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Daily devotional

May 8 – It shall not harm you

The LORD said to Moses, "Put out your hand and catch it by the tail"--so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand-- "that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you." – Exodus 4:4-5 Scripture reading: Exodus 4:1-5; Psalm 121 "Put out your hand and catch it by the tail.” Now, don't try this at home. You can throw sticks on the ground as much as you like – that part is just fine. But grabbing a snake by its tail is a very risky business. A venomous snake moves most swiftly to strike anything which touches its body. That's why when you're snake catching, you try to nab it right behind its head and grasp it there. The tail flails around, but the head can't move if you have it securely grasped. God gave Moses a remarkable sign. He was to confront Pharaoh, whose emblem was a coiled serpent, and demonstrate that the serpent would not strike them. No harm would come to them from actual serpents, from Pharaoh as the Serpent Ruler of Egypt, or even the ancient Serpent who was anxious to harm God’s people. Moses will seize the serpent by the tail – and its mouth will be shut – its power will be stripped – and it will yield to the rod of the shepherd and literally become a rod again. The sign given by God to Moses makes plain that the serpent shall not harm his people. We know this with even greater clarity because Christ Jesus has bound our great adversary and tempter, Satan. By rising from the grave, Jesus has conquered every foe. By His action, He has gained us the victory over the powers of sin, death, and the darkness of the evil one! Suggestion for prayer Praise our Heavenly Lord for His victory which has gained us an everlasting peace with Him and an everlasting security from our foes through Jesus Christ! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 7 – Who shall I say you are?

Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.’” – Exodus 3:13-14 Scripture reading: Exodus 3:13-22 Jesus shocked the crowds in the temple when He declared, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” In a misguided attempt to protect the name of the LORD, they picked up stones to throw at Him. What was His offense, in their eyes? Jesus was declaring that He was God. Yet, Jesus was rightly revealing His Name to the crowds just as He had previously revealed Himself to Moses. For it was the Word of God Who spoke from the burning bush and provided assurance to Moses that it was by divine authority that Moses was to carry out his calling. In a way, we can identify with Moses’ hesitation, can’t we? Moses doubted himself, he feared the people and Moses was worried about Pharaoh. And amazingly, the LORD provides a powerful reassurance to His wavering servant: “Say this… I AM has sent me to you.” I can't do this. Lord, you call me to an impossible task. What is that for you? What part of your life feels impossible right now? Particularly, what area in your heart feels like a no-go zone in your fight to root out sin? What struggle do you face with others that feels like it is an insurmountable challenge? If we focus on Moses, we miss the much greater revelation happening: The LORD God, the maker of the heavens and the earth, made plain this everlasting truth for all who trust in Him: I AM with you to deliver you! Suggestion for Prayer Pray for the LORD’s name to be hallowed on earth as it is in heaven. Pray for assurance that His power is so great that we need not be anxious about anything! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 6 – How can we come near?

God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then he said, "Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." And he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. – Exodus 3:4-6 Scripture reading: Exodus 3:1-12; Hebrews 12:18-29 To come into God’s presence, we must be pure of any sin and holy in heart and conduct. Like Moses, we are defiled by sin and need a priest who can cleanse us. This was why Moses was told not to come near to the burning bush and the Angel of the LORD who spoke to Him. Yet the great news in Hebrews chapter 10 is this: “Since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith." We are invited to draw near through Christ our High Priest Who has washed our hearts and bodies clean of sin and corruption. Particularly in the aftermath of Jesus’ wondrous work of redemption and the offering of His shed blood and body for our sins, we are granted a new confidence and assurance to draw near to the majesty, splendor, and glory of our God! Jesus Christ has opened up a new and living way for us to come into the presence of our Holy God and live with joy in His presence! God comes near to Moses in the wilderness and gives Moses His Name to proclaim, His plan to carry out and His power to display signs of God’s intent to set His people free. He wants Moses to be His ambassador in Egypt. All that Moses will do serves as a preview of when Jesus would come to rescue His people from a greater foe and secure us forever. In Him, dear Christian, we draw near with newfound boldness and holiness! Suggestions for prayer Praise the Lord that He has completely provided what you need to draw near to Him without terror or dread! Pray that Jesus would be exalted in your conduct as you live in renewed holiness because of His perfecting work in you. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 5 – God’s ways are not our ways

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9 Scripture reading: Exodus 2:15-25; Isaiah 55 How was anything good to come from Moses’s sudden exodus from the land? Wasn’t he saved from the Nile River for a special mission? He’s 40 years old and well trained. He’s strong enough to be a powerful foe to the Egyptians, single-handedly taking the large lid off the well and imposing enough to drive away the aggressive shepherds. If you were a casting agent for social revolution, you would say Moses was your guy. But God’s ways are not our ways. The might of Moses will be diminished during his 40 years as a shepherd in the wilderness away from the Hebrews of Egypt. It will not be mighty, well-connected Moses who leads the charge into the battle for Hebrew independence. No, God’s plan is to send an 80-year-old Moses to be His voice and a messenger with signs of power. Is this surprising? Yes! Just as a child born in a stable was a surprising turn of events for those who expected a king. Yet Jesus Christ was the Word of God Incarnate and the only One who could bring life to us through His death and resurrection. There is a lesson in the life of Moses that we need to learn too: that God’s perfect plan of deliverance involves times of suffering, hardship and pain for us to endure. But through it all, God is in control! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord would give you peace in your circumstances as you await the day when you will enter the Promised Land of rest for all of God’s people. Pray for contentment when God’s plans for you seem hard to understand or experience. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 4 – The defender of the oppressed

When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. – Acts 7:23-25 Scripture reading: Exodus 2:11-15; Acts 7:17-29 What was Pharaoh’s fear? In chapter 1 vs 10, he fears that the Hebrews would join the enemies of Egypt and fight against them and escape from the land. Amazingly, that’s exactly what Moses does here. Here’s a son of esteem and privilege in Pharaoh’s court, next in line to the throne according to the ancient historian Josephus. What does he do? He joins the enemy. What’s more, he fights for them and escapes from the land. In this remarkable scene, Moses served as a defender and avenger of the oppressed. This is the inspired interpretation which the martyr, Stephen, sets before us in Acts 7:24-25. Moses strikes the first blow against Pharaoh’s forces. Yet the weary hearts of the Hebrews were not prepared to see that God was giving them salvation by Moses’ hands. They looked at the prospect of deliverance and thought it was too far-fetched and they rejected Moses. When Stephen preached on this text before the Council, he made the point all too clear for them: you are acting with greater disdain and danger to your soul if you reject Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, Who has come to defend the oppressed and avenge all wrongdoing. For unlike Moses, who shrank in fear once he realized what he had done, Jesus unfailingly overcame our great enemy and now He opens the gates of Heaven to all who believe in Him. Moses’ actions were only a preview of the glorious way in which God has now given us salvation through the pierced hands of His Son! Suggestions for prayer Pray for God to remove every obstacle in the hearts of those who think salvation from sin is either unnecessary or simply impossible. Pray for courage to be a witness of Christ our Defender and Redeemer! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 3 – Delivered

By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. – Isaiah 53:8-9 Scripture reading: Exodus 1:15-2:10; Isaiah 53 We can read many stories in the Bible of times when the LORD miraculously and powerfully delivered His people from the spear and sword of their enemies. He spared the Hebrew children through the faith-filled actions of Shiprah and Puah, the Hebrew midwives. He delivered baby Moses from the very river in which he was supposed to be killed. Moses was brought to the site of death. He was spared. He was rescued from certain death by means of an ‘ark’ – a vessel of deliverance which was safeguarded by the LORD so that Moses might be rescued by a most unlikely rescuer – Pharaoh’s daughter! These are important testimonies to the love God has for you. He hears your cries and answers your pleas. He promises you deliverance from the judgment to come and He sets before you everlasting life. Amazingly, then, the greatest testimony of our deliverance is found in the scene of a man brought to the place of death who was not delivered. Our Saviour was not spared at the site of His judgment. Even though He was entirely pure and innocent, He laid down His life so that we might be saved in Him. This salvation through the payment of our sins and the bearing of our judgment is now finished! You are delivered because Christ was not spared. He was stricken for our transgressions. Through His death and resurrection, we now confidently tell Satan and his whole dominion that we do not fear their power for we have been delivered and we shall be raised again with Christ! Suggestions for prayer Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Praise the name of the LORD for His unfailing mercies and wondrous deliverance of sinners who call upon His name to receive life through His death! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 2 – The collision of two great powers

But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. – Exodus 1:12  Scripture reading: Exodus 1:1-14; Revelation 12 The Pharaoh of Egypt was shrewd and cunning. He did not know or care about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was most willing to become an enemy of God's people. In this, Pharaoh was taking up the vain battle cry of Satan and all who follow him in rebellion against the LORD God. He thought his human powers could overcome the problem posed by the rapidly multiplying people of God. In these events in Exodus, Satan saw that his attempts to wipe out the people whom God loved were futile. With Satan behind him spurring him on, Pharaoh would see first hand that no ruler or power can stop the LORD God! No chains can deter the LORD’s purposes for his people. No army can ever stand in His way. No waters can hem in His people and not even a wilderness without food and water can actually disrupt God's purpose to save His people! Jesus, our great Saviour from the powers of sin, death and the devil, says to His followers, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Those words are true for all who suffer for His name’s sake as a part of the people of God. When it seems like we're caught in the collision of great powers – when we face grave threats or increasing pressures, we must be and are reminded of this glorious testimony of Christ our Lord: “I have overcome the world." Suggestion for prayer Thank the LORD for delivering us from our bondage to sin and the powers of the evil one. Pray for strength to withstand temptation. Ask the LORD to increase your trust in Jesus Christ alone for deliverance from the powers of evil in this world. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC....

Daily devotional

May 1 – The central Character in the story of all our lives

Introduction to the month of May This month we will be looking at Exodus 1-13 in order to see the tremendous way that the historical exodus of God’s people from Egypt foreshadows the wondrous exodus of all who are redeemed from sin, suffering and the tyranny of the devil. Our prayer is that we will see more fully the way that God’s people can have hope and confidence in the work of Jesus for us as sinners in need of God’s mercy and grace. There are a remarkable array of characters in these pages of Scripture and every one of them has a message to tell us in our time of awaiting our entry into the Promised Land (Hebrews 12:22-24)! You will meet villains who oppose the LORD and His anointed (Psalm 2:2). You will meet a people who are reluctant to listen to a man whose presence has seemingly made things worse for them (John 6:66-69). You will meet a redeemer and judge who is reluctant to take up his calling until the LORD gives him a name to proclaim, a series of signs to perform and a stirring message: My people shall be set free to worship Me (Hebrews 10:5-7). In this series of devotions for the month ahead, we’ll look at the story that the martyr, Stephen, appealed to in Acts 7:17-36 to explain that the coming of Jesus Christ was always anticipated in scripture and that He is truly our Saviour and King! **** Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Scripture reading: Psalm 48, 2 Corinthians 1:1-4 God is the central character in the story of all our lives. As Scripture says, “In Him we live and move and have our being” and “we are His offspring.” So when the story of your life is written, it is always the case that God is the central character – whether He is recognized in this role or not. We might think we’re the central character in the story of our lives. It feels like we are! Yet, one part of our faith-filled response to God is that we learn to humble ourselves before Him and see that He is the most important figure in our story. Yet, if a story-teller dropped by your house and wanted to capture your story, I wonder if he might be caught off guard if you said, “First, I need to tell you about God because He is more important and central a character in this story than I am!” The story of the Exodus is first and foremost a story which highlights the greatness of the LORD God. His plan brings comfort to His people. His actions reveal His glory. His mercies reveal His steadfast covenant faithfulness. His powerful triumph over the armies of Pharaoh reveals the splendor of His holy Name to all! As we proceed through this account of trouble and triumph, we will do well to keep reminding ourselves that God is truly the central character in the story! Suggestions for prayer Praise God for being the One who comforts us in all our affliction. Pray for humility to submit to God’s will for our lives and to rejoice that He is the most important character in our life story. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church in BC. ...

Daily devotional

April 30 - Joy with Jesus

Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given me, may be with me where I am…– John 17:24 Scripture reading: John 17:1-26 I want to conclude this month’s topic of joy focusing on one of my favorite verses. John 17 records Jesus’ high-priestly prayer in which we get a glimpse into the heart of our Saviour. In that prayer, Jesus reveals the desire of His heart: that all those whom the Father has given Him would be with Him. It’s one thing to long to be with Jesus. I desire to be with Him and dwell in that place where pain is gone and I will have eternal fellowship with Christ. But what John 17:24 says is that Jesus desires that too! Jesus wants me to be with Him. Jesus wants you to be with Him. It will be the most blessed experience to see our exalted Saviour and Lord in all His glory. To join the angels and that “multitude that no one can number” (Rev. 7:9) and to worship Him before His throne will be unimaginably glorious! And Jesus wants you there. But His desire is not like so many of our desires. We may desire something that will never come to pass. I desire to visit Israel, but I have no assurance it will happen. But do you think there is any prayer of Jesus that the Father will not grant? Is there any desire of Jesus that will go unfulfilled? By no means! That means you and I can have full assurance, 100% certainty that we will be with Jesus! That, dear brother or sister in Christ, should thrill your heart and fill you with great joy! Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would increase your faith to see the blessed future awaiting you. Give thanks that God gives you joy today and for all eternity. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 29 - Future joy

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. - Revelation 21:4 Scripture reading: Revelation 21:1-7 As we have seen this month, the Bible speaks much about joy in the Christian life. But God’s Word does not paint a false picture of life. We also read about pain, hardship and difficulties. Though we don’t always understand why, we know God has His purposes for such trials and that His purposes are always for good. If you are in Christ, you can rest assured that God is foryou, not against you! What He does is for your edification and sanctification, not for your destruction. This month’s topic of JOY is not meant to minimize or ignore the reality of pain; it is meant to put hardships into perspective. As Christians, you are pilgrims, aliens and strangers on this earth. Your citizenship is in heaven. You are a child of God and He has reserved for you a future that is without pain. Think of it. When Christ returns in all His glory and the number of the elect is complete, He will inaugurate the new heaven and new earth in which you will live for eternity. This won’t be a temporary respite. God wants you to know that “the former things have passed away.” What former things? Tears. Death. Mourning. Crying. Pain. These will be eradicated, done away with, gone forever! When you recognize and believe this, you will have joy even while you experience hardships. Do you believe? Then you can say with Paul, “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would increase your faith to see the blessed future awaiting you and that the Holy Spirit would give you joy even as you shed tears, hurt or mourn. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 28 - Joy in worship

True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. - John 4:24 Scripture reading: John 4:1-26 Since joy, in some measure, ought to be present in every believer and since worship should include the believer’s heartfelt response to the Saviour, it follows that true worship should be joyful. Joy isn’t the only thing, but it is an essential thing. Jesus responded to the Samaritan woman's question about worship with these words: “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). What does this mean? William Hendriksen rightly explains it in his Commentary on John’s Gospel: “…worshiping in spirit and truth can only mean a) rendering such homage to God that the entire heart enters into the act, and b) doing this in full harmony with the truth of God as revealed in His Word. Such worship, therefore, will not only be spiritual instead of physical, inward instead of outward, but it will also be directed to the trueGod as set forth in Scripture and as displayed in the work of redemption.” Our worship must avoid what God described in Isaiah 29:13 and repeated by Jesus in Matthew 15:8, 9: “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Today, worship the Lord in spirit and truth, with joy in your heart. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would find in you the kind of worshipper He is seeking and that your heart will be filled with the joy of the Lord today. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 27 - Angelic wonder

…things into which angels long to look.- 1 Peter 1:12 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:3-12 I’m curious about angels. Not the fat little-winged baby cherubs depicted in medieval art, but those beings depicted in Scripture – the ones that elicited great fear in humans. Far from cute babies floating on clouds, the Bible portrays them as powerful warrior-like beings. God created them before He created our world (Job 38:6-7). They are a set number; that is, they don’t multiply. Lucifer and a third of the host of angels were cast out of Heaven because of their pride and rebellion against God. In 1 Peter 1:12, Peter interestingly states that there are things into which angels long to look. There’s a certain curiosity that the angels have. But what are these things that angels desire to look into? They witnessed the righteous judgment of God when He cast Lucifer and a third of their number out of Heaven. They saw what happens when the creature rebels against his Creator. The angels understand law and justice. But Peter is talking about the gospel and that is a different category than law and justice. For angels to now see the Creator respond to rebellious creatures in mercy, in grace, in love – to see Him send His own Son as a sacrifice for that rebellious lot – now that is something to look into. It is grace unknown and love beyond degree! That is the gospel, and that is our joy! Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would have the same awe and wonder of God’s sovereign grace as do the angels and that you would rest in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for you, and be filled with joy. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 26 - Counterfeit joy (4)

May my meditation be pleasing to Him, for I rejoice in the Lord.- Psalm 104:34 Scripture reading: Psalm 104:1-35 I live in Colorado and most days I can see the Rocky Mountains. When on a clear day, I see the distant white-capped peaks, my heart rejoices in wonder and praise. But I’m sure that when unbelievers see the same sight, though they do not acknowledge the Creator, they still experience a certain awe and wonder. Simply living in this world is a blessing. Although many will not acknowledge it, God has blessed us humans. We have talents and abilities, enjoy good health, have material possessions, have family and friends. We can appreciate beautiful art, wonder at a colorful sunset, and be in awe of majestic mountains. Whether a Christian or not, there is a joy that comes with living. It is the joy of God’s common grace. Psalm 104 recounts God’s great creative work. The psalmist looks at the mountains and is in awe. He recognizes that God sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. He hears birds singing, watches animals feed, sees ships navigate the oceans. At the end of the Psalm he says, “I rejoice in the Lord.” Not the ships, the rain, the animals, the mountains, but I rejoice in the Lord. Joy in God’s creation will not last because there is so much more. Jesus asked, ”For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mark 8:36). True, lasting joy comes not in the earthly gifts we enjoy from our Creator, as wonderful as they are, but in trusting and rejoicing in the Creator Himself. Suggestions for prayer Pray that your joy would not consist simply in the gifts God has given, but would be in God Himself and that you would have a thankful heart for all of God’s gifts. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 25 - Counterfeit joy (3)

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?- Mark 8:36 Scripture reading: Mark 8:31-38 C.S. Lewis once said: “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. We are far too easily pleased.” Lewis was right. We have infinite joy offered us, but we are satisfied with that which is much less. We’ve already looked at the counterfeit joy of sin and of circumstances. Today, I want to consider things that are not necessarily bad, but are ultimately trivial. I like playing sports and enjoy following my favorite players and teams. I’ll watch an occasional game on TV, or play a round of golf with friends. But I can honestly say that I can do without these things. Yet, I’m sure you’ve noticed that some people’s lives revolve around sports. My wife is artistic and enjoys making crafts. But she wisely does not allow that activity to run her life. If sports, or crafts, or recreation, or stamp-collecting or some other activity is what fills you with joy and meaning, you’ve settled for something far too little. You are making mud pies in a slum when you are offered a holiday by the sea. You are, as Lewis would say, “Far too easily pleased.” Don’t settle for the trivial. God, in Christ, is your true and infinite joy. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would not find your joy and meaning in the small, trivial things. Repent for desiring and being satisfied with too little. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 24 - Counterfeit joy (2)

Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.- Mathew 13:5-6 Scripture reading: Matthew 13:1-23 Every nation has strict laws against making and using counterfeit money. People who deal in commerce and handle money regularly must learn to distinguish fake money from real money. Banks, for example, have classes to train their employees how to tell the difference. In the parable of the sower, Jesus taught about a certain kind of counterfeit joy. When He explained the point about the seed that fell on rocky soil, He said, “This is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy…” But when trials and hardships arise, this person fell away. Far from being true and lasting joy, this was a counterfeit joy because it was contingent on circumstances. When everything is going smoothly in life, when things are going well, it is easy to confuse that sense of well-being with lasting joy. But this is not really joy at all because it depends on circumstances. Remember that Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer (be joyful), I have overcome the world.” The true joy of a believer is one that does not fall away due to tribulation and hardship. True joy’s foundation is far greater, far deeper than this world’s ups and downs. Its foundation is Jesus Christ. Therefore, pleasant circumstances cannot produce true joy and difficult circumstances cannot detract from true joy. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would grant you wisdom to distinguish true from false joy and that you will rest in Jesus and have a joy that cannot be shaken by hardship. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 23 - Counterfeit joy (1)

By faith Moses… refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. - Hebrews 11:24-25 Scripture reading: Hebrews 11:23-28 Hebrews 11 is an entire chapter that focuses on the faith of Old Testament believers. And speaking about Moses, the writer says that Moses rejected the “fleeting pleasures of sin.” This is instructive to us as we focus on joy. It is important to distinguish between true, lasting joy and a counterfeit of joy. One such counterfeit is pleasure that comes from sin. When tempted, the devil would have us believe that if we give in to the temptation, we will be more joyful than now. And the reason it is so effective is that there are often certain pleasures that accompany sin. Moses, as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter, could have lived in palatial opulence and had every sensual desire met. Instead, he chose the difficulties of wilderness living. Why? Because he understood that true joy comes in trusting and following the Lord. David learned that the hard way. When he committed adultery with Bathsheba, he did so for the “joy” of sexual gratification. He soon discovered that while this may have brought him “fleeting pleasure,” it brought him no joy at all. This is why when he finally repented of his sin, he asked God: “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Psalm 51:12). He had discovered that the fleeting pleasure of sin is a counterfeit to true lasting joy in the Lord. Suggestions for prayer Repent of your sins and, like David, ask God to restore your joy. Pray that God would give you faith like Moses to see beyond fleeting pleasures. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 22 - The joy of believing

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.- Hebrews 11:1 Scripture reading: John 20:24-29 Thomas wasn’t present when the resurrected Jesus revealed Himself to the other disciples a week earlier. When they told Thomas about it, he said he wouldn’t believe unless he had visible and tangible proof. Thomas was ever the practical skeptic. It wasn’t that Thomas had no faith, but I think it is fair to say that he had weak faith. In John 11, when Jesus told the disciples that He was going to Bethany because of Lazarus’ death and they all knew this was dangerous because the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus, it was Thomas who said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” In John 14, when Jesus prepared His disciples for His imminent departure and said to them, “That where I go you may be also,” it was Thomas who said, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” And here in John 20, the loving Jesus humbly submitted to this skeptic’s demands. All the disciples were gathered behind locked doors and Jesus came to them and spoke directly to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side…” And that was enough for Thomas who responds with a beautiful profession, “My Lord and My God!” That’s when Jesus mentioned you and me. He said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” This means that if you are a Christian, a believer in Jesus Christ and the gospel, Jesus says you are blessed! Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Holy Spirit would work to increase your faith and that the knowledge that you are blessed would fill you with joy. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 21 - Resurrection joy

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord." - John 20:18 Scripture reading: John 20:1-18 It is clear from reading John’s account of Jesus’ resurrection that Mary Magdalene didn’t expect Jesus to rise from the dead. When she went to the tomb early in the morning and found it empty, her first reaction was not, “He arose” but rather, “Someone has taken the body” (v. 1). Then a little later, when the angels asked her why she was weeping, she answered, “They have taken away my Lord” (v. 13). You see, Mary and Jesus’ other followers lived in the same world we live in, a world in which dead people don’t rise again. That is precisely John’s point in this passage. While our experience tells us that dead people don’t rise again, Jesus actually did. People who weren’t expecting to see Jesus alive again saw and believed. Some speak of the resurrection as a “symbol” of Jesus’ continuing influence in the world, but scoff at the idea that He actually rose from the dead, bodily. But John and the other Gospels record eyewitness accounts that Jesus, after He was laid in the tomb, was actually seen upright and walking, heard talking, ate meals and was touched. And this must be the case, else we have no Saviour. His death on the cross conquered death so that death could not hold Him. His resurrection was the Father’s approbation of Christ’s atonement. His resurrection is the promise and guarantee of the resurrection of His people. It was no “symbol” or metaphor. He really rose from the dead. Hallelujah! Christ arose! Suggestions for prayer Give thanks that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the guarantee that when He returns, your body will be raised to eternal life. Pray that the church will never compromise the message that Jesus actually, bodily rose from the dead. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 20 - For the joy set before him

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:2 Scripture reading: Hebrews 12:1-17                                                                Yesterday was Good Friday, the day that Christ, the Lamb of God, in full obedience to the Father, gave His life as a substitutionary atonement for our sins. He was wounded for our transgressions and was bruised for our iniquities. And yet, despite the pain and shame and rejection, Jesus was joyful. He had spoken about His joy just before His arrest in the Upper Room with His disciples. In Hebrews 12, we are encouraged to keep running the race of faith, all the while looking to Jesus. Not only was Jesus joyful while on earth, but He looked forward to a fuller and greater joy ahead. It was the joy of a mission accomplished. He endured the pain, suffering and shame of the cross because He knew that there was even greater joy on the other side. We too are blessed with joy today, but there is a greater joy ahead. And realizing that blessedness should encourage us to keep running the race of faith. We might be discouraged, weary and worn out, but “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9). For the joy that is set before you, keep running! Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would take your eyes off your circumstances and be focused on Jesus. Rejoice that Christ your Saviour is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 19 - Jesus’ seventh word on the cross

“Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!” - Luke 23:46 Scripture reading: Luke 23:44-49 This word, like the fourth and fifth, is a quotation from Psalms. Psalm 31:5 says, “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.” Jesus began His ministry with the Scriptures on His lips when Satan tempted Him and now He breathes His last with the Word of God on His lips. Luke tells us that Jesus spoke this seventh word after the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Since Christ had accomplished His mission, the way into the Holy of Holies is now open. Christ Himself is the way, the truth and the life. Luke also says that He spoke this word with a loud voice. This is significant. Jesus had said,“No one takes My life from Me; I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18). This means that death didn’t come until Jesus allowed it to come. When He was ready, He embraced it. He didn’t die in weakness, but in strength. He didn’t speak with a whimper, but with a loud voice. And further, He says, “Into Your hands I commit My spirit.” I commit, not as some passive, helpless victim, but as the One Who holds the keys of death. Jesus died, safe and secure in the Father’s hands. Understand that He did so as our mediator and substitute. As He committed His spirit into His Father’s hands, He is committing our spirits into His Father’s hands. Like Jesus, we can die safely and securely because our covenant head and Saviour died safely and securely. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would have the joy and peace of being secure in the Father’s hands. Give thanks that Jesus has conquered death. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

Daily devotional

April 18 - Jesus’ sixth word on the cross

“It is finished.” - John 19:30 Scripture reading: John 19:28-30 You and I might not finish something we’ve begun. Due to laziness, weakness or for reasons outside our control, that project you were working on or letter you were writing or diet you started, didn’t get completed. But that can never be said of Christ. Jesus’ sixth word on the cross is a word of triumph. He fully completed what He came to do. In 1 John 3:5 we read, “You know that He appeared to take away sins.” A few verses later John says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” These purposes are not separate, but the same. Christ came to take away our sins and thereby to free us from the tyranny of the devil. There are times when I’m keenly aware of my own sins and conclude, as did Paul, “O wretched man that I am” (Rom. 7:24). At those times, when the devil points his finger at me and says “guilty,” I remind myself of this sixth word on the cross. “It is finished.” Christ paid it all. That truth restores the joy. Horatio Spafford got it right when he penned this stanza in his well-loved hymn, “It is Well with My Soul”: “My sin – O the bliss of this glorious thought! – My sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more; praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!” Suggestions for prayer Pray thatGod would forgive your sins because of Christ’s sacrifice for you and that He would grant you a deeper assurance that your sins are forgiven and that it is well with your soul. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church(URC) in Littleton, Colorado....

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