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Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

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

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. – Acts 1:8 Scripture reading: Acts 1:1-11 The book of Acts describes the mission that the church has been given between the first and second coming of Christ: to be His witnesses as the gospel spreads to cover the whole world. Whatever we are, whoever we are, whatever work God has given us, that is who He has called us to be: His witnesses to Jesus Christ. Acts 1:8 describes this as an ongoing process that lasts until Jesus returns, spreading to cover the world: “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Indeed, the Heidelberg Catechism speaks of this expansion as part of what we believe about the church in Q&A 54: What do you believe concerning “the holy catholic church”? I believe that the Son of God through his Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member. That whole answer is about mission and it is very clear that the mission continues until Jesus returns: “Out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end.” That is who we are and that is why we are here as the church. That is our mission. Suggestions for prayer That God would give us the eyes of faith to see the expansion of His kingdom around the world and that He would make us faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ in all of our living. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

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

By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. – Revelation 21:24 Scripture reading: Revelation 21 The story of God’s mission to save the nations of the world spans from Genesis to Revelation, from the beginning of the story to its end. The Bible begins, not with sin and the need for a Saviour, but with God’s good creation. Likewise, the Bible ends, not simply with individual souls being saved, but with a new creation, new heavens and a new earth. God will not abandon His good creation, but promises to set it right, eradicating all that is cursed and twisted and broken: "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4). When He does this at the return of Jesus, it will be in fulfillment of the promises that He gave to Abraham and Israel, the promises He fulfilled in Jesus as the faithful Israelite and the true Son of Abraham, and so it will be for the benefit of the nations: "By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it,  and its gates will never be shut by day — and there will be no night there.  They will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations" (Revelation 21:24–26). That is the future God has promised, the future we are living for as we carry out the mission God has given us. Suggestions for prayer That God would fill us with faith in His promised future, especially of the world being set right, of every tear wiped away and perfect fellowship with Him in His new creation. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

Sunday November 18 – Jesus fulfills Israel's mission (3): " I am the light of the world"

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12 Scripture reading: John 8:12-30 When Jesus says that He is the light of the world in John 8, there are all sorts of things we can learn from His words. He is speaking of His identity as being from the Father, the words “I am” speaks of His divine identity. He is speaking of being the answer to what the world needs, as light dawning in darkness. He is calling people to follow Him as the way of light, like wisdom in the book of Proverbs. Among all those things He is doing, He is also connecting His identity with Israel’s story. God had called Israel to be a light to the nations, and promised the day when that calling would be fulfilled: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Is. 49:6). When Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World,” He was declaring the fulfillment of that promise. Israel was called to be a light to the nations, but failed at that calling, ultimately going into exile because of her idolatry. But during the exile, God repeatedly promised that Israel’s calling would be restored. In Jesus, that happened. He is the true Son of Abraham, the true and faithful Israelite. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for Jesus as the light of the nations, the reason we have received light, the announcement of God’s faithfulness and the One in Whom we receive our calling to be a light to the nations today. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Saturday November 17 – Jesus fulfills Israel's mission (2): The true son of Abraham

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. - Matthew 1:1 Scripture reading: Matthew 1:1-17 We saw yesterday that Matthew summarized Jesus’ message as being about the good news of the kingdom, thereby connecting Jesus’ identity and message with the story of Israel. Jesus came to fulfill everything God had promised to Israel. Matthew also shows this connection by way of his genealogy. It can be tempting to skip over the long lists of names in the Bible, but they are always important. In this case, Matthew is teaching us that to understand Jesus, we need to understand the story that preceded Him. The names mentioned in his genealogy all bring to mind promises made, promises kept, and promises renewed, all yearning for fulfillment in Christ. Most importantly, Matthew begins his genealogy with Abraham and summarizes the identity of Jesus as being “the son of David, the son of Abraham.” When the gospel would later go to the nations, Jewish believers would be tempted to think that this was instead of the gospel being for Israel. But because Jesus is a son of Abraham, we are reminded that the gospel is going to the nations because the gospel is for Israel. Jesus came first for Israel and God’s promise to them, beginning with Abraham in Genesis 12, was that his family would bless the whole world. God blessed the nations through Jesus because that was God's purpose for Israel all along. And in that way, Jesus was and is the true Son of Abraham. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His faithfulness to His promises and for the glory of Christ as the true Son of Abraham, and pray that God would enable us to carry out that same mission as children of Abraham in Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Friday November 16 - Jesus fulfills Israel's mission (1): The Good News of the Kingdom

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." – Matthew 4:17 Scripture reading: Matthew 4:12-17 The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) all at various times summarize Jesus’ message as being about the Kingdom of God. In Matthew 4, for example, we are given a summary statement of what Jesus preached: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” One of the most interesting things about this summary is that Matthew never bothers to explain what he means by the word “kingdom.” The kingdom is absolutely essential to the message of Jesus and yet Matthew never defines it. Why would that be? The reason is that Matthew assumes his readers know what he is talking about, that they were already waiting for and expecting the Kingdom of God on the basis of the Old Testament Scriptures. If we want to understand what Jesus is about, then, we must go back to those promises of the Kingdom, promises that we have been tracing throughout this study, promises that were ultimately not just for Israel, but for all nations. God had promised that when the promised kingdom arrived, the nations would stream to Jerusalem and that His kingdom would expand to include the whole world. That is the kingdom Jesus brought, the mission that Jesus came to fulfill: a kingdom that would be for all people, for all the nations of the world. It was through this kingdom that the family of Abraham would be a blessing to all the families of the earth. Suggestions for prayer We love and exalt Jesus for bringing the promised kingdom and we thank God that we have been included in it by His grace. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Thursday November 15 - A promised Kingdom

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. – Daniel 2:44a Scripture reading: Daniel 2:31-45 In Daniel 2, during Israel’s exile, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar dreams about a statue crushed by a rock, which grows into a mountain that fills the earth. Daniel interprets the dream and explains the rock: "And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever” (v. 44). This is one of the main promises that lived in the hearts of Israel during the exile as they awaited the coming of the Messiah. They waited for the One who would bring the Kingdom of God. And it was this promise that Jesus spoke of at the beginning of His ministry in Israel. For the sake of learning about our mission, the important thing is the answer to this question: What did the stone do after it crushed the statue? Did it disappear? Did it hide? “But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (v. 35b). That verse spoke of the church’s mission today. We live after the coming of the Messiah, after the coming of the Kingdom, in the time in which that Kingdom is growing to fill the whole earth, the kingdom that shall stand forever. That promise - and its fulfillment in Jesus - is what motivates our mission as the church today. Suggestions for prayer That God’s Kingdom would continue to grow, and that we would live faithfully as citizens of that Kingdom. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

Tuesday November 13 - Singing of mission (3): Christ shall have dominion

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

Daily devotional

Monday November 12 - Singing of mission (2): Blessed to be a blessing

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

Daily devotional

Sunday November 11 - Singing of mission (1): Why do the nations rage?

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

Daily devotional

Saturday November 10 - Israel's mission (7): It shall come to pass in latter days

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

Daily devotional

Friday November 9 - Israel's mission (6): The failure of Israel

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

Daily devotional

Thursday November 8 - Israel's mission (5): In the sight of the peoples

Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” – Deuteronomy 4:6 Scripture reading: Deuteronomy 4:1-14 In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is preaching to Israel before they enter the promised land, reminding them of the promises of the covenant and the life to which they are called. He also reminds them of the purpose of all of this, that they have been blessed, not to keep the blessing to themselves, but so that they will be a blessing to the nations. Indeed, Moses makes it clear that they are being given the land of Canaan “in the sight of the peoples,” so that their way of life will be seen by others. The expectation of Deuteronomy is not only that Israel’s way of life will be seen, but that it will be clearly good and appealing: Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." This is one of the ways God’s people are called to be a blessing: to live in accordance with God’s Word in a way that is visible and that is clearly “wise and understanding.” Jesus says that it continues to be our mission today: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). Suggestions for prayer That we would remember our identity as a people on display before the nations and that the lost would be drawn to the goodness of life in Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

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

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

Daily devotional

Monday November 5 – Israel's mission(2): The call of Abram

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

Daily devotional

Sunday November 4 – Israel's mission (1): Genesis 12 comes after Genesis 1-11

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

Daily devotional

Saturday November 3 - The big picture (3): To all nations

 ...and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. – Luke 24:47 Scripture reading: Luke 24:36-49 Yesterday we saw that Jesus is very clear in Luke 24 that the whole Bible tells one story, united around Him as the fulfillment of the Scriptures. This point is glorious and exciting, showing the beauty of the Bible and of Christ, emphasizing the faithfulness of God to all of His promises to His people. But too often, Reformed Christians are tempted to stop at this point, rightly delighting in how the whole Bible points to Jesus, but neglecting the next thing He says. The Scriptures didn’t just speak of the death and resurrection of Jesus; they also spoke of the mission of the church: Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (v.45-47). Did you catch that? Jesus would die and rise and again. And, forgiveness would be proclaimed to all nations! The whole Bible is about the mission of the church. As we look at the story of the Bible, we must look not only for Christ but for the story of God’s mission to proclaim forgiveness to all nations. Suggestions for prayer That we would see Christ in all of Scripture and that we would see God’s mission to save the nations, fulfilled in the mission Christ has given His church. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Friday November 2 – The big picture (2): Everything written about Me

Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead. – Luke 24:46 Scripture reading: Luke 24:36-49 After appearing to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus appeared to the rest of the disciples in Jerusalem. He allowed them to touch Him (v.39) and He ate with them (v.43), all demonstrating that His resurrection was a real bodily resurrection. He was not a spirit, having abandoned His body (v.39). Instead, the tomb was empty and His body was raised. All of this is glorious good news, for the Apostle Paul says we will share in a resurrection like Christ’s (Romans 6:5). But our main focus is on the words of Jesus after all of this: Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead” (Lk 24:44–46). Jesus again says that the whole Bible is about Him. By referring to “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms,” He spoke of the three divisions of the Hebrew Scriptures. Jewish Christians would have understood the point clearly: The Hebrew Scriptures spoke of Jesus! And this was the case, not simply by way of promises fulfilled, but by way of telling the story that Jesus completes. Suggestions for prayer That we would rejoice and take comfort in the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and that we would grow in loving the Bible as one story, fulfilled in Jesus. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Nick Smith is pastor of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho....

Daily devotional

Thursday November 1 – The big picture (1): Jesus on the road to Emmaus

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