Bible Devotions

City of Refuge

Read Joshua 20

The God of mercy instructs His people to set aside certain cities to become places of refuge.  This way anyone who accidentally kills someone could go and live without fear that the dead person’s family would try to kill him.  They would live in that city until the high priest died.  After that they could go back to where ever they lived previously.

Did you notice this was for accidental death not for pre-meditated murder?  God has a heart for the innocent.  God wants justice to prevail.  His ways protect the innocent.

Why is it we tend to think the worst in others so readily?  We jump to conclusions and judge others without knowing all the facts.  I’m thankful God is the Just Judge.  He knows all things and can judge fairly.  His judgment is right.

When God says “all have sinned” He means everyone.  There is no one who is innocent and hasn’t sinned.  When God says “the wages of sin is death” He means death is only way to deal with sin.   Thankfully God is more than Just, for had He been just, we all would perish because of our sin.  God is merciful. He paid our sin debt through Jesus’ death on the cross.  His death cleared the charges against us.  So in His eyes we are innocent.

Now we live in a city of refuge.  Not an earthly city where we live only as long as the high priest.  But a heavenly city where the High Priest – Jesus Christ – lives forever and so do we!

God cancels our debt.  He covers us with His righteousness.  He ushers us into His kingdom to live forever with Him.  He did this not because we were innocent by our own efforts, but because of His mercy cancels our sin and makes us innocent by His actions.

Challenge Point:

God has shown you much mercy.  Who can you show mercy to rather than judgment today?

How can you demonstrate mercy towards this person?

Father of mercies, thank you for your righteous judgment.  Thank you for paying our sin debt for us.  Enable us now to walk in the new life in Christ and demonstrate your mercy towards our fellow neighbors. In Jesus’ name we pray Amen.

For more Bible Devotions…

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

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A Song for Children of Israel

Now therefore, write down this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me against the children of Israel. Deuteronomy 31:19 NKJV

God gave Moses a song to teach the children of Israel so they would be reminded of their depravity and God’s greatness.   Read Deuteronomy 32:1-12 .

It starts by saying heaven and earth shall listen and hear.  It describes this teaching is the nourishment we need to grow.  Next it outlines some of the things that make God great:

  • He is the Rock
  • His work is perfect
  • His ways are justice
  • A God of truth
  • He is righteous and upright

The focus shifts away from God and turns to the people.  What does it say about the people?

  • They corrupted themselves.
  • They are blemished
  • They are perverse and crooked.
  • They are foolish and unwise.

The songs turns back to God, admonishing the people to consider history.  Ask your father and ask your elders what God did in the past.  The rest of the verses up to verse 12 outline all God did for the children of Israel.

  • He found him in a desert land.
  • He encircled him.
  • He instructed him.
  • He kept him as the apple of His eye.
  • The Lord alone led him.

To see the greatness of God, we need to see our own perverseness.  Let’s review a few definitions:

  • Corrupt: to change from good to bad in morals, manners, or actions. Morally degenerate and perverted; Depraved, putrid, tainted, to become rotten or spoiled.
  • Crooked: not straight, dishonest.
  • Perverse: turned away from what is right or good; corrupt.  Obstinate in opposing what is right, reasonable or acceptable; wrongheaded.

Do these definitions help us see our stubbornness toward God?  The preceding verses highlighted God and His abilities.  God’s ways are perfect. He is truth.  He is righteous and upright.  God is all that and more.  Yet, we are obstinate in opposing what is right.  We stubbornly choose to continue in our self-sufficiency, in the strength of our determination or willpower.  A day is coming when we discover we cannot carry on in our power any longer.  We grow weary and burdened from our self-inflicted march leading to hopelessness and despair.

But God is patient.  He waits for us to come to our senses.  He has given us everything we need to live a godly life filled with abundance by His grace.  God uses everything to work out His perfect plan.  Oddly enough our poor decisions play a key role, for some need to live apart from God in order to know more fully the mercy and grace He offers when they are read to receive it.

If you had a deadly but treatable disease, would you not take advantage of medical treatments to cure the disease?

The Bible tells us we all are infected with a deadly disease called sin.  The wages of sin is death.  But the good news is there’s a free cure – Jesus Christ.  For the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ.  For those our sins may be as scarlet, He washes them white as snow.  He removes our sin as far as the East is from the West.  He remembers our sin no more.  Jesus died to pay for our sin, so we wouldn’t have to.  That’s how much He loves us!

How do I receive this cure?

Believe Jesus died for your sins that God raised Him from the dead and confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and you will be saved.

Pray something like….

Dear God, I know now I am a sinner. Jesus died in my place to pay for my sins.  As you raised Him from the dead, raise me to a new life in you.  Jesus is Lord. In His name I pray. Amen.

Believe you have received and you shall have eternal life.  If you prayed that prayer from your heart, welcome to the family of God.  You have just passed from death to life. Congratulations!

Don’t stop there. Continue to read God’s word to learn more about your Savior and His plan for you.

Lord God Almighty, you love us with an everlasting and unchangeable love.  Thank you for your willingness to make a way for us to know you.  Thank you for dying in our place so we could be made alive in you.  Thank you for your teaching to guide in how we should live.  Continue your good work in us until it complete on the day Christ returns.  In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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

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Confess with Humility

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Are you able to admit when you are wrong? How about confessing your part in a disagreement? Are you able to come before someone and share your flaws, problems, addictions, hang-ups, or struggles?

If you answered yes, then chances are you are on your way to be humble. If you answered no even to one of these questions you might have to deal with your pride. James 4:8 NIV says “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want God opposing me. I want his grace instead.

No one can be humble when they are full of pride. One must first empty out the pride before humility will shine. How do we empty out the pride?

Start by identifying all the ways pride shows up in your life. This may take some time. You may want to start a journal to keep track of the times you spot it. If you don’t think you have pride, ask God to help you see. Look for situations where your thoughts are constantly about you. Bingo! There’s pride. Watch for times when your feelings are hurt when no recognizes your good deed and log that down too. Yep, more pride. Listen to your words. Are they bragging or boasting about your hard work or your efforts? Now, you’re starting to see pride.

This next step helps you deal with pride appropriately. Once pride is identified, learn to confess it to God through prayer as soon as possible. This will help get rid of pride before it becomes a stronghold. Learning to pray on the spot to confess your pride when it happens also develops a lifestyle of prayer which will draw you closer to God.

The last step in this exercise is talking things over with a trusted Christian friend of the same sex as you. Sometimes lessons aren’t learned completely until they’re shared with another believer who can help you see what you might have missed. Other times the believer is there for moral support. James 5:16 NIV says “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” It’s difficult being completely honest with our self. We need the strength of other believers to encourage onward so we don’t grow weary of doing what it right.

Proverbs 28:13 NIV says “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” If we want to learn to be humble, we identify pride in our life then confess it to God and others through prayer. Openly facing our flaws and asking for God’s grace is the path towards humility. Of course, none of this is possible with out the power from Jesus Christ in us. Through Him we can do all things.

©Elizabeth Marks has led small group Bible studies for almost a decade. Author of ThinkOnItBibleDevotions.com , YourBibleWitnessAtWork.com, & BeingWomenOfInfluence.com websites she has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.

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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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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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Impact for God’s Kingdom

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Read Acts 4:1-14

 

Peter and John were at the temple teaching and preaching to various people about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  The first thing to notice is the different kinds of people they spoke to: regular people, religious people such as priests, working people like the captain of the temple and other religious people called the Sadducees. 

 

To me this speaks of getting God’s Word out to all people, no matter what their background or current state of living they may be in.  God wants all His creation to hear and believe His Word.  The Bible teaches God doesn’t want a single one to perish (Matthew 18:14).

 

Next we see a threefold reaction to this teaching.  First, the people became greatly disturbed.  When you are not ready for the truth it can be very disturbing.  Think about it.  You’re going about your business, thinking everything is fine and then you’re confronted with the truth and can plainly see you’re on the wrong side.  That doesn’t make a lot of people feel real comfortable.  The Bible teaches men loved darkness rather than light (John 3:19).  In darkness, their evil deeds can go on unnoticed by others.  We are called to expose the darkness with God’s glorious light (Ephesians 5:11).  For as we walk in the light, the blood of Christ cleanses us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7).

 

Second, the people grabbed Peter and John and through them in jail.  Following Christ has its cost.  Peter and John were experiencing it.  All they did was speak what they knew to be true and they were treated harshly by being wrongly imprisoned.  In our country, we might not find our selves being thrown in prison for witnessing to someone (at least not yet); we will encounter persecution of some kind.  For example, folks you considered friends may stop hanging with you when you start telling them about Jesus.  Why, even your own family members may shun you.  Just remember, Jesus said that would happen in Matthew 5.

 

Third, about five thousand men heard the word and believed.  Can you imagine having an impact like that?  Simply speaking God’s truth and five thousand people came to believe!  Now, that’s a miracle only God can work.  Doesn’t the minor inconvenience Peter and John experienced pale in comparison?  We may not always see this kind of result, but we can trust God to work the miracles when we are obedient to His calling.  Galatians 6:9 tells us not to grow weary of doing good for at the right time we’ll reap a harvest if we don’t lose heart.  We are to continue on whether or not it looks like we’re making a difference, because in reality we are making an impact for God’s Kingdom through our obedience.

 Lord, thank you for your word and your spirit leading us in truth.  May we be bold like Peter and John to share your word with everyone regardless of the inconvenience it may bring.  May we continue to do what is right, knowing you will work it out for good.  In Jesus’ name Amen.  

 

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

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One to Many

thinkonit-devotions-and-the-peace-of-god.jpgRead Acts 3.

 

God uses ordinary things to convey His glory.  Let’s look at Act 3 as an example.  It starts out with an ordinary scene: a lame beggar at the temple gate.  In that day and age the lame had no way to support themselves except for asking for a handout.  This scene turns out to be the spring board to sharing God’s message. 

 

Look at how God’s glory radiates from this scene.  When the lame man is healed personally, what does he do?  Acts 3:8 tells us he was walking, leaping and praising God.  When a life is changed by God it is dramatic, just like this lame man walking again was dramatic.  When my hardened heart was melted away by God’s love and forgiveness I was jumping for joy praising God too. 

 

Others were affected by this man’s healing causing them to wonder what was going on.  The lame man was so excited about being healed and Acts 3:9 tells us others saw him.  When we react to what God’s done for us and we are not ashamed or afraid to show it, others take notice.  This is exactly what God wants.  He wants us to be examples of His grace, so others will come to Him for salvation. 

 

As people often do, they gravitate to the humans involved in an extraordinary event.  Again God has a way to use that.  Look at what Peter did when all the people looked to him as the miracle worker in Acts 3:12-16.  Peter turns the people’s attention off himself and on to God who did the work.  Next he reminds the people of their refusal to accept Jesus as the Son of God and how they murdered him on the cross.  He goes on to say it is by Jesus’ name, through faith in His name that has made this man strong.  If Peter had stopped here, it would have been crushing for those who heard but that was not the plan of God. 

 

Peter explains “I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers”.  All the things the prophets spoke had to be fulfilled he tells them.  In essence they played a critical role in fulfilling prophecy.  However, it’s now time for them to repent, be converted that their sins may be blotted out and times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19).  Peter offers the people a way out, showing them how all of God’s prophets spoke of these things and how the message was to turn them away from their sins.

 

Isn’t it beautiful how God uses one changed life to cause many others to come to know him?  What’s holding you back from displaying God’s glory?  You never know who could be influenced to make a decision for Christ through your example, just as this lame man didn’t know his healing would result in many coming to know God’s awesome power. 

 Lord Jesus, thank you for taking away our sin and giving us power in your name.  May we boldly live out our changed lives so others may come to know you.  In your name we pray Amen.  © Elizabeth Marks, author of ThinkOnIt Devotions and has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.  For more articles, devotions and book reviews, visit http://www.ThinkOnItDevotions.com today.

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Great Mercy

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In Acts chapter 2, we see how great the mercy of God is towards the Jews who crucified Christ.  It was Pentecost when all the believers came together in one accord early in the morning.  God poured His Holy Spirit upon them and immediately they started praising God in other languages. 

 

Next, the Jews who saw this happen began hearing their own native languages being spoken by the believers.  How strange this must have been to them.  How could a Galilean speak their language?  Don’t you just love how God gets people’s attention?

 

The Jews’ first reaction was to say the believers were drunk.  Peter stands up and says no they are not drunk but filled with God’s Spirit.  He recounts all that happened to Jesus, using scripture to point out Jesus was the Son of God and stately plainly the Jews were responsible for Jesus being crucified. 

 

By this the Jews are cut to the heart and appealing to Peter asking “what can we do”?  The answer is clear: “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remissions of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Then those who gladly received Peter’s words were baptized. 

 

The believers continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.  They continued daily in one accord at end of the chapter, as they had done in the beginning of the chapter.  The result was “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

 

It’s a simple message: Jesus Christ died for our sins.  Those who receive this message will have life and be saved.  New daily habits are formed such as reading God’s Word, fellowshipping with other believers, taking communion in remembrance of Christ and in prayers. 

 

Are you experiencing these new habits?  If not, why? 

 Lord Jesus, thank you for taking away the sins of the world.  Thank you for saving us and giving us your Holy Spirit.  Fill us again today that we may know the extent of your love for us.  Compel us onward in your Word, fellowship, communion and prayer.  In Jesus’ name Amen.   © Elizabeth Marks, author of ThinkOnIt Devotions and has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.  For more articles, devotions and book reviews, visit http://www.ThinkOnItDevotions.com today

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