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Daily devotional

Sunday February 24 – History as His story

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. – Psalm 33:10-11 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 8:16-29 For the secular person, studying history can be so disappointing and discouraging. History is filled with heart-wrenching events. We see the inhumanity of man over and over in the rise and fall of nations, in the waves of crime that sweep through every culture, and in the greed and self-centeredness that marks humanity. To look at history without recognizing that it is the account of God redeeming His people from the curse of sin is a thoroughly frustrating experience. The secular historian can only conclude that history is a tragic circle that keeps repeating itself over and over. But in this passage, and the passages that follow, God is at work. God allowed the cruelty of Hazael to bring judgment on rebellious Israel. In turn, God will bring about the demise of Hazael and the Syrians. His counsel stands forever; all nations, all political leaders and all the events of the world are in His hands. When we understand that, then even the great tragedies of history which break our heart are yet understandable. We realize that it is not because God is uncaring or inept that tragedy comes into the human experience, but rather the evil one is in constant conflict against God and His people. But God brings good out of tragedy for His people, and in the rise and fall of nations, He yet works for the good of His eternal kingdom, as all events will culminate in the glorious return of Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer Thank God, with sincerity, that He works all things for our good, even deeply disturbing tragedies that we don’t understand. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Saturday February 23 – The deadly power of sin’s enticement

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? – Romans 6:16 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 8:7-15 This tragic passage teaches us that sin, which initially shocks, becomes less shocking if it is mulled over in our mind and heart. Initially, Hazael questioned how he could be as cruel as Elisha described him. But after mulling it over in his mind, for just a day, he decided murdering Ben Hadad was well worth receiving the kingship. But it isn’t just a heinous murder such as Hazael committed which becomes less shocking if we mull it over in our mind. Every type of sin imaginable becomes less shocking the longer we think about it. It was Thomas a’ Kempis who pointed out, “First there comes to mind the bare thought of evil, then a strong imagination thereof, afterward, delight and evil motion, and then consent.”  That is why it is so crucial to flee from sin and to focus in faith on Christ. If we don’t flee from sin, we will be captivated by it. James brings that out clearly: When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death (James 1:13-15). Scripture warns us that we are either a slave to sin or a slave to Christ (Romans 6:16). By God’s grace may you and I have Christ as our Master, our Savior and Lord, as we flee from sin! Suggestions for prayer Pray for the fruit of the Spirit, including self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), asking God to help you focus on Him and not the temptations that are put before each one of us. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Friday February 22 – God’s perfect timing

… Just as Gehazi was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, the woman whose son Elisha had brought back to life came to appeal to the king for her house and land. – 2 Kings 8:5 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 8:1-6   God’s timing is truly remarkable! In the case of the Shunammite woman, God provided for her through the perfect timing of His providence. When she went to the king to ask for her property back, Gehazi “just happened” to be telling the king how Elisha had restored the woman’s son to life. That is remarkable timing! But it should not be surprising to anyone who knows the God revealed in Scripture. When did the band of Ishmaelites travel by a remote pit on their way to Egypt? It was just after Joseph’s brothers had put him in that pit to die. And when did Haman fall on the couch begging Queen Esther to spare his life? It was when King Ahasuerus walked back into the room and, filled with anger, decreed Haman’s death.   And when did the Lord Jesus Christ offer Himself as the Passover Lamb, whose blood alone is sufficient to cover your sins and mine? It was at the time of the Passover when the full significance of His sacrifice would be realized by many gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover feast. The Lord created time; it is His servant to accomplish His purposes. Because of that, whatever events come into your life and mine, even the sad, sorrowful ones, are in God’s hands which should give us great encouragement, as we pray the prayer of the Psalmist, “My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!”  (Psalm 31:15). Suggestions for prayer Thank God that our times are in His hands and that He controls the time and season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Especially thank Him that when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Thursday February 21 – So close, yet so far

There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. – Luke 13:28 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 7:3-20; Luke 13:22-30 The remarkable passage in 2 Kings reminds us that for the sake of Christ, God provided food for His people (v.16), just as He does today, in lean times and times of plenty (Matthew 6:25-34). But it also teaches us that we are not to savour the feast without telling others the good news of the gospel. The lepers feasted on the food left behind by the Syrian army. But they realized what they were doing was not right. In verse 9 they said, “What we are doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves.” But do you realize that a lot of Christians today do the same thing as those lepers did? Is it possible that in your life, you have done that? I know that in my life, unfortunately, many times I have feasted on the gospel without telling others the good news. The passage is also a graphic warning, reminding us that the punishment of unbelief includes the torment of seeing the blessing, but not partaking of it. Elisha had told the captain, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.” The captain was so close to abundant blessings, and yet so far. But he is not alone. All those who reject the Word of God and harden themselves in unbelief will come under the Lord’s judgment. And part of that judgment will include seeing the blessing and glory of salvation for others, but not tasting it themselves (Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 13:28). Suggestions for prayer If you have entered the narrow door of salvation (Luke 13:24), thank God for His grace. If you are unsure, pray that God will enable you to strive to enter the door of salvation by faith in Christ alone. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Wednesday February 20 – The floodgates of heaven

But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” – Luke 18:27 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 6:32-7:2 We should not be surprised by the unbelief of the king’s officer who exclaimed, “If the Lord himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” In his response, we see the natural response of humanity to God. Unbelief in the human heart is so strong that Jesus taught, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). It is only by God’s grace that any of us believe in Him. If God, in immeasurable grace, did not transform your heart and my heart by the regenerating power of His Holy Spirit, we would be just as unbelieving as the servant who expressed his great doubt to Elisha. In contrast to a heart of faith is a heart of unbelief. Consider King Jehoram. When he heard that the woman had eaten her son, he immediately blamed the Lord and Elisha (vs.31, 33), even though the Lord had warned the people that such a horrific disaster would come upon them if they rejected Him and His Word (Leviticus 26:27-29; Deuteronomy 28:15, 53-57). The view of Jehoram, that God is to be blamed for our hardships, is hardly a unique view. Proverbs 19:3 serves as an incisive commentary on the wicked blaming the Lord as it declares, When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD. May your heart and mine be focused in faith on Jesus Christ, not doubting His power to save, but always rejoicing in Him! Suggestions for prayer Thank God that all things are possible for Him, even our salvation from sin and the gift of everlasting life through saving faith in Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Tuesday February 19 – Worldly sorrow and true repentance

I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin. – Psalm 38:18 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 6:24-33 King Jehoram surprised the people by wearing sackcloth beneath his royal robe. Wearing sackcloth was highly significant; it denoted great sorrow and implied repentance for sin. However, an outward expression of repentance means nothing if it isn’t sincere. Immediately after revealing that he was clothed in sackcloth, Jehoram described how he planned to kill Elisha that very day (v.31) and blamed God’s servant for the disaster (v.33). Perhaps you have known people who are quick to apologize, but then they go back to doing the same thing that they apologized for. A genuine apology and true repentance require a change in conduct. In fact, that is the meaning of the word repentance. It means to turn. To repent is not just to say to the Lord, “I’m sorry for my sin,” but it involves turning from that sin. All of our life involves repentance, but unfortunately, because of the sinful nature within us, we never completely turn from sin. Instead, until the day we die, we struggle with sin and temptation. In the life of every true believer, repentance from the heart is so crucial, for godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death (2 Corinthians 7:10). King Jehoram, like so many others, including Judas Iscariot, had a worldly sorrow. But by God’s grace may you and I have true repentance that leads to salvation, as our sins are covered by the precious blood of Jesus. Suggestions for prayer Pray the prayer of David, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” (Psalm 51:1-2). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years...

Daily devotional

Monday February 18 – God’s angelic army

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 6:8-23 If you were Elisha’s servant, looking out at the forces of Syria surrounding you, how afraid would you be?  From the servant’s point of view, he and Elisha were doomed. The Syrians had surrounded them; there was no way of escape. By contrast, Elisha was as calm as could be. When his servant exclaimed, “What shall we do?” Elisha replied, “Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (v.16). Elisha had no doubt that God’s angelic force was there. He understood that God’s army is far greater and more powerful than any human army. He understood the truth that is written in Psalm 91:9-11: Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge—no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. Elisha exemplified the truth of Psalm 20:7: Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God and he exemplified the truth of 1 John 4:4, He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. With that knowledge, would you be afraid? We may not face the force of the Syrian army, but we face the attack of the evil one and his followers. But the same God who protected Elisha and his servant says to us, “Fear not!” and promises to be with us, even to the end of the age! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that He has power over the forces of evil in a fallen world and thank Him for the promise of His Son, “I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Sunday February 17 – He cares for you!

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. – Matthew 6:34 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 6:1-7 Sometimes we think that God would only care about the big anxieties in our life, a diagnosis of cancer, the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job. But this passage reminds us that God cares about every aspect of our lives, even the borrowed axe head that is lost. I knew someone who bought a new vehicle only to discover that the seat hurt her back so much that she could not drive it for any length of time. She had an air bladder installed to give the seat lumbar support, and she asked me, “Is it wrong to pray that this would make the seat more comfortable?” It was another way of asking, “Should I only approach the Lord in prayer with the ‘big issues of life’? Or can I go to the Lord and call upon His name for help and consolation in the ‘little things’ of life?” And the answer is that we are to go to the Lord in prayer over the little things as well as the big.  As David wrote in Psalm 55:22: Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. And how does Peter use that verse in 1 Peter 5:7?  He writes: Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Whatever cares and anxieties you have, bring them to the Lord in prayer. Since He redeemed us by the precious blood of His Son, He cares about every aspect of your life and mine! Suggestions for prayer Use Philippians 4:6-7 as your prayer guide: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Saturday February 16 – God is not mocked

He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. – Psalm 7:15 Scripture reading: Judges 1:1-7 Reflecting on Naaman’s leprosy (2 Kings 5:27) we see that God often uses the sin that people commit to return against them as judgment. Consider that Haman was hanged on the gallows he had made for Mordecai (Esther 7:8-10). Or consider the lesser known, but equally equitable example, of Adoni-bezek, one of the Canaanite kings. Whenever he would capture another king he would cut off their thumbs and their big toes.  By removing their big toes he hampered their mobility. And by severing their thumbs he made it virtually impossible for them to grip a sword in retaliation. It was also an act of great humiliation for the seventy kings Adoni-bezek had captured. But then his day came; he was captured. His big toes and his thumbs were cut off, and he acknowledged the justice of the punishment. He said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and their big toes cut off used to pick up scraps under my table. As I have done, so God has repaid me” (v.7).   His life is one of many biblical examples teaching us the truth of Galatians 6:7-8: Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. May we, by God’s grace and enabling Spirit, always strive to live according to His Word, reaping eternal life through faith in Christ alone. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that He is a righteous judge who will repay the unrepentant wicked, and thank Him that He credits the righteousness of Christ to all who believe in Him. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Friday February 15 – God knows your heart

So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow. – 2 Kings 5:27b Scripture reading: 1 John 1:5-10 As we see Gehazi’s leaving Elisha’s presence, leprous, as white as snow, the question could be asked, “Did he ever repent?” Every sin conceived in the heart, pondered in the mind, put into action by the will – every sin, even premeditated, willful sins can be forgiven by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Whoever believes in Jesus Christ with saving faith, no matter what is in their past, becomes white as snow, not with leprosy but with the purity of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Old Testament believers were saved by grace through faith in the coming Messiah, just as you and I are saved by grace through faith in the Messiah – the eternal Christ, who came in human flesh to save His people from their sins. I ask the question whether Gehazi may have been saved because we will read about him again in 2 Kings 8 (though some question whether that passage is in chronological order). We will find him speaking to the king of Israel about all the great deeds that God had done through His servant Elisha. Had Gehazi learned from God’s judgment upon him? Had his heart been cut to the core? Had he repented with true godly sorrow? (2 Corinthians 7:10).  Had he put his faith in the Messiah yet to be revealed? We don’t know, and we don’t need to know. God knows and God will, on the last day, pronounce the right verdict, not only for Gehazi but also for you and for me. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the truth of His Word that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). And then confess your sins to Him, with full assurance of pardon and salvation! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Thursday February 14 – God’s just judgment

For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. – Ecclesiastes 12:14 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 5:15-27 The tenth commandment, prohibiting covetousness, is often broken before any others. Gehazi’s coveting led to a series of lies, which included an elaborate story. In order to lie so convincingly, as Gehazi did to Naaman, leads us to believe that Gehazi had lied many times before. We are surprised and shocked when we hear of a professing Christian who is caught in a heinous public sin. But with further reflection, we often realize that whatever public sin was committed and discovered had probably been going on for some time in secret. But what is a secret to us is an open book before the Lord. Gehazi discovered the truth of Hebrews 4:13 long before it was written: And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Gehazi wanted what Naaman had, and he received it. He got some silver and nice clothes, but he also received Naaman’s leprosy, leprosy that would affect his children and grandchildren for generations to come (v.27). There is only one way to escape the just punishment of God on sin. It is to trust with saving faith in Jesus Christ, for “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Suggestions for prayer Thank God that for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Wednesday February 13 – A gift that cannot be bought

Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. – 1 Peter 1:18 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 5:8-14 Naaman discovered that salvation is a gift of God’s grace that cannot be bought. He could not buy his cure with gold or silver, not even with ten extremely valuable suits. Naaman, to his initial dismay, also found that he could not be cured of leprosy by influence, not even with a letter from the king. Yet there are many people today who try to buy their salvation with deeds of self-righteousness, not realizing that we have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment (Isaiah 64:6a). Many others try to be cured of their sin by influence. “I have been a lifelong member of the church,” they might say. Or, “Because of my baptism, I know that God will receive me.” But the sacraments, precious as they are to those of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, can never save us. The only way to be cleansed from sin, which is represented by Naaman’s leprosy, is to be cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus which is portrayed by the cleansing that Naaman received as he washed himself seven times in the Jordan River. When we come to Christ in saving faith we are cleansed from something far worse than leprosy; we are cleansed from sin and granted eternal life, which is why we are to live to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6)! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that the day prophesied by Zechariah was fulfilled at Calvary by Jesus Christ: On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness (Zechariah 13:1).   This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years. ...

Daily devotional

Tuesday February 12 – A terminal condition

…He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. – 2 Kings 5:1 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 5:1-10 Naaman would be one of those people who would be hard to buy a present for. I’m sure you have encountered that. Maybe you have a friend or family member who seems to have everything.  At Christmas or their birthday, what can you possibly buy for them? Naaman was like that. He had everything that those in the world value; he had a great job as the commander of the Syrian army and he had prestige, success and wealth.  Yet, even though Naaman had all these blessings, there was not a single person in Syria who would trade places with him, for, as verse 1 points out, He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. His leprosy was no minor rash. It was a serious skin disease. There was no human cure. He needed the cleansing that only God can provide. And in that way, Naaman was just like you and just like me. His leprosy was like our sin. The wages of sin is death, the Bible warns, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).  We need the cleansing that only Jesus can provide. Naaman sought out Elisha, the man of God. Have you and I, by God’s grace and Holy Spirit’s power, sought out Jesus, the Man who is true God, yet truly human, sent to save His people from their sins through faith in His cleansing blood? If so, what gratitude we should have! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for all His blessings, especially for the cleansing from sin that comes through saving faith in Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Monday February 11 – A childlike faith

“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” – Mark 10:15 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 5:1-5a; Mark 10:13-16 Naaman had the death sentence of leprosy on his life until, by God’s gracious providence, a young girl witnessed to him. Although this girl was young, she had experienced excruciating trial. Verse 2 explains, Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. It was a terrifying experience to be taken captive. Yet, like Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon, she continued to live out her faith in the Lord. And because she did, she had the respect of Naaman and his wife. They listened when she said to her mistress in verse 3, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” Although she had been taken captive in war, she had steadfast faith and trust in God. She had faith that God would work through Elisha to bring healing for Naaman. Despite her circumstances, she focused in joyful faith on the Lord and witnessed to others about Him. Jesus taught that whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. In the trials of your life and mine, do you and I remain steadfast in faith, trusting in God’s mysterious providence? And through our trials and our joys, do we witness to the cleansing power of our Lord so that others may know Him? By God’s grace, may you and I follow the example of the young girl and always have a childlike faith! Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to give you the same trust in His Fatherly care that a young child has in a godly earthly father, praying the words of Mark 9:24, “I believe; help my unbelief!” This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Sunday February 10 – The bread of life in Gilgal

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” – John 6:32 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 4:38-44; John 6:22-51 As the Lord sustained Elisha and the prophets through a severe famine, we see that He uses whatever means He wills to accomplish His purposes, even a little bit of flour and twenty small loaves of bread.  But that should not surprise us because it points to the biblical truth that God will always provide daily bread for His people (Matthew 6:11, 25-34). It also foreshadows the truth that Jesus is the Living Bread who cleanses and sustains all who look to Him in saving faith. All the Old Testament writers looked forward to Christ. Every cleansing is a foreshadow of the cleansing that Christ brings. Even the cleansing of the stew foreshadows the cleansing, the purification, that God brings to rancid sinners. The bread brought by the man from Baal-shalishah is pointing ahead to Him who is the Bread of Life, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In John 6:51 Jesus declared, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (the flesh being a reference to His body being pierced and crucified at Calvary). It is by grace through faith in Christ alone that we are sustained in this life and raised up in perfection, body and soul, on the last day.  If you truly believe that, then live to the praise of God’s glorious grace, today and always! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for His cleansing power and thank Him for His Son Who is the Living Bread Who sustains us throughout the pilgrimage of this life and throughout eternity. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Saturday February 9 – Life from above

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins …But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – Ephesians 2:1, 4-5 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 4:32-37; Ezekiel 37:1-14 We see the power of faith and prayer in this passage, but above all, the passage teaches us the power of God to impart life for both body and soul. The resurrection of the boy is a shadow of the resurrection of Jesus and all who have faith in Him. It also portrays the spiritual life that God graciously imparts to all who have faith in Jesus, for we were dead in our sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1-5). Elisha’s act of breathing into the boy’s mouth portrays the breath of the Holy Spirit who breathes the breath of everlasting life into those who are spiritually dead. It points to the truth that Jesus spoke in John 3:5-7, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you ‘You must be born again.’” At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus spoke these familiar words: “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). Martha responded with sincere and joyful faith. She believed in Christ and His power to give life to the dead, not just physically, but spiritually. By God’s grace, may the same be true for you and me! Suggestions for prayer Praise God that because He has given us spiritual birth He has also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6-7). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Friday February 8 – Straight to Christ

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 4:8-31 Among the many truths taught in this passage is that at any time and in all situations, we are to go straight to Christ, of whom Elisha was a shadow. It may seem strange that the Shunammite did not stop to tell Gehazi, or anyone else, about her son’s death. She continued straight to Elisha and would only speak to him. It may seem strange until we realize that Elisha was a foreshadow, or type, of our Lord Jesus Christ. She did not stop to talk to Gehazi. She wanted to go straight to the man of God. Yet there are many who go to the saints, praying to them or to Mary, expecting that they will intercede on their behalf. But there is only one intercessor. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). The Shunammite’s husband was surprised that she would go to Elisha when it wasn’t the new moon or Sabbath (v.23). In his mind, you would only approach the man of God at certain times. Many people act much the same way. Instead of a special observance for the new moon, they approach the Lord in outward worship at Easter and Christmas, but seldom at other times of the year. And there are many who attend church on Sunday and yet throughout the week seldom approach the Lord with prayers of adoration and praise, as well as petition and supplication. But may you and I always go straight to Christ, being fervent and faithful in prayer! Suggestions for prayer Thank God that we can approach Him anytime in prayer because of our faithful High Priest, Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Thursday February 7 – The debt paid

...even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. – Matthew 20:28 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 4:1-7 God’s provision to pay the widow’s debt points us to His payment for our debt of sin. It wasn’t just a widow back in Elisha’s day who had a debt so large she could not pay it. The same is true for you and for me. None of us can pay the debt of our sin. The only one who could pay the debt of sin is Jesus Christ.  Jesus frequently spoke of His death as a payment for a ransom. In Matthew 20:28 Jesus said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Just as God provided for the widow through Elisha, God provides for the payment of our debt of sin through Christ. The promise is given, but it is only realized by faith. The free offer of the gospel is extended to all, but each one, by God’s grace and regenerating Spirit, must believe the promise. The same was true for the widow. The promise of the payment was offered. The means was stated. But she needed faith that the oil would be provided. By God’s grace, she believed and was spared. May the same be said of you and me! May we not only hear, but also respond in saving faith to the only One who can pay the debt of our sin. Suggestions for prayer Pray the sentiment of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 back to the Lord with thanksgiving and earnest devotion: “I am not my own; I was bought at a price. Therefore, I will honor You with my life.” This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Wednesday February 6 – Three kings and God’s prophet

When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD. – Proverbs 19:3 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 3:1-27 This slice of history teaches us many truths, including the error of making plans without prayer. The first 12 verses describe how three kings were lost and in dire need because they did not inquire of the Lord. But who did Jehoram blame? Not himself, but God! (vs.10, 13). It reminds us that the wicked seldom see God’s hand unless disaster strikes. Even today, a natural disaster is called “an act of God,” but the radiance of a beautiful sunset is attributed to “Mother Nature.” We also see in this passage that God uses the same means, in this instance water, to be a blessing to some (v.17) and to bring judgment upon others (vs.22-24). This is especially true in the response of humanity to Christ. Every person in the world will either be eternally blessed by their relationship to Jesus Christ, or they will suffer eternal judgment because of their rejection of Him. As Simeon said to Joseph and Mary, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed… so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35). Jesus Christ is either the blessed Savior and Lord of your life, the One Whose praise you proclaim and Whose Word you eagerly strive to obey. Or, He is the stone of stumbling and the rock of offense. By God’s grace, may He be your blessed Savior and Lord, the focus of your faith! Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the privilege of prayer as you seek His guidance for your life with gratitude for the gift of His Son. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Tuesday February 5 – God’s use of the insignificant

…Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 3:1-12 This passage reminds us that the Lord often uses insignificant people and events to accomplish His purposes, for nothing is too hard for Him. When the three kings realized how perilous their predicament was, Jehoshaphat asked where they could find a prophet of the Lord. Who pointed the way to Elisha? It was an unnamed officer of the king. It was just a common everyday person who answered, “Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who poured water on the hands of Elijah” (v.11). The pouring of water on the hands refers to a menial task that Elisha had in his service with Elijah. Elisha had left his family’s prosperous farm to become a humble servant of Elijah’s. During that time, about a decade, nothing is written about Elisha’s service. But we gather from verse 11 that he served willingly in whatever job was put before him, even the menial task of providing water for Elijah. He is an example of what Paul would write to the Colossians about: Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men (Colossians 3:23). You might feel insignificant, as though there is no purpose for you in God’s kingdom, but God has no insignificant people. Even those whose names we don’t know are known to God, for He knows each one of us by name, and has a purpose for our lives! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that He has a purpose for you. Ask Him to reveal His purpose for you with clarity, and then strive to live according to God's purpose – His will – for your life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Monday February 4 – Bethel or Beth-Aven?

So Jacob called the name of the place where God had spoken with him Bethel. – Genesis 35:15 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 2:23-25; Genesis 28:10-22 The account of Elisha at Bethel seems harsh until you consider the history of Bethel. Bethel means “house of God” and was given that name by Jacob after he had a dream about a ladder ascending into heaven (Genesis 28:19). Bethel was later called “Beth-Aven” meaning “house of evil” (Hosea 10:5) because Jeroboam built a temple for a golden calf at Bethel (1 Kings 12:28-30). The jeering of the youths reflected the mindset of the community. They jeered him, not just for his bald head, but because he was a prophet of God and not a follower of Jeroboam’s golden calf. Their mocking phrase, “Go up, you baldhead!” was likely intended to mock the ascension of Elijah. Their taunting and disbelief foreshadowed the taunts given to Jesus on the cross. This short sad account reminds us that religion itself is not ridiculed by the world. False religions are accepted, just as calf-worship was revered in Bethel. It is biblical, Christ-centered religion that is ridiculed (John 15:18-25). It also teaches us that there are blessings for those who listen to God’s Word and accept His messengers (2 Kings 2:19-22), but judgment for those who reject His Word and His messengers (2 Kings 2:24). By way of application, all humanity is either in Bethel or Beth-Aven. But we are only in Bethel – in God’s house – through saving faith in His Son, Who alone is the way, the truth and the life, the only way to the Father (John 14:6)! Suggestions for prayer If you are a member of Bethel, a child of God through faith in Christ, thank God for His grace and mercy! If you are still in Beth-Aven, on the outside looking in, pray remembering the promise of Jesus, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years. ...

Daily devotional

Sunday February 3 – Living water in Jericho

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. – Luke 19:10b Scripture reading: 2 Kings 2:19-22; Luke 19:1-10 Polluted water is like sin; it has a pervasive, detrimental effect on everyone as it permeates and destroys everything in its path. Although salt seemed to be a strange remedy, it symbolizes God’s covenant with us. Salt was required on all grain offerings and is described in Leviticus 2:13, as the salt of the covenant with your God. The cleansing of water in Jericho foreshadowed the work of Christ. Jesus also went to Jericho to do a work of cleansing. He went to the home of Zacchaeus, a tax collector who was known as a great sinner. The people said, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” But Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:9,10). In that sense, Jesus is still in Jericho because by His Word and Spirit the Son of Man still seeks and saves those who are lost.  AsHe does so, He goes to the source, cleansing the heart of sinners, just as the polluted water was cleansed at the source, at the spring (v.21). The same One who cleansed the waters of Jericho so long ago can cleanse your heart and mine. He does so first by giving us saving faith in Christ as we are justified. And then, having begun that good work in us, He carries it on to completion as He sanctifies us by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.  Suggestions for prayer Thank God that just as the water in Jericho was permanently cleansed (vs.21, 22), so are we when we believe in Christ, knowing, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

Saturday February 2 – Taken into glory

Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven. – Acts 1:11 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 2:9-18; Acts 1:1-11 The company of prophets saw that the spirit of Elijah was resting on Elisha, but their eyes were blinded to the reality of Elijah’s ascension into heaven. Unless the Lord in sovereign grace gives us spiritual eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to respond, we will not understand our need for the ascended Christ.  As 1 Corinthians 2:14 points out: The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. By God’s grace, by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, do you see the spiritual truths of God’s Word? Do you see that Elijah’s ascension was but a foreshadow of the ascension of Jesus Christ? Do you see that Christ sacrificed Himself for you before ascending into the glory of heaven so that one day you, too, may ascend into glory by His merits and not yours? Do you see that He will return in glory, bodily, not to bear sin but to judge the living and the dead? Do you eagerly await His return and the unveiling of the new heavens and the new earth? If so, then look for every opportunity to serve Him with gratitude and joy, just as Elisha did so long ago, as he served as Elijah’s attendant! Suggestions for prayer Thank God for revealing His Son to us through the types and shadows of the Old Testament as well as the New Testament testimonies of His redeeming love. And thank Him that we too will ascend into glory as He will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself (Philippians 3:21). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....

Daily devotional

February 1 – Introduction, and our dependence on God alone

On the road to Emmaus, two disciples walked with the resurrected Lord Jesus. Luke describes how beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:27). It is little wonder that after He left them, they said to one another, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:31). All of Scripture reveals Christ to us. He is written about in the Old Testament as well as the New, and in the Old Testament there are many types and foreshadows of Christ. Among those who were a type or foreshadow of Christ was the unique prophet, Elisha. He pointed to the ministry of Christ as he cleansed lepers, provided for widows, fed the hungry, raised the dead as well as foreshadowing the ministry of Christ in many other ways. As we look at Elisha’s life, it is my prayer that we see the One whom he foreshadowed, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our dependence on God alone Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. – John 15:4 Scripture reading: 2 Kings 2:1-14; John 15:1-11 Elisha was called by God to take on the ministry that Elijah had begun. It was an enormous task. Elijah had proved the power of God on Mount Carmel as fire from heaven ignited a water doused altar. Elijah was the one who confronted wicked King Ahab head on. The Lord had even given Elijah power to raise a widow’s son from death. What would Elisha need to fill such a high calling? Would it be imperative for him to be a great orator calling Israel back to the Lord? Would the success of his ministry rely on his ability to be witty and clever, winning the Israelites over with his personality? Not at all. Instead, he recognized his dependence on God alone. He asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. By asking for that blessing, Elisha showed his complete dependence upon the Lord. By asking for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, Elisha was acknowledging his own emptiness and his need to be filled with God’s Spirit for the work that lay before him. The same is true for you and for me. We need the blessing of God’s Spirit within us. By the Holy Spirit’s regenerating power, we believe in Jesus Christ. He is the true vine; we are the branches. Apart from Him, we can do nothing, but through faith in Him, we have salvation from sin, eternal life and daily strength! Suggestions for prayer Instead of asking for material blessings, ask the Lord for spiritual growth and ask Him for wisdom in living out the truths of His Word in your life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ted Gray has served as pastor of First United Reformed Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois for the last 15 years....