that Jacob may stand, for he is small!” – Amos 7:2b Scripture reading: Amos 7:1-6 Amos has been readily announcing the judgment of God on His sinful people, but at the sight of the locusts and fire he pleads with the Lord to relent. What is it that moves Amos to intercede on behalf of Israel? Perhaps this was the first time he had actually seen with his eyes the judgments of God and it overwhelmed him. Or maybe he saw that the poor and weak would bear the brunt of these judgments. The locust swarm at the crops “after the king’s mowings” which probably means that the king and his friends would be well-fed while the poor farmers starved. We don’t know what exactly it was that Amos saw that moved him to pray for God to relent. What we do know is that Amos’s prayer reveals the merciful heart of God. It was in His mercy for stubborn sinners that God sent Amos to preach to Israel and pray for them. And when Amos pleaded, God relented because it had been His will all along to show mercy through the intercession of His prophet. The interceding Amos directs our faith to our eternal High Priest who ever lives to make intercession for us (Heb.7:25). In Jesus we see the heart of God perfectly revealed and all those who trust in Christ will never be excluded from His mercy. “Since it has pleased God to give us His Son as our Intercessor, let us not leave Him for another…For when God gave Him to us He knew well that we were sinners” (Belgic Confession, Art.26). Suggestions for prayer Give thankful praise for God’s indescribable gift of His Son. Thank Him for His patience and ask for humble confidence in the perfect High Priesthood of Jesus. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 18 – Unshakeable

The LORD God has sworn by Himself, “I abhor the pride of Jacob, and hate his palaces; therefore I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.” – Amos 6:8 Scripture reading: Amos 6:8-14 The Israelites think that their nation is unshakable. Therefore, Amos declares to them that God abhors the pride they take in their palaces (vs.8) and the way they boast in their own military strength (vs.13). Not only is this arrogant, it is foolish. This same proud folly was witnessed around the world recently when numerous leaders praised the success of human efforts in containing the coronavirus pandemic and gave no glory to God. “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1). God will bring Israel’s pride to nothing through the scourge of the Assyrian army. The city of Samaria will be delivered up (vs. 8) and the palace broken into little bits (vs.11). Perhaps the most chilling part of Amos’s message is found in vs. 9-10. When the Assyrians do eventually come, death and destruction will be so great that the survivors will be filled with superstitious dread of even saying the name of the LORD lest He bring even more judgment. In other words, the opportunity for turning to the Lord in godly fear unto salvation will be over. Economies will fall. Nations will crumble. This flesh will fail. The only secure refuge is the kingdom of God. And the only door into the kingdom is through the Lord Jesus. He bore the wrath of God against the sin of Israel and against the sin of the whole world so that we can receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:28). Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s kingdom to come through the defeat of Christ’s enemies, the increase of His church, and submission in your own life. Praise Him for His unshakable rule. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 17 – Complacency

Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, and trust in Mount Samaria. – Amos 6:1 Scripture reading: Amos 6:1-7 Amos exposes Israel’s false sense of security that has led to spiritual complacency. The danger of spiritual complacency is witnessed in the seed that fell among thorny soil where “the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). The Bible repeatedly calls us to watch out, be on our guard, and to persevere in faithfulness. It is a scary thing to develop a spirit of apathy toward the things of God. Amos helps us to diagnose this sin in our own lives. In vs.1, he warns those “who are at ease in Zion, and trust in Mount Samaria”. The economy is good, their borders are secure. What can go wrong? They do not see their weakness and their need for God. The spiritually complacent lose a sense of dependence upon God. In vs.3-6a, he opposes those who “put far off the day of doom” because they are too busy enjoying worldly comforts. There is no longer earnestness for spiritual things, a noticeable lack of “fear and trembling” (Phil.2:12). In vs.6b, Amos tells us that they “are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph”. That is, they are indifferent to the spiritual decline of the nation. This happens, for example, when we become desensitized to immorality in the entertainment we consume. Has the Word of God diagnosed spiritual complacency in you today? The apostle James tells us that the pathway to healing begins by humbling ourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift us up (James 4:10). Suggestions for prayer “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps.139:23-24). Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 16 – Formalism

Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! For what good is the day of the LORD to you? It will be darkness, and not light. – Amos 5:18 Scripture reading: Amos 5:16-27 Israel assumed that the day of the LORD was going to be a happy day for them. After all, they were the descendants of Abraham, God’s covenant people. They observed the feast days, gathered for sacred assemblies, and offered the sacrifices of Moses. Why wouldn’t the day of the LORD be a day of blessing for the children of Israel? God’s answer is blistering. He hates their worship. He won’t accept their sacrifices. He can’t stand the noise of their songs and won’t hear their skilled music. He has two reasons for despising their worship: First of all, they are only Sunday Christians and do not practice justice and righteousness in the rest of life (vs. 24). Secondly, like the wilderness generation, they have kept foreign gods on the side (vs. 25-26). The Israelites drew near with their lips, but not with their hearts. One of the ways that the same root spiritual issue shows up in our lives is the sin of formalism. Formalism consists of placing our trust in outward religious forms rather than in Christ Himself. This can happen even when our worship is correct, our theology sound – when we’re doing everything right. Baptism, profession of faith, church attendance, and correct theology, though they are good things, cannot in themselves save. We can sit under faithful preaching week after week and love the form of the sermon rather than the Christ who is preached. Do you see the sin of formalism in your worship and life? Don’t throw out the forms, but lean upon the Spirit of grace to revive your use of them. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for public worship and the means of grace. Pray for reformation of your worship that it may be truly faithful to the Word of God and governed by the Spirit. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 15 – Trust and obey

Seek good and not evil, that you may live; so the LORD God of hosts will be with you. – Amos 5:14 Scripture reading: Amos 5:10-15 In the story A Christmas Carol, the hard-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge receives a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The ghost takes Scrooge to visit his own grave and shows him the contemptuous responses of people when they hear of his death. Scrooge trembles, falls to the ground, and pleads "Good Spirit, your nature intercedes for me and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!" This is what the Lord is looking for from Israel: an altered life. He has given them a glimpse of their own funeral, a picture of their own doom, and called them to seek Him. That is the first aspect of biblical repentance that Amos teaches us: “Seek Me and live” (vs.4). He is the only One who can deal with our sin. Forgiveness and life-change are found in Jesus Christ. The second aspect of repentance, or the other side of the same coin, is a changed life: “Seek good and not evil, that you may live…Hate evil, love good” (vs.14,15). Those who have believed in Jesus for forgiveness will obey His commandments in love (John 14:15). When we have been rescued from eternal hell, clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and brought into favor with God, we will also desire to do His will. Those who persist in rebellion without repentance reveal a heart unchanged by grace. Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the living fruit of repentance in your life. Pray for the Spirit to lead you into the joy and freedom of walking in the ways of the Lord. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 14 – Seek the Lord

The virgin of Israel has fallen; she will rise no more. She lies forsaken on her land; there is no one to raise her up. – Amos 5:2 Scripture reading: Amos 5:1-9 What if you could watch your own funeral while you were still living? It would help to put life into perspective, wouldn’t it? Sometimes it is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart (Eccl.7:2). That’s what Amos is doing in this passage. In vs.3 he prophesies her coming death at the hand of an invading nation. But in vs.2 he sings a funeral lament for Israel while she’s still alive. Israel feels alive, like a maiden full of youth (vs.2), but in reality she’s at death’s door. She has the appearance of being alive, but spiritually she is terminally ill. Amos gives her a glimpse of her own funeral so that she will be awakened to her desperate situation and repent. God continues to hold out HIs hands to the rebellious nation: “Seek Me and live”. If they will turn away from idol worship at Bethel and serve the living God who made the Pleiades and Orion, they will be saved. Amos shows us the way of repentance. An essential part of biblical repentance is to seek the Lord. That means that we turn away from all the dead-end roads of sin and idols and entrust our lives to Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He gives life. He cleanses and renews. Biblical repentance is not primarily feelings or methods or tears: it is faith in Jesus for salvation from sin. Suggestions for prayer Confess your sinfulness to the Lord and acknowledge that only Christ can cleanse and save you from your sin. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 13 – Warning signs

“Yet you have not returned to Me,” says the LORD. – Amos 4:6b Scripture reading: Amos 4:6-13 All the warning signs were there, but they ignored them to their peril. God sent famine (“cleanness of teeth”) on their land (vs.6). He shut up the heavens and caused drought (vs.7,8). He sent disease, mold, and locusts to destroy their crops (vs.9). He sent plagues and invaders (vs.10). There were even times when Israel was on the brink of defeat (vs.11). But they refused to take the message to heart. What is that message? It is that God holds all things in His hand and we are not in control of the circumstances of life. Therefore, when disasters and hardships come into our lives we should never think of them as purely the result of natural cause. God uses secondary causes to carry out His purposes, but ultimately all things – both pleasant and painful – come to us from His fatherly hand. It is “He who forms mountains, and creates the wind”. Moreover, Israel should be asking the question: what is the Lord telling us? Had they turned to His Word they would have recognized the covenant curses of Deuteronomy 28 being visited on them. These were divine messages from their Saviour, trumpet calls to repentance, warning signs pointing to the cliff of judgment to which they were hurtling. When the Lord sends disasters upon this world, it is not for us to say what exactly God is up to and why He sent the disaster where He sent it. But there is one question that we should ask ourselves: am I ready to meet God on that Day? Suggestions for prayer Pray for spiritual sensitivity to God’s trumpet calls of repentance. Pray for the Lord to use His providences to awaken unbelieving loved ones and neighbors to their need for Christ. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 12 – Empty religion

Come to Bethel and transgress, at Gilgal multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days. – Amos 4:4 Scripture reading: Amos 4:1-5 One man puts a large donation into the offering plate to assuage the guilt of his deceitful business dealings. Another sits through worship services he despises in order to keep the family happy. And someone else raves about how much she likes worship at the new church in town because it feels so amazing. We could come up with a thousand examples of the same root problem that Amos confronts: attending worship for selfish reasons rather than going to meet God. “Cows of Bashan” is not a reference to four-legged beasts with horns, but to the wealthy women of Samaria. Amos is not very flattering, but he is simply telling these women what their husbands didn’t have the courage to say: that they are pampered and cruel. As long as they were being served, they were content – even if it meant crushing the poor. Their day will come. Amos proceeds to issue a sarcastic call to worship: “Come to Bethel and transgress, at Gilgal multiply transgression”. Go on, says the LORD through Amos, bring your sacrifices and tithes, your praise and worship, for I know you love it. Israel still observed many of the biblical worship ceremonies. But they did that while they crushed the needy during the rest of the week. They loved religious acts and rituals of worship, but they didn’t love the God whom they professed to worship. Worship is not a series of favors that we do for God to get Him on our side. Worship is a response of thanksgiving to the One who has purchased us with His blood. Suggestions for prayer Pray for deliverance from all man-centered, self-focused worship to wholehearted thankfulness and awe towards God. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 11 – Spiritual poverty

I will destroy the winter house along with the summer house; the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end,” says the LORD. – Amos 3:15 Scripture reading: Amos 3:9-15 Amos addresses the wealthy in Israel: one man has a winter house in the city and a summer cottage on the sea; another man has an extravagant house of ivory, and still, another has a house that’s far bigger than he’ll ever need. Israel’s situation sounds similar to North America. We should listen very carefully to what God is saying through Amos: all those nice houses filled with beautiful stuff will be destroyed one day. Is God against being wealthy and enjoying nice things? No, God is the one who gives power to get wealth (Deut.8:18) and who blesses man with good things for his enjoyment (Ps.104:14,15). The love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim.6:10), not the money itself. We are called to a joyful and God-pleasing use of His gifts by enjoying them with thanksgiving (1 Tim.4:4) and sharing generously with the needy (Eph.4:28). The wealthy in Samaria made their money on the backs of the poor and filled their houses with the proceeds of injustice (vs.9,10): God will see to it that their wealth is all taken away (vs.11). Like the rich fool of Jesus’ parable, they placed their security in their possessions and hoarded them: God will destroy it (vs.15). Prosperity has a way of lulling us into a sense of false security and blinding us to our spiritual poverty. There is only one currency that will count when we stand in the judgment: the infinite value of Jesus’ righteousness. It is a gift, freely given through faith. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Father for all His good gifts. Pray for the Spirit to lead you away from trust in possessions to finding lasting security in the righteousness of Christ. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

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