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Daily devotional

Thursday December 27 – Following Jesus and shining like stars

...shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life... – Philippians 2:15b, 16a  Scripture reading: Philippians 2:12-17 In the first part of Philippians 2, Paul gives a summary of Jesus’ ministry, from His taking on flesh as a child, to His humbling obedience unto death on the cross and to His exultation where all will bend the knee to His glorious name. However, notice that Paul tells us this summary of Jesus' life not just to encourage us in our faith, but as an example of how to live, not for ourselves, but for others. From this context, Paul tells us to work out our salvation; that is, because you are saved, work for your Saviour. How are we to do this? Paul says, "without complaining or arguing." Paul tells us this so that who we are in Jesus Christ would shine out to the world as living testimonies of what God can do. We can only be this light that shines in the dark world once our minds and hearts are truly set on Christ and His Kingdom and glory and not on ourselves. When we shine, we can hold out the Word of life, which is Jesus Christ. That is why we can tell people that Jesus is why we are the way we are. To bring Jesus in a proper way to your co-workers or your neighbors takes time and loving patience, time to spend with them so that they see that you are different and that you truly care for them. Do you use your free time for your own pleasure or your hobbies or are you working at telling those around you about the love of Christ that is in you? Suggestions for prayer That you shine in your community so that you can talk to others about Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Wednesday December 26 – Keeping the joy of Jesus coming

For my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel. – Luke 2:30-32 Scripture reading: Luke 2:21-35 When Simeon saw baby Jesus, the long wait he had endured had come to an end. He was so overcome by joy that He said he was ready to die now. Nothing could surpass what he experienced in seeing the baby Jesus, the Saviour of the world. He wanted the joy that he was experiencing to never end. God had worked in his heart and mind in such a way that when he saw Jesus, he saw Him for who He really was: God’s salvation. Are your eyes and heart always open to this great reality so that you also rejoice? Simeon mentioned that God had been preparing this for a long time right in the middle of all the nations. Israel was not always a powerful nation, but she was always right in the middle of the other nations. Simeon showed that he also knew that salvation was not only for the Jews, but for people all over the world. To marvel at the Person of Jesus includes marveling at the extent of His salvation work. He came not to save a small number of people, but to be a light of salvation for the world. May we be people who always glory in Christ’s coming, but may we also be active in showing and telling the world around us that they also can find joy and comfort in His coming, through faith in Him as the Saviour of the world. Suggestions for prayer That the joy of Jesus' birth will always be in our minds and hearts and the willingness to share this glorious message with others would always be ready on our lips. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Tuesday December 25 – Remembering why Jesus came into the world

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased! – Luke 2:14  Scripture reading: Luke 2:1-20 Special concerts are often held to celebrate special events of the present or the past. That is why the Christmas season has so many concerts. During the Christmas season, one can go to a variety of concerts telling the story of the Messiah. This tradition actually started outside Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. Those shepherds had the great privilege of hearing the angels sing, but it did not last long. It was a simple and powerful message, not only for them but also for us. Their words spoke of the two great things the birth of Jesus Christ brought about. Jesus' birth primarily brought glory to God. Jesus mentions in John 17:4 that He brought glory to His Father by completing the work He gave Him to do on earth.  This glorified His Father because God the Father had promised He would send someone to save mankind throughout the whole Old Testament. In becoming a baby, the Son of God fulfilled His Father’s words. The second thing that Jesus' birth brought about was true and lasting peace between God and man. He did this by giving His life as a sacrificial offering for all those on whom His favor rests. This is something to sing about and celebrate, but also something to proclaim to others. The only way your neighbors can know if God’s favor rests on them is if they hear about Jesus in a meaningful way. May this Christmas be a great time of celebrating, but may it also be a great time of letting others know of our great Saviour. Suggestions for prayer  That as we celebrate Christ's birth, we show in our words and actions that we want others to join us in celebrating His birth and saving work. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Monday December 24 – Remembering how Jesus came into the world

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. – Matthew 1:21    Scripture reading: Matthew 1:18-25 Even before Jesus was born, His coming to this world caused hardship. Mary was looked at as a sinful woman and Jesus was seen as an unwanted baby. This aptly foreshadowed the life Jesus would live. But God still sent His Son knowing this would be the case. Only through great hardship and suffering would Jesus save His people from their sins. This hardship would not only be for Jesus, but it would also be for His people. Jesus would not only save His people then but use His people in every generation as instruments in His hands so others would be saved. But this ongoing saving work of God would also involve suffering by Christ’s body, the church. Jesus once said, "If they do this to Me, they will also do it to My people." Why is this the case? The devil is still roaming this world seeking whom he may devour.  He does not want people to be saved. But the incredible thing is that even through the actions of the devil, God brings forth His plan to save His people. For example, the devil's influence was behind Jesus going to the cross, but His death brought about our salvation! The devil is still roaming the earth. He seeks to influence us in a way that causes us to feel foolish talking about our faith.  Remember, Jesus was willing to look bad and be rejected and as one of His people, we should be willing to look foolish in our desire for others to be saved. Suggestions for prayer That we would not fall to the devil’s schemes and threats, but would speak to people around us of Jesus, trusting that He saved us and is still saving people through His Word and Spirit. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Sunday December 23 – Living out of God’s great love for the world

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16  Scripture reading: John 3:14-21 Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and no doubt many are preparing in a variety of ways, getting presents for loved ones, baking for family and friends, etc. We can easily be so affected by the world’s ways of celebrating this season that we can gloss over the wonderful Present, the Bread of Life, that has already been given. The greatest wonder that has ever happened to this world is God the Father sending His Son to die for sinners like you and me so that we can have eternal life. The wonder is magnified in the fact that the Father sent His Son even though we did not deserve it. Jesus came to a world that hated Him and would kill Him, yet He came to die for this world because He loved it. But in rejoicing in this wonderful news, we must also see that this news is not just for us. It is for whoever believes in this wonderful Child and what He did on the cross. This passage should not only cause us to be joyful in the great gift of God’s Son, but it should also compel us to want those around us to hear this wonderful news. For the news is for the world, for all people, including those in your neighborhood and city. May our celebration this Christmas include telling others, maybe that neighbor or co-worker, the true meaning of Christmas. Suggestions for prayer That we would see that we have the greatest gift in Jesus Christ and ask for opportunities to tell others of this great gift. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Saturday December 22 – Setting apart Christ in our hearts and lives

But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you… – 1 Peter 3:15 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 3:8-22 The Christians to whom Peter first wrote this letter lived in a hostile world that thought their faith was crazy. Although we do not deal with the same persecution they faced, many people today see our faith as crazy. Everyone looks to Christmas as a nice time for the family to get together and celebrate, but most think the story of Jesus’ virgin birth is foolishness. For many, it is like believing in Santa Claus.  However, in the midst of this world, we are called to set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts. The things of this world can easily fill our hearts with wonder and joy, but we are called to put Christ first, above all. This can only happen when we continue to think and ponder on who Jesus is and what He has done for us. As we constantly think and ponder the wonder of who Jesus is, we will be able to both handle the ridiculing of our world and do what Peter calls us to do: to live for Jesus with such hope and joy that others will ask us the reason for our hope and joy. Although the world around us ridicules Jesus, we are called to look for ways to speak to them of Jesus, because knowing Him is the only way anyone can have lasting hope and joy in the fallen world. Suggestions for prayer That Jesus would increasingly be the joy and hope of our hearts; that we would show this hope and joy to all; that we would be able to explain our hope and joy to those still needing it. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Friday December 21 – The example of Thessalonians

For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere... – 1 Thessalonians 1:8a Scripture reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 The Christians in Thessalonica suffered much since they put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.  Paul thanked God for their ability to stand up under pressure, but he also praised them for not hiding their faith in the midst of their suffering. Paul says that they became imitators of him and his fellow workers. They could do this because they welcomed the message with joy. In coming to faith in Jesus, they had a special joy that compelled them to stand up under the pressure of persecution. It also gave them the confidence to declare the message they heard, not only in their own province and in the neighboring province of Achaia, but everywhere they went. This is what the good news of Jesus Christ does to those who come to a living faith in Him. A young man who hears the words “I do, I accept your proposal," from the girl he loves deeply, has great joy and is excited to tell everyone the good news. The Thessalonians and all of us who truly believe in Jesus Christ have a much bigger reason to speak with great joy about the wonderful news of Jesus Christ coming to die for sinners. The other great thing about telling others the joy of knowing Jesus is that they can share this joy with us through a living faith in Jesus Christ. Paul not only praised the Thessalonians for standing firm, but also for sharing their faith. Suggestions for prayer That the joy of salvation would so overwhelm us that we would always be compelled to proclaim the amazing message that saves wretches like us. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Thursday December 20 – Going out with confidence with the Word of God

...I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. – Matthew 16:18b  Scripture reading: Matthew 16:13-20 In a few of the devotions this month, I referred to this passage. In this statement, Jesus tells us the underlining reason why He came to this earth: to push back the domain of the devil and claim a people back from this fallen world. It comes after Peter’s wonderful confession of faith, “You are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus was telling His disciples that nothing is going to stop the building of Christ’s church. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God and followed the words of the devil, the devil won a battle. If it was not for God’s love for those He had created in His image, this world and everything in it would be forever lost. But God did have a great love for the fallen human race and so promised to send His Son so that He would conquer in such a way that He would enliven His people, not only to become His adopted children, but His instruments to proclaim the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ. With the sword of the Spirit (God's Word), Jesus said His people would conquer in such a way that the gates of Hades would not overcome it. Jesus is telling us that no matter how deep one of God’s chosen people may be under the control of devil, he will be rescued as the church battles with the sword of the Spirit in love. As His church, this should give us great confidence to go forward in our communities with His Word. Suggestions for prayer  That we would truly believe what Jesus said and go forward with great confidence in our neighborhoods with the Word of God. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Wednesday December 19 – Taking our stand for the battle

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. – Ephesians 6:13  Scripture reading: Ephesians 6:10-20; Matthew 16:18 When one is in a battle, two things are necessary, you have to know what you are fighting and you need the proper armour. When Jesus came to this earth as a little baby, He came to do battle, to fight for the souls of sinful humans. He conquered Satan on the cross, but, as this passage points out, the battle still rages on. When Jesus conquers you and me, we are no longer part of the kingdom of darkness, but part of the kingdom of light. As citizens of Christ’s Kingdom, we are now to fight for His Kingdom, which we do by putting on the armour of God. This is the only way in which we can stand while doing everything we are called to do as Christ’s people. We are not only to stand firm with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with the gospel of peace, holding onto the shield of faith and fitted with the helmet of salvation, we are also to wield the sword of the Spirit. This points out that although we are to defend ourselves from our great enemies, Satan, the world, and our sinful nature, we are also to be on the offensive with the Word of God in hand. We are to go out boldly with the assurance that when we wield the sword of the Spirit, people will continue to be conquered for the Lord Jesus Christ. This is so because the Spirit goes with the Word. When all the members of Christ’s church go forward with this bold assurance, the church will see others conquered and brought into Christ’s church. Suggestions for prayer That we as members of Christ’s church will have the bold assurance to wield the sword of the Spirit. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Tuesday December 18– Seeking more workers for the harvest

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. – Matthew 9:37b, 38 Scripture reading: Matthew 9:35-38 When Jesus saw the crowds coming to Him, He had compassion on them. The people then and the people around us today who do not know Jesus as Lord and Saviour are in a similar situation. They are lost and on their way to hell, if they are not drawn to follow the Good Shepherd. Jesus left heaven and came to this earth as a vulnerable baby because God had compassion on the lost people of this world. Jesus looked at the lost and promised He would lay down His life for His sheep. But who are His sheep? Jesus calls them "the harvest". They are those whom Jesus knows will be ripe for the harvest, those who are His lost sheep, people from all places and time who will be brought in. But Jesus says that there is a problem: the workers are few. That is, there are too few workers to bring God’s Word to the people of this world in order for them to be brought into the fold. For this reason, Jesus calls us to ask the Lord to send out workers into His harvest. To ask for this means we also want this deeply and so ought to be willing to sacrifice for this harvest. We cannot say one thing in our prayers and then live another way. All God’s people are to be involved in this harvest and be willing to sacrifice for it. Jesus came and died on the cross for His harvest. Some are full-time workers in His harvest, others are part-time workers in this harvest. Which does God want you to be? Suggestions for prayer  That you would pray for workers; also, that with a sacrificial heart, you would see the great need for you to be either a full-time or part-time worker in this harvest. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Monday December 17 – Ambassadors for Christ

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. – 2 Corinthians 5:20a Scripture reading: 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 In the broader context, Paul tells us that Jesus died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again. As those who have died and risen with Jesus, we are part of a new creation. And as those who are part of this new creation, we have been commissioned as His people to proclaim a message to the world: that anyone can be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ. This is what it means to be Christ’s ambassadors. Paul and the other apostles were the foundation of this message, but it is really the church’s message to the world. And as members of Christ’s church, we all have the responsibility of being ambassadors for Christ. So when you are speaking to your neighbour or co-worker or a fellow student who does not believe, God wants you to see that you are His representative to that person. God wants you to see that He is speaking to people that you interact with, through you. This means that God has given to His church the special privilege and responsibility to speak to the world on His behalf. Jesus was born, crucified and risen again, not only that we would be reconciled to God, but that we would be ambassadors of that reconciliation. Jesus accomplished this reconciliation at the cross, but He continues to accomplish this reconciliation by His Word and Spirit through the ministry of His church. Suggestions for prayer That you see you are no longer your own, but belong to Jesus Christ as His ambassadors, making Christ’s appeal to the world. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Sunday December 16 – Being a salt and light to the world

You are the salt of the earth . . . You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. – Matthew 5:13-14  Scripture reading: Matthew 5:1-16 When Jesus addressed His disciples as salt and light, He was saying this to men who constantly argued about who was the greatest, to men who would run from Him when He was in trouble. How could Jesus call these men the salt and light of the world? If the disciples were honest, they must have thought, "How can we be what Jesus says we are?" We can easily have the same feelings today. How can we be the salt and light in the world we live in? However, Jesus came to this earth so that those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn because of this fallen world, those who are meek and hunger and thirst for righteousness will be blessed; in turn, they can be merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and willing to be persecuted for righteousness' sake. If you hold to what Jesus says, you are truly blessed. This means you are approved of by Jesus Christ no matter what your background or natural state. Only in this new blessed state could the disciples be salt and light to the world in their time. When we truly believe we are blessed by Jesus, we can go forward as salt and light to bring lasting change to our world. For only when Jesus’ blessed words sink deep into our hearts and minds will we be able to rub shoulders with those around us in such a way that they will be confronted with the gospel from our mouths and touched by the gospel with the actions of our hands. Suggestions for prayer That we would truly believe we are blessed by Jesus and so be a salt and light to our generation. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Saturday December 15 – Declaring God’s glory to the world

Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! – Psalm 96:2,3 Scripture reading: Psalm 96 In reading this Psalm, you can see that God was calling His people not only to praise Him out of the joy of salvation but also to proclaim a special message to the world. The only way the people of the Old Testament could truly know His salvation was to admit their guilt and rely on the sacrificial system God had set up for them. Only from the joy of receiving this salvation out of grace could they declare God’s glory among the nations and His marvelous deeds among all peoples. Although God’s Old Testament people had reason to celebrate and proclaim His salvation day after day, we have more reason today. We live after the finished work of Jesus Christ. They did not know that those Old Testament sacrifices pointed to the fact that salvation could come to all people. But we do. We know that God Himself took on human flesh and lived among us so that He could die on a cross and bring salvation even to us. This should cause us to celebrate His salvation day after day and cause us to glorify God wherever we live and work. But this salvation should also cause us to delight in telling the marvelous things Jesus did to bring salvation to sinners. God always wanted His people not only to praise Him in the joy of salvation but also to tell the world of His deeds so that many would join in praising Him in salvation. Suggestions for prayer: That we would grow in the wonder of His gracious salvation and so praise His name and share the wonders of God’s saving work with others. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Friday December 14 – Desiring others to join the family of God

And of Zion it shall be said, “This one and that one were born in her”; for the Most High himself will establish her. – Psalm 87:5   Scripture reading: Psalm 87 When the people of God in the Old Testament sang this Psalm, they were yearning for our days, the days after Jesus died, rose, ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit upon His church. Old Testament people sang this Psalm with eager expectation for the day when Zion, the church, would be a place in which people, who used to be enemies of God, would rejoice in being part of the people of God. We live on the other side of the great works of Jesus that made this possible. The difference between us and the Old Testament people of God is that we can now sing this song about ourselves. We sing that God has made it possible for us to be part of the people of God. But we are also called to sing this Psalm yearning for others to be added to Christ’s church. For God’s Old Testament people to truly sing this Psalm, they had to live their lives promoting the coming of the day, the great day when the Lord would fulfill this prophecy by preserving the nation of Israel. When we sing this Psalm, we are called to promote the ongoing fulfillment of this prophecy. We are not just to sing this Psalm, but live our lives seeking for our unbelieving neighbours to hear about our Lord and be born again through a living faith in Jesus Christ, so they can also 'be born in Zion'. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would have an increasing desire to live in such way that those around you would hear the gospel from you and see it in you so that many others would also say they were born in Zion. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Thursday December 13 – Going forward with the joy of God’s shining face on us

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. – Psalm 67:1-2 Scripture reading: Psalm 67:1-7 For many Reformed churches, the worship service ends with a blessing that can be found in Numbers 6:24-26. If you read that blessing, you would see that it is very similar to the blessing for which the writer of Psalm 67 asked. Notice that he did not ask this so that God’s people could sit and simply enjoy this blessing. He added, that God’s ways would be known on earth, God’s salvation among all the nations. You see, God wanted His people to desire His blessing so that they could be a blessing to others. God’s people in the Old Testament desired and prayed for this, but had to wait for it to be truly fulfilled. God’s ways truly become known throughout the earth and His salvation among all the nations through the ministry of Jesus and His Church. Jesus’ death and resurrection made it possible for God’s face to shine on His people. Yet more had to be done. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to live in His people so that through their actions and words, Jesus’ saving work could be known and celebrated all around the world. That work of making God’s ways and salvation known among all the nations is not finished. All those who know and believe in Jesus Christ are called to make God’s ways and salvation known in the areas where they work and live. If God has shined His gracious face on you, He did this so that you would praise Him, but also so that those around you would know of your God and His salvation in Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer That God would be gracious to you and bless you and make His face shine on you so that you can make His ways known on earth and his salvation to the people around you. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Wednesday December 12 – Taking the gospel to others with optimism

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. – Daniel 2:44 Scripture reading: Daniel 2:36-47; Matthew 16:18 We live in a time when we see the kingdoms of earth battling for supremacy, either militarily or financially. But the truth is, none of these kingdoms will last. Only one Kingdom will last forever, which is the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the Kingdom that God has called us to be part of as we put our faith in the great King, Jesus Christ. King Jesus has called us to this Kingdom, not to sit on the sidelines, but to be involved in conquering in His name, not with guns and swords, but with love and the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, through Daniel, prophesied a long time ago that this would happen. And history has told us that kingdoms have come and gone, but Christ’s Kingdom has endured. In our world today where the Christian faith is not respected, we can easily think, "What can we do?" We often fail to be witnesses to our neighbours and co-workers or fellow students. This prophecy of Daniel not only says that the Kingdom of our Lord will conquer the kingdoms of this world, but it also tells us that it will grow to fill the whole world. This does not mean that all will come to faith. But God does want us to be optimistic about what the gospel can do in our lands. With this optimism, God desires us, His people, to take up the armour of God and so take our stand, witnessing to our neighbours and those at work or at school. Remember, the gates of hell cannot prevail against us, Christ’s Church. Suggestions for prayer  That you would have the confidence to boldly witness for your Saviour and King, as members of His Kingdom. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Tuesday December 11 – Attracting people to our Lord

In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” – Zechariah 8:23b  Scripture reading: Zechariah 8; Matthew 5:14-16 Zechariah prophesied in the time when the people of God were called back to the promised land to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple of the Lord. Although the people of God were discouraged, God sent Zechariah to encourage them and to help them see that God had a long-term plan for them, as His people. This plan not only entailed a great future for the Jewish nation back then, but it also talked of a great future for all nations, including us today. This future for other nations has come about and is coming about because of the person and work of Jesus Christ. When God’s people live for the Lord and proclaim Christ crucified, the prophecy that God proclaimed through the mouth of Zechariah is being fulfilled. Through us, His people, the nations are seeing and hearing about the one true God and the one true Saviour of the world. But it is not finished. We are to live in such a way that the nations, even our neighbours, will say, “Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you”. Although this passage talks of Jews being asked about their God, Paul in Romans 2:29 points out that people are Jews if they are Jews inwardly, that is, if they are connected to Jesus Christ through faith. Jesus called us to be His people so that we would also follow Him in obedience and so fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy. Are you showing that you have a desire to be part of this? Suggestions for prayer That we would live lives that cause others to wonder about our hope in Christ, and be ready and eager to tell others about our lovely Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Monday December 10 – Being blessed to be a blessing

The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save, He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. – Zephaniah 3:17 Scripture reading: Zephaniah 3; Luke 15:10 When Zephaniah prophesied, Judah was doing fairly well. However, Zephaniah said God was going to punish them and the nations around them because His people were not worshipping the One True God the way they were called to do. Yet at the end of this short book, Zephaniah makes another prediction. God would give them what they needed so that many would be strong in the Lord and so be able to be what God had called them to be: a holy mountain and a salt and light to the world. He would do this by saving them Himself, by conquering their greatest enemies: sin, Satan and death. We know that this was done by Jesus Christ. In saving His people in this way, God showed He greatly delights in His people. He promised that He would quiet them with His love and rejoice over them with singing. The Old Testament people of Zephaniah’s time were called to believe that this would be their future. And in that future, they would be equipped to God's calling for them to be a light to the world and the means by which God would rescue the lame and gather people from all over the world. We live on the other side of Christ’s great victory on the cross. We are called to believe and see that Jesus has saved us, that He delights in us and is quieting us with His love so that we can rejoice in Him and be witnesses to those around us of our great and gracious God. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would believe Jesus has saved you and now God does delight in you and will quiet you in His love. Also, that you would believe that He is rejoicing over you with singing so that you can be what God has called you to be in this fallen world, calling others to repentance and joy. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Sunday December 9 - Refined to be a blessing

I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. - Ezekiel 37:26 Scripture reading: Ezekiel 37:15-28 Sometimes when God punishes us, we wonder if God still cares or if He can still use us. The Bible has wonderful accounts of God showing He cares for His people, even though He punishes them. When God sent His people out of the promised land and exiled them to Babylon, He was punishing them; however, at the same time, He was refining them so that He could bless them and make them a blessing to the world. In the early chapters of Ezekiel, God tells His people that He would allow the temple to be destroyed and, in a way, temporarily abandon them because of their wickedness. Yet, God said He would make an everlasting covenant of peace with them. God was promising that, from their suffering, He would raise them up in order to bless them and fulfill His promises through them. He would do this in order that they would be a blessing to the world and increase in number. In this way, the nation of Israel foreshadowed what Jesus would do in His earthly ministry. God punished His Son with death on the cross and raised Him up so that through Him people from all over the world would be blessed. If you believe that Jesus died and was raised for you, you have peace with God. Ezekiel’s prophecy has also been fulfilled in you. But God is not finished fulfilling this promise; He is still increasing the numbers through His people. Therefore, you are to have an urgency to work for the increase of His Kingdom by being a salt and light in your community. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would be used to spread the gospel so that the great harvest would continue to be gathered in. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Saturday December 8 - Trusting that there is power in the Word of God

So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. – Isaiah 55:11 Scripture reading: Isaiah 55; Luke 12:47-48 Have you ever wondered, "Why would I tell this person about Jesus when he doesn't seem interested?" Isaiah must have thought this at times. He must have wondered about the people of Israel and what God’s Word would do to their hardened hearts. God had even said that they would not listen. But God told Isaiah back then and tells us today, "Trust Me. Your job is to spread the Word and I, the Lord, will bring about my purposes with My Word for blessing or for punishment." I remember one man who was always disruptive when he came to Bible studies and Sunday services. I often hoped he would not come. I did not fully trust God the way I should have. But in a little over a year, the Lord changed that man into a loving, godly man who lived in the joy of salvation. For another man to whom I brought the gospel for years, I never saw a change. After reading Isaiah 55, I remember telling him that God would bring glory to His Name either in his salvation or in his condemnation. This caused him to be unsettled, but I do not know if he ever became a Christian. With these two men, I came to see that the words of Isaiah 55:11 gives us reason to bring His Word to the world around us no matter what. When you are wondering if you are to tell others the good news of Jesus Christ, remember you are called to bring it with confidence, trusting that God will not let His Word return to Him empty, but that it will bring about His purposes. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will have confidence in telling others about Jesus Christ, trusting that God will bring about His purposes with the gospel message. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Friday December 7 - Being an active member of Christ's kingdom

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it. – Isaiah 2:2 Scripture reading: Isaiah 2; 1 Timothy 3:14-17 In the time of Isaiah, God’s people were rebellious. God said He would punish them, yet God still promised that He would make them into something great. That great thing was fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus and “the last days” Isaiah was referring to, are our days, the days after Jesus conquered the devil, sin, and death for His people. During these last days, Isaiah prophesied that God’s people would be like a mountaintop to which people from all over the world would come in order to learn about the wonders of the one true God and His ways. God had set the people of Israel apart so that this would one day be a reality. In setting Israel apart, God was making things ready for His Son to come into the world and make things right so people from all over the world could come and know the one true God, His ways and His loving forgiveness. Another amazing thing about this is that when people come to this mountain and find the Lord, they can see themselves as part of the mountain that draws people to come and know the Lord God and His ways. That mountain is really Christ’s Church. To be a living member of this church is to be part of this mountain drawing people to God through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Are you being an active member of this mountain in drawing people to God and His loving forgiveness? Suggestions for prayer That we as a church community would more and more be what God said we would be through the prophecy of Isaiah. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Thursday December 6 - Being instruments in God's hands shows that God cares

And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city. ..? – Jonah 4:11a  Scripture reading: Jonah 4 One of the hard things Jesus calls us to do, as His disciples, is to show love to our enemies. This was and is not a new command. God had asked Jonah to do this many years before Jesus walked through the land of Israel. The people of Nineveh were great enemies of the people of Israel. The Ninevites liked hurting, killing, and causing great fear in the hearts of their enemies, including God’s people. Jonah ran from bringing a message to Nineveh the first time because he wanted God to destroy this city and not show pity to them. God redirected Jonah back to Nineveh because He cared for this wicked, rebellious, idol-worshiping people. Jonah knew that his own people, the people of Israel, were also wicked, but thought they deserved God’s mercy instead of those wicked Ninevites. In sending Jonah to Nineveh, God sought to teach Jonah and all His people three great lessons. The first lesson has to do with who we are. If our hearts have been changed and we are part of God’s people, it is not because we are so good. The second lesson is that if we are God’s people, we are not to see ourselves as trophies to sit and be proud of who we are. We are to see ourselves as instruments in God’s hands to show that God does care for people like the Ninevites and people in our communities. Thirdly, God can change the heart of anyone to repent, so we should be willing to bring God’s words to anyone. Suggestions for prayer That we would have the heart of God and care for the people around us and so be willing to get to know people in our communities to tell them the good news of Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life. The painting is "Jonas and the whale" (circa 1552) author unknown....

Daily devotional

Wednesday December 5 – Being a kingdom of priests

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; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. – Exodus 19:5-6a Scripture reading: Exodus 19:1-9; 1 Peter 2:4-12 The nation of Israel left Egypt as slaves but God not only freed them but made them into a special nation of priests. After wandering through the desert, God brought His people to Mount Sinai, where God set the guidelines for the covenant relationship He lovingly established with His people. When you read those words, “If you obey me fully and keep my covenant," did you think of all the times Israel did not obey and keep His covenant? Yet God continued to look at Israel as His treasured possession. That full obedience and keeping of the covenant had to wait until the coming of Jesus Christ. But God already started to look at His people through the lens of Jesus Christ.  Only through Him could they be that treasured possession.  Is that not also true for us today? But just like them, we have to admit we are not what we should be and seek forgiveness.  They did it according to the regulations and ceremonies that pointed to Jesus’ work, whereas we do this looking to Jesus' finished work on the cross.  And just like they had to believe that they were God’s treasured possession of grace, we too are called to see ourselves as His treasured possession because of His mercy. But this is not all we are called to believe and do. We are also called to believe that as His people, we are set apart to glorify God and to be of service to others by telling and showing the world Who our God is and what great things He can do for sinful people. Suggestions for prayer Pray that we as His people would be that holy nation, that kingdom of priests, glorifying God and at the same time telling and showing the world Who our God is and what He has done through His Son, Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Tuesday December 4 - God can change and use anyone to fulfill His promises

Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. – Genesis 28:14  Scripture reading: Genesis 28:10-22 Have you ever thought, "God cannot use me to spread the Word of God?" Or perhaps you've thought, "I do not have this ability. I am still struggling in my Christian life." Jacob was a human being like us. He was a struggling follower of God. He had just lied in a very despicable way to his father in order for his father to bless him. He was running for his life, afraid that his older brother would kill him. He was all alone with nothing going for him. Or so he thought. It was at this difficult time that God showed Himself, not only to bless Jacob but to inform him that all peoples on earth would be blessed through him and his offspring. Whenever God comes to His people and blesses them, He does this so that they would also be a blessing to others. God would lead and protect Jacob so that he would become the father of a nation from which the Saviour of the world would come. Because of that, people from all over the world would be blessed including you today through faith in Jesus Christ. Although the blessings God has promised you are somewhat different than what Jacob heard from God, there is a similarity. You see, God was thinking of you when He blessed Jacob, but He was also thinking of others who would be blessed through your faith in Jesus Christ as you witness of your Lord and Saviour. Suggestions for prayer Pray that you would grow in your understanding of the great blessing you have in Jesus Christ, being part of His body to bring blessings to those around you. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life. The painting, "Jacob's dream" (1639) is by José de Ribera....

Daily devotional

Monday December 3 – Sacrificial service comes from true faith

And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” – Genesis 22:15-18 Scripture reading: Genesis 22; Hebrews 11:17-19 Today we will see another lesson from Abraham’s life. God did not call and bless Abraham in order to be a trophy, but to be an instrument in God’s hand to bring blessings to others. In seeing that he was an instrument in God’s hand, Abraham came to understand that only through obedience could he be that instrument and only through faith in the promises could he be obedient. We are told that Abraham was able to offer up his son in obedience because he reasoned that God could raise this promised child from the dead. Although we are not called to leave the country like Abraham left and offer up a son as Abraham did, we are called to sacrificial obedience based on the promises we are called to believe in. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus has called us into His family to share in His triumph over sin, death and the devil. But He also called us to share in His ministry to bring the gospel to the rest of humanity, as His church, the pillar and foundation of the truth (Ephesians 3:15). If your eyes have been opened to His gracious and glorious promises, are you not also coming to understand, as Abraham did, that you are not a trophy, but an instrument in God’s hands, serving sacrificially as the body of Christ in His mission to the world so that all may hear the good news of Jesus Christ? Suggestions for prayer  Pray that you will more and more see yourself as an instrument in God’s hand that He is transforming and moulding to bring Him glory as you share the gospel. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life. The painting is "The Sacrifice of Isaac" (1603) by Caravaggio....

Daily devotional

Sunday December 2 – God uses sinful people to bring forward his promise

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great,so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonorsyou I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. – Genesis 12:2-3 Scripture reading: Genesis 12; Joshua 24:1-3 Abram was a sinful human being, yet God called Him into a relationship with Himself. Joshua 24:1-3 tells us that Abram served other gods when God called him. The amazing thing is that when God called him into this relationship, He not only promised to bless him but also said he would be a blessing forall the families of the earth. God promised to make this sinful man, who would also lie about his wife to save his own skin, into a great nation and bring blessing to all people groups around the world, even to us today. God was not only going to send Someone great to conquer the devil, but He was also showing that He would use the line of sinful mankind to do it. This should give us confidence that if God could use Abram to fulfill His amazing promises, He can use us, His children, to fulfill His promises for us to be a salt and light in this fallen world. God has called us to be His ambassadors to the world, showing and telling our neighbours that Jesus is able and willing to transform lives. As sinful people, we can think that we cannot do that. But if God could transform and use Abram for the purposes He had in store for him, He can transform you and me and use us for the purposes He has in store for us. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His willingness to transform sinful people into His children so that He can use them to fulfill His wonderful promises for this fallen world. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....

Daily devotional

Saturday December 1 – Introduction

For the month of December, we will be looking at a number of passages in the Old and NewTestaments that speak of the coming and work of Jesus Christ. In doing this, we will see how God has always communicated that He had a plan to rescue people from all over the world so that they could be part of His redeemed family. We will also see that God not only had a plan to rescue people, but He also desires to use His people as instruments in His hands to bring His saving work to others. In the Old Testament passages, we will see how God gathered His people and preserved them so that they would be a light to the world. We will also see that this light to the world would only truly be fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Yet, God not only saved His Old Testament church, but also used its people so that through them the Saviour would come. In the New Testament passages, we will see what fulfilling God’s promises meant for God’s people. Not only was the sacrificial system of the Old Testament not needed anymore, but the nation of Israel no longer was to be seen as the isolated people of God. God’s people would be people from every nation.  But we will also see that God not only saves people from all tribes and nations to be his Church, He also uses His church to continue to bring the Saviour Jesus Christ to the world. Lastly, we will see that Jesus is not only the founder and perfecter of the faith, but also challenges us, His people, to be witnesses of this faith in how we live and what we say to the world around us so that others can be brought into the family of God. The mother of all promises 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 Scripture reading: Genesis 3 When we get discouraged with this fallen world, we can easily think God does not care or that He is indifferent to our struggles. But the words of Genesis 3:15 should remind us that God does care for sinful people in this fallen world. Right after Adam and Eve rebelled against God and sided with the devil, God showed them and us that God still cares. When Adam and Eve were hiding from each other and from God and were in a hopeless, self-inflicted turmoil, God came and told them and us that He still cares. God promised to separate a people to Himself and promised to deliver these people by sending Someone to conquer the devil and to free people from the clutches of the devil. God made this promise even though Adam and Eve did not have the ability to plead for forgiveness. When God said that He would separate a people to Himself from fallen humanity, He did not say who those people would be. He not only wants us to believe that we could be included in that special group, but He also wants us to have such a love for our neighbours that we would want them to be part of this group. God made that promise to Adam and Eve because He has a mission to bring people who are dead in their sins into a saving relationship with Himself. That is why He promised to send His Son. In order for us to be part of God’s people, we ought to have the heart of God, desiring that other sinners be brought into the family of God. Suggestions for prayer  Pray that this passage will give you comfort, but also motivation to tell others that God does care for sinful people in this fallen world. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Richard Bultjes is pastor at a church plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, called River of Life....