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Daily devotional

April 26 – Resurrection message

“Turning to the body he said, ‘Tabitha, arise.’ And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.” – Acts 9:40b Scripture reading: Acts 9:36-43 Peter spoke to ears that could not hear. Some people ask if God first put life back into Tabitha so that she could hear the words of Peter. But the Lord used the words of Peter and by that word, brought Tabitha back to life. We see the blessing of the resurrected Christ. Tabitha is raised from the dead to display the power Christ has over the grave. With the medical technology we have today, this is all the more amazing. If someone has a stroke and there is no blood circulation in part of the brain for a certain amount of time, the brain will be damaged beyond restoration. But Tabitha was dead for hours, maybe even a whole day, and Christ gives restoration. This is the good news of the resurrection! Brothers and sisters, do you see for us the blessing of Jesus Christ? Like Tabitha was dead, we are dead on account of our sins. Like Tabitha, we cannot even call for or ask for help. But the Lord came to us. Though nothing could make us worthy of His mercy, the Lord speaks life into us. This is the power of the resurrection. His living Word awakens us. This is part of why it is important to go to church on Sundays. We receive His Word and Spirit and by these we are given restoration. What was damaged and what was lost is all restored. We have a Lord who has conquered death. He has authority to raise us from the grave! Suggestions for prayer Praise the Lord today for His mighty Word. Pray that God’s Word will be faithfully preached and thankfully heard, and that God will equip you by His Word for service to His glory. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. ...

Daily devotional

April 25 – The dangers of power and pride

“But Peter said to him, ‘May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!’” – Acts 8:20–21 Scripture reading: Acts 8:9-25 Simon was amazed by the power which the Holy Spirit worked through Peter. Simon figured that everything was for sale for the right price, so he asked to buy the power and the gift of the Holy Spirit. But God gave Peter discernment to see right through what Simon asks. Peter told Simon that his heart is not right before God. This is a difficult story. The man said he believes and he was baptized, but his heart is not right. Simon received the sign of the sacrament, but not the truth of it. We see his sinful heart exposed; he wants power and will not submit himself to the Lord. This must remind us of our need to humble ourselves before the Lord. Simon made himself his own god and in doing so became his own worst enemy. When we want to have God’s blessing, but live for our own glory, we end up with nothing. Peter sharply calls Simon to repent and pray for forgiveness. Even though Simon acknowledges the power of Christ, he would not let it change his life. The grace of God is a gift given freely. It can neither be bought nor bribed. Receive it, and let it change your heart and life so you are not only forgiven, but are made into a faithful servant of Jesus Christ our King. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Ask that the Holy Spirit be given to you, that you may grow in humble service to God’s glory. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. The painting is "Peter's conflict with Simon Magus" by Avanzino Nucci, 1620. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 24 – Obedience that is good

“But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge.’” – Acts 4:19  Scripture reading: Acts 4:18-31 In this section, Peter and John refuse to listen to the authorities of the world. Sometimes Christians take this verse and use it as an excuse to avoid taxes or to do something illegal. But is that the point? May a Christian ignore the rules of government and the law because we are going to instead serve God? No. Peter writes about a corrupt and anti-Christian government in 1 Peter 2:17, Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. But what about when obedience to the authorities means we must disobey God? What if the government says we must proclaim that the Bible is false and the Koran is true? What if the government says we may not speak of or warn people of hell? Then we must listen to God and not man. This is where being a disciple of Jesus can get costly. It can mean losing jobs, friends, money or comforts. This is why we need to be constantly in prayer, asking God for the strength and boldness that only He can provide. Who are you looking to please today? Are you more concerned with keeping others off your back than you are with serving the Lord? Do you listen to others or your own sinful nature rather than to God? Suggestions for prayer Pray for wisdom to see when others want us to disobey God. Ask that God help you to be respectful of all those in authority and give you boldness to serve Him faithfully. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 23 – Shockingly bold

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” – Acts 4:13-14 Scripture reading: Acts 4:5-18 Healing in the name of Jesus Christ caused an uproar in the temple courts. Peter and John are placed in prison and put on trial. They know that at any minute they could be stoned to death or sentenced to crucifixion. And yet it seems they are not afraid. Are they relying on their own thorough training and expertise? Are they relying on the name they have made for themselves? No. We read that they are nobodies. But that makes no difference for they know the strength of the Lord Who is with them. Jesus once told them “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” They no longer fear man; instead, they have a healthy fear of the Lord. Not only do they not back down, but we read that Peter continually challenges the ones who put him on trial to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. He doesn’t apologize for what he did, but declares that they too should confess their wrong and follow Jesus. All this boldness is very impressive. The leaders do not know what to say, because they know Peter was with Jesus and they can see the lame man standing right there with him. This is the power of God in His servants. How do you act when the pressures of life and the world want you to give up or compromise your faith? Do people see that your strength doesn’t come from yourself, but instead comes from knowing and trusting the Lord God? Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that He is stronger than all the powers of the world. Confess your sin of fearing man and ask the Lord to give you strength to stand bold in your faith. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 22 – Better than money

“But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’” – Acts 3:6   Scripture reading: Acts 3:1-10 Peter and John could not give the man what he asked for, but they had something much greater –  the good news of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:7-8 speaks of this wealth saying, In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. Peter and John had learned this, and now they share their wealth with the lame beggar, saying to him, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Jesus Christ healed this man; Peter was merely an instrument. But Peter was sure. He reached out his hand, pulled the lame man up and the man stood. The healing the man experienced on the outside shows us what God was doing on the inside. As the apostles ministered in Jesus' name, so they brought the authority and blessings of Jesus Christ, namely life and restoration to all who believe. This is good news as we are all lame beggars and we must all find strength and comfort in Christ Jesus Who is gracious to us. Better than silver or gold, in Jesus’ name, we have forgiveness of sins. In Jesus’ name we have a new life.  Let this bring you to rejoice today, even as you still see and feel the burden of sin and brokenness in this life. Suggestions for prayer At times we feel like lame beggars and only want the things the world wants. Pray that God will help you give thanks for His blessings and share the riches of His grace. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 21 – What is a sinner to do?

“Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” – Acts 2:38 Scripture reading: Acts 2:22-36 Peter is tending the flock. The lost sheep of Israel are gathered and, in the strength of the Holy Spirit, Peter is explaining to them that Jesus, Whom they crucified, is their only hope for salvation. Now what? It might feel to the crowd as if they missed the only bus. After all, Jesus was rejected and crucified. The crowd knows their sin, so they cry out, “What shall we do?” The answer Peter gives is a summary of the Christian life. This is what Peter, a sinner, learned to do and now he speaks as one sinner to another, explaining the only way to be saved. Repent. That is, we must deny ourselves. We must flee from the idols of this world and devote ourselves wholly to God. This takes trust. We must trust that if we confess our sins, God will forgive them. This takes faith. We must have faith in Jesus Christ, knowing that if we turn from our sins, God will give us what we need to live a new life to His glory. We receive these from Christ in the gift of the Holy Spirit. By the Holy Spirit we are assured of God’s grace and given a new life wherein we can glorify God. Peter knew this gift and now he spreads the news so other sinners can know forgiveness and a new life. Do you know what it means to be forgiven and have the Holy Spirit? How can you share this good news in order that others may also know? Suggestions for prayer Pray that you will never cease to be amazed at God’s grace to you. Ask the Lord to help you point others to the only way of salvation in Jesus Christ. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 20 – Going forward in faith

“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’” – Luke 24:44 Scripture reading: Acts 1:12-26 Jesus has ascended and the apostles and other followers are gathered together, but something is wrong. There are eleven apostles. During the whole of Jesus’ ministry, there were twelve apostles; twelve, like the number of the sons of Jacob. The number twelve showed the continuity of God’s plan of salvation for His chosen people. Now, with only eleven, it might feel like one stone has been pulled out of the foundation. Peter sinned and was reinstated, but Judas, though he grieved over his sin, did not turn to the Lord for forgiveness. Surely this brought much grief and discouragement to the disciples. But their faith is strengthened when they look to God’s Word. Peter takes the lead and reminds the brothers that both Judas’ betrayal and death were prophesied in Scripture (Psalm 69:25, Psalm 109:6-8). Scripture also said that another will take his office. Peter finds direction from Scripture and through this, he is able to guide the disciples. Jesus was not physically present with them, but God was still speaking to them by His Word. This is how God provides for His people. The disciples will pray and God will show them whom He has chosen to be the twelfth apostle. Where do you find your strength in difficult times? When others falter or the church struggles, do you still trust God’s care? Do you look to God’s Word during difficulties and come to God in prayer so that you are able to go forward with faith and encourage others to do the same? Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for His perfect plans which will work out all things for the good of those who love Him. Pray that God gives you trust, especially when things go “wrong” in our minds. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 19 – Give all glory to God

“In order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 4:11b  Scripture reading: 1 Peter 4:7-11 Why does God do what He does? Why did Jesus die and rise from the dead? Why did Jesus put His arm around Peter and reinstate him as a disciple? Why didn’t Jesus get off the cross and leave Peter and every other sinner to their misery? If we are asking about motive, the answer is God’s love. For God so loved the world… If we are asking about purpose, the answer is for God’s glory. God made the world and everything in it for His glory. He made us for His glory. Sin entered the world and destroyed our ability to glorify God, but Christ came to restore us to the Father. We saw this for Peter, and we must know it for our own lives. When we humble ourselves, the Lord lifts us up and restores us. Why? That we may glorify God. Is this your goal in life? Today is set apart by God as a day of rest and worship. Are you eager to gather with God’s people and glorify Him? What about during the rest of the week? In your work, play, school, socializing and leisure, do you seek to glorify God? That is an awesome thing about the rescuing work of Jesus Christ. Jesus gives gifts and supplies all for us so that in everything, when we do it with love to God, God is glorified. How good this is, as there is no one else worthy of all glory! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for not only rescuing us but giving us gifts by which we can serve others and glorify Him. Ask God to help you see how you can serve Him and to give you strength to live a life for His glory. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 18 – The God of all grace will do it

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” – 1 Peter 5:10 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 5:6-11 We saw this week how Peter learned humility and the blessing of grace. Now about 30 years later, Peter is writing to encourage believers to rely on God’s grace in times of suffering. Do you put your hope in the Lord? Do you hear Him calling you to trust Him? That is the only way we can make it through this life in service to God. We don’t have it in ourselves to persevere in faith until death. But in the Lord we have what we need. Think about what it means that God is the God of all grace.  This fact is easy to forget. We are quick to think that God will not help us in our troubles. We might believe the lies of Satan and start to think we are better off looking for help or comfort in ourselves, in possessions, in other people, or in other things. But there is no grace in other things. God, however, is a fountain; there is more and more grace so we can say, even in our suffering, “our cup overflows”. Keep turning to the Lord. Do not wonder if God will have the grace to forgive you when you stumble for the umpteenth time. Do not wonder if God is able to uphold you when your world is turned upside down or when you feel so utterly disappointed and hopeless. There is grace. Turn to the Lord and find His grace. It is always sufficient. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for His faithfulness in holding onto us. Ask God to forgive our grumbling and doubt of His goodness, and pray for patience and trust in all circumstances. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 17 – To glorify God

“When you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” – John 21:18b Scripture reading: John 21:15-25 Does this sound like happy news? To go where you do not want to go? Peter is told he will walk down a path of suffering and die a terrible death. The Bible does not give us the account of Peter’s death, but historians tell us that after preaching in many places, Peter went to Rome. Nero was the emperor and the common story is that Peter was crucified upside down. What we know for sure is that Peter would die as a martyr. Now, how is that comforting? It is good news to hear that Peter will not be led by his selfish desires, but by his commitment to Christ. It would be hugely comforting for Peter to know that in his death he would glorify God. Peter once claimed he would die with Jesus, but he ended up being afraid of a servant girl. Thanks be to God, Peter will not go down in history as a coward, but as a faithful servant. We will all face trials and some of us might face persecution; our faith is tested when hardships from disease or loss come to our lives. How can we glorify God in life and in death? Only when we stop looking to ourselves. Like Peter, we learn how weak we are and this must, like Peter, direct our gaze, not to ourselves and our cares, but every single day to Christ Who gives us what we need so we can be faithful unto death. By His grace and mercy, we wretches can glorify God. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that you do not need to have a meaningless life. Ask God to give you faith and humility in all circumstances to live a life which glorifies Him. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 16 – Confidence in Peter?

“He said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’” – John 21:17b  Scripture reading: Matt 16:13-23  Jesus said, “Feed my lambs”, “Tend my sheep”, and “Feed my sheep”. Jesus once praised Peter’s confession of Who He was and promised Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. But Peter, in turn, denied Jesus; Satan came and Peter gave in. How can the church be built on the ministry of one who falters so easily? Peter is not a rock; he is crumbling sandstone. Perhaps you have wondered how you can be useful to the Lord when you have failed in the past and continue to fail. It is no small matter to feed the precious sheep of Christ. Peter is going to be looked up to. If the shepherd does wrong, the sheep suffer. We are tempted to say that Peter cannot be trusted. And we might suspect the same of ourselves, thinking we should not try to be a blessing to others or are not fit to lead our family because we have failed in the past. But Jesus knows how to build His church; it is not built on man’s power, but on God’s grace. Remember what Jesus said to Peter before? “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). Peter will lead the way in calling sinners to believe in the Lord Jesus. Peter knows what grace is, and Peter knows how a wretch can be saved. Salvation is not by man’s doing, but by the grace of God. Do you rest in this grace? Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His grace given to you. Ask God to keep you humble and firm in your faith so that you may be a blessing to those around you. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 15 – A trusting Peter

“He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’” – John 21:16a  Scripture reading: Psalm 116  Jesus asks again, “Do you love me?” How do we respond to that? How can we say, “I love you” to God? Especially when we, like Peter, know how weak and pale our love is compared to God’s pure and perfect love for us. Peter does not dare to claim perfect love. The word Peter uses to say, I love you is not the same as the word Jesus uses; he uses a lesser word for love. Why? Because talk is cheap. We see it today. People claim to love their spouses, but go on to forsake them. Hypocrites will boast how much they love God, acknowledging Him with their lips, but in their hearts loving other things more. Peter was there. Now there is no boasting with words. “Lord you know my heart, you know I am frail and my love is not perfect, but you know that I love you.” So is that the answer to how we say “I love” you to God? Is the key to just use humble language? No, talk is still cheap. We need to show our love. Peter had a heart that was willing to be rebuked and to serve or to go wherever the Lord would lead him. Peter’s life will show his love. That is the key. Do you love the Lord? Recognize every good thing we have is only by the grace of God who is loving toward us and call on His name in trust, in praise and in thanksgiving. Show your love with your life. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will keep your relationship with Him honest, that we will not lie when we sing and confess our love to God, but that we will be keenly aware of His great mercy toward us. Pray that God will help you show your love with a life devoted to Him. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 14 – A humble Peter

“Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’” – John 21:15  Scripture reading: John 21:1-19 Peter once boasted, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” Peter dared to brag that he loved Jesus more than everyone else did. So when Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him more than the disciples, Peter appeals to the knowledge of God and says, “Lord, you know.” Jesus knew where the fish were and knew Peter would deny him. There is no sense bragging before God because Jesus knows the heart. Peter confesses, You know that I love you.  Are you ever tempted to brag before God? Do you ever try to make yourself appear to be a better follower of Jesus than the next person? It is inevitable; our actions will have the last word. If we love other things more, or focus more on our desires, it will show. Let us not brag; instead, trust the Lord. He knows our love is not what it should be; our love for Him is nothing to boast about. But Christ also knows when we have a broken spirit and a contrite heart. Peter knew his sin and weakness, but he still loved the Lord Jesus and would serve Him if the Lord would have him. And the Lord will. 1 Corinthians 1:27 says, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. When we recognize our weakness and throw ourselves before God, trusting His strength and mercy, then we have become the very ones the Lord loves to use to further His kingdom and bring glory to His Name.   Suggestions for prayer Give thanks to God for knowing and examining our hearts. Ask God to forgive our pride and arrogance and help us to offer Him heartfelt and sincere love.  Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

April 13 – Futile faith?

“And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:14 Scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Jesus is alive. And that changes everything for us in this life. It means that anything Jesus ever said is trustworthy and true. This means that everything Jesus did is real and accomplishes everything for us and our salvation. It means the message of the Bible is good. If Jesus is your Lord and Saviour, your sins are truly and completely forgiven and you are given eternal life – to live with the Lord God forever. This good news must lift our hearts every day. Through all of the bad days, stress, tears and sorrow, the knowledge that Jesus died, rose again and ascended into heaven gives us peace and hope. All the sorrows of this life, the losses of this life, are temporary. Imagine you are at war. You are on the battlefield, exhausted, basically out of ammo, and wounded, but you look up and see the enemy base engulfed in flames. Bullets are still flying, but you know that the kingdom of darkness has fallen and the kingdom of light has been established. Well, then you can hang in there. The injuries and wounds don’t hurt so much when you are celebrating victory. Is that your hope? Can you see and believe that our Lord is risen? Do you see what this means for this life and for eternity? Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we have hope. May we carry it and show it as we live certain of what we have not seen. Our Lord Jesus lives and reigns in heaven. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks that God not only sent His Son to bring forgiveness but also raised Him up so we may know that the mission has been accomplished. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 12 – Risen victorious

“But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.” – Luke 24:12 Scripture reading: Luke 24:1-12 When the women claimed Jesus was alive, Peter did not believe it but rather needed to investigate. After all, Peter once did not believe he would deny Jesus. But he did, as Jesus said he would. Peter also at one time did not believe he would catch fish if he cast out his net as Jesus asked him to, but again he was proven wrong. Peter ran to the tomb, looked in and what did he see? Not Jesus, but only the linen cloths used to wrap Jesus’ dead body. If Jesus was still dead, if Jesus’ body was stolen, or if someone had moved it, they would have kept the linen cloths on Him. No fool would unwrap a rotting corpse and take the naked body - of course not! But a living body would remove the burial linens, for they covered the face and bound the arms and feet. Peter looked at the linen cloths and marveled. The evidence is amazing!  Soon Peter and the other disciples will see Jesus Christ; they will touch Him and know He is real. They will know for certain. And that changes everything. We are not following a dead man; we are following the One who has risen, conquering sin and death and hell. We are following the One Who has all strength and authority over life and death. Our faith is not in vain, so let us keep following Jesus all our days. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the good news of the resurrection will strengthen your faith, that you will live your life not without hope or in fear, but with faith in the One who conquered the grave. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 11 – Darkness is my only friend

“It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” – Luke 23:44 Scripture reading: Luke 23:40-56 In the middle of the day, Jesus hangs in darkness. The darkness is a symbol showing that Jesus is bearing the curse of God. Think about what it would be like for the crowd on that day. Three hours of darkness is a long time. Does the crowd know Jesus is bearing the judgment of God? They too experience the darkness, but they were not facing God’s judgment; Jesus was. In the darkness, they would be able to hear the One on Whom God was pouring out His judgment struggling to breathe. There in the darkness, God has placed His own Son on the altar. Abraham did this with Isaac, but Isaac was never put to death because a ram was given to take Isaac’s place. Now the Son of God is placed on the altar, the ultimate substitute, to suffer in our place and He is put to death. Did the crowd remember how He healed their sick and raised the dead? Now Jesus, though innocent, is being put to death. Isaiah 53:10 says, “The Lord makes His life a guilt offering.” The crowd has those three hours to think about this. Let us also quiet our hearts and think about this. This is the sacrifice we need. This is the Lamb slain. See Him, believe in Him for your forgiveness and for your salvation. Here is your only hope to rescue you from the wages of your sin, to rescue you from hell and to open paradise for you. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will help you to consider today what Christ endured in your place. Praise God for taking the darkness that we may be brought into the everlasting light of His grace. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 10 – Forsaken by friends

“But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about.’ And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.” – Luke 22:60 Scripture reading: Luke 22:54-60, Luke 23:32-43 First Judas betrayed Jesus and now Peter denies Jesus. Peter was sure he would never do such a thing, but Peter shows us what happens when we rely on ourselves. J.C. Ryle writes, "The best and highest saint is a poor weak creature, even at his best times.” No matter how strong we might feel or godly we might appear, we are often on the edge of falling hard into sin if we do not watch and pray and if the grace of God does not hold us up. Now Christ will face the cross alone. The cross was a symbol of being cursed by God. Jesus would be nailed to the cross and, though innocent, everyone around would mock Him and no one would come to His defense. Isaiah 53 says, We esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions. That is the amazing part! Jesus endured rejection by man and God in order to give grace to those who by nature rejected Him. Two criminals hanging near Jesus also mocked Him. Later, one had his eyes opened to see that Jesus had done no wrong. This stranger received grace. See how our rejection does not prevent Christ from bringing salvation? He still is the Lamb Whose blood was shed to take away the sins of the world. Peter would weep over his sin, and as you consider Christ crucified today, weep for your sin, for godly sorrow produces a repentance that leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10). Suggestions for prayer Confess your sin and your need for Christ to suffer and die on the cross. Praise the Lord for willingly being rejected so that we may be forgiven and accepted by God in mercy. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 9 – Betrayal with a kiss

“But Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’” – Luke 22:48  Scripture reading: Luke 22:47-53  A kiss was a common greeting among close friends, a sign of sincere love. We wonder how Judas can approach the One Who is true and good and betray Him with a kiss. Unfortunately, this action is nothing new. Isaiah 29:13 speaks of God’s people who draw near to God with their mouth and honour Him with their lips, while their heart is far from Him.   If we are honest, we will admit that we too are guilty of this. How often do we come to church, sing songs that speak of adoring God, but yet in our heart we fantasize about something God hates, or we grumble in anger against God’s providence? When our hearts love anything more than Jesus, not only is our worship phony but we betray the Lord. Judas betrayed Jesus because he loved himself more. Jesus knew this and therefore warned Judas, asking him, “Would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” When in our hearts we don’t love the Lord, but we love other things more, we must hear the warning and repent. Psalm 2 closes with the call to “Kiss the Son… lest you perish in the way.” Yes, kiss the Son. Not with a traitor’s kiss, but with fear and trembling, with a humble heart of earnest love, seeking Christ’s forgiveness and grace. Kiss the Son, remembering that Christ let Himself be defenseless and handed over to death, so that those who confess their sin may find perfect forgiveness in Christ. Suggestions for prayer Pray that the Lord will give you a heart that hates sin and idols, and loves Him above all. Pray that the Lord will help you to love Him with a whole heart. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 8 – Prayer and temptation

“And when he came to the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’” – Luke 22:40  Scripture reading: Luke 22:31-46  Yesterday we saw the great blessing and comfort in the fact that Jesus prays for His people. Now Jesus commands His disciples to pray for themselves. This is not just offering a quick prayer, but to be praying. We all need to be praying so we can face the temptations and hardships that lie before us. Even Jesus needed to pray. He went off on His own, where in agony, He laid His prayers before the Father. While Jesus pleads for mercy, the disciples fall asleep. I see myself there. Do you ever have it when you know you need to look to the Lord and lay your needs before Him, but you feel even that is too hard? Or does it happen that you know God has given you a task, but you can only focus on your own desires and you forget about what you are called to do? It is ironic how we think prayer is so hard when what Jesus did is infinitely more difficult. Jesus was going to the cross. Jesus would drink the cup of God’s wrath right down to the dregs. Jesus would suffer and die for the sins of many. And Jesus stayed up all night, praying and trusting, and then would go to the cross. Let this be a wakeup call for us. We are often spiritually asleep and vulnerable. We need to be living in prayer, laying our burdens before God in prayer, and looking to the Lord in trust. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will teach you and help you to pray. Turn to Psalm 62 and make that your prayer to God. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 7 – Prayer and protection

“I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  – Luke 22:32  Scripture reading: Luke 22:31-34, John 17:6-13  Jesus is the High Priest Who had just given the disciples the Passover. Now as High Priest, He prays for them. Jesus prays specifically for Simon Peter, knowing the trial he will face, and He prays for all the disciples as well as all His followers today. And we need this. We saw last time how weak we are; apart from the Lord intervening and praying on our behalf, there is no hope. And it really is amazing that Jesus prays, asking the Father to have mercy on us. Is anyone worthy of God’s care and protection? Is there anyone who has not slandered God when they grumble, who has not insulted God in the way they boast in themselves? No one. Peter will deny Jesus, leaving Jesus without any companions. And yet, Jesus says He will pray for Peter. Jesus’ prayer is a great strength for Peter. By Jesus’ prayer, Peter does not lose faith. Though he trips, he will stand in faith again. Like Peter, we too have Jesus praying on our behalf; when we face temptations, when we have trouble in our home, in our life, with our relationships, Jesus is praying that our faith may not fail. Take courage and look to the Lord to uphold you by His love in the difficult times. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to help you realize His grace and love. Pray for specific situations where you need the Lord to help and protect you. Thank the Lord for His patient prayer for you. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 6 – Through the thresher

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.” – Luke 22:31 Scripture reading: Luke 22:31-34, Job 1:6-12 These are words of serious warning from Jesus. As He approaches the cross, Jesus warns one of His closest disciples that Satan has him in his rifle scope. As wheat is picked up tossed in the wind, Satan wants to pick Peter apart, toss him around so he cannot keep himself together. Satan aims for Peter’s ruin. Satan tried this with Job and Satan is still doing this today. Satan’s attacks are not always the same; his tactic may change, but expect it. When you are given a responsibility, when you face a hardship, or when there is something about following God that you do not understand, be ready. Satan’s mission is to get you to deny Jesus and give up the Christian faith. On hearing this, Simon Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and death.” Peter made the mistake of counting on his own strength. Peter did not think his faith would ever fail. We do this when we underestimate the devil and overestimate ourselves. In those moments we need to hear 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands, take heed lest he fall.” If we were swimming and were told there was a shark circling us, we would not turn and put up our fists; instead, we would climb into the boat. There we are safe. Against the enemy, Satan, we need to turn to Jesus. Pray for His help, His strength, that He will give us faith to withstand the attacks of Satan. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God gives you a keen awareness of both your own weakness and frailty and also of God’s strength and power. Ask God to protect you and to preserve you to hold fast to Him in faith all your days.  Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 5 – Seeking greatness

“For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” – Luke 22:27 Scripture reading: Luke 19:37-40, Luke 22:23-30 On Palm Sunday Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem. Being on a donkey makes a statement. The donkey is not like a Rolls Royce or even a Cadillac. No, it is more like an old Hyundai –a modest mode of transport. But that did not deter the crowds; they saw their king. In Jesus they saw the One Who could lead them to the deliverance of which the Passover spoke. Like Moses to Israel, they thought Jesus would rescue them from Rome, give them Rome’s gold and establish them as a glorious nation. You see, when Jesus rode in, they thought more of themselves than of God and God’s will. And we do the same when we want God’s blessings more than we want God’s will. But Jesus came to serve. And this is what we need. We don’t need more money, more earthly freedoms or land, but we need to be cleansed of our sin. Only Christ can give this cleansing, and He did. Jesus came as a servant and brought salvation by letting Himself be nailed to the cross where He would die a humiliating death. Phil 2:8 says, “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  Rejoice and praise God! Christ, who died on the cross, is our greatest treasure! Go to church today and serve and worship your God Who provided a way of reconciliation. Rejoice as you believe the good news! Christ came and lay down His life for you. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to help us show our love and thankfulness. Pray for God to help you be humble and faithful in times of trials, and to be quick to serve, considering others more highly than ourselves.  Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 4 – A new supper, the Lord’s Supper

Luke 22:19b–20 “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”  Scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 Jesus gives Himself. My body, given for you. Isaiah 53 says, “He was crushed for our iniquities.” His body is given over to death in our place. Think of what this means. A substitute goes in the place of another. Sometimes, someone will find a friend to take a shift for them at work. But Jesus came to suffer the punishment for sin and die in substitution for all who will believe in Him. Jesus is talking to the disciples. They don’t know it, but it is like Jesus will jump on a grenade so he can die instead of them. But what Jesus was bringing had eternal consequences.  So Jesus gives this bread and message to His disciples. Will they understand? Will they believe? Their response and our response must be, “Yes, this is what I need! He must be crushed for my iniquities.” Jesus told the disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me.” And that is what we do as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. The sacrifice has been made. Christ’s death was the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins. And so we partake of the supper in remembrance and faith. This meal must teach us to see anew what Christ has done. Believe and be strengthened in your faith! Know deep in your hearts that this is real. Jesus Christ has given His body and blood for those who believe. Suggestions for prayer What is the role of Lord’s Supper in your life? Pray that you will look forward to partaking, and that Jesus will strengthen and assure your faith when you do partake. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 3 – A longed-for Passover

“And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’” – Luke 22:15-16 Scripture reading: Luke 22:7-23 With everyone sitting down, Jesus explains His eager desire to celebrate Passover with them. As they eat bread dipped in bitter herbs to remind them of the years of bitter slavery, Jesus speaks of a kingdom. He says, “I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then Jesus takes the Passover cup, gives thanks to God for what they are given and tells the disciples to divide the wine among themselves. And He says, “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” How odd. A cup of celebration and yet Jesus speaks of fasting. Something is coming. Jesus is no longer looking back on the Passover, but He is looking forward to a kingdom! The kingdom He looks forward to will be shown in part when Jesus rises from the dead, declaring victory over sin, death and Satan. They are conquered on the cross. But it is also a kingdom coming, to be here in full when Christ comes again in glory. Then the struggle comes to the final end. Then we will celebrate, Christ will take the bread and wine and feast with the church at the marriage supper of the Lamb. All believers will then drink of the fruit of the vine and eat of the bread in celebration. Where is your hope? Where do you find peace? Do you long for the return of Jesus and the celebration that it will bring? Suggestions for prayer Pray that as you look to what Christ has done, you will also look forward to what Christ will bring. So often we try to build our own kingdoms, so let us live for and pray for the Kingdom that is to come. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 2 – Betrayal

“Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them.” – Luke 22:3–4 Scripture reading: John 6:60-71 As it was chosen beforehand by God that Christ would come to suffer and die to be the Passover Lamb Who purchases salvation for His people, so it was already ordained that one disciple, Judas, would betray Jesus. We wonder why Jesus would choose Judas to be one of the twelve. Why not choose someone more loyal? But Jesus did not come to find an easy life and the people Jesus came to are not so different than Judas. We see ourselves in Judas: we love ourselves, we love money and our allegiance is easily swayed. Maybe we wonder why Jesus never held Judas at an arms’ length. Judas was treated just like the rest of the disciples, sent to preach and do miracles and entrusted with the money bag. But this Judas would betray the Lord. This betrayal is sad and discouraging, but we do not need to wonder Who is in control. Judas is responsible for his actions, and yet God knew this would happen and will use it to bring the promised Lamb to the altar and to bring salvation to sinners. This is humbling for us, but also encouraging. It is humbling to see that even someone who was so close to Jesus would rather betray Him than believe in Him. We need to pray that God will give us eyes of faith. But this is also encouraging because no foe or betrayal puts a roadblock in front of the work of God. God will bring salvation, and though people turn away, Jesus’ mission will be accomplished and He will be exalted. Suggestions for prayer We will always be surrounded by sin while on this earth. Pray that God will not let us be led away from Him, but that we would grow in faith, believing that nothing can hinder the Lord from working salvation and that sinners like us are saved by God’s grace.   Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...

Daily devotional

April 1 – Introduction to the month of April

Our calendars tell us that Easter is this month. There is much debate on the accuracy of the date and if Christians should participate in Lent and how to celebrate Easter, but we should never take lightly nor forget what occurred and what it means that Jesus let Himself be betrayed, arrested, placed on trial and crucified. And then we need to think about what it means that Jesus rose from the grave and ascended to heaven. The identity of the Christian is found in the death and resurrection of Christ. This month we will spend time looking at and learning from the events leading up to the death of Christ and then we will look at how the ministry of Christ is carried out after His resurrection. We will pay close attention to Peter, who is famous for denying Christ and then later leading the church. As we look at Peter, the point is not to learn from and be like Peter, but to see ourselves in Peter as an example of one who is nothing without the Lord, but who in the Lord is able to live a life to the glory of God and service of His kingdom. I pray that this month you grow in your awareness of your sin and weakness and as you do so, grow in your amazement at the great love of God shown to us in Jesus Christ. As you grow in your grasp of who Christ is and are filled with Christ, I pray that your life will show a more humble faith and more eagerness to live a life to the glory of God. A national holiday “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.” – Luke 22:1-2 Scripture reading: Luke 22:1-6 On April 1st, many families like to play jokes on each other. One April fools morning I hid all of our bowls and then asked the kids to set the table. They were baffled to discover the bowls were nowhere to be found. We might laugh at a joke about breakfast, but one thing that no Israelite would find funny would be a joke about the Passover feast. This was their national holiday and it celebrated the victory and identity God gave them when they were rescued from Egypt so many years ago. In the days of Jesus, the Israelites were once again under foreign oppression. The glory and the freedom of the former kingdom had long since faded. They only held onto hope. But this Passover would be different. On this night, Jesus is the Passover Lamb Who will soon be slain to deliver His people from bondage, to free them from their sin and from the oppression of Satan. At Passover, the Jews celebrated the angel of death passing over them because the blood of the lamb was on their doorposts. They were celebrating salvation. But now Jesus will show them how He has come that whoever believes in Him may have life and salvation. This is still a matter of life and death - not something to joke about, but instead, something we need to ponder and learn about. See what Jesus would do and endure in order to be our Passover Lamb. Suggestions for prayer We are so easily distracted. Pray that God will help you to ponder what Christ has done. Ask God to help you grasp the love of Christ in coming to set His people free. Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children. ...