July 17, Tuesday

The AMI QT devotionals from July 16-22 are provided by Cami King.  Cami, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), is currently serving as a staff at Journey Community Church in Raleigh.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Is God Punishing Me?” 

Jeremiah 21:3-7 (NRSV)

Then Jeremiah said to them: 4 Thus you shall say to Zedekiah: Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I am going to turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands and with which you are fighting against the king of Babylon and against the Chaldeans who are besieging you outside the walls; and I will bring them together into the center of this city. 5 I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and mighty arm, in anger, in fury, and in great wrath. 6 And I will strike down the inhabitants of this city, both human beings and animals; they shall die of a great pestilence. 7 Afterward, says the Lord, I will give King Zedekiah of Judah, and his servants, and the people in this city—those who survive the pestilence, sword, and famine—into the hands of King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, into the hands of their enemies, into the hands of those who seek their lives. He shall strike them down with the edge of the sword; he shall not pity them, or spare them, or have compassion.

As has been fairly consistent throughout this book, the people of God are in trouble (to say the least). They failed to uphold their end of their covenant (promise/contract) with God. Like disobedient children to a parent or defiant subjects to a good king, the people rebelled and went their own way. As a result, instead of enjoying covenant blessings (what God promised to do for them) of protection and prosperity, they faced covenant curses (how God promised to punish them). The Babylonians were coming, and it wouldn’t be pretty. One commentator keenly noted: “The Lord promised that not only the Babylonians but He, too, would fight against the city. He would bring His strong arm against Jerusalem in anger and would strike down its inhabitants. Normally the Divine Warrior fought for His people, but now He would fight against them.” (Constable)

So, they not only faced the full brunt of the Babylonian army—and the Babylonians were ruthless—without the protection of God (covenant blessing), they were doing so with God’s own hand against them (covenant curse). Yikes!

God outlined clearly what was required for relationship with God and the people agreed. But they fell short (sometimes it seems to me like they weren’t even trying!). Yet many years later, God would come in the person of Jesus and fulfill those requirements on their behalf. In fact, He’d do so on behalf of the whole world! Jesus took upon Himself the full brunt of the curse, so that the people of God would never find themselves in a situation such as we read in today’s passage.

There are many reasons why things go wrong in our lives—oftentimes we’re experiencing the natural outworking of the sinful choices we made or that others have made against us. And unfortunately that’s just life—Scripture tells us God is making all things new, but they aren’t new just yet (the world is still a hot mess!). But one thing we know for sure is this: as those who’ve placed ourselves in Christ, none of the calamity we face is ever God punishing us. Never! Praise be to God that, because of Jesus, God never fights against—only for us, working all things for good.

Prayer: Almighty God, I acknowledge Your holiness and the righteousness You require, Your power and Your condemnation of sin. And today I thank You for Jesus, who took the full weight of condemnation for my sin so there is none left for me. There is therefore now no condemnation for me because I am in Christ Jesus! May that truth be the lens through which I interpret whatever I am facing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Daniel 9


Lunch Break Study

Read Luke 10:25-37 (NRSV): Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii,[k] gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What does the lawyer ask Jesus and how does Jesus respond?
  2. Oftentimes, we focus on the lawyer “testing” Jesus as where he errs in this passage. But, if we set that aside, where does the lawyer go wrong in this text as it relates to his quest for eternal life? (Look closely at these key verses: 25b & 29a)
  3. What would have been the natural response of the lawyer to Jesus’ story and teaching in vv. 30-37? How might this exchange have eventually led the lawyer to eternal life?
  4. What are the ways you fall short of the “Great Commandment” (v. 27) in your daily life? How does the gospel both free you from the weight of the “Great Commandment” and empower you to live it out?

Notes

  1. The lawyer asks Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. He wants to know what is required to be in right relationship with God and living abundantly eternally. // Jesus answers with a question – What does the law say? In this response, Jesus is basically saying, “What do you know?” or “You already know what’s required.” The same is often true for us. Like the people of God in our passage this morning, we often know what to do but fail to do it (because we are rebellious or because we literally can’t—the righteous requirement is too high and we are broken and sinful).
  2. A little close reading reveals that the lawyer is relying on his own works and ability to inherit eternal life. He asks, “what must I do…” (when he really should have asked, “What can be done for me?”). And he was “seeking to justify himself” (when he should have been seeking justification for himself). Once we realize how wretched we are and how far short we fall of the glory of God, only then can we, to paraphrase one of my favorite preachers, leave a contract of earning and enter a relationship of receiving (God’s free gift of grace).
  3. There are a ton of ways the lawyer could have responded. He was likely offended by the juxtaposition of the actions of religious leaders to those of a Samaritan, a people group Jews despised at that time. But if he stayed focused on his quest for eternal life, a natural response would have been something akin to – “That’s impossible!” If a neighbor is anyone in our path, who can effectively keep the command?! And that’s the point! // That realization was what the lawyer needed to inherit eternal life—realizing he couldn’t do it. He needed a Savior.
  4. Personal reflection.

Evening Reflection

Freedom from condemnation doesn’t mean we never feel guilty when we do wrong. I like to think of guilt like our nervous system—if our hand is on a hot stove, our body naturally alerts us to the danger (It hurts!) and triggers a change in our course of action (Move that hand!). Otherwise, we’d lose our hand. Similarly, feelings of guilt (and the sorrow that accompanies them) are natural and good, alerting us to danger and triggering a change. But as people not condemned, we aren’t immobilized under the weight of guilt! We can turn to Jesus, thankful for the alert, receive forgiveness through the cross and empowerment through the Spirit to change course.

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.  (2 Corinthians 7:10)

How do you respond to guilt? Do you allow it to propel you to repentance (and change your course of action) and salvation (from death that accompanies sin) and freedom from regret? Or do you respond as a person condemned—allowing it to suffocate you under the weight of your brokenness or even ignoring it because it’s just too much to sort out (and no one’s perfect, right)? Spend some time reflecting on these things with God. Ask the Lord to help you have a proper posture toward feelings of guilt. Ask God to help you respond appropriately to any guilt you are feeling today.

July 16, Monday

The AMI QT devotionals from July 16-22 are provided by Cami King.  Cami, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), is currently serving as a staff at Journey Community Church in Raleigh.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Pray Because We Can!” 

Jeremiah 21:1-2 (NRSV)

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur son of Malchiah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah, saying, 2 “Please inquire of the Lord on our behalf, for King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon is making war against us; perhaps the Lord will perform a wonderful deed for us, as he has often done, and will make him withdraw from us.”

Many of us have heard stories like this one: “A mother at our mission station died after giving birth to a premature baby. We tried to improvise an incubator to keep the infant alive, but the only hot water bottle we had was beyond repair. So we asked the children to pray for the baby and for her sister. One of the girls responded. ‘Dear God, please send a hot water bottle today. Tomorrow will be too late because by then the baby will be dead. And dear Lord, send a doll for the sister so she won’t feel so lonely.’ That afternoon a large package arrived from England. The children watched eagerly as we opened it. Much to their surprise, under some clothing was a hot water bottle! Immediately the girl who had prayed so earnestly started to dig deeper, exclaiming, ‘If God sent that, I’m sure He also sent a doll!’ And she was right! The heavenly Father knew in advance of that child’s sincere requests, and 5 months earlier He had led a ladies’ group to include both of those specific articles.” (Dr. Helen Roseveare, mid-twentieth century missionary to the Congo)

Most of our stories of blessed times in prayer come in moments of desperation. This is likely because it’s easier to pray when we face situations which are so impossible that only a miracle can bring us through. But our passage for today reminds me of a lesson God taught me some years ago. In the Old Testament, when people needed to seek a word from the Lord they had to go to a priest or prophet who served as a mediator between them and God. In our passage for today, King Zedekiah went to Jeremiah (a prophet from the priestly line) so that Jeremiah might inquire of the Lord on behalf of the King.

Some years ago as I prepared sermons on prayer, I sought the Scriptures for the reasons they give us to pray. I found many reasons, but my favorite is this: BECAUSE WE CAN! After the death and resurrection of Jesus, the people of God no longer needed to seek God through a mediator. As believers we have access directly to the throne of God whenever we call on God and we can trust that God not only hears, but through the Holy Spirit, that God also responds. I like to imagine how utterly mind-boggling this truth was for believers in the early church who had never had this kind of access to the presence of God before.

We have precious access to God when we pray. May we not take it for granted today.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank You that You hear me when I pray to You. Thank You Jesus that I have unrestricted access because of what You did for me on the cross. Thank You Holy Spirit for dwelling with me and allowing me to hear from the heart of God every day. Lord, forgive for any times I have taken this access for granted.  May I enjoy today the rich blessings that come from intimate communication with You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Daniel 8


Lunch Break Study

Read Hebrews 4:14-16 (NRSV):  Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested[d] as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Question to Consider

  1. What are the two commands/exhortations given in this passage?
  2. What are the reasons we’re able to follow these commands/exhortations?
  3. Verse 16 tells us that the end result of the believers holding fast to their confession and boldly approaching the throne of grace is so that they may receive mercy and find grace in times of need. How does this encourage you today? What are the specific areas in your life that make you more aware of your need for grace and mercy?

Notes

  1. “Hold fast to our confession” (v.14)—the writer of Hebrews encourages believers to persevere in their profession of faith and confidence in Christ. “Approach the throne of grace with boldness” (v. 16)—come before God boldly in prayer.
  2. We have Jesus as our high priest—One who goes before God on our behalf and intercedes (talks to God for us). Furthermore, the One who intercedes for us is both sympathetic—He sympathizes with us in our areas of weaknesses, and holy/blameless – He was tested yet did not sin.
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

Rend Collective, a contemporary Christian worship band, wrote the song “Boldly I Approach” with Hebrews 4:16 in mind. Spend some time listening to their song of worship this evening. As you do, reflect on the great gift we have in Jesus as our high priest and the freedom He grants us to boldly approach God in prayer (Rend Collective – Boldly I approach). Spend some time praying to God about the specific areas in your life where you need grace and mercy today.

July 15, Sunday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Tina Hsu. Tina, a graduate of Biola University and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.), currently serves as a staff at the Church of Southland, Anaheim, California.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Being a Servant Whom My Master Trusts”

John 10:40-42

And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was first baptizing, and He was staying there. 41 Many came to Him and were saying, “While John performed no sign, yet everything John said about this man was true.” 42 Many believed in Him there.

During a four-month hiatus between the mission field and stepping into my current job, I didn’t have any concrete plans for what I would do after my time-off. A close friend wrote to me, saying, “I can’t wait for what God has in store for you. I think He trusts you so much.” I was overwhelmed with this encouragement—even though I didn’t deserve such a comment. But her words led me to ponder about the nature of trust in my relationship to Jesus. I always knew following Jesus involved me trusting Jesus, while Jesus leads; however, I never interacted with the possibility of Jesus trusting me. Why would Jesus trust me? It’s not like He needs to rely on me or count on me. I thought trust is one-way, from me to Him, since all the power and strength is in Him anyways. In diving more into this perspective, I realized that our relationship with Jesus is not only a love relationship between the Redeemer and the redeemed, but it is indeed also a trust relationship between Master and servant, as many of Jesus’ teachings, such as the parable of the talents (Mt. 25:14-30), teach so clearly.

In this morning’s passage, Jesus leaves Jerusalem, as more religious teachers were questioning His authority and angered by His teachings; yet many outside of Jerusalem were placing their belief in Him. The passage testifies that John the Baptist was integral in leading these people to Christ. Though they didn’t believe in Jesus immediately after listening to John’s witness, but eventually, they realized “everything John said about this man was true.” John the Baptist never performed a miracle. He was simply a voice that talked about the Light, and he was content to be a voice, without a ministry of signs and wonders, as long as it caused people to consider Christ. Jesus says about John, “Among those born of women, there is no one greater” (Luke 7:28). Jesus must have trusted John so much, for he completed the work that God entrusted to him—nothing more, and nothing less. In being trustworthy to his Master, he led people to know Christ for themselves. This morning, as we long to deepen our trust in Jesus, let us consider also how we can live a life as trustworthy servants.  

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me unconditionally and also entrusting Your precious work to me. Give me understanding for how to steward my time, resources, and energy, so that I may use all that I have to Your service. Help me to consider how to be a trustworthy servant for You today. In Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Daniel 7

July 14, Saturday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Tina Hsu. Tina, a graduate of Biola University and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.), currently serves as a staff at the Church of Southland, Anaheim, California.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The Tension Within”

Jeremiah 20:14-18 Cursed be the day when I was born; let the day not be blessed when my mother bore me! 15 Cursed be the man who brought the news, To my father, saying, “A baby boy has been born to you!” And made him very happy. 16 But let that man be like the cities, which the Lord overthrew without relenting, And let him hear an outcry in the morning and a shout of alarm at noon; 17 Because he did not kill me before birth, so that my mother would have been my grave, and her womb ever pregnant. 18 Why did I ever come forth from the womb to look on trouble and sorrow, so that my days have been spent in shame?

Jeremiah 1:4-5 Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

When I was in elementary school, I was signed up to try various sports, including badminton. After my first lesson, I wanted to quit because when I tried to hit the birdie coming towards me, it flew straight towards my forehead and got stuck in my hair. Being of low-esteem, I felt an incredible sense of humiliation in front of the people I was playing with, since they didn’t seem to have any trouble with the sport. I often wanted to quit sports and I would end up quitting very easily when I felt like it was a little bit hard.

In contrast, Jeremiah never quit even though his complaint in this passage sounds like he wanted to just walk away from his calling. But, his confession and complaint come from a heart that was wrestling with the tension of his calling as God’s prophet to the nations. He may have been close to quitting, but he never actually quit. He could’ve excused himself from serving in this office when the distress became overwhelming. He faced opposition and loneliness and felt sorrow over Judah’s unwillingness to return to God. Nevertheless, he remained in his place because he knew that he was set apart since birth for this purpose. Even though “cursing” the day of his birth is a strong statement, I think only someone who is so committed to God’s call would wrestle and cry out to God like this. If he didn’t regard himself as God’s chosen instrument and respected it as a holy call, he wouldn’t have wrestled to this point. I admire how he faced the cost of obedience and poured out his honest and unfiltered anguish to the Lord. In a way, it was the closest way to surrender himself to God again and to be fully committed and hidden in Him.

2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” God desires to strengthen us when we are serving Him while feeling completely helpless and weak.

This morning ask, the Lord to strengthen you and to reveal to you what He is fulfilling in you through the various situations and roles He has called you into. 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that you rejoice over the day of my birth. Not only did You set Your heart to love me, but You also appointed me to fulfill a unique purpose in my life ever since I was in my mother’s womb. Because true obedience comes with discomforts and costs, I pray that You would strengthen me to persevere and to abide daily in You. Help me to glorify You with my life. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Daniel 5-6

July 13, Friday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Tina Hsu. Tina, a graduate of Biola University and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.), currently serves as a staff at the Church of Southland, Anaheim, California.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“When News Can’t Remain Untold” 

Jeremiah 20:7-13   

O Lord, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; Everyone mocks me. 8 For each time I speak, I cry aloud; I proclaim violence and destruction, Because for me the word of the Lord has resulted In reproach and derision all day long. 9 But if I say, “I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,” Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it. 10 For I have heard the whispering of many, “Terror on every side! Denounce him; yes, let us denounce him!” All my trusted friends, Watching for my fall, say: “Perhaps he will be deceived, so that we may prevail  against him And take our revenge on him.” 11 But the Lord is with me like a dread champion; Therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will be utterly ashamed, because they have failed, With an everlasting disgrace that will not be forgotten. 

Have you ever had news that you could barely hold in and couldn’t wait to share? This could be a birth announcement, a gender reveal, a new job, an opportunity of a lifetime in a new city, a dream fulfilled, or an answered prayer after long seasons of waiting. You celebrated in your heart and couldn’t wait to celebrate with others about the news.

In this morning’s passage, Jeremiah describes how he had news for Judah that he could barely hold in—but his words for Judah didn’t derive from joy and celebration, nor for further celebration. Rather, he strived with all his might to keep God’s message of judgment for Judah to himself, for fear of backlash and persecution; but God’s message was in his heart like a burning fire. It was weary to hold it in, so Jeremiah could not let God’s message remain untold. In obeying God’s role for him as a prophet, Jeremiah now complains to the Lord for the mockery and beating he has received. In the most recent instance, he was put into prison by Pashhur the priest. In this prayer to the Lord, we see the deep, emotional, yet unique life path of the prophet Jeremiah.

How can we appreciate these portions of Scripture in which the complaints of God’s servant are recorded? In Jeremiah, we get to observe the honest humanity of a servant of God, and see how he faced difficult situations. He wrestles with fear, despair, and disappointment towards God, just as we do. He vacillates between wanting to quit being a witness for God because of the scorn that comes with it, and sensing that he must speak out loud what God has given him to say. In feeling disappointed that God didn’t quickly deliver him, and feeling as if God deceived him, he poured out his honest emotions before God. By sincerely wrestling before God, Jeremiah was again able to trust God’s wisdom for the result of his witness, by calling God “his dread champion.”

Has God been planting convictions in you that you resist to act on because of the possibility of pushback and backlash? Bring your concerns and fears to God and entrust yourself to the One who exercises wisdom over the outcome of your works.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that as your son/daughter, I can pour out my soul to You and wrestle with all of my honest emotions before You. When I have a hard time believing in Your goodness and can only sense the chaos and discomfort around me, I pray that You would sustain me and help me to wait upon You as You are the lifter of my head. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Daniel 4


Lunch Break Study

Read Psalm 3:1-8: O Lord, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me. 2 Many are saying of my soul, “There is no deliverance for him in God.” Selah. 3 But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head. 4 I was crying to the Lord with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah. 5 I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustains me. 6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me round about. 7 Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God! For You have smitten all my enemies on the cheek; you have shattered the teeth of the wicked. 8 Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be upon Your people! Selah.

Questions to Consider

  1. What was David going through when he wrote this psalm?
  2. What does this psalm describe about security and peace in God for the believer?
  3. David says, “…for the Lord sustains me”—In what ways in your life right now do you need the Lord to sustain you?

Notes

  1. He was facing trouble and distress as he fled from his son Absalom. Absalom had led a rather successful rebellion against David and friends, and subjects of David had joined Absalom’s side. Even people around David were convinced that there is no help for David in God (v. 2).
  2. In David’s distress, and by the way he prays to God, the psalm reveals how those who are in God could experience unshakeable peace and security, and believe the shield of God that covers them. In the midst of trouble, David could even sleep, because his security in God is firm.
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

Psalm 3:4: “I was crying to the Lord with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain.”

Jeremiah 20:11: “But the Lord is with me like a dread champion; therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.”

Both Jeremiah and David went through opposition. By circumstance alone, it seems like there was no hope in their suffering and that God didn’t hear their cries. However, both of them by faith proclaimed that God hears them and is their victor and champion. Their spirits were renewed by proclaiming truth to themselves before they actually tasted victory. This evening, reflect on a battle you are facing (spiritual, relational, vocational, physical, emotional) and ask the Holy Spirit to give you strength to proclaim God as your victor and champion over your situation.

July 12, Thursday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Two Lives Lived Differently: Jeremiah and Pashhur” 

Jeremiah 20:1-4, 6

When Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief officer in the house of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, 2 Pashhur had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put him in the stocks that were at the upper Benjamin Gate, which was by the house of the Lord. 3 On the next day, when Pashhur released Jeremiah from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, “Pashhur is not the name the Lord has called you, but rather Magor-missabib. 4 For thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I am going to make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends; and while your eyes look on, they will fall by the sword of their enemies. 6 And you, Pashhur, and all who live in your house will go into captivity; and you will enter Babylon, and there you will die and there you will be buried, you and all your friends to whom you have falsely prophesied.’”

In this morning’s passage, we get to see how Pashhur the priest finishes his life. Pashhur had great influence being the chief officer in the temple of the Lord. However, his role in Jerusalem did not spare him from the destruction and years of exile that Judah was about to face. After hearing of Jeremiah breaking the clay jar as a message to Judah of impending judgment, Pashhur was angry at Jeremiah and put him in prison overnight. After a painful and humiliating night, Jeremiah was released and foretold Pashhur the terrible pain he was about to experience. He would not only be taken into exile along with Judah, but he and his household would also die in exile. The main reason for a painful end to his life is that he falsely prophesied to many people while being entrusted with the role as a priest. The words he spoke stuck with many of his friends, and they also would be buried in exile.

The name Pashhur means “ease, tranquility,” and the name that the Lord is now giving him is Magor-missabib, which means “terror on every side.” Pashshur’s ministry for a length of time brought him great ease and freedom as his hearers like what he prophesied. Though his words sounded good to them, they were false prophecies resulting in blindness towards the uncomfortable, yet true words of God and the need to repent and return to the Lord. As a result of opposing God and misleading God’s people, Pashhur now faces the terror of the exile.

In contrast, though Jeremiah faced overwhelming opposition in fulfilling God’s call, he treasured God’s message in his heart and was faithful to proclaim it in his lifetime. In a previous passage, Jeremiah proclaimed to God regarding the unpopular message he would have to say to Judah, “Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts” (Jer. 15:16). This morning, let us consider the example of Jeremiah, who persevered in following God’s call in the midst of unease and hardship.  

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, thank You that You have called me by Your name to be in a relationship with You and to fulfill a special purpose in my lifetime. Increase my strength to complete the work that You have entrusted to me, and enable me to persevere faithfully until the end. In Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Daniel 3


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22: Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.

Questions to Consider

  1. Why did Paul emphatically instruct them to not quench the Spirit?
  2. Why is it important not to despise prophetic utterances?
  3. How does Paul instruct the Thessalonians to respond to those who give words of prophecy?

Notes

  1. Evidently, some people in the church displayed the attitude of despising prophecy. A likely reason is that some people in their midst had misused the gift in some way, leading to hardened hearts; therefore, they wanted to get rid of prophetic utterances altogether.
  2. When we despise or resist prophetic utterances, we quench (put out, extinguish) the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst. The Holy Spirit has given prophecy as a gift to the church to build up the church.
  3. He instructs them to examine and to discern, instead of to reject. To discern means to recognize that there are both genuine prophetic utterances that the Holy Spirit gives to church members, but there are also utterances that are not from the Holy Spirit. The key is to discern the words in light of the truth of Scripture. If the utterances and the one speaking exudes the fruit of the Spirit, then that is “good” and we must hold fast to it; otherwise, we shouldn’t tolerate anything that doesn’t align with the truth of Scripture or reflect the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control).

Evening Reflection

1 Peter 4:13: “But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

July 11, Wednesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Seeking God through Lament”

Jeremiah 19:10-11

Then you are to break the jar in the sight of the men who accompany you and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Just so will I break this people and this city, even as one breaks a potter’s vessel, which cannot again be repaired; and they will bury in Topheth because there is no other place for burial.”

One of the wisest choices my mother made for my sister and me was when she signed us up for a Divorce Care Group for kids when we were young. She told us that she did this because she was aware that we may have emotions such as anger, sadness, or disappointment that we were afraid to express to her, but she didn’t want us to harbor it in our hearts. She told us to tell it to our care group and she wouldn’t be mad about anything we said in those sessions. I remember those sessions being a safe place to share and listen, but I honestly was too young to process. However, her choice set me up well for my college years when I started to have pent up emotions about my parent’s divorce, and I knew it was permissible to grieve. In fact, allowing myself to grieve and find a counselor led to a season of healing and restoration.

In this morning’s passage, God tells Jeremiah to shatter the clay jar in front of the priests and elders as an illustration of the destruction to come. As it is clay jar that has been hardened, it would break quickly, and cannot be repaired. This is the way in which God would bring judgment to Judah and Jerusalem, and those who remain alive would be taken into captivity in a foreign land.

In Psalm 137, a psalm describing the experience of exile and captivity, the psalmist cries out, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” The period in which God’s people lived as exiles under Babylonian rule birthed a great number of psalms, known as lament psalms. Lament is something they did as a way to wonder about God’s presence in their loss and hardship, and many prophets lamented on behalf of Israel. There is a raw combination of honestly grieving before God, repenting of past sins, and seeking God’s presence in the midst of the painful experience.

We all face difficult losses and hardships, and the Bible invites us to honestly grieve and lament as a path to finding restoring hope and strength. This morning, give yourself the permission to offer God a prayer of lament, or pray on behalf for someone who is going through a difficult time.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You are faithful in all circumstances. In the dark and difficult times of my life, help me to not withdraw from You and grieve alone. Help me instead to draw near to You and pour out my sorrow before You. Even though I may not understand fully Your ways and Your purposes in my hardships, I ask that You would strengthen me and lead me to Your truth. In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Daniel 2


Lunch Break Study

Read Psalm 79:1-13: O God, the nations have invaded Your inheritance; They have defiled Your holy temple; They have laid Jerusalem in ruins. 2 They have given the dead bodies of Your servants for food to the birds of the heavens, The flesh of Your godly ones to the beasts of the earth. 3 They have poured out their blood like water round about Jerusalem; And there was no one to bury them. 4 We have become a reproach to our neighbors, A scoffing and derision to those around us. 5 How long, O Lord? Will You be angry forever? Will Your jealousy burn like fire? 6 Pour out Your wrath upon the nations which do not know You, And upon the kingdoms which do not call upon Your name. 7 For they have devoured Jacob And laid waste his habitation. 8 Do not remember the iniquities of our forefathers against us; Let Your compassion come quickly to meet us, For we are brought very low. 9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; And deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake. 10 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Let there be known among the nations in our sight, Vengeance for the blood of Your servants which has been shed. 11 Let the groaning of the prisoner come before You; According to the greatness of Your power preserve those who are doomed to die. 12 And return to our neighbors sevenfold into their bosom The reproach with which they have reproached You, O Lord. 13 So we Your people and the sheep of Your pasture Will give thanks to You forever; To all generations we will tell of Your praise.

Questions to Consider

  1. What kind of psalm is Psalm 79?
  2. How does God’s jealousy (v. 5) relate to the destruction of Jerusalem?
  3. How does the psalmist reason with God regarding delivering them from the ruins?

Notes

  1. Psalm 79 is a lament psalm over the destruction of Jerusalem, a result of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. The lament leads to a prayer of cry for help to God.
  2. God’s jealousy is a godly jealousy. It’s a strong emotion rooted in love and righteous anger when a covenant relationship between two parties (God and Israel) is not kept faithfully. It is not like envy, which is rooted in lusting after what is not rightfully ours. Israel’s faithfulness to God is rightfully His, as He promised to be faithful to them. When Israel abandoned God, God reacted with godly jealousy. Deut. 4:23-24 says, “So watch yourselves, that you do not forget the covenant of the Lord your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a graven image in the form of anything against which the Lord your God has commanded you. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”
  3. The psalmist pleads with God to deliver Israel “for the glory of Your name” and “for Your name’s sake.” The eternal glory of God’s name can stand alone despite circumstances. However, in ancient Near East cultures, each nation’s prosperity is directly associated with the power of the god(s) they serve. Israel’s experiences (i.e. parting of the Red Sea) testify to the nations that there is no other like the one true God. In the psalm, though God abandons Israel for righteous reasons, the psalmist pleads with Him to save them so that the nations may once again see that there is no other god compared to the God of Israel.

Evening Reflection

A prayer of lament is a form of worship to God, leading to faith and freedom. Are there any sorrows you are bearing that you have been denying in your heart? Ask the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to help you offer your sorrows to God, and may the Lord give you hope through prayers of lament.

July 10, Tuesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Thinking the Things of God”

Jeremiah 19:4-5

Because they have forsaken Me and have made this an alien place and have burned sacrifices in it to other gods, that neither they nor their forefathers nor the kings of Judah had ever known, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent 5 and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind;

After I got baptized in high school after having encountered God’s forgiveness at a youth retreat, I remember wrestling with the foundational question, “How do I actually follow Jesus now?” The more vulnerable thought was, “How do I function in the same environment I have been living in and overcome temptations and represent Christ in my life?” I was afraid to “fail” and see my baptism as just a “passing event” that didn’t lead to any difference in my life.

It clicked to me that discipleship wasn’t about managing my behavior nor filling my life with works that made me feel righteous. Instead, it was about re-tuning my desire to think what God thinks, to like what He likes, and to despise what He despises; and gradually, I saw that I desired to do God’s command. At that time, my greatest hurdle was overcoming the habit of lying to my mom and rebelling against her. Seeing myself want to listen to her wishes shocked me and that was when I knew, I’m changing! It became obvious that sin came naturally, and no one had to command or teach me how to lie, cheat, or gossip; so learning to desire God’s ways was definitely the work of God upon my life and required a re-tuning of my appetite for God’s Word.

In this morning’s passage, God charges Judah for having repeatedly indulged in the worship of false gods in the holy city, which God “never commanded, or spoke of, nor did it ever enter [His] mind.” They showed adoration for false gods, which neither former good kings nor the godly men of Israel had ever known. Though Jerusalem and its temple were built to honor God, His people had made it an alien place by their worship of false gods. No one taught the Israelites how to worship false gods; it was something that felt good and gratifying in the moment, and became a collective lifestyle, leading to destruction.

Psalm 119:104  says, “Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.” To resist what is wrong isn’t something we can do forcefully or conjure up. It comes through the path of increasing in understanding of God’s Word, and as a result, we grow to hate evil and love God’s ways. This morning, let’s ask the Lord to give us a spiritual appetite for His Word, so that His thoughts may permeate into our thoughts and actions.

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, lead me to live out what You command in your word so that my life may be characterized by Your wisdom and understanding. Sometimes the values or habits that I live out do not align with Your values and commandments. I pray that You would help me realize any habits in my actions, thoughts, and speech that are displeasing to You and empower me to replace them with what is pleasing to You. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Daniel 1


Lunch Break Study

Read Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8: “Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, so that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 2 You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. 6 So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him? 8 Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?”

Questions to Consider

  1. According to this passage, how are the children of Israel called to go in and possess the land God promised to them?
  2. What makes Israel (God’s people) unique and distinct from other nations who worship other gods?
  3. What promise of God do you sense He is leading you to take possession of? What commands, direction, or word of wisdom are you called to hold fast to, so that you may position yourself to experience God’s promises?

Notes

  1. To inherit and walk into the blessing of the Promised Land, the Lord instructs the children of Israel to keep and obey the commandments that He has given them (to not take anything away from the Law nor to add anything to it).
  2. Israel’s God is “near to them who call on Him,” and He is distinct in that He speaks to Israel. Though they didn’t see God, they heard His voice at the giving of the Law and covenant. There is revelation and relationship involved between Israel and God. They will be viewed as wise if they hold fast to God’s laws.
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

What would it look like to go about the rest of your week if you were to “set your mind” on the things of God?  Reflect on Romans 8:5-8For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,  because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,  and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

July 9, Monday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Tina Hsu. Tina, a graduate of Biola University and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.), currently serves as a staff at the Church of Southland, Anaheim, California.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Broken Beyond Repair”

Jeremiah 19:1-3

Thus says the Lord, “Go and buy a potter’s earthenware jar, and take some of the elders of the people and some of the senior priests. Then go out to the valley of Ben-hinnom, which is by the entrance of the potsherd gate, and proclaim there the words that I tell you, and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Behold I am about to bring a calamity upon this place, at which the ears of everyone that hears of it will tingle.

When I was a little girl, I checked out some of my mom’s expensive glassware that she had stored in a cabinet. I thought I was careful with handling glass, but I still managed to shatter one glass right in front her eyes.  I had broken a lot things as a curious young girl, but this one I knew was beyond repair and no longer usable. Its shattered pieces could only be swept and thrown away. In this morning’s passage, the prophet is told to purchase a clay jar, only to break it in front of Judah’s leaders (19:10) at the valley of Ben-hinnom, as a symbolic message to the nation of the Lord’s impending judgment, for they had remained stubborn and unrepentant after many warnings. Proverbs 29:1 says, “Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed–without remedy.” In speaking of Judah’s soon-to-happen exile to Babylon, Jeremiah’s prophetic act conveys that it will be a calamity in that God’s people will be “broken,”  as one breaks the potter’s clay jar and throws it into the dump.

By standing at the valley of Ben-hinnom, a location that had at that time become the “dump area” of the city,  Jeremiah brings the jar there to illustrate that Judah’s exile is likened to a dishonorable vessel that the Lord is removing in His justice and righteousness. Even though this message will cause people’s ears to shudder, it provides the chance for people to hear the call to repent and to become the people who would persevere through the exile in order to rebuild Jerusalem later. The news of calamity serves the higher purpose of pointing to God as Israel’s hope. Their brokenness is beyond repair from the earthly perspective, but God can indeed restore the brokenness of Judah, as the prophet Amos declares, “In that day I will restore David’s fallen shelter—I will repair its broken walls and restore its ruins—and will rebuild it as it used to be” (Amos 9:11).

Have you lost hope in an area of your life, or do you consider anything as “beyond repair?” Allow the Holy Spirit to encourage you with hope this morning that He can indeed provide restoration and newness in the area that seems beyond repair.

Prayer: Dear Father, You are righteous and just. I confess that in the ways that I have dishonored You, I taste the consequences of my sinful ways. Yet, thank You that I can fully hope in You to restore me and redeem me. Make me to be like a jar of clay that allows Your glory and power to transform me and to dwell inside of me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ezekiel 48


Lunch Break Study

Read 2 Timothy 3:19-21: Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.” Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.

Questions to Consider

  1. In writing to Timothy, what is the apostle Paul’s purpose in this message?
  2. What is the importance of the statement, or seal, “The Lord knows those who are His?”
  3. How have you considered becoming “a vessel of honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work?”

Notes

  1. The background noise to Timothy’s ministry is that there were numerous false teachers who have indulged themselves in quarrels over words (2:14), godless chatter (2:16), and whose false teachings (i.e. the denial of resurrection) have spread fast and actually destroyed the faith of some people (2:18). These teachers’ works are dishonoring to God and unfortunately have “spread like gangrene” (2:17). Therefore, Paul instructs Timothy to “present yourself to God as one approved” (2:15) and to consider the type of vessel he ought to become so that his work is honoring to God.
  2. In the time period and place that Timothy is ministering, there were influential false teachers among teachers who correctly handle the word of truth. Though the influence of false teachers seemed out of control and many of them claimed to be teachers of the Law and appeared to have authority and influence, Paul affirms that “the Lord knows those who are His” and only the teachings that stand upon the firm foundation of God will stand.
  3. Personal Response.

Evening Reflection

Psalm 130:7-8: Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.