Bible Devotions

Parable of Two Sons

 

Have you ever been frustrated by your child’s response to your instructions?  My 13-year old son has this automatic habit of answering, “No, I won’t do it” whenever I asked him to do anything.  Although it still drives me crazy inside, I’ve learned to simply wait because after some time he usually carries out what I previously asked. 

 

This reminds me of the parable of the two sons Jesus taught us in Matthew 21:28-31 NKJV. “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?”
They said to Him, “The first.””   One son says no I won’t go but does it anyway.  The other son says sure I’ll do it but doesn’t.  The one who first refused is actually the obedient one because he did the work.

 

The truth is it’s not what we say that makes us obedient, it’s what we do.  James 1:22 NKJV says “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”  If we don’t act on God’s Word, we are no better than the second son who said “I go, sir” but did not.

 

What has God told you to do that you have not done yet? The time is now.  Make haste to carry out His commands.  For Jesus said in John 14:21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them it is he who loves Me.”

 Lord enable us to be doers of the word.  May we be quick to listen and obey to demonstrate our love for you. In Jesus’ name Amen.   © Elizabeth Marks, author of ThinkOnIt Devotions and has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.  For more devotions, bible studies and a recommended book store, visit http://www.ThinkOnItDevotions.com today.

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My Prayer for You

To all who read this, I pray that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. In Jesus’ name Amen.

 

Scripture reference: Philippians 1:9-11 and Ephesians 3:16-19 NKJV

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Now I know for Certain

 And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.” Acts 12:11 NKJV 

God knows exactly what each of us needs to truly believe.  In Peter’s case, he was able to walk with Jesus Christ for 3 years and was given the power to heal people (Acts 9:33-35) and raise them from the dead (Acts 9:36-41).  He also received a vision regarding the definition of clean food to relieve his fears of associating with Gentiles and he was miraculously delivered from prison (Acts 12).  All these things lead Peter to conclude: “Now I know for certain”. 

 

It was the same for me.  The Lord forgave me of great sin, removed my bitter/resentful/angry heart and replaced it with a tender heart of love.  He answered even my smallest prayers.   He renewed my marriage and blessed us with a second son.  He has blessed me with many godly encouragers in my life and this writing ministry.  He speaks to me through His Word, by impressions and through repeated confirmations.  All these things have led me to say, like Peter, “Now I know for certain” the Lord is true, just and right and all He allows is used for His glory, even the bad things. 

 

What do you need in order to believe in Jesus? 

 

God already knows and is working on revealing it to you in His perfect timing.  If you struggle with some unanswered questions, ask God to help you trust Him.  The answer will come at just the right time.  Then you will be able to say “Now I know for certain”.

 Lord, bless those who are struggling today with answers to their prayers.  Continue your good work in them.  Draw them to a deeper understanding of you, so they may say “Now I know for certain”.  In Jesus’ name Amen.   

© Elizabeth Marks, author of ThinkOnIt Devotions and has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.  For more devotions, bible studies and a recommended book store, visit http://www.ThinkOnItDevotions.com today.

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Devoted to What?

 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. Acts 10:1-2 NKJV 

Merriam Webster defines devout as (1) devoted to religion or to religious duties or exercises, (2) expressing devotion or piety (attitude), (3) devoted to a pursuit, belief, or mode or behavior, serious, earnest. 

 

Based on outward appearances this Cornelius would have looked like he knew God.  However, God knew the true condition of this man’s heart.  God knew he was missing something so He sent Cornelius a message and at the same time He prepared Peter to deliver the message. 

 

Reading Acts 10 reminds me of other verses:

  • Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
  • Proverbs 8:17 NKJV “I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me.”
  • Jeremiah 29:13 NKJV “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

 

This man was earnestly, sincerely seeking God.  He was rewarded for his obedience and brought to a fuller, more complete knowledge of God when Peter shared Christ with him.  God is awesome.  He does hear and answer our prayers.  When we seek Him, He is found.

 

What’s our take-away?  Don’t let outward appearances keep us from sharing Christ.  Just because someone looks religious by their actions, doesn’t necessarily mean they know the Lord Jesus our Savior. Speak to them about Christ when you are lead by the Spirit to do so.  You’ll never be sorry, when someone believes in Christ through your faithfulness to share.

 Lord, thank you for your word that proves to us you are as you say you are and you do as you say you will do.  Thank you that we can trust you are a God of your Word.  Help us to be sensitive to your leading and share Christ with everyone around us at your prompting.  In Jesus name Amen.  

© Elizabeth Marks, author of ThinkOnIt Devotions and has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.  For more devotions, bible studies and a recommended book store, visit http://www.ThinkOnItDevotions.com today.

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What would you Take?

 

Watching the news reporters interviewing people being evacuated from their homes, many were asked, “What did you take?” An interesting question I suppose.  Most of the people answered something like I took my important papers, computers, photos and pets.  If this were you, what would you take?

 

The first thing I would save would be my Bible.  The thought of God’s Word burning up due to a senseless fire is too painful.  But it reminds me of the story of King Jehoiakim from Jeremiah 36. 

 

The king was just like us.  He didn’t want to hear what God had to say.  In fact, when God’s Word was read aloud to him, he took the scrolls, cut them up and threw them in the fire.  No amount of pleading would change the King’s mind as we see in Jeremiah 36: 25 NKJV: “Nevertheless Elnathan, Delaiah, and Gemariah implored the king not to burn the scroll; but he would not listen to them”.

 

Sometimes we’re like that too, if we’re honest with our self.  There are parts of God’s Word that are hard, like “love your enemy” and “be kind, tender and forgiving to one another”.  But God’s Word is still final.  When we “cherry-pick” only the good or easy parts, we put our self in God’s place, thinking we know best.  Oh believer, this is very wrong. 

 

God has ways of correcting this kind of behavior.  Look at how He dealt with King Jehoiakim in Jeremiah 36:27–32:

“Now after the king had burned the scroll with the words which Baruch had written at the instruction of Jeremiah, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying: “Take yet another scroll, and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned. And you shall say to Jehoiakim king of Judah, ‘Thus says the LORD: “You have burned this scroll, saying, ‘Why have you written in it that the king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and cause man and beast to cease from here?’” Therefore thus says the LORD concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: “He shall have no one to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat of the day and the frost of the night. I will punish him, his family, and his servants for their iniquity; and I will bring on them, on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and on the men of Judah all the doom that I have pronounced against them; but they did not heed.”’”  Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah, who wrote on it at the instruction of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And besides, there were added to them many similar words.”

 

There are two things to point out:

(1) God’s Word will remain. Jesus said in Matthew 5:18 NKJV “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

(2) God is God.  There is no one above Him.  His judgment is just.  We may not have to face what King Jehoiakim did, but we will experience consequences if we don’t heed God’s Word.

 

In conclusion, all of God’s Word is important.  Read it daily to get to know this God we worship.  Allow His Word to get into our hearts and renew our minds. 

 Lord, thank you for your Word that lasts forever.  Thank you for love and disciple when it’s needed.  Help us to desire your Word daily.  In Jesus’ name Amen.   © Elizabeth Marks, author of ThinkOnIt Devotions and has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.  For more devotions, bible studies and a recommended book store, visit http://www.ThinkOnItDevotions.com today.

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Fire in our Soul

 

The Southern California fires have grown worse each day.  From my backyard I can see the burning hills.  One of friend’s home was in jeopardy yesterday, but thanks to God it was spared.  This morning is no different.  Other homes are in jeopardy still and even the wildlife animals are searching for safe haven.

 

Although, my own home is not threatened by these fires my soul is devastated.  I’m constantly praying for people involved.  May the firefighters have the equipment and resources they need to protect people’s homes.  May the winds stop.  May it rain.  May the people with asthma be able to breathe. May the people who set the fire be brought to justice.  Then I remember, one day they will stand before the Lord and give account.  For their sake, I hope they come to the Lord Jesus and receive forgiveness of sins before that day comes. 

 

Yes, the fires are disturbing and unsettling.  However, rather than allowing them to overwhelm us we can choose to focus on the Lord.  We know the Lord is good.  He is able to make good come from everything, even from arson.  We may not get to see or hear for our self all things the Lord is doing through this, but we can continue to trust He is good.  Perhaps this is the time many people will give their life to Christ.  As in my case, it was through tragedy that God brought me to saving faith in Jesus.  So it may be with this. 

 

When we are tempted to dwell on how horrible these fires, all the damaged being done, or how hard it is to breathe, pause and remind your self God is good.  We may not know how good could come from this, but we know God can do impossible things.  As Jesus said in Matthew 19:26 “all things are possible with God.”

 Lord, thank you for your calming presence. Thank you for working all things for good to those who love you and are called according to your purpose.  Help us to focus on you rather than the discouraging circumstances.  We trust you.  In Jesus’ name Amen.    © Elizabeth Marks, author of ThinkOnIt Devotions and has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.  For more devotions, bible studies and a recommended book store, visit http://www.ThinkOnItDevotions.com today.

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God has a Plan

 

Read Acts 9:32 through Acts 10.

 

All through God’s Word we see intention.  God doesn’t do things haphazardly.  He is organized, purposeful and direct. 

 

Acts 9:33 says Peter found a “certain” man.

Acts 9:36 says there was a “certain” disciple.

Acts 10:1 says there was a “certain” man is Caesarea.

 

We get the word “certain” from the Latin word certus.  In its adjective form cerene means to sift, discern, decide, to separate to judge.  Merriam Webster’s definition of certain says fixed or settled, a specific but unspecified character.  It also means dependable, reliable, known to be true, inevitable, destined and assured in the mind. 

 

These three individuals were hand-chosen by God for a specific purpose.   God has a plan.  Everything He does is for an intentional purpose.  All of these examples lead to the same conclusion.  People were turning to the Lord.  Many believed on the Lord.  Some were even baptized in the name of the Lord. 

 

God’s purpose never changes. He desires none should perish but all come to Him and be saved. Matthew 18:14 NKJV says “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” John 3:15 NKJV says “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

 

Next time you read God’s Word, remember there is always more going on than just the story you may be reading.  God’s plan is bigger than one individual story.  How beautifully He orchestrates all the stories into His plan. 

 Lord thank you for your Word.  May your Spirit reveal your truth as we read your word. Enable us to your big-picture plan that we may stay focused on You in everything we do, say and think.  In Jesus’ name Amen.    © Elizabeth Marks, author of ThinkOnIt Devotions and has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.  For more devotions, bible studies and a recommended book store, visit http://www.ThinkOnItDevotions.com today.

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God’s call for Saul

 

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. Acts 9:15 NKJV

 

Read Acts 9.

 

God tells Ananias that Saul is His chosen vessel and outlines His purpose for Saul’s life.  Saul is to go before the Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel to bear God’s name. 

 

What did Saul do after he received his sight and spent time with the disciples at Damascus?  In verse 20 it says he went immediately to preach Christ in the synagogues.  In verse 22 is says Saul increased all the more in strength and confounded the Jews.   I wonder if Saul was supposed to go to the Jews first.  Back in Acts 9:15 God said for him to go to the Gentiles, then kings and then the children of Israel.  Perhaps where Saul started was his own choosing and not the Lord’s.  

 

Verses 23-24 says: “Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him.”  To me, this confirms it wasn’t the time to witness to the Jews.  But wait, God is so good.  His grace shines brightly in verse 25 when the disciples help Saul escape.  Next Saul goes to Jerusalem and again his life is threatened, this time by the Hellenists.  Again, God’s grace is visible in verse 30 when Saul is able to escape to Caesarea and Tarsus.

 

This is fascinating to me.  Talk about open and closed doors of opportunity.  Saul was bursting through every door trying to tell the good news of Christ to the Jews.  It seems logical Saul would want to go to the Jews first. After all he was a Jews.  But God had a different plan. Sometimes it takes a few failed attempts until we find the right path.

 

God’s goodness is evident as well in verse 31 when it says: “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.”  This is further confirmation God uses all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  Saul may not have been destined to go to the Jews first, but God still used those attempts to edify and multiply the churches. 

 

Reread this section of God’s Word.  Keep your eye focused on God’s grace.  It’s a beautiful thing.  God always makes a way out.  He still does for us today.  Look at what 1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV says: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”   This was written by Saul, who later became Paul.  He knows what he’s talking about.

  Lord thank you for calling us for your purpose.  May we be quick to listen and follow your direction. And when we fail to go your way first, may your grace bring goodness out of it anyway.  In Jesus’ name Amen.    © Elizabeth Marks, author of ThinkOnIt Devotions and has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.  For more devotions, bible studies and a recommended book store, visit http://www.ThinkOnItDevotions.com today.

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Fear of the Lord

  

…And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied. Acts 9:31 NKJV

 

Proverbs 1:7 NJKV says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge…” but knowledge of what?  Well, perhaps it is knowledge that life is not all about us, but rather all about God and His purpose.  It’s about focusing on God’s plans instead of our own self-centered plans.  Fear of the Lord is about having the proper view of God, who is the One really in control.  Everything exists because of Him and He sustains it all (John 1:3).   Fear of the Lord is about being reverent and respectful of God’s sovereignty and His right to rule.  It is a demonstrated respect for God through our obedience to His ways.

 

Walking in the fear of the Lord implies action on our part.  Once we begin to understand who God is and our own fallen nature, our life changes.  We are not sitting, standing, or laying down but walking, always moving, learning, reaching for more of the Lord, His Will and His Word.  When we act on what we’ve learned as James 1:5 says about becoming “doers of the word”, it is followed by the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

 

The comfort of the Holy Spirit is something quite extraordinary.  What brings comfort? Certainty, security, confidence, assurance and peace all provide a measure of comfort.  The Holy Spirit provides these as He confirms our spirit with His in us.  He guides us in all truth, so as more truth is revealed the more certain we are in our faith (John 16:13).  As He brings to remembrance all things Jesus taught our confidence increases because we know the right words will be spoken in every situation (John 14:26).  When we are steadfast in the Lord we have peace and comfort from the Holy Spirit which tells us we’re on the right path (Isaiah 26:3).

 

The result of walking in the fear of the Lord and in comfort of the Holy Spirit is God’s glorious purpose is fulfilled.  God doesn’t want a single person to perish, but all to come to Christ and be saved (Matthew 18:14).  As we are obedient, the brighter His light shines out through us.  We are the light of the world Jesus told us in Matthew 5:14.  His work in and through us will cause others to come to Him.  This is how the church, the body of Christ is multiplied.

  

Lord thank you for your word and your Holy Spirit in us leading us in all truth.  Enable us to be doers of the word that your light will shine forth from us and cause many to come and be saved.  In Jesus’ name Amen.  

© Elizabeth Marks, author of ThinkOnIt Devotions and has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.  For more devotions, bible studies and a recommended book store, visit http://www.ThinkOnItDevotions.com today.

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Getting our Attention

 

Read Acts 9.

 

God has ways of getting our attention.  With Saul of Tarsus, God literally knocked Saul off his horse and blinded him. Sometimes God allows sickness or other physical ailments to get us to slow down.  Maybe we have been doing too much and need a reminder to do only what the Lord wills. Other times God might use a loss of a job to get our attention. 

 

The question is are we paying attention?  Are we reading the signs God’s placed in our lives? 

 

The Lord doesn’t just get our attention and leave us wondering.  He is specific with us.  Look at how He interacts with Saul in Acts 9:6 “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”  I find that very comforting.  Imagine you were just struck blind.  I’m sure our mind would be racing thinking all sorts of things: how will I provide for my family, how can I care for myself, who will help me, how do I get things done, etc.   Though we may not be afflicted in same way as Saul, the Lord still wants us to listen for what we must do and be confident He will lead us. 

 

During the days Saul had no sight, I’m sure he spent plenty of time praying.  He was probably reassessing his life wondering what he did wrong to deserve this affliction. Isn’t that just like us?  When something goes “wrong” we think we must have done something to cause it.  I’m sure that’s the case sometimes like when we have to reap the consequences for our sin.  There are plenty of other situations that are not caused by us but rather used for God to develop His image in us.  Maybe we need to learn patience or perseverance or faith.  Circumstances can help us develop godly character traits.

 

In Acts 9:9 it says Saul went without food or drink for the entire three days.  The Bible doesn’t tell us why.  We could speculate many reasons.  Perhaps he meant his denial of food as a fast to help increase he chances of his prayers being heard.  Maybe he was so consumed with his predicament he just couldn’t eat.  Here’s a stretch, maybe he was fearful that someone who try to poison him in his weakened state.  After all he was persecuting the Christians in that day.  We don’t know why he didn’t eat or drink in all that time.  But we do know God was using those days to radically change Saul’s life. 

 

Is God trying to get your attention?  Listen.  He will tell you what you must do.  Isaiah 26:3 says of God: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Also in Isaiah 30:15 “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” It’s time for us to follow the advice of Psalm 46:10:  “Be still and know I am God.”   Lastly, we’ll end with Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

 

Lord thank you that all things work together for good for those who love you and are called according to your purposes.  Help us recognize when you are trying to get our attention.  Enable us to listen for your clear direction.  Give us the courage to obey.  In Jesus’ name Amen.

  

© Elizabeth Marks, author of ThinkOnIt Devotions and has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.  For more devotions, bible studies and a recommended book store, visit http://www.ThinkOnItDevotions.com today.

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