Bible Devotions

Heart of the Matter

But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. Deuteronomy 30:17-18 NKJV

The Bible has a lot to say about the heart. In fact, using’s keyword search on “heart” reveals 926 different references throughout the entire Bible.  We’ll look at a few verses to get a better understanding of the complexity of our heart.

Starting out with a Wicked Heart

  • Genesis 6:5 NKJV – Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
  • Jeremiah 17:19 NKJV – The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?

Our Heart has Many Attributes

  • Luke 24:38 NKJV – And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?
  • Proverbs 19:3 NKJV – The foolishness of a man twists his way, And his heart frets against the LORD.
  • Proverbs 12:25 NKJV – Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad.
  • Proverbs 15:13 NKJV – A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
  • Matthew 5:28 NKJV – But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
  • Proverbs 28:14 NKJV – Happy is the man who is always reverent, But he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.

Our Heart Determines our Focus

  • Matthew 12:35 NKJV – A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.
  • Luke 12:34 NKJV – For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

We can Control our Heart

  • Deuteronomy 11:16 NKJV – Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them.
  • Psalm 78:37 NKJV – For their heart was not steadfast with Him, Nor were they faithful in His covenant.
  • 1 Chronicles 22:19 NKJV – Now set your heart and your soul to seek the LORD your God.
  • Proverbs 2:2 NKJV – So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding;
  • Proverbs 22:17 NKJV – Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, And apply your heart to my knowledge;

The Lord Looks at and Tests the Heart

  • 1 Samuel 16:7 NKJV – But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
  • Psalm 7:9 NKJV – Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, But establish the just; For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds.
  • Proverbs 17:3 NKJV – The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests the hearts.

We could go on, but we’ll stop there as this list should begin to portray the complexity of the heart.  Now, what do we do with this information?

God desires us to love Him with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength (Deuteronomy 6:5).   He wants us to give our entire being over to Him in a whole-hearted commitment.  He even makes it possible by giving us the Holy Spirit to purify our hearts by faith (Acts 15:8-9). As the paslmist said “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10), we know God would answer that prayer because it’s inline with His perfect will.

Our take away is to remember the heart is central to our relationship with Jesus Christ.  If we believe with the heart and confess with the mouth Jesus Christ is Lord, we will be saved (Romans 10:9-10). Therefore, we need to continually feed our heart wisdom, knowledge, and truth or it will turn back to evil.

The book of Romans tells us to overcome evil with good.  So we need to consciously be on guard protecting our hearts.  Keeping our hearts set on Jesus that we may be pure and blameless when He returns.  Paul tells us to keep our thoughts fixed on things lovely, pure, true, honorable and just because these nourish the heart.   Whatever is in our heart will eventually come out.  Lord tests our hearts and through adversity, trials and tribulations a person’s heart is revealed.

How’s your heart?

Lord thank you for creating a clean heart in us today.  Thank you for your grace we receive by faith in Jesus Christ.  Help us to set our hearts on you so we won’t be deceived or turn away to other gods.  In your precious name we pray, Jesus, Amen.

©Elizabeth Marks has led small group Bible studies for almost a decade.  Author of and websites she has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.

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Not Too Mysterious

“For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. Deuteronomy 30:11-14 NKJV

To paraphrase Moses, he says “Look God’s word isn’t too mysterious for you and not too hard to grasp. You don’t need anyone to interpret it for you.  You can understand it yourself.”  Everyone is able to read it and understand it.  God ensures this. To those who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, He gives His Holy Spirit to dwell in us.  By His Holy Spirit we are taught the things of God.  He reveals His truth as we seek Him in His word.

This is great news! No special training required.  You don’t have to go to seminary school to unlock God’s word.  There’s no human middle man needed.  God Himself, in Spirit form, will help us understand.  With His help an inductive type Bible study can greatly increase our understanding of the word.   Inductive method simply means we observe what it says, then think about what it means, and only then move to how it applies to us today.  Structured, reasonable and logical study lead by the Holy Spirit in us will reveal truths you never thought were there before.

Sadly, many professing believers don’t read their Bibles.  You’ve probably heard some say “I just can’t read it” or “I just don’t understand it.”  What are the possible driving factors that prevent people from reading God’s precious word?

(1)   Lack of Perseverance – Maybe they tried reading it once or twice but gave up too soon.

(2)   False Expectations – Perhaps they expected some great “Ah-ha” moment to happen but it didn’t.

(3)   Lack of Reverence-Unbelief may cause people to doubt the Bible is really God’s Word.

(4)   Lack of Priority – Many people are just too busy with the “cares of this world.”  There’s really no time to read they say.

(5)   Lack of Discipline – Some just read God’s Word without making any effort to really see and understanding what it says.  You’ve heard the saying “in one ear and out the other”, well these folks take in God’s word but it doesn’t stay with them.

(6)   Lack of Salvation – Another reason could be they haven’t given their life to Christ yet.  Without the Holy Spirit’s instruction, it may be difficult to read God’s word.

Do any of these reasons apply to you? Pray for God to show you what may be hindering further insight of His word.  Then be obedient and take care of whatever He shows you.  Lastly, keep at it.  Read a little every day and in time you will begin to see more clearly.

Whatever the reason, God’s word is still for everyone. God is real and He rewards those who seek Him.  Not only does He save us from sin and death, but he reveals Himself to us in various ways.  The more we seek Him through His word and prayer, the more He shows us who He is and what He’s like.

God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but all to come and be saved.  The Bible teaches us about God and His Ways.  It also tells us about our own sinfulness and our need for a Savior.  The Bible shows us the path to Salvation is in Jesus Christ who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

God’s word is for everyone.  It is clear and not confusing.  God expects His children to read it, learn from it, live by it and share it with others.

Lord, thank you for making yourself known to us.  Thank you for your Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our salvation and great help in leading us in your truth.  Draw us closer.  Give us a desire to seek you through your word each day.  In Jesus’ name Amen.

©Elizabeth Marks has led small group Bible studies for almost a decade.  Author of and websites she has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.

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When These Things Come Upon You…

“Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God drives you, 2 and you return to the LORD your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3 that the LORD your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you.” Deuteronomy 30:1-3 NKJV

God knows what we are going do or not do.  He makes provisions to get us out of our own poor choices.  He knows we disobey.  It’s not a matter of IF we sin, it is more like when.  He tells us WHEN we are in the midst of His blessings and curses we are to remember He said this would happen.

As we remember it is God who both blesses and curses, we are more likely to return to God and obey His voice.  Sometimes we need to experience the depth of our own depravity before we can accept God’s grace and compassion.  We recognize how Holy God is only by seeing clearly how sinful we are.  This shows off God’s mercy in His willingness to forgive us.  Remember He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay for our sin, so we could stand pure, blameless and righteous before Him.

Thank you, God, for loving us and forgiving us and drawing us back to you.  We come to you this day and ask for your help to cling to what is good and right and pure.  Teach us more about you and your ways by your Holy Spirit in us.  Thank you for saving us through faith in Jesus Christ.  In His precious name we pray. Amen.

©Elizabeth Marks has led small group Bible studies for almost a decade.  Author of and websites she has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.

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Effort or Revelation?

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. Deuteronomy 29:29 NKJV

Have you ever been stuck in needing to know something?  There’s a situation happening in your life and you have this unrelenting need to know why it’s happening.  Ever been there?

The children of Israel had that problem too.  Moses gave them some good advice.  “The secret things belong to the Lord our God…” He suggests that the unknown or secret things belong to God and are not for us to know, so move on.

Moses continues saying, “but those things which are revealed belong to us…” In effect he is admonishing the children of Israel to leave the unknown to God and focus on what has been revealed to us.  That’s great advice.  Focusing on the uncertain only creates worry and anxiety.  However, focus on what is known is more tangible, concrete, stable and comforting. This verse is reassuring for a number of reasons.

First is suggests God is the one in control.  He decides what we need to know giving our current situation, state of maturity and belief in Him.  He gives us exactly what we need in that moment, no more and no less.  Second our knowledge doesn’t come from the effort, strain or desire we place in studying God’s Word.  It is good to study God’s Word, but we must recognize our dependence on God to reveal His Truth to us.  The third reason this verse is reassuring is because what is revealed belongs to us forever.  God’s wisdom is not granted temporarily.  It is given forever.  The truth He reveals cannot be taken away.  Oh, we may forget it sometimes but God even ensures against that by giving us His Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit’s job is to bring to remembrance all God has shown us.  How fabulous is that?

Some folks think studying God’s Word is like mining for gold.  It takes a lot of hard work to uncover a single nugget of truth.  But those who think that are relying on their own effort to understand.  Yes, there is effort involved in studying God’s Word, but God is the one revealing His truth at the appropriate time.  Have you ever read a passage of scripture and found more meaning in it than the first time you read it?  The first time you might get some understanding, but some time later you read the same verse and this time it has a fuller meaning.   That’s God showing you a little more.  There is the element of obedience required, where we continue to read and study God’s Word.  The payoff happens when God decides to unlock His Words when you’re ready for the truth.  It’s a beautiful thing when that starts happening.

Why does God reveal anything to us in the first place?  The answer is wrapped up in the last part of today’s verse: “that we may do all the words of this law.”  God wants us to succeed. He wants His children to prosper. Following God’s plan is the only way.  When He reveals Himself to us, we are more likely to trust and follow Him.  It’s a process that will last our entire life.  He reveals a little more each day.  We learn to trust Him more with each circumstance.  Therefore, we are more inclined to trust Him with the next situation that arises.

God is in control.  Our effort doesn’t increase our knowledge because God reveals truth in His timing.  His Holy Spirit helps us not forget the truth He reveals, so we may have it forever.  Is God great or what?

Thank you, God, for revealing what we need to know when we need it.  We trust you to provide exactly the truth needed for every situation.  We come to you in complete dependence on you.  In Jesus’ name we pray Amen.

©Elizabeth Marks has led small group Bible studies for almost a decade.  Author of and websites she has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.

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God’s Characteristics

Today’s reading is a phenomenal chapter outlining characteristics of God.  Before you’ll see that let’s, start with pray:  Father God above, you alone are worthy of all praise.  You know all things.  You have provided everything we need to live a godly life until Christ returns.  Reveal your truths today through your Word by your Holy Spirit.  In Jesus’ name Amen.

Read Deuteronomy 29.  Read it slowly.  Read it more than once.  Take time to reflect on it.  Look for the facts first.  Move to the meaning of the words next.  Look for the timeless principle God is showing you.

Deuteronomy 29 is about the Lord speaking to the children of Israel through Moses.  He is reminding them of all God has done in their presence.  He is encouraging them to remain in covenant with the faithful God Almighty.

As mentioned, this chapter outlines some of God’s characteristics. Let’s take a look:

  • God’s power is on display in verses 2 – 3.
  • God’s compassion is evident in verses 4-8.
  • God’s kindness is extended in verse 9.
  • God’s authority and our accountability are shown in verses 10-11.
  • God’s faithfulness and reliability are depicted in verses 12-13.
  • God’s fairness to all is discussed in verses 14-15.
  • God’s mercifulness is outlined in verses 16-19.
  • God’s jealousy is graphically displayed in verses 20-22.
  • God’s wrath is explained in verses 24-28.
  • God’s revelation is spoken of in verse 29.

God, who is all-powerful, compassionate, kind, faithful, fair, merciful, jealous and has all authority is angry with those who do not come to Him.  God has blessings upon blessings for those who will receive Him.  God’s plans are not to harm but to prosper us.   In verse 9 He says “keep the words of this covenant that you may prosper.”

God wants all to prosper under His blessings, but it is conditional.  If we choose to enter the covenant we must acknowledge He is God, deny our self and idols, and turn to Him.   If we don’t turn, we choose to deceive our self, live in denial and we reap curses instead of blessings.  God doesn’t want us saying “‘I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’—as though the drunkard could be included with the sober.” (verse 19)  If we are to experience peace, it will be when we yield to God’s way of living, depending on Him to provide as a result of our obedience.

Speaking about depending on Him, it is God who makes and keeps the covenant with us.  He is faithful even when we are not.  For Romans 5:8 says “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  He was willing to make a way for us, even while we were His enemies.  We shunned Him.  We exalted our self as god.  We lived how we wanted to, yet God came in the flesh to die for our crimes against Him.  God’s covenant is for everyone who is willing to enter it.

It is my sincerest desire you take time with God and His word.  Prayerfully read it daily.  Let it change the way you think.  May you regard God’s Word as the oxygen you breathe, for in it contains the truth about life and death.  May you, as Moses said in Deuteronomy 30:19: “Choose life.”

Lord God, thank you for your life-giving words.  Thank you for your Spirit helping us discern your truth.  Teach us your way of life.  Enable us to receive your blessings through obedience to you.  We come, just as we are, to you this day.  In Jesus’ name we pray Amen.

©Elizabeth Marks has led small group Bible studies for almost a decade.  Author of and websites she has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.

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Deuteronomy 28 – Blessings or Cursings ~ The Choice is Yours

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV

Read Deuteronomy 28.  It’s a long chapter, but read it anyway.  It describes the blessing of obedience to God and the curses that come from disobeying God.  While reading think about today’s verse: 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Keep in mind even this section of scripture has something in it for us.  Though we are no longer under law, because Jesus came to fulfill the law, we are wise to be trained by it.  The law teaches us there are consequences attached to our decisions.  Sometimes we forget that. The law also teaches us we can not keep it.  So it actually points out our flaw (sin) and our need for help (Savior).

I know most people don’t like talking about all the negatives.  We’d rather read about the blessings instead.  Deuteronomy 28 reveals in great detail what happens when people choose not to follow God.  Fifty-three verses dedicated to describing the high cost of disobedience might indicate that God wants us to understand our decisions have consequences.

Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments… all these blessings will come upon you.  God will set you high above all nations of the earth.  You will be blessed in the city, country, with children, food, wealth, etc.  You will be blessed in coming and going, in your work, in the land.  Your enemies will be defeated and the Lord will establish you.  The list of blessings continues on.  It’s pretty exhaustive.  God is definitely generous as all these blessings should be overwhelming.  We can take these as training in righteous.

But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes…all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.  The same blessings described above turn into curses when there is disobedience.  Forty-nine more verses describe the all encompassing defeat experienced in every area of life.  The list is so awful you wouldn’t even want your worst enemy to experience it.  This is an example of rebuke.

Therefore, having read both sides the intelligent person can make an informed decision.  By weighting the pros and cons of following verses not following God, discernment and wisdom come.  For God wants us to count the cost of obedience the same way a builder counts the cost of building a house.  Weigh it for your self.  No one else can do it for you.  An example is given.  It’s our choice which one we follow.   Stopping long enough to decision is actually a form of correction.  For taking time to think about it, you may alter your decision, turning away from an automatic response and choosing to do right instead.

Of course God, like any good parent, wants His children to listen to Him.  He knows what’s best for us.  He even knows us better than we know our self.  His plan is to prosper us and lead us into an abundant and eternal life.  The Bible is God’s Word, given that we may know Him and how to live for Him.  His word equips us for His purposes.

Lord God Almighty, thank you for your word and your Spirit to lead us into all truth.  Help us make the wise choice of obeying the voice of the Lord our God.  Speak to us through your word.  In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

©Elizabeth Marks has led small group Bible studies for almost a decade.  Author of and websites she has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.

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If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true

Read John 5:31-40.

In Biblical times, it was custom to have two or three witnesses to establish the truth.  Well, Jesus gave us four witnesses.  Jesus never ran around saying, “Hey everyone I am the Savior of the world.”  He didn’t say, “I am God so you’d better listen to me.”  Instead, He relied on four other witnesses — the word of God, God the Father, what others said of Him, and His life.

Jesus told the Jews the scriptures testified of Him.  He went so far as explaining, if they had believed Moses then they would believe Him because the word of God was written about Him.  Think about this.  All the writing of Moses, the first five books of the Bible, testified of Jesus.  Contained in those five books are the account of creation, sin, sacrifice, the Ten Commandments, disobedience by children of God, inheritance and the promises of God.  All those things were pictures of Jesus and His purpose.   Then there are the prophetic books indicating the Messiah coming from a virgin birth and other references of the Messiah’s work when He arrived here (Isaiah 61:1-3, Isaiah 53).  Scripture speaks of Jesus.

Jesus explained the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me.  Remember, when John the Baptist, baptized Jesus?  A voice from heaven said, “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  At the transfiguration, Peter, James and John, witnessed the Father speaking from heaven again saying, “This is My Son, listen to Him.”  God the Father testified of Jesus.

Jesus let others say who He was.  In both Matthew 26:62-64 and Mark 15:2 when the priests and Pilot asked him if he was the son of God, king of the Jews, Jesus answered, “It is as you say.”  He didn’t rub their noses in it.  He didn’t fight His way out of the circumstance He was in.  He didn’t monologue all the proof points of His deity.  He simply let other’s speak of Him.  In John 1:29, John 1:32-35, John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus to be the Lamb of God and the Son of God.  Peter confessed Him as “the Christ”.  Philip told his brother we’ve found the Messiah, come and see.  Even Simeon an elderly priest upon seeing the 8 day old Jesus, said  he could die in peace for he had seen the promised One.

As if all these witnesses were not enough, Jesus also let His life and His works demonstrate who He was.  No mere human could have done all the things Jesus did.  His works pointed to His deity and power.  He healed a man who was born blind.  Never before had that happened.  He cast out demons from a little girl, the little boy, and the man at the tombs.  He healed lepers which was incurable in those days.  He even raised the dead multiple times.  There was a young man, a little girl, Lazarus and of course Himself, all were raised from the dead.

Following Jesus example, we don’t need to tell people we are Christians.  Our very life should be testimony enough.  Proverbs 27:2 says “Let another man praise you; and not your own mouth; a stranger and not your own lips.”   As we take Jesus’ commands to heart and begin living them out, our lives become the very “light of the world” Jesus called us to be.  Jesus told us to love one another for in doing so the world will know we are His disciples.

Would others know you’re a Christian by your behavior, words, or works?  What does your life say about Jesus?

Lord thank you for your example, your word and your spirit to lead us into all truth.  Guide us this day that your word may abide in us.  Let your love shine through us so the world may see you, believe you are real and be saved for all eternity.  In your precious name, Jesus, we pray. Amen.

©Elizabeth Marks has led small group Bible studies for almost a decade.  Author of and websites she has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.

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Father God and Jesus the Son are One

Read John 5:12-23

The Jews were accusing Jesus of making Himself equal with God.  Jesus answers them saying all the ways He and Father God are one.  In essence, Jesus is telling the Jews they were right He was equal with God. He then goes on to outline six ways that He is equal with God.  Jesus was agreeing with their accusation and providing supporting evidence to prove the point.

“Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20

  • He and Father are one, so integrated so they can not be separated.  Both with same mind, will, and desires.

“For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. 21

  • This love includes.  It reveals.  It shares its true heart.

“For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. 22

  • All authority and power is given to Jesus.  Anything God the Father can do, Jesus can do.  Proving they are one.

“For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23

  • Jesus is the supreme judge. Father God has given Him deciding vote.  We know how He votes: Not Guilty because He chose to die for us!

“that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father.”

  • Jesus deserves same honor as God the Father because He is the Son.

“He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”

  • There’s only one way to the Father’s heart, through His Son.  If we reject the Son, we reject the Father.

The timeless principle is Jesus and Father God are one. In what ways do we treat Jesus different from the Father? How do you think Father God feels when Jesus is treated different from Him? What specific way can we honor God the Father?

Lord God Almighty, you and Jesus are one.  If there is any way in us that doesn’t acknowledge Jesus as your son drive it out of us this day.  We pray in Jesus’ name Amen.

©Elizabeth Marks has led small group Bible studies for almost a decade.  Author of and websites she has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.

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