May 28, Thursday

NEW Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Cami King who serves as associate pastor at Remnant Church in Manhattan.  Cami is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Revolution & Interruption”

Luke 1:1-4

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

Acts 2:1-2

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.

tamas-tuzes-katai-UgFIkultx6w-unsplashDuring the Easter season, I spent time reading through the Gospel of Luke and am now making my way through Acts as we prepare for Pentecost. Taking another look at the life and teachings of Jesus in Luke and the presence and work of the Spirit in Acts has been especially helpful for me, as we all do the hard work of reevaluating and reimagining during our present season of upheaval.

My reading of these texts, while being inundated with the statements and movements of various Christians around the country during this season, has cemented my suspicion that sometimes (often times?) we in the Church lack vision for how God moves in the world and how we come to discern those movements and, in so discerning, know what to do in partnership with God. My time in Luke-Acts has highlighted two crucial things in this regard: God’s story is one of revolution and God’s work is a work of interruption.

God is transforming all of Creation – from hearts and minds to societies and kingdoms to (one day) the literal heavens and earth. Transformation is not preservation. And transformation requires change—it’s an act of revolution. If we want to understand where God is and how God is moving, then, it would behoove us to learn a little bit about revolutions—particularly how they come about and what they’re resisting to change. God’s story is a story of revolution.

And God’s work in our present world is ALWAYS a work of interruption. From the Creation (which interrupted nothing with something) to the Exodus (which interrupted Egyptian empire/rule) to the prophets (who interrupted the religious and political status quo) to the birth of Jesus (which not only interrupted Mary’s life, but turned the world upside down), to the cross (which was a painful interruption, or so it seemed, to the disciples hopes for deliverance), to the greatest interruption of them all the resurrection (which interrupted, and so overcame, death itself).

God is authoring a revolution through a series of holy interruptions. 

If this is true, as followers of Jesus, we have to learn to discern God’s movements in any given moment in history, looking for those interruptions so we can actively participate in God’s revolutionary work in our time. Theologian Willie James Jennings suggests this is the agenda of the book of Acts, “to narrate how one discerns God’s movements” – what they look like and how Creation responds.

God is at work right now through the Spirit in the world today. So, are we discerning those movements? And how are we, who are not only creatures but those with whom the Spirit of God dwells, called to respond?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please free me from my tendency toward people-pleasing and self-gratification. Make me aware of the other masters in my life today, so that, having been liberated from them, I can discern what You are doing in the world and then join. Help me to serve You even when it is difficult. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Isaiah 36


Lunch Break Study

Read Acts 2:36-47: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Question to Consider

  1. These verses pick up right after the Holy Spirit comes to the Church for the very first time at Pentecost. What was the people’s (v. 37) response to the movement of the Spirit in Acts 2?
  2. How did Peter instruct them? What is the significance of these next steps? What promise did he give them?
  3. What was the result of their obedience in response to the movement of the Spirit? What do you notice about their devotion? How does this encourage or challenge you to respond to the Spirit today?

Notes

  1. The people asked, “What should we do?” Why?  It’s because they were deeply convicted after hearing the truth concerning Jesus and the message of the Gospel and turned to God (through Peter and the Apostles) for guidance and direction.   
  2. Peter told them to repent and be baptized. Repent simply means to change one’s mind(set) or thinking. Repentance is always required as we seek to respond to the truth and movements of God. Peter also tells them to be baptized. This is more than just being dipped or sprinkled with water. The baptism ceremony is an sign of a reality in our lives and hearts—that reality is our choice to be immersed in intimacy with Jesus through relationship and in the body of Christ, the Church, as we do life together with one another. The promise Peter gives is that the listeners will receive the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s presence in the lives of believers is not something we earn or have to conjure up; it’s a gift of grace given to all those who turn to God in repentance and are immersed in relationship with God and God’s people in community.
  3. The result was a radical and generative community, fully devoted in self-giving love and care for one another. There are lots of things to notice about their devotion—take note of what they were devoted to and how they expressed their devotion. The thing that strikes me most is that it was all organic and unprescribed. We often need rule and law to tell us to give and share, gather and pray, love and care. But there were no laws demanding this—this was their natural (reasonable, even – Romans 12:2) response to the Good News and the gift they’d received. They were caught up in the love of God and thus drawn into God’s love for those around them.

Evening Reflection

valentin-hermann-XnE_ghJTqAE-unsplash“God is authoring a revolution through a series of holy interruptions.”

Do you find yourself resisting change and transformation? If yes, why? How does the good news of the Kingdom of God (the Gospel, that God is bringing forth a New Creation) encourage you to desire and participate in God’s transformative work? In what specific ways is God inviting you (and your community) to be transformed in this season? What practical steps of obedience can you take in that direction?

May 27, Wednesday

NEW Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Cami King who serves as associate pastor at Remnant Church in Manhattan.  Cami is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Holy Discontentment”

Hebrews 12:25-29

See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! 26 At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; 29 for indeed our God is a consuming fire.

daniel-schludi-jj7KUeTRTCE-unsplashTo my surprise, the pervasive sentiment I’m noticing in myself in this season is discontentment. And when I talk to others, I sense discontentment in them as well (even though some describe it as boredom). The luxury of routine and ample provision can leave us thinking, “There must be more than this!” Others express it as frustration with the brokenness we sense in ourselves and the world. Still others express it as confusion and uncertainty about our purpose, worth, and life path. And while I imagine some of these feelings were present before this pandemic, they seem harder to ignore nowadays.

God’s promise in every situation is to work for our good (Romans 8:28). And I believe that God, in grace and mercy, is entering into our present mess to shake everything that can be shaken so that what is unshakable remains. We have a profound opportunity in this moment to contend with what is broken (in ourselves, relationships, community, society, etc.), bring it to God, and begin to imagine something new and unshakable.

As the world shuts down and the effects radiate throughout our lives, our illusion of control is shaken. As the behaviors of each person pose a palpable threat to the lives of others, the lie of independence in shaken. As our present systems continue to fall short of our collective needs (to put it mildly), we are invited to question our social structures as they are utterly shaken. As our jobs change (in fact, no jobs for many), we’re trapped in the house; vacations are cancelled and weddings are put on hold.  However, as our plans are interrupted and life as we know it quivers, God is inviting us to STOP and take note of all that’s being shaken.

I suspect this is the source of much of our discontentment. In the face of a world falling apart, we are sensing in ourselves a hunger for that which is unshakable, a hunger for the Kingdom of God. As we move forward from here, our world won’t be the same. And that may seem scary, and our impulse may be to fight to preserve and revert, but we have to remember that the world is broken (and so are we) and God’s whole Kingdom project is not one of preservation but of transformation.

The longer we sit in this moment with God and one another, I pray our discontent with business as usual grows. I pray that we begin to cry, “I want a new world!” Or, better yet, “I want to join God in making a new world.” And as we do so, may we rejoice and give thanks to our God who has already promised, “I am making everything new!…these words are trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:5).

Prayer: Sovereign God, help me to remember that I am where I am and that I do what I do because of your sovereign plan. Open my eyes so that I can join You in the remaking of this world. Help me to partner with you in the Kingdom work You have for me to do today. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isiah 35


Lunch Break Study

Read Micah 6:6-8: With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Question to Consider

  1. In verse 8, the prophet explains what God requires of God’s people. What are those requirements? How do they reveal God’s heart and desire for us?   
  2. The prophet compares what God actually requires (v. 8) with the religious rituals God’s people chose to offer God instead (vv.6-7). How do you find yourself falling into the trap of offering rituals over relationship?    
  3. What would it mean for you to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God in your present context? What is at least one practical way you can live out this verse this week?

Notes

  1. God requires that God’s people: (1) act justly (doing what’s right and fair and good in our relationships with one another), (2) love mercy (exercising kindness in our dealings with one another), (3) walk humbly with God (leaning into our need for and dependence upon God at every step). God’s heart and desire is for relationship—the relationship we have with God and the relationships we have with one another. This is what’s important to God—just and merciful relationships over religious rituals.
  2. While we don’t practice the same religious rituals, the original audience practiced (those listed in the verses), we certainly have our own versions of religiosity. What are the things you can fall into by routine without actually engaging your heart in loving (just and merciful) relationship with God and others?
  3. Personal reflection.

Evening Reflection

noble-brahma-kZWQ4mT-TlU-unsplashDo you sense things being shaken in your life or in the world around you in this season? In what specific ways? How have you responded? How might God be inviting you into holy discontentment and deeper hunger for the Kingdom of God?

May 26, Tuesday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., was originally posted on March 21, 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

“The Most Secure Foundation”

Psalm 26:8-12 (ESV)

O Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells. 9 Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, 10 in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes. 11 But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. 12 My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the Lord.

veronique-bauer-D4Dg8hpMahI-unsplashOne thing that has been made very clear amid the pandemic is this: The most secure foundation upon which we can build our lives is not our careers or being fit; rather, it’s God alone and the worship of Him.  The psalmist expresses his genuine love for worship as a reason why his fate should not be the same as that of the wicked.

As God’s creation, we are made for one glorious purpose, which is to worship Him with our entire being.  Sin has robbed us of that joy, and as a result, worshiping of idols has taken the place of the true worship of God.  It is impossible for man to exist apart from worship; it is just a matter of what we decide to bow our lives to.  John Calvin called the human mind a factory of idols because of our tendency to worship everything else but the One who came to save us.  As said at the outset, money, career, relationships, and our own ambitions are poor substitutes for the one true God.  Just as the classic hymn proclaims, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand”, this psalm challenges us to place our feet on the unshakeable ground of a life devoted to Christ alone.  If that’s your positive take away from the pandemic, then, you are more ready today than before to faithfully complete your journey on earth.

So, spend a few moments to worship God this morning.  Declare to Him your desire to be in his presence and to make Christ the only object of your worship.  (A couple of songs I would recommend is “In Christ Alone” by Stuart Townsend and “Cornerstone” by Hillsong.)

Prayer: Lord, I confess that my heart can be pulled in a million directions.  Though I want to love you with all my heart, mind, and soul, it is difficult to keep my spiritual focus amid my hectic life.  Help me to see that building my life on anything less than the rock of Christ, is to invite disaster into my life.  May You be enthroned in the highest place of my heart as I give You my worship. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 34


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 7:24-27 (ESV): “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What does it mean to build our house on the rock?
  2. How will our lives be tested and judged by God? (1 Corinthians 3:13)
  3. What is the connection between our obedience to God’s word and our love for Him?  (John 14:15)

Notes

  1. It is important to remember that the Christian faith is not about responding to the call of Christ with a short flurry of activity, but it is about building a foundation of lifelong commitment and persevering obedience.  These things will sustain your spiritual life, as the storms of life will come, soon or later.     
  2. 1 Corinthians 13:3 teaches that all our lives will be tested by fire on the day of judgment.  Whatever we have built on the foundation of Christ, whether it be gold, silver, hay, or straw, will determine the eternal reward of the works we have done on earth. (1 Cor. 13:4).    
  3. The description of love in the Bible is never based on sentiment alone.  Love is always ascribed to an action and the love of Christ cannot be divorced from our obedience to his commandments.  In fact, the great test of love is our willingness to obey all that He has commanded us to do.                

Evening Reflection

wolfgang-hasselmann-6w_9hr_DC7s-unsplashAs this day ends, reflect the way that you have spent today.  Were you wise with your time, money, and words?  Pray for God’s help in numbering the days you have been given.  In these tumultuous and unprecedented times, remember that there is only one thing that remains constant, Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.   Build your lives on that truth.   

May 25, Monday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on February 28, 2015, is provided by Mei Lan Thallman who serves at Grace Covenant Church in Philadelphia.  Mei Lan is a graduate of Asbury College (BA) and Asbury Theological Seminary (MA) in Kentucky.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Don’t Ever Give Up Praying”

Isaiah 55:8-13

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. [9] “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. [10] As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,[11] so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. [12] You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.[13] Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign that will endure forever.”

vincent-ghilione-mVoH3QQOYJs-unsplashAs a first-generation Christian in my family, I have been praying for the salvation of my family members for a long time. And I am so grateful to experience firsthand how God has used the intercessory prayers of the body of Christ to bring salvation to my beloved mother.  When she passed away unexpectedly eight years ago, my greatest comfort was the assurance of knowing that she was with Jesus.  But the process of praying for her salvation took more than 10 years.

Recently, I was feeling discouraged by the lack of visible breakthroughs in the ongoing 23 plus years of interceding for my siblings’ salvation and the heart wrenching circumstances that they are in.  A thought of, “What’s the use, you might as well give up praying for them,” came to my mind.  Just then, I felt the tugging of the Holy Spirit, reminding me of several prayers that were prayed over me: The first prayer was a prophetic word from a pastor that God has called me to be a spiritual pillar for my family.  The second prayer was that God was teaching me a new way to see, to respond, and to pray for my dysfunctional family through His perspective and not my own.

The above Isaiah passage reminds me that part of praying is yielding my thoughts and understanding to God’s thoughts and understanding.  My focus must be on God, His character, His ongoing eternal redemptive plan, and not on the lack of results and the circumstances.  On this side of heaven, 10 and 23 years seem like a long time, but from the perspective of eternity, they are like a blink of an eye or a drop in the bucket.

When I realign my thoughts and prayers according to the lordship and anointing of the Holy Spirit, God not only hears all my prayers, but He is faithful and able to accomplish His redemptive plan for the people He has laid on my heart to pray for; that is, in His timing and ways.  My job is to keep on praying in cooperating with the Holy Spirit without ceasing.

For whom and what have you been burdened to intercede for lately?

So, please don’t ever give up praying and never lose hope—all the more so as we are entering the uncharted territory of post COVID-19 world in which fear and uncertainty reign.  Know that your prayers are making all the difference in people’s eternal destinies and in God’s kingdom.  God can use our prayers to equip us to co-labor with the Holy Spirit and empower us to make an eternal difference in people’s lives.  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him (through intercession), so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).

Prayer: Father, no words can adequately capture the level of gratefulness I feel towards You for hearing my prayer.  Lord, I am weak, and I get easily discouraged. Please, remind me of Your mighty presence so that I am prompted in the Spirit, once again, to cry out to You. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 33


Lunch Break Study*

Read Philippians 3:12-16: Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Questions to Consider

  1. In this passage is the apostle Paul alluding to justification or sanctification?
  2. What do you know about sanctification and how is it different from justification?
  3. Do we play a part in our sanctification process?  What do you think?
  4. Is God convicting you of a certain area in your life?  In what ways do you need to “press on” and “strain forward” to live out that God-given conviction?

Notes

  1. In this passage, Paul is referring to the sanctification of believers.
  2. Whereas justification is the right standing before God that was established through Christ’s work on the cross, sanctification is the continuing process by which the Holy Spirit forms the perfect sinless image of Christ in our lives.  This is a process that began when we came to know Christ personally and will be completed on the day of His second coming (Phil. 1:6).
  3. One might think that since it is God who is working out our sanctification, we don’t have to do anything and we can passively go through life doing whatever we want and God will take care of the rest. Paul calls such thinking immature!  Fully understanding the sanctification process in a believer’s life, Paul was very active in seeking Christlikeness in his own life (“press on” v.12, 14; “straining forward” v.13).
  4. Personal response.

Evening Reflection**

d-n-pRQofkq7BG0-unsplash

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker” (Ps. 95:6)

“Thank you, Lord Jesus, for revealing yourself to me.  I love thinking about you as my Maker who has an unfathomable and unending love for your people.  You knew me since the foundation of time and even while I was in my mother’s womb. You fashioned me with your mind and heart and love, giving me a plan and a purpose to live in fellowship with you and for your glory. Your love runs deep and touches my very core.  And you open my eyes to truly see your glory through your creation, for you have created nature, people and community through your magnificent power. Yet you are a God who lives in me, and you have always been there since I turned my heart to you.  Thank you. Amen.

Tonight, as you begin communing with God, freely ask him, “What were your thoughts about me when you formed me in my mother’s womb?”   And declare his magnificent attributes!

*Prepared by Pastor David Alas (first posted on September 22, 2013).

**Prepared by Pastor Bruce Yi, the leader pastor of Remnant Westside Church (first posted on September 22, 2013)

May 24, Sunday

UPDATED Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, written by Pastor Sam Lee who leads Catalyst Agape Church in Northern New Jersey, was first posted on October 16, 2013.  He is a graduate of University of Wisconsin (BA) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“He is So Unlike the Rest”

Luke 9:10-17

When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, 11 but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing. 12 Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” 13 He replied, “You give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” 14 (About five thousand men were there.) But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. 16 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. 17 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. He replied, “You give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.”

lucasvphotos-b1MD6sFdELI-unsplashHow is your spirituality, that is, your walk with the Lord while being stuck at home for weeks on end during the ongoing pandemic?  I, for one, was very encouraged by this passage today because I can relate with the disciples.  Just like them, I also go up and down spiritually. Yet, I see that God does not give up on his disciples, who, by the way, weren’t chosen because of their brilliance in the first place (1 Cor. 1:27-29).  Throughout the gospels, we see Jesus rebuking his men for their lack of faith (Matt. 14:31), dullness of mind (Mk. 7:18) and egotism (Mk. 9:33-37).  In this passage the lack of faith on the part of disciples is highlighted.

Before the great miracle of feeding the five thousand, we see that the disciples were sent out, and they were used to proclaim the good news and heal people everywhere. After this great experience, you would think that the disciples would react with faith when Jesus asked them, “You give them something to eat”; but instead, they respond with unbelief.  Yet, Jesus doesn’t rebuke the disciples here (as he does in other places)—or recruit twelve new disciples to replace them; but He continues to use them in the miracle of feeding the five thousand.  He has them go into the crowd and put everyone in groups of 50, then he gives the five loaves and two fishes to his men to distribute to the people.  What’s so encouraging is this: The disciples showed unbelief, yet Christ still used them to do His ministry.  Yes, Christ is so unlike the rest.

Living a Christian life is not a series of just success after success, but there are also failures. Take heart brothers and sisters! Our God continues to love us in our failures, and He is not finished with us yet. God is with us and He will work in us to completion.  Let me leave you with Philippians 1:6 that says, “[God] who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”   

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I am so grateful that my mistakes do not disqualify me from neither Your love nor Your willingness to use me.  Thank You that during this process in which I am bestowed with Your grace in abundance, I will be transformed through the Spirit. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 32

May 23, Saturday

UPDATED Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), is an amalgamated and updated version of two blogs first posted on February 13 and 14, 2013.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“A Life of Substance Over Style”

1 Samuel 16:7

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

aaron-burden-Kfk6IE8k_4Y-unsplashIn an earlier blog, I talked about how God felt about Zerubbabel’s temple, built by Jewish returnees from Persia, some 70 years after the Babylonians had destroyed Solomon’s temple.  At one point, God said to those working on Zerubbabel’s temple, “Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory (referring to Solomon’s temple)? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?” (Hag. 2:3). Ouch! Yes, it was so true that, externally, Zerubbabel’s temple wasn’t much to look at when compared to the splendidness of the first temple.

Nevertheless, it turned out that God made that “awful” statement for effect, for He immediately declared, “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel . . . Work, for I am with you (Hag. 2:4). And then in verse 9, God declared, “The glory of this present house (Zerubbabel’s) will be greater than the glory of the former house” (Solomon’s).  Why was it that, to God, an inferior looking temple will be more glorious than the superior looking one?  It’s because while “man looks at the outward appearance, . . . the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).  Whereas the builders of Zerubbabel’s temple, who left behind a life of comfort to do God’s work, had a heart for God, the majority of those who worked on Solomon’s temple were pagan laborers whom Israel forced to work (2 Chr. 2:17-8, 8:7-8); thus, they had no heart for God.

The comparison of the two Old Testament temples is analogous to the life choices we make.  Basically, we have two models to choose from: a life of substance over style or style over substance.  So then, what would the latter lifestyle look like? In short, it would be a life of pretension and ostentation.  Once, a young man whom I just met at a church told me that he was a student at a prestigious university.  I had no reason to doubt him since his apparel, car decal, and license plate holder bore the emblem of this school.  Later, I found out that this young man fibbed; he never attended that college.  What set him apart from others who lie about their background is the amount of effort he put in to back up his deception.  Maybe he felt that no one would have respected him unless he went to a good school.

What he needed was an environment in which acceptance and validation were based on being created in the image of God (i.e., his intrinsic worth), not on merit, so that he could’ve felt secure enough be himself (without having to lie).  Is our church a place where the weak and the fearful are accepted so that they may become secure in Christ?

In the end, a life of style over substance is how we go about hiding or compensating for our insecurities.  The sad truth is that whatever image we have cultivated to look confident, based on our appearance (with the help brand-name clothes, makeup), possessions (thanks to credit cards), or accomplishments (aided by a creative resume), will actually increase our insecurities and intensify our dependency on additional lies and credit cards.  Why?  Because there is always someone who is prettier, richer, and better credentialed than us.

Returning to  Zerubbabel’s temple, the lesson is this: Dedicate yourselves to do the best you can with whatever talent and resources God has given you; be content that He is pleased with the effort you exerted while depending on the Lord; don’t listen to outside voices that say, “It’s not good enough,” “Others did better,” or “Use short-cuts to go on top, fast!”  There is no substitute to lead a life of substance; we must be completely saturated in God’s word and surrounded by people who love us for the right reasons.

Prayer: Father, I praise You for a life of substance possible in Jesus Christ, for no matter how weak or foolish I am at times, Your unconditional acceptance keeps me from opting for a life of pretension and inauthenticity.  Help me to be real because I am in You. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 30-31

May 22, Friday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on June 27, 2014, is provided by Pastor Charles Choe who leads Tapestry Church in Los Angeles.  He is a graduate of University of California, Riverside (BA) and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Faith in the Workplace”

1 Timothy 6:1-2

“Let all those who are under a yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.”

fakhri-labib-J13cJaMxr2U-unsplashSlavery.  What a controversial topic!  But, in today’s passage, in Paul’s addressment of the relationship between masters and slaves, he is neither condoning nor condemning of the institution, although he did tell the slaves in Corinth, “If you can gain your freedom, do so” (1 Cor. 7:21b).

Why? Part of it was because slavery in the Roman Empire was very different from the kind that arose later in 18th century colonial America, which was built on the most dehumanizing treatment of fellow humans.  On the contrary, in 1st century slavery, some actually found a financial opportunity to move forward from the dire straits they found themselves in.

Paul calls slaves to honor their masters, not because slavery was an ideal institution, but because if they didn’t, it would thwart the gospel’s advancement. Evidently, many Christian slaves in Ephesus (where Timothy pastored) were bringing revulsion to the gospel by disrespecting their masters, to the point that Christianity was perceived to be a threat to society. Slave uprising or rebellion would have done more harm than good, because in Paul’s mind, it would have highjacked Christianity by depicting it as a religion of chaos and anarchy.

But here’s the beauty of Paul’s call to obedience, and he does something extraordinary in verse 2: Slaves are called to obey, not simply because that is their responsibility to their Christian masters, but even more so, since they are brothers in Christ. This was unheard of in Paul’s day, for between slaves and masters, it would have been unimaginable to call each other “brothers.” So, while they may not be of equal social status, they are equal in the eyes of the Lord. Passages like this caused conscientious Christians (like William Wilberforce) in the West to eventually fight for the abolition of slavery.

What does this mean for us today? It means that as we go into our workplaces (hopefully soon once the economy reopens), to our bosses and superiors, we must display a proper attitude of submission and respect toward them. We do that best by performing quality work, that in every way, we are helping to make the gospel more believable. If we profess Christ, and yet we are constantly insubordinate or are lazy at work, we find ourselves a poor witness to the unbelieving world. Jesus demands His people to aim for the highest standards, and so Christians should be the most hard-working and caring workers of all.   

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the opportunity to work. Whether I have a great job now or am in school to prepare for a career, help me to be diligent so to bring You glory and to make the gospel all the more credible to a watching world. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 29


Lunch Break Study

Read Romans 13:1-8: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.  8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Questions to Consider

  1. According to Paul, why are we to obey the government?
  2. How should we view rulers or leaders, even a bad one, in light of this passage?
  3. What is one practical way we are to obey the government?  How are you doing in this area? Are you respectful of your government?

Notes

  1. All authority comes from the Lord: He institutes authorities and gives them the responsibility to rule over their subjects.
  2. Whether leaders are good or bad, this passage tells us that they are ultimately God’s servants. So, no matter what our politics may be, we are to have respect for the government authorities, barring that the gospel is not compromised.
  3. Paul calls us to not cheat on our taxes but to pay them. We should have respect for all political leaders no matter what our politics may be.

Evening Reflection

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How was work today? Did you find yourself being productive and being a good witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ? If you did anything to revile the gospel at work, confess it before the Lord, and determine to become a better witness.

May 21, Thursday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on November 14, 2013, is provided by Pastor David Kwon who heads Journey Community Church in Raleigh, North Carolina.  He is a graduate of Drexel University (BS) and Columbia International University (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Gratitude and Joy”

Psalm 103:1-22

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! [2] Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, [3] who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, [4] who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, [5] who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. [6] The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. [7] He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. [8] The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. [9] He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. [10] He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. [11] For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; [12] as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. [13] As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. [14] For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. [15] As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; [16] for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. [17] But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, [18] to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. [19] The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. [20] Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! [21] Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will [22] Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

karina-halley-cJuoLNH931c-unsplashThink about a time in your life when you were filled with gratitude and joy.  What brought about that emotion?  For some, it was finally graduating or finding a dream or any job; for others, it was being forgiven or forgiving.  Whatever the event, we recognize that certain moments in our lives can bring about overwhelming and uncontainable thanksgiving and elation.

As we look at Psalm 103, it is evident that David also experiences feelings of gratitude as he thinks about who God is and what He has done for him.  He starts and ends the Psalm with the expression, “Bless the Lord,” no doubt to remind himself of God’s goodness in his life. Thus, he will continue to be grateful for all that God has done in the past, is doing in the present, and will do in the future.  One commentator concerning this passage said, “He is cataloging the goodness of God; enumerating his blessings, lest in a moment of depression or backsliding, he should forget the source of his prosperity and take God’s grace for granted.”  Look at all the reasons for which David praises the Lord:

  1. His forgiveness (v.3)
  2. Our redeemer who rescues us from the pit (v.4)
  3. Steadfast love and mercy (v.4)
  4. Merciful and Gracious (v. 8)
  5. Steadfast Love (v.11)
  6. Covenant keeper (v.18)

Have you ever taken God’s goodness and grace for granted?  I am sure we all have. Take some time this morning, therefore, to bless and praise his Holy name.  Think about everything that God has done for you.  Mediate on his attributes as David does in this Psalm.  May our worship arise from a heart of thanksgiving.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the access I have to You; for that, I am extremely grateful.  Help me to believe the message of peace and thus to enter the joyful and peaceful life available in You.  Also, help me to be more grateful and thankful.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 28


Lunch Break Study

Read Luke 17:11-19: On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Why do you think only one of the lepers returned Jesus?
  2. Why did Jesus ask where the other nine were?  Do you think they were grateful?
  3. Do you resemble the nine lepers who didn’t return or the one who sought out Jesus to thank him?  Why?

Notes

  1. He was full of gratitude.  It seems that we don’t think much about the spiritual discipline of “gratitude”; it may be an afterthought for many.  In the chaos and busyness of our lives, it can be hard to step back and thank God for what he has done for us.  All too often, the void of gratitude is filled by complain and discontentment.  That is all the more reason we ought to discipline ourselves to include expressions of gratitude in our daily conversations with others, and of course, in our prayers to the Lord.
  2. Granted it that they were elated to return home as soon as possible to be reunited with their loved ones whom they had not seen for a long time.  Still, that is no excuse for not returning to Jesus to thank him for giving their life back.   It is a classic case of loving the gifts more than the giver.
  3. Just like the Samaritan leper who returned, take an inventory of your life to specifically name those things in your life for which you feel grateful to Jesus.  For example, it can be:
    1. Your salvation/faith in Jesus
    2. Local church
    3. School/Job that you are currently in
    4. Family
    5. Health
    6. Even hardship and trials

Evening Reflection

carolyn-v-Nu6IGoTrh3Q-unsplash“We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is good, because it is good, if bad, because is works in us patience, humility and the contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.”   -C.S. Lewis

Spend some time in prayer and continue to praise God and bless His name.  My hope is that we can live every day (not just today) with a heart of thanksgiving and praise.  Bless the Lord, Oh my soul!

May 20, Wednesday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, originally posted on May 8, 2013, is written by Pastor Matt Ro who formerly pastored Journey Church in Atlanta.  Matt is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BS) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“The Power of God to De-Sin Us”

Psalm 51:7-9

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be white than now.  8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.  9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 

guillaume-bolduc-p-VEOdwoZmI-unsplashWhen Jesus said to Pilate, “The one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin” (Jn. 19:11b), the Lord obviously wasn’t thinking of the type of sins that King David committed that led him to produce this heartfelt psalm of contrition.  But, as far as humans are concerned, there really isn’t a pair of sins greater than adultery and murder, which is what David had committed.  And in Psalm 51, what we are witnessing is God’s power to forgive the vilest sins that humans can ever commit.  Ultimately, it was foreshadowing the power of Christ’s blood to render permanent forgiveness, for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22b).

Now, note the three phrases here— “cleanse me with hyssop,” “wash me,” and “blot out all my iniquities”— connote a similar idea.  In fact, theses three verbs are repeated from vv. 1-2.   Cleanse means “purge,” which is based on the word for sin and it literally means “de-sin” me.   

David, yearning for the complete purge of his sin, didn’t want even a stain of sin to remain.  Wash reminds us of the idea of taking a bath.  Isaiah 1:18 tells us, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; thought they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”  Blot out reminds us of removing erroneous writing on a piece of paper with an eraser or liquid paper. The idea of blotting out is the exact opposite of what Pilate said in John 19:22 when he declared at Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, “What I have written, I have written.”

How amazing it is that David not only longed for, but also knew that God alone had the power to “de-sin” us and remove the stain of sin completely through the blood of Jesus.  That is how we must come to God as well, for many of us desperately need his forgiveness, now.  Have we found mercy?  However great our sin is, we can find God to be merciful through Christ!

Prayer:  Father, once again I come before You in need of mercy.  Cleanse me, wash me, and blot out my sins according to the mercy that You provide through the blood of Jesus.  Help me to walk in holiness as well as gratitude for all that You have done.

Bible Reading for Today:  Isaiah 27


Lunch Break Study

Read Ephesians 2:14-18: For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Questions to Consider

  1. Earthly peace is the absence of war, but what is true peace?
  2. How was Christ able to accomplish this peace between man and man?
  3. Are we having conflict, or a lack of peace, with another person?  Pray for reconciliation between you and that person.  What is it really that your heart/self is not getting that is causing the disunity?  Ask yourself, “Am I feeling what Christ says is righteous and just?”

Notes

  1. Paul establishes that peace means oneness.  It is not merely the cessation of hostility or the absence of conflict; it means being one.  At time, we may have managed to overcome the unsatisfactory sentiments (e.g., bitterness, resentment, disrespected, etc.) that we felt towards another person, but it did not necessarily lead to peace.  That is simply an agreement to stop fighting until it picks up again.
  2. The only way that there can be oneness among people is through a Person.  All blessing starts with the Person of Jesus Christ.  In order to have peace with another person, you must first be at peace with the Person of Jesus.  When we have His peace, we can begin to reconcile the conflict around us.  So the place that peace originates must begin with settling any problems that may exist between you and Jesus.
  3. Spend some time considering what Christ has done to free you from selfish desires, and ultimately, to forgive you when you yield to them.

Evening Reflection

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Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you can be an agent of reconciliation in your church, neighborhood, and workplace.  What are some practical ways through which we can be an agent of peace?   Since this world is fallen and broken in many ways, we must be image bearers of Christ and His kingdom in this world.

May 19, Tuesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on April 2, 2013, is provided by Pastor Barry Kang who heads Symphony Church in Boston.  He is a graduate of Stanford University (BA), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary(D.Min.).

Devotional Thought of This Morning

“About Confession of Sin”

Psalm 32:3-5 (NIV)

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.  Selah 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”— and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

gryffyn-m-DgWkgSYvSRY-unsplashGuilt and shame are terrible weights to endure.

  There is a reason that “blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven”!  The Psalmist makes clear the way out: confession.

When we come into the light with our sins, we are able to receive forgiveness (spiritual, emotional and psychological).  When we keep our sins hidden within our hearts, and leave them unconfessed before God, we are not bringing them into his forgiving light.    

Do we need to confess every sin?  What if we forget one or two (or many)?  Does that mean we won’t receive full forgiveness?  No.  We are saved (which includes being forgiven) by grace . . . not by the work of confession.  But it is through confession of our sinfulness that we declare that God is the one able to set us free.  It is a sign of trust, hope and faith (and faith in Jesus is an important part of the salvific process).  When we fully trust in God’s forgiveness, then we can also be set free from the psychological weight of guilt and shame.

Don’t allow yourself to be hindered by your past.  Confess your sins before God and receive His forgiveness today!

Ps: Two words seem anathema to modern day Americans: “sinner” and “confess.” Lest, this point doesn’t come out clearly, let me say from the outset: it is crucial to our understanding of the gospel and Jesus Christ that we know that we are sinners saved by the work of Jesus Christ.  We cannot grasp the importance of the cross and the overwhelming nature of God’s grace unless we know deep in our hearts how far we are from deserving it.  When we are afraid to confess our sins, it shows our mistrust of God.

But God’s promise is that if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just and will forgive.  If we believe this, we will confess our sins.  We will confess our sins even to one another (c.f. James 5:16), for we will know that it is never by our own actions that we can claim righteousness but only through what Christ bought for us on the cross.

Prayer: Father, I confess my sinfulness to You.  I am in need of your grace and mercy.  I ask that You would bring healing into my heart and my mind. I want to live this day in Your joyful presence. In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Isaiah 26


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 John 1:8-10 (NIV): If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

Questions to Consider

  1. Why does John say that if we claim to be without sin that we are deceiving ourselves (c.f. Romans 3:10-12)?
  2. In this passage, what does John imply is the opposite of claiming to be without sin?
  3. How important to our relationship with God is it for us to comprehend that we are sinners saved by Grace?

Notes

  1. Romans 3:10-11 tells us that we are all sinners.  No one in the history of humanity was without sin (except for Jesus).   We all fall short of the glory of God.  When we claim that we are without sin (as I’ve heard some Christians claim), we are on dangerous ground, for it shows that tendency in our hearts to desire righteousness on our own terms.
  2. John contrasts “claim to be without sin” with “confess our sins”.  In other words, the opposite of the proud self-righteous person is the person who humbly confesses his sin.  When we confess our sins, we are declaring our trust in a God who is “faithful and just” and will “forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  When we confess our sins, we are putting our faith not in our own righteousness but in the righteousness of God.
  3. John warns us that if we are not confessing our sins to God, then we are making God out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.  Confession of sinfulness is an important aspect of what it means to have faith in the God revealed through scripture.

Evening Reflection

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As the old Scottish maxim goes, “confession is good for the soul.”  Are you resisting confessing your sins?  Are there sins so terrible in your life that you could never confess them to another?  If so, ask God to help you to fully trust him.  Write of the ways that you doubt God’s promises.  Confess any waywardness and any doubts hindering your faith and surrender them to God.