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Daily devotional

October 30 – Preserving grace

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. – John 10:27-29 Scripture reading: Jude You probably have fastened a picture to the wall with Scotch tape only to have gravity yank it down. You re-attach it, applying pressure until your thumb is paralyzed. You watch it for a while and it stays put. You think you've succeeded, only to have it flutter to the ground the moment you turn away in triumph. Do you think the Triune God has that frustration with those whom He saves? Are they safe one minute and lost the next? The glad and glorious answer is “No!”. Christians are Christians forever. The God Who calls them is the God Who keeps them. As Jesus said, no one will snatch them out of His hand or His Father's hand (John 10:28-29). That is not to say that some won't try. Satan as always attempting to undo the work of God. And he has his allies. The world without seeks to form us in its mould and the flesh within fights against the Spirit to divorce us from Christ. The Christian is the battleground between the forces of light and darkness. And at times the battle can be so intense that Christians can wonder if they will remain Christians. But we have no reason to fear. The hand that measures the waters in its palm keeps us. The hands that were pierced on Calvary and now rule the universe protect us. For Christ there are no lost causes. Christians are kept (Jude 1) and God keeps them (Jude 24). Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that our salvation depends, from start to finish, on His sovereign grace and mercy. Ask the Lord to humble us so that we might not become either self-reliant or spiritually careless with our Christian walk. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 29 – Unstoppable grace

“...his dominion is an everlasting dominion. . . He does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth and none can stay his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” – Daniel 4:35-36 Scripture reading: John 6:25-40 How can the Lord Jesus speak with such confidence when He says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me . . .”? How does He know they will come? What if they don't want to? Will they then be forced to come to Jesus? How can Jesus be so sure? Jesus’ confidence rests on a number of pillars. First, the Bible teaches that God's plans always come to pass and that no one can thwart His purpose. If God, the Almighty One, has purposed to save someone from eternal punishment, that will undoubtedly happen. Second, Christ knows what He is going to do. He knows that He is going to Calvary for the forgiveness of sins of those whom the Father designs to save. He also knows that His death will defeat Satan, the enemy of our souls. That means that Satan's grip on us will be broken and we can be delivered from the domain of darkness. Third, the Lord Jesus has promised the Holy Spirit upon completion of His work on earth. Christ knows that that Spirit, Who is the divine matchmaker, will bring the sinner and the Saviour together. The one chosen by the Father and redeemed by the Son will receive new life by the Holy Spirit so that he willingly and freely comes to Christ as He is freely offered in the gospel. It will happen. Guaranteed. The Triune God’s grace is unstoppable. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that the Holy Spirit persisted in His work to bring us to the Saviour, conquering our natural resistance to God and to grace. Pray that many would come to the Saviour that they might have life and that we might be instruments to point them to Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 28 – Christ’s successful death

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. – Ephesians 5:25-27 Scripture reading: John 10:1-18 If you have ever given blood, sweat, and tears to something you desperately wanted to succeed, only to see it collapse in failure, you will know the sense of dejection and frustration that arises. Many have experienced this. Our Lord Jesus, however, did not. He went to the cross to save His people from their sins and everyone for whom He died will undoubtedly be saved. Imagine bearing God's wrath and curse for someone who ends up bearing the same in hell. That would be unthinkable! Jesus’ death really accomplished what Jesus set out to do. The Father had given Him a flock of sinful, wandering sheep who are on the road to eternal punishment. For them, Christ had to intervene. For them, Christ had to bear the judgment of God. And for them, He did exactly that. As the Lord Jesus Himself said, “I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:15). But didn’t the Lord Jesus make propitiation “for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2)? Not if you mean that he died for every man, woman, and child individually. If that were the case, all would be saved because Christ’s work can't be frustrated. We wouldn’t object to that if the Bible taught that. However, it does speak of outer darkness for some. But if by “world” you mean that He died for all sorts of people (not just one race) and for a great number that no one can count, then yes, we gladly declare that Jesus is “indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4:42) and, by grace, ours too. Suggestions for prayer Praise God that the death of Christ really cleanses from all sin and that we need to make no contribution to our salvation. Pray for missionaries, ministers, and evangelists that all those for whom Christ died will hear the voice of their Shepherd and be brought into the fold. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 27 – Chosen, not choice

..."For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you...” – Deuteronomy 7:6-8 Scripture reading: Acts 13:13-52 “Tis not that I did choose thee, for, Lord this could not be; this heart would still refuse thee, hadst thou not chosen me.” Now that we know the glory and grace of God in Jesus Christ, it seems incredible that we would ever refuse One so gracious and kind. Yet, such is the depravity of the human heart that we would have. The stream of God's grace can be traced back to before the creation of the world. From all eternity the God of our salvation selected from the human race some who would be recipients of eternal life. And it's that eternal choice which leads some to choose to believe in Christ when they hear the gospel of salvation. That explains why the Gentiles in Acts 13:48 embraced the gospel. They were "appointed to eternal life." The elect are chosen by God, but not because they are choice people; they are selected but not because they are select. God chose those He wanted to choose because He loved them. And if you ask why He loved them, the answer is because He did. This truth of unconditional election not only magnifies the glory of God, but it also offers unspeakable comfort to unbelievers and believers.  If salvation were based on justice or merit, no unbeliever could have hope that he might be saved. Since salvation depends on God's eternal good pleasure, everyone who knows Christ can know as well that his salvation is secure. God will never stop loving us because God never started loving us since from all eternity God had set his affection upon us. Suggestions for prayer Bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus that He has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Pray that God’s sovereign election would make us humble before His majesty and before others. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 26 – Very, very bad

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.– Genesis 6:5 Scripture reading: Romans 3:9-20 As sinners, we are very, very bad. Sadly, the proof that we are by nature lost sinners is self-evident, even if everywhere disputed. God didn't create us this way, but we have become this by our fall into sin with the first Adam. Created good, we are, untouched by grace, incapable of doing any good at all, of any kind. By nature, we hate both God and our neighbor. In fact, we are so bad we are even unable to rescue ourselves from this self-inflicted mess. There is no spark of goodness in us that, given the right conditions, we could fan into flame and become Christians. We are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). We are both unable and unwilling to come to Christ that we might have Life. Won’t this teaching put off unbelievers from pursuing Christ? If you tell them they can't believe, isn’t it more likely that they won't? I don't think so. It is actually the sense of our total depravity that spurs us to seek the mercy of God in Christ to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We are very, very bad. But Christ is very, very good. Thanks be to God that in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, not only are our sins forgiven, but the devastating spiritual deadness is destroyed, so that by the Spirit of the ascended Christ we are made alive with Him. It is, after all, by grace that we have been saved. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Spirit of God might, through the preaching of his Word tomorrow, bring the dead to life for the praise of God’s glorious grace. Pray that God would give us a sense of our sinfulness that we might glory all the more in the gospel of free and sovereign grace. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 25 – Ascension and succession again

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. – 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 2:15-18 It isn't exactly clear what was behind the request of the sons of the prophets when they pressed Elisha to allow them to seek Elijah. It is clear, however, that it was not Elijah they should have been seeking. Like Elisha, they should have been asking, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” (v. 14) That should be our concern too: Where is the Lord Who can do mighty things for the honor of His name and the blessing of His people? Elisha is Elijah’s successor. So are we. We can see this by looking back and forward from the story. If you look back you will find another tag team that wrestles with the forces of darkness, namely, Moses and Joshua. Elijah is the new Moses and Elisha the new Joshua. Looking ahead we see that John the Baptist is the new Elijah (Matt. 17:11-13) which makes Jesus the new Elisha. Joshua, Elisha, and Jesus have names that mean the same, begin their ministries at the Jordan, and all receive the Spirit for ministry. Jesus is unique, of course. He is the only Saviour Who reconciles sinners to God. And He is also the only One Who gives the Spirit to His own to carry on His mission of bringing all things under His Lordship. We do that through missions and evangelism, but also by bringing our lives as churches, families, and individuals in subjection to His authority. Do you see areas of your life where you need to wield the sword of the Spirit that you might better please our sovereign? Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to enable you to examine your lives so that we might better please our God and Redeemer. Pray that He would empower us by the Spirit so that we might have the courage and conviction to work for Christ’s honour in every sphere of our lives. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 24 – Ascension and succession

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,  and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." – Luke 24:46-49 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 2:1-14 There's no doubt that Elijah’s leaving would leave a big hole. He had been God's "army" on Israel’s behalf. His loss will be devastating. But God will provide for His work. He has a succession plan in place. In his farewell tour, Elijah visits the school of the prophets, probably to encourage them to continue their fearless promotion of God's claims on His people. There's also Elisha. He had served with Elijah for some years and now it was time for Elisha to fly solo. Elijah tests him by suggesting that he abandon Elijah on his final tour. Elisha refuses to bail. That's the kind of people that the kingdom of God needs, people who will not turn back even when the future is unnerving. And then the final moment arrives. Elisha asked for something that Elijah is unable to give, a double portion of his spirit. How wise that Elisha recognizes that he cannot minister in his own strength. However, Elijah promises his successor that, if he sees him being taken, he shall receive the double portion. Elisha does see the glory of God – God coming down in chariots and horses of fire and therefore receives the promised Spirit. Leaving the Jordan in the power of the Spirit, Elisha does Elijah's farewell tour in reverse, across the Jordan, to Jericho and Bethel, before returning to Samaria. That succession is complete but the succession of the servants of God continues and what we need is what Elisha needed: a vision of God’s glory and the outpouring of God’s Spirit. And God delights to grant both. Suggestions for prayer Pray with Moses, “Please show me your glory.” Confess that our help is in the name of the Lord and ask for the Spirit to be poured out on us so that we may be faithful and effective servants of the Lord. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 23 – Our God is a consuming fire

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. – Psalm 2:10-12 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 1:9-18 Evidently, Ahaziah wasn't keen on the prognosis. But God's announcements of judgment are often conditional. If he had done what Nineveh would later do, that is, repent, we can be confident the Lord would have had mercy and healed him.But Ahaziah doesn't respond this way. With arrogance, he declares hostility against Elijah and his God and demands Elijah come down. The Lord doesn't take kindly to such defiance against His servants and twice sends down fire to consume the king's messengers. The third captain sees what a jealous God has unleashed against His comrades and falls on his knees begging Elijah for mercy. Expectedly, the Lord spares his life when the poor man called and saved him from his troubles (Psa. 34:6). Here is a model response for Ahaziah and us all. In wrath, God remembers mercy. In the New Testament (Luke 9:51-56) Jesus is traveling through an unwelcoming Samaritan town. James and John asked if He wanted them to call fire down to destroy them. Jesus rebuked them, in part, because now was a time of grace. If fire was going to fall anywhere, it was going to fall on Him on Calvary just like the fire fell on the altar on Carmel. The story in 2 Kings falls between Carmel and Calvary and reminds us that, if the fire doesn't fall on the God-appointed sacrifice, it will fall on the sinner, if not on Christ for us, then on us. Another hair clad prophet with a leather belt around his waist preaching repentance (Mark 1:4) reminds us of what we ought to do. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the grace of repentance that we might know the blessing of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Rejoice that Christ willingly became the sacrifice for sinners to reconcile us to God. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 22 – Living like an atheist

The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. – Psalm 9:9-10 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 1:1-8 Like father, like son. Like mother, like son. Both adages are true with regard to Ahaziah, Ahab's son and successor. Ahaziah’s significant injury left him quite unwell. Concerned about his future, he sends messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub, the Philistine god of Ekron and to see if he would recover. Everyone who knows the history of Israel sees the folly in this. In the days before the kings reigned, the Philistine gods were helpless before the ark of the God of Israel (1 Sam. 5). The narrator highlights the folly by mockingly changing the name of the god from Baal-zebul (Glorious Baal) to Baal-zebub (Lord of a Fly). What Ahaziah has done is plain silly. It's alsoplain sinful and this is what Elijah confronts him with. “Ahaziah,” Elijah asserts, “you are living as if God does not exist.” Ahaziah has rejected the God of Israel. That's his sin and that's his folly. God's judgement is that Ahaziah will surely die. Two things I wish to point out for you to ponder. First, who we go to in our troubles is an indication of where our trust is. Why is God often the port of last resort for many troubled Christians? Second, it is a signal kindness of the Lord that intervenes through Elijah to head off Ahaziah’s folly and sin. Ignoring the Lord doesn't make the Lord go away. This isn’t always true; sometimes He leaves us to our sin. But what a mercy when He does arrest us. How will Ahaziah respond to such kindness? How do you? Suggestions for prayer Pray that we would instinctively call on the Lord in times of trouble when we are convicted of sin, concerned about the future, or otherwise in distress. Ask that the Lord would give us sensitivity so that when the Spirit convicts us that we are going the wrong way, we would respond with repentance and gratitude. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 21 – Does the Lord not see?

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, "O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” – Jonah 4:1-2 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 21:25-29 We concur with God's announcement of judgment against Ahab. He deserves to die. And so we are wholly unprepared for what happens in vs. 27 to 29. Who would have thought that Ahab would show such humility after his arrogant accusation in v. 20? But what is even more surprising is the Lord's response. He relents. He postpones judgment. Is God gullible? Is He taken in by Ahab's repentance? It is clear from the next chapter that, like many unbelievers, Ahab's repentance is like the morning dew that quickly dries up. Many people show remorse for a time before life returns to normal. And yet God shows mercy to Ahab. How could He? We feel this even more intensely because of the description of Ahab in vs. 25 to 26. It certainly shows that the Lord loves to show mercy. Does that bother you about God, the fact that He is merciful? Jonah hated it. The Pharisees did too. The natural man tends to think that mercy comes to the deserving. God here demonstrates that it doesn't. Thank God it doesn't! It certainly is instructive that Paul describes himself in the same way Ahab was described. Paul complains, “I am of the flesh, sold under sin” (Rom. 7:14). No wonder he laments his wretchedness and lauds Christ for His redemption (Rom. 7:24-25). That is the kind of God we have, one Who delights in steadfast love (Micah 7:18). Just listen to the crucified Lord Jesus asking the Father to forgive those who clamored for His death.  Who would have thought? Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would humble us so that we would see and rejoice in the fact that our salvation is ‘mercy all, immense and free’. Pray that we might point all sinners to drink from the same fountain of grace that has refreshed our souls. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 20 – Does the Lord not see?

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering- since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels... – 2 Thessalonians 1:5-7 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 21:17-24 Surely God must have seen what had happened to Naboth. Why then doesn't He do something about it? Well, He does. He sends his servant Elijah to confront Ahab and announce judgment against him. The vineyard was stolen through Jezebel’s schemes, but Elijah assesses blame to Ahab.  Ahab killed a man and seized his property (v. 19). Ahab was wicked and weak. He should have led his household in righteousness and truth. Judgment will fall on Ahab and his descendants because he sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord (v. 20). Jezebel will be judged too and become dog food for her sin (Deu. 28:26). Though it might be tempting to pay back evil to those who mistreat us, remember the Lord’s declaration, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). The wicked will get what is coming to them. God will bring it about. But what about Naboth? Why didn't God intervene? Good questions. Here are some more. Why was Peter delivered from prison and James killed? Why are Syrian Christians crucified and we have freedom? Why does your friend have cancer while you have health? Good questions. We need to trust the wisdom of God Who makes no mistakes. And we need to be confident in His goodness. Naboth was treated unjustly but God, Who saw that, will also see to it that Naboth gets his reward. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10). Suggestions for prayer Remember the persecuted Christians throughout the world as they worship on this Lord’s Day and ask God to encourage them and fortify them to be faithful to the end. Pray that the Lord will teach us to trust His wisdom and goodness in times of difficulty and confusion. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 19 – The righteous sufferer

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.– Hebrews 13:12-14 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 21:1-16 Naboth was a righteous man. He refused Ahab's offer, not because he was churlish, but for righteousness’ sake. He knew the Lord's laws forbade, under most circumstances, the selling of one's land (Lev. 25:23-28). The gift of the land was part and parcel of Israel's redemption. Redemption was not simply escaping from slavery but provision for the future. The promise of God to the fathers was realized only when Israel possessed its inheritance in the land and enjoyed life there with their Redeemer. Naboth treasured God’s blessing and was not going to part with it. Esau did. So did Demas (2 Tim. 4:10). Would you? His determination cost him. He suffered through wicked machinations. Remarkable how similar Naboth's experience was to our Lord’s: Christ was accused of blasphemy against God and king, two false witnesses spoke against him, and he was put to death outside the city. The similarity is not so much because Christ joins us in our suffering as that we join Him in His. But even as Christ received His inheritance following His suffering, so will the saints receive theirs following suffering. Naboth is dead but not forgotten. His name is mentioned seven times after his killing. And after his death his vineyard is still called “the vineyard of Naboth” (v. 18). Nor did he not lose his eternal inheritance. Neither shall we who trust in the righteous Sufferer, Jesus Christ. Our names are engraved on His palms, those palms that were outstretched on Golgotha’s cross for your salvation, a salvation that rescues you from tyranny to bring you into an inheritance. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we would be encouraged to embrace suffering for Christ’s sake by the confidence that we shall share in His glory. Pray for your minister that he may preach Christ and Him crucified and that God’s Word would both comfort and convert for the glory of the Saviour. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 18 – From desire to death

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. – James 1:13-15 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 21:1-16 This story and every sin’s saga begins with a desire. Not all desires are evil, of course. Some we should have, like the desire to be a better Christian. Some we may have, like the desire for children, though even here we must be careful if God in His grace and wisdom withholds from us what we legitimately may desire. Some desires we may not have. We may not crave what God forbids. There is no nuance here. Ahab had the wrong kind of desire. He may have had a green thumb, but he also had a green heart. He envied Naboth's vineyard so he could turn it into a vegetable garden closer to the palace. And that desire led to death. When righteous Naboth turns down the offer, Ahab goes home and sulks like a petulant child. By the way, how we respond to thwarted desires often can reveal whether our desires are godly. Wicked Jezebel is no help. Had she been godly, she could have encouraged him to applaud Naboth for his righteousness and to be thankful that God didn’t let him have what he sinfully desired. It is a blessing to marry well. Instead ,Jezebel uses forgery, blasphemy, and perjury to steal the vineyard from Naboth. Ahab got what he wanted but he got more. His desire led to death. Naboth's. But his own too. What a warning to us to kill sin before it kills us. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to show us where we have ungodly desires so that by His Spirit we may put them to death. Pray that we would rejoice in the blessings of God to others and be content with His kindness to us. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 17 – Carrying the cross for Christ

And he said to them, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life." – Luke 18:29-30 Scripture reading: Luke 14:25-33 Clearly our Lord Jesus calls us for a whole-souled commitment. He demands that we reorder our loves (v. 26), release our lives (v. 26), recount the costs (vv. 28-32), and relinquish our grip on our possessions (v. 33). This is what it means to be his disciple. Have we done that? Have we given up our cherished desires, even for legitimate things, for the sake of Christ? Are we willing to give up time and money and energy and reputation and comfort to serve our Redeemer? Are you ever uncomfortable for the gospel’s sake? Christ is not necessarily asking us to sell everything and go to Nepal as a missionary. Though it would be great if we sent out more missionaries! But he is asking us to give more of our time for prayer and our money for missions. He’s asking us to forego visiting with family some Sundays so we can be a blessing to those in the congregation who are unlike ourselves. He’s asking us to show hospitality, to visit the elderly, and to witness to unbelievers despite our discomfort. He wants you to speak to the visitor at church even though you are quiet and introverted. He is calling children to serve their parents and siblings. He is calling us to be uncomfortable for Him. Sound restrictive? Not if you see it as service to the Saviour. At the end of a long life of suffering for the Lord Jesus, the great missionary, David Livingstone, said his hardships were ‘nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.’ Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to teach us where we might serve Him as Christ’s disciples. Pray that God would raise up ministers and missionaries to go to the ends of the earth with the gospel of life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 16 – Joyfully serving Christ

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. – Titus 2:11-14 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 19:19-21 Well, that was a surprise! Elisha is plowing on his family's farm and suddenly Elijah throws his cloak on him. Somehow Elisha knew what that meant and joyfully responds. He runs after Elijah, eager to do God's work. He bids farewell to his parents, kissing them goodbye. He slaughters his oxen and burns the yokes, indicating that he was making a complete break both with his former work and future inheritance. And he celebrates his call to service with his friends. Elisha eagerly responds to God’s call. That's a good word for us, isn't it? Our service to God is too often bare duty. We serve in Church office because the congregation elected us. We care for our elderly parents because it is the right thing to do. We attend worship because God calls us to. We resist sin because it is against God’s law. It is right to do things because our Master places these obligations upon us, but shouldn’t there also be delight in our doing? These obligations are opportunities to do something for Christ. And shouldn’t joy saturate our service? It wasn’t going to be easy for Elisha. He was leaving a large farm and an affectionate family. Farming was just becoming fun again now that the drought was over. And the life he was going to lacked security and promised hardship. And notice, he was called to be Elijah’s assistant. Hardly glamorous. By the grace of God, he heeded God's call. Should not Christ’s service to us win our service to Him? Shouldn’t the grace of God make us zealous for good works? Suggestions for prayer Ask that God would forgive us for our, at times, begrudging obedience. Pray that the Holy Spirit might conform us to the image of Christ who said, ‘I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.’ This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 15 – The Voice of grace and judgment

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. – Matthew 25:41 Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” – Matthew 11:28-30 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 19:9-18 So what does God think of Elijah's accusations? He agrees. Israel deserves judgment. When Moses was on the mount (Exodus 34) God passed by him giving Moses a revelation of Himself. Here in the mount, God reveals Himself to Elijah with four different manifestations: wind, earthquake, fire, and a low whisper. Notice that the first three are destructive, the last one is calm. What does this mean? The three correspond to the three judgments that God will unleash on His people through Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha (verses 15-17). But judgement is not God's only Word. Seven thousand will be reserved as true worshippers. Nor is judgement God's preferred Word. I get this from the contrast between the three and the one. He was not in the three, but He was in the one. That is, though God will bring judgement, he delights to show mercy. Some years later we find Elijah on another mountain with Moses and Jesus (Luke 9:28-36) discussing Jesus’ departure, His coming death, which was God’s Word of judgement against Jesus. Weren’t there also rocks splitting and an earthquake at Jesus’ death? His death was for His people’s failure to keep covenant and to worship God faithfully. And then a cloud enveloped them and a voice spoke. Was it a low whisper? The voice said, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him.” Jesus is the voice we must listen to. Today His voice speaks grace and invites us to come. One day it will speak judgement and will command us to depart. Listen to Him! Now. Suggestions for prayer Adore God that the Lord Jesus was willing to take our judgement so that we might hear His voice of grace. Pray that through our personal evangelism and the ministry of Christ’s Church many would come to Jesus instead of bowing knees to idols and kissing false gods. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 14 – Covenant prosecution

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. –2 Corinthians 6:1-2 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 19:9-14 The first thing to notice is that Elijah is at Horeb/Sinai on covenant business. Horeb is where God met Moses to commission him to lead Israel out of Egypt in faithfulness to His covenant promises. Horeb/Sinai is where the covenant of God with Israel was given. Horeb/Sinai is where the covenant was broken when Israel worshipped the golden calf. Elijah is at covenant mountain, a place of both grace and judgement, to transact covenant business. When God asks, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”, God the Judge is inviting Elijah to state his case against Israel. Elijah is the covenant prosecutor laying charges against his own people for their failure to keep covenant with the LORD. Elijah doesn’t mince words: “For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword.” You might think Elijah should speak for Israel rather than against them. Moses often did. But that's not what all the prophets do, nor are they only ministers of grace. Jeremiah accuses God's people of unfaithfulness and God forbids him to intercede for them (Jeremiah 7:16). Instead, he must announce God's rejection of them (Jeremiah 7:29). Elijah's return to Mount Sinai marks the end of one era, one characterized by Divine patience, and the beginning of another, one characterized by Divine purification. The temptation for covenant people is to think God's patience lasts forever. That is simply not true which means that today is always the optimal day to seek the grace and mercy of God in Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God by His Spirit would protect us from receiving the grace of God in vain and that we would do the work of God which is to believe in Him Whom He has sent. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 13 – Discouraged

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope. – Matthew 12:18-21 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 19:1-8 The ESV says in verse 3 that Elijah was afraid. The NKJV translates the same word as ‘saw’ and I think it's correct. It is not that Elijah became unhinged and ran in terror. It's closer to reality to say that Elijah determined from Jezebel's obstinacy that there wasn't much hope for change amongst God's people. Despite the people's confession, Ahab's weakness and Jezebel's opposition led Elijah to conclude that there was no sense continuing his ministry in Israel. In a quest to understand what has happened, Elijah intends to go back to where it all began, to Mount Horeb, where the covenant Lord had first met with His people. We meet up with Elijah in the desert where, exhausted and discouraged, he lies down under a broom tree and asks God to sweep him away. He feels ill-equipped for the ministry of turning the hearts of God's people back to Him. In a sense he's right. A greater Prophet than him or his fathers was needed, one Who could baptize with the Spirit. Elijah is too hard on himself. But God doesn't rebuke him and neither should we. There is something holy about his lament. Paul wept over the Jews (Romans 9:1-3) and Jesus did over Jerusalem (Luke 13:34-35). Don't you think we're too casual about the plight of millions who go to a Christless eternity? The angel ministers to Elijah in his discouragement and provides food for his continued journey to Horeb. Elijah might think he's finished but God has further plans for him just as Jesus did for the Christ-denying Peter. How tender He is to His often discouraged servants. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would encourage His ministers as they preach the gospel today with evident fruit for their labours. Ask that God would give us a concern for Christ’s honour and the plight of the lost that we might be engaged in evangelisation here and among the nations. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 12 – Effective prayer

...I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. – Daniel 9:2-3 Scripture reading: James 5:13-20 What is the secret to effective prayer, prayer that is both heard and answered? The Apostle James tells us that the power of prayer does not lie in the person praying. Elijah prayed for the rain to stop and start and God stopped and started the rain. But notice that although Elijah was a righteous man, he was a man with a nature like ours. The power in prayer is to pray what God promises. Elijah knew that God promised drought if his people abandoned him and rain if they repented (See 1 Kings 8:35-36). Elijah turned the promises into petitions. God uses means to accomplish His ends, including the prayers of His saints. Further, God delights to be asked for the things promised. We see the saints doing this throughout Scripture. For example, Daniel knew that God was going to release Israel from Exile after 70 years. As the time approached, Daniel prays to that end. We know that the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD (Isaiah 11:9), and our Lord Jesus tells us to pray for the coming of God's kingdom. This is the prayer of faith. Pore over the Bible, discover God’s promises, turn them into petitions, and trust that God will be faithful to His Word. As the Heidelberg Catechism reminds us, we must ask God ‘for everything He has commanded us to ask Him’ (Lord’s Day 45, Q&A 117). Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would teach us to grasp His promises so that we may pray according to His will. Remembering His promise that His Word shall not return to Him without accomplishing what He intends (Isaiah 55:11), pray that God would bless the reading and preaching of His Word tomorrow in the public gathering of His people. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 11 – Showers of blessing

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.– James 5:16c-18 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 18:41-46 There are more blessings here than simply the rain. For example, Elijah commands Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink.” The contest on Carmel is more than a contest. It is a covenant renewal ceremony. Elijah prepares the altar as a burnt offering. In the Old Testament the burnt offering was followed by a fellowship offering. There is a feast after the fire - wonderfully depicted in the Lord’s Supper. We remember the sacrifice of Christ and then eat His flesh and drink His body. Fellowship restored. Then there is the rain but before it comes down, prayer must go up. Yes, God said He was going to send rain but He still wishes to be asked for His promise to be fulfilled. So with humility (notice Elijah’s posture) and persistence (seven times) Elijah prays on behalf of his people as their mediator even as Christ intercedes for us so the blessings may fall. And the Lord answers. How much we owe to our Mediator’s prayers. Then there is that peculiar detail at the end of the chapter. It must be significant because the hand of the Lord is involved. He gives Elijah energy to lead Ahab on the 17-mile journey back to Jezreel. It appears that for a while anyway, things are as they should be in Israel. There is confession, fellowship, rain, and the Word of the Lord(represented by Elijah) leading the way of the king. The king was never meant to follow his own wisdom. Nor are we. Suggestions for prayer Praise God that He is willing to have fellowship with sinners through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ and thank Him for the Lord’s Supper. Pray that God would make us men and women, boys and girls, who pray for His promised blessings that we may glorify and enjoy Him. Ask Him to teach us His Word so that we would know His promises and live according to His commands. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

Daily devotional

October 10 – The contest

I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. – Isaiah 42:8 Scripture reading: 1 Kings 18:19-40 You might think that the contest is between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal. But it isn’t. It is between God and Baal. For too long the people have been giving their allegiance to Baal. Now God was challenging Baal to a duel to demonstrate who was really deserving of devotion. He did this as a kindness to His people so that they would know Him and their hearts would be turned back to Him. Baal, the storm god, was a fertility god. For three years he had been impotent and before God was going to send rain, He wanted to display publicly Baal’s weakness and His own glory. The contest was in Baal’s area of expertise. Baal had more backers, 450 prophets and they had the first choice of the bull. Elijah was alone, the altar of God was in ruins, and the rebuilt altar was soaked. Certainly, Baal would answer by fire and win. But Baal didn’t answer that day. God does because, unlike Baal, He exists. And the people declare devotion to Him. This story highlights God’s judgement on the wicked. Notice the slaughter of the prophets of Baal. But you shouldn’t miss the mercy. The fire could have fallen on the people. They deserved it. But it fell on the altar instead. It had done that before in Israel’s history (Leviticus 9:24; 1 Chronicles 21:26-27) and it would do so again on the cross when the fire of the Lord falls on the Lord Jesus so that it would not fall on those who bow before Christ and say, “My Lord and my God!” Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would demonstrate His glory in His Church and our nation so that people might confess Christ as Lord to the glory of the Father. Thank the Lord for the mercy displayed in the cross of our Lord Jesus so that believers would be spared the wrath of God. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta. ...

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