Bible Devotions

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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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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Mercy and Truth

 

As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. Acts 8:3 NKJV

 

Saul knew God’s word, but it had never penetrated his heart. Anyone who did not conform to his expectation of godliness was wrong in his sight.  How often do we do the same thing?

 

Proverbs 3:3-4 NKJV says “Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.”  God is both mercy and truth.  When we embrace Him, we embrace mercy and truth. 

 

Remembering how much mercy God has shown us can help us shower others with mercy.  Instead of judging someone for their differences, we accept them and extend mercy.  As we develop a relationship with them we share God’s truth by our attitudes, actions and our words.

 

Saul, at this point, had not allowed God to change the way he thought.  He took God’s Word and attempted to apply it by his own understanding.  We error greatly when we do that.  Instead we should follow Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV, “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.”  

 

Wisdom and true understanding come from God.  When wisdom enters our heart and knowledge is pleasant to our soul, discretion will preserve us according to Proverbs 2:10.  God’s mercy towards us and empowered by His Holy Spirit, we are able to turn from our old nature of judging others and to put on our new nature which is Christ-like.

 

Granted we are not perfect yet.  We all make mistakes, like Saul did, but we don’t lose hope, for God is able to use everything for good.  Look what He did with Saul’s persecution of the church in Acts 8:4: “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.”  Saul’s persecution made the believers scatter, which in turn made God’s Word reach many others.  God is so good.

 

Are you binding mercy and truth around your neck and writing them on the tablet of your heart?  Trust in Him and not in our own understanding.   It’s the best way. 

 Lord, thank you for your encouraging word.  Enable us to remember your mercy and truth.  Teach us to lean on you rather than our own understanding.  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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Tough Times Praise God

 

Seems like an oxymoron doesn’t it?  When tough times come and they always do, we have a choice.  We can choose to dwell in it and become angry or bitter.  Or we can choose to look to God instead by recalling all He has done, remembering His promises and keeping hope alive.

 

Now both options require work on our part.  Whichever we choose, our mind will be working.  Words and actions will follow for good or bad.  The choice is ours.

 

It’s terribly easy to allow our self to think “it’s all about me”.  We may not ever think those exact words, but when our thoughts are all about how something affects us, we are on the path leading away from God and peace. 

 

It’s much more difficult to discipline our self to remember “it’s all about God”.  Turning our thoughts away from the problem at hand, to consider all God has promised to us takes time.  We have to know His promises before we can remember them.  Reading God’s Word is where we find out about His promises.  Each one is like a nugget of gold we mine for in His Word.  Try reading Psalms 90 – 106.  There are plenty of examples on how to focus on God’s greatness during the trials of life. 

Two Corinthians 4:17-18 NKJV says “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,  while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  Keeping our eyes on the eternal things helps us endure the temporary heartache and troubles of this life.

Remember we are children of God, adopted into His family when we accepted Jesus Christ’s death on the cross as payment for our sins.  God will not abandon us.  He will be with us.  He is in us.  So don’t let your current troubles weight you down.  Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Lord when we are consumed with our troubles remind us to turn to you.  In you is rest and peace when we trust in you.  Help us endure what we must, trusting you each moment.  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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Wisdom and Obedience

 A wise man hears and increases learning. Proverbs 1:5 NKJV 

What do you think of when you say the word wisdom?  Does good judgment come to mind?  What about obedience?  That’s right obedience.  Ever consider how obedience and wisdom go hand and hand?   Let’s review Proverbs 1 and 2 and conclude with first two verses of Proverbs 3.  Get out your bible and read along with me.   

Where does wisdom come from? 

According to Proverbs 2:6 it comes from God:  For the Lord gives wisdom, from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.  Therefore, with our hearts open to God, we ask Him for wisdom.  James 1:5 NKJV says “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

How does wisdom work?

Look at Proverbs 2:7-9 and see what the Lord does for those who seek Him, cry out for discernment, apply their heart to understanding and incline their ear to wisdom:

  • He stores up wisdom for us

  • He is our shield

  • He guards the paths of justice

  • He preserves the way of His saints

 The benefit of wisdom entering our heart is knowledge pleasant to our soul. Discretion preserves us, understanding will keep us, to deliver us away from evil (Proverbs 2:10-12). 

Wisdom tied to Obedience?

Jesus told us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves in Matthew 10:16.  James calls us to be doers of the word (James 1:22).  Jesus said in Matthew 7:24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.”  But this not just a New Testament teaching, no this goes back to the Old Testament as well.  Jeremiah 23:22 says “But if they had stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings.”   

 

Wisdom comes when we hear God’s Word and apply His truth in our life.  When we actually do what we hear, wisdom is the result.  That wisdom guards our life by the power and grace that comes from God alone. 

 

 

Got Wisdom?

My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands; for length of days and long life and peace they will added to you. Proverbs 3:1-2 NKJV. 

 Lord Jesus, may our hearts be open to Your precious wisdom giving Word.  Enable us to not only hear but do what You have told us.  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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Idolatry Stands in the Way of Peace

 What’s the greatest commandment of God?  Matthew 22:37 NKJV says “Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’”  Jesus was quoting from Deuteronomy 6:5.   Anything that hinders us from doing exactly that is an idol.   Idols are not good because they lead us away from God and down a path leading to death.  Idols are not God, therefore, they can not satisfy our longings.  Idols have no power except the power to enslave us. They are a trap preventing us from pursuing our relationship with God.  What stands in the way of peace with God for you?

  • Work-a-holism
  • Guilt over your sins
  • Watching too much television
  • Constant perfectionist tendencies
  • Being overwhelmed with worry, anxiety or fear
  • Being too legalistic following the letter of the law
  • Thoughts and longings for a more intimate marriage
  • A hobby your spending extraordinary amount of time on

 To overcome idols in our life, we first must identify them.  Second, we confess our sins to God and seek His forgiveness and ask for His strength to turn away from the idols.  Third, we allow God’s Word to change how we think.  Lastly, we ask a godly friend to become an accountability partner.   

Where are you struggling today?  James 5:16 NKJV says “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

 Lord we thank you for your spirit who reveals idols in our lives that need to be dealt with and for your strength to turn from idols.  May your word renew our minds that we would know your good and perfect will.  Help us to be accountable to you through the help of others.  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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Worth It

overlooking-rio.jpg 

Have you ever wondered if giving your life to Christ was really worth it?  King David did.  Let’s review what he penned in Psalm 73:10-17 NKJV.

 

10 Therefore his people return here,
         And waters of a full cup are drained by them.
 11 And they say, “How does God know?
         And is there knowledge in the Most High?”
 12 Behold, these are the ungodly,
         Who are always at ease;
         They increase in riches.
 13 Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain,
         And washed my hands in innocence.
 14 For all day long I have been plagued,
         And chastened every morning.
         
 15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
         Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children.
 16 When I thought how to understand this,
         It was too painful for me—
 17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
         Then I understood their end.

 

David was focusing on the prosperity of the ungodly.  They seem to have it all while denying God.  “How can this be?” thought David.  He starts thinking all is in vain because of the difficulties he’s having.  Have you ever thought this way?  When we allow our minds to go to this place, it will lead us down a path we don’t want to go.  Thankfully David doesn’t stay in the self-pity mode but goes to God for clarity. 

 

Keep in mind the things shared today aren’t the only things God might want to say in this section of scripture, but these are just a few things worth pointing out.

 

First, doubt is the tool of our enemy.  When we doubt, let it be an alert warning us our focus on the Lord is slipping.  Doubt creeps in when we start comparing our self to others.

 

Second, depending on our own understanding will lead to disappointment and frustration.  Don’t rack your brain trying to understand how people could do what they do.  Proverbs 3:5-6 says “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.”

 

Third, recognizing the bigger picture can soften our heart for others and help us realize the precious gift of life given to us.  Those who choose not to accept Christ will be eternally separated from God, who loves them and doesn’t want a single one to perish.  Perhaps for the ungodly this life is as close to heaven as they will ever get and that’s why God is seemingly lenient on them.  Maybe this will encourage us to pray for them, for God to open their eyes while there’s still time. 

 

To recap, giving our life to Christ is definitely worth it.  Yes, there are seasons of difficulties as God chastens those He loves, but in the end we are heaven bound.  Yes, sometimes it is hard to understand why things happen as they do, but we can fully trust God has it under His control.  Accepting this in faith releases us to carry out what God calls us to do.  Maybe that’s praying for the unsaved around us.

 Lord thank you for your wisdom and clarity in your word. Help us keep our eyes on you, rather than others around us.  Enable us to lean on you rather than our own understanding.  May we trust in you and carry out your purposes.  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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