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Daily devotional

May 11 - Grace far greater than our sin

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” - Luke 5:31-32  Scripture reading: Psalm 32:1-11; Luke 5:27-32 The devil specializes in guilt. He loves to bring up your past; he loves to point to your sins, your transgressions and iniquity. But rather than being overwhelmed by his accusations, you can find great comfort in knowing that Jesus came into the world to call sinners to repentance. It was Thomas Watson who pointed out, “Till sin be bitter; Christ will not be sweet.” It is when we recognize our sin, confess it to the LORD and trust in Christ alone to save us, that we discover the greatness of God's grace. We must come to the point that David describes in Psalm 32: “I acknowledged my sin to You, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin” (v. 5). Another ploy of the evil one is to tempt us to think that our works of righteousness make us acceptable to God. That ploy worked well on the Pharisees, and there are many today who are trusting in their works instead of in Christ, just as there are many who think their guilt is too great for God's grace to cover. But as we see our guilt and confess it, may you and I also rejoice in the grace of our God, trusting the promise of His Word that “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Suggestions for prayer If you have never truly confessed your sins, prayerfully do so with the assurance that Christ came not for the healthy, but those sick – even dead – in their sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1-3). Trust Him and thank Him that His grace is far greater than your sin! Pastor Ted Gray is a retired minister in the United Reformed Church of North America. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. It is also available in print, for purchase, at NTGDevotional.com....

Daily devotional

May 10 - “But now…”

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” - Romans 3:21-22  Scripture reading: Romans 3:10-31 All the words in the Bible are crucial. But two of the most important words in the Bible are in Romans 3:21. Those two words? “But now.” In the passage leading up to those words, our depravity is examined and exposed in the piercing light of God’s law. We are forcefully reminded that we are guilty of breaking God’s law innumerable times and are, along with the whole world, accountable to Him. It is after the dark portrayal of our guilt and sin that those two words jump off the Biblical page, “But now.” We might expect that now we will come under judgment for our sin, now the proper wrath of God against sin will be pronounced against us. But instead, verse 21 points us to the righteousness of God given through saving faith in Christ alone. The passage goes on to speak about justification, about grace as a gift from God, about redemption through the shed blood of Christ Who covers – propitiates – our sin with His blood. We begin to realize that Christ bore the curse of our sin. In its place, He has imputed – credited – His record of righteous obedience. Although we are guilty sinners, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (23), those who have true saving faith in Christ are forgiven of their sins and granted eternal life. If you recognize your guilt and know God’s grace through saving faith in Christ alone, then live a life of deep and sincere gratitude – always! Suggestions for prayer Sincerely thank God that “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10). Thank Him that instead “for our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Pastor Ted Gray is a retired minister in the United Reformed Church of North America. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. It is also available in print, for purchase, at NTGDevotional.com....

Daily devotional

May 9 - Your own worst enemy

“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” - James 1:14 (NKJV)  Scripture reading: Genesis 3:1-24 Blaming someone else is deeply rooted in the human heart. It has been that way ever since the fall when Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent for the disobedience that plunged all humanity into sin. The effort to blame the devil is still popular. We recognize that he does great damage in leading people astray and in attacking Christians, for he is described as a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Many people blame the devil for their sin and many others blame God for their troubles. Natural disasters are described by the insurance industry as “acts of God” while a beautiful sunset is attributed to “Mother Nature.” But the Holy Spirit points out that when we fall into sin, we have no one to blame except ourselves because “each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:14). It is our desires, springing from our sinful nature, that so often plunge us into sin. Instead of blaming others for our sin, we must recognize that we are often our own worst enemy. Instead of fleeing from sin, we often longingly gaze at sin allowing desire to conceive and give birth to even more sin. The devil, the world and our sinful nature are three sworn enemies that never stop attacking us. We have little control over the world and the devil, but by God’s convicting and comforting Spirit, may we exercise prayerful self-control in the face of temptation. Suggestions for prayer Ask forgiveness for blaming others and pray for a heart of purity and holiness that radiates throughout your life and into the lives of others. Pastor Ted Gray is a retired minister in the United Reformed Church of North America. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. It is also available in print, for purchase, at NTGDevotional.com....

Daily devotional

May 8 - The law, our guilt, and God’s grace

“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” - Galatians 3:24 (NKJV) Scripture reading: Galatians 3:1-25 Churches that are Reformed to the truths of Scripture focus on both the law and the gospel in their services. The law reveals our sin and the gospel reveals our Saviour. The two go hand in hand. You cannot worship “in spirit and in truth”(John 4:24) unless both elements are proclaimed. Charles Spurgeon wrote: “I do not believe that any man can preach the gospel who does not preach the law. The law is the needle, and you cannot draw the silken thread of the gospel through a man's heart unless you first send the needle of the law to make way for it. If men do not understand the law, they will not feel they are sinners. And if they are not consciously sinners, they will never value the sin offering. There is no healing a man until the law has wounded him, no making him alive until the law has slain him.” By the Holy Spirit’s power, the preaching of the law and gospel work repentance and faith in the hearts of God’s people. And the means that the Holy Spirit uses, both to save us from our sin and to sanctify us, is the preaching of the whole counsel of the Word He inspired. Today, may we be convicted of our innumerable sins. But as we confess our sin, may we rejoice in our Saviour! By His sacrificial death and perfect life, we are acquitted of our sin and credited with His righteousness! Rejoice always in those truths from the law and the gospel! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for faithful churches where both our guilt and God’s grace are clearly proclaimed. Thank the Lord for the law and the gospel, for conviction and comfort. And pray for your pastor as he proclaims the whole counsel of God. Pastor Ted Gray is a retired minister in the United Reformed Church of North America. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. It is also available in print, for purchase, at NTGDevotional.com....

Daily devotional

May 7 - Guilt and our conscience

“…Speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron…” - 1 Timothy 4:2 (NKJV) Scripture reading: Genesis 42:1-28 Joseph’s brothers were hardened men. Their hardened consciences gave them no qualms as they contemplated the murder of their brother, but sold him to the Ishmaelites instead (Genesis 37:18-28). But years later, God pierced their consciences through their confrontation with Joseph whom they did not recognize (v. 28). Our conscience is the sentry of our heart. It is the guard at the door of our heart that sounds the alarm when we are tempted to sin. In 1 Timothy 4:2 Paul describes consciences that have been seared as with a hot iron. He is pointing out that you can harden your conscience so that it won’t convict you when you are tempted to do wrong. But anyone who hardens their conscience is like a homeowner who tells his watchdog to be quiet when the burglars are coming. Just as you can command a dog not to bark over and over, until that dog is no longer a worthy watchdog, the conscience can be hardened to the point where you will hardly feel a twinge of guilt even when you sin wilfully. The conscience has been likened to a sundial. Sundials are used to tell time, but they are only effective when the sun is shining. In a similar way, God has given us a conscience, but it is only accurate when the light of His Word is shining on it. Although Joseph’s treatment of his brothers may seem harsh, it was gracious, for it awakened their deadened consciences. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for giving you a conscience and pray that instead of hardening it, you would seek the light of God’s Word to guide you as it illuminates your conscience and your heart. Pastor Ted Gray is a retired minister in the United Reformed Church of North America. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. It is also available in print, for purchase, at NTGDevotional.com....

Daily devotional

May 6 - Our sinful nature enticed by the law

“For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness.” - Romans 7:7b, 8a Scripture reading: Romans 7:1-25 These verses speak of a tragic reality: Our sinful nature is so strong that even a knowledge of God’s law incites sinful thoughts within us. Some people are surprised by that truth, yet every true Christian has experienced that sad reality in their life. If you and I truly see that our sinful nature is so evil that we are enticed to sin even when we think about the law, we will be brought to the same sad conclusion of Paul, “Wretched man” – or woman, boy or girl – “that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” But if, by God’s grace, you see beyond your sin to see the only Saviour, you can joyfully exclaim with Paul, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” He is the only One Who can, and Who has, delivered those who trust in Him from both their acts of sin and their sinful nature. The Heidelberg Catechism, following Scripture, assures us, “that God, because of Christ's atonement, will never hold against me any of my sins nor my sinful nature which I need to struggle against all my life. Rather, in His grace God grants me the righteousness of Christ to free me forever from judgement” (Lord’s Day 21). May you and I always confess our sins before God, but also always rejoice in His grace with the knowledge that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His law, which reveals the depth of our sin. And thank Him for the gospel which assures us of salvation through saving faith in Christ alone. Pastor Ted Gray is a retired minister in the United Reformed Church of North America. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. It is also available in print, for purchase, at NTGDevotional.com....

Daily devotional

May 5 - Guilt and our sins of omission

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” - James 4:17  Scripture reading: Matthew 25:14-30 James 4:17 is such a convicting verse; it reminds us that sin is a double-edged sword. One edge that cuts deeply is the sin of commission; and the other cutting edge, which convicts all of us, is the sin of omission. In the parable of the talents, we read about a man with one talent who was consigned to hell. What did he do to incur eternal sorrow in the reality of hell? Did he murder someone? Or commit adultery? Or steal a great sum of money? None of those sins of commission are mentioned. Instead, it was the sin of omission springing from a lack of saving faith that led to his eternal condemnation. He took the talent that the Lord had given him and buried it in a field. The Lord chastised him by saying that he should have at least put the money in a bank to earn interest on it. He was condemned and sentenced to eternal judgment for his sin of omission. But what about you and what about me? How many sins of omission are in your life? I know there are more than I could ever count in my life. But by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone, all those sins of omission are forgiven, as well as the sins of commission. If you have experienced that forgiveness, then use your talents to praise your Redeemer, for His glory and for your good! Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His Son, “Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14), remembering that we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Pastor Ted Gray is a retired minister in the United Reformed Church of North America. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. It is also available in print, for purchase, at NTGDevotional.com....

Daily devotional

May 4 - Sinners and sin

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” - John 15:5  Scripture reading: John 15:1-11 The question is sometimes asked, “Are we sinners because we sin?” or “Do we sin because we are sinners?” The answer to those questions reveals our concept of original sin and our concept of our sinful nature. It is because of our sinful nature that we commit sins. For instance, we might look at someone who sins in an obvious way, perhaps they are guilty of stealing, and we say, “They stole merchandise, so they are sinners.” But the Biblical view has the opposite progression. God looks at us and sees that since we are sinful from the moment of conception (Psalms 51:5), we commit sins. It is because we are sinners that we are prone to swear, steal, cheat and commit adultery, along with all the other transgressions of God’s law. In the analogy of John Donne, our sinful nature is like the trunk of a tree. Just as branches grow from the trunk of a tree, so we sin because sin inevitably grows out of our sinful nature. Consequently, our guilt includes not only the many sins we commit – and the sins of omission – but our sinful nature also declares us guilty from the moment of conception. Yet, as we confess both our sins and our sinful nature, there is comfort through saving faith in Christ. Although our guilt is great, God’s grace is greater! He has grafted His people into the Tree of Life, and by saving faith, we who abide in Christ produce spiritual fruit (v. 5), for His glory and our good! Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the atoning work of Christ which cleanses both our sinful nature and our sins. And pray that by abiding in Him we will produce much fruit for His glory!  Pastor Ted Gray is a retired minister in the United Reformed Church of North America. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. It is also available in print, for purchase, at NTGDevotional.com....

Daily devotional

 May 3 - The problem is within

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” - Matthew 15:19  Scripture reading: Matthew 15:1-20 The Pharisees mastered the art of looking good on the outside. Jesus described them as a clean cup on the outside, but insidiously evil inside (Matthew 23:25-28). But unfortunately, apart from saving faith in Christ alone, we are no better than the Pharisees. The true condition of the human heart is described in Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?” And Jesus pointed out that it is from the heart that a multitude of sins flow (Matthew 15:16-20). Decay from the inside out is always the most dangerous and destructive. You can spray your garden plants on the outside to prevent pests from destroying them, but when decay comes from within there is nothing you can do. But God is able to change what is within. In fact, Ezekiel 36:26 gives this promise from the Lord: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.” While God alone, in Sovereign grace, can give us a new heart – a heart of flesh upon which He writes His law – we must guard our heart (Proverbs 4:23), which includes faithfulness both in worship and in personal devotions, as well as guarding the actions springing from our heart, since our heart and actions go hand in hand. As you recognize the condition of your heart, look in saving faith to the only One Who can cleanse and sanctify us by His Spirit, our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the forgiveness of innumerable sins that spring from your heart, but also pray for sanctification, that God would enable all of us to grow in grace, knowledge, obedience, love and service. Pastor Ted Gray is a retired minister in the United Reformed Church of North America. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. It is also available in print, for purchase, at NTGDevotional.com....

Daily devotional

May 2 - Guilt, grace, and gratitude intertwined

“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” -  Psalm 51:12  Scripture reading: Psalm 51:1-19 In David's prayer, we see a picture of ourselves. We see ourselves reflected in Psalm 51 even if we have never committed the act of adultery with our neighbour’s spouse or arranged a murder. Jesus clearly taught that if we have looked in lust, we have committed adultery in our heart. The same goes for unbridled anger without a just cause; it is murder in the heart (Matthew 5:22, 28). We have all broken not just the sixth and seventh commandments, but all God’s commandments. With David we must pray, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love…” And as we recognize our guilt, we also see God’s grace. David’s confession of guilt was intertwined with his knowledge of God’s grace, mercy and love. He prayed, “O God, according to Your steadfast love; according to Your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions.” He recognized that God’s grace is far greater than our sin! When we realize that God’s grace is greater than our sin, we cannot help but be filled with gratitude. As David concludes the Psalm, he focuses on the desire to tell others about God’s grace (13) and he praises God with a joyful heart (15). May the same be said about you and me! In the sorrow of our sins, may we see the magnitude of God’s grace and then live a life of gratitude, marked by a sincere effort to live in obedience to the very Word which we have so often broken. Suggestions for prayer After confessing your sin, prayerfully praise God that His grace is greater than your sin and ask Him to enable you to live a life of gratitude! Pastor Ted Gray is a retired minister in the United Reformed Church of North America. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. It is also available in print, for purchase, at NTGDevotional.com....

Daily devotional

May 1 - An introduction to this month's study on guilt, grace, and gratitude

Three words define the life of every Christian. In the pilgrimage of life, every true Christian experiences guilt, grace and gratitude. Those three words, along with their counterparts of sin, salvation and service are often used to summarize the Heidelberg Catechism, but they also summarize the struggles and joys that every Christian experiences. We all experience guilt because we are all sinners. The dark cloud of our sin, especially recurring sin, drains us of our joy and pierces us with the reality of how dark our hearts really are. But against that dark and stormy background of sin, we see the brilliance of God’s grace. Through saving faith in Christ, we realize that our sin is covered by His precious blood, and amazingly, we see that Christ imputes – credits – His perfect record of righteous obedience to the life of everyone, who by His grace has true saving faith in Him alone. The knowledge of God’s saving grace in Christ Jesus leads inevitably to gratitude. If you and I truly see ourselves as guilty sinners, yet realize with clarity that, “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8), we cannot help but be deeply grateful! Our gratitude leads us to works of service as we endeavour to walk in the good deeds ordained for us (Ephesians 2:10), not to earn our salvation, but to reflect our Saviour and that we are profoundly grateful for what He has done. This month, as we open the Scriptures and see our guilt and God’s grace, may we truly be filled with gratitude, eager to joyfully serve our gracious God, now and forevermore!   The best day of the week “How lovely is Your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!” - Psalm 84:1 Scripture reading: Psalm 84:1-12 Arriving home is such a good feeling. Perhaps you have been gone on business, or had a hard day at work, or even a week or two of vacation. As you get close to your home, you have that anticipation of how great it will be just to be home. In this Psalm, we read of the same joyful anticipation of arriving home. We are all on a pilgrimage. We are just passing through this world. The world holds so much trouble and conflict. We need strength to continue on the path, steep and narrow, that leads to our heavenly home. Where do we gain that strength? Verse 5 reminds us that our strength is from the LORD and verse 7 describes how we “go from strength to strength.” On Sunday, as we gather with brothers and sisters in Christ, we are faced with our weakness on the one hand, as we see our sin in the light of God's law. But we also see God’s glorious grace in the gospel and we are strengthened! Through the faithful preaching of God's Word, we are not only strengthened, but given great joy as we sing praises to our God. In the words of verse 2, our “heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.” It is no wonder that the Psalmist, as he exalts in joyous praise to the LORD, exclaims, “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.” May that be your experience and mine, this Sunday and always! Suggestions for prayer Pray for your local church and the church universal. Pray for your pastor and his family as well as the elders, deacons and congregation. Pray for faithful seminaries to train another generation of ministers who will boldly preach the whole counsel of God. Pastor Ted Gray is a retired minister in the United Reformed Church of North America. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. It is also available in print, for purchase, at NTGDevotional.com....

Daily devotional

April 30 - A lesson on God’s timing

"But the LORD said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do….”" - Exodus 6:1  Scripture reading: Exodus 5:21-6:13 Moses’ first encounter with Pharaoh did not go well; matters worsened. Moses, not understanding God’s timing, complains: “Why has God not come through with His promises?” Moses wants instant results. Moses’ need for patience is clear. He needs a lesson on submitting to God’s timing. In our age of instant gratification, we can appreciate such a necessary lesson. We want things now, but God may say, “Not yet,” or “Not at all.” We are called to get our timing in sync with God’s. Life is not about what we think is best, but what God thinks is best. The quicker Moses discovered that, the quicker he could get back to serving the Lord. God sees everything going exactly to His plans. We see that, too, when we remember His Word. When we leave God’s Word behind, we lose proper perspective. Jesus’ disciples could not see the death of Jesus as reason for rejoicing. However, they had forgotten Christ’s Word. God’s timing is always good. It may not fit our plans, but that does not matter. God has always timed things well. His Son came in the fullness of time. Those who humble themselves before Him, He will lift up in due time. As we watch for the Lord’s return, this too will be at just the right time, in accordance with God’s plans. We don’t know exactly when that day will come, but we can count on it—a good note on which to end the month! Suggestions for prayer Pray with adoration for the Lord’s timing in the history of redemption and the ways He has worked in your life with remarkable timing. Pray to the Lord for the patience needed to submit to His timing in your life. Rev. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. It is also available in print, for purchase, at NTGDevotional.com....

Daily devotional

April 29 - The ploy of false-god pharaoh

“The LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” - Exodus 5:21 Scripture reading: Exodus 5:1-21 The other ploy of Pharaoh was to play God’s people off on one another. It had temporary success. Turmoil can turn people against one another. This is a problem that plagues the history of the church. It is not that God is not clear with His promises; instead, people lose sight of them, turning against those whom God has entrusted to their care—or turning against one another. How difficult it can be for people to live contentedly within the church of Jesus Christ. Harmony can be an elusive pursuit far too many times. Christ knew such betrayal and discontent. When we pray for patience and submission, though, we will devour each other less and be united more in the Lord as we wait on the Lord. Spiritual arrogance and ignorance are disappointing. But God is not on the side of arrogance and ignorance; He is on the side of those whom He has saved and will deliver in Christ. They are the ones with peace. They are the ones who have the privilege of worshiping Him—and why wouldn’t they? They are not praising Him for what they have done, they are praising Him for what He has done in giving peace from evil, peace with God, the peace of God and true peace among Christians. In the end, it will all work out for those who are followers of the God of grace. We just need the patience to believe that good news for our lives. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord if you live in a harmonious relationship with your fellow-church members and leadership. Pray to the Lord for the submissive spirit that is needed to promote the harmony of the church even when turmoil strikes. Rev. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. It is also available in print, for purchase, at NTGDevotional.com....

Daily devotional

April 28 - The ploys of false-god Pharaoh

“The LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” - Exodus 5:21  Scripture reading: Exodus 5:1-21 Moses said that if Pharaoh would not let God’s people go, the people would be plagued by the sword (5:3). Yet Pharaoh in false imitation has his own sword (5:21) to plague God’s people so that they would lose heart and lose sight of the promises that Pharaoh calls lies (v. 9). In a pleasure-seeking world, the temptation for everyone in Christ when life is unpleasant is to lose sight of the joys set before us and the promises that await. It is hard to live by faith and not merely by sight or our feelings. Yet looks and feelings can be deceiving. Wickedly, Pharaoh, as an agent of evil, thought he could take God’s place; yet the Word of the Lord declares differently. The Word comforts when sight or feelings cannot. We are to live by what we hear: Christ says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. I am with you until the close of the age.” Faith recalls Who is LORD and Who is to be followed. Pharaoh’s plagues were nothing compared to the plagues of the Lord. Pharaoh’s injustice could not compare to the justice of the Lord. The trials of this life are nothing in comparison to the joys set before us. Pharaoh wanted to think he was the ultimate boss. We are tempted to find another boss. But there is only One and He sits at God’s right hand. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that in His inscrutable ways He can turn all things to the good of those who love Him. Pray that the Lord will grant you the spiritual vision to see the eternal joys that are set before you in Jesus Christ, so that you won’t live a disheartened life. Rev. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

April 27 - The initial resistance of false-god pharaoh

“But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice and let Israel go?”” - Exodus 5:2 Scripture reading: Exodus 5:1-21 Pharaoh’s initial response to God’s Word is no different from many who respond to the gospel—arrogance and ignorance; “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice?” Arrogance stems from ignorance of God—a problem that the Lord will solve (Exodus 7:17; 8:10, 22). The spirit of spiritual arrogance and ignorance brings disappointment, discouragement and even dissension within the camp of God’s people, including Moses and Aaron. However, this arrogance and ignorance were predicted. It wasn’t going to be easy for Moses and God’s people, but God way would prevail. God was still with Moses and the people despite the arrogance. It didn’t look like it, but looks can be deceiving. That is the comfort that we can draw when we encounter unbelief. Anti-Christian attitudes are to be expected. However, God will still work it all out. Such arrogance and ignorance persist: “Who is the LORD that I should listen to Him?” When we sin as Christians, such arrogance arises. It calls for pleas for pardon to God. Godlessness offends, but should not surprise, given man’s heart, nor should it cause despair. By God’s grace, we come to know Who the true God-incarnate is and Whose kingdom lasts forever. It is Christ—not Pharaoh. Don’t despair. Be still and faithful! Continue to be God’s ambassador to the ends of the earth. Reflect your Saviour—God-incarnate, Jesus Christ, Who knew no arrogance, nor ignorance, so that you can shine to the world as His godly reflection. Suggestions for prayer Seek pardon from arrogance and spiritual ignorance. Pray to be a godly ambassador of Christ in word and deed. Rev. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

April 26 - God further prepares the deliverer

“And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.” - Exodus 4:31  Scripture reading: Exodus 4:27-31 Moses’ meeting with Aaron brings a different encouragement than at his departure from Midian. At Midian he was encouraged in the midst of the unbelief of Pharaoh. Through his meeting with Aaron and working with Aaron, he would be encouraged in the midst of faith. Aaron comes as God promised. Both Aaron and Moses go to the elders and people. A pattern develops: word-deed-faith-word-deed. The people hear (word), see the signs (deed), believe (faith), hear (word) and worship (deed). God told Moses that the elders would believe (3:18). This faith, just like true faith today, leads to the worship of God because the word of redemption that is believed moves people to worship. These people, who had been in bondage so long, now come to know the good news of deliverance by the Lord. How could they not but worship God? What was true back then is still true today! Notice how faith encourages! What a joy to be in the midst of faith! What a joy for a family! What a joy for parents, widows and widowers! What a joy for the persecuted in the Lord! What a joy for the weary and heavy-laden! What a tool of encouragement faith can be! The communion of the saints encourages the faithful as the faithful encourage. Be encouraged by God’s covenant faithfulness, rather than discouraged by man’s faithfulness. Be encouraged by the faithfulness of other Christians too. By God and the Christian faithful, we will be moved to be encouragers ourselves. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for His encouraging gospel that moves you to worship, and also for the blessing that He gives you in the communion of the saints, the church of Jesus Christ. Rev. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

April 25 - God further prepares the deliverer

“Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son's foreskin and touched Moses' feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!”” - Exodus 4:25 Scripture reading: Exodus 4:24-26 This story has its puzzles. It is safe to say, however, that Moses underestimated the need to provide the sign of the covenant to his child. Importance is to be tied to the covenant of grace, to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God was remembering His firstborn, His covenant promises to Abraham through whose seed all the nations of the earth were to be blessed, ultimately in Christ. For Christ’s sake, Moses was to view his children covenantally, even as God Himself did. The Lord burned at Moses’ whining before; he was patient then, but not now. Moses considered the covenant lightly. It almost cost him his life. For the sake of our children, the Lord, and our own sake, we ought not to minimize God’s covenant, not in sacramental usage, nor when we remember Whose shed blood fulfilled the covenant of grace. Zipporah cries out, “You are a bridegroom of blood to me.” Spilled blood restores Moses so that he can proceed in his calling. In our relationship to God, blood had to be spilled to spare us. Only then can we be in covenant with God. Realizing that blood no longer needs to be spilled should make us realize how precious Christ’s shed blood is for us. Ultimately it was the blood of Christ that would spare Moses so he could serve the Lord. We must confess that it is only the blood of Christ, the bridegroom, that will spare us for that purpose as well. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks to the Lord for the marvels of His covenant mercies to us in Christ. Pray that the covenant relationship that God has established with believers in Christ and their children will be better understood and better appreciated. Rev. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

April 24 - God further prepares the deliverer

“When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.” - Exodus 4:22  Scripture reading: Exodus 4:21-23 God’s upcoming encounter with Pharaoh would show to Pharaoh that God alone was sovereign and worthy of divine worship. On this Lord’s Day of worship, such is a fitting subject. Some might ask, “How could someone like Pharaoh be blamed for hardness, for who resists the will of the sovereign God?” (Romans 9:19). The concern is that God is just using us as puppets. Yet we remember the responsibility of Pharaoh. Because God is sovereign, Pharaoh has responsibility. With us all, Pharaoh has no excuse before God, who clearly reveals Himself. Our problem is not first of all the hardening that comes, but the cold hearts that are there from the start. The Bible reminds us that God, in His justice, hands people over to their own desires (Romans 1:24, 26). People reap what they sow. Unbelief and sin drive people farther from the Lord. Such foolishness is a slippery slope to hell, which only God’s grace can change. God mentions this hardening for Moses’ encouragement, preparing him to serve with joy and confidence. Despite wrongful opposition ahead, everything will work out. People may not see the right way, the gospel or the importance of Christian living; they are hard of heart. But that ought not keep us from being faithful even as our Saviour was, for God will have His way in Egypt, at the cross and in our final deliverance. Don’t let sin and unbelief discourage you. Praise God for His superior faithfulness in Christ. Suggestions for prayer On this Lord’s Day, thank the Lord for His sovereignty over those who oppose Him and thank Him for giving you hope to serve Him well despite such opposition from sin and unbelief. Rev. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

April 23 - God further prepares the deliverer

“And the LORD said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.”” - Exodus 4:19  Scripture reading: Exodus 4:18-20 We often read here the word “return.” Through Moses’ “returning,” he is encouraged in his calling. One confirming encouragement is that family (Jethro) doesn’t become an impediment to his return. More encouraging to Moses is the further revelation that he receives from the Lord. God’s Word is meant to be such an encouragement. Kings come and go, but the Word of the Lord carries on. The desires of men will go with them to the grave, but the desire of the everlasting Lord will be fulfilled. What God says to Moses reminds us of Matthew 2:19, where God tells Joseph to return to Nazareth because he who was trying to take the Christ-child’s life was also dead. Moses pictures the Christ—the truest Deliverer of God’s people. The first Pharaoh of Exodus had not known Joseph, a deliverer of his people, and now the second Pharaoh of Exodus doesn’t know Moses, who will also be a deliverer of his people, just as Jesus would deliver His people under a domain which did not know Him. Evil wanted to deliver Moses to death, but he was not delivered to evil, so that he could be a deliverer from evil. Evil also wanted the Christ-child to be delivered unto death prematurely, but God had superior plans to deliver His people through Christ. God’s superior plans to deliver from evil were meant to encourage Moses; in Christ, they are meant to encourage us in our battle with sin as well. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the deliverance Christ has given you from the penalty and power of sin. Pray that He may continue His deliverance from sin in your life, as you heed the call to live more and more sanctified before Him, with the promise of full deliverance from sin’s power awaiting you in glory filling your heart with Christian hope. Rev. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

April 22 - No reason for reluctance

“But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”” - Exodus 4:13  Scripture reading: Exodus 4:13-16 Moses has run out of excuses with God, but at least we get to the bottom of his unwillingness: Excuse #5: “Send someone else.” No grounds here! Moses just doesn’t want to go. We can empathize with Moses. It is quite a job to be a mediator for God’s people, to be the one used by God to go and save His people from slavery, to be God’s representative here on earth. In Moses we see that we needed a better Mediator, a Mediator who would not go reluctantly, kicking and screaming, but willingly, of His own accord, saying, “Not My will, but Yours be done.” That Mediator was Jesus Christ. The only One, “For there is only one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). It is for Christ’s sake that when we run out of excuses, the answer is not to say to God, “Use someone else to do what I have been called to do.” We cannot have that attitude as Christians, to expect everyone else to do what we are called to do, or are called to be. Our motto in the Christian life cannot be, “Send someone else; let someone else do it,” whether it is because we feel inadequate, or simply because we don’t want to do it. Instead, our attitude has to be like our Saviour’s: “Here I am, send me.” Go and serve the Lord and just watch how God will be with you. Suggestions for Prayer: Thank the Lord for providing the willing Mediator to restore peace between you and God. Pray that the Lord will equip you so that more and more you will seek to be a willing and obedient servant of the Lord. Rev. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

Daily devotional

April 21 - No reason for reluctance

“But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent….”” - Exodus 4:10  Scripture reading: Exodus 4:10-12 As we have noticed, the sinful attitude comes up with excuses to turn from the Lord’s callings. Here is another from Moses: Excuse #4 “I won’t know what to say.” It seems odd that someone trained in the courts of Egypt would use such an excuse, especially when we read that Moses was “strong in speech and power,” according to Stephen in Acts 7. Yet, that is what Moses says. Moses is getting low on excuses, but even so, the Lord counsels him graciously: “Who made the mouth? If this is what I have called you to do and if I am the Lord over everything, doesn’t that include your vocal cords? I am going to be with you in every way—including what you have to say. Now go!” Jesus said that when it comes to defending the faith, we would not need professional orators; He would give the courage to speak for Him (Luke 12:8-12; Luke 21:12-19). It wasn’t so much that people would listen right away or be convinced at all. Look at the hardness of Pharaoh, after all. However, the Spirit would give us the courage to honour the Lord with our speech. We may not all be called to be missionaries in the formal sense, but we are all called to be ready to give an account of the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the ability to live a life worthy of the gospel, but then ask the Lord for the courage to be ready to speak about that life when people ask you about the hope that is within you. Rev. John Vermeer is the pastor of Doon United Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa....

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