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Daily devotional

Sunday December 9 - Refined to be a blessing

I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. - Ezekiel 37:26 Scripture reading: Ezekiel 37:15-28 Sometimes when God punishes us, we wonder if God still cares or if He can still use us. The Bible has wonderful accounts of God showing He cares for His people, even though He punishes them. When God sent His people out of the promised land and exiled them to Babylon, He was punishing them; however, at the same time, He was refining them so that He could bless them and make them a blessing to the world. In the early chapters of Ezekiel, God tells His people that He would allow the temple to be destroyed and, in a way, temporarily abandon them because of their wickedness. Yet, God said He would make an everlasting covenant of peace with them. God was promising that, from their suffering, He would raise them up in order to bless them and fulfill His promises through them. He would do this in order that they would be a blessing to the world and increase in number. In this way, the nation of Israel foreshadowed what Jesus would do in His earthly ministry. God punished His Son with death on the cross and raised Him up so that through Him people from all over the world would be blessed. If you believe that Jesus died and was raised for you, you have peace with God. Ezekiel’s prophecy has also been fulfilled in you. But God is not finished fulfilling this promise; He is still increasing the numbers through His people. Therefore, you are to have an urgency to work for the increase of His Kingdom by being a salt and light in your community. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would be used to spread the gospel so that the great harvest would continue to be gathered in. 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 8 - Trusting that there is power in the Word of God

So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. – Isaiah 55:11 Scripture reading: Isaiah 55; Luke 12:47-48 Have you ever wondered, "Why would I tell this person about Jesus when he doesn't seem interested?" Isaiah must have thought this at times. He must have wondered about the people of Israel and what God’s Word would do to their hardened hearts. God had even said that they would not listen. But God told Isaiah back then and tells us today, "Trust Me. Your job is to spread the Word and I, the Lord, will bring about my purposes with My Word for blessing or for punishment." I remember one man who was always disruptive when he came to Bible studies and Sunday services. I often hoped he would not come. I did not fully trust God the way I should have. But in a little over a year, the Lord changed that man into a loving, godly man who lived in the joy of salvation. For another man to whom I brought the gospel for years, I never saw a change. After reading Isaiah 55, I remember telling him that God would bring glory to His Name either in his salvation or in his condemnation. This caused him to be unsettled, but I do not know if he ever became a Christian. With these two men, I came to see that the words of Isaiah 55:11 gives us reason to bring His Word to the world around us no matter what. When you are wondering if you are to tell others the good news of Jesus Christ, remember you are called to bring it with confidence, trusting that God will not let His Word return to Him empty, but that it will bring about His purposes. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will have confidence in telling others about Jesus Christ, trusting that God will bring about His purposes with the gospel message. 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 7 - Being an active member of Christ's kingdom

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it. – Isaiah 2:2 Scripture reading: Isaiah 2; 1 Timothy 3:14-17 In the time of Isaiah, God’s people were rebellious. God said He would punish them, yet God still promised that He would make them into something great. That great thing was fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus and “the last days” Isaiah was referring to, are our days, the days after Jesus conquered the devil, sin, and death for His people. During these last days, Isaiah prophesied that God’s people would be like a mountaintop to which people from all over the world would come in order to learn about the wonders of the one true God and His ways. God had set the people of Israel apart so that this would one day be a reality. In setting Israel apart, God was making things ready for His Son to come into the world and make things right so people from all over the world could come and know the one true God, His ways and His loving forgiveness. Another amazing thing about this is that when people come to this mountain and find the Lord, they can see themselves as part of the mountain that draws people to come and know the Lord God and His ways. That mountain is really Christ’s Church. To be a living member of this church is to be part of this mountain drawing people to God through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Are you being an active member of this mountain in drawing people to God and His loving forgiveness? Suggestions for prayer That we as a church community would more and more be what God said we would be through the prophecy of Isaiah. 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 6 - Being instruments in God's hands shows that God cares

And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city. ..? – Jonah 4:11a  Scripture reading: Jonah 4 One of the hard things Jesus calls us to do, as His disciples, is to show love to our enemies. This was and is not a new command. God had asked Jonah to do this many years before Jesus walked through the land of Israel. The people of Nineveh were great enemies of the people of Israel. The Ninevites liked hurting, killing, and causing great fear in the hearts of their enemies, including God’s people. Jonah ran from bringing a message to Nineveh the first time because he wanted God to destroy this city and not show pity to them. God redirected Jonah back to Nineveh because He cared for this wicked, rebellious, idol-worshiping people. Jonah knew that his own people, the people of Israel, were also wicked, but thought they deserved God’s mercy instead of those wicked Ninevites. In sending Jonah to Nineveh, God sought to teach Jonah and all His people three great lessons. The first lesson has to do with who we are. If our hearts have been changed and we are part of God’s people, it is not because we are so good. The second lesson is that if we are God’s people, we are not to see ourselves as trophies to sit and be proud of who we are. We are to see ourselves as instruments in God’s hands to show that God does care for people like the Ninevites and people in our communities. Thirdly, God can change the heart of anyone to repent, so we should be willing to bring God’s words to anyone. Suggestions for prayer That we would have the heart of God and care for the people around us and so be willing to get to know people in our communities to tell them the good news of 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. The painting is "Jonas and the whale" (circa 1552) author unknown....

Daily devotional

Wednesday December 5 – Being a kingdom of priests

Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. – Exodus 19:5-6a Scripture reading: Exodus 19:1-9; 1 Peter 2:4-12 The nation of Israel left Egypt as slaves but God not only freed them but made them into a special nation of priests. After wandering through the desert, God brought His people to Mount Sinai, where God set the guidelines for the covenant relationship He lovingly established with His people. When you read those words, “If you obey me fully and keep my covenant," did you think of all the times Israel did not obey and keep His covenant? Yet God continued to look at Israel as His treasured possession. That full obedience and keeping of the covenant had to wait until the coming of Jesus Christ. But God already started to look at His people through the lens of Jesus Christ.  Only through Him could they be that treasured possession.  Is that not also true for us today? But just like them, we have to admit we are not what we should be and seek forgiveness.  They did it according to the regulations and ceremonies that pointed to Jesus’ work, whereas we do this looking to Jesus' finished work on the cross.  And just like they had to believe that they were God’s treasured possession of grace, we too are called to see ourselves as His treasured possession because of His mercy. But this is not all we are called to believe and do. We are also called to believe that as His people, we are set apart to glorify God and to be of service to others by telling and showing the world Who our God is and what great things He can do for sinful people. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we as His people would be that holy nation, that kingdom of priests, glorifying God and at the same time telling and showing the world Who our God is and what He has done through His Son, 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

Tuesday December 4 - God can change and use anyone to fulfill His promises

Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. – Genesis 28:14  Scripture reading: Genesis 28:10-22 Have you ever thought, "God cannot use me to spread the Word of God?" Or perhaps you've thought, "I do not have this ability. I am still struggling in my Christian life." Jacob was a human being like us. He was a struggling follower of God. He had just lied in a very despicable way to his father in order for his father to bless him. He was running for his life, afraid that his older brother would kill him. He was all alone with nothing going for him. Or so he thought. It was at this difficult time that God showed Himself, not only to bless Jacob but to inform him that all peoples on earth would be blessed through him and his offspring. Whenever God comes to His people and blesses them, He does this so that they would also be a blessing to others. God would lead and protect Jacob so that he would become the father of a nation from which the Saviour of the world would come. Because of that, people from all over the world would be blessed including you today through faith in Jesus Christ. Although the blessings God has promised you are somewhat different than what Jacob heard from God, there is a similarity. You see, God was thinking of you when He blessed Jacob, but He was also thinking of others who would be blessed through your faith in Jesus Christ as you witness of your Lord and Saviour. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would grow in your understanding of the great blessing you have in Jesus Christ, being part of His body to bring blessings to those around you. 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. The painting, "Jacob's dream" (1639) is by José de Ribera....

Daily devotional

Monday December 3 – Sacrificial service comes from true faith

And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” – Genesis 22:15-18 Scripture reading: Genesis 22; Hebrews 11:17-19 Today we will see another lesson from Abraham’s life. God did not call and bless Abraham in order to be a trophy, but to be an instrument in God’s hand to bring blessings to others. In seeing that he was an instrument in God’s hand, Abraham came to understand that only through obedience could he be that instrument and only through faith in the promises could he be obedient. We are told that Abraham was able to offer up his son in obedience because he reasoned that God could raise this promised child from the dead. Although we are not called to leave the country like Abraham left and offer up a son as Abraham did, we are called to sacrificial obedience based on the promises we are called to believe in. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus has called us into His family to share in His triumph over sin, death and the devil. But He also called us to share in His ministry to bring the gospel to the rest of humanity, as His church, the pillar and foundation of the truth (Ephesians 3:15). If your eyes have been opened to His gracious and glorious promises, are you not also coming to understand, as Abraham did, that you are not a trophy, but an instrument in God’s hands, serving sacrificially as the body of Christ in His mission to the world so that all may hear the good news of Jesus Christ? Suggestions for prayer  Pray that you will more and more see yourself as an instrument in God’s hand that He is transforming and moulding to bring Him glory as you share the gospel. 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. The painting is "The Sacrifice of Isaac" (1603) by Caravaggio....

Daily devotional

Sunday December 2 – God uses sinful people to bring forward his promise

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great,so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonorsyou I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. – Genesis 12:2-3 Scripture reading: Genesis 12; Joshua 24:1-3 Abram was a sinful human being, yet God called Him into a relationship with Himself. Joshua 24:1-3 tells us that Abram served other gods when God called him. The amazing thing is that when God called him into this relationship, He not only promised to bless him but also said he would be a blessing forall the families of the earth. God promised to make this sinful man, who would also lie about his wife to save his own skin, into a great nation and bring blessing to all people groups around the world, even to us today. God was not only going to send Someone great to conquer the devil, but He was also showing that He would use the line of sinful mankind to do it. This should give us confidence that if God could use Abram to fulfill His amazing promises, He can use us, His children, to fulfill His promises for us to be a salt and light in this fallen world. God has called us to be His ambassadors to the world, showing and telling our neighbours that Jesus is able and willing to transform lives. As sinful people, we can think that we cannot do that. But if God could transform and use Abram for the purposes He had in store for him, He can transform you and me and use us for the purposes He has in store for us. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His willingness to transform sinful people into His children so that He can use them to fulfill His wonderful promises for this fallen 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

Saturday December 1 – Introduction

For the month of December, we will be looking at a number of passages in the Old and NewTestaments that speak of the coming and work of Jesus Christ. In doing this, we will see how God has always communicated that He had a plan to rescue people from all over the world so that they could be part of His redeemed family. We will also see that God not only had a plan to rescue people, but He also desires to use His people as instruments in His hands to bring His saving work to others. In the Old Testament passages, we will see how God gathered His people and preserved them so that they would be a light to the world. We will also see that this light to the world would only truly be fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Yet, God not only saved His Old Testament church, but also used its people so that through them the Saviour would come. In the New Testament passages, we will see what fulfilling God’s promises meant for God’s people. Not only was the sacrificial system of the Old Testament not needed anymore, but the nation of Israel no longer was to be seen as the isolated people of God. God’s people would be people from every nation.  But we will also see that God not only saves people from all tribes and nations to be his Church, He also uses His church to continue to bring the Saviour Jesus Christ to the world. Lastly, we will see that Jesus is not only the founder and perfecter of the faith, but also challenges us, His people, to be witnesses of this faith in how we live and what we say to the world around us so that others can be brought into the family of God. The mother of all promises I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. - Genesis 3:15 Scripture reading: Genesis 3 When we get discouraged with this fallen world, we can easily think God does not care or that He is indifferent to our struggles. But the words of Genesis 3:15 should remind us that God does care for sinful people in this fallen world. Right after Adam and Eve rebelled against God and sided with the devil, God showed them and us that God still cares. When Adam and Eve were hiding from each other and from God and were in a hopeless, self-inflicted turmoil, God came and told them and us that He still cares. God promised to separate a people to Himself and promised to deliver these people by sending Someone to conquer the devil and to free people from the clutches of the devil. God made this promise even though Adam and Eve did not have the ability to plead for forgiveness. When God said that He would separate a people to Himself from fallen humanity, He did not say who those people would be. He not only wants us to believe that we could be included in that special group, but He also wants us to have such a love for our neighbours that we would want them to be part of this group. God made that promise to Adam and Eve because He has a mission to bring people who are dead in their sins into a saving relationship with Himself. That is why He promised to send His Son. In order for us to be part of God’s people, we ought to have the heart of God, desiring that other sinners be brought into the family of God. Suggestions for prayer  Pray that this passage will give you comfort, but also motivation to tell others that God does care for sinful people in this fallen 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

Friday November 30 – Conclusion: Blessed to be a blessing

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! – Psalm 67:3 Scripture reading: Psalm 67 We end where we began, with the story of the Bible as summed up by Jesus: "Then he said to them, 'These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.' Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.'"(v. 45-47). The whole Bible is about the mission of God to save the nations: the promise given to Abraham, the calling given to Israel, the identity fulfilled in Jesus and then given to us. And so the song of Psalm 67 is our song: "May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations" (Ps 67:1–2). We pray for God’s blessing, not for our own sake, but so that His ways will be known on earth. Let us believe the good news that Jesus is the light of the world. Let us believe Him that we are now the light of the world. And then let us live faithfully as His witnesses in all of life. Suggestions for prayer That God would make us faithful missional people for His glory and for the sake of the nations. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Thursday November 29 –The Church's mission (7): Fighting idolatry

Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. – Psalm 115:8  Scripture reading: Romans 1:18-32 We have seen that Matthew 5 and 1 Peter 2 both expect the church to be different from the world in such a way as to be visible and appealing. How can we do that? Is it simply by following different (or more!) rules? Will that be appealing? One of the main ways Scripture gives us to be different in an appealing way is by fighting idolatry. In Romans 1, Paul summarizes sin as a matter of idolatry and defines idolatry in this way: "They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen" (Romans 1:25). Idolatry is worshipping the creation instead of the Creator, taking good things that God has made and treating them as ultimate in place of God. When we do this, we inevitably distort and twist the good things God has made, since they are not meant to be worshipped. Those idols enslave, consume and destroy. When we follow Jesus by faith, we are freed from worshipping those idols and that life of freedom is meant to be appealing, for it is life as God made it to be. Instead of being destructively enslaved to things like money, sex and power, we can use them rightly, for God’s glory and that way of life is given to be light in a dark world. Suggestions for prayer That God would help us recognize our idols, be freed from them and live for His glory so that we might use His good creation rightly, for the sake of those around us. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Wednesday November 28 – The Church's mission (6): Life together, for the sake of the world

And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. – Acts 2:47b Scripture reading: Acts 2:42-47 (again) Look back at our outline of Acts 2 from yesterday. What was the church doing that resulted in people being saved each day? They were simply being the church, doing so with a sense of missional purpose. We have been wrestling with this idea throughout this month: mission isn’t just something we do, it’s who we are. But at the same time, it affects and shapes everything we do. Acts 2 describes the church’s life together as being fruitful for mission. But we so often do the opposite: we justify our community life together as a way of putting up walls, excluding others, defining insiders and outsiders. Acts 2 suggests, however, and the entire story of God’s mission throughout the Bible makes very clear, that we are called to be the church for the sake of the nations. God blesses us with community life so that we will be a blessing. We must ask ourselves - as individuals, families and churches: what is our sense of identity and purpose? Why are we here? Is our fellowship eager to welcome others? Is our life together infused with the sense of being for the sake of others? Is our community ready, willing and able to include those who need the gospel, whose lives are messy and broken, who are drawn to the good news we proclaim? Or do we think of our churches as existing largely to meet our own needs? All of this is how the story of God’s mission must challenge us today. Suggestions for prayer That God would infuse our fellowship with a sense of being other-oriented and that He would make our churches welcoming places for those who need the gospel of Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho...

Daily devotional

Tuesday November 27 – The Church's mission (5): Life together

And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. – Acts 2:47b Scripture reading: Acts 2:42-47  For the church’s mission, the preaching of the Word is central, even as we are called to be witnesses in all of life. Another central component of our mission is our life together, our community life as the church. Acts 2:42-47 describes the church's life together and concludes by saying that their life resulted in having favour with all the people and in people being saved each day. Let’s look in more detail at the aspects of that life: Word and sacrament: “the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” Real life fellowship and community: “And all who believed were together and had all things in common” Caring for each other in time of need: “And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Fellowship by way of hospitality: “breaking bread in their homes” We are not called to be witnesses as isolated, individual Christians first of all, but together as the church. That means that, when the church is blessed with a rich life of fellowship, we must think of it as not simply being for our own sake, but as being for the sake of those around us. Suggestions for prayer That God would bless us with a rich life of fellowship together, and that He would make us eager and ready to welcome others into that fellowship. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Monday November 26 - The Church's mission (4): In all of life

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:1-12 In the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5, Jesus said that we are the light of the world. While the preaching of the word has a central place in the life and mission of the church, what Jesus meant is that in all of our living, we are to be different and distinct in such a way as to be witnesses to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In that passage, the teaching of Jesus was that such a witness would be fruitful for the good of others, expecting that they would “give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” In the same way, Peter calls us to be different from the world: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Pe 2:12). This doesn’t just mean being different from the world. It means being different in a way that is visible: not in a hidden huddle, but in real engaged life in real cities and communities. And it means being different in a way that is appealing. If we truly love the world as God does (John 3:16), then we must make it clear that the way of life God calls us to is good and that it is for the good of the nations. That is, our heart motive must be that of being a blessing to those around us. Suggestions for prayer That God would make us different from the world, that He would make our way of life visibly appealing, and that He would make that witness fruitful for our mission. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Sunday November 25 - The Church's mission (3): The preaching of the Word

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. – Romans 10:17 Scripture reading: Romans 10 In what way is the church called to carry out her mission. First of all, we must emphasize the centrality of the preaching of the Word. As we will see tomorrow, we are called to be witnesses in all of everyday life. But the primary means that God uses to create faith in the hearts of His people is always the preached Word. As Paul says in Romans 10: "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? ... So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:14, 17). It is because we are concerned with the church’s mission that we must emphasize the importance of preaching: the announcement of who Jesus is and what He has done in His death and resurrection together with the call to respond with faith in that good news. The church today is tempted to neglect this means of grace in favour of other methods. But just as the Word is the means by which God spoke and called this creation into existence, so the Word is the means by which God calls forth the new creation of faith in our hearts: “. ..since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). Suggestions for prayer That God would supply us with faithful preaching, that He would encourage our confidence in His use of the preached Word and that the Word would bear fruit in our lives and in the church’s mission. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Saturday November 24 - The Church's mission (2): To the end of the earth

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 The book of Acts describes the mission that the church has been given between the first and second coming of Christ: to be His witnesses as the gospel spreads to cover the whole world. Whatever we are, whoever we are, whatever work God has given us, that is who He has called us to be: His witnesses to Jesus Christ. Acts 1:8 describes this as an ongoing process that lasts until Jesus returns, spreading to cover the world: “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Indeed, the Heidelberg Catechism speaks of this expansion as part of what we believe about the church in Q&A 54: What do you believe concerning “the holy catholic church”? I believe that the Son of God through his Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member. That whole answer is about mission and it is very clear that the mission continues until Jesus returns: “Out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end.” That is who we are and that is why we are here as the church. That is our mission. Suggestions for prayer That God would give us the eyes of faith to see the expansion of His kingdom around the world and that He would make us faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ in all of our living. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Friday November 23 – The Church's mission (1): True children of Abraham

Go... so that you will be a blessing. – Genesis 12:1a, 2b Scripture reading: Genesis 12:1-9 (one more time!) We arrive today at a point of transition in our study. Up until now,we have done three main things: We have seen God’s promise to Abraham that he would be a blessing to the nations. We have seen how Jesus fulfilled the promise and calling of Israel. We have seen how God’s promises for the future include the complete fulfillment of that promise at the return of Christ. What we must do now is locate our lives in the midst of that great story. We live between the first coming of Jesus and His return, and that is the time of mission. All who share the faith of Abraham are children of Abraham and that means we share in his calling and mission. As Michael Goheen points out in his book Light to the Nations, just as God said to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-2 “Go... so that you will be a blessing,” so He says to His church in Matthew “Go... and make disciples.” It is this story that gives us our mission and purpose as a church. We, like Abraham, are called to be a “so that” people. We are blessed, not to keep that blessing to ourselves, but blessed so that we will be a blessing to others. This begins, not with a list of things to do, but with a sense of identity in Christ. Mission is not just something we do, but it is who we are. Suggestions for prayer That God would help us grow in our sense of identity as the true children of Abraham in Christ, blessed so that we will be a blessing. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Thursday November 22 – The future of our mission (2): A new creation

By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. – Revelation 21:24 Scripture reading: Revelation 21 The story of God’s mission to save the nations of the world spans from Genesis to Revelation, from the beginning of the story to its end. The Bible begins, not with sin and the need for a Saviour, but with God’s good creation. Likewise, the Bible ends, not simply with individual souls being saved, but with a new creation, new heavens and a new earth. God will not abandon His good creation, but promises to set it right, eradicating all that is cursed and twisted and broken: "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). When He does this at the return of Jesus, it will be in fulfillment of the promises that He gave to Abraham and Israel, the promises He fulfilled in Jesus as the faithful Israelite and the true Son of Abraham, and so it will be for the benefit of the nations: "By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it,  and its gates will never be shut by day — and there will be no night there.  They will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations" (Revelation 21:24–26). That is the future God has promised, the future we are living for as we carry out the mission God has given us. Suggestions for prayer That God would fill us with faith in His promised future, especially of the world being set right, of every tear wiped away and perfect fellowship with Him in His new creation. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Wednesday November 21 – The future of our mission (1): The Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered

By your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. – Revelation 5:9 Scripture reading: Revelation 5 One of the things that the book of Revelation makes abundantly clear for the church today is that the church’s mission will be successful. That is what God promised in Daniel 2: that the stone that defeated the kingdoms of the world would grow into a mountain that filled the whole earth. Likewise, when Jesus gave His commission to His church in Matthew 28, He was clear that “all authority in heaven and on earth” has been given to Him. As Revelation 5 says, the Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered by dying as a Lamb and rising again from the dead. That victory over death guarantees the success of the church's mission. It may not always look like success in the eyes of the world: the Lion conquered by dying after all, but the mission will nevertheless be successful. And so Revelation 5 gives us the beautiful song to sing of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham so long ago that he would be a blessing to the nations: "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation" (Revelation 5:9). That glorious song is our confidence as we carry out the mission God has given to us. Suggestions for prayer That we would be encouraged by the promised success of the church's mission and that such encouragement would make us faithful in response to God’s promises. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Tuesday November 20 - Jesus fulfills Israel's mission (5): Go, make disciples!

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. - Matthew 28:19a Scripture reading: Matthew 28:16-20 Until He returns, Jesus has given His church the identity of being a light to the nations. This is not, first of all, something we do, but a matter of who we are. Missions is not simply a category of the church's life; rather, the mission God has given us is our identity, our very reason for existing as His people in this world. In Matthew 28, Jesus describes the reasons and purpose for which we are in the world: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28:19–20). This is not a matter of having missions and evangelism as a part of the church’s life. It is, rather, the whole reason we exist: to disciple the nations. This task does not end the moment someone becomes a Christian. Rather, the task of learning to be a disciple, to follow Jesus faithfully, lasts one’s entire life. And the work is not done until all people, all nations, all communities have heard the good news and the call to follow Jesus. This is why we are here; this is who we are; this is our purpose until Jesus returns. We are to disciple the nations, because that is what God promised Abraham, what He fulfilled in Jesus, and that is the mission He now gives to us. Suggestions for prayer That God would help our sense of identity as God’s missional people to grow and flourish and that our mission would be fruitful for His kingdom. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Monday November 19 - Jesus fulfills Israel's mission (4): You are the light of world

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16 Scripture reading: Matthew 5:13-16 To understand the mission of the church, we must continue to trace the line of God’s mission throughout Scripture. The Bible is a big book and so the big picture of the whole story can be difficult to hold in our minds all at once. But it’s essential to do so if we are going to understand and feel and experience the drama of who we are called to be as the church today. Let’s recall the flow of the story: God promised Abraham in Genesis 12 that He would bless all the nations through his family. Israel, therefore, was called to live before the nations as a light to the nations. But Israel failed at that task and in exile waited for the Messiah Who would bring the promised Kingdom. When Jesus came, He did so as the true and faithful Israelite, the true Son of Abraham. Jesus was the true light of the world, the fulfillment of Israel’s calling. Does that mean there is no longer a need for light in the word? Here is where we must hear the words of Jesus in Matthew 5: "You are the light of the world. " Jesus has fulfilled Israel’s calling and then given that same calling to His church. As Israel was called to be, as Jesus was perfectly, so we are called to be until His return: the light of the world. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for the light that Jesus brings and then pray that He would enable us to be a light to those around us. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

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