May 15, Saturday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Barry Kang who heads Symphony Church in Boston, was first posted on September 21, 2014.  He is a graduate of Stanford University (BA), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (D.Min.). 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“The Justice of God”

Ecclesiastes 8:2-8 (ESV)

Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity. 11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. 13 But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God. 

Martin Luther King once famously declared, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied” (“Letter from Birmingham Jail”).  In so doing, he was echoing William Gladstone (19th century British Prime Minister), and indirectly asking: Why does God wait so long to punish and discipline evil?

Solomon is not the first person to notice that without immediate negative consequences, we are prone to picking the easiest path.  Confession time: earlier this week, I walked across a street even though the green man wasn’t flashing.  Why?  One reason might be that in my life, I have never received a ticket for jay-walking.     

But even if I were to get a ticket, it might not change my behavior or my heart.  I will just check more carefully to see if policemen were present before I cross the street.  A jaywalking ticket won’t change why I do that;          it wouldn’t even begin to address this busyness I feel in my heart.  

So what would change my behavior?  Some ideas come to mind: First, I could get hit by a car; in that case, I would definitely be more careful the next time I cross the street.  Even then, I may not give up jaywalking. (After all, there are surfers who, after been attacked by sharks, still return to surfing.)

Second, if a police officer stands at every intersection and block, and tickets everyone who jaywalks, then I would change my behavior. 

Third, if while I am jaywalking, someone rushes to protect me from being hit by a car and is killed in my place, I would almost certainly never jaywalk again.  In other words, if my breaking the law directly leads to another person’s death, I would feel compelled never to jaywalk again.

Let’s look at these options from God’s perspective: (1) if we get hit by a car every time we jaywalk, the punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime; (2) if we were to imagine God as an omnipresent type of law enforcement officer, wouldn’t that affect our relationship with God?  Would we follow God out of love or out of fear? (3)  If someone else needs to be punished so that we might learn some kind of a lesson, this seems to make the least sense and the worst option of all.  What if you take the punishment (i.e., hit by the car) instead of the person who actually jaywalks?

And that is precisely what Jesus did on the cross where the grace and love of God met the justice and wrath of God.  Praise God for his mercy and grace!  Praise God that we don’t receive perfect justice!  Praise God that justice delayed isn’t always justice denied! That’s the justice of God.

Postscript:  This thought exercise was not meant to perfectly describe the theological complexity and beauty of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  But if it helps you, praise God!  It if doesn’t help you, you are free to discard it!

Prayer: Father, thank you for your great love for me.  Help me to remember that the direct consequence of all my sins was in fact, the cross of Jesus Christ!  I want to live in the light of your mercy and grace, being transformed by your Spirit each day.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 16-17

May 14, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on February 7, 2014.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“God’s Honor”

Mal. 1:11

“My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty.

Family honor should matter, but too much emphasis on this can result in something bizarre or even violent.  For example, at a wedding ceremony of his son, the proud father (a pastor) abruptly announces a prayer huddle in front but just with his sons; the newly minted bride is not invited.   Standing all alone, the bride perhaps wonders whether it is too late to back out.  

In some Islamic countries, brothers are willing to kill their sister if her behavior is deemed dishonorable.  While we can agree that “a good name is more desirable than great riches” (Prov. 22:1), these guys are  way too much.

God is also concerned about his name and He doesn’t like it when it is dishonored.  One grievance against King David was the effect of his adultery with Bathsheba among the Canaanites: “Because by doing this you made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt” (2 Sam. 12:14).  The grievance against the Israelites living abroad whose lives were undistinguishable from the Gentile sinners, despite “brag[ging] about [their] relationship to God” (Rom. 2:17), was no different: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Rom. 2:24).  

Is the motivation behind protecting the family honor the same as God’s concern for upholding His name?   Definitely no.   The families are mostly concerned about how others view them, usually a self-flattering portrayal that others do not see.  However, God’s concern for his name stems from His love for people among the nations.  The Lord knows that the defamation of His name by those who claim to follow Him will prompt the nations to think that the God of the Bible is no different than the capricious, even immoral gods whom they grew up worshiping.  Thus, they will neither seek nor believe God when He is finally presented to them.  It’s their loss as well as God’s.  

As you start this day, don’t just focus on you and your family, but think about the kingdom.  Today, it snowed here.  As I was shoveling snow out of the driveway, I decided to clear out some snow for my neighbor.  They are not believers but they know we are.  They thank me.  I hope the name of our God was exalted just a little bit.   Now, go and shovel some “snow” so that God’s name may be exalted.   

Prayer: Glorious God, how great and excellent is your name.  We exalt your name on high and the name of your Son Jesus, the only name through which we can go to the Father.  Lord, I want to make your name great at the place where I live and work so that others may desire you and ultimately be found in Christ.   Motivate me and empower me to do something today that would make your name to stand out.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 15


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Pet. 2:12, 15: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. . . . For this is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.”

Jeremiah 4:1-2: “If you, Israel, will return, then return to me,” declares the Lord. “If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way
you swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ then the nations will be blessed by him and in him they will glory.”

2 Kings 17:15: “[The Israelites] followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless.  They  imitated the nations around them. . . .”

Matt. 5:13: “You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What is one main factor that causes us to be ineffective in serving God and furthering his kingdom?
  2. In what way did the failure of the Israelites to distinguish themselves among the nations hurt those very nations?
  3. What is the best way to distinguish ourselves from the world so that what we do gives further credence to the greatness of our God?

Notes

  1. We become co-opted by the values and practices of the secular world, thereby losing our Christian distinction: that is, our saltiness.  As a result, we become good for nothing as far as representing God.  In fact, we may become recipients of ridicule by the skeptics of the Christian faith. 
  2. Israel’s wayward ways, in effect, blocked God’s channel of blessing for the nations since her undistinguishable life prompted the nations not to hold God in high regard.  They thought, “Why bother seeking the God of Israel when these Israelites prefer our god and our ways?”
  3. Nothing is more powerful that leading a credible public life, backed by a corresponding private life, consisting of good and kind deeds performed “with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15). 

Evening Reflection

Did you have an opportunity to exalt God’s name today?  Wrap up your day by briefly journaling what happened today.  Pray for a more effective tomorrow.

May 13 Thursday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional was first posted on December 11, 2014 by an anonymous writer. 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

The Peril of a False Identity

Proverbs 22:2

The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all.

Poverty isn’t just about a lack of resources, but it is also a belief in a false identity. Growing up poor has been one of the major influences in how I viewed myself and how I related with those around me. It wasn’t just a comparison in material goods and opportunities, but the constant feeling of lack led me to believe that who I was, was insufficient; and that God’s love for me was insufficient in comparison to those around me. This broken comparison continued even when situations were more financially stable. 

What broke this curse over my identity was the slow agreement with the truth that my worth is not based on my situations and circumstances. Rather, it was the love of God who created me. This is one of the foundational truths of God that we know but find difficult to accept. We’re geared to define ourselves in accordance with our surroundings, which makes it difficult to take a conceptual truth and make it into our reality. In our own struggles with this, it seems more common to agree with how empty our pockets are instead of the full heavenly treasures of God’s love for us.

This is why it is important for us as the body of Christ to make our identity in Christ, the wonderfully made creations of God, the forefront of our relationship and interactions. In this Proverb, both the rich and poor come together with their identity in light of the Lord as their commonality. We are called to step over and erase the real dividing line of the haves and the have nots so that our true identity as sons and daughters can take center stage.

What is your identity? Do you identify with your lack of the world’s goods more than how your heavenly Father views you? If you do have resources, are you willing to cross the line and love in deeds and truth?

Prayer: Father, thank you that my identity is not defined by what I have or lack. I pray that I would remain confident in who I am in you. Lord, as you pour out your blessing to me, use me to bless others that they would be able to stand confident in you as well.

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 14


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 John 3:16-18: By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the fullness of love given to us?
  2. How should love be exhibited?
  3. What is our encouragement that enables us to love this way?

Notes

  1. It is Jesus laying down His life for us. He didn’t withhold anything, but gave it all.
  2. Love needs to be tangible. It needs to be more than good intentions.
  3. We are encouraged to love because God loved us first. We don’t pour out love out of emptiness, but with God’s love through Jesus poured out into our hearts.

Evening Reflection

If a co-worker or classmate were to ask you to describe yourself, how far down the list would your identity in Christ be? Would the details of your situations and circumstances precede the reality of Christ in you? Do you form relationships with others according to their identity in Christ, or their educational background, financial situations, and interests? God is reminding us that our identity is firmly planted in who He is and is calling us to receive this identity and establish it to those around us.

May 12, Wednesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on February 6, 2014.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

Mal. 1:8-10

“When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty. 9 “Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”—says the Lord Almighty. 10 “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar!  I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.”

There was a time when singing praise songs was considered a warm-up for the real worship: the sermon.  But by now, praising God has become an integral part of worshiping God, so much so that some people choose a church based on which one has the “coolest” band.   For some churches, worship is music, which is as defective as offering lame animals to God.  

Here are three examples that music is becoming too important in a worship service.  A church in Mexico drew a lot of people because of its cool band; but once the music stopped, many just got up and left.  In another Mexican church, as I was stepping up to preach, the worship team was exiting the sanctuary.  Not liking it, I said, “Hey, come back, worship isn’t over yet.”  At least they planned to return after the preaching to sing a few more songs, but the hired musicians for a third church (in America) left for good after leading the “worship.”  That was even worse.  

What do these examples have in common with sacrifices that the Israelites offered as part of their worshiping God?  Inasmuch as God was displeased with sacrifices of crippled animals, he cannot be too pleased with those who pick and choose how they worship Him.   In the same way that the fire that roasted the meat of these animals became useless since God was unwilling to accept it, I wonder whether the fervency and emotion that typically accompany modern worship is all that pleasing to the Lord when some people are unwilling to worship God throughout the entire service.

Worship is, of course, more than what happens in a 90-minute service on Sundays; offering God our living sacrifices in everyday living is “spiritual act of worship” as well (Rom. 12:1).  However, whether we can “live such good lives among the pagans that . . . they may see []our good deeds and glorify God” (1 Pet. 2:12) hinges on truly experiencing God’s presence when gathered as a worshiping community.   Here, we praise, pray and encounter God’s words; we confess our sins, declare our love for God, and seek His empowerment for a victorious week.   Start your morning with a heartfelt worship.

Prayer: Glorious Lord, I exalt You, I adore You, I praise You, I seek You, I lift your name on high!  What God is like ours who is infinite and yet personal at the same time.  Thank You for being gracious to me even though I have treated with utmost disrespect. Thank You for being such a kind and gentle God.   Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 13


Lunch Break Study

Paul, while explaining the proper usage of the gift of tongues and prophesy in the church, shows what entails a true worship service. 

Read 1 Cor. 14:23-6: “So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare.  So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’  26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.”

Questions to Consider

  1. In light of his passage, how would you advise those who leave the service after the praise?
  2. What tendency still dominates many conservative Western churches with respect to how they worship God?  Why do you think they lean toward that?
  3. What should happen during and as a result of worshiping God?

Notes

  1. I would say: “Singing praise songs (or hymns) is part of what we offer to God in a worship service but there is much more, such as hearing the word of instruction, sharing what God has shown us (a.k.a., testimony) and hearing the interpretation of tongues.” 
  2. Many still equate worship service to listening to a sermon.  So the brunt of the time is dedicated to hearing someone preach from the pulpit. While that component is necessary in order to experience God in a worship service, that, in and of itself, is not sufficient.  Western people, as the children of Enlightenment, prefer rational discourse over emotional display and encountering spiritual things. 
  3. In short, the goal of our weekly gathering is to meet and encounter God during the worship service.  It is to experience, “God is really among [us].”  That gives us the fuel for the fire to offer living sacrifices, which is our spiritual act of worship, throughout the week. 

Evening Reflection

We began the day reflecting on worshiping God.  Let’s end this day with worship as well.  Slowly read Psalms 5 and then sing a simple song that you know by heart.  Then pray. 

May 11, Tuesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on February 5, 2014.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Sacrifices Unworthy of God”

Malachi 1:6b-8

“But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’ 7 “By offering defiled food on my altar. “But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’ “By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible. 8 When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong?  Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty.

Some professors will not read their students’ papers, unless they conform to proper formatting requirements.  Once, my doctoral dissertation was rejected without my mentor ever reading it.   After briefly perusing through my 600-page document packed with 5-line sentences, he said, “Unless you reduce it in half, using 2-line sentences, I won’t read it.”  Perhaps, he was annoyed that I didn’t heed his previous advice.

For us who are unfamiliar with animal sacrifices, we may wonder, “Why offer defective animals to God?  Don’t they know better?”  But once we realize what God demanded for sacrifices, we may understand why.  In an agrarian society, strong and healthy animals are needed to tilt the land and haul the crops; they provided the meat and dairy products.  And that’s the type that God required for acceptable sacrifices: the best without any defect.  

Obviously, the farm business took a hit at least three times a year when all men in Israel were expected to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices (Lev. 23). Economically, offering flawed animals just made more dollars and sense to the Israelites.  God, however, didn’t like being treated as a second fiddle.  Saying, “Where is the honor due me?” he rejected their offerings. 

So, in what ways do we offer God inadequate sacrifices that ultimately displease him?  For starters, every time we give God chump changes for offering, show up late for worship, or pray only when we need something, meanwhile being generous to ourselves and punctual to other meetings, and always on the phone talking to friends, we are disrespecting him.  

It’s not for me to speculate whether God rejects our offerings, worship, or prayers, but if he does, that doesn’t mean God rejects us.   Israel, as a nation, did everything imaginable for God to reject them, but he never did; instead, he kept giving them chances to change.  And God does the same for us today, for “his kindness, tolerance and patience . . . lead[] you toward repentance” (Rom. 2:4).  

As for my dissertation, once I finally presented the paper that pleased my mentor, it was accepted.  That made me happy.  Likewise, when we offer sacrifices that please God, it makes us joyous.

Prayer: How I praise and magnify Your name this morning, O Lord.  While I do not always act as if You are the most important person in my life, I am so glad that You treat me as if I am the most important person in the world; the Cross ensures me that You do.  Thank You.  Help me to make this day count for You.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 12


Lunch Break Study

Read Rom. 12:1: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

Heb. 10:10: “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

Num. 6:14a: “There they are to present their offerings to the Lord: a year-old male lamb without defect for a burnt offering, a year-old ewe lamb without defect for a sin offering. . . .”

2 Cor. 8:7: “But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What is so oxymoronic about the concept of “living sacrifices?”  What is theologically implied by that phrase?
  2. What does it mean to offer God “living sacrifices” without defect?
  3. What are some areas where we need to offer to the Lord excellent “living sacrifices?”

Notes

  1. There is no such thing as “living sacrifices” since all sacrifices in the Old Testament involved dead animals.  But because Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf paid for our sins, we have been made holy through him.  Thus, since we longer have to die for sins, we now live for the One who did us a great and eternal favor—that’s called living sacrifices. 
  2. It means giving God our excellence.  One caution: We shouldn’t always equate excellence to professional standard valued in the marketplace.  We do the best we can (mainly in preparation) with the resources available (2 Cor. 9:11: “according to your means”) to serve God with our heart.
  3. Giving (i.e., being more generous), faith (i.e., trusting God more), speech [e.g., avoiding un-wholesome talk (Eph 4:29)], knowledge [better knowing the Scripture (Heb 5:11-2)], character, etc.

Evening Reflection

In reviewing this day, do you think your effort demonstrated that God isn’t a fifth-wheel in your life? 

Which situation stands out?  Remember, tomorrow means another chance from God to live for him.

May 10, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, written by Han Byul Kim of Remnant Westside Church in Manhattan, was first posted on August 8, 2014.   Han Byul, meaning one star in Korean, is a long-time member of the church’s worship team (plays the keyboard).   

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“What God is Really About”

Galatians 5:13-14

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

I grew up in a household where everything was very black and white. My mom would often teach me of good and evil, issues like sharing my toys with friends: “Do A, B, and C because it makes God happy; but don’t do X, Y, and Z because it makes God unhappy.” While it helped me to be a “good person” on the outside by being obedient to rules and instructions, it greatly skewed my understanding of God’s heart for me and others. 

Since I based God’s pleasure (or lack thereof) on my performance, I would tell my non-Christian friends at school to come to church because attending church is something that made God happy. When I saw a Christian friend do “bad things” like drinking and smoking, I would tell them to stop, because to me, drinking and smoking made God unhappy. Little did I know that God wasn’t interested in fixing people’s behaviors as much as He was in loving them back to life.   That’s what God is really about!

Understanding Paul’s message that we are called to freedom comes when we receive God’s love for us that made possible what we couldn’t do by our works. He sent His Son to pay for the debt that was required to restore our broken relationship with Him.

And this is permanent (Romans 8:38-39).  Just as spilled water cannot be re-gathered, God’s love poured out on the cross cannot be retracted. He tore the veil and made a way: nothing we can do can undo what Christ has done for us.

So the whole law is fulfilled through one thing – love. Life with Christ is no longer based on performance; rather, it is based on love. It’s tempting to see the wrong things around us while listening to our flesh asking, “What do I need to do to fix this behavior/situation?” but let us listen to the voice of God asking, “Will you lovethisperson/church/city/country?”

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for your love that changes everything. We lay down our fleshly understanding of righteousness and receive your grace that makes us righteous. Help us love your people unconditionally as you have loved us.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 9


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 23:25-28: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.  27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

Matt. 15:8: “This people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Based on this passage, define religiosity.
  2. What is so dangerous about religiosity?
  3. No one can escape religiosity completely. How are you dealing with it?  What is the best way to minimize religiosity in our life?

Notes

  1. Religiosity is looking decent, moral and loving outwardly while patting ourselves on our backs for being better than the rest and “hating” those who outshine us.  It is duplicity: outwardly beautiful yet inside are found bones of the dead.
  2. It makes one believe that he is right with God when the Lord doesn’t see it that way.   Lips are praising God to the delight of the onlookers while the heart is full of narcissism, self-aggrandizement, and disdain for others. 
  3. Some transparency would go a long way.  Honestly admitting our desire to look  far better spiritually and morally than what we really are to those who love and care for us so that they can hold us accountable.  

Evening Reflection

Let’s assess some of the decisions we made today. Were they from a place of believing that God loves us unconditionally? Were they from a place of wanting to love those around us the same way? Let’s continue to open our hearts to him for greater revelations of this love.  

May 9, Sunday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, written by Pastor Sam Lee who leads Catalyst Agape Church in Northern New Jersey, was first posted on July 27, 2014.  He is a graduate of University of Wisconsin (BA) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“What Can Go Wrong When We Worship a God of Comfort and Convenience”

1 Peter 4:1-2

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. 2 As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.

Pastor Jim Cymbala of Brooklyn Tabernacle Church told a story of a minister who told him that “two families left for another church because his parking attendants didn’t direct cars out of the lot fast enough.”   That’s taking the so-called God of “comfort” and “convenience” way too far!

Actually, this story indicates that striving after comfort and convenience is a great idol in America, even in the church.  By our actions, we behave as if Jesus died for us and rose from the dead so that we may be comfortable.  Unfortunately, when the gospel of comfort is prioritized, we begin to disdain making sacrifices or even taking risks to serve God.   Instead, God’s will is anything that would make our lives more comfortable and convenient, so much so that any trial that lessens our comfort level is seen as being out of the will of God, or even an attack from the devil. 

However, an undeniable truth is that those who worship comfort and convenience will end up “liv[ing] the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires,” which would, in turn, make their lives quite miserable.  They may still own a nice, air-conditioned house, but financially they are in much debt (incurred trying to afford the comfortable lifestyle), and relationally they are in conflict with too many people (those who seek comfort tend to bridle at anyone who causes them the slightest inconvenience). 

Spiritually of course, they are not willing to suffer any inconvenience for Christ, including being slightly delayed in the church parking lot.

But today’s passage reminds us not to live like the people around us who seek worldly desires.  Instead, the apostle Peter reminds us to look to Christ who “suffered in His body,” after which we ought to “arm [ourselves] also with the same attitude.”  Only then will our lives will be driven by eternal values and goals rather than the fleeting pleasures of the world.

Prayer:  Lord, help me have a right understanding of who You are in order that I don’t give into the thought that Your Son died to make my life more comfortable and convenient with easy passing day.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 8

May 8, Saturday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, written by Pastor Sam Lee who leads Catalyst Agape Church in Northern New Jersey, was first posted on July 19, 2014.  He is a graduate of University of Wisconsin (BA) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“How Can We Live a Life of Holiness?”

1 Peter 1:15-16

But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

The prophet Isaiah saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of His robe filled the temple. The seraphim were calling to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord almighty, the whole earth is full of His glory.” When Isaiah saw the holiness of God, this made him want to be holy. So he cries out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Though he hadn’t committed any heinous sins, just the normal things in which we all fail from time to time, and no one was really bothered about it, he cries out, “I live among a people of unclean lips!” The reason why Isaiah was so bothered by his sins was because He encountered the holiness of God. 

Many want to live pure lives because of fear of punishment, or they try to avoid sin because of fear of being caught, but these reasons do not lead to a life of holiness. While fear of punishment might work for a little while, it doesn’t change the heart; and fear of getting caught might work when you are around other people, but fails when alone. A life of holiness and purity comes from encountering God.  When there is an ongoing and growing connection with Christ, and you are growing in the knowledge of Him, you want to glorify Him instead of bringing His name down by immorality and impurity. As you become more intimate with Christ, you don’t want to hurt Jesus by sinning. And you come to realize that God is not trying to take away pleasures from your life, but He desires to protect you so you can receive what is best. When we know the grace of Jesus, we don’t give up on the life of holiness but are encouraged to pick ourselves up and try again.

Prayer: Lord, help me to desire to live a life of holiness.  Lord, give me the strength to live that life. Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 6-7

May 7, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional was first posted on December 12, 2014.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“What Gives Us the Authority to be a Voice in the World?”

Proverbs 22:11

He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend.

When I was in seminary, a guest lecturer asked my class a simple question: “What gives us the authority to be a voice in this world?” A few tentative hands were raised with these answers: “The truth of Scripture”; “the Holy Spirit”; “the good works we do.”  But all these answers were shot down. The lecturer said, “Integrity. Integrity is what gives us authority to speak and expect people to listen. Without integrity, we lose our influence.”

We don’t have to look too closely to see how the Church is losing its influence in this world. With each rising scandal and controversy, our right to be heard in this world is becoming increasingly compromised. Yet, this is not the sole responsibility of celebrity pastors who find their failures being aired out in the public arena. 

Have you seen a car speed, swerve, and display general recklessness only to discover a Jesus Fish on its rear bumper? How about people who confess their faith to their co-workers only to go out drinking and going overboard? How many times have we compromised our morals and standards of holiness?

According to this Proverb, the authority to speak influentially in a way that is heard and makes an impact comes from the integrity of the internal with the external. It’s not about perfection, but when what is true in our hearts flows forth out of our lips as consistency, people listen.

We are called to be influencers for the kingdom of God wherever we go. It is our integrity that will allow us to fulfill this calling. Are there any areas of contradiction in your life that God is calling you to reconcile? Let us apply the grace of God that will transform us to be a people of integrity.

Prayer: Father, I need Your grace. I know there are many areas that I make compromises in my life. Bring agreement between what I know is true and the way I live my life. Grow integrity in me that I may declare Your kingdom in this world.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 5


Lunch Break Study

Read Luke 6:39-42: He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

Questions to Consider

  1. What does this text tell about living a life of integrity?
  2. Why is it important to be people of integrity in how we relate with those around us?
  3. According to this text, what kind of influence are we called to wield?

Notes

  1. It begins when we cast a critical eye on ourselves instead of others.
  2. Verse 42 tells us that our ability to help others comes when we deal with our own issues first.
  3. We are called to be people who help others without judgment while being honest with ourselves.

Evening Reflection

Reflect on your day. What are some patterns of compromise that weakened your integrity? In what ways were there separation between your heart and your words. Pray and ask that God would bring reconciliation between your thoughts and your words so that integrity will rise and you will be one of influence as God has called you to be.

May 6, Thursday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on February 4, 2014.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Respect”

Malachi 1:6

‘A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me?  If I am a master, where is the respect due me?’ says the Lord Almighty.  ‘It is you priests who show contempt for my name.’ But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name’?”

No one wants to be disrespected; I certainly don’t.  Many years ago, I was livid at this Korean woman, who tried to prove to her friend whom we had just met, that my close relative who sat next to me didn’t speak Korean that well.  To my unsuspecting relative, she asked her to pronounce a certain Korean word, basically to have a good laugh.  I didn’t like it.  Evidently, God does not like to be disrespected either. 

God was many things to Israel in the Old Testament times as he is to us today: a father (Ex. 4:22), a husband (Jer. 2:2), a king (1 Sam. 8:7) and Lord (Ps. 135:5), to name a few.  As a father, God expected to be honored but Israel dishonored him like the way the prodigal son treated his father (Lk. 15:11-31).  Unwilling to wait until his father died in order to inherit the inheritance, the son “said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’” (Lk. 15:12).   What a dishonor to the father!

As a master, God expected to be respected but Israel disrespected him like the way the farmers in the parable of the tenants (Matt. 21:33-41) beat and stoned his servants who were sent to collect his fruit. “Last of all, [the master] sent his son,” thinking, “They will respect my son.”  They didn’t.  “The tenants threw him out of the vineyard and killed him” (Matt. 21:37-9).

It is certainly an uncomfortable question, but it bears asking, “How have we shown contempt for God’s name?”  The woman mentioned earlier just wanted a good laugh at my wife’s expense.  I wonder whether we do the same at God’s expense: having told everyone that we are church-going Christians but living and conducting our business like the world in pursuit of temporary pleasure (that produce a quick laugh).   

Not a pleasant way to start the morning but a necessary one from time to time.  Let’s check our heart this morning and pray about ways (however insignificant they may seem) to honor God today.

Prayer: I praise You Father that I matter to You even though I don’t understand why You should concern Yourself with an insignificant person like me.   It is amazing to think that You would consider my respect for you as something important, since You are God of the universe.  Thank You for Your humility.  Whenever I don’t honor and respect You, gently remind me to repent so that I will turn to You once again.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 4


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Chron. 21:2-3, 6-7: “So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, ‘Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.’  But Joab replied, ‘May the Lord multiply his troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?’  But Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, because the king’s command was repulsive to him. This command was also evil in the sight of God; so he punished Israel.”

Ps. 20:7: (David) “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What was King David’s motive in counting how many soldiers he had?
  2. Joab was known neither for his spirituality nor for ethical conduct (2 Sam. 20:10), but here he called it correctly: what David did was repulsive.  In what sense was the census disrespecting God?  
  3. It is likely that David wrote Ps. 20:7 some time before he ordered the census.  What makes this doubly disrespectful to God?

Notes

  1. In short, as the chief of the military, he wanted to make sure he had enough people at his disposal to do what he desired to do militarily, whether defending against or attacking the enemy. 
  2. Ultimately, David was putting more weight on his own resources than the Lord in order to accomplish what he wanted militarily.  In short, David showed little faith in God’s ability to help him; that’s called mistrust and God felt very disrespected and dishonored (“evil in his sight”).
  3. Ps. 20:7 clearly indicates that David knew better, particularly since he had experienced God’s deliverance many times before, such as when he, as a lad, was able to defeat the giant Goliath.  James 4:17 says, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”  

Evening Reflection

Peer pressure affects adults as well.  Sometimes, in our attempts to avoid an unflattering perception of us as Christians, we end up saying and doing things that disrespect God.  So, what kind of opportunities did you have today to honor God?  How did you fare?  We can always pray for a better tomorrow.   Pray.