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Daily devotional

Thursday January 3 – You are a holy nation

They shall guard all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and keep guard over the people of Israel as they minister at the tabernacle. - Numbers 3:8 Scripture reading: Numbers 3:1-16 and 4:46-49 Yesterday, we saw the layout of Israel’s camp: God is in their midst. However, God is a holy God and His people are a sinful people. How can a holy God live among a sinful people without the holiness of God being insulted and the people being destroyed by His wrath? We find the answer in chapters 3 and 4: the function of the Levites. The Levites were set apart by the LORD to serve Him in a special way. Looking at the camp again from a bird’s eye view, we see this function of the Levites in the layout of the camp. The Levites were located around the tabernacle, between the tabernacle and the people. God provided a layer of protection between Himself and His people. The Levites had to guard this special relationship so that the covenant fellowship could go on. When they did their duty faithfully, Israel could live from the blessings of the LORD and the LORD would receive the praise of His people. The Levites were a living reminder that Israel is a holy nation (Exodus 19:6). The Levites were also a gift of grace. Israel could enjoy the rich blessings of God’s presence because of their ministry. Today, we no longer need Levites to serve us since we have the perfect High Priest at the right hand of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ, we are a holy nation so that we now may live for Him. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the gift of the Great High Priest. Ask Him for His grace to live as His holy people and proclaim the wonders of Him Who called us out of darkness into His light. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Wednesday January 2 – Decently and in good order

The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side. – Numbers 2:2 Scripture reading: Numbers 2 Would it not be wonderful to have a bird’s eye view of the camp of Israel? Numbers 2 describes the specific directions the LORD gives for the arrangement of the camp of Israel. Each tribe and clan receives its designated place. Yes, there is a place for everyone. Because they are God’s people, the camp has to reflect His character. He is a God of order. For this reason, both the setting up of the camp as well as the breaking up of it is to be done orderly. This is one of the reasons why Reformed churches value order in the church (see Belgic Confession, Article 32). Another element that stands out when overlooking the camp is that all the tribes are located around the Tent of Meeting. This tent represents the presence of the LORD. Israel is set apart from other nations because the LORD God dwells among them. Isn’t this the blessing of God’s covenant? This blessing has become even richer in the New Testament church with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Lord dwells among us with His Word and Spirit. This is the miracle of His grace! The Lord is the center of the church. We live from God, He is the fount of every blessing. Everything we do is because of Him and for Him. Where He dwells, things ought to be done decently and in good order. The church can only remain church when the Lord is in the center. Suggestions for prayer  Thank the Lord for His willingness to dwell among us. Ask that as churches we remain faithful to the Lord and His Word. Pray that the order of the church may be used to promote harmony and unity. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelphand also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Tuesday January 1 – Introduction, and the LORD counts Israel

The Book of Numbers describes the travels of the People of Israel from Sinai to the Promised Land. The LORD is bringing His people into His land, the land already promised to Abraham. The book does not mention all the events of this time period, but rather offers a selection. These 40 years are formative years for the people. As Israel travels, it learns, grows and develops. This explains the combination of historical material and ceremonial laws. As the LORD is leading them, He is also teaching them, teaching them how to live as His people in His land. The title “Numbers” is derived from that fact that people were counted twice. The first counting is in the first chapter of the book and another one is at the end of the book, chapter 26. These two countings represent two generations. The first involves the generation that left Egypt but was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of unbelief (see Hebrews 3 & 4). The second represents the new generation who will be allowed to enter Canaan. The Book of Numbers speaks of God’s covenant faithfulness in spite of man’s disobedience. Numbers is very relevant for us today. The New Testament uses the image of traveling or sojourning, to describe the life of the church in this world. We are called sojourners in 1 Peter 2:11. Also in Hebrews 3 and 4, a direct connection is made between Israel in the wilderness and the church in the New Testament. Redeemed by the blood of Christ, we are on the way to the Promised Land, the New Jerusalem. God’s people can only go forward when they trust and obey the LORD. May the devotions of this month encourage us in our travels. The LORD counts His people  All the Israelites twenty years old or more who were able to serve in Israel’s army were counted according to their families. – Numbers 1:45 Scripture reading: Numbers 1:1-19; 44-46 The Book of Numbers begins with the LORD instructing Moses to count the men twenty years and older. The total number is 603,550. This may not seem the most exciting way to start a book. Yet, this chapter is important in the context of God’s work. Note the following: The counting: Parents tend to count their children when they go on an outing. It shows their concern that all are included and cared for. The LORD, having redeemed His children by His grace, makes sure they are all accounted for. The number: It describes the wonders of God’s faithfulness. His promises to Abraham are being fulfilled; these are all Abraham’s descendants. The organization: God’s nation is an organized people. The census goes according to fathers’ houses, clans and tribes. God’s covenant continues from generation to generation. The age: The fact that men 20 years and older were counted points to an army. The expression “those able to go to war” shows this too. This nation is the army of the LORD, enlisted in His battle. Our LORD is King. These elements are important for us as well. Our King, the Lord Jesus, is leading us in 2019. He counts us, making sure not one stays behind. He is faithful to His promises and uses our families in His gathering work. He calls us all to put on the whole armor of God. He, Who counts the stars and knows their names, knows us by name and leads us onward. Suggestions for prayer As we look back, we thank the LORD for His unfailing love and care over His people and over our lives. Looking ahead, we pray for strength to serve the mighty King of kings in the New Year. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Monday December 31 – The joy of living with, and for, God

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. – Psalm 84:10b  Scripture reading: Psalm 84 One of the driving forces in each human heart is a desire to be at home, to be at peace in a special place that will never fail us. Many strive for this in all the wrong places. At the end of a year, the world looks to things to bring them joy and contentment. At times we can be distracted by the comforts and desires of this fallen world. For 2019, where will your true home be? Where will you find contentment and comfort? The writer of Psalm 84 reminds us that the real and lasting home is with God. The Psalmist yearned to be in the special place with God because he knew that this is what would truly satisfy him. He points out that sinful people like you and me can only be in this special place with God because of the sacrificial system that God put in place. We do not have altars to make sacrifices on anymore, but the altar the Psalmist loved to be near pointed to the one great sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Christ’s sacrifice was so sufficient that it ended the need for all other sacrifices. Do you see that the greatest blessing that Jesus brought us was to bring us home with God? This was the psalmist's greatest joy and confidence. It caused him to say that he would rather be a door-keeper in the house of God than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of the world. A good door-keeper is one who guards, but also welcomes. May we be those who welcome people to confess their sins and enjoy the great blessings of being with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer That we would enter this new year not seeking the things of this world but seeking to be that door-keeper. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Sunday December 30 – The power of the Holy Spirit

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. – Acts 1:8  Scripture reading: Acts 1:1-11 Although Jesus had already commissioned His disciples in the passage we went over yesterday, we can see from this passage that they were not yet ready to take on the commission of being his witnesses. They were not yet ready to represent Him, proclaiming Him as Lord and Saviour to the fallen world. They were not super humans, but weak like us and could not take on the task Jesus called them to do without the power of God in them. We must remember that the Holy Spirit did not just enter the twelve Apostles, but He was poured out into Christ’s Church. All those who believe in and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour receive the same Holy Spirit, not only to be preserved in their faith, but to carry on the great commission Jesus gave to His church. The Apostles were the foundation of the church and so were both examples and special leaders inChrist’s church. However, it was the church as a whole that carried out this great commission. When a great persecution broke out in the church after the death of Stephen, those who fled proclaimed Christ wherever they went. When the Thessalonians later heard and received the Word of God in true faith, Paul tells us that all those in their province and the neighboring provinces heard about Jesus Christ. The same Holy Spirit who powerfully worked in Christ’s church then is still with His people today, not only to enliven our faith but to empower us to proclaim His name lovingly and boldly in our communities. To do otherwise is to deny the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Suggestions for prayer That the Holy Spirit would enliven our faith and empower us to proclaim the wonderful name of Jesus in our neighborhoods. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Saturday December 29 – Making disciples of the nations

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations... – Matthew 28:19a   Scripture reading: Matthew 28:16-20 When Jesus rose from the dead and gathered His disciples to give them a special commission, we are told that although they worshipped Him, some doubted. Jesus, being God, knew of their doubts, yet He still sent them out to make disciples of the nations. You could say, they were as unfit as we are in our own strength. I have often heard it said that making disciples is for church leaders, for those who have greater knowledge, for those who have no doubts (or at least fewer doubts than me). But Jesus chose people who had doubts and sent them out to make disciples of the nations. Jesus calms His people, even today, with these words, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me." Do those words touch your doubts and cause you to respond in such a way that you see that you are also called and equipped to do your part in Jesus’ great commission? We all have different obligations in being part of this commission. Not all are called to baptize, but all of God’s confessing children are called to teach or mentor. If you have learned the ways of the Lord in such a way that you stood to profess your faith publicly, you have learned not only to confess but to teach those who do not yet know the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ the way you do. This includes teaching or mentoring those who have not yet confessed their faith within the church; however, it also entails teaching and mentoring those outside the church community. Suggestions for prayer That our doubts would be silenced by the truth of who Jesus is and that we would so glorify Him more, also teaching others both inside and outside the church about our great Saviour. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Friday December 28 – Conversation full of grace and seasoned with salt

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. – Colossians 4:6 Scripture reading: Colossians 4:2-6 In ending this letter, Paul emphasizes two points. In calling us to prayer and to be watchful and thankful, he calls us first to seek our dependence and joy from our relationship with our Lord and Saviour.  Paul showed this dependence by asking his readers to also pray for him. In doing so, he humbly admitted that he was not a super apostle, but a human being like us who needed prayer to continue in his service. Paul also emphasized a relationship with the world around us. He asked for prayer that he would proclaim the mystery of Christ clearly. In doing this, he showed he had a great love for his neighbors. He was often beaten and imprisoned yet he did not ask to be rescued from this; rather, he asked for the ability to speak to the lost about Jesus in such a way that they would understand it clearly. Paul calls us to have a similar concern for the people around us who do not believe the wonderful message of salvation in Jesus Christ. He tells us that our conversation should be full of grace; that is, we are to talk in a loving way with everyone, even when they do not deserve it. But our conversation should also be seasoned with salt, that is, our conversation should touch and challenge people. It should not be just about the weather or the latest sports events. In doing this, we will be able to answer people about the most important matter in life, being reconciled to God through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer That our conversations with others will always be full of grace and seasoned with salt. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Thursday December 27 – Following Jesus and shining like stars

...shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life... – Philippians 2:15b, 16a  Scripture reading: Philippians 2:12-17 In the first part of Philippians 2, Paul gives a summary of Jesus’ ministry, from His taking on flesh as a child, to His humbling obedience unto death on the cross and to His exultation where all will bend the knee to His glorious name. However, notice that Paul tells us this summary of Jesus' life not just to encourage us in our faith, but as an example of how to live, not for ourselves, but for others. From this context, Paul tells us to work out our salvation; that is, because you are saved, work for your Saviour. How are we to do this? Paul says, "without complaining or arguing." Paul tells us this so that who we are in Jesus Christ would shine out to the world as living testimonies of what God can do. We can only be this light that shines in the dark world once our minds and hearts are truly set on Christ and His Kingdom and glory and not on ourselves. When we shine, we can hold out the Word of life, which is Jesus Christ. That is why we can tell people that Jesus is why we are the way we are. To bring Jesus in a proper way to your co-workers or your neighbors takes time and loving patience, time to spend with them so that they see that you are different and that you truly care for them. Do you use your free time for your own pleasure or your hobbies or are you working at telling those around you about the love of Christ that is in you? Suggestions for prayer That you shine in your community so that you can talk to others about Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Wednesday December 26 – Keeping the joy of Jesus coming

For my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel. – Luke 2:30-32 Scripture reading: Luke 2:21-35 When Simeon saw baby Jesus, the long wait he had endured had come to an end. He was so overcome by joy that He said he was ready to die now. Nothing could surpass what he experienced in seeing the baby Jesus, the Saviour of the world. He wanted the joy that he was experiencing to never end. God had worked in his heart and mind in such a way that when he saw Jesus, he saw Him for who He really was: God’s salvation. Are your eyes and heart always open to this great reality so that you also rejoice? Simeon mentioned that God had been preparing this for a long time right in the middle of all the nations. Israel was not always a powerful nation, but she was always right in the middle of the other nations. Simeon showed that he also knew that salvation was not only for the Jews, but for people all over the world. To marvel at the Person of Jesus includes marveling at the extent of His salvation work. He came not to save a small number of people, but to be a light of salvation for the world. May we be people who always glory in Christ’s coming, but may we also be active in showing and telling the world around us that they also can find joy and comfort in His coming, through faith in Him as the Saviour of the world. Suggestions for prayer That the joy of Jesus' birth will always be in our minds and hearts and the willingness to share this glorious message with others would always be ready on our lips. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Tuesday December 25 – Remembering why Jesus came into the world

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased! – Luke 2:14  Scripture reading: Luke 2:1-20 Special concerts are often held to celebrate special events of the present or the past. That is why the Christmas season has so many concerts. During the Christmas season, one can go to a variety of concerts telling the story of the Messiah. This tradition actually started outside Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. Those shepherds had the great privilege of hearing the angels sing, but it did not last long. It was a simple and powerful message, not only for them but also for us. Their words spoke of the two great things the birth of Jesus Christ brought about. Jesus' birth primarily brought glory to God. Jesus mentions in John 17:4 that He brought glory to His Father by completing the work He gave Him to do on earth.  This glorified His Father because God the Father had promised He would send someone to save mankind throughout the whole Old Testament. In becoming a baby, the Son of God fulfilled His Father’s words. The second thing that Jesus' birth brought about was true and lasting peace between God and man. He did this by giving His life as a sacrificial offering for all those on whom His favor rests. This is something to sing about and celebrate, but also something to proclaim to others. The only way your neighbors can know if God’s favor rests on them is if they hear about Jesus in a meaningful way. May this Christmas be a great time of celebrating, but may it also be a great time of letting others know of our great Saviour. Suggestions for prayer  That as we celebrate Christ's birth, we show in our words and actions that we want others to join us in celebrating His birth and saving work. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Monday December 24 – Remembering how Jesus came into the world

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. – Matthew 1:21    Scripture reading: Matthew 1:18-25 Even before Jesus was born, His coming to this world caused hardship. Mary was looked at as a sinful woman and Jesus was seen as an unwanted baby. This aptly foreshadowed the life Jesus would live. But God still sent His Son knowing this would be the case. Only through great hardship and suffering would Jesus save His people from their sins. This hardship would not only be for Jesus, but it would also be for His people. Jesus would not only save His people then but use His people in every generation as instruments in His hands so others would be saved. But this ongoing saving work of God would also involve suffering by Christ’s body, the church. Jesus once said, "If they do this to Me, they will also do it to My people." Why is this the case? The devil is still roaming this world seeking whom he may devour.  He does not want people to be saved. But the incredible thing is that even through the actions of the devil, God brings forth His plan to save His people. For example, the devil's influence was behind Jesus going to the cross, but His death brought about our salvation! The devil is still roaming the earth. He seeks to influence us in a way that causes us to feel foolish talking about our faith.  Remember, Jesus was willing to look bad and be rejected and as one of His people, we should be willing to look foolish in our desire for others to be saved. Suggestions for prayer That we would not fall to the devil’s schemes and threats, but would speak to people around us of Jesus, trusting that He saved us and is still saving people through His Word and Spirit. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Sunday December 23 – Living out of God’s great love for the world

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16  Scripture reading: John 3:14-21 Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and no doubt many are preparing in a variety of ways, getting presents for loved ones, baking for family and friends, etc. We can easily be so affected by the world’s ways of celebrating this season that we can gloss over the wonderful Present, the Bread of Life, that has already been given. The greatest wonder that has ever happened to this world is God the Father sending His Son to die for sinners like you and me so that we can have eternal life. The wonder is magnified in the fact that the Father sent His Son even though we did not deserve it. Jesus came to a world that hated Him and would kill Him, yet He came to die for this world because He loved it. But in rejoicing in this wonderful news, we must also see that this news is not just for us. It is for whoever believes in this wonderful Child and what He did on the cross. This passage should not only cause us to be joyful in the great gift of God’s Son, but it should also compel us to want those around us to hear this wonderful news. For the news is for the world, for all people, including those in your neighborhood and city. May our celebration this Christmas include telling others, maybe that neighbor or co-worker, the true meaning of Christmas. Suggestions for prayer That we would see that we have the greatest gift in Jesus Christ and ask for opportunities to tell others of this great gift. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Saturday December 22 – Setting apart Christ in our hearts and lives

But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you… – 1 Peter 3:15 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 3:8-22 The Christians to whom Peter first wrote this letter lived in a hostile world that thought their faith was crazy. Although we do not deal with the same persecution they faced, many people today see our faith as crazy. Everyone looks to Christmas as a nice time for the family to get together and celebrate, but most think the story of Jesus’ virgin birth is foolishness. For many, it is like believing in Santa Claus.  However, in the midst of this world, we are called to set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts. The things of this world can easily fill our hearts with wonder and joy, but we are called to put Christ first, above all. This can only happen when we continue to think and ponder on who Jesus is and what He has done for us. As we constantly think and ponder the wonder of who Jesus is, we will be able to both handle the ridiculing of our world and do what Peter calls us to do: to live for Jesus with such hope and joy that others will ask us the reason for our hope and joy. Although the world around us ridicules Jesus, we are called to look for ways to speak to them of Jesus, because knowing Him is the only way anyone can have lasting hope and joy in the fallen world. Suggestions for prayer That Jesus would increasingly be the joy and hope of our hearts; that we would show this hope and joy to all; that we would be able to explain our hope and joy to those still needing it. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Friday December 21 – The example of Thessalonians

For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere... – 1 Thessalonians 1:8a Scripture reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 The Christians in Thessalonica suffered much since they put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.  Paul thanked God for their ability to stand up under pressure, but he also praised them for not hiding their faith in the midst of their suffering. Paul says that they became imitators of him and his fellow workers. They could do this because they welcomed the message with joy. In coming to faith in Jesus, they had a special joy that compelled them to stand up under the pressure of persecution. It also gave them the confidence to declare the message they heard, not only in their own province and in the neighboring province of Achaia, but everywhere they went. This is what the good news of Jesus Christ does to those who come to a living faith in Him. A young man who hears the words “I do, I accept your proposal," from the girl he loves deeply, has great joy and is excited to tell everyone the good news. The Thessalonians and all of us who truly believe in Jesus Christ have a much bigger reason to speak with great joy about the wonderful news of Jesus Christ coming to die for sinners. The other great thing about telling others the joy of knowing Jesus is that they can share this joy with us through a living faith in Jesus Christ. Paul not only praised the Thessalonians for standing firm, but also for sharing their faith. Suggestions for prayer That the joy of salvation would so overwhelm us that we would always be compelled to proclaim the amazing message that saves wretches like us. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Thursday December 20 – Going out with confidence with the Word of God

...I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. – Matthew 16:18b  Scripture reading: Matthew 16:13-20 In a few of the devotions this month, I referred to this passage. In this statement, Jesus tells us the underlining reason why He came to this earth: to push back the domain of the devil and claim a people back from this fallen world. It comes after Peter’s wonderful confession of faith, “You are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus was telling His disciples that nothing is going to stop the building of Christ’s church. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God and followed the words of the devil, the devil won a battle. If it was not for God’s love for those He had created in His image, this world and everything in it would be forever lost. But God did have a great love for the fallen human race and so promised to send His Son so that He would conquer in such a way that He would enliven His people, not only to become His adopted children, but His instruments to proclaim the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ. With the sword of the Spirit (God's Word), Jesus said His people would conquer in such a way that the gates of Hades would not overcome it. Jesus is telling us that no matter how deep one of God’s chosen people may be under the control of devil, he will be rescued as the church battles with the sword of the Spirit in love. As His church, this should give us great confidence to go forward in our communities with His Word. Suggestions for prayer  That we would truly believe what Jesus said and go forward with great confidence in our neighborhoods with the Word of God. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Wednesday December 19 – Taking our stand for the battle

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. – Ephesians 6:13  Scripture reading: Ephesians 6:10-20; Matthew 16:18 When one is in a battle, two things are necessary, you have to know what you are fighting and you need the proper armour. When Jesus came to this earth as a little baby, He came to do battle, to fight for the souls of sinful humans. He conquered Satan on the cross, but, as this passage points out, the battle still rages on. When Jesus conquers you and me, we are no longer part of the kingdom of darkness, but part of the kingdom of light. As citizens of Christ’s Kingdom, we are now to fight for His Kingdom, which we do by putting on the armour of God. This is the only way in which we can stand while doing everything we are called to do as Christ’s people. We are not only to stand firm with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with the gospel of peace, holding onto the shield of faith and fitted with the helmet of salvation, we are also to wield the sword of the Spirit. This points out that although we are to defend ourselves from our great enemies, Satan, the world, and our sinful nature, we are also to be on the offensive with the Word of God in hand. We are to go out boldly with the assurance that when we wield the sword of the Spirit, people will continue to be conquered for the Lord Jesus Christ. This is so because the Spirit goes with the Word. When all the members of Christ’s church go forward with this bold assurance, the church will see others conquered and brought into Christ’s church. Suggestions for prayer That we as members of Christ’s church will have the bold assurance to wield the sword of the Spirit. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Tuesday December 18– Seeking more workers for the harvest

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. – Matthew 9:37b, 38 Scripture reading: Matthew 9:35-38 When Jesus saw the crowds coming to Him, He had compassion on them. The people then and the people around us today who do not know Jesus as Lord and Saviour are in a similar situation. They are lost and on their way to hell, if they are not drawn to follow the Good Shepherd. Jesus left heaven and came to this earth as a vulnerable baby because God had compassion on the lost people of this world. Jesus looked at the lost and promised He would lay down His life for His sheep. But who are His sheep? Jesus calls them "the harvest". They are those whom Jesus knows will be ripe for the harvest, those who are His lost sheep, people from all places and time who will be brought in. But Jesus says that there is a problem: the workers are few. That is, there are too few workers to bring God’s Word to the people of this world in order for them to be brought into the fold. For this reason, Jesus calls us to ask the Lord to send out workers into His harvest. To ask for this means we also want this deeply and so ought to be willing to sacrifice for this harvest. We cannot say one thing in our prayers and then live another way. All God’s people are to be involved in this harvest and be willing to sacrifice for it. Jesus came and died on the cross for His harvest. Some are full-time workers in His harvest, others are part-time workers in this harvest. Which does God want you to be? Suggestions for prayer  That you would pray for workers; also, that with a sacrificial heart, you would see the great need for you to be either a full-time or part-time worker in this harvest. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Monday December 17 – Ambassadors for Christ

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. – 2 Corinthians 5:20a Scripture reading: 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 In the broader context, Paul tells us that Jesus died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again. As those who have died and risen with Jesus, we are part of a new creation. And as those who are part of this new creation, we have been commissioned as His people to proclaim a message to the world: that anyone can be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ. This is what it means to be Christ’s ambassadors. Paul and the other apostles were the foundation of this message, but it is really the church’s message to the world. And as members of Christ’s church, we all have the responsibility of being ambassadors for Christ. So when you are speaking to your neighbour or co-worker or a fellow student who does not believe, God wants you to see that you are His representative to that person. God wants you to see that He is speaking to people that you interact with, through you. This means that God has given to His church the special privilege and responsibility to speak to the world on His behalf. Jesus was born, crucified and risen again, not only that we would be reconciled to God, but that we would be ambassadors of that reconciliation. Jesus accomplished this reconciliation at the cross, but He continues to accomplish this reconciliation by His Word and Spirit through the ministry of His church. Suggestions for prayer That you see you are no longer your own, but belong to Jesus Christ as His ambassadors, making Christ’s appeal to the world. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Sunday December 16 – Being a salt and light to the world

You are the salt of the earth . . . You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. – Matthew 5:13-14  Scripture reading: Matthew 5:1-16 When Jesus addressed His disciples as salt and light, He was saying this to men who constantly argued about who was the greatest, to men who would run from Him when He was in trouble. How could Jesus call these men the salt and light of the world? If the disciples were honest, they must have thought, "How can we be what Jesus says we are?" We can easily have the same feelings today. How can we be the salt and light in the world we live in? However, Jesus came to this earth so that those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn because of this fallen world, those who are meek and hunger and thirst for righteousness will be blessed; in turn, they can be merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and willing to be persecuted for righteousness' sake. If you hold to what Jesus says, you are truly blessed. This means you are approved of by Jesus Christ no matter what your background or natural state. Only in this new blessed state could the disciples be salt and light to the world in their time. When we truly believe we are blessed by Jesus, we can go forward as salt and light to bring lasting change to our world. For only when Jesus’ blessed words sink deep into our hearts and minds will we be able to rub shoulders with those around us in such a way that they will be confronted with the gospel from our mouths and touched by the gospel with the actions of our hands. Suggestions for prayer That we would truly believe we are blessed by Jesus and so be a salt and light to our generation. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Saturday December 15 – Declaring God’s glory to the world

Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! – Psalm 96:2,3 Scripture reading: Psalm 96 In reading this Psalm, you can see that God was calling His people not only to praise Him out of the joy of salvation but also to proclaim a special message to the world. The only way the people of the Old Testament could truly know His salvation was to admit their guilt and rely on the sacrificial system God had set up for them. Only from the joy of receiving this salvation out of grace could they declare God’s glory among the nations and His marvelous deeds among all peoples. Although God’s Old Testament people had reason to celebrate and proclaim His salvation day after day, we have more reason today. We live after the finished work of Jesus Christ. They did not know that those Old Testament sacrifices pointed to the fact that salvation could come to all people. But we do. We know that God Himself took on human flesh and lived among us so that He could die on a cross and bring salvation even to us. This should cause us to celebrate His salvation day after day and cause us to glorify God wherever we live and work. But this salvation should also cause us to delight in telling the marvelous things Jesus did to bring salvation to sinners. God always wanted His people not only to praise Him in the joy of salvation but also to tell the world of His deeds so that many would join in praising Him in salvation. Suggestions for prayer: That we would grow in the wonder of His gracious salvation and so praise His name and share the wonders of God’s saving work with others. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Friday December 14 – Desiring others to join the family of God

And of Zion it shall be said, “This one and that one were born in her”; for the Most High himself will establish her. – Psalm 87:5   Scripture reading: Psalm 87 When the people of God in the Old Testament sang this Psalm, they were yearning for our days, the days after Jesus died, rose, ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit upon His church. Old Testament people sang this Psalm with eager expectation for the day when Zion, the church, would be a place in which people, who used to be enemies of God, would rejoice in being part of the people of God. We live on the other side of the great works of Jesus that made this possible. The difference between us and the Old Testament people of God is that we can now sing this song about ourselves. We sing that God has made it possible for us to be part of the people of God. But we are also called to sing this Psalm yearning for others to be added to Christ’s church. For God’s Old Testament people to truly sing this Psalm, they had to live their lives promoting the coming of the day, the great day when the Lord would fulfill this prophecy by preserving the nation of Israel. When we sing this Psalm, we are called to promote the ongoing fulfillment of this prophecy. We are not just to sing this Psalm, but live our lives seeking for our unbelieving neighbours to hear about our Lord and be born again through a living faith in Jesus Christ, so they can also 'be born in Zion'. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would have an increasing desire to live in such way that those around you would hear the gospel from you and see it in you so that many others would also say they were born in Zion. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

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