November 29, Sunday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, prepared by Pastor Jason Sato who is currently serving in Japan as a missionary, was first posted on November 8, 2014. Jason is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.). 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend 

“Freedom and Rewards that Come from Submission to God”

Proverbs 4:10-14

Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many.[11] I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness.[12] When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble.[13] Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life. [14] Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil.

“Hear!  Accept!  Keep hold!  Do not let go!  Guard!”  Throughout our passage, the author is pleading with his son; he is looking out for his good.  

We too have been taught wisdom and led towards paths of righteousness, yet it’s still so easy to decide that sin and death are much better options for us, undoubtedly because they appeal to our flesh.  Subsequently, God’s commandments seem more like arbitrary rules than the path to life; his wisdom seems like slavery rather than freedom.  But we know this is not true!

When I stop to actually consider what my own life would be like if I had gone my own way and followed my own whims, I’m filled with gratitude.  I know I would not have my family, my calling, and so many other blessings that I now enjoy.  Instead, I would be trapped in anger and depression, and beset by ruined relationships.

Knowing this compels me to warn my own son who, at times, wants to run into the street by himself or eat only goldfish for dinner; therefore, I impose restrictions and guidelines.  I hope that, as my children grow older, they’ll understand that there is no freedom in being dead; there’s no joy in self-inflicted suffering.

Yet I still struggle with it myself.  I find myself preferring the “freedom” to walk hampered steps, to stumble rather than run, and to choose death over life.  My “freedom” does not leave me free to enjoy God or love my family sacrificially.  It doesn’t free me from fear or anxiety.  It only frees me to sink further into sin and its consequences.

Jesus tells us, “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25).  While it may appear that we are giving away our freedom and our very lives, only when we abandon everything and follow Jesus will we have the abundant life that we are seeking.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that You would give us the glorious freedom of obeying You immediately and completely, knowing You will take care of us and reward us with life itself.  Thank you, God.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 16

November 28, Saturday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Barry Kang who heads Symphony Church in Boston, is an updated version of his blog first posted on April 13, 2013.  He is a graduate of Stanford University (BA), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (D.Min.). 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend 

Philippians 2:12-13

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. 

Last weekend, I introduced the concept of training for Christ-likeness vs. trying to be Christ-like.  The traditional name for this idea of training is “spiritual disciplines”.  I remember one Christmas many years ago, I received Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines AND Richard Foster’s The Celebration of Discipline as Christmas presents.  Clearly, someone was trying to tell me something!  

The problem with “Spiritual Disciplines” of course, is that just by hearing the title, we don’t want to do it!  There is also the very real potential for pride and legalism.   So before we continue in our discussion of spiritual disciplines, let me share some thoughts on what spiritual disciplines DON’T do.  

  1. The practice of spiritual disciplines doesn’t save us.  Only the grace of Jesus Christ on the cross saves us from our sins.   We cannot earn our salvation. 
  2. The practice of spiritual disciplines doesn’t make us holy.  I remember when I first began practicing the discipline of fasting, some friends thought that made me very holy, but I knew better.  Fasting made me more aware of my un-holiness!

So what do spiritual disciplines do for us?  Spiritual disciplines are a way for us to “work out our salvation”.  This doesn’t mean that we are contributing to our salvation, rather we are working out the effects or implications of our salvation.  Put another way, spiritual disciplines done with the right heart, are our ways of opening our hearts, minds and bodies to “God who works within us to act and will according to his will.”  Spiritual disciplines aren’t a human-centric way to achieve sanctification.  Rather they are the ways we focus on making our lives God-centric so that we don’t hinder his work within us.  

Prayer: Father, I thank You that You forgive my sins anew every morning.  I thank You that the blood of Jesus covers every one of my sins.  Help me to discipline myself so that my life can reflect Your love and holiness in this world full of darkness. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 14-15

November 27, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Matt Ro who formerly pastored Journey Church in Atlanta, was originally posted on May 13, 2013.  Matt is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BS) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning  

“Past, Present and Future in Him”

Psalm 63:2-8 (ESV)

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

These verses represent how God continues to satisfy David: past, present, and future.   

Past: In v. 2 it says, “So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.”  V. 7: “You have been my help.”  By David remembering the past work of God in his life, he is able to be joyful in the present circumstance.  

PresentIn v. 3, David says “Because your steadfast love IS better than life, my lips will praise you.”  V. 6: “When I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.”  V. 8: “Your right hand upholds me.”  Referring to these verses, Charles Spurgeon commented, “There was no desert in David’s heart, though there was a desert around him.”  

Future: V. 5: “My soul will be satisfied, my mouth will praise you with joyful lips.”  Because God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, we can trust God to be able to satisfy us in the same way David experienced.  

David is satisfied with, in, and by God.  That is what this section of Psalm 63 teaches us.  Once satisfied by God, we can begin to face our circumstances as well as to serve God.  It is also why David speaks of God’s love as being “better than life.”  

In view of Romans 8:38-39, that “nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” we who are satisfied in God, can praise God.  Praise is the end result of being satisfied or content in God.  It is His loving-kindness (hesed) that makes David want to stay close to God.  If you are not experiencing the true satisfaction in God, perhaps it’s because you are not seeking him enough to be satisfied only by him.  

Something to think about as we start another day. 

Prayer:  Father, thank You for your steadfast love in my life.  You have been there in the past, are here in the present, and will be with me in the future.  Nothing can separate me from Your great love.  Help me to make time to seek after You.  I want to begin this day in prayer and study so that I can be satisfied in You.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 13


Lunch Break Study

Read Ephesians 5:3-6 (ESV): But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Questions to Consider

  1. Sexual immorality, arguably, was much more rampant in practice among the pagans of Ephesus than it is in America today.  Think about how counter-cultural Paul’s command must’ve been to its listeners.  What can we learn from Paul’s charge to not even have a hint of sexual immorality, impurity, foolish talk, or greed among us?
  2. In the area of sex, what are some differences we see between the Christian ethic and that of the world?
  3. Lies derive their strength from partial truth.  When lies are heard often enough they become truth for many. What powerful lies are influencing us right now?  

Notes

  1. God’s desire is that we would enter into the abundant life of Jesus (John 10:10). We are constantly exposed to things that are improper for believers.  But the way that we live counter-culturally can be a breath of fresh air when we talk about wholesome matters and refrain from impure practices. 
  2. Popular culture views sex as a free-for-all; Christians place moral limitations on sexual expression. “4 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.  Also, popular culture refuses to evaluate freely and authentically chosen sexual behaviors; Christians point out the spiritual consequences of violating God’s design plan. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  In our sex-obsessed culture, where just about anything and everything goes, we need to remember that God has a far better plan than what you see on TV or in the movies. We are being told today that all sex is beautiful and natural, that it is in the same class as any of our bodily desires or urges, and therefore, we should feel free to satisfy it as openly as we do any other of our bodily needs, without shame or apology.  Like these other natural urges, sex requires regulation and restraint.  And the intended regulation of sex is marriage!  Marriage is the way to regulate sex so that it is right and wholesome and beneficial. 
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

Would you pray this prayer with me? 

Father, I pray that I may not even have a hint of these improper practices and improper thoughts.  I want to walk according Your word, not the words of culture.  Help me to see and trust that Your will is good and that I would not be deceived in any ways.  Amen.

November 26, Thursday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor David Kwon who heads Journey Community Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, was first posted on November 26, 2015.  He is a graduate of Drexel University (BS) and Columbia International University (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

(Thanksgiving Edition)

“The Kids are Ungrateful . . . What about Adults?”

Psalm 138:1-8

I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; [2] I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. [3] On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased. [4] All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth, [5] and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD. [6] For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar. [7] Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. [8] The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Happy Thanksgiving!  For our devotional today, we want focus on the topic of gratitude.  

I recently was reading a blog by KJ Dell’Antonia called “The Kids are Ungrateful”.  In this blog, she writes how ungrateful her kids can get.  Here is what she writes:

Sometimes I can’t believe how ungrateful kids can be.  For example:

  1. We just booked a great place in the mountains, with a pool (for them, of course), and our 9-year-old says, “I don’t want to drive five hours to get there. It’s boring.”
  2. If we go out for dinner, they complain about where. Our 5-year-old, when offered a piece of chocolate, invariably complains, “I want a bigger piece,” instead of simply saying “thank you.”

She concludes by saying:  “Are people born negative, or can we do something about it? Are all kids this way? Will they grow out of it?  It makes me want to stop trying to please them with anything.”

Sadly, the grownups can fall into the trap of ingratitude as well, often complaining about everything.  That’s all the more reason, for Christians, “Thanksgiving” should not just be a once a year event; rather, we should constantly lead a lifestyle of gratitude because it shows the genuineness of our faith and salvation.  

Living a life of thanksgiving starts by acknowledging that we have been given something we do not deserve, which is the unconditional love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Let’s ask the Lord to strip us from our barriers of entitlement and self-accomplishment so that our lives would be marked with gratitude.  

Prayer:  Lord, thank You for the undeserved gift of grace and love that You have poured into our hearts.  Help us to always live a life of gratitude despite the unfavorable circumstances in my life.  Amen

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 12


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: Rejoice always, [17] pray without ceasing, [18] give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Questions to consider

  1. What does Paul exhort his readers to do?
  2. Why is this often hard to do?
  3. How can we live this kind of lifestyle?

Notes

  1. He encourages them to live a life of joy which overflows to thanksgiving
  2. We base much of our joy and thanksgiving on our circumstances.  As we grow in Christ, our joy and gratitude should come from Christ alone despite the trials and hardships we might face.     
  3. We need to be rooted in the Word and ask the Holy Spirit to help us in times of joylessness and ingratitude. 

Evening Reflection

Spend time thanking the Lord and the many blessings He has given you.  It might be family, health, job, or wonderful career opportunities.  Most of all, thank Him for the salvation we have in Him and the sacrifice He made on our behalf.  

November 25, Wednesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Peter Yoon of Kairos Christian Church in San Diego, is an updated version of his blog first posted on November 27, 2014.  Peter is a graduate of University of California, Riverside (BA) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“To Whom Do You Turn in Times of Trouble?”

Proverbs 19:20

Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

Every now and then, I enter into a conversation, and the person says to me, “I need your advice.” My ears perk up, and I’m ready to listen with the hopes that I can provide that person with just the sound advice that will help him or her navigate through some challenging circumstance in life. 

All of us face circumstances in life in which we need good advice. It might be about relationships. It might about a messy situation at your workplace or at school. It might be about responsibilities at home with your children or your spouse. In life, we all get to a place where we need to make certain decisions but with very little or no degree of certainty on the outcome of our decisions. It is at these crossroads we pause and we seek counsel, especially from those who have gone before us and are facing similar circumstances. 

As I faced new ministry challenges, I found myself in a place where I had more questions than answers. The sense of uncertainty was quite overwhelming. I constantly got on my knees asking the Lord for wisdom in every situation. I would talk through the matters with my wife. I would let my mind play through all of the scenarios and the possible outcomes. But I also had the company of other ministers who had walked through similar circumstances, and I sought their advice and their counsel. They shared from their life’s experiences, their missteps and mistakes as well as their successes. They shared from their lives, some of the greatest lessons they gained while navigating through each situation. 

One pastor shared some of the best lessons that he had learned while making some of the most foolish mistakes. He admitted that a great part of his maturity came as a result of making judgment errors but responding humbly to the Lord’s correction, rebuke, and discipline. He pointed out that if we would heed to his advice, those who listen could very well shave off a few years here and there and quicken the process towards maturity. 

What do you do when you need good sound advice? Who do you turn to? How well do you listen to advice when given?  

Prayer: Lord, I thank you for (or I need) people in my life who provides me with good sound advice. In my pursuit of living wisely, grant to me the humility to listen to good advice in every area of my life. In Jesus Name, Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 11


Lunch Break Study  

Read James 1:19-25: My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Questions to Consider 

  1. According to James, what is one vice that manifests when failing to listen quickly? 
  2. Instead of allowing anger get the best of us, what can we do in order to grow through the trials?
  3. If you currently facing trials, who can you turn to for godly wisdom and advice in your life?  

Notes

  1. James is writing to believers who are going through trials and persecution. In their pains and confusion, they lost the sense of hearing from the Lord and spoke too quickly about their situations. This led them to quick anger and blame rather than developing patience and trust. 
  2. Rather than angrily blaming God for our temptation and sin, and thus forfeiting the good he is trying to accomplish in us through the trial, we should confront the evil that caused the temptation, and return to the wisdom of His Word which can take us safely through the trial. 
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

Write down a few areas in your life in which you need advice. Think of people in your life whom you can contact and say to him/her, “I need your advice.”  

November 24, Tuesday

NEW Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Pastor Shan Gian who is the Fenway Site pastor at Symphony Church in Boston.  Shan is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Story Telling”

Exodus 20:16

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.


Imagine that you and your roommate (or spouse or sibling, whatever makes sense for you) planned a dinner date at home tonight at 6pm.  The plan was to cook a nice dinner together and catch up on life in this busy season.  But 6pm comes along and your roommate isn’t home still.  You text and call but don’t get a response.  You give it some time, but it’s 6:45pm and not a word still.  

In a situation like this, what happens in our minds is that we tell ourselves a story of what’s going on and the story we tell has a great effect on our emotions.  If we assume that our roommate completely forgot about the dinner and went to hang out with other friends, anger bubbles up quickly in our hearts.  We think that maybe he doesn’t care about our friendship, and we start to recount the record of wrongs that our dear roomie has committed against us.  But if instead we think, “Maybe he got into a car accident” or “Maybe she got caught up at work and her phone died”, instead of anger, we may feel compassion towards our roommate.

Our brains are wired to fill in the gaps and make up stories about people and situations, and the kind of stories we make up can have significant and often devastating effects on our relationships with others.  The hypothetical situation is likely not that hypothetical for the majority of us.  When a friend, coworkers, family member or fellow church member says or does something bothers or upsets us, we so quickly default to stories about their lack of love or the abundance of sin in their lives.  And beyond the people we are close with or we work with, think about our assumptions of the people who are distant or different from us.  Especially in our divided and politically-charged world today, people assume the worst of the other.  Depending on which side of the fence you are on, the people on the other side are either racist, homophobic, privilege conservatives or they’re Marxist, family-destroying, baby-killing liberals.   

In Emotionally Healthy Relationships, Geri and Peter Scazzero say “Every time I make an assumption about someone without confirming it, I am at risk for believing a lie about this person. My assumption is just a breath away from misrepresenting reality because I have not checked out my assumption with the other person, it is very possible that I’m believing something untrue and effectively bearing false witness against my neighbor.”  When we make assumptions about others, we’re breaking the 9th Commandment, bearing false witness against our neighbors, and that can have devastating effects on ourselves, on our communities and even on society. Bearing false witness against others builds up walls and barriers between us.

As followers of Jesus, we must seek to break down these walls and barriers; instead of making up stories in our heads about others, we must approach others with grace. Instead of assuming the worst of others and distancing ourselves, we can take the simple yet powerful step of approaching with love and grace and simply talk and seek to understand what’s going on in our neighbors’ lives.  

Maybe there’s someone who comes to mind right now or maybe today God will bring someone into your life of whom you have told or will tell yourself a negative story.  To that person, seek to approach them with grace and love.

Prayer: Jesus, give me a love for my neighbor that comes from you. I confess it is easy for me to love based on when it’s convenient for me.  Help me to break down the walls in my own mind and heart even and to approach others with your love and grace. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  1 Corinthians 10


Lunch Bible Study

Read Ephesians 4:29-32: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the reason for being kind and gracious to others?
  2. What does it mean to “grieve the Holy Spirit”?
  3. If you were judged just by the words that you speak to others, would you be reflecting the forgiveness and love of Jesus to others? Or are you grieving the Holy Spirit?

Notes

  1. The reason for kindness towards others is the kindness and forgiveness of Jesus.  Paul exhorts us to forgive with the knowledge and recognition of how Jesus has forgiven us of our sins.  When we remember the forgiveness, love and kindness of Jesus for us, it changes how we treat and interact with others.
  2. Broadly speaking, it is our sin that grieves the Holy Spirit, but in this passage, it seems that Paul has our sin towards one another particularly in mind.  “Corrupting talk” would be speaking words of complaint or gossip or saying derogatory or cutting remarks, and this kind of “talk” would be in the context of a relationship.  It grieves the Holy Spirit when we break community by speaking these types of words to others.  Also, the sins listed in verse 31 (bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, malice), these are not sins that only affect the person who commits them; they are by natural sins that affect and infect relationships and community.  
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

As we seek to love and bless those around us, inside and outside the church community, we need to continually remember the love of Jesus for us.  Take some time tonight to reflect on Jesus’ forgiveness and kindness toward you and pray that His love will be reflected to those around you.

November 23, Monday

NEW Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Pastor Shan Gian who is the Fenway Site pastor at Symphony Church in Boston.  Shan is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Divine Artist”

Colossians 3:12-14

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 

For all of us, at one time or another, we encounter someone that rubs us the wrong way for whatever reason.  Maybe it’s how they talk or the views they have.  I remember hearing someone complain to me about how loudly his roommate chewed his food and how that drove him crazy.  Whether it’s petty pet peeves or stark and serious differences in personality or ideology, we can easily find ourselves irked by others.

When we are faced with such people, what do we do?  Many of us tend towards avoidance.  We see that particular person when we walk into a gathering and then we go towards the other side of the room.  Or if we get a text from them, we respond curtly.  Or, even if we can push ourselves to not avoid, we likely just bear with it.  Deal with it.  Grit our teeth and suffer through our annoyances.

St. Thérèse, a French Catholic nun in the 19th Century, shows us that these kinds of differences can even happen in a convent.  In her autobiography, she shared about a fellow nun who would irritate her in whatever she did or said.  But instead of avoiding her sister or gritting her teeth through it, this is what St. Thérèse said, “I set myself to do for this sister just what I should have done for someone I loved most dearly. Every time I met her, I prayed for her and offered God all her virtues and her merits. I was sure this would greatly delight Jesus, for every artist likes to have his works praised and the divine Artist of souls is pleased when we do not halt outside the exterior of the sanctuary where He has chosen to dwell but go inside and admire its beauty.”

What if this was our heart and attitude towards every person we encounter, especially those we find it hard to love or get along with?  Even the most irritating or infuriating person is the artwork of our Divine Artist, Jesus, and with each of His masterpieces, Jesus wants us to see and to admire their beauty.  

Let us seek to have this kind of heart for our brothers, sisters and neighbors today.  If there’s someone in particular who you find it hard to love or get along with, set your heart to love them as someone you love most dearly.  Let bring delight to our Divine Artist by loving those He has beautifully created.

Prayer: Jesus, remind us today of your patient and enduring love for us. Show us how we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and help us to see the beauty of your creation in others around us.  Especially with those with whom we find it hard to love, may we set our hearts to loving them as you love them. Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today:   1 Corinthians 9


Lunch Bible Study

Read Acts 9:10-19: Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

Questions to Consider

  1. What reasons does Ananias have for not going to Saul? 
  2. What moves Ananias to go to Saul?
  3. What happens as a result of Ananias’ ministry to Saul?  What can happen if we love those we find it hard to love?

Notes

  1. In verse 13, Ananias said that he had heard of Saul and about “how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.” As a disciple of Jesus, Ananias in his mind thought that going to Saul at this point in time would be putting his own life at risk.  For Ananias, it could have felt like a suicide mission.  
  2. Ananias ultimately goes because God tells him to go.  Going a little deeper than that though, God tells Ananias that Saul would be His chosen instrument to share the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles.  In going to Saul, Ananias was trusting that Jesus was working in Saul’s heart and life.  Note that in verse 17, Ananias doesn’t just call him Saul, he says “Brother Saul”
  3. In the short term, Saul is healed from his blindness and is baptized, but in the bigger picture, Saul would go on to be Apostle Paul who planted churches and wrote half of the books of the New Testament.  Let us consider the impact our love for our neighbors can have!

Evening Reflection

More than ever with social distancing and quarantining and virtual relationships, it is easy for us to avoid being in relationship with people who we find it hard to love.  Consider again if there’s someone that Jesus is calling you to love and bless.  Pray for a heart of love and compassion and also pray for your actions towards them to reflect Jesus’ love for them.

November 22, Sunday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Barry Kang who heads Symphony Church in Boston, is an updated version of his blog first posted on April 28, 2013.  He is a graduate of Stanford University (BA), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (D.Min.). 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“The Great Enemy of Spiritual Life? It’s not What You Think”

Mark 6:31

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 

Dallas Willard once gave this sage spiritual advice to young John Ortberg: “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.  Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.”  Many of us suffer from what might be called “hurry sickness.”  Here are some symptoms to see:  When driving, you constantly switch back and forth between lanes to stay in the fastest lane; when cars pass you, you feel physically ill.  You catch yourself frustrated saying, “I wish I could do more for the church or for my spiritual life, but I just don’t have the time.”   Sometimes you are resentful of those who prevent/delay you from doing the next thing on your to-do list.   Additionally, you find it difficult to read this because you are wondering when I’ll get to the point!

For many of us, hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life.  God said, “Be still and know that I am God.”  But we find it difficult to be still!  Hurried and impatient, our minds and hearts race to the future and unable to rest in the present.  From my own experience, hurrying kills my capacity to experience and give love, whether it be to God or to other people.  

While being hurried is different from being busy (busyness is an outward condition caused by circumstances versus hurry which is an inward condition), nevertheless there is a correlation between the amount of things we schedule and hurry which enters our soul.   The problem is that our culture worships speed and efficiency.  We view positively at people who overschedule and overachieve as go-getters.   But Jesus asks, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36).  

As we conclude this month’s theme of training vs. trying for righteousness, let me encourage you with this:  We must ruthlessly train the hurry out of our lives!  Let us consider ways to slow down our lives so that we can become more in tune with God.  

Prayer: Father, it is sometimes difficult to discern Your presence amid my hurriedness.  Lord, help me stop and enjoy You in the present moment.  In Jesus’ name, I pray.  Amen.


Bible Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 8

November 21, Saturday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, written by Pastor Sam Lee who leads Catalyst Agape Church in Northern New Jersey, was first posted on October 26, 2013.  He is a graduate of University of Wisconsin (BA) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food Thought for the Weekend

“What Is the Name of Your Idol?”

Joshua 24:31 (NIV)

“Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel.” 

Unlike the generation of Moses, the Israelites under the leadership of Joshua experienced great favour and blessings of God: spiritually, physically, and even territorially.   So, what was it about Joshua’s generation that they were able to experience God’s blessings?

Ironically, Moses’ generation, despite experiencing amazing displays of God’s supernatural power for 40 years, grumbled and complained whenever their expectations were not met.  The next generation, however, under the new leadership of Joshua, entered, conquered, and received the Promised Land as their inheritance.  More importantly, their spirits were refreshed as they readily saw God moving on their behalf.

From Moses’ generation, we learn what to avoid, but from Joshua’s, what we ought to do.  The generation that complained and grumbled was always wavering between worshipping God and the gods of the Canaanites.  Having seen the divided heart of his people one too many times, the first move Joshua made as the new leader was to call the Israelites to a single-minded devotion to the LORD.  He declared: 

“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14, 15 NIV)

In response, Joshua’s generation chose to serve Yahweh alone.  And it was during this time that the Israelites, fearing the LORD and ready to obey Him, experienced all kinds of breakthroughs and miracles, which finally resulted in inheriting the Promised Land. 

We always have an option to either serve God or idols that allure us.   The Israelites chased after idols with names like Baal or Asherah; what is the name of your idol?  Is it career, prestige, a thick wallet, good grades, or relationships?  God always gives us this wonderful gift called “free will,” and He desires that you choose Him among all the other options.  Joshua’s challenge rings clearly in our ears:  “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I know that worries and complaints (grumbling) are like cousins, and their parents are our idols.  So, help me from being derailed by them and strengthen me to have a single-minded devotion to You.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 6-7

November 20, Friday

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Cami King who serves as associate pastor at Remnant Church in Manhattan, was first posted on April 7, 2014.  Cami is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.).  We are truly sorry for the recent passing of her young brother.  

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Conflating ‘Christianity’ with our Own Cultural Preferences”

Galatians 2:2-5 

I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. 3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

I think most of us know that the gospel message is offensive. Jesus taught His followers that he did not come to bring peace but the sword, separating even the closest relationships because of the offensive nature of His message.

But throughout Church history, during certain missionary efforts, it was not the gospel itself that was the site of offense, but the cultural particularities that came with it. Instead of teaching people to praise and worship God in their own culture and language (with their own style of music, preaching, etc.), some believers have made the mistake of conflating culture and religion, teaching both as one in the same.  

This is similar to the situation Paul was facing. As a missionary to the Gentiles, he taught the gospel (God’s salvation plan for the world through Christ’s death and resurrection) and many were being saved, but Jewish believers came in and taught that the Gentiles had to also abandon their culture and adopt Jewish cultural practices (namely circumcision and dietary restrictions) in order to truly be saved. 

Some years ago, I traveled to Brazil and encountered a small minority group that had not yet been reached with the gospel. They were not unreached in the sense that the gospel message had not made it to their region (there were Christians all around them). But the Christians had so demonized their culture over the years that most of them were no longer interested in hearing anything Christians had to say.

One of the most beautiful characteristics of the church is its multiculturalism. People from all different places, with different languages, cultural practices, food preferences, and worship styles can come together as a family, loving one another and learning from each other. When we conflate “Christianity” with our own cultural preferences, we often miss out on this amazing experience – by either rejecting differences (separation) or by erasing differences (homogenization). But God’s kingdom is a multicolored one and we benefit far more from our difference than we often think.  

Prayer: Father, thank You for my brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world and that You value our various cultures and worship styles and all the many things that make us different. But more than these things, thank You that You unite us as one in Christ through the Gospel. Help me to be apart of building up your many-colored kingdom. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 5


Lunch Break Study 

Read Colossians 3:11-14: Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Questions to Consider

  1. Why point is Paul making in verse 11? 
  2. How are we called to treat one another? What enables us to do this?
  3. Why might Paul have needed to give these instructions? 

Notes

  1. We are one in Christ. Not that we don’t have differences, but that our differences don’t make us better or worse than others (as in the world). We are different, yes, but united and equal in Christ. 
  2. With compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Essentially we are called to love each other as Christ has loved us.  We are able to do this because God has purified us and loved us.  
  3. Because conflicts are bound to arise – especially between people who are different from one another. But Christ enables us to love through difference. 

Evening Reflection

Are there people whose cultural difference have created a barrier for you (especially within your Christian community)? Are there different types of people in your workplace, school, neighborhood with whom God may want you to build a relationship? Ask God to identify practical ways you can overcome difference with love in your community.