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Daily devotional

Wednesday November 14 – Singing of mission (4): The Lord says to my Lord

Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power. – Psalm 110:3 Scripture reading: Psalm 110 Psalm 110 is one of the many Psalms that the New Testament explicitly tells us is fulfilled by the resurrection, ascension, and reign of Jesus as King. The first two verses speak clearly of Jesus’ ascension to God’s right hand to reign over all the world: "The Lord says to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.' The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty sceptre. Rule in the midst of your enemies!” (v. 1-2). Psalms like this are essential to remember when we think about our mission as the church. When we think about being witnesses in all of our living, about proclaiming the gospel to all nations, we can be tempted to feel overwhelmed and helpless. But the New Testament tells us that these words have already been fulfilled in Jesus, that He is king over all and that therefore His mission will be successful. That is why we need to sing Psalms like this that speak so clearly of evil. But such language of victory has in view not only the defeat of God’s enemies, but also of the success of His mission to be a blessing: “He will execute judgment among the nations” (v. 6). To execute judgment doesn’t just mean to punish evil. It means to set things right, to make things be as they ought to be. That is what Jesus has done, is doing and will one day do fully at His return. And that is good news for all nations! Suggestions for prayer That we would believe and rest in the good news that Jesus is King, and that we would boldly embrace our mission as a result. 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 13 - Singing of mission (3): Christ shall have dominion

May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth! – Psalm 72:8 Scripture reading: Psalm 72 Psalm 72 is another example of a psalm in which Israel sang about the coming of the Messiah, and about the implications He would have for all the nations of the earth. Israel sang for and about the faithful Son of David: “Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son!” (v. 1). Israel’s expectation was that a faithful son of David would have dominion over the whole earth. Though they did not see this with their eyes, they sang of it by faith: “May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!” (v. 8). And most strikingly, this was not just about conquering or subduing the nations, though that theme is present in the Psalm and many Israelites probably emphasized that theme. It was also about being a blessing to the nations: “May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!” (v. 17). Israel sang of the nations of the world being “blessed in him.” These were the sorts of promises that shaped Israel’s hopes as they awaited the Messiah, the promises that Jesus fulfilled, the promises that now give us our mission as the church. Our goal is to see all the nations - including our own communities and cities - “call him blessed.” Suggestions for prayer Praise God for the good news that we have found blessing in Jesus as the faithful Son of David and pray that we would love and embrace our calling to be witnesses to that same good news. 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 12 - Singing of mission (2): Blessed to be a blessing

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. – Psalm 67:4 Scripture reading: Psalm 67 The next Psalm we turn to is Psalm 67. It begins with familiar words, reminding us of the Aaronic benediction in Numbers 6: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us” (v. 1). This is a prayer for blessing, a prayer for the blessing that most specifically belongs to Israel in particular. The Aaronic benediction was something that belonged to and was proclaimed for Israel as God’s special covenant people. It was their special blessing. That makes the next verse all the more striking: “That your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations” (v. 2). The particular blessing that was for Israel was ultimately not just for Israel. Israel was to seek blessing from the Lord so that the nations would come to know God’s ways. Israel was tempted to think the blessing was just for them. This psalm challenged them to remember that they were blessed to be a blessing. The same thing is true for the church today. When God blesses us, it is not so we can keep that blessing for ourselves, but so that we can be a blessing to those around us. In Christ, we are the true children of Abraham and that means that the calling of Israel to be a light to the nations is being fulfilled in the church today. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for blessing Israel in such a way that we have received blessings in Christ and then pray that we would continue to be a blessing to others. 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 11 - Singing of mission (1): Why do the nations rage?

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. – Psalm 2:8 Scripture reading: Psalm 2 Thus far this month, we have seen how God gave Israel a mission to be a light to the nations, a mission driven by the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed and we have traced that theme throughout the story of Israel. That leads us to the next section of this study: the ways in which Israel sang about their mission in the Psalms. This is deeply formative for us as the church today, as we continue to sing the Psalms as they have been fulfilled in Christ. Looking at the Psalms, then, teaches us about Jesus and about the mission of the church today. The first example we turn to is Psalm 2. This psalm sings of the Messiah, the Son of David, Who would fulfill God’s promises to Israel. God’s promise to the Messiah was that the nations would be His inheritance: “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (v. 8). This is how we must view the world. Even as the nations rage against the Lord, they are in fact Christ’s inheritance, the reason He came, the purpose for which He died and rose again. And so that song gives us our mission as well, to proclaim to all who do not know Him: “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (v. 12). Suggestions for prayer We thank God that the Messiah asked for – and received – us as His inheritance, as part of the nations of the world. And we pray that we would be faithful to continue to carry out the mission of calling others to take refuge in Him. 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 10 - Israel's mission (7): It shall come to pass in latter days

And all the nations shall flow to it. – Isaiah 2:2b Scripture reading: Isaiah 2:1-5 Even as Israel received judgment for rebellion against God, the Lord was clear that He would not abandon the promise to Abraham that through him all families of the earth would be blessed. Through the prophets, God promises to fulfill Israel's mission for the sake of the world. A beautiful example is Isaiah 2:2-3: "Many peoples shall come, and say: 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." God promised a day when the nations would stream to Mt. Zion! In Luke 24, Jesus said that all the Scriptures spoke not only of Him, but of the mission of the church. Likewise, Isaiah 49:6: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” In Zechariah 8:13, He promises to restore Israel precisely as a blessing: “And as you have been a byword of cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing...”, promises that waited for fulfillment at the coming of Christ, promises for all nations! Suggestions for prayer That we would trust in God’s faithfulness to His promises and that we would love Jesus more as the One in whom they are fulfilled. 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 9 - Israel's mission (6): The failure of Israel

And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. – Ezekiel 36:23 Scripture reading: Ezekiel 36:22-36 As Israel entered the promised land, God reminded the people of their calling to live differently from the world to be a blessing to the world. But Israel's time in the land ended with failure. They chased after other gods, rebelled against God's law and ended up in exile as a result. And when God sent Israel into exile, He was clear as to what the reason was: not only because of Israel's idolatry, but because of Israel’s failure to be a faithful witness before the nations: "Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came" (Ezekiel 36:22). The exile was because Israel profaned God’s name “among the nations.” When God promised that Israel would be restored from exile, He said the reason was to restore Israel’s mission: "Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it" (Ezekiel 36:36). Even when Israel was in exile, God promised to restore Israel for the sake of the nations. That is the heart of God revealed, the heart of the God Who created and loves His world and would one day rescue it through His Son. Suggestions for prayer That the Spirit would enable us in Christ to be faithful where Israel was unfaithful, and that he would do so 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 8 - Israel's mission (5): In the sight of the peoples

Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” – Deuteronomy 4:6 Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 4:1-14 In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is preaching to Israel before they enter the promised land, reminding them of the promises of the covenant and the life to which they are called. He also reminds them of the purpose of all of this, that they have been blessed, not to keep the blessing to themselves, but so that they will be a blessing to the nations. Indeed, Moses makes it clear that they are being given the land of Canaan “in the sight of the peoples,” so that their way of life will be seen by others. The expectation of Deuteronomy is not only that Israel’s way of life will be seen, but that it will be clearly good and appealing: Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." This is one of the ways God’s people are called to be a blessing: to live in accordance with God’s Word in a way that is visible and that is clearly “wise and understanding.” Jesus says that it continues to be our mission today: “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). Suggestions for prayer That we would remember our identity as a people on display before the nations and that the lost would be drawn to the goodness of life in 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

Wednesday November 7 – Israel's mission (4): All the Earth is mine

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. – Exodus 19:5 Scripture reading: Exodus 19:1-9 In Genesis 12, God called Abraham to be a blessing to the nations: “I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing” (v.2). In his book, Light to the Nations, Michael Goheen sums up the identity and mission of Israel with this idea, that Israel was called to be a “so that” people, blessed by God so that they would be a blessing. This is the identity that God emphasizes for Israel in Exodus 19. They are God’s treasured possession, not instead of all the nations, but among all peoples. God chose them in order to put them on display, to show what He would one day do for all nations. He blessed Israel as part of His plan to be a blessing to all the families of the earth. “And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). Israel was to be a kingdom of priests. What priests did for Israel, Israel was to do for the nations. Priests represented God to the people and represented the people before God. That is what Israel was called to do: to represent who God was, the promises He gave, the grace He showed, and the life to which He calls us. Israel thought God's promises were all for them. But God was clear: “All the earth is mine.” And because God so loved the world, He would one day send His Son, born to Israel’s family, for all the nations. Suggestions for prayer That we would remember, like Israel, we are blessed so that we will be a blessing, and that our lives would be fruitful for the good 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

Tuesday November 6 - Israel's mission (3): The Gospel beforehand

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed.” - Galatians 3:8 Scripture reading: Galatians 3:1-9 God promised Abraham in Genesis 12, that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed. This promise drives the whole rest of the story of the Bible. Perhaps you are wondering if that is a bit too strong a claim. That is why we turn to Galatians 3 today. In Galatians 3, Paul is arguing against those who are suggesting that faith in Jesus isn’t enough for salvation, that something else needs to be added. In response to such a claim, Paul uses Abraham as an example of what God has been doing all along: justifying His people, not by their works, but by their faith: “Just as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Gal. 3:6). Despite that clear example, Jewish Christians were tempted to think that all this salvation and righteousness was just for the Jewish people and that Gentile Christians needed to become Jewish in order to be saved. To answer that question, Paul then quotes from Genesis 12: “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'In you shall all the nations be blessed.’” Paul says that it was always God’s intention to include the Gentile nations as Gentiles and when God gave that promise to Abraham in Genesis 12, He was proclaiming the gospel! This is the gospel that drives our mission today: that through Abraham’s family, in Jesus, all the families of the earth would be blessed. Suggestions for prayer That we would believe and love this good news and that we would live lives shaped by it, seeking that same blessing for those who have not yet known it. 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 5 – Israel's mission(2): The call of Abram

...and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.– Genesis 12:3b Scripture reading: Genesis 12:1-9 The call of Abram in Genesis 12 marks the beginning of the story of Israel as God’s special covenant people. The promises that God gives to Abram are the promises that drive the whole rest of the story. God had promised in Genesis 3:15 that He would defeat the serpent, that He would defeat sin and death, and in Genesis 12, He proclaims that He will do that through Abram’s family. God gave Abram the promise of land, the promise that would guide so much of Israel’s story: the Exodus, the conquest of Canaan, the time of the Judges, the exile and the return. He gave the promise of descendants, the promise that would motivate the hopes and dreams of Isaac and Jacob, of Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, and Rachel. As a result of both of these promises, Israel was tempted to think everything was about and for them. They were tempted to forget the third promise, the promises that actually gave the reason for all of this: “and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3b). This is the promise that would drive the rest of the story, that through Abram’s family, God would bless all the families of the earth. In that promise, we hear God’s heart for His lost world. In that promise, we hear the mission of God. Suggestions for prayer That we would receive the good news that God had desired from the beginning to bless all the nations of the world and that we would love and serve Him in return. 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 4 – Israel's mission (1): Genesis 12 comes after Genesis 1-11

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis 1:1 Scripture reading: Genesis 12:1; Genesis 1 Yesterday we saw how Jesus summarized the story of the Bible: as being about Him - fulfilled in His death and resurrection - and as being about the mission of God to bring salvation to the nations. That mission begins with the call of Abram in Genesis 12. But it is important to remember that Genesis 12 comes after Genesis 1-11. Genesis 1-11 tells a story, not of Israel in particular, but of the whole world. It tells of Creation in Genesis 1-2 and then of the Fall in Genesis 3. And think of the rest of the stories in chapters 4-11 – Cain and Abel, the Flood, the Tower of Babel, what do they have in common? They make it clear that the world is messed up by sin. When God called Abram, Israelites were tempted to think God was rejecting the rest of the world in favor of Abram’s family. That cannot be because God is the One who made the world. “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). Israel needed to remember – and we must remember – that God created the world, that He declared it very good, that He loves the world and will not abandon it to sin and death. That is where God’s mission begins: with the goodness of Creation and His promise to defeat sin and death (see Genesis 3:15). Suggestions for prayer That we would remember God’s love for the world He has made and that our love for the lost would reflect God’s love. 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 3 - The big picture (3): To all nations

 ...and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. – Luke 24:47 Scripture reading: Luke 24:36-49 Yesterday we saw that Jesus is very clear in Luke 24 that the whole Bible tells one story, united around Him as the fulfillment of the Scriptures. This point is glorious and exciting, showing the beauty of the Bible and of Christ, emphasizing the faithfulness of God to all of His promises to His people. But too often, Reformed Christians are tempted to stop at this point, rightly delighting in how the whole Bible points to Jesus, but neglecting the next thing He says. The Scriptures didn’t just speak of the death and resurrection of Jesus; they also spoke of the mission of the church: 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). Did you catch that? Jesus would die and rise and again. And, forgiveness would be proclaimed to all nations! The whole Bible is about the mission of the church. As we look at the story of the Bible, we must look not only for Christ but for the story of God’s mission to proclaim forgiveness to all nations. Suggestions for prayer That we would see Christ in all of Scripture and that we would see God’s mission to save the nations, fulfilled in the mission Christ has given His church. 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 2 – The big picture (2): Everything written about Me

Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead. – Luke 24:46 Scripture reading: Luke 24:36-49 After appearing to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus appeared to the rest of the disciples in Jerusalem. He allowed them to touch Him (v.39) and He ate with them (v.43), all demonstrating that His resurrection was a real bodily resurrection. He was not a spirit, having abandoned His body (v.39). Instead, the tomb was empty and His body was raised. All of this is glorious good news, for the Apostle Paul says we will share in a resurrection like Christ’s (Romans 6:5). But our main focus is on the words of Jesus after all of this: 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” (Lk 24:44–46). Jesus again says that the whole Bible is about Him. By referring to “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms,” He spoke of the three divisions of the Hebrew Scriptures. Jewish Christians would have understood the point clearly: The Hebrew Scriptures spoke of Jesus! And this was the case, not simply by way of promises fulfilled, but by way of telling the story that Jesus completes. Suggestions for prayer That we would rejoice and take comfort in the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and that we would grow in loving the Bible as one story, fulfilled in Jesus. 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 1 – The big picture (1): Jesus on the road to Emmaus

This month we will be asking and answering the question of our mission as the church of Jesus Christ. Why do we exist as churches? What is our purpose? To answer that question, we will be walking through the story of the Bible as a whole, from Genesis to Revelation, tracing the theme of God’s mission to bless the nations through Abraham’s family, fulfilled in Jesus as the Light of the world. It is this theme of the mission of God that gives the church her mission. We’ll do this in several parts, after introducing the theme with the words of Jesus in Luke 24: We will trace the theme of God’s mission in the story of Israel We will see how Jesus fulfills that mission in His death and resurrection We will see God’s promises for the future of our mission We will be challenged by how this story gives us our mission as the church We will look at several ways we can be challenged to carry out that mission Many of the ideas in this devotional were inspired by lectures given by Michael Goheen, largely based on his book A Light to the Nations. For those who would like to dig deeper, that book is highly recommended, together with The Mission of God by Christopher Wright. ***** And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. – Luke 24:27 Scripture reading: Luke 24:13-35 This month, we are going to ask the question of the mission of the church by looking at the story of the Bible as a whole, from Genesis to Revelation. The Bible is one large book that tells one story and so it is helpful to get an orientation to the “big picture” of the whole story before diving in at the beginning. To get that big picture of what the Bible is about, we begin with the words of Jesus when He appears to the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. The story begins immediately after the resurrection of Jesus (in fact, it might be helpful to read verses 1-12 as context). When Jesus appears to the disciples, they are sad because they know Jesus died and they do not recognize Him. Their sadness is understandable: if the One they thought was the Messiah is dead, then He must not have been the Messiah! But Jesus tells them they should have expected the death and resurrection of the Messiah and He tells them why: “And he said to them, 'O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!'" (v. 25). Jesus says that the whole Old Testament “beginning with Moses and all the prophets” spoke of Him! This is the key to reading the Bible: the whole book is about Jesus, promising and proclaiming Him. That is the beauty of Scripture and the glory of Christ. Suggestions for prayer That God would give us the wisdom to see Christ in all of Scripture and that in seeing Christ we would grow to love and trust Him more. 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 October 31 - Contending for the faith

I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. - Jude 3b Scripture reading: Jude 1–7 On this date last year, we celebrated the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. It wasn’t easy for Martin Luther to make his stand for the doctrine of Justification by Faith as taught in Holy Scripture. In fact, he had to hide for his life since both Church and State had sought his death. He was aware that before him others had sought to reform the Church and were martyred in “contending for the faith.” One was Savonarola, a Dominican monk in Florence, the other John Huss, a Czech reformer, who had been greatly influenced by Wycliffe. Both were burned at the stake! The basic reforms were about the doctrines of Salvation and Church offices. The basis for the reformers’ stand was the Supreme and Final Authority of the Bible. The task we face today is more daunting as every article of the Christian faith is under attack. Biblical authority and the Uniqueness and Supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ are being contested by doctrinal pluralism that advocates the equal validity of all religions, universalism that preaches all people will be saved, regardless of their beliefs, and strong attacks on Christian ethical standards that seek to overthrow the Biblical view of marriage. Luther responded to the opposition of Church and State by the spiritual arms of the Bible and his publications made possible through the invention of the printing press. We possess the press and the internet for the defense of the Faith and its spread in many languages, all over the world!  Suggestions for prayer “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all-time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Tuesday October 30 - The Word of Life

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life. - 1 John 1:1 Scripture reading: 1 John 1:1–10 During Paul’s missionary work, he warned the churches of the danger from legalism. Having preached that salvation is by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, he discovered some converts had reverted to legalism due to the influence of false teachers who proclaimed another “gospel.” John was the only living apostle after the martyrdom of Peter and Paul. He had settled in Ephesus during the last thirty years of the first century. He was not spared persecution since for part of those years, he lived as an exile on the Isle of Patmos. He authored the Gospel known by his name, three Letters and the Book of Revelation. The Church was now threatened by a heresy, known as Gnosticism. The basic teaching of this cult was that evil resided in the material world and that freedom came through a special gnosis, a Greek word for a specific knowledge or enlightenment. In response to the threat of Gnosticism, John emphasized the reality of the Incarnation of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The Saviour possessed a real human body; He could be seen, heard and touched. Christ’s mission was a redemptive one; it was to be accomplished by His vicarious sufferings and death on the Cross as an expiation for the sins of the world. That was necessary since there was no other way to deal with man’s sinfulness. Nowadays, Christians encounter various heresies; it’s extremely necessary for the Church to proclaim the clear and unchanging message taught by the apostle John. Suggestions for prayer Ask God for discernment so that the Church would stand on the supreme and final authority of the Bible to withstand every attack! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Monday October 29 - Pay much closer attention

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. - Hebrews 2:1 Scripture reading: Hebrews 2:1–4 There are ten “Therefore” in Hebrews; the first is in Chapter 2. It warns against “drifting” from the Gospel. The recipients of this Letter possessed the Old Testament, as the New Testament was in the process of formation. So, for about a century, the Gospel message was transmitted orally by men like Paul, Peter, John and their assistants, as well as by the testimony of converts. During His earthly ministry, Christ had begun the proclamation of His “great salvation.” Nowadays, we have the Bible available to us in print, on the internet and on our smartphones; for English-speaking people, they can read it in several versions. We possess the heritage of the Church summarized in Creeds, Confessions of Faith and in Catechisms. It’s beautifully expressed in hymns, oratorios and cantatas. There is no excuse for drifting away from the faith. Why is this strong warning about apostasy in this Letter? Doesn’t the Bible teach the “Perseverance of the Saints?” Yes, but these warnings are the means the Lord uses to enable us to persevere in the faith! Neglecting the “means of grace” is to court spiritual disaster. One of my saddest recollections is the story of a young man I once knew who was preparing for the ministry. After ordination, he became a foreign missionary and first did very well. Years later, I learned that he had fallen into grievous sins, wrecked his family life and was drifting aimlessly! Scriptural warnings are very necessary to keep us from drifting! Suggestions for prayer Pray for pastors, missionaries, leaders in church and state, that they take heed to themselves, walking on the Narrow Way that leads to life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Sunday October 28 - Making purification for sins

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high... - Hebrews 1:3b Scripture reading: Hebrews 1:1–4 The author of Hebrews would first state a doctrinal truth, then use the word “Therefore” to apply that truth in the life of the Church. In Chapter 1, he contrasted God’s revelation during the Old Testament times, with the revelation in the New Testament era. Old Testament revelation was accomplished through the prophets; God’s final revelation was by His Son. Old Testament revelation was partial and preparatory; New Testament revelation was total and final. In describing the nature and attributes of the Son of God, Hebrews 1 reminds us of John 1. The focus of this Introduction is on Redemption, stated in these significant words: “After making purification for sins.” The Prophets handed down the messages delivered by God’s Spirit; the core of their message was God’s promise in Genesis 3:15, when He said to the serpent: “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.” Man’s sinfulness could only be overcome by a redemptive act of God. The Old Testament sacrificial system portrayed that redemption, but could not accomplish it. Only the Incarnate Son of God did that by His vicarious death on the cross. During Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, He revealed God both in His preaching and in His actions. The leaders of Israel should have welcomed the work of the Messiah as the sacrifice for sin; however, they rejected the only One who was to make “purifications for sins.” Suggestions for prayer Praise the Lord for His wonderful provision of “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1: 29b). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Saturday October 27 - For the sake of the elect

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. - 2 Timothy 2:10 Scripture reading: 2 Timothy 2:8–13 Having assured Timothy that the proclamation of the Word of God could not be stopped, Paul mentioned his readiness to endure every hardship, so that the elect would become partakers of the salvation accomplished by Christ. Here is an important lesson in mission work. The elect will be saved, but they will be saved by faith in Jesus Christ. Earlier this month, we learned during our meditation on First Corinthians, that God ordained that people are saved through the preaching of the Gospel. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Chapter 10:17, states, “So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” The role that preaching the Good News plays in reaching the elect is inestimable. It enabled me to embark on a radio and literature ministry to the Arab world for 36 years. Most Arabic-speaking people are Muslims. Their sacred texts, the Qur’an, Hadith and Life of Muhammad, deny every fundamental truth of the Bible. Belief in the Holy Trinity is considered as idolatry; the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, His resurrection and ascension are denied. The sinfulness of man is regarded as a mere ignorance that can be overcome by obedience to the commands of Allah. It would have been impossible for me to persist in this work had I not believed in the doctrine of election. At the same time, I was convinced of the necessity of proclaiming the Word of God in order to bring in the elect from every part of the vast Arab world. Suggestions for prayer Pray for pastors, missionaries and church members, that they keep in mind both Divine sovereignty and human responsibility, as the Bible teaches! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Friday October 26 - The Word of God is not bound

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! – 2 Timothy 2:8-9 Scripture reading: 2 Timothy 2:1–13 Second Timothy is Paul’s last Letter. He was in prison awaiting his execution. These words are his “Will and Testament” sent to his spiritual son Timothy, pastor of the Church in Ephesus. He reminded him of the essence of the Gospel message and exhorted him to train men who will hand down the faith to the following generations. To be a servant of Jesus Christ required a readiness to suffer and perhaps to die as a martyr (Greek for witness). While the Lord’s servants have often been chained throughout history, the Word of God has not and cannot be chained. No power on earth can thwart God’s eternal purposes. This is the verdict of the history of missions. A colleague, who had once served as a missionary in China, told me that his work came to an end with the victory of the Communists in 1949. At that time, it was estimated that the number of Christians in China was around one million. During the Cultural Revolution (1960–1970), thousands of Christians were imprisoned and many were martyred. Regardless of the severity of persecution, Christianity was not wiped out. Lately, the situation has changed drastically. House churches have sprung up in many parts of the country, theological schools have opened and the number of believers is estimated to be in the millions. What a testimony to Paul’s words: But the word of God is not bound! Western Christians are providing the Chinese Church with theological instruction to help believers grow in faith. Suggestions for prayer Praise the Lord for preserving the Church in China, for the courage of its leaders and for Western Christians who are helping with theological instruction. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

Daily devotional

Thursday October 25 - The Spirit of Wisdom

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him. – Ephesians 1:17 Scripture reading: Ephesians 1:15–23 Paul assured the believers in Ephesus that they had been chosen in Christ before the creation of the world. He prayed that God would give them the Spirit of wisdom. The Christian life is not one of passive existence, but of an active exercising of God’s gifts to become aware of Christ’s Lordship of history and His headship of the Church. The Ephesian Christians lived under difficult circumstances. Their witness against the idolatry and immorality of the worship of Artemis was not appreciated. They faced the Roman authorities’ hostility to the Gospel. They needed wisdom in the conduct of their lives. In the face of opposition, they had to hold fast to their faith and not lose heart, keeping in mind that Jesus Christ was seated at the right hand of the Father, in firm control of history’s march and the welfare of the Church. Christ rules His Church, “which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” In chapter 4, Paul would list various gifts that Christ apportions to church members; here he gives us the principle that must be observed: All authority in the Church belongs to Him and He delegates specific roles to different members of the Church. Details of the various church functions are listed in the Letters of Paul. Sadly, the growth of hierarchy in the Church became a hindrance to its life and mission. While the Reformation restored the Biblical teaching about the Church, the battle against hierarchical structures must continue! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the leadership of the Church, that they may adhere to the New Testament teachings about their role as servants of Jesus Christ, laboring for the welfare of the congregation. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Bassam Michael Madany has served as a missionary in Syria, and in 1958 he began a 36-year radio and literature ministry to the Arab world. After retirement Bassam & his wife Shirley began an Internet ministry, Middle East Resources, to provide a “Christian Response to the Global Challenge of Islam.”...

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