October 28, Wednesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Shan Gian who is the Fenway Site pastor at Symphony Church in Boston, was originally posted on September 29, 2014.  Shan is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“The Vanity of ‘Buffets’ in Life”

Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 (ESV)

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; 2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, 3 in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, 4 and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— 5 they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along,[a] and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— 6 before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, 7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. 8 Vanity[b] of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

People know me as someone who likes to eat massive amounts of food; so naturally, I love buffets.  There’s a sense of excitement and joy that wells up within me thinking about all of the food I’m going to eat.  I think about what my strategy will be as to what food to eat and what to skip.  I enjoy walking up and down the buffet lines, scouting out my targets.  It’s so much fun.  Or at least they used to be . . .

I’m sad to say that it really isn’t fun anymore.  As I get older, my body can’t take as much food as I used to in my younger years. Back then, I would eat without the fear of consequences; but now, eating large quantities of food takes its toll on my body.  And having gone through the pains of overeating many times, I don’t really look forward to eating at buffets; I just don’t find much pleasure in them anymore.  As we get older, many things just don’t make us as happy as they used to.  When we’re young, it’s exciting to see a new movie, download the latest album from your favorite band, or go see your favorite team play; but as we grow older, these things don’t really excite us.  

Solomon recognizes this grim truth that a time comes when we won’t find pleasure in this world.  He’s not talking about trials in our lives; rather, the king is acknowledging that in the end, things of this world will fade away, and we will not find joy in them.  That is why he says again and again, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity” or “Meaningless, meaningless; everything is meaningless.”

It may seem like a depressing thought, but it is the truth.  Though there is joy and pleasure to be had in this world, it will eventually all fade away. However, there is something much greater that we should look forward to.  Solomon says that “desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home” (v. 5). The desires and pleasures of this world fade in light of the eternity, and what we will have in heaven.  1 John 1:17 says that “the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”  The world, our desires, and pleasures of this life will fade, but if we, no matter how young or old, choose to do the will of God, we will see and experience things that are eternal.  Today, let’s seek to do the will of God and live for our eternal home in heaven.

Prayer: Father, we long for the eternal home we have with you in heaven.  We realize that things of this world will not satisfy us, but only your presence and love can be enough for us.  May your will be done in our lives and that we can experience that eternity with you.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 27


Lunch Break Study  

Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Questions to Consider

  1. How does Paul describe the “outer self”?  
  2. How can we see our afflictions to be light and momentary?
  3. How can we be renewed day by day?  

Notes

  1. The outer self is wasting away and experiencing light and momentary affliction.  
  2. Our afflictions can be seen as light and momentary in view of the eternal glory to come.  We must fix our eyes on what is unseen and eternal.  When we do, we will see the glory and holiness of God and consider our eternity with him; then, the troubles of this world will fade away in comparison to that glory.
  3. Every day we can reflect on heaven and an eternity with God.  When we remember and hope for this, we can experience a daily renewal in our heart.

Evening Reflection

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). What afflictions or difficulties have you faced today?  Take some time and reflect on this eternal glory that awaits us in heaven.  Pray that you can keep your eyes fixed and your heart longing for what is unseen and eternal, and not on what is seen and will pass away. 

October 27, Tuesday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., was originally posted on March 27, 2013; it has been updated. Mark is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Discerning God’s Voice in Our Lives”

Psalm: 29:3-5 (ESV)

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;  the God of glory thunders,  the Lord, over many waters.  4 The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. 5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. 

One essential “skill” that believers need to develop, if they want to grow spiritually, is the ability to hear the voice of God.   The matter of hearing God’s voice is rarely addressed in most evangelical churches because, to be frank, they are influenced more by rationalism than the NT theology.   Some even equate it to seeking extra canonical revelations from God, which is not true.   

If we believe that God knows the minute details of our lives, then it would make sense that He would speak to us and we would be able to recognize his voice.  For too many believers, the words in the Bible stay confined to the pages and they never become living and active.  The words of the Scripture are certainly principles to live by, but they are also a voice for us to follow.  We need to learn to discern God’s voice in our lives.

The problem is most churches don’t teach the basic steps of hearing and obeying God’s voice, not realizing that it isn’t that difficult to help people to learn this life changing spiritual discipline.    Here are the three basic guidelines to help you get started in hearing the powerful voice of God.  

  1. Are the words that I am hearing scriptural in principle? Read the Scripture to verify. 
  2. Do these words display the character of Christ? 
  3. Is there anything in my life that taints my hearing? If so, then, confess and repent.

As you pray this morning, ask the Lord to speak to you and then take a few moments to really listen for His voice.  

Prayer: Holy Spirit, I confess that I can sometimes be hard of hearing as you try to speak to me.  Give me ears to hear what you are saying to me personally and what you may be saying to the church.  Also, give me the wisdom to discern the words that are from you as opposed to my own flesh; above all, give me the faith and courage to obey the convictions that I receive.   In Jesus’ name, amen.   

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 26


Lunch Break Study

Read John 10:27 (ESV): My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the underlying reason for why we can hear the voice of God?  
  2. Where does Jesus lead us as we follow?  (Psalm 23:2, John 10:10)
  3. What are the benefits of obeying his voice?  (John 10:28)

Notes

  1. The main reason why we can hear God’s voice is that we know Him and he knows us.  The Christian faith is much more than cognitive knowledge; it is a profound personal relationship based on love, trust, and communication.  
  2. The promise of Christ is that He will lead us to green pastures and still waters, that is, to the abundant life.  In John 10:10, Jesus, contrasting himself to the thieves and hired hands who only look to steal and destroy the sheep, states that he comes so that we may have life and have it abundantly.  The Greek word translated abundantly literally means “that which goes way beyond necessity.”  The gift of Jesus is to lead us to life beyond our wildest dreams. 
  3. One main benefit of obeying Jesus’ voice is the security that it provides.  We are in constant danger of being attacked by the schemes of the enemy but Jesus can lead us to safety.   In order for us to rest in the security that Jesus provides for us, we have to recognize our human tendency to stray like sheep.  Like the lyrics of the classic hymn, “Come thou fount,” we have to pray constantly, “Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee.”

Evening Reflection

We often forget how dependent we are on the voice of God.  Just as sheep cannot survive without hearing and following the voice of their shepherd, the believer who doesn’t heed God’s voice will find himself in constant spiritual danger.   

In what tangible way did you obey God’s leading today?  Were there some difficult choices to be made?     

October 26, Monday

UPDATED Today’s AMI Devotional QT, written by Pastor Sam Lee who leads Catalyst Agape Church in Northern New Jersey, was first posted on July 28, 2014.  He is a graduate of University of Wisconsin (BA) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Spiritual Respite Amid Bad News from All Sides”

1 Peter 4:7

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.

When I was young, bad news reported on television was limited to what happened locally. Now with the advent of internet, I get bad news from every corner of the world, instantly. I hear about the civil war in Syria, the conflicts in Ukraine, the oppressions in North Korea, the increasing conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, and on and on.  All these bad news from afar, along with bad news around me, can steal my peace and keep me up at night. 

So how should Christians respond to things that seem out of our control and causes us to stress? The Bible says, “Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.”  That is to say, when we are losing peace, the best response is to pray.  Though those around us seem to depend on a round of golf, a shot of espresso, or a quart of ice cream, prayer is so much better, more powerful, and more effective in handling anxiety, chaos, and stress. 

So today, seek spiritual respite amid bad news from all sides.  Pray—not the superficial, guilt-driven, garden variety kind of prayer, but vine-to-branch connection prayer.  Today, find the best time and place to pray: that is, a time when you are most alert and awake, as well as a place where you will not be distracted.  Find a place that inspires you to pray.  It may be a remote park bench visited during your lunch time. During this special time, come before the Lord with a soft and honest heart. It is not His purpose that you suffer through lifeless prayers. He will meet with you. As a matter of fact, He is waiting for you. The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords is waiting for you.  

Prayer: Lord, remind me and motivate me to find the time and a place to spend quiet and quality time with you today.  You are always so ready to meet with me, though I always make excuses.  But not today, Lord!  I will see you later during my lunch hour.  Thank you, Jesus. 

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 25


Lunch Break Study

Read Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Write down the convictions that God gives you through this passage concerning prayer.
  2. How can you apply those convictions to your prayer life?

Note

  1. Most of us worry too much, even those who emphasize God’s sovereignty. That’s why it is important to take a pause in the middle of a hectic day and meditate on Ps. 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”  
  2. To pray like this, we cannot be hurried nor rushed.  While we do most of the talking (praying), we must also keep silent to detect God’s whisper (e.g., a verse, affirming or convicting words, even an image) spoken to our heart.

Evening Reflection

Reflect and walk out the revelations God gave you during your time with Him.

October 25, Sunday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on March 16, 2014.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Being a Role Model for Christ”

1 John 3:11

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good.”

The former NBA player, the great Charles Barkley, perhaps the only man to slam Shaquille O’Neal to the floor, once said, “I’m not a role model. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”  Many critics, assailing his remark as being irresponsible and evasive, reasoned that professional athletes, whose fans include many impressionable children, have obligations to be positive influences in society.  In retrospect, it was a good thing Barkley said that, since he later made headlines for running sizable gambling debts and drunken driving.  

Certainly, we need role models, especially children.  One Christian author wrote: “Our world is desperately in need of models worth following.  Authentic heroes.  People of integrity, whose lives inspire us to do better, to climb higher, to stand taller.”  No athlete fits that bill better than Tim Tebow, who was previously the quarterback for the Denver Broncos.  He thanks Jesus after every victory, has committed to chastity until marriage, and helps the poor, such as building a hospital in the Philippines.  Tebow says that for him, the goal of playing football “is to be a great role model that parents can look at their son and say, ‘That’s someone who is trying to do it the right way. . . . He is trying to honor God and do the right thing.’”  That’s great and I’m so blessed and challenged to hear that, but if the Bible says anything at all, it is that sooner or later the so-called “heroes of faith” will disappoint their fans. 

The case in point is the aforementioned author, a leading Bible expositor in America who, after talking about the need for true heroes, pointed to King David as being such a man.  One example he gave to vouch for his character is the time when he crept up unnoticed, and cut off a corner of the robe worn by the sleeping King Saul, a man on a mission to kill David.  Afterwards, David, so conscience-stricken by his action, lamented, saying,  “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him . . . .”(1 Sam 24:6a).   I wonder whether David himself would have felt comfortable with such flattery or with the idea of becoming a role model for people living in the 21st century.  A man who committed murder, adultery, and evasion of responsibility that resulted in the deaths of 70,000 people (2 Sam. 24:12-17) would have probably said, “No, not me.”  

It was said earlier that our heroes in the Bible often disappoint us.  To that extent, Eugene Peterson offered a refreshingly candid view on David.  He wrote: “The narrator refuses to idealize or glamorize him to show that God’s sovereignty works through just such a mixed bag of human failures and sin. . . . The entire biblical story never lets us forget that it is a God’s story of our salvation, not a collection of moral achievements for use as a moral handbook.  This is the narrative of what God does to save us, not what we do to please him.”  What does this mean?  The life of David is intended for us to get excited about God, who continued to love and use him despite of him!   If David were to say anything to today’s evangelicals enamored with him, or any other human heroes, even Tebow, he might have said: “Please, I am neither your hero nor your role model, only Jesus is.”  

I am sure Tebow would agree with that sentiment as well because he understands, as he said in the aforementioned quote (which I purposely left out), “[I’m] not perfect but everyday [I’m] trying to get better, [I’m] trying to honor God.”  Barkley is no hero, not necessarily because of his weak moments on and off the court (for we all have them, including Tebow), but his declaration is to free him so that he could live any way he desires.  Tebow’s declaration, on the other hand, is to limit his freedom so that he does not do whatever he pleases; but in order to please his hero, the one whom he calls “my Lord Jesus Christ.”  It’s a good thing to try to be a hero to the discouraged and deprived people “just as [we] also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1b NKJ).  

Inasmuch as salty food creates thirst for water, our lives must create a thirst for Jesus Christ who, like an offensive tackle throwing his body to create a path for his running back, gave up his body to save us.  So how is your life?  Is anyone seeing Christ through your life?  Or have you given that up for more freedom to please yourself?  It’s something to think about.

Prayer: Lord, I just want the folks around me to see how You still love me even when I fail You.  I want them to see how Your unconditional love and acceptance actually change me so that I am no longer the person I used to be.  I pray that seeing such amazing grace is why they would want You.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 24

October 24, Saturday

UPDATED Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought is an updated version of AMI QT Devotional first posted on August 4, 2013.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Three Thoughts and Three Questions for Today”

Luke 1:76

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways . . .”

I am not sure why John is commonly known as John the Baptist in our days since the true baptizer is none other than Jesus Christ (Luke 3:16; Acts 2:33).  Instead, John is called “the prophet of the Most High”, meaning John’s calling was to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Matt. 3:3b) by way of speak boldly about the coming Messiah. Once the long-awaited Christ came, John stepped aside for him, saying, “He must become greater; I must become less” (Jn. 3:30).

In view of that, is it okay that you are not in the spotlight?  Are you truly content just with Jesus?

Luke 1:68-79

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71 that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; 72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us 74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Zechariah’s song can be divided into three parts: first, what God does for His people through Jesus Christ (vv. 68-75); second, how God uses his servant to prepare others to meet Jesus (vv. 76-77); third, what God provides for His people who place their faith in Jesus Christ (vv. 78-79).  

Which part of the song do you want God to do in your life?

Without sounding so impious, I would like to say, “Sometimes God is predictable.”  Sending Jesus Christ was never an afterthought.  God acts according to what He promised (Luke 1:70-75).  Read the entire passage again.  We are able to serve God (v. 74b) because God rescued us from our enemies (vv. 71, 74a).  

What is keeping you from serving the Lord these days?

Prayer: Lord, help me to be content with my life as long I have You in my heart.  Dear Jesus, help me to sing songs of joy because of You.  Christ, remind me to be thankful for Your faithful and predictable love for me. Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 22-23

October 23, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI Quiet Time, provided by Pastor Peter Yoon of Kairos Christian Church in San Diego, is an updated version of his blog first posted on May 23, 2014.  Peter is a graduate of University of California, Riverside (BA) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Divisiveness in the Church”

Titus 3:10-11

Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.

Although a common theme in the NT is unity (both Jesus and Paul prayed for unity), a weapon of choice that can effortlessly undermine unity is gossip. The author of Proverbs noticed that gossip served itself on a platter and was eaten as delicious morsels by its participants (Prov. 18:8), yet all gossip creates a culture of distrust, suspicion, doubt, and ultimately disunity. 

Unfortunately, a divisive person is not easy to recognize in the church. The person may appear to carry the best intentions as he/she shares some “constructive criticism” about the church, the small group, the worship team, or the pastoral staff. The listeners begin to take notice of what once seemed to be trivial matters but has somehow quickly escalated into a matter of urgency and great discontentment. What was once a small church fighting for unity, a small group gaining momentum, or a worship team working harmoniously, is now a combative group—mean towards one another or at best stand-offish so that they merely put up with one another.

A divisive person is not to be tolerated in the church. His/her attacks are often taken in the shifting shadows where it is not easy to catch them in the act. Paul knows that the gospel is at stake if the church becomes fractured by divisive and toxic conversations that tear down rather than build up. The divisive person must be identified and warned sternly once, then a second time. 

Do you sometimes try little too hard to justify your discontentment with your church?  Do you, therefore, find yourself talking with anyone who is willing to listen to your complaint while not saying hardly anything to the leaders?  You may say things like, “I brought up this matter to see if my thinking is off; what do you think?  It could be that you are trying to get that person to your side.  The best thing to do is to speak to the leaders of the church directly.  In fact, in any relationship, the direct approach is always the best.  Try it today.    

Prayer: Dear God, use my tongue to build up and edify the church rather than divide and hurt the church. Today, I pray for the leadership of my church asking that You will bless them and their families. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 21


Lunch Break Study  

Read Luke 9:46-48: An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”

Questions to Consider 

  1. What does this potentially divisive argument among the disciples reveal about our human nature?
  2. How are the disciples to cultivate authentic humility as servants of God’s Kingdom?
  3. In what ways do you make deliberate attempts to cultivate humility as God’s servants? Do you deliberately spend time with those with the “least” status? 

Notes

  1. Luke addresses the issue of status. The synonym of “status” for most people is “power,” and its antonym is “lowliness.” But Jesus calls us away from pursuing status and power. Viewed spiritually, the opposite of status is humility. Such an attitude is fundamental for the disciple. There is an intense irony here: as Jesus discusses the Son of Man’s approaching rejection, the disciples are consumed by their own discipleship rankings. 
  2. Jesus points to a child, a person with little status in the ancient world. Jesus does not view children as insignificant. For him every person counts. Bringing the child to his side, Jesus says, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” Jesus’ point is that everyone, even the lowest person on the ladder, is important. Receiving a child is like receiving God.

Evening Reflection

Were you able to bless, encourage, and edify others with the use of your tongue today?  

October 22, Thursday

NEW Today’s AMI QT Devotional is prepared by Pastor Jason Sato who, along with his wife Jessica, is currently serving in Japan as a missionary.  Jason is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning 

“The Small, Menial Ways

John 1:26–28 (ESV)

John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, [27] even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” [28] These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

John the Baptist is very aware of who he is. He knows he is a prophet, the very fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. He calls the Israelites to repentance, baptizes them, and rebukes the Jewish leaders with boldness.

John the Baptist is also very aware of who he is not. When the Jewish leaders ask him who he is, John is clear in His response. “He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ’” (John 1:20). He tells them he is not the prophet Elijah, brought back into the world. He is also not the Prophet who is to be like Moses. John knows he is not the Word, the Life, and the Light. He declares that he is, in fact, unworthy to untie the Messiah’s sandals. 

In the Ancient Near East, disciples were expected to do everything for their rabbi that a slave would do. There was one exception. He did not need to clean his rabbi’s feet, for this was considered the lowest possible task. John the Baptist states that not only would he do this menial job, but he is actually unworthy to do so. It would be a great privilege and an unexpected blessing to be able to serve his Lord in this humiliating way.

In Japan, the gospel is going forth but its progress is often slow and appears small. Spiritual warfare is real and the ministry is not very glamorous. However, it is not a burden, but the Lord’s blessing and favor to allow His people to serve Him in a difficult place. 

In our workplaces, churches, and homes, the Lord is daily giving us opportunities to serve Him in small, menial ways. There are tasks to do and people to love that that the world says are beneath us. May we not miss these opportunities to bring Him great glory.

Prayer: Father, may I know who I am in You – a beloved child of God. And may I know who I am not – the King of glory. You are worthy of my daily, hourly worship and obedience. Give me the joy of serving You well.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 20


Lunch Break Study 

Read 1 Corinthians 4:1–4 (ESV): “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. [2] Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. [3] But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. [4] For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.”

Question to Consider 

  1. Paul is an apostle, yet how does he call us to regard him?
  2. What is required of servants and stewards?
  3. Who judges the faithfulness of Christ’s servants?

Notes 

  1. Paul wants his readers to consider him to be a servant and steward of Christ.
  2. Faithfulness is the most important characteristic of a servant or steward.
  3. God alone judges. The world and even the servants themselves do not determine who is faithful and who is not.

Evening Reflection 

Reflect on your day.  What opportunities were there to serve the Lord in humble ways? Did you take advantage of those opportunities? Why or why not? Ask the Lord for forgiveness for missed opportunities and thank Him that He will give you more tomorrow.

October 21, Wednesday

REPOST Today’s AMI Devotional Quiet Time, provided by Christine Li, was first posted on August 1, 2014.  Christine, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania, serves as a deaconess at Remnant Church in Manhattan, New York.  Congratulations to Christine for her recent nuptial.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“The Gospel at the Crossroad of Pleasing God or Man”

Galatians 1:10 

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

What does “trying to please men” have to do with sharing the gospel?   As we share with our unbelieving friends ever so tactfully, at some point or another we may wonder, “Am I saying things so the person will like me or think that I am clever?  Am I truly being a servant of Christ in my life, actions, and speech?”

Since this is not always black-and-white, frequently examining our motives behind witnessing seems reasonable.  As for me, I have a friend in particular who is very difficult to speak to about God. Because my friend has experienced a lot of hurt from the Church throughout his life and, as a result, lives in a defiant manner, I try to be careful when talking about Christ and the Church. I find that in order to keep both the friendship, but feel like I am still being a witness, I’ll try to seed the idea of Christ in his mind by talking a lot about unconditional forgiveness or about being made whole in Christ, but I avoid any talk about how we are deserving of condemnation for our sins without Christ. 

I put forth this example because how we exhibit the gospel in our daily lives often falls into those gray zones. Sometimes, I am unsure if I am being wise about the timing of preaching the gospel to him, or if I am sacrificing truth so that I may maintain this friendship by presenting a “vetted” Christianity that will intrigue my friend. Is this okay if it’s a temporary foray into introducing Christ to my friend, or is this an example of secretly trying to win the approval of man rather than God? 

While it is still somewhat unclear, I know this much: if my heart seeks approval of men at the cost of the truth, then I am a poor steward of the truth and testimony that God has given me. Three things I do ask for us all is this: first, that God would give us clarity and wisdom about preaching the gospel; second, may He give us the boldness to preach the complete truth to those around us; and third, may He supply our obedience to work in a manner pleasing to Him.

 
Prayer:
Lord, thank You for Your grace and love in my life; I know that without it, I cannot even live. I confess that I am not always a good steward of Your truth, and I need Your help against the fear of man. Help me to understand Your truth more deeply and not compromise it in my life or in my speech.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 19


Lunch Break Bible Study

Read Galatians 1:11-24: We know that Paul is responding to accusations from others: they question the gospel he preaches and also the apostleship that he has. Significantly, it is the Jewish Christians who yearn to keep the people in line with the Jewish law that most often lobby the accusations against Paul.

Questions to Consider

  1. In vv. 11-12, what is significant about what Paul says about his faith? 
  2. How does Paul’s inclusion of his testimony bolster what he says about his commission and the gospel that he preaches? 
  3. Read vv.23-24. What does this say about the way God may choose to use us and even our past? Do you allow Him to use your personal testimony in this manner?

Notes

  1. Paul’s understanding of the gospel comes from God alone – the highest authority! While not all Christians must have a “dramatic” conversion experience, our confession of faith comes when we are faced with the gospel, the totality of our sin and our great need for Jesus Christ. For Paul, his conversion came with a great commission for his future work.
  2. Paul is reminding them of his previous lifestyle, crusading against Christ and Christians, and his great zealotry as a Jew. To have received the gospel of Jesus Christ and be commissioned to preach it to the Gentiles was not his doing; it can only be attributed to God’s grace and direction. 
  3. It’s so encouraging to see that God used Paul’s testimony as a militant unbeliever to make others praise God! Likewise, it strengthens our faith that God can restore every bit of our past.

Evening Reflection

Did you come across a situation today where you felt like you were tempted to compromise your faith? Let’s pray over it and ask God to redeem the situation, as well as for wisdom to better speak the truth next time.

October 20, Tuesday

NEW Today’s AMI QT Devotional is prepared by Pastor Jason Sato who, along with his wife Jessica, is currently serving in Japan as a missionary.  Jason is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning 

“None Like Him”

John 1:9–16 (ESV)

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. [10] He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. [11] He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. [12] But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, [13] who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. [14] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. [15] (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) [16] For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

Imagine a freed slave after the Civil War who just met President Lincoln. Would he try to shake his hand or spit at his face?  Imagine a prisoner in a Nazi death camp who just met their liberators—the Allied soldiers. Would he try to shake their hands or spit at their faces?  Too easy to answer?  You just wait.  

In the first eight verses of John 1, we were introduced to the Word, the true light that has not been overcome by the darkness. He is greater and more glorious than anyone or anything. 

But when the source of all life and light comes into the world, He is rejected. Verse 10 tells us that the people of the world did not know the one who had created them. In fact, His own people did not receive them. These are the people whom He had personally delivered from slavery in Egypt. He had given them the Promised Land, the Law and the Prophets. He had been faithful to them for generations, despite their own unfaithfulness. Yet, they did not receive Him.

If we are familiar with the Bible, we can hear about this and not be that surprised. But this is truly insane. This is like a freed slave after the Civil War refusing to shake President Lincoln’s hand. This is like a prisoner in a Nazi death camp spitting at the Allied soldiers who came to free them. That would be crazy.

But God is not simply a nice stranger who has saved us. He did not simply stumble upon us. The Word of God is our Creator, the giver of life, the giver of every good gift we have. He has pursued us constantly. We have been created to know and love Him. No one knows us better or has been more faithful to us, but in our sin, we have rejected Him.


If you and I met and then twenty years later you did not remember who I am, that would be understandable. If my children grow up and pretend that they don’t know me, that’s a very different thing.

So what does this rejected King do? He has been shamed and dismissed. His own people are openly rebelling against Him.

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” (John 1:12). The rejected King takes our hatred and disdain and comes to dwell among us. He comes with grace and truth. He comes to show us the face of the invisible God and to give His life to adopt us into His family.

There is no other god like this. We could not make up a god this good if we tried. But He is real. He is the one true God and he invites us to know Him, to belong to Him, to taste and see that He is as good and, in fact, better than we have heard. 

Prayer: Lord, there is no God like You. None so gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. I cannot imagine why You would patiently pursue me. I open my heart and life to You for You alone are good.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 18


Lunch Break Study  

Read Hosea 2:14–15 (ESV): “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.[15] And there I will give her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.  And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.”

Question to Consider 

  1. In response to Israel’s sin, the Lord declares that He will discipline her. Verses 14-15 explain the Lord’s overarching purpose. What is God’s desire?
  2. What happened at the Valley of Achor? See Joshua 7:20-25.
  3. How did the people respond to the Lord when they first came out of the land of Egypt? See Exodus 24:3.

Notes 

  1. To draw His people back to Him and that they might regain their first love for Him.
  2. Achan had disobeyed the Lord’s command and taken spoil following victory over Jericho. Achan was stoned to death at the Valley of Achor, but here the Lord promises to transform this place of judgment into a door of hope.
  3. They committed themselves to obey His law and serve Him only.

Evening Reflection 

Reflect upon your day. Were there moments when you were tempted to take sin lightly? Were there moments when you were aware of the Lord’s remarkable goodness? Ask God for eyes to see His surprising love for you.

October 19, Monday

NEW Today’s AMI QT Devotional is prepared by Pastor Jason Sato who, along with his wife Jessica, is currently serving in Japan as a missionary.  Jason is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning 

“Intro 101 to Jesus”

John 1:1-8 (ESV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [2] He was in the beginning with God. [3] All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. [4] In him was life, and the life was the light of men. [5] The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. [6] There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. [7] He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. [8] He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

When we are learning something new, we tend to go through stages. Let’s use physics as an example. In Stage 1, I don’t understand physics and I know I don’t understand physics. In Stage 2, I take a few physics courses and learn a few things but in reality, I still don’t understand physics. Only now, I don’t realize I don’t understand physics. In Stage 3, I learn enough physics to realize how little I understand and while I am growing in competence, I know I have a vast amount to learn.

These stages of learning may unfold when we learn about a new topic like health care or crime or when we are learning a new skill like playing the guitar or programming. They can also occur in the context of relationships. We can begin to imagine that we have figured out a friend, colleague, or parent and stop listening when in fact we are really in Stage 2, unaware of our ignorance.

Tragically, this can also happen with our relationship with Jesus. According to John 20:31, the Gospel of John was written so that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ and have life in His name. With this in mind, the apostle John begins his gospel introducing Jesus, and he essentially says, “You do not know who I am talking about.”

John tells us that in the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word is the Creator of all things. He is Life itself. He is the Light that is not overcome by the darkness.

Then the apostle John goes on a strange tangent. He says, “There was a man…” This man is not the light. His name is John the Baptist. Now we must understand that John the Baptist is not only the prophet who came before Jesus. He is the greatest prophet in human history. In fact, according to Matthew 11:11, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.

No one greater! Consider great people of human history. Great conquerors like Genghis Khan and Napoleon. Great geniuses like Einstein and Newton. Great spiritual leaders like Mother Theresa and Gandhi. John the Baptist is greater than all of them, but he is most certainly NOT the light!

The greatest person in human history is nothing compared to the true light who was coming into the world. This true light is not only worthy of affection but of all-consuming devotion. He deserves not only respect, but reverent, everlasting worship. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the Lion of Judah, the Lamb of God, and the Savior of the World.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, may I never grow familiar with You in such a way that I lose my sense of awe and wonder. There is no one like You. You are above and beyond what words can express. Thank You that You receive my worship. You are worthy. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 17


Lunch Break Study 

Read Isaiah 6:1–7 (ESV): In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. [2] Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. [3] And one called to another and said:“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” [4] And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. [5] And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”[6] Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. [7] And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” 

Question to Consider 

  1. How do the seraphim demonstrate their reverence toward the Lord?
  2. What is Isaiah’s response to the glory of God?
  3. How is Isaiah able to remain in the presence of the Lord?

Notes 

  1. The seraphim cover their faces and feet before the Lord and they continually declare God’s holiness.
  2. Isaiah is terrified and calls down curses upon himself, aware that as a sinner he cannot be in the presence of a holy God and live.
  3. One of the seraphim touches Isaiah’s unclean lips with a burning coal to take away Isaiah’s guilt and atone for his sin. Likewise, we are only able to come into the presence of God by the cleansing and atoning blood of Jesus.

Evening Reflection 

Reflect on your day. Were there thoughts or circumstances that made Jesus appear small and ordinary? Were there moments when Jesus’s glory began to shine? Ask the Lord that He might reveal Himself to You and thank Him that He is eager to do so.