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Daily devotional

December 1 - Introduction to the incarnation

In the month of December, we reflect on the miracle of miracles, the wonder of the incarnation of the Son of God. Isn’t it wonderful that the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures so that we could have wonderful stories about the conception, birth, and childhood of our Saviour! During this month we will begin by reflecting on how Old Testament prophecies pointed ahead to the coming of the promised Messiah. As Christmas Day approaches, we will ponder the stories that surround the birth of Jesus. We will conclude with John the Baptist introducing Jesus as the Lamb of God. As we reflect on the birth of our Saviour, we want to meditate on the astonishing events and astounding realities involved. We want to be like Mary who pondered everything she saw and heard. She mused on what the Angel Gabriel had told her. She reflected on the reports of the shepherds. She thought about who her baby boy could be. Mary is an example of faith seeking understanding. She took the time to think about what everything meant. And so it should be with us. We believe that God became a man. We have faith in Jesus of Nazareth. We worship Him, just as the Gentile magi worshiped the infant Jesus. We believe, but we do not fully grasp. We know that the person of the Son of God united Himself to a human nature. But we do not fully comprehend this reality. Both the doctrines of the incarnation and the trinity are profound mysteries. So, we ponder. We muse. We reflect. We meditate on the wonder of the ages, that the only begotten Son of God came into this world to destroy the power of the Devil and to redeem us, His people. The seed of the woman came to destroy the devil’s work “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” - 1 John 3:8  Scripture reading: 1 John 3:1-10 Why did Christmas occur? Why did Jesus come? Why did the Son of God condescend to assume a human nature? Why did God become man? Why did the Son of God personally unite Himself to a human nature? Part of the answer is that Christ came to fulfill the mother promise made in Genesis 3:15. This oldest of all promises predicted that the Saviour would destroy the Devil. In 1 John 3:8, the Apostle John writes about how Jesus fulfilled an ancient prophecy that God gave in the Garden of Eden. In the mother of all promises, God told Satan: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). God told Satan that the seed of the woman would bruise or crush his head. The Apostle John states that the Son of God came to destroy the plans and works of the Old Serpent. Christmas occurred because Christ came to destroy Satan’s attempt to rule over all humanity. It is true that Christ will punish the Devil by casting him into the lake of fire and sulphur on Judgment Day. But the Apostle John emphasizes that Christ came to destroy the works of the Devil. These works include all his plans to corrupt the church. They include Satan’s work in raising up the final, vicious Antichrist. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would empower you to fight against the temptations of the Devil. Pray that angel armies would guard your children and grandchildren. Rev. Nathan Brummel is Professor of Systematic Theology and New Testament at Divine Hope Reformed Bible Seminary, and an associate pastor at Immanuel United Reformed Church in DeMotte, Indiana. 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

November 30 - He who calls you is faithful

“He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:24 Scripture reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:23-28 Paul now draws the letter to a close and as we, along with the Thessalonians reflect on the contents, we must conclude that Paul has painted a glorious picture of the church. In referring to the pastorate, the fellowship and the worship of the Thessalonian congregation, he has touched on the three main relationships of church members – to their pastors, to each other and to God. They were to respect and love their pastors and elders. They were to exercise mutual care and support for fellow members and they were to listen and respond favourably to God. All of that had been taught them in this letter. What a tremendous obligation he had laid upon the members. That life of sanctification would have seemed impossible to them and it was, therefore, Paul offers one more word of encouragement. He writes, “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” Paul reminds them that God, having begun His good work among them by calling them out of darkness within them by giving His Holy Spirit, would never abandon the work of His hands. God is faithful; His people often are not. God’s children are weak and often stray from the straight and narrow path. Satan was determined to tear the new saints out of God’s hand. Satan sought to destroy their new found faith, but it would not be possible. When God calls, He also grants what is necessary to fulfill the calling. That was true for the Thessalonians and the promise is still for us today. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that He is sovereign, faithful and almighty. Thank Him that His saving power is greater than Satan’s determination to destroy. Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. 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

November 29 - Avoiding appearance of evil

“Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 Scripture reading: Psalm 84:1-12 The ESV translated the text as: “Abstain from every form of evil”, but other Bible versions translate it to read, “Avoid all appearance of evil”. Although both translations are valid, in the context of testing the teachings of false prophets, and the injunction to “hold fast to what is good”, it would appear that Paul is warning about prophecies that might “appear” to be false. Calvin, reflecting on this text, observes that any teaching, not having been proven false, but yet gives the appearance of perhaps being so, is to be avoided. Any teaching based on Scripture and the “Three Forms of Unity” (Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession and Canons of Dort) are to be accepted, but if an interpretation raises doubts and questions, it is better to avoid it unless and until more clarity can be given from Scripture. In other words, Paul’s advice to the Thessalonian Christians is to not only reject any and all teaching clearly in conflict with what they had been taught previously by himself, but they were also to avoid any interpretation or teaching that was doubtful or questionable. Paul’s love for the Thessalonians compels him to warn them of the danger of being led astray while on their road to God and eternity. In another place, Paul speaks of the Deceiver and those who are deceived. Here he warns of the danger of falling victim to the Deceiver by allowing ourselves to be deceived by false prophets. We need to know the Scriptures so we can test and separate the false from the true. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord for the gift of discernment, enabling you to distinguish truth from error. Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. 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

November 28 - Test the spirits

“Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22  Scripture reading: Psalm 119:137-144 Paul’s admonitions in 5:12-21 ends with: “do not despise prophecies”. Prophesying was to be considered a special gift, enabling someone to interpret Scripture and it was a gift not to be despised. On the other hand, however, they were not to accept uncritically everything offered as application of Scripture. Paul instructs them to “test the prophecy” to see if it was in harmony with the doctrines Paul had taught them earlier. He is saying to the congregation: don’t despise prophecies but be sure to test them. False prophets are legion, especially in our age and culture and the tendency is to either simply ignore them or worse to accept their prophecy without critically examining the words of the prophet. Here Paul admonishes us not to believe everyone who claims to speak in the name of the Lord but to “test” them. The standard by which a true prophet can be distinguished from the false is that the true prophet will speak or teach nothing contrary to what has been revealed earlier in His special revelation. In the new dispensation, the criterion would be the revelation of God through the testimony of Christ and the apostles. We are to test all religious utterances against the teaching of Scripture. Test the spirits, says Paul. Any utterance that can’t be confirmed by Scripture is not from the Holy Spirit. Once the prophecy has been tested and confirmed, once a true verdict has been reached, hold on to that truth. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for faithful prophets who yet today climb into their pulpits and can say, “Thus saith the Lord”. Thank the Lord that you may sit under the preaching of such a prophet every week again. Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. 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

November 27 - On despising prophecy

“Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good” - 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 Scripture reading: Psalm 27:1-14 The Holy Spirit had blessed the early New Testament church with certain “special gifts” or “charismata”. Among these gifts were: the ability to perform miracles of healing, speaking in tongues and prophesying. The church, in its infancy, had no complete Bible, nor did it have libraries stocked with volumes of Christian literature and reference material. They were surrounded by hostility to the gospel and in that condition, because of their lack of resources, the Holy Spirit endowed the church with these “special” gifts until the time would come when they were no longer needed. Among those gifts was that of “prophesying”. The type of prophesying Paul refers to here in text was not so much that of foretelling the future as the Old Testament prophets had done, but Paul is speaking of the special gifts given to some to explain and apply the word of God to the congregation. It was a gift given to some, for the edification and instruction of the entire congregation. Although this gift of prophecy was one of the greatest gifts to the church, ranking even greater than “tongue speaking”, yet it seems that such instruction was held in low esteem by certain members. It has always been so, even yet today. Whenever and wherever God plants wheat, Satan sows his tares. How is it now with us today? Preaching is the God ordained means of creating and strengthening faith, yet, often so many pews are left vacant, especially during the second service. How about you? Do you long for the expounding of the Word every week again? Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to create in your heart a hunger and thirsting for the Word of God. Thank Him for faithful preaching and preachers the world over. Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. 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

November 26 - Respect for office-bearers

“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labour among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:12  Scripture reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:11-15 As you go to the House of God today, think about how your church is blessed by having elders and deacons. The reports about the spiritual health of the Thessalonian congregation brought by Timothy to Paul had for the most part been very positive. However, not all of the news had been favourable. In chapters four and five, it is suggested that there existed some disorderly members in the congregation. It seems that some were loath to submit to those who had oversight. We know that the Thessalonian church had responsible leaders since Luke mentions some of them by name, but we are not told what prompted Paul to issue the admonition of verse twelve. The context suggests that there were certain people who disrespected the church leaders. There may not be a spirit of disrespect for the office bearers of any congregation. It is the will of the Lord that church leaders, especially elders, should be held in high esteem for their work’s sake. These men preach, teach, warn, admonish, encourage and comfort God’s people. They are gifts from God who are given the responsibility for the nurturing of the souls of God’s people. It is through their authority that God chooses to provide order, governance and spiritual nurture for the flock. They exist to help us on our road to God and will be held accountable to God for every soul under their care. It is an awesome responsibility and God requires that we respect, honour and submit to them; we are to hold them in high esteem. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help you develop a deep love for the church and her leaders. Unless they should require of you something unscriptural, ask Him to help you to submit willingly and cheerfully to their authority. Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. 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

November 25 - Salvation through Christ’s death

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 Scripture reading: John 19:22-30 All of God’s people press on in this life, claiming God’s promise of eternal life. All of their lives, they keep their eyes on the prize and at the end of their days, they are able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness...” Of course, it could be no other way. They have been chosen by God and appointed to eternal life. Their names have been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Christ died for them and when Jesus cried out, “It is finished”, on Calvary’s hill, He signalled that every sin of every believer had been washed in His atoning blood and therefore, heavens portals are open wide, waiting to receive all those who have sought their hope in Him. The head of the serpent has been crushed. The powers of Satan have been overcome. The ultimate price for the sins of the church, collectively and individually as believers has been paid, by the precious blood of Jesus. Paul glories only in the cross. All of man’s work is excluded from God’s beautiful plan of redemption. All of our good works are counted as rubbish. All that was needed to save us from eternal destruction has been earned for us in the atoning death of Jesus Christ. Our blessedness for time and eternity is a consequence of God’s electing love in Jesus Christ. Soli Deo Gloria! All glory to God alone! Suggestions for prayer Thank God for that gift of so great a salvation. Ask Him to help you express your gratitude for that free gift, every waking moment of your day in the way in which you live. Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. 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

November 24 - Spiritual watchfulness

“So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:6  Scripture reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:6-10 Paul has taught the Thessalonians that they and all other Christians are sons of light and not of darkness. They belong to the day, not to the night and therefore Paul exhorts them not to sleep, but to remain watchful and sober. To sleep, in this context means to live as if there will be no tomorrow or never be a day of judgment. Paul is warning against spiritual and moral lethargy. To be watchful is to live a sanctified life, conscious of the coming Judgment Day. The watchful individual has his lamp burning and his loins girded and in that spirit, he looks forward to the return of the Bridegroom. Christians need to be awake and sober. Paul contrasts the soberness of the Christian with the drunkenness of the worldling. The world stumbles around in drunkenness and darkness, but the Christian walks soberly and expectantly in the light. But for the Christian, watchfulness does not mean simply being passive while waiting. That was Paul’s point to the Thessalonians. They had become passive in their waiting and watching and now Paul stirs them up to intense activity. Paul tells them that their calling as children of the light is to carry the light into the world. They were to fight the good fight of faith and conquer the darkness with the light of the gospel. The question Paul presses upon us today is this: to which kingdom do you belong, light or darkness? Are you still asleep or awake? Has the light of Jesus Christ shone upon you? Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to strengthen your faith so that the light of Christ may shine ever more bright in you. Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. 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

November 23 - Children of the light

“For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:5 Scripture reading: Matthew 27:45-50 In verse four of this chapter, Paul addresses the Thessalonians affectionately when he refers to them as “brothers”. Here Paul again uses the affectionate term. He addresses them as “you all”. Paul is not using “all” in the universal sense, but he identifies the “all” as: “all” those who by sovereign grace have been adopted into the family of God through Jesus Christ. All those, says Paul in verse five, are “lights”. By nature we are all children of darkness. There is darkness in our hearts and we walk in darkness; but that all changes when God works the miracle of regeneration. He had done so in Thessalonica. God had blessed the preaching of Paul and had worked faith into the hearts of His elect, who in turn had responded to the call of the gospel, had come out of darkness and entered into the kingdom of light. Their sin-darkened minds had been illumined, their stopped-up ears and closed eyes had been opened, enabling them to see their need for Christ and hear His call. In grace, the light of Jesus Christ has shone in their hearts and they are destined for the realm of everlasting light. Because Jesus is the light of the world, the Thessalonian Christians also were lights in the world. God’s Word now would be a light upon their feet and a lamp upon their path and they would take that light into the world. Suggestions for prayer Ask God for more opportunities to take your light of faith into the dark world in which you live. Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. 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

November 22 - Like a thief in the night

“While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:3  Scripture reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5 Although Paul cannot tell the hour of Christ’s return, he does give us several clues; it will come “as a thief in the night.” When he uses that imagery, his point is not only the thief, but also the night. In fact, the emphasis falls on Christ’s return taking place in the night. His imagery is not literal, but figurative. Jesus will return in the dark night of moral degeneration and spiritual darkness. We are living in the “evening hours” of this world. The spiritual darkness is becoming ever darker and more oppressive. Then, when people are congratulating themselves on mankind’s incredible progress, claiming to see peace and security all around them, Jesus will return. The imagery of the thief in the night also contains the idea of surprise. A thief doesn’t announce his presence or send advance notice of his plan to rob you so that you could prepare yourself. Those who have prepared themselves, who are awake, have nothing to fear. It is only the careless ones, who are at ease in Zion, who slumber with their doors wide open, are the ones in danger. What about us? Are we worried about earthly things, but unconcerned about the heavenly? Are you postponing your conversion, continuing in sin, certain that there is plenty of time? Do you expect the Lord will let you know when He will take you out of this life? Tomorrow is always too late. Provide for the safety of your soul by turning to Christ while it is still the day of grace. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to daily remind you that His return will be sudden and unexpected. Ask to live joyfully each day, eagerly anticipating His coming because you know that even death will not separate you from the love of God in Christ. Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. 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

November 21 - Encouraging one another 

“Therefore encourage one another with these words.” - 1 Thessalonians 4:18  Scripture reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 Paul was not telling the Thessalonians anything new when he said, “We shall be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” That’s precisely what they expected and had been waiting for. They longed to “greet Him in the air”. They longed to prepare a “joyous entry” into the new earth under a new heaven. Every day they had been listening for the voice of the archangel signalling Christ’s return and the end of time as they knew it. Then something happened for which they were totally unprepared: death entered their midst and took some of their members away. Death is always painful for those who remain behind, but those deaths in the Thessalonian congregation were exceptionally painful and confusing for the church. They had believed that Christ would come soon, and would find them all alive, waiting for Him. Then death entered the picture. They had not expected that and were confused. What was most painful for them was the question: what would happen to those who died before Christ returned? They did not know where the dead would be when Jesus returned. Paul sets their mind at ease. Paul declared that “we who are alive, we who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep”. The dead will not be left behind. They will be awakened and then the living and the dead will be taken up in the clouds together. Comfort one another with those words. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for that glorious prospect of joining Him for all eternity. When death approaches a loved one or even yourself, give thanks to God that death is not death, but is your entrance into eternal glory. Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. 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

November 20 - Our daily labour

“1 Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.” - 1 Thessalonians 4:1 Scripture reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:6-16 Fanatics, busybodies and loafers can be found in every congregation. Apparently, such people were among the Thessalonian congregation as well and Paul addresses them. He tells them to quietly mind their own business and to get a job. The gospel had been proclaimed to the Thessalonians by Paul. They had been told of the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus and they were told He was coming again. They had eagerly embraced the gospel message, however, many of them were under the false delusion that Christ’s return was at hand. Not only was there excitement among the members about the second coming of their Lord, but numbers of people had become fanatical about it. They had become restless in anticipation. It seems that a significant number of people were so eager for the second coming that they literally quit their jobs and did nothing but talk about and speculate about how that would all be. They even convinced others to also stop working and wait for the Lord’s coming. With his admirable ability to speak paradoxically, Paul urges them to become all stirred up, not by agitating other members, but by living quietly and working diligently at their daily vocation. Scripture speaks even to us today, telling us to live all of our lives to God’s glory, also in our daily work. Christians ought to be industrious. A lazy Christian is an offence to God and a poor example towards those who do not know Christ and now Paul instructs them to properly direct that restlessness. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to fill you with eager anticipation of His coming again, but ask Him to teach you also how you are to work diligently at your daily work while waiting upon that last great Day of the Lord. Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. 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

November 19 - Concerning love to the brothers

“Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another.” - 1 Thessalonians 4:9  Scripture reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 Today is Sunday. Today we go to church to experience the communion of the saints. In verse 8, Paul has just taught the Thessalonians that the Holy Spirit had been given to the church in Thessalonica. He now adds that the indwelling Spirit has already taught them to love one another. We would think it unnecessary to repeat himself. Paul was a skilled, competent teacher, but he was also a compassionate pastor. He loved the people of God as a mother loves her child. Here we see that Paul was probably one of the most effective and tactful missionaries of all times. He wants to avoid giving any offence which might hinder the advance of the gospel and he wants to give credit where credit is due. The Lord had instructed the Thessalonian congregation. Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit there is no true biblical love for one another, but authentic brotherly love was evident in the congregation. By telling them that he sees evidence of that, he skilfully opens the door to further instruct them in some other deficiencies. He wants them to know that although he thanks God for the blessing upon His work among them, at the same time he wants them to know that the love among the brothers needs to grow. That is still true for us today. With the Holy Spirit in our born-again hearts, brotherly love reaches out to our brothers and sisters sitting in the pew with us and beyond. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the work of the Holy Spirit in the church and your heart and then ask God to instill in you genuine love for the brothers and sisters of your congregation. Ask him to provide opportunities for you to give expression to that love. Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. 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

November 18 - God’s Holy Spirit is in you

“Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives His Holy Spirit to you.” - 1 Thessalonians 4:8  Scripture reading: Romans 8:1-7 Paul has taught the Thessalonians that rules and regulations for living are for the world, but not for Christians since they are motivated by a different ethic. Christian ethics arise out of the doctrine of God. The natural man behaves as he does because he does not know God. Christians, however, must behave radically differently from unbelievers because they do know God. A child of God knows God to be a holy God; he knows Him to be his God and he wants to please Him. Pleasing God is not something the unbeliever is concerned about. But that is different for those who know God. Those who have been called by God to be in this world, yet not of this world have been set aside (consecrated) to holiness. God has given them His Holy Spirit, spurring them on to a life of sanctification, a life of submission to God’s holy commandments. Being filled with God’s Holy Spirit, the Christian is able to distinguish between sacred (holy) and secular living. His chief delight is to live in accordance with all of God’s commandments in all areas of his life. Because of their recent conversion out of darkness, many church members were not yet that concerned about Christian ethics, in their marriages or in their business practices. Tragically, not much has changed over the centuries. Sexual immorality and dishonest business practices are still found, even within the church community. Such immorality grieves the Holy Spirit of God, which was given to us for a life of sanctification and holiness. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to create in you a deeper and richer knowledge and understanding of His Law and then ask Him to help you to know how to apply them in principle and precept to every part of your life. Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. 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

November 17 - A life pleasing to God

“But we urge you, brothers, …to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” - 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12 Scripture reading: Colossians 3: 5-17 Having given instructions with regards to human sexuality, Paul now turns to the Christian’s obligation in society. In essence, Paul is saying to the Thessalonians, “You have come to know Christ, now evidence that also in your life in the world”. Paul has some valuable instruction for employers, employees and to all who are involved in business and commerce. He is even speaking to the ordinary “blue-collar” worker. The desire to increase in possessions, lives in the heart of each of us and the sin of exploitation and cheating are an ever present danger. But we notice that Paul doesn’t present to the congregation a long list of rules for them to follow as they live and work in the community during the days of the week. He did not try to restrain dishonesty in business with a list of laws, rules or regulations. Paul didn’t rely on contracts and auditors to keep everyone accountable and honest. Those rules and regulations are important, but they are only important for the world! Christians should be motivated by a different spirit. Christians should be honest in business because it is God’s will for them that they lead sanctified lives, in all areas, even in business. When Christians are more concerned about honouring God in the workplace than about increasing riches, they will experience God’s blessing. Christians need to remember that, “This is the will of God, your sanctification …. That no man transgress or wrong his brother” (1 Thessalonians 4:6). Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help you live a life that is pleasing to him in all areas. Ask him to conduct your activity in the workplace in such a way that God is glorified first of all. Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. 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

November 16 - Living moral lives

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.” - 1 Thessalonians 4:3  Scripture reading: Matthew 5:27-32 Paul begins where we would like to stop. We think that once we have been regenerated, we have reached our goal, but the Bible teaches us that once having been reborn, we are only getting started. A long, fearsome road of struggling against the world, the devil and our own flesh begins after rebirth. God wants us to be sanctified! In 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 Paul tells the Thessalonians what is involved in sanctification. He mentions that their sanctification must first be worked out in the area of marriage. Even in their marriages, they must make it obvious that they are a changed, converted people. It is easy to see why Paul would mention the need for sanctified marriages when we remember that these people had only recently been converted from paganism. They had only recently become Christians, but they had come from and were still living in a heathen environment. It would not have been easy for them to break from their heathen customs and practices. Paul teaches them that marriage was ordained by God for God’s glory and for man’s benefit and enjoyment. It was to be a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman. What God had joined together may not be broken by man. Paul still speaks to the church today. We too live amidst a pagan culture where marriage is no longer sacred or honoured. Tragically even among church members we see so much brokenness and sin in the area of marriage and human sexuality. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would help us to live morally pure lives. Ask Him to help us to love, honour and cherish our marriage partners. Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. 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

November 15 - Pleasing God in our walk

“Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.” - 1 Thessalonians 4:1 Scripture reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 Paul is still conducting himself towards the congregation as a mother nurturing her infant child. Patiently and lovingly, Paul urges the congregation to greater sanctification. He doesn’t come with any heavy handedness; he doesn’t exercise his authority and command the church to holiness. No, we read he “urges” them. Because of their union with Christ, Whom he represented and Whose Spirit inspired him, Paul’s desire is that they may excel or abound more and more in the business of leading holy, sanctified lives, doing the will of God and conducting themselves properly in their daily walk. It is evident that Paul’s desire for them is that they would keep God’s law for holy living out of gratitude for what God had done for them. In love and with great tactfulness, he assures them that he has noticed that they were indeed already conducting themselves in a manner that pleased the Lord, but their road to sanctification needed to continue. They should not stagnate. Paul’s desire was that the branches that were already bearing fruit would bear even more fruit (John 15:2). The members of the Thessalonian church had just recently been converted from paganism and although there was evidence of genuine zeal among the congregation, that zeal needed to be taught and directed. We know from Scripture that in this life even the holiest of men have yet but a small beginning towards sanctification and that was certainly the case here among these new believers. They needed to be taught in order to grow. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for all of the Biblical instruction available to us. We have preaching, catechism, Bible Study groups, Christian Schools and we have the Bible in our homes. Ask God to help you in your efforts to grow. Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. 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

November 14 - Abounding in love

“…And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you.” - 1 Thessalonians 3:12  Scripture reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:11–13 Unconverted men and women by nature, hate God and their neighbour. That’s what comes naturally to men and women who know not the Christ. Yet, by the miracle of rebirth, all of that changes. When God opens the hearts to the preaching, hearts are changed and true conversion is seen. As a natural consequence of that change, love is seen emanating from the hearts and lives of the born-again Christian. We see love for God and love for one another. That change had taken place in Thessalonica. Paul had preached, the Holy Spirit had worked and men and women were called out of darkness into God’s marvellous light. A spirit of love took hold of the congregation. Where they had formerly been enemies and haters of God and neighbour, there was now love, love for God and love for one another. But that love was not yet perfect; it needed to grow. The Thessalonians needed to grow in grace, faith and sanctification. Their love for God and for each other needed to grow, day by day. Through Christ’s intercessory prayers, the congregation needed to develop a deeper, stronger, more intense love. There needed to be true empathy and compassion for one another. They needed to be in constant prayer for one another. They needed to learn what it meant to: “Love God above all else and their neighbour as themselves.” If the Apostle Paul was to examine your congregation, if he was to examine your heart and life, would he find that so necessary love? Suggestions for prayer Ask God to create in you a deeper, stronger, warmer love for Him and for your fellow man, beginning with those in the household of faith. Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. 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

November 13 - We have been comforted about you through your faith

“… for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.” - 1 Thessalonians 3:7  Scripture reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:6–10 Paul and his companions worked day and night among the Thessalonians, but they were soon forced to leave. It appeared to them that many of the Thessalonians had accepted the gospel enthusiastically, but after leaving, the apostles wondered if the conversion they had seen had been genuine and so Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to gauge the faith of the congregation. He returns bearing great news. Paul’s missionary work had been blessed by the Lord. Despite his affliction and suffering, Paul was greatly comforted by what he heard. His fear, that perhaps his missionary efforts had been in vain in Thessalonica, was now quickly dispelled. Timothy was able to report that there was evidence of love and faith in the church. The congregation also had spoken well of Paul’s work among them. They remembered him with fondness and they longed to see him again. That longing was reciprocal. Paul was concerned about his sheep. He loved them, longed to see them and hoped to see them joyfully serving the Lord, despite their hardships. In turn, the sheep longed for their shepherd. He had brought them to Christ and they now loved him and longed to see him again. Does that reciprocal love between shepherd and sheep exist between you and your pastor? As he labours in his calling, can your minister rejoice as he sees evidence of your faith at work in you? Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help you to develop a deeper love for those who labour in the churches as ministers. Pray that your minister may be comforted and rejoice in the faith he sees at work in you. Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. 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

November 12 - Being moved by afflictions

“…that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this.” - 1 Thessalonians 3:3  Scripture reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 The Apostle Paul sends Timothy to Thessalonica primarily to take the spiritual pulse of the congregation, but here in our text, Paul was particularly concerned that they would put their present suffering in a proper perspective. It is not at all unusual to meet Christians who are convinced that, if they know Christ, everything will be going their way, but according to the Bible the very opposite is true. Christians in Thessalonica experienced suffering and persecution as consequence of their faith and Paul was concerned that these new Christians might become confused and begin to doubt. One of the most difficult things for Christians to understand is that difficulties in life are to be expected and are a normal part of the Christian life. According to Scripture, God actually sends difficulties on our path in order to help us on our road to God and drive us closer to Him. The believers in Thessalonica were to know that and they were to rejoice in their persecution, for their suffering and affliction united them to all Christians and identified them as belonging to Christ. Those who share in suffering for Christ’s sake will also share in His glory. Paul says that suffering is the Christian’s lot in life and is to be expected. Anyone who follows the Good Shepherd will be called a sheep, and sheep as we all know, are destined for slaughter. Suggestions for prayer As you go to church to worship today, ask God to help you to rejoice, even in your suffering. Ask Him to help you to understand that life’s hardships are given to strengthen your faith. Ask Him to help you to count it all joy. Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. 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

November 11 - For you are our glory and joy

“For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.” - 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20  Scripture reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:17–20 The Apostle Paul rejoices in the fruit borne by his work among the Thessalonians. The Lord blessed Paul’s preaching by His accompanying power of the Holy Spirit and dead hearts were made alive in Christ. The Lord had broken the power of Satan that had held the hearts of men and women in Thessalonica captive. God had used Paul’s preaching to open the eyes and ears of men and women who had been dead in sin and trespass. He had revealed Christ to them and they had joyfully responded in faith and repentance to the preaching and in that, Paul rejoiced. Paul preached and the Holy Spirit was active. Men and women were translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, the kingdom of Christ in Whom they now had redemption and forgiveness of sin (Colossians 1:13,14). Paul’s response was to give God all the glory and he thanks God for the new creations in the Thessalonian congregation. Paul repeatedly makes it clear that men and women are to glory only in the cross and he is not contradicting himself here. He is not giving himself the glory for the conversion of the Thessalonians, but what he says is that his joy in this world and his glory in the future are tied up with the Thessalonians, whom Christ had transformed through the ministry of his preaching. How has the preaching affected you? Would Paul rejoice over your faith? It's an important question. It’s a matter of life and death. Suggestions for prayer If you are not yet intimately aware of Christ as your Saviour and Lord, go to Him yet today. Ask Him to open your heart to the preaching of the gospel. If you know Christ, thank God for that miracle of rebirth He has granted you. Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. 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....

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