Bible Devotions

Return to Me

Yet you have not returned to Me says the Lord. Amos 4 NKJV

Do God’s people really need reminding to return to Him? Yes. Apparently they do as we see in Amos chapter 4.

The opening verse is used five times in this chapter and every instance He is talking to the children of God, Israel, God’s chosen people.

If we are not careful to watch and pray to stay close to God, we will stray or drift away just as Israel did.

Let’s take a look at the offenses God’s children committed that are recorded for our benefit.

  • They oppressed the poor
  • They crush the needy
  • They got drunk
  • They bring sacrifices every morning and tithes every three years
  • They offer thanksgiving sacrifices with leaven
  • They proclaim and announce their freewill offerings

The Hebrew word for “oppress” is “asaq” meaning to press upon, for example to defraud, violate or overflow. Further definition includes get deceitfully, deceive, defraud, drink up, oppress, use oppression, oppressor, do violence, an do wrong.

The Hebrew word for “crush” is “rasas” meaning to crack in pieces, literally or figuratively, break, bruise, crush, discourage, oppress, and struggle together.

God cares for the poor and needy. In what ways do we find ourselves oppressing or crushing the poor? Remember, to not think about the poor is just as bad.  God wants us to care for the poor and needy. Dueteronomy 15:11 says “For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’”

How often do we drink our problems away? Proverbs 31:5 tells us drinking makes us forget the law and pervert justice for all the afflicted.

What about sacrifices? How often do we ask forgiveness from God? God would rather we obey Him from the beginning than continue asking forgiveness. 1 Samuel 15:21-23 says “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.”

What about the good we do?  Are we quick to brag about it? Proverbs 20:6 says most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man?  Psalm 5:5 says the boastful shall not stand in Your sight, you hate all workers of iniquity.

As we read God’s Word and study how the people responded, we can learn much about our self.  With God’s Holy Spirit to guide us in all truth, we can know how to take an accurate assessment of our self.  Once we recognize sin in our life, we confess it to God and knowing Jesus’ work on the cross has already forgiven our sin, we can ask for His power to avoid the same sin in the future. God is faithful an just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But we have to be willing to turn to Him. Are you?

Father, thank you for your Word, your Spirit, your desire to do what is pleasing to you. Thank you for so many second chances.  In Jesus’ name we pray Amen.

© ThinkOnIt Bible Ministries Inc is a 501(c) (3) Public Charity helping you grow in knowledge and understanding of God’s Word.  Visit us at http://www.ThinkOnIt.org today.

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Pain Along The Journey

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.  But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you. Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ. 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 NKJV

It’s all about the Lord, isn’t it?  Everything is the Lord’s.  He rules over it all.  He is the one guiding our hearts toward Him.  He gives us our very breathe.  He provides for our every need.  He guards us against the evil one.  We do none of this on our own.

God is faithful.  He will establish you.  This section of scripture reminds me of 1 Peter 5:10: But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”  After you have suffered a while it says.  We can conclude suffering is part of growth journey. There are some things we can never learn without suffering.

In my own journey, I had to suffer the consequences of poor choices.  I had many expectations in life, none of which came out the way I envisioned.  I was disappointed most of the time.  Then, again, I believe most perfectionists are disappointed constantly.  It’s a sad condition to live in.  As I became more critical of others and cynical about life, I resented everyone and I allowed bitterness to take up residence in my heart.  I did not handle things well in the past and it brought me more pain, than I ever imagined.

During times of suffering, God is there, eager to show Himself faithful, loving and kind.  All He asks is we turn to Him, trust Him and He will lead us out of the difficulty, whatever it may be.  I can say He was there for me.  When I finally could stand no more of my life, sobbing in the shower one morning, I prayed “Jesus, I have messed up my life! Help me! The bible says You died for my sins and rose again to give me a new life.  Please come into my life and give me a new life. Amen.”   I did not know how my life could ever be good again, but a wonderful peace came over me anyway.  He was there waiting for me to turn to Him.  He was faithful to answer my prayer.

God will perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.  The bible teaches us this, but the Spirit of God living in us, confirms it in our own lives.  He did for me.  He will for you.  Are you trusting God today?  If not, ask Him to convince you how good He is. He will not disappoint!


Lord, thank you for wanting to come into our lives and heal us from our poor choices.  Thank you for your faithfulness to answer our prayers.  Thank you for dying for our sins and rising again to give us a new life in Christ Jesus. Amen.

© ThinkOnIt Bible Ministries Inc is a 501(c) (3) Public CharityHolding out Hope to those who are Hopeless

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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 BibleGateway.com’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 ThinkOnItBibleDevotions.com and BeingWomenOfInfluence.com websites she has a heart for encouraging others with God’s Word.

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Nothing is Impossible for God

And the LORD visited Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had spoken. Genesis 21:1 NKJV

Sarah who was barren and also in her 80s or 90s had laughed when the Lord told her she would conceive and bear a son. Sometimes God’s promises seem impossible. With God nothing is impossible. If He says it will happen you can rest assured it will happen. God can do the impossible.

I once was filled with bitterness, resentment, anger, hatred and murderous thoughts. My heart was hardened by years of disappointments and unmet relational needs. But then I learned of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for me. I called upon His name. He met me where I was and lifted me out of the pit I was in just like Psalm 40:2 NKJV says: He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps.”

As I began the journey of my new life I discovered the truth of Romans 12:2 NKJV: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” God’s word did renew my mind! And just as Ezekiel 11:19 NKJV says: “Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh,” God replaced my stony heart with a tender heart of flesh.

What I thought was impossible proved to be incredibly possible with God’s help. I know now God does what He says He will do. He can be trusted. He is faithful and just.

Is there something you think is impossible for God going on in your life today? Trust Him. He won’t let you down. Instead He may give you the desires of your heart, when you delight in Him just as Psalm 37:4 NKJV says.

Lord God Almighty, we are thankful nothing is too hard for you. Thank you for being faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Draw us near you today. 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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Neglecting Our Calling Due to Pride

Read Jonah.

 

Even godly folks have times of pride.  Jonah is another example of what pride can do in our life. He apparently was a godly man, for he heard the call of God.  He knew his mission and purpose.  Yet, he tried to run away from God.  He tried to forget God existed.  He stubbornly chose to go the opposite direction God called him.   But God has His ways of drawing us back to Him.

 

On a ship headed in the wrong direction, God sends a mighty storm to get Jonah’s attention.  Jonah was fast asleep, while the rest of ship’s passengers were in turmoil because of the storm.  They woke Jonah up and cast lots (something like rolling dice) to determine whose fault it was for the storm upon them.  God has a wonderful sense of humor because the lots fell on Jonah. 

 

The men start drilling Jonah with questions:  “What’s your occupation?  What is your country? And what people are you of?” Jonah replies: “I am a Hebrew: and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”  Can you imagine answering like that?  Here you are running from the very thing God called you to do and with pride you answer their question.

 

Later, Jonah tells the crew to throw him over board to stop the storm.  God prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah.  While inside the fish for three days and nights, Jonah has time to reconsider his ways.  He calls out to God because of his affliction.  He recounts God miracles and he re-commits himself to God’s purpose.  So, the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.  There’s God’s humor again.  Can you picture a giant fish up-chucking a man on the beach?

 

Later still in the story, Jonah goes to Nineveh, speaks what God tells him and the entire village repents.  This is a wonderful thing, yet Jonah is angry.  Jonah spits out these words “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country?  Therefore I fled to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, One who relents from doing harm.  Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”  Wow, Jonah is angry because he knows God is going to save the people of Nineveh!  If that isn’t pride I don’t know what is.  Jonah felt superior over these people.  He had judged them guilty and condemned them but God had other plans which made Jonah mad.

 

So Jonah goes out of the city to pout.  God goes with him and causes a plant to grow up over Jonah’s head for protection from the sun.  Look at God’s mercy even though Jonah is acting like a spoiled child.  God tests Jonah again by causing a worm to damage the plant.  Jonah fails the test by becoming angry over the loss of the plant.  God says to Jonah “Is it right to be angry about the plant?” To which Jonah replies, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”  His pride made him stubborn. Even witnessing the salvation of 120,000 people, Jonah was displeased with God, consumed with the “tragedy” of his own way not transpiring the way he wanted it.

 

There is no evidence to indicate Jonah ever overcame his pride. However, by learning from his example and allowing God to have His way in us, we can overcome pride in our life.

 

What we learned from Jonah’s example:

  1. Pride will hold back the purposes of God.  It doesn’t stop God’s purposes, but it may delay them a little. 
  2. There is no place we can go to hide from God.
  3. Pride makes us hypocritical.  We can claim to “fear the Lord”, but if our actions don’t not match our faith, we are a lousy witness for God.
  4. Our pride will expose us to trials, temptations, and trouble as God intervenes to get us back on course.
  5. Pride warps our thinking and turns the gracious, mercy and loving-kindness of God into something despised. 
  6. Pride makes us stubborn, unable and unwilling to see God’s way is right.
  7. Pride also causes us to focus on the small, insignificant things.

 

 

Dear Lord, you are so merciful, gentle and kind even to the most prideful.  Help us to recognize and cast out pride in our own life.  Draw us near that we may humbly accept your plan and purpose for us.  In Jesus’ name we pray 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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Accepting His Will

 

So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.” Acts 21:14 NKJV

 

Why is it so hard to accept the will of the Lord?  One reason is we can’t understand why pain and suffering are part of the Lord’s will.  When we study God’s word, it is pretty clear we will have tribulations.

 

James 1:2-3 NKJV “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”

 

John 16:33 NKJV “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

 

Romans 8:17 NKJV “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”

 

Trials, testing, and tribulation are part of life.  But all of it God uses for good to those who love God and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).

 

Another reason for not accepting the Lord’s will is stubbornness or self-centeredness.  Again, studying God’s word reveals we are not the only stubborn ones.  Even God’s chosen ones, the Israelites, were stubborn.

 

Exodus 32:9 NKJV “And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!”

 

2 Chronicles 30:8 NKJV “Now do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the LORD; and enter His sanctuary, which He has sanctified forever, and serve the LORD your God, that the fierceness of His wrath may turn away from you.”

 

Acts 7:51 NKJV “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.”

 

Let’s face it we want our way most of the time.  I have found when I am least willing to accept God’s will it is due to my own immaturity.   If thoughts like “I deserve it”, “It’s not fair”, “I have a right to…” are present, you can be sure you are out of God’s will.  Self-serving thoughts are not part of God’s will.

 

What did Jesus teach?  He told us to deny self, pick up our cross and follow Him (Mark 8:34).  He said if someone strikes you on the cheek, turn and give them the other cheek also (Matthew 5:39).  Jesus is our role model.  He laid down His life for us.  We in turn lay down our claim/desire to have things our way.

 

Ignorance is another reason for not accepting God’s will.  It is pretty hard to accept something you have never heard of before.  This is an easy one to correct.  Start reading God’s word.  Join a small group so you can talk with others about questions you may have about what you have read.  Pray God will open your eyes.

 

When Judgment Day comes, ignorance will not be an excuse that saves your hide. 

Romans 1:20-21 NKJV “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Creation points to God.  The stars of above, the ocean depth, the uncountable grains of sand on the beaches, and even the tree branches that reach heavenward all point to a creator.  The world we live in shows obvious signs of a “designer”.  It didn’t just happen by chance.  I saw a bumper sticker the other day saying “THE BIG BANG THEORY: GOD SPOKE AND BANG IT HAPPENED”. The evidence of God is all around us.  It’s even within us.  If you studied human anatomy for any length of time you would find evidence of God in how the body works.  We were made to know God, because He has put eternity in our hearts. (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

We have looked at a few reasons for not accepting God’s will.  What’s holding you back?  If trials have stopped you in your tracks, trust God to use it for good.  If self-centeredness or stubbornness is the issue, pray for God to give you a desire to follow him.  If ignorance holds you back, read God’s word.

 

Jesus gives us peace beyond what the world offers.  You just need to trust and obey, there’s no better way.

 Lord thank you for your life-giving word. Give us a desire to follow hard after you.  Help us be God-center rather than self-absorbed. Give us endurance to get through the tough spots in life.  Help us see life from your perspective.  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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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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Land with no Water

dry-cracked-ground.jpg   

Read Psalm 65.

What happens to dirt when it hasn’t been watered in a long time?  It hardens doesn’t it?

If the drought continues, the dirt becomes incredibly hard almost concrete-like so that it is difficult to do anything with it.

We have a section of dirt in the backyard that has no sprinkler system.  Because the dirt doesn’t get any water it is so hard we can’t penetrate the surface with a shovel.  It’s virtually useless for growing anything.

This picture of dry ground symbolizes how a person without God’s Word, the water of life, becomes hardened, dry and unusable. 

Look specifically at verses nine and ten.  See how God deals with a hardened heart:

9 You visit the earth and water it,
         You greatly enrich it;
         The river of God is full of water;
         You provide their grain,
         For so You have prepared it.
 10 You water its ridges abundantly,
         You settle its furrows;
         You make it soft with showers,
         You bless its growth.

Notice how every sentence is about how God does something.  It’s all about Him.  He is in control.  He knows what He’s doing.  His plan is to soften everyone’s hard heart, just as dry ground is softened by much rain.  This picture makes it clear on our own we become dry and hard but with God’s watering we become settled, softened and ready for growth.  God’s life-giving Word is the water we need to stay soft and profitable for growth.

Check your heart today?  Are there any hard spots that need water?  If so, pray:

 Lord let your life-giving Water rain down on me, settle my furrows, soften my ridges and bless my growth.  In Jesus’ 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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