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Daily devotional

January 4 – Proverbs on food

“Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, lest you be filled with it and vomit.” – Proverbs 25:16  Scripture reading: Proverbs 23:19-21 The average North American eats more than 150 pounds of sugar per year. No wonder North America is the fattest continent in the world. But the misuse of food is not new. It occurred many, many times in the Bible. Now, Solomon enjoyed food, even exotic, tasty food. Food is God’s gift. But because of abuse of food, which hinders our sanctification, Solomon was compelled to address the issue of food abuse, or rather, body abuse. What did he teach? Enjoy your food, but don’t be a glutton. Being a glutton is acting as if God couldn’t provide for you tomorrow and you must eat all today. It is also an abuse of the body. Many diseases are caused by overeating. Enjoy your food, but learn to share with those who do not have, especially with those who are from the same blood, the blood of Jesus. Remember, the reason you have more food is not because you are better than Christians in Africa, but because God is pleased to bless you. A suggestion might be to miss one meal a week and give that money to the needy. (That might be good for your health as well!) Enjoy your food, but don’t waste it. Save up for hard times. Learn from Solomon’s ants (Proverbs 30:25). It seems that ants even store up more food when they sense a famine coming. Not being a glutton and not hoarding is evidence that you are growing in Jesus. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will teach you to live a balanced life and that you will share of your abundance and be satisfied with God’s gifts. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Mitchell Persaud is pastor of New Horizon URC in Scarborough, ON, a mission church under the oversight of Cornerstone URC in London, ON. He was born in Guyana, South America, into a Hindu home, baptized Roman Catholic, raised Pentecostal and then became Reformed....

Daily devotional

January 3 –  Proverbs on anger

“A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention.” – Proverbs 15:18 Scripture reading: Proverbs 22:24-25 Good anger is a God-given emotion that every Christian must use properly. So be angry when your God is blasphemed and when His people are attacked. Be angry when babies are killed by abortions, when the family is attacked by the state and when covenant youths sin against the Lord. Then respond in the right way, knowing that even good anger can become sinful if your response is improper. For instance, if you are angry, but do nothing when you see Christian young people doing wrong, breaking the Sabbath, for instance, your anger becomes sinful. But there is also anger that is sinful. Sinful anger has resulted in wives being abused, people being killed in motor vehicle accidents, divorces, broken friendships and destroyed congregations. Men and women can become like volcanoes and blow up, even as Moses, who struck the rock instead of speaking to it for water for Israel. Other people bottle things up until their anger finally explodes. So when you are properly angry, react properly. Pray, speak and act if you can. When you are sinfully angry, ask God for the cure for sinful anger. Ask Him to make you patient with others in their weaknesses. If you ask anything in Christ’s name, He will give it to you. God has obligated Himself to do so. So stop saying you can’t control your anger. Sin is not able to reign in your body unless you let it. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you might learn to control your anger and be patient and kind with others. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Mitchell Persaud is pastor of New Horizon URC in Scarborough, ON, a mission church under the oversight of Cornerstone URC in London, ON. He was born in Guyana, South America, into a Hindu home, baptized Roman Catholic, raised Pentecostal and then became Reformed....

Daily devotional

January 2 - Proverbs on fear

"The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe." – Proverbs 29:25  Scripture reading: Proverbs 3:24-26 Everyone is afraid of something. But not all fear is bad. You may fear standing at the edge of a cliff, touching a hot stove or hearing the rattle of a rattlesnake. Those are good fears. So use these fears. They will save your life. What about bad fears? First, there are irrational fears, like the fear of house spiders or the fear of enclosed spaces. There is no real danger, but some are afraid of these things. Second, some fear things that are outside of their control, like the future.  And this type of fear is based on a distrust of God, or at least it is based on a weak trust in God. Fear makes people prisoners. They don’t do what they should because they are afraid they can't control their circumstances. They don’t drive because they think they could have an accident and hurt someone. They won’t evangelize because they are afraid of rejection. They lack trust in God’s providence. They don’t think that God is willing and able to help. They may isolate themselves and not fulfill their responsibilities. How can you cure bad fears? The fear of God is the cure for sinful fears. Proverbs 9:10 tells us "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…” The “fear of God” means you know and trust Him. You know and trust Him through Jesus. You experience love. Perfect love casts out fear. Love conquers fears. The more you love, the less you fear. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will see how fear cripples you from doing God’s work and ask the Lord to remove fears so you can live for Him. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Mitchell Persaud is pastor of New Horizon URC in Scarborough, ON, a mission church under the oversight of Cornerstone URC in London, ON.  He was born in Guyana, South America, into a Hindu home, baptized Roman Catholic, raised Pentecostal and then became Reformed....

Daily devotional

Introduction to the month of January

We do not preach a lot of sermons from Proverbs, but it is not Solomon’s fault.  He was inspired by God to write these proverbs and God preserved them for us.  Since all Scriptures speak of Christ (how He saved us and how He sanctifies us for His glory) then we must find Christ in them.  It is our fault therefore that we do not preach more from Proverbs. One of the reasons we likely have not heard more preaching from Proverbs is that the book is seen as a list of morals. And since we insist on historical, redemptive preaching, Proverbs doesn’t seem to fit well into that way of preaching.  Well, maybe it is hard to preach Proverbs, but we must be bold.  We must dig into Proverbs and learn of our salvation and sanctification through Jesus Christ. This is what we will do this month. I hope after this month you will take more time to dig into this book regularly and see the rich doctrines it contains and illustrates. Let God’s Word bless you. Proverbs on pride  “By pride comes nothing but strife…” – Proverbs 13:10a  Scripture reading: Proverbs 21:1-5 Do you enjoy being around a humble person, someone with a gentle spirit?  You feel safe around him.  But it is most difficult to be around a show-off or egomaniac. He only talks about himself and you can’t wait to get away from him. What does pride look like? Proverbs 21:24 says: “A proud and haughty man —'Scoffer' is his name; he acts with arrogant pride.” A man may think he is superior by virtue of his education, money, position, ability or influence. What happens when one has pride?  The proud man with elevated feelings crushes others or takes advantage of them. Because of pride, Solomon enslaved his fellow Jews!  Pride caused slavery. Pride caused the destruction of the Jews in the holocaust by Hitler, the slaughter of the Armenians by the Muslims, and the murder of the Chinese and Koreans by the Japanese. Today we see pride when men abuse their wives, belittle different races and display impatience. God may destroy you if you are proud or destroy the thing in which you show your pride: car, wealth, job, education or health!  Remember Herod and the worms! Remember Adam. How do you cure pride? Know that God hates the proud.  Proverbs 8:13 tells us: “…Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate." God brings them down to destruction. You must, therefore, remember you are not your own but belong to your Saviour Who died for you. You are His servant. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will follow wisdom (another name for Jesus) and abandon pride, that you will humbly serve and worship the Saviour. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Mitchell Persaud is pastor of New Horizon URC in Scarborough, ON, a mission church under the oversight of Cornerstone URC in London, ON.  He was born in Guyana, South America, into a Hindu home, baptized Roman Catholic, raised Pentecostal and then became Reformed....

Daily devotional

December 31 – The return of the King: Enjoying paradise forever!

“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.” – Isaiah 65:17 Scripture reading: Revelation 21:1-5, 22-27; 22:1-5 The story of the Bible ends where it began: in the Paradise of a newly created world. The first Paradise was ruined by sin and cursed by God. Pain and punishment, sickness and sadness, disease and death resulted. But the story of the Bible has a “happily ever after” ending for all who trust in Jesus Christ. When Jesus comes again, the heavens and earth will be cleansed by fire (2 Peter 3:7,10-13). This is Good News. It will be a purifying fire that destroys all evil and purifies all that is good. It will be step one in God's work of “making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Notice God does not say He will make “all new things” but that He will make “all things new.” While the absence of sin and its consequences will make the new creation feel very different from this fallen one, it will also feel very familiar: we will build houses and dwell in them, plant vineyards and eat their fruit, long enjoy the work of our hands; animals will populate the earth, living in peace without preying on each other; we will feast on the best of meats and finest of wines at the Bridegroom's banquet (Isaiah 65:21-25; 25:6-8). There will be no more curse. We won't even remember that sickness, sadness, sin and death once existed. We will dwell with God and each other in perfect harmony forever and ever. We cannot even imagine how amazing it will be (1 Corinthians 2:9). Suggestions for prayer Pray that you, in keeping with God's promise, would live each day looking forward to the new heavens and new earth, the home of righteousness, which God has prepared for those who love Him (2 Peter 3:13; 1 Corinthians 2:9). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 30 – The character of the King’s return

“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” – Revelation 1:7  Scripture reading: Revelation 1:9-18; 19:11-21 On Christmas Day we looked back in time to remember Jesus' first Advent, but we look forward to His second Advent. And it will be very different in character. Jesus' first Advent was not noticed by many people. Only a few shepherds, and later, some wise men from the east, came to see the newborn King. Interestingly, Jesus' enemies looked for Him, but could not find Him. What a contrast to His second coming where Jesus will be noticed by everyone and His enemies will not be able to flee from Him. Jesus came to earth the first time as a humble, helpless babe wearing not a prince's garb, but swaddling cloths. He lay not in a cradle, but an animal's feeding trough. His birthplace was not a palace, but a barn. However, when Jesus returns, He will come as a mighty, majestic King wrapped in flowing, royal robe, riding a royal steed, and wielding a double-edged sword. Jesus' first coming focused on bringing salvation to His people through His atoning death. His second coming focuses on bringing judgment upon His enemies through their eternal death. When Jesus returns, the dead will be raised, the earth will quake and a final fault-line will be formed as the final separation takes place. All those standing on Satan's side will be swallowed up by eternal death in hell. But those on Jesus' side will live on the green grass of God's new creation from that day forward and forevermore. Whose side do you stand on? Where does your loyalty lie? Suggestions for prayer Thank Jesus that if you trust in Him, you can confidently await His return as Judge, for on the cross He already stood trial in your place and removed God's wrath when He bore the curse for you. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 29 – The timing of the King’s return

“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” – Matthew 25:13  Scripture reading: Matthew 25:1-13 As our thoughts turn toward the end of the year, it is natural for our thoughts to also turn to the end of time and the beginning of eternity. We know that this year ends in three days and that the year 2020 will end 366 days after it begins. But we don't know when Jesus will return to bring the world as we know it to an end and cause a recreated world to begin. Jesus tells us, “No one knows about that day or hour. The Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him” (Matthew 24:36,44). He then tells a parable to teach us to always be ready for His return. The ten bridesmaids are part of a wedding party. They are awaiting the bridegroom to arrive, but he is delayed. The delay is not the problem. Unpreparedness is. Five of the bridesmaids did not bring extra oil. When their lamps burn out, they have to head back to town to buy more oil. Tragically, the bridegroom returns while they are away. He takes with him those who are ready, but leaves behind those who were unprepared. This reminds us that Christianity is not a one-time decision for Christ, nor an insurance policy to be renewed on an annual basis. It is a moment-by-moment lifestyle of repentance and trust. We get ready and remain ready for His return by continually confessing our sins, and by continually trusting that His blood cleanses us and His righteousness clothes us. Jesus will return. Are you ready? Will you stay ready? Suggestions for prayer Thank God that the oil of forgiveness is continually and freely available through the gift of faith in Jesus Christ. Ask for help to live in a constant state of readiness by continually confessing sin and by continually trusting in the cleansing power of Jesus' blood. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 28 – Departure & arrival announcements

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” – John 14:3  Scripture reading: Mark 8:31-33; John 13:33-36; 14:1-4 Jesus, the Saviour, had finally come. For three years He captivated the crowds by teaching, healing and feeding them – all free of charge! Excitement was surging. Then, when Jesus mounted a donkey and rode into Jerusalem, the crowds were ecstatic. He was entering the capital city, and doing so in kingly fashion! The crowds knew what this meant. This was exactly what they had been waiting for. Jesus was going to seat Himself on the throne of David in the city of David! As Messiah, He would depose depraved King Herod, overthrow the Roman overlords, and gain complete independence for the Jews. This would be heaven on earth! That's how most Jews thought the story would go. But that's not at all how the story actually goes. It actually goes exactly the way Jesus said it would go: He suffered, died, rose, and departed. Jesus had explained this sequence of events to His disciples. But like a child who tunes out when a parent starts saying something she doesn't want to hear, the disciples tuned out when Jesus began to talk about His suffering and death. They didn't listen long enough to hear the word 'rise.' The disappointment caused by His death soon gave way to delight as He rose on the third day. Then disillusionment set in again as Jesus announced His departure. But it shouldn't have, for in the very same breath, He announced His return. And because Jesus came the first time, as God promised, you can be sure He will come a second time. He promised! Suggestions for prayer Thank Jesus for the promise of His return and for the joy of knowing that when He returns, He will welcome all who trust in Him into the new creation over which He will reign as eternal King. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 27 – Enjoying the Savior’s presence: blessings flow far as the curse is found

“The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” – Matthew 11:5  Scripture reading: Mark 1:14-34 The Gospels quickly move from Jesus as a baby in a manger and boy in the temple to Jesus as a powerful Preacher and a marvelous miracle-working Man. His teaching amazed people because He taught with a calm, compassionate, kind, confident authority they had never heard before. All the other prophets spoke about God, but Jesus spoke as if He was God. And His miracles provided abundant proof that He was indeed God. With words, Jesus not only communicated ideas, but controlled creatures and creation alike. At His command, demons departed, leprosy left and fevers fled. Lame limbs were restored to life, sight was restored to the blind, speech returned to the mute, sound was again heard by the deaf. At His word, raging winds ceased, surging waves were stilled. Most amazing of all, when He spoke, the dead would hear His powerful voice and walk right out of their tomb (John 11:43-44)! If Jesus could do all this by speaking a word, you can be sure people's sins were forgiven too when He said they were. No wonder people came in droves when Jesus came to town. The whole world was going after this Doctor who healed both soul and body (John 12:19). What an exciting time! Through the miracles He performed, Jesus gave a glimpse of what life in His kingdom would be like: No more would sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground because He came to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found. Suggestions for prayer Thank Jesus for the cosmic scope of salvation He brings. He saves not only our souls, but also our bodies which He promises to raise and restore, transforming them and making them like His glorious body. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 26 – Celebrating the Savior’s coming (2) with gentile Wise Men

 “And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” – Matthew 2:10-11 Scripture reading: Matthew 2:1-12 On the night Jesus was born, an angelic choir announced His birth to Jewish shepherds who then hurried off to worship Him. Some time later, a special star announced to Gentile astrologers from the east that a Jewish king had been born. Guided by a special star, they arrived in the Jewish capital of Jerusalem. Guided the rest of the way by Micah's prophecy, they headed ten kilometers south to Bethlehem. There they found the King and worshiped Him. Notice that Jesus certainly is King of the Jews, but He is not King of only the Jews. The angel had told the Jewish shepherds that the birth of the Saviour was good news for all people. Now Gentile astrologers from the east travel from afar to worship King Jesus and pay homage with lavish gifts to celebrate this joyous event in a festal way. Just being a member of a church, having Christian parents, or setting up a Christmas tree doesn't mean you worship King Jesus. The Jews of Jesus' day had their church membership, Jewish parents, and customary clothes and religious rituals. But Herod, the religious leaders, and many common folk, wanted nothing to do with Jesus. In contrast, these wise Gentile men did! Though they worshiped Him with the limited knowledge they had, they worshiped Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords. In so doing, they foreshadow the worship that is now and ever will be offered to Jesus by Gentiles from all nations, tribes and tongues. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that He redeems the rich and poor, shepherds and sages, Jews and Gentiles, and is building a Church that consists of people from every tribe, tongue and nation. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 25 – Celebrating the Savior’s coming (1) with Jewish Shepherds

“And the angel said to them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.'” – Luke 2:10-11   Scripture reading: Luke 2:1-20 After not just hundreds, but thousands of years, the long-awaited Saviour was born. Although we don't know what day Jesus was actually born, it is certainly fitting that we set aside a day to remember His birth because His birth is the most important event in the history of the world. God certainly thought so. Look how He announced the birth of His Son. Suddenly, and without warning, the stillness of the dark night was broken. It was as if God switched on a set of bright spotlights, instantly transforming the field in which Jewish shepherds were sitting into an outdoor theatre where a spectacular sound-and-light show unfolded. First one angel pierced through the darkness with glorious, heavenly light while heralding good news of great joy: “Today, in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you.” Then a whole host of heavenly heralds appeared, bursting forth in praise, singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” After the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds hurried off to Bethlehem. Finding everything to be just as the heavenly heralds had said it would be, they returned home with hearts filled with uncontainable joy. Acting as the first evangelists, they imitated the angels by announcing the Good News of the Saviour's birth to those around them. Will you, like the shepherds, praise God for the gift of His Son and tell others that He is what Christmas is all about? Suggestions for prayer Praise God for fulfilling His promise to send the Saviour, and pray for an opportunity to share the meaning of Christmas with someone who might not know Who it's really all about. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 24 – A frequently forgotten advent figure: John the Baptist

“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” – John1:29 “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” – Matthew 3:2,8 Scripture reading: Matthew 3:1-12 Tomorrow is Christmas Day. Pictures of peace and tranquility likely come to mind — perhaps that of a silent and holy night where all is calm and all is bright. So why consider John the Baptist? Didn't he wear clothes made of camel's hair, eat locusts and wild honey, and preach rather unsettling sermons? Yes, indeed. But despite his unusual personality and unpopular message, he is a very important Advent figure. John was born as little as six months before Jesus. As the last Old Testament prophet, he announced Christ's arrival with a declaration that contained a Passover connection: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). But John suddenly switches his focus to Jesus' second coming. The fire John speaks about is not the warm glow of Christmas candlelight. The axe is not used for chopping down Christmas trees. John is speaking about the eternal fires of hell and the axe God will use to cut down the wicked. Then, like a parent who says, “I'm sick of hearing you say you're sorry. Show me you are sorry,” John calls us to bear fruit that shows our repentance and faith is genuine. We ought not to forget John the Baptist during the Advent season. By reminding us of the wrath of God that will be revealed at Jesus' second coming, John enables us to properly appreciate what Jesus came to do in His first coming: He bore God's wrath on the cross to give us peace with God. Suggestions for prayer Confess your sins, include your half-hearted 'sorries', to God. Ask for assurance that through Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, this forgiveness has indeed been granted, God's wrath has been removed, and you have peace with God. Also, thank Jesus for His promise that all who abide in Him will bear much fruit (John 15:5). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 23 – Prophets promise Christ’s coming (2): A backwater birthplace

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” – Micah 5:2 Scripture reading: Micah 5:2   The Israelites had returned from exile, rebuilt the city of Jerusalem, and re-instituted the temple. But the nation of Israel never returned to her former state of strength and glory. Not even close. Although the people of God were again living in their homeland, they never again enjoyed full independence as a nation. The Israelites were mere tenants who rented the land by paying tributary taxes to a succession of Persian, Greek and finally Roman rulers. As for the reconstructed temple, it was nowhere near its former size and splendor. And by Jesus' day, the throne in Jerusalem was occupied not by a righteous descendant of David, but by the ruthless, wicked Herod the Great. He stole his brother's wife. And to protect his position and power, he murdered not only the baby boys in Bethlehem, but many of his family members. With the palace occupied by a succession of corrupt, non-Davidic kings, how would the promised Ruler of David's line be born and come to reign? Micah's prophecy gives God's people a clue. Don't look to Jerusalem and its thoroughly corrupt corridors of power. Look to the backwater town of Bethlehem. This humble town would be the birthplace of Jesus, the Saviour. His lineage goes back not only to King David, who was born in this same town of Bethlehem (1 Samuel 17:12). This Ruler's lineage goes even further back into eternity past, He is not only the son of David, but the eternal Son of God. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that though Jerusalem was occupied by evil rulers appointed by Rome, God's ancient promise still stood. Thank Jesus for being a King Who gives His life so we might gain ours. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 22 – Prophets promise Christ’s coming (1): A Christmas stump

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” – Isaiah 11:1  Scripture reading: Isaiah 11:1-16 As promised, a remnant returned to the Promised Land. But only a remnant. When you hear "remnant," think "remainder." In mathematics, ninety-nine divided by five is nineteen, remainder four. Four is but a small fraction of the ninety-nine – a mere four percent! That's about the size of the group that returned to Jerusalem – a small fraction of the whole. The prophet Isaiah uses not mathematics, but trees to describe how small the remnant was. Back in Solomon's day when the kingdom of Israel was enjoying her golden years, she was a tall, sturdy tree with leafy limbs that stretched out far and wide across the land. But because of her sin, she was cut off at ground level. Nothing but a stump remained of the once grand and glorious kingdom. What had come of God's promise that David's kingdom would endure forever? Had Israel's sin nullified or voided God's promise of the coming Saviour? No! Remember, this was a “No ifs, ands, or buts” promise from God. Though Israel was now nothing but a stump, there was still a stump. And this stump, according to Isaiah, is a Christmas stump. We might be far more familiar with Christmas trees, but Isaiah's Christmas stump has a much clearer connection to Christ. Isaiah says that from this Christmas stump will spring forth a Christmas shoot, a Seed, a Son. The family tree of Jesse, father of King David, would be revived and begin to grow again. The promised Saviour would still be born! Suggestions for prayer Thank God that His promise to send a Saviour to redeem us from the curse of our sin was a “no ifs, ands or buts” kind of promise and that though God had to punish Israel, her failures did not stop His promise from being fulfilled. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 21 – The exile: The end?

“Thus says the Lord GOD to the land of Israel: ‘An end! The end has come upon the four corners of the land. Now the end is upon you, and I will send my anger upon you . . . and I will punish you for all your abominations.’” – Ezekiel 7:2-3 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 17:5-23 Under Joshua's leadership the Israelites defeated the Canaanites and took possession of the Promised Land. By King Solomon's day “Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy” (1 Kings 4:20). God certainly fulfilled His promise to multiply Abraham's descendants and give them land. Tragically, just when things were as good as could be, they got worse than can be imagined. Solomon married foreign women, worshiped false gods and set Israel on a deadly path of disobedience. God sent one prophet after another to call His rebellious people to repent, but they refused to listen. God had to punish them. Ounce by ounce, the gold was stripped from the temple. Piece by piece the temple furnishings were carted away. Group by group, God's people were carried far away from His presence. They became foreigners in a foreign land with foreign gods. Why were they dispossessed so soon? Had God broken His promise? Certainly not. God reminded His people that He had not broken His promise, but they certainly had broken His commands. It seemed like this was the end of the story, and that Israel was history. But God's promise to send a Saviour was a “No ifs, ands, or buts” kind of promise. Through the very same prophets who prophesied punishment through exile, God promised that a remnant would return, and He restated His promise that the Saviour, Jesus Christ, would come. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help you take sin seriously, and thank Jesus that He was exiled from the presence of God while on the cross so that we can forever be in the presence of God in Paradise. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 20 – Picture #6: The Promised Land

“On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands.” – Ezekiel 20:6b  Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 8:7-9; Joshua 21:43-44 Although God was with His people while they wandered in the wilderness, the journey was no picnic in the park. The Israelites had food and water. But that was about it. The wilderness was a wasteland. What a contrast to the Promised Land of Canaan, “a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands” (Ezekiel 20:6b). Milk and honey might not seem like anything special to us, but they represent all that is most desirable and delightful. If you think about it, the most expensive drinks at your local cafe are still the lattes. And who doesn't like whipped cream, cream cheese and ice cream? As for honey, it represents all that is sweet. In the Promised Land, the Israelites would enjoy wheat and wine, barley and bread, grapes and olives, figs and pomegranates, not to mention the minerals and precious metals that could be mined from the ground. The land would be flowing with these good gifts; available in unending supply, like a river that never runs dry. What a contrast to their meager diet as slaves in Egypt! What a change from the monotonous manna! If the wilderness was a picture of hardship, danger and God's displeasure, Canaan was a picture of prosperity, peace and pleasure. More importantly, the Promised Land was a picture of Paradise itself. Joshua led the people into a beautiful land that pictured Paradise. But Jesus leads us into the eternal Paradise, the Promised Land of the new heavens and renewed earth. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the cosmic scope of His saving work. He is redeeming not just our souls and bodies, but this creation itself (Romans 8:19-21). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 19 – Picture #5: The Tabernacle

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt (tented, tabernacled) among us.” – John 1:14  Scripture reading: Exodus 26:1,6-7,14; 29:43-46; 40:33-35 Pictures of Jesus were plentiful for the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness: the Passover Lamb, thirst-quenching water, daily bread, a bronze serpent. But there was yet another picture of Jesus moving with them wherever they wandered in the wilderness. That picture was a large, elaborate tent-like structure called the tabernacle. This tent was God's home or the street address of His earthly dwelling. The tabernacle consisted of wooden poles covered with colorful curtains embroidered with intricate designs. Their beauty could be viewed from inside the tent. Covering these colourful interior curtains were three more curtain-like layers. All three were made of animal skin: the first layer was goatskin; the second, ram skin; and the third, another kind of durable leather (Exodus 26:1,6-7,14). Skin, skin, skin! God lived in a tent made of three layers of animal skin! Move into the New Testament and we find the human body described as a tent. Call it a tent of human skin. That's exactly what Jesus dwelt in when He came to earth. Christmas is the celebration of Jesus coming to earth and dwelling not in a tent of animal skin, but in a tent of human skin! This is precisely what John 1:14 describes. Jesus is the Word; flesh is a reference to the human body He took on; and 'dwelt' literally means 'tented' or 'tabernacled.' Christmas is the celebration of Jesus coming to tabernacle in a tent of human skin! Never had God's presence been nearer or clearer. Suggestions for prayer Thank Jesus that He is both the tabernacle and the sacrifice required to enter into the tabernacle, both the presence of God and the means by which we enter into the presence of God. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 18 – Picture #4: A snake

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:14-15 Scripture reading: Numbers 21:1-9 By blessing the Israelites with bread and water every day, God made it good and clear that He could and would keep His people alive in the barren wilderness. And He did! After bringing them safely to the border of the Promised Land, twelve men went in and explored. They returned with a glowing report about the land, but a grim report about the people living there: “We can't attack those people. They are far bigger and stronger than we are” (Numbers 13:23-27, 31-33). What unbelievable unbelief! God got them out of Egypt. Surely He could get them into the Promised Land? Yes, He could! But their unbelief earned them forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Fast-forward forty years. Had their behavior improved? Not really. They were again complaining about the lack of water and moaning about the monotonous manna. So God sent venomous snakes to inflict death-inducing bites. Many died. Had God's grace run out? No! When His children confessed their sin, He gave yet another picture of Jesus: a snake on a pole. By looking in faith at the serpent, the poisoned person was cured. Shocking, isn't it? Serpents are cursed symbols of sin and Satan. How could this be a picture of Jesus? While suspended on the cross, God laid on Jesus all our sin and rebellion, making Him a symbol of all that is heinous and evil. And there, Jesus redeemed us from the curse of eternal death by becoming a curse for us (Galatians 3:13). Suggestions for prayer Thank God that just as the Israelites who looked to the bronze serpent were saved from physical death, so all who look to Jesus as the sin-bearer are saved from eternal death. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 17 – Picture #3: Bread

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is My flesh which I will give for the life of the world.” – John 6:51  Scripture reading: Exodus 16:1-5, 15-18, 31-35; John 6:48-51  God got His grumbling people through the first two weeks in the wilderness by giving them water on multiple occasions. Then, when the supply of food they had taken from Egypt ran out, they were confronted with another crisis: starvation! Instead of turning to God in prayer, they turned against Him in protest: “You have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death. If only we had died in Egypt!” (16:3). What unbelievable unbelief! What would you do if you were God? Better question: What did God do? With an impulse of grace, He declared, “I will rain down bread from heaven” (16:4). When they woke up the next morning, the desert floor was covered with thin frost-like flakes called manna. The flakes were white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. What amazing grace! Grace for grumblers and gripers in the form of daily bread from heaven. But this manna was more than just physical food. It was a picture of Jesus. After miraculously multiplying five small barley loaves to sufficiently feed a crowd of five thousand people, Jesus pointed to Himself, saying, “Here is the bread that comes down from heaven.... Your forefathers ate manna in the desert, yet they died. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is My flesh which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:50-51). Suggestions for prayer We eat physical food on a daily basis to nourish our body. Ask God to help you feed on Jesus, the Living Bread, on a daily basis, to nourish your soul. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 16 – Picture #2: Water

“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:13-14 Scripture reading: Exodus 15:22-27 The Israelites escaped from Egypt and safely crossed the Red Sea. But they were not in the Promised Land yet. A vast wilderness now stood before them. Sand, sand and more sand. Scorching heat. Some poisonous snakes too. But no food. Rarely any water. This would be no picnic! But God was with them. They traveled for three full days without finding any water. Then, when they finally did find water, they found it was too bitter to drink. Since the desert is a drink-or-die environment, this was a state of emergency. Knowing that God graciously brought the Israelites out of Egypt, you would think they would believe God would continue to take care of them throughout their wilderness journey. But no! They doubted, disbelieved and grumbled. Yet God responded with grace. He told Moses to throw a piece of wood into the bitter water and suddenly it became sweet. Grace for grumblers. What a God! The next stop was at the oasis of Elim. The twelve springs and seventy palm trees symbolize the fullness of God's provision. Twelve springs, one for each tribe; seventy palm trees, one for each of Israel's elders. Full provision for the full number of God's people. This life-giving water in the wilderness was a picture of Jesus. He says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.... The water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 7:37; 4:14b). Suggestions for prayer Thank God that the waters of His sin-cleansing, eternal life-giving grace flow in an unending stream and are available free of charge through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

Daily devotional

December 15 – Picture daily #1: The Last Supper, the first Passover

“Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.” – 1 Corinthians 5:7b  Scripture reading: Exodus 12:1-7, 12-13, 21-30 It would be another 1,400 years before Jesus was born. But God kept placing the promise of Christ's coming before His people by giving them pictures of Jesus. Not full-color photos of the man named Jesus, but simple pictures called shadows (Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 8:5; 10:1). A shadow might not seem like much of a picture. But it is a picture of sorts. It shows the general shape of something. The first picture of Jesus that God gives appears in the last supper the Israelites ate prior to leaving Egypt. The first nine plagues were directed only against Egypt. But the tenth plague would affect Egyptians and Israelites alike. The destroying angel would kill the firstborn in every single home because this plague symbolized God's universal judgment upon sin, and Egyptians and Israelites alike were sinners. Thank God, there was a way to escape this deadly judgment. By sacrificing a Passover lamb and painting its blood on the door frame of a home, people were ensured that the angel of death would pass over their home. The Passover lamb was God's gift. It was a substitute that died instead of the sinner. More importantly, the Passover lamb was a simple, shadow-like picture of Jesus. Consider the shadow's shape: the lamb had to be a male; in its prime (one-year-old); without defect (Exodus 12:5). That's the same shape as Jesus! He was a man, without sin, and in His prime of life, He sacrificed Himself on the cross as our Passover Lamb. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for sending Jesus as the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Brian Zegers has been serving the Lord by working with Word of Life Ministry as home missionary to the Muslim community in Toronto, Ontario since 2015....

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