September 24, Thursday

NEWThe AMI QT Devotionals for today is provided by Pastor Joshua Kim of Church of Southland.  Joshua, a graduate of Emory University, Columbia Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Talbot School of Theology (Th.M.), serves as the pastor of Access group (singles).  

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Simplicity”

Psalm 27:4-8 (NASB)

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple. 5 For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock. 6 And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, and I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

My wife and I just celebrated my daughter’s second birthday, and I must admit these past couple of years have been a learning experience. But as much as I have learned already, there seems to always be more philosophies, methodologies, and practices (many which contradict each other) in how to raise a child. In fact, what I am most confident about is the fact that there isn’t one “this is how it should be done.”

But this isn’t just in parenting. It’s the case in all areas of life. It’s driven by an assumption that having more options is always better. More options mean more choices, which somehow guarantees better results. But that isn’t always the case, is it? In an age of endless research and information, sometimes it’s nice to have just one solution. There is great value in simplicity.

This is the heart expressed by David: One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek. While running for his life as a fugitive, the one thing David seeks above all else is the presence of God. Before, I understood this as a reminder to forsake all other things so that I may find my security in God, especially in the midst of trials. More recently, however, this psalm spoke differently to me. 

It showed me the value of simplicity. There is great joy and freedom in simplicity. I don’t need to research more. I don’t need all the understanding in the world or the “right” words to say in order for God to hear my prayers. I just need to know that no matter what I face, what I need is God’s presence. And that is a prayer that God is always faithful to answer. This is what David prayed for: One thing have I asked of the Lord.

Have you ever had a time when you became discouraged because you weren’t sure what to pray for? Well this psalm shows us that it’s not so much about what we ask for but more so Who we ask for. And when we ask for His presence, we’ll realize that the other questions and concerns don’t matter as much. Because what we always needed was Him. 

Prayer: Father, thank You. Thank You that You are always the answer. Thank You that we don’t need complete understanding or some semblance of clarity. We thank You for the freedom we have in this simple confession that all we need is You. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Chronicles 20


Lunch Break Study

Read Romans 8:14-17, 26-27 (NASB): “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him… 26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the indicator that we are children of God?
  2. Limiting your response to this passage, what does the Spirit do in the life of a child of God?
  3. What does it mean to you that when we do not know how to pray, that the Spirit of God intercedes on your behalf?

Notes

  1. The Spirit of God and being led by the Spirit is the indicator that we have been made sons and daughters of God. Verse 16 – the Spirit Himself testifies of this reality.
  2. The Spirit of God leads us (v.14), He frees us and calls us to cry out to God (v.15), He assures us of our adoption (v. 16), He intercedes on our behalf with words that we don’t have ourselves (v.26)
  3. Personal response. There is great freedom that though we do not have the words, the Spirit who knows the mind of God, intercedes on our behalf. And just like David is Psalm 27, the first thing the Spirit cries on our behalf is “Abba! Father!”

Evening Reflection

There are many things that happened throughout today: While some of you have come to terms with certain issues in your life, others are still wrestling through them. But no matter what you may have encountered today, there is great freedom in this simple truth: Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Take a moment to allow this great yet simple truth to fill your heart and your mind as you find your rest tonight. 

September 23, Wednesday

NEW The AMI QT Devotional for today is provided Joe Suh who serves as a pastor intern at the Church of Southland (Anaheim, California).   

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Give It All Away”

Philippians 2:3-11

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I recently read an article about Charles “Chuck” Feeney.  At the age of 89 he accomplished his life’s goal.  Mr. Feeney was a billionaire and co-founder of Duty Free Shoppers.  His life goal was to give away all his money to charity before he died.  His desire was to be broke by the time he passed.  Over the past four decades Mr. Feeney had donated over $8 billion dollars to charities, universities and foundations all around the world.  More astonishing is that he did so anonymously.  At no point did he want the recognition of donating to the charities.  This act earned him the nickname of the “James Bond of Philanthropy”.

I am not sure if Mr. Feeney is a believer or not, but his heart of giving is definitely impressive.  His thought was that he didn’t want to wait until he died to pass on his wealth because there were major problems now and they needed addressing.

In today’s passage we see Paul reminding us of what Mr. Feeney had done all his life.  To do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit.  To have humility and think of others before we think of ourselves.  Ultimately to look out for the interest of others before our own.  To serve others before we ourselves are served.

Mr. Feeney was a successful businessman and truly one of a kind when it came to his giving.  He was looking out for the interest of others and all the while remaining humble as he did so.  The fact that he gave anonymously for all those years is truly a testament to his humility.  

Paul uses the greatest person as his example in this passage.  He tells us to have the same attitude as Jesus when it comes to thinking of and serving others.  Jesus emptied Himself and became a man.  He humbled Himself to the point of death so that all of us would have life.  

Being a servant is more about “being” than it is about “doing”.  I think sometimes we tend to look for that one big experience where we can demonstrate our faithfulness to God, demonstrate our servanthood by giving of ourselves in some heroic fashion. But in reality that is not usually how it happens. In reality, it happens in the small, every day, somewhat uneventful occurrences of our lives.

This attitude, this mindset of serving others instead of being served, of giving rather than getting, of obeying rather than dominating is lived out in our day to day lives.  It is really about serving others, not because we have to, but because it is who we are.  We are able to live for something so much more.

If we truly follow the example of Jesus, our hearts will be full and we will do all we can to think of others before we think of ourselves.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You giving us Your son Jesus as an example of what it is to serve others.  I pray that my heart and attitude would reflect what it is to selflessly give and serve others.  Give me opportunities to grow in this area of my life and really live it out as Jesus did.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Chronicles 19


Lunch Study Break

Read Romans 12:10-13 (NASB): Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

Questions to Consider

  1. To whom are we to be devoted and how are we to be devoted?
  2. Why does Paul exhort the people to love one another in brotherly love?
  3. How does this passage resonate with or convict your heart?

Notes

  1. We are to be devoted to one another.  This would mean everyone.  We are to be devoted in brotherly love (v.10). What is meant by brotherly love is a familial type of love—a love that is sacrificial, unconditional and real.
  2. As believers we are all members of God’s family.  Though we may not know each other, by virtue of our belief in God we are all family.  We are brothers and sisters in Christ.  So as members of one family we are called to love each other, to care for each other and pray for each other.  We are to give to each other and serve one another as best we can.
  3. Personal response. 

Evening Reflection

As you wind down from the day, take some time to pray through what it means to serve your fellow brothers and sisters.  Are you able to serve those you do not even know?  Can you give with humility and compassion?  As the Holy Spirit to reveal people that God may want you serve.

September 22, Tuesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional is a reprint of Kate Moon’s blog originally posted on May 14, 2014.  Kate continues to serve the Lord in E. Asia. 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“So That We Can Become Something . . .” 

Titus 2:11-14

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  [12] It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, [13] while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, [14] who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” 

My parents did not make a lot of money, but one thing I remember my mother saying to me while growing up was, “If there’s ever something you really want to do, don’t ever let money be a reason not to.  Just ask us, we’ll find a way.”  

You would think this statement would have the result of us children not being able to recognize proper limits, always asking our parents to pay for this, that and the other thing.  Actually, it had the opposite effect.  Knowing my parents worked long hours each day, and how frugally they lived (watering down the shampoo and dishwashing liquid to make it last longer, washing Ziploc bags to reuse them), when my mother said this to me, I was moved by her heart.  I knew that whatever I asked for would cost them something, meaning some sacrifice on their part, so this made me very careful about asking them for anything at all.

So how does the grace of God teach us to say “no” to ungodliness when it seems like it could be giving us permission to sin all we want?  It happens when we remember that his grace is not only about us being able to receive something, but that it is also about how he is always willing to pay for something.  God’s heart is to be generous with his grace, to let it be free-flowing and abundant, enough to cover our every misstep, careless action, even deliberate rebellion.  But the only way we cannot take advantage of it is to remember the cost.  

Remember that Jesus Christ paid a price for a purpose – so that we could become a certain kind of people (v. 14).  Like a donor who supports a medical student in financial need because he wants to see that student graduate and become a doctor, when Jesus paid the price for us, it was because he wanted to see us become something – a redeemed people, purified from sin, living as God intended.   As recipients of his grace, how are we doing at honoring his wishes?

Prayer: Dear God, I thank You for your dreams for me.  You gave Yourself for me so that I could become someone who is truly free, upright, godly, and pure.  I am eager to do what is good.  Would You help me to live up to that calling today?  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Chronicles 18


Lunch Break Study

Read Galatians 6:7-10: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. [8] Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. [9] Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. [10] Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Questions to Consider

  1. In what way can we often be deceived (v. 7)?  Why do you think the metaphor of sowing and reaping is so appropriate to make this point?
  2. What is the result of living to please the flesh vs. living to please the Spirit (v. 8)?
  3. What encouragement does the Bible give for us to do good (v. 9)?  What good can we do to others today?

Notes

  1. We can sometimes think that our sins will never really have any serious negative effect in our lives.  With farming, there is a time delay between an initial act (sowing in spring) and the final result (harvest in fall), but there is a certain and definite relationship between the two acts.  
  2. Living to please the flesh leads to destruction; living to please the Spirit leads to life.
  3. Though there may be a time delay, there will most certainly be a reward if we persevere in doing good.  We need to keep reminding ourselves that there are good consequences for our good actions as well.

Evening Reflection

Did I live my life today as the person God intended me to be?  What good did I do?  What harvest will I reap in the future as a result of the things I did today?

September 21, Monday

NEW The AMI QT Devotional for today is provided Joe Suh who serves as a pastor intern at the Church of Southland (Anaheim, California).   

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Love Your Neighbor”

Mark 12:30-31

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

This pandemic has been an interesting time for everyone.  Life as we know it has changed and we are in unfamiliar territory as it comes to living life as we have lived it.  One thing that has not changed and in fact has become an even bigger problem for many is the need for basic necessities.  

As the pandemic has continued and the loss of jobs has become more and more of a reality for many, the struggle even to meet the basic needs of the family has become an issue.  And one of those needs is a major need . . . food.

Recently, at Southland, we have started a food pantry for our local community.  The demographic surrounding our church is a group that absent the current situation would not be struggling with these basic needs.  The food pantry has been an amazing opportunity to bless our local community by providing for their physical needs, but more importantly it has been a time to also bless them with prayer and sharing the gospel.

Interestingly, as a church, this time of serving those around us has actually been an even bigger blessing for us.  It is such a great thing to be used by God to bless others.  The time sacrifice is a few hours every other Saturday, but to be used by God to change someone’s life is priceless.  The time to love one another is now and to do so is what God called us all to do.

Mark 12 reminds us of the greatest commandment and the second great commandment.  Focusing on the second, loving your neighbor as you love yourself, is not always on our priority list.  Admittedly, life is very busy.  I would say even more so now.  We all have our own things to take care of; we all have our own needs to meet; and we have our own issues to deal with.   

But Jesus commands us to love our neighbors.  Who are our neighbors?  The answer is everyone.  We are called to be a neighbor to everyone, and it starts with us being a good neighbor.  This means that we don’t wait to receive from them first; instead, we give love in all the ways that we can.  We are to love them as we love ourselves.  In order to love others, we have to love God first.  In loving God we truly learn what it is to loves others.  So what we receive, we should also give—as “the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us the way you do.  Continue to teach us what it is to love You and also love our neighbors.  Especially in a time like now, I pray that each of us would go beyond what we normally would do and take the opportunities given to be a loving brother or sister in Christ. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Chronicles 17


Lunch Break Study

Read Romans 13:8-10 (NASB): Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Questions to Consider

  1. What do we have to do in order to fulfill the law?
  2. How does loving your neighbor summarize the law?
  3. In what ways can you express your love to others around you?  

Notes

  1. We have to love our neighbors. (v. 8) Love is an amazing thing. We are reminded to owe no debts except to love one another. God loves each and every one of us.  How do we know that He loves us?  He sent His son to die for each of us.  To love our neighbors fulfills the law because we can do no wrong by loving. (v. 10)
  2. By loving your neighbor as you love yourself would inherently imply that you would not murder, steal, covet or commit adultery.  (v. 9) This summarizes the law because everything would become moot by loving your neighbor as you love yourself.
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

Did I have any opportunities to love my neighbors?  Was I paying attention to what God may have been nudging on my heart to do.  Take some time this evening to think back through your day and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any opportunities that you may have missed to be a blessing and pour out love on another person.  Pray for boldness to take action the next time the opportunity presents itself.

September 20, Sunday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Yohan Lee, a friend of AMI, was first posted on September 7, 2013.  A graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Cairn University (MA), Yohan served as a staff at several AMI churches in the past. 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Don’t Just Holding Down the Fort”

Ecclesiastes 3:16-17

“Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. 17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.”

I had just finished sweeping and mopping the floors, but do you know what happened within two hours?  That’s right, dinner, and really the second worst dinner to have after having cleaned your floors: spaghetti (the worst dinner is Korean/Chinese spaghetti, cha-chang-myun).  Sometimes, I wonder if cleaning the house is meaningless (or vanity).  I could add a verse to Ecclesiastes, “I toil for hours to clean my house and within minutes rowdy children come and mess it up; this too is meaningless.”  

But as I looked at all the tomato sauce stains covering an otherwise spotless floor, the realization hit me: in the Christian life, you often have to fight battles that cannot possibly be won.  If you are unwilling to do this, then you will probably not do any good either.  For example, do you think that Christians (or anyone else) will be able to end poverty, abuse, sex-trafficking, or any of many ills of society?  No, because in this world, there will always be evil people doing evil deeds.  But nonetheless, we are called to preach the good news, free the prisoners, recover sight for the blind, etc. (Luke 4:18).  

We, as followers of Christ, must not mistake a falling and corrupting society for no progress whatsoever.  On the macro-level, I would agree that our world is getting worse, but on the micro-level, people are being saved, slaves are being freed, people are turning to Christ, and the kingdom is advancing.  The work of Christians does indeed matter to the lives that are being touched by them.  So to complete the earlier thought, sure my house may feel gross after the kids spill sauce, but how much worse would it be if I totally gave up cleaning?  What would our world look like if God’s people stopped trying to “hold down the fort” until he returned? 

Truthfully, Ecclesiastes is a difficult book to teach from because it strikes a chord with how most of us have felt at one time or another: “What is the point?”  Yes, as this passage points out, there is wickedness all around, but do you believe that God put you here for a purpose?  What is that purpose?  One day, as Christ returns to make things right, will he reward you for winning a battle that could not be won?  

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me not to give up being an instrument of Your righteousness in this sin-tainted world. When I feel discouraged by how much more left to do, remind me that all things are under Your control.  Thank You.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Chronicles 16

September 19, Saturday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Pastor Barry Kang who heads Symphony Church in Boston, was first posted on April 20, 2013.  He is a graduate of Stanford University (BA), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (D.Min.). 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

“Be joyful always; 17 pray continually.” 

I confess that this has been a difficult week to be “joyful always”.  The events of this past Monday (Boston Marathon bombing) have left many of my friends, brothers and sisters in Christ confused and dismayed.  How does one find joy in the midst of tragedy?  The reality of course is that even when personal circumstances make joy easier, there is still brokenness and pain all around us of which we are unaware of.  Yet, Paul commands us to be joyful in every circumstance.  

Why?  Because God is still the same!  In every circumstance, the cross still stands for us.  In every circumstance, there is the promise of salvation and redemption.  In every circumstance, we have God with us, and the power which raised Christ from the grave within us (the Holy Spirit).  God’s kingdom will come; His will be done on earth just as it is done in heaven.  Biblical joy cannot be dependent upon the absence of pain and suffering because there is always pain and suffering around us, BUT one day that will not be the case!

And so we discipline our hearts and minds to be joyful in each and every circumstance (and it is a discipline because this isn’t natural to us) by focusing not on the circumstances alone, but on God!  And this is where the discipline of prayer comes in.  Without continual prayer, there cannot be continual joy.  Only through prayer – through our conscious focusing on the person of God, through directing our thoughts upon and toward him – will our hearts recognize the joyful reality of who God is.  

It is not an accident that the most prayerful Christians I know are also the most joyful.  We can think of prayer of being a fruit of joy.  It is true that when we are joyful, our hearts are more inclined to turn toward God.  But it is just as true that when we are prayerful, we recognize all the reasons we have for joy.  

By the way, today we are reading 2 Chronicles 14-15 as part of our daily readings.  Let us read this portion of Scripture prayerfully and joyfully! 

Prayer: Father, I thank You that You forgive my sins anew every morning.  I thank You that the blood of Jesus covers every one of my sins.  Therefore, I rejoice.  Help me to live this day in the freedom that comes from being forgiven and in a right relationship with you. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Chronicles 14-15

September 18, Friday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Matt Ro who formerly pastored Journey Church in Atlanta, is an updated version of his blog originally posted on May 17, 2013.  Matt is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BS) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

Psalm 60:1-5, 9-12 (ESV)

O God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses; you have been angry; oh, restore us. 2 You have made the land to quake; you have torn it open; repair its breaches, for it totters. 3 You have made your people see hard things; you have given us wine to drink that made us stagger. 4 You have set up a banner for those who fear you, that they may flee to it from the bow.  Selah 5 That your beloved ones may be delivered, give salvation by your right hand and answer us! 9 Who will bring me to the fortified city? Who will lead me to Edom? 10 Have you not rejected us, O God? You do not go forth, O God, with our armies. 11 Oh, grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man! 12 With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes.

How do you view God?  The degree to which you depend on the Lord is determined by the level of your confidence in His ability to deliver.  When the level is low, you aren’t going to seek His help as often and fervently as you would when the confidence level is high.  We readily see that in today’s psalm.  

Psalm 60 was written while David was on his military campaign after his general Joab had been dispatched earlier.  Since the final victory had not yet been obtained, in v. 19, David is thinking about the final triumph, “Who will bring me to the fortified city?  Who will lead me to Edom?”  

We learn two spiritual lessons in this psalm: first, only God can give victory.  Not only were the cities in Edom well-fortified with narrow passageways and cliffs, but even if the passageway could be breached, the defenders could retreat into the mountains surrounding the hidden inner valley and defend themselves from there.  Only God could give victory over a fortress like that, and David knew it. So he cries to God, acknowledging, “for vain is the salvation of man.”  

Second, we must ask God for victory.  In the final stanza, David asks for victory and anticipates God’s positive answer by saying, “With God, we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes.”  Thus, the psalm closes on a strong note of confidence, rooted in faith and claiming the promises of God.  We ask ourselves: “Are there fights in our lives that we need God to fight on our behalf?  Have you asked God for help?”  The book of James teaches us, “You do not have because you do not ask God.”  (James 4:2)

Prayer:  Father, You are my strength and my shield.  There is nothing that is impossible for You.  Teach me to trust in You with greater confidence and I will wait patiently for Your help.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Chronicles 13


Lunch Break Study

Read Ephesians 4:11-12 (ESV): And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ . . .

Questions to Consider

  1. What are the five different types of individuals who have the responsibility to “equip the saints for the work of ministry?”
  2. Usually, we expect pastors to build up the church, but biblically who should be building the church?
  3. What does that mean for you?

Notes

  1. There are five ministry gifts mentioned in v. 11.  Four of them serve as ministries while one (apostle) serves more as an office. An apostle is a person who walks in and out of all the ministry gift functions according to need. Generally, these are God’s generals in the body of Christ who function as leaders over other ministry gift leaders in the local church.  They often serve as church-planters or “pastor of pastors/church.”  Apostles are great visionary leaders on the cutting edge of what God wants to do to reach their sphere of influence.  Prophets are people who bring God to the people.  They are usually endowed with gifts of exhortation, bringing revelation from the Holy Spirit in ways that can reveal or build up the condition of the church and culture.  Often, prophets move in the revelatory gifts of prophecy and interpretation of tongues.  Evangelists have a great burden for the lost and for outreach.  They are able to communicate the gospel clearly and have an anointing for leading people to Christ.  In the NT, evangelists regularly moved in signs and wonder to confirm the gospel to unbelievers.  Pastors have a nurturing anointing to care for the members of the church.  They are more concerned with in-reach than outreach.  They love being with people and are motivated more by love (quality) than numbers (quantity).  They have a burden to counsel, encourage, shepherd, and even teach.  Teachers have a deep yearning to study and teach the Word of God.  
  2. God calls each person into the ministry.  Though you may not hold the formal church title of “Children’s Minister” or “Worship leader” or be called to be a Pastor or Teacher, you are still called, by God, to minister to people.  The pastors and leaders of the church are charged with making sure believers are active in the work of ministry.  Through the centuries, the church gradually grew away from the simple system that made it such a powerful and impelling influence upon society in its early years, and there came in gradually a terrible distortion from which we are still suffering today.  The church became identified with buildings, great massive cathedrals, and imposing structures, and these were referred to as the church.  The popular thinking fastened upon the idea of the building as the identifying symbol of the church, instead of the people.  Along with that idea came a gradual transfer of responsibility from the people to the clergy to do the work of the ministry.  Soon Christianity became a spectator sport, like a crowd cheering on a boxer or a football player on the field.  God calls each of us into the ministry of the church.
  3. How can you find your gift?  The answer is, you find spiritual gifts just as you find natural talents. Usually, you are attracted by seeing certain people exercising a gift, and that draws you to them.  Then you may try exercising a certain gift or gifts. You soon discover you do not have a gift for some things at all.  With others, you say to yourself, “Perhaps I can do this.”  You enjoy some activities more than others, and this is a possible indication.  What you enjoy doing is usually what God gives you the privilege of doing, for the exercise of spiritual gifts bring inner joy and people take great pleasure in exercising these gifts.  One important indication that you have a certain gift is if others recognize the gift in you and encourage you to use it.  It is important that others recognize your gift.

Evening Reflection

Begin to ask yourself what are some things that you enjoy doing.  What gifts do others recognize in you?  To what extent are you exercising your gifts in the local church?   Does it come from a heart of duty or delight?  Jot down come convictions that you have in regard to serving as a minister of the church.

Prayer:  Father, thank You for the magnificent plan and program for this world to be helped, changed, and delivered.  God, help me to see the excitement and the challenge of using my gift.  Amen.

September 17, Thursday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., was originally posted on September 4, 2014; it has been updated. Mark is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thoughts for This Morning

“The Cure for Entitled Hedonism”

Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 (ESV)

I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. 2 I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” 3 I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. 4 I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. 5 I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. 6 I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. 8 I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. 9 So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. 10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. 11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. 

After winning his third Super Bowl in 2005, Tom Brady was interviewed on “60 minutes”; and this man, who seemingly has everything in life – fame, money, women, good looks, etc. – gave this perplexing answer about his own life:  “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me?  I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey man, this is what is.’  I reached my goal, my dream, my life.  Me, I think, ‘…It’s got to be more than this’”  (www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdcJSsRfL8s).  Now that Brady has won three more Super Bowl rings since that time, you wonder whether he feels any differently? 

The perplexity that Brady felt actually sheds light on what life in America has truly become: “entitled hedonism” in which we believe that a life of increasing pleasure is simply the reward for all of our hard work.  However, the paradox is that we are not any happier than people of past generations.  Philip Ryken rightfully points out that the average American has a better selection of food, wine, entertainment, music, and means of sexual satisfaction than Solomon could have dreamed of.  We overload our senses with every imaginable pleasure and justify it because of our strenuous work schedule.  

Yet how many of us are truly happy and fulfilled? An increasing number of us struggle with anxiety, depression, and other stress related issues, but we are afraid to ask, “What is this all for?” because deep in our hearts, we know that it’s madness to continue down this path.  And the prolonged social distancing prompted by COVID-19 has only exacerbated this problem.      

For all of Solomon’s worldly wisdom, he couldn’t figure out the solution to this vexing paradox that eluded him until it was nearly too late.  In fact, the most obvious answer, which is to abstain from pleasure, still falls short of being a viable solution.  The reason can be found in the heart of God who isn’t the eternal killjoy, but the Creator of everything that was meant to give us pleasure.  And it is here where we can begin to find a way out of this paradox.  Pleasure was never meant to be enjoyed merely for one’s self-indulgence but to be shared with others, to serve them, and to bring glory to God.  Pleasure for pleasure sake eventually becomes nothing but grief because it increases our selfishness.  But when we realize that all the pleasures of life are a gift from God and not simply a reward for our hard work, we can finally shed our “entitled hedonism” and come to enjoy life as God intended.  

Prayer: (In writing this devotion, I found that reflecting on the fact that God, my Father, created this world for my eternal enjoyment was meaningful.  I encourage you to spend some time in worship this morning, perhaps even listen and watch the following song on www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEBmj7JO_Os.)  

Father, it is amazing to think that everything You created, You did so to share with us, Your children.  Forgive us for being so selfish with the gifts that You have given so freely and lavishly.  Teach us how to enjoy the simple pleasures of life and to live with heaven in our eyes.  In the name of your precious Son, we pray.  Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Chronicles 12


Lunch Break Study  

Read 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (ESV): But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 

Questions to Consider 

  1. What does Paul cite as the reason for the times of difficulty in the last days?   
  2. What does it mean to have an appearance of godliness but deny its power?
  3. How can we avoid falling into this trap?  

Notes

  1. Paul is specifically citing corruption in the church as the main source of our difficulties in the last days. We would expect non-believers to be selfish and lovers of pleasure, but when those same problems enter into the church, we lose our credibility and witness in the world.   When the center of our lives shifts to ourselves, we allow a host of sins to enter in.   
  2. The danger of heterodoxy is that it can continue to have a religious exterior, but at its core there is no power.  On the surface, many things look like Christianity, but when you take a closer look, the power of the cross is no longer the foundation.  An example of this is the Prosperity Gospel that teaches that every Christian should be wealthy and focuses on the material blessings of God. 
  3. For the believer, the best way to avoid this trap is a conviction of the truth.  In the armor of God, we see that the first piece of our defense is the belt of truth.  

Evening Reflection

Take time to reflect on the following anonymous words of devotion from Kent Hughes’ book, Set Apart: Calling a Worldly Church to a Godly Life.  

“I do not know when I have had happier times in my soul than when I have been sitting at work, with nothing before me but a candle and a white cloth, and hearing no sound but that of my own breath, with God in my soul and heaven in my eye. I rejoice in being exactly what I am — a creature capable of loving God, and who, as long as God lives, must be happy. I get up and look a while out the window. I gaze at the moon and stars, the work of an Almighty Hand. I think of the grandeur of the universe and then sit down and think myself one of the happiest beings in it.” 

Did you take time to enjoy God today?  Are you content in who God has made you to be?  Write down your own words of thanksgiving.  

September 16, Wednesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Charles Choe who leads Tapestry Church in Los Angeles, was first posted on June 26, 2014.  Charles is a graduate of University of California, Riverside (BA) and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“That Nagging Problem of Sin”

1 Timothy 5:24-25

“The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them, in the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden.”

No one likes to be confronted with sin. As a young man in college, an older brother in the Lord confronted me about my lousy attitude and my lack of humility. I remember even arguing with him that I was more teachable and humbler than he was. How foolish are the ways of a young man! But fortunately, I’m not that same young man, and in retrospect, I realize those things were true of me. One way to know whether you are growing in the Lord is when you become aware of the hidden things that God brings to light. 

This is what Paul is essentially telling the Ephesian congregation, echoing what Jesus said: “What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Luke 12:3). Everybody is going to see our deeds, for God has a way of taking hidden sins and bringing them to light. We think we can hide our sins, but we can’t.  

The sins of some people are conspicuous, and it is obvious that they are heading for God’s judgment. But according to the apostle Paul, they are not the only kind of sins. Some people are skillful at hiding their sins: They appear to be very devoted, committed people, but there is terrible evil in their hearts all the time. However, as the saying goes, “Time will tell.” In fact, the closer you get these people, the more obvious their evil will become.

Paul says that this works in reverse also. The good deeds that we do cannot be hidden, for eventually they will be revealed, and people will know and be blessed because of our good works. God, in His perfect timing, will reveal all good deeds, whether here or on the other side of eternity. 

Are there any sins which you are hiding from the world? Maybe even from yourself? Know that all sins will be exposed. But the sins which the Lord expunges with Christ’s blood will not found any more. Take some today to examine your heart and confess your sins: It’s basic to our faith. And if you are doing good deeds, but don’t feel like anyone notices, continue to do them because God is honored and his honor will soon be revealed. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your love and for Your church, for You have envisioned it to be the perfect bride of Christ to the perfect Lamb of God. Thank You that You love us enough to speak words of discipline. Help me to be a person who willingly obeys You, and who walks in the power of your Spirit.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:2 Chronicles 11


Lunch Break Study

Read Acts 5:1-11: But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, [2] and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. [3] But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? [4] While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” [5] When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. [6] The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. [7] After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. [8] And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” [9] But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” [10] Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. [11] And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

Questions to Consider 

  1. The positive picture of the community’s willingness to share is marred by this couple who lied about their giving. Why was this a grievous sin? 
  2. According to verse 3, who is the instigator behind the couple’s deed, “filling” their hearts with deception? 
  3. Consider how well you are doing with being truthful to people. Do you at times find yourself telling little lies or even big ones, thinking no one will find out?  

Notes 

  1. The context is important: The Spirit was closely aligned to the unity of the fellowship manifested in their sharing. Ananias and Sapphira abused the fellowship through their deception and thereby threatened its unity.   
  2. Satan. And when we lie, we are acting consistently with Satan. 
  3. We often speak untruthful words to depict a certain reality about things. We need to confess that we are all capable of lying and that we need to guard our hearts from Satan’s ploys.  

Evening Reflection

Would you consider yourself to be a person who speaks truthfully to all people, at all times? Do you feel that you are honest at work? Do you have a tendency to hide things, maybe not speaking the truth when it inconveniences you? 

September 15, Tuesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Peter Yoon of Kairos Christian Church in San Diego, was first posted on May 19, 2014.  Peter is a graduate of University of California, Riverside (BA) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Don’t Give Yourself Too Much Credit”

Titus 3:3

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

Do you ever read a passage like this in the Bible and think to yourself, “C’mon God, I wasn’t that bad, was I?” While it’s easy for us to point our fingers towards Cain, Korah, King Saul, Nabal, Jezebel, and all of the Assyrian army, we’d like to give ourselves a little more credit than what  this passage describes. 

We often become critical of others and see faults rather easily in the Cains and the King Sauls around us. All the while, we neglect to see our own brokenness and sins. We insinuate that while others are gossiping, we’re only “sharing” pertinent information; others are hoarders, but I’m a saver; others struggle with fears that immobilize them from making decisions, while I’m merely waiting on the Lord. Why do our motives seem so pure while others seem so sinful?  

Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all else.” Adding insult to injury, the Devil, the “father of lies,” takes our deceitful hearts and masterfully complements that with his own set of lies so that we remain in a dangerous place of self-deception. Inevitably, that leads us towards self-righteousness. The last time that Jesus had a taste of a self-righteous group of believers, he said that he was about to “spit” them out of his mouth (Rev. 3:14-22). The Greek word “spit” depicts someone having a gag-reflex. Self- righteousness must have been very disgusting to Jesus. 

Some of us may have grown up with proper manners and good outward behaviors towards others. Good.  However, we know that our hearts were far from the glory of God. All of us came to Christ with our hearts full of foolishness, disobedience, deception, enslavement to all kinds of sinful passions and pleasures, malice, envy, pride, and hatred. But now Christ has fused His Spirit into our hearts so that His grace and power are at work transforming us into the image of Jesus Himself. Let’s stop looking at others; instead, let’s agree that we, too, struggle with our sin and brokenness and are in deep need of Christ’s grace each day. 

Prayer: Dear God, Your word says that You oppose the proud but give grace to the humble. Grant to me your grace, for I confess my need for You in my struggle with my personal sins. Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Chronicles 10


Lunch Break Study  

Read Luke 7:36-47 (NIV): When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. 39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. 41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What does Simon, the Pharisee, fail to do to Jesus who was the guest at his table?
  2. What does Jesus’ parable reveal about the reality of the relationship between forgiveness and love? 
  3. As you are getting older as a Christian, are you becoming more aware of your personal brokenness and sin tendencies which lead you to appreciate God’s grace more deeply?  

Notes

  1. Simon fails to provide any water to wash Jesus’ hands/feet; he fails to greet the teacher with a kiss; and he fails to provide olive oil to refresh his guest. These weren’t subtle mistakes that Simon overlooked, but was a passive aggressive behavior at its best. To extend an invitation, only to deliberately slap Jesus in the face. Maybe Simon wanted to put Jesus in His place or was kind of afraid of being too closely associated with Jesus.  
  2. Jesus concludes that the woman has shown great love, and she understands her many sins have been forgiven. Jesus communicates to Simon that he has yet to be aware of his own sins and need for a Savior. 
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

The Gospel of Jesus Christ deals, first and foremost, with our sins rather than our needs. Yes, God is our Provider and promises to meet our needs. However, the Gospel asks us, “Jesus is Lord – what are you going to do about your sins?” Spend time confessing your sins and allow the Lord to purify you from all unrighteousness.