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Daily devotional

November 23 – Big brother today

“You never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came… you killed the fattened calf for him.” – Luke 15:29c-30 Scripture reading: Luke 15:28b-30; Jeremiah 17:5-8 Who is Big Brother today? He is the church member who says, “I’ve served and sacrificed, but you haven’t _________.” She is the church member who resents a little brother’s joy in the Lord. He is the church member who looks down on the person beside him in the pew and says, “Thank God I don’t have his issues!” (Luke 18:9-12). She is the church member who feels resentment slowly replacing her joy as she serves. She feels unloved and unappreciated by God and others. She needs to step back awhile to find her identity and worth in her Father’s love, not in her performance. He is the critic quick to point out what is wrong with the church but cannot see or celebrate the wonderful things God is doing in people’s lives. She is the member who resents the pastor for spending too much time with little brothers. He rewards himself with pornography because he sacrifices so much to serve God and others. Big Brother is the church that does not share our Father’s heart for little brothers. Do you see yourself above? Our greatest need is to know the gospel of Jesus deeply in our hearts! The more we see ourselves as great sinners, the more humility replaces our pride. The more we see Jesus as our Great Savior, the more confidence replaces our insecurity. The more we rest in our Father’s radical love for us, the greater is our freedom to love, enjoy and serve God and others. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for revealing to you Christ in the gospel. Pray that the gospel might take deep root and bear fruit in your life. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 22 – I want your stuff, not you

“Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.” – Luke 15:29b Scripture reading: Luke 15:28b-30; Philippians 3:3-11 Big Brother is rude to his father. He does not address him as “Father.” Instead, he says, “Look here, you!” His outburst reveals how he really feels about his father in the relationship. “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends” (Luke 15:29). The upshot: “I’ve slaved for you, but what have you ever given me? Instead, you give the good stuff to my messed-up brother who did nothing to deserve it.” Little Brother and Big Brother were the same in one important way. Both wanted their father’s stuff instead of fellowship with him. They just took different paths to get it. Little Brother took the rebellious path. Big Brother took the religious path. Big Brother is the church member who insists “I am justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.” However, his heart theology drives him to earn God’s blessings through external obedience. Then, when God doesn’t meet his expectations or answer his prayers, he says, “Look! All these years I have slaved for you, but you didn’t ________.” How might you fill in that blank? Might this, in part, explain the unwelcome anger and resentment that arise in your heart? Let’s go back to the gospel. “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20b). Suggestions for prayer Thank our Father for His free, unearned gifts of forgiveness, righteousness and adoption. Ask Him for grace to enjoy Him and those gifts. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 21 – The Father’s heart

His father came out and entreated him… – Luke 15:28b Scripture reading: Luke 15:25-28; Matthew 11:28-30 We saw the father’s heart for Little Brother. We saw his radical love in the shocking way he ran out to Little Brother and restored him to full sonship. We usually focus our attention on the father’s radical love for Little Brother. However, his love for Big Brother was just as radical! Big Brother is seething outside. His father could have said, “It’s his own stubborn choice to be miserable outside alone. I’m not going to let him ruin the party.” Instead, this father does the unexpected, once again. In those days, no self-respecting father would leave the party he is hosting to beg his own son to participate. He certainly would not do so for a disrespectful son creating a scene outside. Yet the father did just that. He “came out and entreated him” (Luke 15:28b). He could have ordered his son to come in. Instead, he begged him. This father wanted his son’s heart, not just his service. He desired his presence at the feast, not just his performance in the field. This is our Father’s heart for you too! Maybe you are in the family of God, but your heart is outside the party. Your father and others are celebrating the return of little brothers and the life-transforming grace of Jesus in people’s lives. But you find yourself stuck in your own insecurities, resentments, self-righteousness and legalistic hang-ups. Hear your Father’s voice. “My child, let’s deal with these things together. I want you at the party.” Suggestions for prayer Thank our Father that His radical love is for Big Brothers too. Pray for a soft and humble heart to receive and respond to that love. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 20 – The heart revealed (Part 2)

But he was angry and refused to go in. – Luke 15:28a Scripture reading: Luke 15:25-28a; 1 John 1:5-10 Big Brother trudged home from the field after another hard day’s work in the hot sun. Chances are, he just wanted to eat a hearty meal, then kick back before going to bed. Instead, he walked into the mother of all parties. He heard festive music. He saw people dancing. Befuddled, he asked a servant what was going on. The servant informed him, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound” (Luke 15:27). Put yourself in Big Brother’s shoes. What is bubbling up inside of you right now? What is coming to the surface? For Big Brother, its anger. His anger is like smoke rising from the front of a car. He must look under the hood into his heart to diagnose what is really going on. This will become clearer to him and us as we read on in the story. Do you ever have such moments? You’re chugging along in big brother mode, taking care of business and living up to expectations. But from time to time, anger and resentment boil up inside of you, unbidden and unwelcome. You tell yourself, “It’s wrong to feel that way.” You press it down and press on. It’s time to look under the hood. “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out” (Proverbs 20:5). Jesus is that man of understanding. He will help you. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for sending us His Spirit to convict our hearts. Pray for grace to diagnose your anger. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 19 – The heart revealed (Part 1)

But he was angry and refused to go in. - Luke 15:28a Scripture reading: Luke 15:25-28a; Mark 7:14-23 Every winter, we tapped trees to produce maple syrup on the farm. Forty gallons of sap produce one gallon of syrup. This requires a lot of boiling down. Near the end of the process, the syrup looked and tasted thick and delicious! The process, however, was not complete until my mother poured milk into the boiling syrup. I would watch, mesmerized, as scum surfaced. It formed a thick, globulous mass on top. I would never have known there was so much scum in that delicious syrup if milk had not caused it to surface. The ugly exposure of scum, however, had a positive purpose. My mother could now remove the scum with a strainer, leaving a purer product. We all have scum in our hearts that needs to surface. Because big brothers are typically “good church people,” however, that scum is usually harder to see and deal with. Sometimes our Father injects the milk of providential events into our lives to surface that scum. This is what happened to Big Brother in Luke 15. What milk has our Father poured into your life to surface the issues and idols of your heart? What has he used to expose your self-righteousness, resentment, lack of love, sense of entitlement or thirst for human approval? Pray with the psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24). Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the ‘milk’ of providential events He pours into our lives to reveal our sin. Pray Psalm 139:23-24. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 18 – Introducing big brother

Now his older son was in the field… – Luke 15:25a Scripture reading: Luke 15:25a; Psalm 139:23-24 The spotlight shifts from the younger son to the older son. This is Big Brother. Ah, Big Brother, the responsible first-born! He is exactly where we would expect to meet him, out in the field, working hard. When his little brother took off, Big Brother stuck around to take care of business. You can count on him. He is the one you call on when you need a thing done and you need it done right. Can you relate to Big Brother? Every year, they look to you to plan the family reunion. It goes without saying. You are always on a committee at church and often the chair. You have served multiple terms as elder or deacon in your church. When something goes wrong, you get the text or call. You are known as that person at home, church and work. Thank God for the big brothers among us! We appreciate who you are and all you do. God is using you in your spheres of service. Big brothers are like reliable cars that keep chugging. They require minimal maintenance and never break down. However, even reliable cars – and big brothers – need a look under the hood now and then. We need to check our hearts before God. “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out” (Proverbs 20:5). Our Father sometimes uses little brothers to surface sin and idols lurking in the hearts of big brothers. Stay tuned. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the opportunities He has given you to serve Him. Ask Him for grace to examine your heart before Him. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 17 – Party time!

And they began to celebrate. – Luke 15:24b Scripture reading: Luke 15:22-24; Isaiah 25:6-9 Redemption calls for celebration! The Bible is full of parties, complete with lavish feasts to celebrate the mighty acts of God in redemption. For Israel, God prescribed three annual feasts to celebrate His mighty acts of redemption and restored fellowship with His people (Leviticus 23:4-8,15-22,33-43). The Bible describes the restored kingdom of heaven as a great feast (Isaiah 25:6-9; Matthew 22:1-10; Revelation 19:6-9). Jesus said, “I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). Jesus knew how to party. He once noted, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Matthew 11:19a). Does our gratitude and joy for God’s grace in Christ spill over into celebration? Do we experience the Lord’s Supper as a joy-filled feast in fellowship with our Triune God? Do we share our Father’s heart, a heart that celebrates the salvation of lost people? Our world is a dark, despairing place. People attempt to escape through destructive, degrading parties. We need to befriend them and invite them into our feasting and fun. Let them know we are Christians by the way we party. May our parties point them to Jesus, our Reason we can celebrate. Many find themselves cut off from their former friends and party scene when they come to Christ. We need to include them in our sanctified celebrations. Let’s show them how to party for real. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for one or two blessings you are grateful for today. Ask Him to fill you with contagious joy. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 16 – Restoration

“Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.” – Luke 15:22b-23 Scripture reading: Luke 15:22-24; Revelation 7:9-17 Now we reach the third “but” of our story. Little Brother has just begun his prepared speech (see Luke 15:18b-19). “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” He is about to add, “Treat me as one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:19b), but the father cuts him off. The father’s exuberant, extravagant reaction makes clear that he has no intention of demoting his son to servant. He restores him to sonship. He replaces Little Brother’s rags with an impressive robe. He now stands cleansed and clothed before his father, forgiven and accepted. Our Father cleanses repentant sinners in the blood of Christ. He then clothes us in Christ and His righteousness. This was already our Father’s heart for His lost children in Genesis. “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skin and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). He puts a signet ring on his finger. This gave Little Brother signing authority over the estate. It restored his decision-making power in the family. Little Brother had just blown one-third of that estate. Yet his father trusts him to manage the estate again! Our Father, too, restores us to our kingdom calling in His family. Finally, there is great rejoicing! The mother of all parties erupts in celebration of the lost son’s return. “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). Suggestions for prayer Thank our Father for lavish grace that restores us in His family. Pray that you might experience the liberating power of the gospel in your own life. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 15 – Humility

And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ – Luke 15:21 Scripture reading: Luke 15:21; James 4:8-10 Stunned by his father’s welcome, the son speaks. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” This is humility. To humble yourself is to lower yourself whereas our default is to raise ourselves. We put ourselves on the throne in place of God. We say, “I am Number One. What I want is Number One.” We need to lower ourselves before God. “But I struggle with low self-image, even self-hatred,” you say. “I already feel low.” True enough. May God deliver you! But when we feel badly about ourselves, we tend to be self-absorbed. We focus on ourselves and our happiness over God and others. Even in self-hatred, we are on the throne. We humble ourselves when we lower ourselves from our thrones to bow before God. We humble ourselves when we turn our focus from self to Him. We humble ourselves when we admit that our self-exaltation makes us unworthy of His grace. We humble ourselves when we marvel at His undeserved forgiveness. Then we rejoice in our exalted position as children, loved and valued by our Father. How does humility respond to the gospel? Elizabeth Clephane states it beautifully in Beneath the Cross of Jesus: “And from my smitten heart with tears, two wonders I confess: The wonders of His glorious love and my unworthiness.” “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6). Suggestions for prayer Praise God for “the wonders of His glorious love.” Pray for humility. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 14 – The Father’s heart

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. – Luke 15:20b Scripture reading: Luke 15:20b; Psalm 103:6-14 “But…” This beautiful word introduces the shocking contrast between the father’s heart and what the son deserves. This father never stopped loving his son. Every day, he watched and waited at the gate for his lost son. Then, one day, he spotted him in the distance. At this point, a string of verbs describes the father’s response. Like ocean swells, they roll over us (and the son!) in quick succession. The father “saw-felt-ran-embraced-kissed. How undignified! How embarrassing! No self-respecting father would have behaved this way back then, especially toward such a son. The father’s heart moved his feet. First, he felt compassion. Then he ran to his son. The Greek verb translated “felt compassion” is related to the Greek word for “guts” or “intestines.” Compassion is a deep-in-the-gut mercy that moves one to act. It was this same deep-in-the-gut mercy that moved our Father to pursue us in His Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us, and bring us home. When you return to the Father to confess your sin and seek His forgiveness, how do you think He receives you? Does He roll his eyes, sigh, and reluctantly receive you? No. He welcomes you warmly. He delights in you as His child. Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV) describes the Father’s heart for his children who return home: “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you with his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Suggestions for prayer Thank our Father for the compassion that moved Him to send His Son to pursue us. Ask Him to give you that same heart of compassion. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 13 – But…

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. – Luke 15:20b Scripture reading: Luke 15:20b; Ephesians 2:1-10 “But” is a disruptive word. It signals an event that will redirect, even reverse the trajectory of a story. Often, it introduces a surprise. “I didn’t see that coming!” we say. The first “but” of our story showed up in Luke 15:17a: “But when he came to himself…” The son was headed for destruction, “but” his change of heart marked the beginning of a dramatic reversal in his story. So it is for us when God moves our hearts to turn from sin to Him. The second “but” signals the radical redemptive reversal which arises from the father’s heart. It introduces the shocking response of the father that dramatically alters the conclusion of the story for Little Brother. It is the “but” of scandalous grace. The Bible is full of such “buts”: But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20a). If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared (Psalm 130:3-4). But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:20). How have you experienced the “but” of God’s surprising grace in your life? Suggestions for prayer Thank God for any redemptive reversals He has worked in your life. Pray that He will work a redemptive reversal in the life of someone you know. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 12 – The road home (Part 2)

And he arose and came to his father. – Luke 15:20a Scripture reading: Luke 15:17-20a; Luke 19:1-10 Little Brother did not say, “I will arise and go to my father,” then stay in his pigpen. No. “He arose and came to his father.” Repentance is a U-Turn. It begins with a change of heart that leads to a change of direction. Leaving Walmart, you discover the cashier forgot to charge you for a coffee maker. You rejoice! It was his mistake, after all. But halfway home you have a change of heart. You think, “This is not right. I need to turn back.” You feel badly for the cashier so you make a U-Turn and return to Walmart and settle accounts. Your change of heart led to a change of direction. What about you? You and your brother are not on speaking terms. The Lord is showing you that this is due, in part, to your pride and stubbornness. What will you do?  You’re sleeping with your girlfriend and the Lord is convicting you. What will you do? Repentance takes you first to the cross of Christ. There you find your sins washed away by the blood of Christ. This assures you that your Father will forgive and receive you when you confess your sin to him. “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7). Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the gift of forgiveness and the blood of Jesus that washes away our sins. Pray for the assurance of forgiveness and power of the Spirit to grow and change. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 11 – The road home (Part 1)

But when he came to himself, he said… “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.’” – Luke 15:17a,18 Scripture reading: Luke 15:17-20a; 2 Corinthians 7:8-12 He had been a prince in his father’s house but now he is a peasant, barely surviving in a pigpen. He’s on the road to destruction. There is only one exit ramp off this road. It is called repentance. For Little Brother, repentance began “when he came to himself.” It began when he came to his senses. One day, it dawned on him, “I got myself here, but I don’t have to stay here. I have a home and a Father to go to. There I will have plenty to eat.” Two things keep us in prisons of our own making: pride and shame. Pride says, “I’d rather starve among pigs than admit I was wrong and grovel for mercy”. Shame says, “How can I show my face after what I did?” Repentance, however, says, “I will arise and go to my father.” This is faith in the loving and merciful heart of his father. Repentance says, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants”. This is humility. Little Brother knows he has wronged his father and it grieves him. He knows he doesn’t deserve mercy. He will be grateful with the crumbs of his father’s grace. Are you stuck in a prison of your own making? Are pride and shame keeping you there? Will you use the exit ramp of repentance to reconcile with your Father and others? Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the way His Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see our sin and our Savior. Pray for the gift of repentance. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 10 – The end of the road (Part 2)

And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. – Luke 15:14 Scripture reading: Luke 15:14-16; Proverbs 3:11-12 In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis says that pain is God’s megaphone. Sometimes pain is God’s severe mercy to get our attention, bring us to our knees in repentance and faith, and draw us back to Him. It was God’s mercy that landed Little Brother in the pigpen, knee deep in manure. What if his money had never run out and no famine had struck? He might have lived for his own pleasure the rest of his life and landed in hell. What if the prophet Jonah had succeeded in running away from the LORD? It was the LORD’s mercy that landed him in the smelly belly of a fish. The psalmist says, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word… It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:67,71). Have you experienced pain as God’s megaphone? Maybe your pain was the bitter fruit of your sinful choices. Maybe your suffering was not caused by your own sin. Either way, God used it to draw you to Him or to deepen your fellowship with Him. Maybe you know others pursuing “the” good life apart from God. It seems to be working for them. It looks like they are thriving apart from God. Pray for them. If possible, maintain relationships with them. One day, pain will cast a shadow over their lives. You will want to be present and available to point them to Christ. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the way He uses pain redemptively as His megaphone. Ask Him for opportunities to point lost people in your life to Christ when they are in pain. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 9 – The end of the road (Part 1)

And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. – Luke 15:14 Scripture reading: Luke 15:14-16; Psalm 130:1-8 Little Brother blew through his fortune. One day his bank account bottomed out. To make matters worse, famine struck and jobs were scarce. He hit rock bottom. He landed a job with a local farmer, feeding his pigs. Pig farming is an honourable vocation today but Little Brother grew up in a first-century Jewish home under the Law of Moses. Pigs were not kosher; they were unclean. Distinctions between clean and unclean in the Law of Moses had a purpose. They reminded God’s people that He had set them apart from the world and its sinful beliefs and practices. He had set them apart for His redemptive purposes. But Little Brother had plunged into uncleanness long before he was knee deep in manure. Proximity to pigs drove that point home. Worse yet, he didn’t make a living wage. The pigs ate better than he did. Today, too, people hit rock bottom. In desperation, they do things they wouldn’t have dreamed of before: binge drink, settle for abusive relationships, steal from loved ones, or isolate from everyone. They spiral into shame and despair. Maybe this is your story. Corrie ten Boom said that no pit is so deep that God’s love is not deeper still. Jonah ran from God and hit rock bottom – the sea bottom. Yet God heard his cry and rescued him (Jonah 2:1-10). Jesus died for us in the deepest of pits to rescue us from ours! Cry out to Him to forgive and rescue you. He will. Suggestions for prayer Thank Jesus for suffering in the deepest of pits to rescue us from ours. Pray for someone who has hit rock bottom or is about to hit rock bottom. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 8 – Reckless, restless living

Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. – Luke 15:13 Scripture reading: Luke 15:13; Jeremiah 2:11-13 Today is the Lord’s Day. Jesus calls us to set this day aside to rest and be refreshed in fellowship with Him and one another. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We need all the help we can get! Our hearts quickly turn from our true Source of rest to find rest in other things and people. This leaves us restless. We all chase rest apart from God. Little brothers just do so in more obvious, dramatic ways. They usually leave the covenant community to do so. The younger son “took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living” (Luke 15:13b). Who is Little Brother today? She is the estranged sister who did not show up for mom’s funeral. He is the church member behind bars for molesting a child. She is the sister who comes out as gay, then marries her lover. He is the son who moves in with his girlfriend. She is the young woman who has an abortion, then slides into addiction. He is the child who returns from college ‘woke’, but wandering. She is your friend who is bitter toward the church. He is your friend, Mark, who became Mallory. As you read the previous paragraph, what surfaced in your heart? Compassion? Something else? In our Father’s eyes, we are all little brothers who need Jesus, our big brother, to bring us home. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His offer of rest in Christ. Ask the Lord to help you rest, be refreshed and rejoice in His presence today. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 7 – Into a far country

Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. – Luke 15:13 Scripture reading: Luke 15:13; Joel 2:12-14 Little Brother pocketed his cheque and packed his belongings. Then he left home. He went far from his father and brother. He “took a journey into a far country” (Luke 15:13b). Here he was free from the identity and expectations assigned to him by his home, synagogue and community. Here, no one knew him. He could define his own identity and chart his own course. He could escape the voices and visuals that reminded him of his father’s God. Or so he thought. You need not be physically far from home to be spiritually and relationally far from home. Little Brother is anyone who is spiritually and relationally no longer at home with God. Maybe you are Little Brother. No matter how far you are from home, you are not beyond your Father’s reach! With the psalmist, cry out, “From the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint… let me dwell in your tent forever!” (Psalm 61:2a,4a). He will hear and forgive you. He will rescue and receive you. Maybe you have little brothers in your life right now. Do not stop praying for them. Do not stop caring for them. The Holy Spirit can do in their hearts what you cannot! As church communities, we may also need to do some soul-searching before God. Have we thrown up any stumbling-blocks before the little brothers among us? Have we contributed to a distorted image of their Father that has formed in their hearts? Suggestions for prayer Thank God that no matter how far we wander, we are never beyond His reach. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of “little brothers” in your life. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 6 – The Father’s response

And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. – Luke 15:11b-12 Scripture reading: Luke 15:11-12; Romans 1:18-25 Little Brother might as well have slapped his father’s face. “Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me” (Luke 15:12a). In other words, “Father, I want your stuff, not you.” The father could have refused. Instead, “he divided his property between them” (Luke 15:12b). The Father said to his son, “Your will be done. I will hand over to you what you want. I will also hand you over to what you want.” In Romans 1:18-32, Paul describes God’s judgment on those who turn from Him to idols. The passage states that he ‘gave them up’ to their desires. He said, “I will give you what you want… and the misery that follows.” This is a chilling thought. What is the end of the road for those God hands over to their desires? It is hell. In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis puts these words into the mouth of his mentor George MacDonald: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says in the end, ‘Thy will be done’.” What about you? Are you clinging to an idol or sinful pattern you refuse to confess and surrender? Is your heart saying to Him, “I value this more than you.”? God may give you what you want… and the misery that follows. But thank God that He uses our misery to drive us into His arms of mercy! Run to Him. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the ways He gets our attention to turn us from sin. Ask Him to deliver you from any idol or sinful pattern that He reveals to you. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 5 – I want your stuff, not you

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’” – Luke 15:11-12a Scripture reading: Luke 15:11-12; Psalm 73:23-28 “There was a man who had two sons.” So begins our two-part story. Part One focuses on the father and his younger son. Let’s call him “Little Brother”. Little Brother tells his father to give him his share of the inheritance His share was one-third since the oldest received two-thirds of the inheritance in ancient Israel. Likely, the younger son’s third of the estate was tied up in assets. The father would have to liquidate a third of his estate to free up the cash his younger son demanded. More to the point, a slap in the face would have hurt less than the son’s demand. The younger son did not want to wait for his father to die to get what was coming to him. He wanted it now so he could get away from his father and enjoy the good life apart from Him. In short, he did not want his father. He just wanted his father’s stuff. Imagine a young woman engaged to a young man. She invites him for dinner. She spends all day preparing a gourmet meal. She can’t wait to spend time with him. He shows up right on time but then, to her horror and hurt, he demands two plates to go. He whisks those dinners out the door to enjoy with another woman. This is often how we treat our Father in heaven. We crave His presents more than His presence. In our prayers, we seek His hand and not His face. Suggestions for prayer Thank our Father for His daily kindness and generosity. Ask Him to forgive you for the times you value His gifts over Him, the Giver. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. ...

Daily devotional

November 4 – Storytime with Jesus

And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man received sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: – Luke 15:2-3 Scripture reading: Luke 15:1-3; Hebrews 4:12-13 When the Pharisees and scribes grumbled against Jesus, He didn’t respond with rebuttal or rebuke. Instead, He told them stories. When rebuttals or rebukes come our way, we tend to throw up our defenses to deflect them. Stories, however, often bypass our defenses to engage our hearts. Jesus was a master of such storytelling. Jesus’ stories had a way of getting under people’s skin and often struck a nerve with His listeners. They hit close to home… and hearts. Listeners found themselves identifying with one or more of the characters. By the end of the story, the heart issues addressed in the story were clearly their own. That’s why Jesus’ stories sparked strong reactions. The stories Jesus told were parables. Their purpose was to surface the spiritual heart condition of listeners and demand a response. Who would receive Him and His message? Who would resist? In the coming days, we will listen to Jesus tell the third story of His trilogy. Listener beware! Storytime with Jesus is dangerous. His words may pierce your heart, like the scalpel of a skilled surgeon, to expose assumptions, attitudes and even animosity to God and His Word that you would rather not face. For this we will need grace to listen with open and humble hearts. Grace to pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there is any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24). Suggestions for prayer Thank our Triune God for the way His Word exposes our hearts. Pray the prayer of Psalm 139:23-24. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 3 – “Godly” grumblers

And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” – Luke 15:2 Scripture reading: Luke 15:1-2; Matthew 9:9-13 A caricature is a drawing that exaggerates a feature on your face – say, your nose or ears – to make you look ridiculous. We caricature the Pharisees and scribes in our minds, then roll our eyes at them. However, the Pharisees and scribes treasured the Bible in a world that trashed it. They copied it carefully. They struggled to preserve the ancient faith in a culture that undermined it. They called God’s people to trust, love and serve Him as those set apart from the world. With Isaiah, they said, “Depart, depart, go out from there, touch no unclean thing…” (Isaiah 52:11a). With James, they might have said, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:4b). Today, too, our culture’s worldview is infecting the church. The Pharisees and scribes would say, “Maintain social distancing. Separation is the key to reformation.” Jesus did not practice social distancing. He welcomed the tax collectors and "sinners" into His life. He spent time with them. He accepted their dinner invitations and enjoyed their hospitality. That’s why the Pharisees and scribes grumbled about Him. In their view, He put Himself and the church at risk for spiritual infection. They had forgotten God’s vision and heart for the lost. God saves and sets us apart from the world so that the world might be drawn to Him through us. How will this happen if we practice social distancing? Does this involve risk? Yes. But Jesus overcomes those risks. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that He saved you and set you apart from the world. Pray for wisdom to be in the world yet not of the world so that others might be drawn to Christ through you. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

November 2 – Drawn to Jesus

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. – Luke 15:1 Scripture reading: Luke 15:1-2; John 10:11-16 Jesus crossed the chasm between pulpit and publican, between synagogue and “sinner.” Luke tells us that the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to Jesus. They were drawing near to hear Him. Why? In Christ, God’s word went out with almighty power to create faith in the hearts of His listeners and change their lives. Christ, however, did not wait for them to enter the synagogue to hear His message. He went to them as the Word-made-flesh. He embodied among them the gospel as He preached in the middle of their mess. He did not condone their sin, but He cared deeply about them and they knew it. They drew near to Him because He drew near to them. They loved him because He loved them first (1 John 4:19). What if Jesus had not crossed the chasm from His Father’s presence into our sinful mess? What if He had not become flesh to dwell among us? What if He had simply posted “Tax collectors and Sinners Welcome” on the sign outside heaven’s sanctuary and waited for us to walk through the doors? We know the answer. Not one of us would belong to the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Not one of us would turn from idols that we crave to the One Who can satisfy and save. Do you love the “tax collectors” and “sinners” in your life? Do you pray for them regularly? Do you seek opportunities to love them across the chasm? Suggestions for prayer Thank Jesus for crossing the chasm into our world to save us. Pray for specific people in your life that need to be saved. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introducing November’s prodigal devotions

Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son is well-loved for good reason. However, the title reveals that our primary focus tends to be on the younger son. We call him prodigal because prodigal means “wastefully or recklessly extravagant” (Dictionary.com) and the younger son blew his money in reckless living. In The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith, Timothy Keller points to the father as the main character. Keller calls the father prodigal for the recklessly extravagant way he lavishes his love and grace on his two sons. Keller’s book has influenced my work here. In this parable, Jesus draws our attention to both sons. He invites us to see ourselves in one or both sons and to see that both were lost and needed the father’s prodigal love to bring them home. Finally, as Keller has noted, the parable points us to the lavish love of our Father and to Jesus as our True Big Brother. We don’t want to lose the forest for the trees. This parable has three main points, built around its three main characters and their conduct. The Younger Son represents those who leave the covenant community for the world but repent and return to their Father. The Older Son represents those who are inside and even lead the covenant community, but whose hearts are far from God and react negatively to the father’s prodigal grace in Christ. The Father represents our Father in heaven Who pours out His prodigal grace and love on lost children to return them home. With parables, we must be careful not to press every detail to find a deeper, spiritual meaning. I hope I haven’t fallen into that trap! My aim is simply that this story and its details prompt us to: consider the dynamics of our own hearts and communities today, bask in the wonder of our Father’s prodigal love for us in Christ, and join our Father and True Older Brother in pursuit of the lost as those who share His heart. Tax collectors and sinners Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. – Luke 15:1 Scripture reading: Luke 15:1-3,11-32 Tax collectors and sinners: Israel’s God had welcomed them into His family as infants. They grew up hearing God’s Word. They knew what God had done for His people but they had walked away from God and the church. They had not darkened the synagogue door in years. They were cut off from God and the covenant community. The tax collectors had Roman government jobs. Their supervisors assigned them a territory and a sum to collect. It was up to them to levy surcharges to cover their costs and supplement their salaries. They abused their power to fleece their people. Others despised them as traitors. The “sinners” had drifted away from God. They immersed themselves in the surrounding Greco-Roman culture. They partied hard, slept around and embraced pagan ideas and customs contrary to God’s Word. They turned from their God, the fountain of living water, and dug for themselves broken cisterns that could hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13). A great chasm separated the tax collectors and sinners from the pulpits where God’s Word was proclaimed. The same is true in our society today. Many, cut off from Christ in our culture, grew up in churches or can trace their lineage to Christian ancestors. Maybe one of them is your son or daughter and you feel it deeply. The gospel proclaimed in pulpits is still the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). Who will cross the chasm to enflesh that gospel among the tax collectors and “sinners”? Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the gift and power of the gospel. Ask God to use you and your church to proclaim and embody that gospel among the lost. Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....