November 20, Tuesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The God of Every Good and Perfect Gift”

James 1:12-18

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.

Back in 2016, I fell into a deep state of depression that shook every foundation in my life. I had hit such a low point that I became adamant about changing every routine in my life just to see healing. One of those changes was running regularly. It was about three weeks into my new routine, however, when I went out for my run and I clumsily stepped hard into a ditch. I heard a pop in my hip and I was immediately on the floor in pain. (Later, I was diagnosed with a hip labral tear that would require surgery.) My honest thought at the moment was, “Really God?! I’m already in emotional pain. Now this!”

When trials come our way, one of the last things on our mind is to remain faithful and believe that at the end of it, we “will receive the crown of life” (v.12). Instead, we focus on our problems, we wonder why God would bring us pain, and we blame God, actively choosing sin as we try to make our own way. While exercising is not sin, I later realized that my decision to go running was my own; and in my distraction, I did not see the ditch that was right in front of me.

But today’s passage shows us that God does not tempt us, but we have a choice during our moments of trial to choose God or be tempted by sin. While it may be easier to be tempted by sin during our difficulties, we see that all sin leads to spiritual death, while our God offers every good and perfect gift. To receive the crown of life, we must choose every day and in every situation which master we will serve—God or sin.

There is more to this story (i.e., God’s healing) and I plan to share that tomorrow.  For now, remember that whatever you are going through in your life, may today’s passage be a reminder that every good and perfect gift is from above. God knows your pain, and your struggles are not in vain. Take heart for God has overcome to world, and He desires to lavish on you the crown of life!

Prayer: God, I thank You that every good and perfect gift is from You. Help me to see that in every trial and tribulation, that Your desire is not to harm me but to raise me up. Help me to choose You this day so that I may walk in faithfulness and away from sin. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: John 21


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 6:25-34: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Questions to Consider

  1. Why does Jesus tell us not to worry?
  2. Who does Jesus associate worriers with?
  3. What are some of the things that worry you the most? Reflect on whether these worries come from desires that drive your life instead of faith in God.

Notes

  1. Because our Heavenly Father provides for all our needs.
  2. Jesus says that pagans worry about the needs of life, but as Christians, we are called to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.
  3. Personal reflection.

Evening Reflection

This morning we reflected on our Heavenly Father who provides every good and perfect gift; and in the afternoon, we looked at Jesus’ call to Christians to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness that it may go well with us.  The two are very much intertwined when we recognize that we are called to live a life of faith. Faith is what will allow us to endure trials, recognizing that it’s in our trials that God is doing a good work in us. And faith is what will allow us to recognize that God will provide for all of our needs. Take time to reflect on some areas that you are lacking faith, and ask God to fill you with hope and trust in this area. It is God’ desire that you would release the doubts, so that He may fill it with Truth. It all begins with a prayer of submission and release.

November 19, Monday

The AMI QT Devotionals from November 19-25 are provided by Jennifer Kim, a staff at Catalyst Agape Church (New Jersey). Jennifer, a graduate of Boston University, spent a year in Shanghai as one-year intern from 2013-14. She is currently attending Alliance Theological Seminary.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Finding Joy in Affliction”

James 1:1-11

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance .4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. 9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position.10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

Hiking is one activity I dislike. It requires days of planning, heavy lifting, profuse amount of sweating, bugs, lack of water, etc. I have tried to be understanding by asking countless hikers what makes hiking so enjoyable for them. Nine out of 10 times they will say it’s about the accomplishment of getting to the top of the mountain, seeing the beautiful scenery, and knowing you made it after a long, gruesome process. Now I recognize that my lack of understanding for the world of hiking comes from my inability to reconcile the seeming paradox of how something so arduous can be so enjoyable.  I also recognize that this struggle is one that many Christians face when they read today’s passage.

How can any person consider it, not just joy, but PURE joy, when they face trials of, not just one kind, but MANY kinds? The answer is seemingly quite simple for James – by recognizing that trials produce a perseverance that matures our faith to be made complete, lacking absolutely nothing. Wow, a faith that lacks nothing! Imagine with me what a faith that lacks nothing looks like – no doubts, no fears, no bitterness, and no obstacles between you and God. This faith is not fleeting nor is it a momentary revelation, but it changes us completely to begin living in complete trust and faith in our God. As paradoxical as it may seem to be joyful when we are struggling, when we look at it in light of the fruit that trials can produce in our lives, we are able to see that every difficulty is worth the struggle in order that our faith may be made complete.

Ultimately, I may not be able to understand hiking because I cannot see the joy and glory of making it to the top of the mountain; but, I can certainly say that a faith that lacks nothing is worth every battle. If you are going through a difficult time, I pray that you would find peace and rest in your circumstances. I recognize that the call to be joyful in all trials is easier said than done. But can I encourage you to reframe your perspective to see that it is God’s love for you to grow in intimacy with Him that you may be facing trials. You are not alone as God’s hand is in your trials. May your faith be made complete through your circumstances.

Prayer: God I thank You that You love me too much to let me stay the same. I pray that you would grant me wisdom to see You in all circumstances that I may persevere in my trials and find true joy. Refine me oh God that I may be made complete in Your sight. In Jesus name. Amen

Bible Reading for Today: John 20


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Peter 4:12-19: Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What does Peter tell his readers to do when they are persecuted?
  2. Why does Peter say we are blessed when we are face trials?
  3. What trial are you facing in which you are having difficulty rejoicing in? Write them down and ask God to reveal how He is growing you in those trials.

Notes:

  1. To rejoice as participants in the sufferings of Christ. (v.13)
  2. We are blessed because the Spirit of glory and God rests on us. (v.14)
  3. Personal.

Evening Reflection

Today we reflected on God’s call for us to be joyful in trials because it’s in trials that our faith is made complete. Take some time to be honest with God about your struggles. It’s ok to be filled with emotions, even if it is not joy, but bring it to the Lord and ask Him to reveal His plan in perfecting your faith through this trial. Wisdom is being able to recognize that amidst our pains and struggles God has a plan greater than we can imagine.

November 18, Sunday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Why Are You Here?”

Mark 10:28-31 (NET Bible)

Peter began to speak to him, “Look, we have left everything to follow you!” 29 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, there is no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30 who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much—homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fields, all with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

I met a sister at an AMI conference who said, “Oh this makes sense! When I read your quiet times, I always wondered what kind of Asian last name is King.” Now that pictures are attached to these posts, you’ve probably figured out I’m not Asian. I’m Black. I’ve been asked to reflect on my unique time as a Black person on staff in AMI. The topic is too big for this platform, but as I thought about what to share one phrase came to mind: “Why are you here?”

I came to AMI ten years ago and have been on staff for eight, serving in three churches and staffing two church plants. In all of those spaces, I was regularly asked, “Why are you here?” usually in the form of, “Why do you come to our church?” or “What led you to AMI?” I used to hate these questions! They made me feel like I didn’t belong. And sometimes they felt absurd because people who had been in AMI for all of five minutes, who had just stumbled into a church that I HELPED PLANT were asking ME why I went to THEIR church! (I wanted to say, “Why do YOU go to MY church!?”)

We don’t have time for a lesson on how to welcome people who are different (I could write the book!) and I deeply understand that religious spaces are sacred in a unique way for minoritized groups in America. Those are important conversations for another day. But I will say that I no longer hate the question because it gives me an opportunity to testify!

Practically speaking, I came to AMI because there was an AMI church walking distance from my dorm at a time when I was searching for God. I was so caught up in my wresting with the Lord, it took me a while to realize that the people there didn’t look like me (and even longer to care). When I joined AMI staff, it was because my pastor, whom I deeply trusted, invited me to… AND God said do it, so I did.   

God calls each of us to a life of obedience and sacrifice that often looks very strange. My journey is one that led me away from a career I wanted since I was 7, a huge family I love dearly, and a lifestyle I worked hard to make possible to a network that’s iffy about the ordination of women, a struggle for friendships with people who look nothing like me, and don’t get me started on the limitations of a preacher’s salary. But through it all I’ve been given a family that transcends anything this world could create. During my time in AMI, I’ve never been denied an opportunity to exercise my gifts, I rarely gone without treasured and life-giving relationships, and I’ve seen God’s provision in the amazing ways.

Yes, my story is unique, but it really shouldn’t be. God calls all of us to strange lives of obedience and sacrifice. And if our lives aren’t prompting others to ask, “Why are you here?” then we are missing out on an opportunity to experience God’s promises and tell God’s story.

Prayer: Sovereign God, You call me into a beautiful relationship with You and a peculiar life for Your glory. Help me to discern the reason why I am where I am today. Open my eyes to see the places and people to whom You are drawing me and help me to be present in those spaces even when it seems I don’t belong. Help me to obey Your call to lose my life in order to save it. May I be a living testimony of the truth of Your promise to supply my every need according to Your glorious riches. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: John 19

November 17, Saturday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“It’s Gettin’ Tense In Here”

Acts 18:24-28 (NET Bible)

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, arrived in Ephesus. He was an eloquent speaker, well-versed in the scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and with great enthusiasm he spoke and taught accurately the facts about Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak out fearlessly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately. 27 When Apollos wanted to cross over to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he assisted greatly those who had believed by grace, 28 for he refuted the Jews vigorously in public debate, demonstrating from the scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

Tensions are high these days—and with good reason. People are fed up with the way things are. Racist, classist, sexist, xenophobic and discriminatory ideologies have heartbreaking effects on so many lives and absolutely should be uprooted and dismantled. And right now there are minoritized communities across the country ready with shovel and sledgehammer to do just that. So, things are tense.

These same ails are present in the Church (and if they’re not present in your church, please hear this in love; it’s likely because your church is too insulated to be effective or you’re not listening). When we join the family of God, we bring with us our bigotry and bias, our wounds and scars, to a way of life that requires that we get really close in intimacy and interdependence—a perfect recipe for tension. And it gets personal when ideologies attached to our religion and faith are challenged. So, things can get even more tense.

If we are committed to the mission of God and humbly follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we WILL sense tension (in one relationship or another, in one space or another), and we WILL be led to speak and share God’s truth in love. In the passage above, Priscilla and Aquila confront Apollos to correct errors in his understanding of God’s truth. We don’t know the what (the content of Apollos’s teaching or their correction), but we do know the how—when Priscilla and Aquila sensed tension between Apollos’s teaching and God’s truth, “they took him aside and explained the way of God to him.” It seems simple, but this is the hard work of challenging and changing our broken world.

While content matters immensely (what is God’s truth about today’s most pressing issues), the way we go about speaking God’s truth is also critical. In the age of social media and the internet, we must take care not to confuse the cowardice that often lurks in public discourse with the courage it takes to participate in God’s transformation of hearts. When we talk about instead of to, withdraw instead of confront, condemn instead of listen, even when we pray about instead of for, we fail.  While public platforms are useful, we only have the right to speak and the resources to be effective in those spaces when we are doing the hard work in our local communities of binding our lives to those with whom we may disagree in face-to-face confrontation, day-in and day-out conversation, and life on life relationships.

Truth is often offensive. People were wildly offended when Jesus spoke truth to power and challenged the way things had always been done. But it was His tangible love to those around Him that opened their hearts to the truth and ultimately saved their souls.

Prayer: Gracious God, please grant me the courage to participate in Your transforming work in the lives of the people around me. Open my eyes to see what is broken and open my heart to know and speak Your truth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: John 17-18

November 16, Friday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Radical Reconciliation”

Acts 11:19-20 (NRSV)

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. 20 But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists [Greeks] also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus.

 “I think it is one of the tragedies of our nation, one of the shameful tragedies, that 11 o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours, if not the most segregated hour, in Christian Americas.” (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Meet the Press, April 17, 1960).

Nearly 60 years after they were first uttered, King’s words still ring true – Sunday morning is still a time when, if we look to our left and our right, we see people who look a lot like us.

The same was true in the early church. While the Jews had pretty good reason for keeping to themselves (the surrounding culture was often hostile and Jewish religious tradition was strict and exclusive), when Jesus stepped on the scene, He turned all of that upside down. His disciples often found Him drawing close to people who were very different from Himself. And when the Holy Spirit filled the hearts of believers in the book of Acts, they were led, albeit begrudgingly, to table fellowship and covenant relationship with those outside their community.

Why? Scripture tells us that when God first blessed Abraham and promised to build a great nation, God did so for the purpose of all the nations of the earth to be blessed through him (Genesis 12:3 & 22:18). God’s blessings were for sharing not for hoarding. But I think there is another reason. The power of the gospel can arguably be boiled down to one word: reconciliation (both with God and with one another). And God’s power to reconcile is often put most ostentatiously on display for an onlooking world in what I like to call, “only God” relationships. Those are the connections where it’s almost immediately obvious that ONLY GOD could have brought them together. And, as one who has partaken in an abnormally high number of “only God” relationships over the last ten years, I’d venture to say that they can also be, for the believer, some of the most rewarding.

Now, it is true that minoritized communities in the US have so few culturally safe spaces and, as a result, church often serves as one of the few we do have. And the unique idiosyncrasies of various cultures should be expressed in our corporate worship. (Remember, God celebrates differences!) But the mission of God hasn’t changed. We are still called to the nations to bear God’s glory. And how honored is God if we will go to nations all around the world, but refuse to welcome and engage the nations that God has gathered around us at home?

Prayer:  Gracious God, thank You for the reconciliation You made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Help me to live into the fullness of all that reconciliation affords. Open my eyes to see the people You’ve placed in the community around me today, and help me begin to dream of what it would mean to enjoy deep and meaningful fellowship with them. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: John 16


Lunch Break Study

Read Luke 10:25-37 (NIV): On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Questions to Consider

Because this is such a familiar passage, let’s “study” it a little differently. Before we answer each question below, read the passage and place yourself within the story as one of the characters.

  1. Read through Jesus’ story and imagine yourself as the priest, then as the Levite. What are some reasons each one may have crossed over to the other side? If Jesus were telling this story today, who would these characters be? What would it look like for them to “cross over to the other side” today?
  2. Read the story again and imagine yourself as the Samaritan. Why did he stop to help the man? What can we learn from this? Imagine Jesus telling this story today. What would it mean for someone to show this extent of kindness to a person in need?
  3. Finally, read this story one more time, imagining yourself as the wounded person. How would you have felt in his situation? How would you feel as both the priest and the Levite pass you by? What would it mean for you to be welcomed and cared for by the Samaritan after all you’d been through? Who are the people in your life who’ve been a good neighbor in your time of need?
  4. Who do you most identify with in this story? Remember the gospel – that we were wounded and needy when Jesus came to our aid – should help us to empathize and identify with the wounded traveler. How does remembering your need help to cultivate mercy in your heart toward others?

Notes

  1. The priest was the one responsible for mediating between God and the people of God. The priest was literally a professional care-giver and servant-leader for the people before God. If anyone should have helped, the priest should have. The Levite “was a less likely person to offer help since his duty, assuming he fulfilled it, involved just assisting the priests in the mundane affairs involved in worship.” (Constable) While not the priest, the Levite is the next best thing and certainly should have stopped to help the wounded victim.
  2. The Samaritan is the only person that helped. We don’t know where he is coming from or where he is going. We also don’t know much about his social status or family background or what kind of resources he had (other than the fact that he had two denarii). All we know is that he has resources of some kind, and he is willing to leverage them to help a person who needs it. And we can speculate about why the priest and the Levite didn’t stop, but the only reason Jesus says this man stopped was “because he had mercy” (not because he was rich, not because he was holy, not because it was the right thing to do).
  3. We know nothing about the person who was wounded. All we know is that this person was on a journey and violently attacked, wounded and robbed. We don’t know if he was a nice person, if he was responsible, if did anything to contribute to his scuffle with the bandits, etc. We just know he is hurting and in need.
  4. Personal reflection.

Evening Reflection

One of my favorite theologians, Dr. Willie Jennings, often says that in the book of Acts you always find the Holy Spirit leading believers to people they don’t desire and to places they don’t want to go. He also explains that one huge problem in the Christian imagination is that for hundreds of years we’ve forgotten that we are the ones God included. The Jews were the chosen people with their own community and the Gentiles were outsiders. But God cared enough about us to push the Jewish believers outside their comfort zones so that we could hear the Good News and be saved.

Spend time this evening reflecting on the sentiments above. What does it mean for you that you are a person who was included? Who are the people or people groups in your life and community who are “outsiders” (for you and/or your church community)? What would it look like for them to be included into your life? What would it mean for you to be a neighbor to them? What, if anything, is keeping you from living out the radical reconciliation of the gospel in these relationships?

November 15, Thursday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Wisdom in Stewardship”

Proverbs 6:6-11 (NIV)

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! 7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, 8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. 9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—11 and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man.

One important lesson I’ve learned over the last decade was around what it means to work hard and prepare for the future. When it comes to how we value resources, most people exist somewhere between obsessive saving & accumulation of wealth, and excessive spending & accumulation of commodities. The former category hoards money and tends to find security in the size of their savings, while the latter hoards products and tends to find security in possessions (brand name fashion, luxury cars, etc.). You probably can categorize yourself as either a spender or a saver, based upon which group you judged the most. ☺  

And when it comes to work ethic, there are those who work hard, and those who play hard. The former category oftentimes toils anxiously, believing that their future success and the meeting of their needs is solely contingent upon their efforts. The latter, instead of idolizing work, idolizes leisure. They chase experiences and prioritize free play over strict schedule, because they believe this will make them happy. Our family of origin and the culture in which we were raised usually determines our bent toward one or the other.  

While condemning laziness as a quick route to poverty, our passage for today does not simply encourage everyone to become work-obsessed and committed to saving. We know it’s God, in grace, who provides for us even as we work (this is why Jesus encourages us to pray to God for our daily bread). Instead, the passage is calling for WISDOM. Like the ant, we must all learn to read the seasons, knowing when it’s time to store and when it’s time to gather. When it comes to resource management of time, talent, and treasure, we honor God most when we prayerfully discern our present moment—is it time to work or time to rest, time to spend or time to save?

Faithfulness means both working hard during the day and resting well during the night. Good stewardship requires both saving, so that we are positioned and free to be a blessing, and spending, so that we might delight in the blessing of God. We honor the seasons when we work with diligence and faith in God’s provision, and rest with delight and thanksgiving for God’s blessings.

Prayer: Almighty God, thank You for Your daily care. Help me to discern when it’s time to work faithfully for You, and when it’s time to rest peacefully in You. Help me to know when it’s time to save diligently for Your glory, and when it’s time to spend joyfully toward that same end. Strengthen me in the areas where I am weak. In Jesus’ name. Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: John 15


Lunch Break Study

Read Luke 16:1-13 (NIV): Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’ 3 “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— 4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’5 “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’6 “‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. “The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’7 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ “‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. 10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? 13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Questions to Consider

  1. In the first parable, what is the manager commended for? How is Jesus encouraging believers to behave as it relates to their wealth?
  2. What is Jesus’ point in v.10-12? Why is trustworthiness important?
  3. Jesus ends by talking about the allegiance of our hearts. Why is this important in the conversation about wealth management?

Notes

  1. The manager is commended for being shrewd (or a clever business person). Jesus uses this story to encourage believers to be highly shrewd when it comes to their own wealth (we should be excellent and do our best in whatever our field of business might be) but not for ourselves, like the manager. Instead we are shrewd for the sake of blessing others and building the Kingdom of God. We accumulate wealth not for status and friends in high places, but for the sake of bringing friends along with us into the highest place—the family and Kingdom of God.
  2. Jesus does not juxtapose faithfulness with unfaithfulness; instead he sets it opposite dishonestly. It is important that we are faithful to the opportunities and with the resources God gives us. And we are to do this not only shrewdly, but honestly and with integrity.
  3. Most of our problems when it comes to resource management—whether we save or spend, work a lot or a little—is not what we are doing, but why we are doing it. Our hearts should be committed to God and our efforts should be toward the end of building the Kingdom of God. So when we go above and beyond at work, our excellence is not to build our own name, but to exalt God’s name. When we save and when we spend, we do so toward the end of increasing the family of God and building God’s Kingdom.

Evening Reflection

Luke 12:16-26-31: And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?  31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Reflect on the passage above. Are there ways you’ve been foolish like the rich man in Jesus’ story? In what ways do worry or fear guide how you manage your earthly resources? In light of the passage below and all we’ve studied together today, how might God be encouraging you to adjust your perspective on your resources?  Spend time speaking with God about these things.

November 14, Wednesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The God Who Sees”

Genesis 16:1-14 (NET)

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.” 6 “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. 7 The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. 9 Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” 11 The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now pregnant
and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael [“God hears”], for the Lord has heard of your misery. 12 He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” 13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” [“El Roi” or “The Seeing God” – “The God Who Sees/Is Seen”] for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

Today we’ll reflect on Jesus’ elevation of women in antiquity. But the best place to start, is to go waaay back. Long before the birth of Jesus, during a time when women were nameless, slaves were objects, and foreigners were irrelevant, God encountered an Egyptian slave girl – Hagar. And this story shows us just how much God values women. A woman whom society would have said didn’t matter, whom even God’s own people abused and objectified, was honored by God in amazing ways: Hagar is named, pursued and blessed by God; she sees God, names God, and her son is named by God; she’s given agency and God preserves her story.

Although those around her only refer to Hagar by the title “slave,” God calls her by name. When Hagar runs from her horrifically violent and inexcusably cruel forced surrogacy, God searches for her like a precious treasure. God finds her and asks, “Where are you coming from?” making room for her story and showing care for her suffering. Then God gives her a blessing that parallels the blessing of Abraham.

Previously forced to bear Abraham’s children as a slave, Hagar was invited by God into a new future. It might not look that different, but God’s promise assured her it was. Every time Hagar looked at her son Ishmael (“God hears”), instead of remembering only the abuse she suffered, she could now remember God. Furthermore, God points to a donkey, an animal free to roam at will, for what Ishmael will be like. “This prophecy was not an insult… Ishmael would enjoy the freedom his mother sought.” (Dr. Thomas Constable)

This story is the first instance in Scripture where we see this phrase “The Angel of the Lord.” It can refer to a messenger (like the Angel Gabriel) or the divine (God’s very self, often understood as pre-incarnate Christ). In this text, it’s the latter. God didn’t send an angel with a message; God appeared to Hagar. In what form, we do not know. But somehow she beheld God. And there are not a lot of instances in Scripture where God is named by someone other than God Himself. But this is one of them. Hagar could name God because she had truly seen God.

In a time where so many went unnamed and so few women were mentioned, Hagar’s story was preserved so that we can see the heart of God who sees and loves and honors women. May we go and do likewise.

Prayer: God, You are the God Who Sees. Thank You for who You are. Help me to see the women around me as You see them. Help me to see me as You see me. Give me the courage and freedom and fortitude of heart and mind to love and honor the women you’ve placed in my life, through the power of Your Spirit within me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: John 14


Lunch Break Study

Read Romans 8:1-13 (NET Bible): Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” 47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” 49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”

50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” 53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Questions to Consider

  1. What’s going on in this passage? Describe the bleeding woman’s situation. How has she suffered?
  2. Why do you think Jesus stops after she is healed instead of just moving on?
  3. Why might it be significant that this woman told her story before the crowd? How might this have been important, specifically to Jairus?
  4. How do we see Jesus elevating women in this story?

Notes

  1. In narratives like this, I like to imagine myself as different characters to help me understand and picture the story. If it’s helpful for you, try reading the passage again and imagine yourself as each character mentioned in this story. A twelve-year-old girl is sick and dying. Her father is desperate and Jesus is going to help. An unnamed woman has suffered immensely for 12 years. The woman is in pain—with a perpetual menstrual bleeding. She is poor and unclean—she spent all her money on doctors and her bleeding would have prohibited her from entering spaces of worship or fully participating in society.  She is desperate and full of courage and exercises great faith—she pushes through the crowd (who could have been enraged by her touching them) and touches Jesus. Jesus heals her.
  2. I used to always hate this part of the story because it seemed mean. She just wanted to slip in and get her healing, but Jesus calls her out. I used to wonder if the woman was embarrassed. But after reading this passage countless times and walking with God a bit longer, and with the help of a dear friend who helped me to see this passage in a new way, I now love this part the most. I think Jesus stops to make room for this woman to testify. She is given an ear of the crowd in a world that didn’t even bother to know her name. Jesus has the eyes and the ears of the crowd and even an important official (Jairus), because they think he’s important. He turns their gaze to this woman, because He thinks she is important. And they all listen as she tells her story.  
  3. There is power in testimony! The power of God is put on display in our stories, especially the stories of those we tend to ignore, overlook, or refuse to touch. And as for Jairus, this testimony may be just what he needed to hold on a little longer when he received the news that his daughter died, and Jesus asks him to have faith.
  4. Jesus gives His full attention to two women in this story—a sick woman and a dying girl. In both cases, although in unique ways, He loves and cares for them. It’s more than just the healing; it’s the way they are healed. Jesus stops in His tracks to make room for the story of the bleeding woman. And He changes the course of His whole day (with the whole crowd behind Him) to go to the home of a little girl, take her by the hand, and heal her (resurrect her!). Jesus, in the fullness of God Who Sees, saw them both and loved them.  

Evening Reflection

Then Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” 11“No one, Lord,” she answered. “I don’t condemn you either,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave sin behind you.” (John 8:10-11)

How have you been taught to view women (from your family of origin, culture, society, teachings in your church, examples or systems around you, etc.)? How do you treat or consider the women around you? Really think about and try to articulate your responses. How do you think your view lines up with how Jesus in the New Testament and God in the Old Testament saw and treated women?

In light of today’s study, are there any ways God might be challenging you to honor the women in your life? If you’re a woman reading this, are there any ways God may be challenging you to honor yourself? In light of the world we live in today, what would it mean for you to truly see the women in your life, and to treat them as Jesus would? (One good place to start might be to ask them.) Spend time reflecting on these things with the Lord.