October 19, Friday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Jeremiah 46:18-19

“As I live, declares the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts, like Tabor among the mountains and like Carmel by the sea, shall one come. 19 Prepare yourselves baggage for exile, O inhabitants of Egypt! For Memphis shall become a waste, a ruin, without inhabitant.”

In today’s passage, we continue in Jeremiah’s pronouncement of Egypt’s impending doom. It seems that throughout the history of Egypt, the Egyptians had always seen themselves as the super power of the world—towering over other nations as they showed their might in various ways. This was their national identity. However, Jeremiah declares that another empire will come and tower over them, eventually bringing them into exile—this nation we come to know as Babylonia that took the place of Egypt as the most powerful empire in the world. It seems that no matter how powerful you are, it is only a matter of time before someone bigger towers over you.

Many of us build our identity on being the best (or simply really good) at something, whether it’s career success, the amount of money we have, or the skills we possess. For this reason, our sense of value and worth is directly tied to these things. And this leads to two destructive paths. If, on the one hand, we really are the wealthiest or the most skilled, it will likely lead to pride. We will see ourselves as better than others who are not as successful or wealthy. But, on the other hand, if we fail or if someone is more successful than we are (and there will always be someone who is better or more successful than you), our self-worth is crushed. We no longer feel significant and this is very fragile ground to stand on. Our sense of identity will fluctuate depending on these unstable factors.

The gospel provides the firm foundation upon which we must build our identity. We find value not in what we’ve accomplished or the skills we possess but in what Christ Jesus has done for us on the cross. And this is unshakable ground. When we succeed, we are not puffed up with conceit but rather humbled knowing that we are sinners who have been saved by grace—that even the skills and circumstances necessary for success were not due to our own doing but simply a manifestation of God’s mercy in our lives. And even when we fail, we know that we are still loved and valued by the Father because of Christ’s righteousness imputed on us and not our own. Let us build our identity on the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is our firm foundation!

Prayer: Father, it is so easy to find my identity and value in my performance and success. Instead, help me to build my identity on the firm foundation of the gospel. Help me to not only know the gospel in my mind, but for my heart to fully embrace the truths of the gospel into the depths of my identity.

Bible Reading for Today: Ruth 1


Lunch Break Study

Read Colossians 3:1-3: If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is Paul’s main command in this passage?
  2. What do you think it means to “set your minds on things that are above?”
  3. In what ways have you set your mind on things below?

Notes

  1. Paul wants them to seek and set their minds on the things above. This is because anyone who truly believes the gospel has died to their own self, and has been raised with Christ into a new identity, a new self.
  2. Since we have been saved and raised with Christ, we ought to deliberately commit ourselves to the values of the kingdom of God and then live out those values, including how we see ourselves. We have been called to put off our own (i.e., old) self, where our identity was built on things of this world leading to much sin. We are to put on our new self by living out our newly given identity we have found in the gospel.
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

Take some time before going to bed reflecting on the base upon which you have built your identity. How do you find value, significance and worth? Ask God to help you to find your identity in Christ alone!

October 18, Thursday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Jeremiah 46:14-17

The word that the Lord spoke to Jeremiah the prophet about the coming of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to strike the land of Egypt: 14 “Declare in Egypt, and proclaim in Migdol;

 proclaim in Memphis and Tahpanhes; say, ‘Stand ready and be prepared, for the sword shall devour around you.’ 15 Why are your mighty ones face down? They do not stand because the Lord thrust them down. 16 He made many stumble, and they fell, and they said one to another, ‘Arise, and let us go back to our own people and to the land of our birth, because of the sword of the oppressor.’ 17 Call the name of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, ‘Noisy one who lets the hour go by.’

St. Augustine was probably the most influential Christian thinker after the apostles. His contribution to the church has been felt throughout the ages especially in the formation of Christian thought around the Fall. He concludes that the Fall was due to human pride, where Adam and Eve thought of themselves more highly than they ought. Instead of yielding to the boundaries laid out by God (not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil), they chose to trust in their own judgments and ate from the forbidden tree. Pride blinded them from recognizing that autonomous living apart from God leads to death rather than to more freedom and life. In other words, pride always keeps us from seeing our need for God.

In today’s passage, we are once again reading through Jeremiah’s prophetic judgments upon the nation of Egypt. Their doom is imminent and inevitable. At first glance, it would be easy to see God in this passage as one who is simply angry, ready to lash out at His enemies. But when we read carefully, we see a God who had given the Egyptians a chance to repent. In verse 17, it says, “noisy one who lets the hour go by.” Many commentators suggest that the statement meant that Pharaoh did not seek God’s mercy and help but rather chose to go in his own way. Due to his persistent refusal to ask for God’s grace, the hour for repentance had closed and gone by. Simply put, it was his pride that blinded him from his need for God to save him and his nation.

Many of us live with the same type of pride in our lives. Although we might talk about God as if we need Him, the way that we live our lives betray that sentiment. We have chosen to make our own way without His help. However, it is important to learn from the mistake of Pharaoh—that pride always leads to our own destruction. Even in our success we must learn to rely upon God through prayer and a heart posture of need. There is something so attractive about people who wear humility in their daily attire, acknowledging their weaknesses and constantly leaning upon the power of God. Let us be those types of people. Let us be people who see clearly because we have learned to seek God in our lives!

Prayer: Father, it is so easy to become prideful and self-sufficient, and to live life as if I don’t need You. Help me to recognize my weaknesses and my need for you. Teach me how to lean into Your power in my everyday life! Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Haggai 2


Lunch Break Study

Read 2 Corinthians 3:1-6: Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is Paul referring to as his letters of recommendation?
  2. What makes Paul sufficient to be effective in his ministry?
  3. In what tangible ways can you be more dependent on God?

Notes

  1. He is referring to the people in Corinth who have been affected by his ministry in positive ways. In this letter, people are questioning ministry of Paul. For this reason, he says that the validity of ministry is their own change.
  2. Paul says that transformation and the effectiveness of his ministry is not because of anything inherently in himself, but his sufficiency is in God!
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

Reflect on what Pastor Tim Keller said: “…the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.”

October 17, Wednesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Jeremiah 46:8

“Egypt rises like the Nile, like rivers whose waters surge. He said, ‘I will rise, I will cover the earth, I will destroy cities and their inhabitants.”

Recently, I was part of a staff meeting where we were looking ahead and spent some time dreaming and envisioning where our church might be in five years. And from this meeting, we came up with some measurable goals that we want to reach by a certain timeframe. However, at the end of the discussion, our lead pastor made an interesting point. Although it’s great to have several goals we want to check off by a certain time, we cannot presume upon the Lord as if we are entitled to these things—as if accomplishing everything in our plans is the true measure of success. More than planning, it is important to constantly be sensitive to the voice of God in order to remain aligned to His will, even if they are contrary to our 5-year plans. True success for our church is to follow the leading of God, not the plans of man.

In our passage today, we see the grandiose plans of the Egyptians who proclaimed that they would conquer and cover the earth. They were powerful and made plans that they believed they could accomplish. I mean, who would have stopped this mighty empire? However, we know that the main point of this chapter is to vividly illustrate their destruction and the foiling of their big plans. No matter how much they tried to change the course of history with their might, it is always the plans of God that prevail.

For our generation, 5-year plans have become very popular. We love to plan our lives, set goals that need to be accomplished, and do everything we can to make sure it all unfolds just like we had imagined. And then we proceed to bring these plans to God and ask Him to bless them—even becoming bitter or resentful towards Him if our lives do not go the way we had wanted. In some ways, we always want God to adjust His plans to fit ours. But I wonder if we have it all backwards. I wonder how different our lives would look if we are always ready to adjust our plans to God’s—if we remain in a posture of listening rather than presuming that these things are owed to us. Don’t get me wrong—planning is important—but let us always be attentive to the voice of God and be ready to adjust. God’s plans will always prevail and that is a good thing because His plans are always better than ours!

Prayer: God, today I seek Your direction and leading. As I plan my life and think about the future, help me to always be attentive to Your leading and give me the ability to discern what is of You and what is not. And most of all, help me to trust in You more than myself!

Bible Reading for Today: Haggai 1


Lunch Break Study

Read Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Questions to Consider

  1. What does this passage imply about our own understanding about life?
  2. What do you think it means to acknowledge Him in all your ways?
  3. What areas of your life have you leaned upon with your own understanding?

Notes

  1. It implies that our own understanding is not to be fully trusted. Although we often think we can see all aspects of our life’s situation, we have many blind spots that distort reality—leading to bad decisions that feel right at the moment. Our ultimate trust when it comes to planning our lives cannot be placed in our own understanding.
  2. It means that, first, you have sought the Lord and received some blessings from him (e.g., wisdom that leads to making a better decision, an open door, etc.); and then afterwards, you give credit where credit is due by publicly acknowledging and thanking God for His favors. It also means a life submitted to God.
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

In the busyness of our lives, it’s difficult to sit before God in a listening posture. Take advantage of the quiet night and ask God to show you His plans. Submit before Him different parts of your life and ask Him what it might mean to be aligned to His will in those areas.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand (Prov. 19:21).

October 16, Tuesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Jeremiah 46:1-6

The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the nations. 2 About Egypt. Concerning the army of Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates at Carchemish and which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: 3 “Prepare buckler and shield, and advance for battle! 4 Harness the horses; mount, O horsemen! Take your stations with your helmets, polish your spears, put on your armor 5 Why have I seen it? They are dismayed and have turned backward. Their warriors are beaten down and have fled in haste; they look not back—terror on every side!” declares the Lord. 6 “The swift cannot flee away, nor the warrior escape; in the north by the river Euphrates they have stumbled and fallen.”

In today’s passage, we see the Egyptian empire fighting for its life as they prepare themselves for war against the up and coming Babylonian army. Verses 3-4 illustrate in vivid language the Egyptian’s frenzied preparations for battle. You can almost feel the army’s desperate attempt to muster up as much energy as possible in order to defeat the oncoming threat of the Babylonians. However, immediately in verses 5-6, we see that all their strategizing was for naught. They were surrounded by “terror on every side” and could not escape from the clutches of the enemy.  They were doomed to destruction.

It is an interesting passage, to the say the least. Prophets like Jeremiah were commissioned to speak on behalf of God specifically to Israel. However, we see Jeremiah also proclaiming judgment and predicting the fate of foreign super powers. What passages like this were meant to do was to show that God was not just God of Israel but the supreme ruler of the entire world—that it was not the powerful empires like the Egyptians who controlled history, but it was God Himself. No matter how much they tried to survive, we see God using the Babylonians as an instrument to destroy them. They were merely at the mercy of God’s plans.

Simply put, God is the Author of history. We might feel as though that powerful people control the fate of the world, and there is not much we can do to change its course to something more hopeful. But we see in this passage that God is in control. As I read through the news, and see all the evil and injustice that runs rampant, this passage—in some strange way—gives me comfort. In many ways, it feels as though the world has gone mad, divided as ever, but we know that God is sovereign, and that there is purpose to the chaos we experience in the world. Although it is so easy to feel hopeless in the face of the evil, let us as Christians find hope in the God who is the true Author of history! Let us, as believers, pray for the world to be healed in all of its brokenness, in spite of all the terrible things we’ve witnessed.

Prayer: Father, in the midst of the problems I see in the world, it is so easy to become hopeless and give up being the light to a broken world. Help me to find hope in the truth that You are in control, and that Your plan of redemption will ultimately prevail over all things. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Kings 22


Lunch Break Study

Read Colossians 1:15-20

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Questions to Consider

  1. How and why were things in heaven and earth created?
  2. What are the two main roles we see attributed to Jesus in this passage?
  3. How might this passage comfort you?

Notes

  1. All things were created by Christ and they were all created for Him. What this implies is that Jesus is in control of everything—from the point of creation, to their ultimate purpose. He is the Author of all things. However, not only has He created and given them their ultimate purpose, He is the one that sustains all things.
  2. The first half of the passage (vv.15-17), we see Christ as the Creator. The second half of the passage (vv.18-20), we see Him as the Reconciler, who makes peace by His work on the cross.
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

“New creation itself has begun, they are saying, and will be completed. Jesus is ruling over that new creation and making it happen through the witness of his church. ‘The ruler of this world’ has been overthrown; the powers of the world have been led behind Jesus’s triumphal procession as a beaten, bedraggled rabble. And that is how God is becoming king on earth as in heaven. That is the truth the gospels are eager to tell us.”— N.T. Wright

October 15, Monday

The AMI QT Devotionals from October 15-21 are written by Pastor Andrew Kim at Tapestry Church.  Andrew, a graduate of Eternity Bible College, is currently attending Fuller Theological Seminary.  He and Jessie were married in 2014

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Jeremiah 45:5

 And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the Lord. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.”

Part of the issue that I see in the world today is what some have called “expressive individualism.” It is the idea that personal expression and fulfillment is the highest reality. It sees the actualization of self as the ultimate priority in life. The manner in which culture and our own lives have been affected by this ideology is profound. For one, since the goal of life is to self-actualize, we live in a posture that commodifies everything around us as a means of taking us one step further in our pursuit of fulfillment. We want to find greatness for ourselves, and any and everything can be used for this very purpose. For example, we see this play out in our relationships. People are often used for our happiness, where our commitments remain strong only if there is something beneficial for us to be had. This is precisely why divorce rates are sky high. If the other person does not bring us some net gain, we don’t see the point of staying in the marriage. Anything that stands in the way of self-fulfillment can and should be discarded. Greatness of the self is our culture’s meaning and purpose of life.

In our passage today, we find the enigmatic scribe Baruch saddened and disappointed by the inevitable and impending judgment upon Israel. It seems that Baruch saw this as an opportunity to find greatness. Perhaps he envisioned himself as Israel’s savior, who could save them from being decimated by foreign nations. Although this might sound noble and heroic, verse 5 suggests that this desire did not stem from some righteous devotion to his people, but it was out of a personal aspiration for greatness. And this blinded him from seeing that judgment was part of God’s inevitable plan, and that the proper response was to surrender himself to the plans of God. In the midst of impending tragedy, Baruch only saw an opportunity for his own greatness.

In a culture where the self has been exalted to divine heights, it is easy to be blinded by our pursuit of self-actualization. Even the church is often used to give us what we need so that we can find the energy and inspiration to continue looking for our own definition of greatness. It is so easy to be absorbed into this way of life. Social and cultural pressures to live in this manner are difficult to fend off. However, we must look to the cross of Jesus Christ to define what it means to be great. It is the path of self-denial rather than self-exaltation. Let us surrender ourselves to God and find our greatness in what He has done for us rather than what we can do for ourselves.

Prayer: Father, help me to follow Your example of greatness that I saw demonstrated on the cross. It is so easy to be tempted to live in the same way as the world, but help me by the power of Your Spirit, to live a life of self-denial and surrender. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Kings 21


Lunch Break Study

Read Philippians 2:1-11: So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is Paul’s main command in this passage?
  2. What is the mind of Christ that Paul wants the Philippians to have?
  3. What is one area in your life where there is a desperate need for humility?  

Notes

  1. Paul desires the Philippians to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” It seems that even in the 1st century, selfish ambition was a problem that needed to be dealt with in the church.
  2. The mind of Christ is one of humility that expresses itself in counting others more significant. In the second half of the passage, Paul details how Christ humbled Himself and emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant and taking on human flesh. However, His humility did not stop there; He chose to lower himself even more by dying even on the cross, which was full of shame. And it’s precisely because He chose self-denial that God exalted Him to greatness! This is the path we must also imitate.
  3. Go ahead and humble yourself with respect to the area where you need it the most, and then see how that changes things—beginning with your own heart. 😉

Evening Reflection

What are some ways that you are pursuing after greatness for yourself? What areas of your life are marked by selfish ambition? Take some time to reflect and ask God to help you surrender those areas of your life to Him.

October 14, Sunday

Today’s edition of AMI QT Devotional is also special in that the writer, whose name is Lin, is one of the native leaders of the church the Lord has allowed AMI to plant in East Asia. Praise the Lord!

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Do Not Worry”

Luke 12:22-28

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? 27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!

Riding an airplane is a terrifying experience for me. The minute the airplane takes off, I start to feel anxious. So as soon as I enter the plane, I sit next to the emergency exit, fasten the seatbelt as tight as possible, stare at the route map on screen, and never take a nap. I end up getting off the plane feeling very exhausted.

In today’s passage, Jesus challenges His disciples to not worry but have faith. He tells His disciples to look at the birds and lilies around them because He wants them to see how content they are. Through this simple observation, He reveals a spiritual reality that we often neglect: do not worry because God will provide for His children.

Worrying may seem like a harmless emotion that we all experience daily—we worry about school, the future, our kids, or work. But the truth is, worrying is dangerous because it blinds us to the reality that God provides for His children. It causes us to think that we need to control our situation because He is not in control.

So, when Jesus commands us not to worry, He is not simply asking us to stop feeling an emotion, but He is protecting us from taking action into our own hands. Because once we control our situation, we usually mess things up.

While this is a simple truth, we easily forget His faithfulness. Yet, God has placed His creation around us to remind us that, as His children, we are more valuable than these.

On this Lord’s Day, let’s come before Him with greater faith that God will provide!

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You for reminding us today that You are a sovereign God, and that everything is created by You and for Your glory. Lord, help us to not worry, but rather to trust in Your goodness and love. Today we choose to surrender our lives with a restful heart, for only You know what is best for us. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Kings 20