The Devotion of the Early Church

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. On Sundays, I do not include supplemental material, but I do post a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Acts 2:42–47 (ESV)

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Love that Is Evident

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Reading the Word

Matthew 26:6–13 (ESV)

6 Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

Parallel Texts: Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8

Understanding and Applying the Word

We are not told who the woman was who anointed Jesus in Matthew’s account of this event, but John tells us it was Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. Her act of worship was met with ridicule by the disciples. John tells us that the ridicule was led by Judas, who was not so concerned with the poor as he claimed, but liked to steal from the money that belonged to the group.

When Jesus heard the discussion among the disciples, he praised Mary for her actions and corrected the disciples. Mary had taken the opportunity to show her love and devotion to Jesus while she still could. Soon, this would no longer be possible because Jesus was going to be crucified and buried. There would be time to help the poor in the future. This was the time to honor Christ.

Our devotion to the Lord often takes a back seat in our lives. We make so many things more important. Mary’s love for Christ was evident to all around. This should be true of us as well. This does not mean that we neglect to help and show love for others, but it does mean that in all that we do, it should be Jesus that is front and center in our lives. Our love for Jesus should be evident. May we show our love and devotion for the Lord in all that we do and with all that we have.

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Choosing What Is Best

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Reading the Word

Luke 10:38–42 (ESV)

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus visited the home of Martha. While he was there, Martha put herself to work serving her guests. However, Martha’s sister Mary, who was also present, sat at Jesus’ feet listening to him as he taught. Martha thought Mary should get up and help and asked Jesus to tell her so, but Jesus would not. Instead, he told Martha that Mary had made the right choice.

This short passage emphasizes something profound. Life presents us with many choices and decisions, but they are not all equal. Sometimes, we must choose between right and wrong. In such cases, the decision is clear. However, there are other times when we must choose between what is good and what is better. Martha’s decision to serve was not wrong, but there was something more important. Jesus was in her home! Serving could wait for the moment. It was time to hear what Jesus had to say. It was time to spend time with the Lord.

We too can spend much of our time doing good things, but fail to do the most important thing: fellowship with the Lord. It is vital to the health of our faith that we take the time to sit at the Lord’s feet and hear from him through his word. We must take the time each day, even time away from doing good things, to do the best thing. We must fellowship with our Savior and grow to know him more and more. Are you taking the time to do what is best each day?

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Time Alone

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Reading the Word

Luke 4:42–44 (ESV)

42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, 43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

Parallel Text: Mark 1:35-39

Understanding and Applying the Word

With the word of Jesus’ ability to heal and perform miracles spreading, the people have been flooding to him and bringing those who are in need of healing. Even in the midst of the people’s needs, Jesus is sure to care for his own needs as well. We are told that he withdrew to a desolate place. Mark’s account tells us that the reason was to spend time in prayer.

It can be easy to pour everything you have into serving and helping others. However, there is also a very real need to take care of your own needs, which include spiritual needs. Jesus took time to himself to spend in prayer with the Father. We need to learn from his example and make time to spend in private devotion and prayer of our own, so that we can continue to find the nourishment we need, which will enable us to serve others in an even greater way.

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My Heart Is Steadfast

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Reading the Word

Psalm 108:1–4 (ESV)

1 My heart is steadfast, O God! I will sing and make melody with all my being! 2 Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! 3 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. 4 For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The psalmist declares that his heart is “steadfast”. The meaning of the term is to be fixed or firmly resolved. This is one who is intent on following the Lord and declaring his praise among the people regardless of the consequences!

O Lord, may our hearts be steadfast! May we stand among the people of our day and declare your praise no matter what. We know many men and women have done so throughout history. Many of those have suffered greatly for their devotion. Yet your name was honored through their lives and you have not forgotten them. Give us the courage to be steadfast and let your name be glorified in us.

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Devoted to the Lord

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Reading the Word

Psalm 101:1–8 (ESV)

1 I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O Lord, I will make music. 2 I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; 3 I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. 4 A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil. 5 Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy. Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure. 6 I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me. 7 No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes. 8 Morning by morning I will destroy all the wicked in the land, cutting off all the evildoers from the city of the Lord.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The words of this psalm may seem harsh at first glance. The writer speaks of his devotion to the Lord, which is a good thing, but he also speaks of “destroying” those who slander and the wicked. However, when we read it in its proper context, the psalm becomes clear.

The words of Psalm 101 are from David, who was king in Israel. These words reflect his personal devotion to ruling according to the word of God and also his commitment to see to it that the entire government of Israel would be committed to the Lord. We know from Scripture that David failed on several accounts to live faithfully and that Israel’s government was often corrupted by sin. However, these words also point us to the one King descended from David who would be fully devoted to the will of God as well as to a day when the people would live under the rule of a just and righteous government. That King is Jesus, the King of kings and hope of all nations.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

False Praise

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Reading the Word

Psalm 78:32–37 (ESV)

32 In spite of all this, they still sinned; despite his wonders, they did not believe. 33 So he made their days vanish like a breath, and their years in terror. 34 When he killed them, they sought him; they repented and sought God earnestly. 35 They remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God their redeemer. 36 But they flattered him with their mouths; they lied to him with their tongues. 37 Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Even after God punished the people for grumbling and complaining, they did not believe. They were afraid to enter the Promised Land and instead desired to return to Egypt. God punished the people by banishing them to wander in the desert for forty years until the entire generation had passed away. They would never enter the land that God was delivering them to. The people seemed to turn to God as a result of his discipline, but it turned out to be superficial only. Over time, the people showed their unfaithfulness and true relationship with God by turning away.

It is often in times of difficulty that people call out to God for help. Often, when God shows his grace and mercy, those same people make vows to God and say many flattering things about him that soon fade away. Instead of fully trusting in him, they go back to their old ways and forget about God until trouble comes again. This reveals the sinful heart that only uses God to serve self. Let us pray to God that our love for him would be genuine and through every circumstance we find ourselves in.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!