May 24, Tuesday

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 28, 2015.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“What Would You Pay for It?”

Matt. 13:44-46 (NIV)

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. [45] Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.  When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

I still remember a story told by a stranger some 30 years ago.  It was a dialogue between the merchant looking for a fine pearl and its owner. 

“How much?” asks the merchant, to which the owner responds, “It’ll cost you everything you have.”  Although the buyer offers all his cash and property, the seller demands even more.  Upon being told, “I’ve nothing else except my wife and children,” the owner says, “They become mine too.”  Though the merchant is troubled by what this is costing him, he reluctantly gives them up, but the seller isn’t done, saying, “There is one more thing I want.”  Feeling indignant, the buyer shouts, “I don’t have anything else!” But the seller retorts, “You become mine, too.”  Does the merchant want the pearl that desperately?  He must have, since the phrase “sold everything he had” could extend to selling himself as a slave, especially in the antiquity when this was practiced (Gn. 44:16).  But as the pearl is being handed over to the buyer, the seller says, “You can take back everything—cash, property, you and your family –I’m lending them to you; when I need it, I’ll take it back.”

On the surface, the two parables in which seekers sell all their possessions to buy treasure and pearl, respectively, appear to suggest human effort to get into the kingdom of heaven.   But that’s exactly what Christ paid for—everything—in order to purchase (i.e., redeem) us from the slave master for God.  

John writes, “For You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9 NASB).  Subsequently, while we’re now free from the slavery to sin and death (Heb. 2:14), we now belong to God: “You are not your own; you were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).  

This parable tells us not to “offer sacrifice to the LORD . . . that cost [us] nothing” (2 Sam. 24:24).  Since everything we own belongs to Christ who paid for them with His life, when He calls for them, whether it be our availability, money, career, kids or spouse, we “give . . . to God what is God’s” (Matt. 22:21).  What is He asking  you for right now? 

Prayer: How precious, O God, is the sacrifice of your Son on my behalf so that I may be removed from the kingdom of darkness where hopeless reigns, to the kingdom of light where righteousness, peace and joy reign.  Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unending love and grace.   I love You.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 48


Lunch Break Study

Read Lk. 14:25-28, 33: “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: [26] ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. [27] And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. [28] Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? [29] For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, [30] saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish. . . . [33] In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.’”

Question to Consider

1. What did Jesus mean by “hating” father and mother for His sake?

2. What is a sensible and yet biblical way to approach our commitment to God?  If we are not careful, can this approach can backfire or lead to stagnancy? 

3. What is the hardest thing for you to give up for the Lord?  How can you obey God in this area?

Notes

1. It simply means that we must love God first, so much so that when compared to our love for anyone else, including parents and children, it is as if we are hating the latter.

2. Our commitment level must reflect our present capacity to reach it; setting the bar too high without having been discipled to reach it will lead to personal disappointment and public ridicule.  But the bar should be placed a bit higher than our present capacity so that it will take faith to reach it. As the bar is increased incrementally, so will our faith and capacity in Christ to reach it. 

3. For me, it is my temper.  Lord, help me to give it up! 


Evening Reflection

During the course of this day, did you sense that God wanted you to do something (e.g., reaching out to a friend, being generous to someone in need, praying instead of doing FB)?  How did you respond?  Review the day and ask the Lord to give you a better day of obedience tomorrow.  

May 23, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI Devotional Thought, first posted on August 20, 2015, is provided by Pastor Yohan Lee, a friend of AMI, who in the past has served as a staff at several AMI churches.  He is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Cairn University (MA).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“A Quirky Side of Human Nature”

2 Kings 9:11-13

When Jehu came out to the servants of his master, they said to him, “Is all well? Why did this mad fellow come to you?” And he said to them, “You know the fellow and his talk.” 12 And they said, “That is not true; tell us now.” And he said, “Thus and so he spoke to me, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, I anoint you king over Israel.’” 13 Then in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king.”

I have always found this exchange interesting and very insightful into human nature.  If you read the entire account, starting at verse 1, we see that the prophet Elisha tells his unnamed servant to go and anoint Jehu, likely a prominent commander (or general) in the Israelite army, as king.  Jehu is further charged with the task of wiping out Ahab’s household (the current monarchy).  Make no mistake, Jehu is charged to commit treason.  

Here’s the interesting part: one would think that such an important and troubling charge would come from a prominent prophet, Elisha himself even.  But Elisha didn’t go; he sent an unnamed under-prophet with questionable credentials.  In fact, Jehu’s friends even describe this prophet as a “mad fellow.”  Let’s put it like this: let’s say that God wants you to commit some act of treason against your country (He is not asking for this, by the way); my guess is that in order for you to even consider it, Tim Keller, John Piper, and the rest of the Gospel Coalition as well as all of the other prominent evangelicals in Christendom better be behind you.  You would not go and betray your country on the advice of that street preacher who stands on the corner of Crazy Ave. and Obnoxious Blvd. yelling at everybody, “Repent or die!”  No way would you do that.  So the question we must ask is, “Why did Jehu and his companions act on this prophet’s words?”  

To me, the fact that this prophet was legit and from the Lord is irrelevant.  How many times in the OT have prophets of the Lord been put to death because the recipients did not like their message?  I think the reason Jehu and his men were willing to start a revolution is that the prophet told them something that they all wanted to hear.  Think about it—if this prophet had come in and said, “Jehu, in the name of the Lord, I command you to quit killing people, repent, and pick up crochet,” Jehu’s men probably would have utterly disregarded, maybe even killed, this “mad fellow.”  But because he gives them good news—major promotions for everyone, they are all willing to listen to this seemingly crazy man and his seemingly crazy command.  

Here is what I find insightful about human nature, which can be quite quirky.  When it comes to good news or flattery, we don’t care who the source is, do we?  If your worst enemy gave you a compliment, you’d be happy.  Why is it that when we are struggling with an issue, we tend to only ask advice from the people who will tell us what we want to hear?  On the flip side, when it comes to criticism, we are often quick to disregard the critic as hypocritical or unknowledgeable.  As people of God, we must understand that God has spoken truth through seemingly crazy, uneducated and even wicked people, and on at least one occasion, a donkey.  Our job is to humbly accept truth whatever the source, even if it hurts.  We should also be careful not to run on everything our itching ears want to hear.  

Prayer: Lord, please grant me humility and discernment to hear your truth no matter the source.  Lord, help me to be honest in my heart so that I can discern if my desires align with your will.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 47


Lunch Break Study

Read Proverbs 27:5-10: Better is open rebuke than hidden love. 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. 7 One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet. 8 Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home. 9 Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.  10 Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend, and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away.

Questions to Consider

1.  What do these Proverbs say about friendship?

2.  How does an enemy masquerade as a friend?  

3.  How are you as a friend?  Do you speak the truth in love?  Are you faithful and loyal?  

Notes

1.  Friends can wound you with open rebukes, but those wounds are good for you (vs. 5-6).  The value or sweetness of a friend’s comes from his honest counsel (vs. 9).  And friends (or neighbors) are near in times of trouble (vs. 10).  

2.  Enemies in contrast give “hidden love” and “kisses.” (They compliment when rebuke is needed or they tell you things are okay in times of distress.)  They are far when trouble comes (vs. 10).

3.  Personal question.  Please evaluate your friendships and yourself as friend.  


Evening Reflection

Who are the cheerleaders in your life?  Who are the people that tell you what you need to hear?  Do you have enough of those people in your life?  Is there anyone in your life who needs to hear biblical counsel?  Do you handle truth well?  Are you teachable?  

May 22, Sunday

UPDATED Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, first posted on September 20, 2015, is provided by Pastor Shan Gian who leads Remnant Westside Church in Manhattan.  Shan is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“A Key Factor Behind Spiritual Demise”

2 Kings 20:12-19

 At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick. 13 And Hezekiah welcomed them, and he showed them all his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them. 14 Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say? And from where did they come to you?” And Hezekiah said, “They have come from a far country, from Babylon.” 15 He said, “What have they seen in your house?” And Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.”16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: 17 Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. 18 And some of your own sons, who shall be born to you, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”19 Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?”

It’s always easier to start a project than to finish it.  A simple proof of this is looking at the attendance of your local gym.  At the beginning of January, the gym is packed full of people starting off with goals to lose weight and get physically fit.  But usually by the end of the month, the gym looks the same as it did in December, with only a handful of people still on top of their New Year’s resolutions.

Of anyone in the Bible, you would think that Hezekiah would be one to finish strong.  He had trusted in God and brought reform to Israel by breaking down idols.  In the face of the menacing threats of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, against Judah, Hezekiah had desperately prayed and depended on God, and he had witnessed the miraculous provision of God, as God drove the Assyrian army away.   Finally, he not only experienced the healing power of God, but received confirmation of this healing by the moving of shadows (2 King 20:11).  With all this, you would think that he would be one to finish strong.

Sadly, Hezekiah did not.  When the envoys of Babylon came to visit him, he showed them all that was in his storehouses—the gold and silver, armory, etc.  In an awful display of pride and arrogance, Hezekiah wanted to show these Babylonians all that he had achieved as well as the riches and glory he had acquired.  And making things even worse, after he was confronted by Isaiah about this and told how God would bring judgment on Hezekiah’s own sons, Hezekiah responds in verse 19: “’The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?’”  With a cold indifference and self-centeredness, he basically says, “Oh well, not my problem.”

Someone once said, “Success is more difficult to handle than failure.” I think this is true of Hezekiah.  Again and again, he had experienced successes and victories and healing, yet because all these great things happened during his reign, he started to attribute the successes to himself, as if he was the one who had achieved it instead of God.  This, then, is one key factor behind spiritual demise.  Thus, we all need to be careful about the successes, accomplishments and possessions in our lives.  Just like Hezekiah, we can start to think that we have achieved it on our own and let boastful pride take hold of our hearts and minds.  

So, daily we need to remind ourselves that all that we have comes from God: “Every good gift 

and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).  Any successes or accomplishments that we have experienced are from God, so there is no room for boasting.  Let us be humble before our God and thank Him for His good gifts!

Prayer: Father, I thank you for all that you have done for me.  Any victory or success I have experienced is because of Your grace in my life.  Help me this day to be humble and to give You glory and not glorify myself.  In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Bible Reading for Today:  Genesis 46

May 21, Saturday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Pastor Charles Choe who leads Tapestry Church in Los Angeles, was first posted on July 18, 2015.  Charles is a graduate of University of California, Riverside (BA) and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend 

“He That is Neither One Thing nor the Other Has No Friends.”

1 Kings 18:20-40

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 

A great war was about to take place between the Birds and the Beasts. The two armies assembled on either side—but the Bat hesitated which to join. The Birds that passed the cave said, “Come with us,” but the Bat said, “I am a Beast.” Later on, some Beasts who were passing by yelled out to him, “Come with us!” but he said, “I am a Bird.” Luckily, at the last moment peace was made and no battle took place.  So the Bat came to the Birds and wished to join them in the celebrations—but they all turned against him and he had to fly away. He then went to the Beasts, but soon had to retreat, lest they tear him to pieces in their anger. “Ah,” said the Bat, “I see now.  He that is neither one thing nor the other has no friends.”

A myriad of stories is found in the Bible of people choosing between faith in God and faith in something else. King Ahab and his wicked wife, Jezebel, placed their trust in something else—namely Baal—and as a result Israel suffered through three years of drought and famine. Others were found teeter tottering between Baal and Jehovah, which is what Elijah confronts Israel with in this famous scene in Mount Carmel. Elijah calls them to move off the center and to decide whom they will serve. 

Just as in Elijah’s day, there are many who are uncommitted and unaware that their indecisive straddling is hazardous to their spiritual health. To straddle as a Christian is to misunderstand the very nature of Christianity. One may even attend church regularly, yet remain uncommitted, which can be compared to a soldier who will not join an army or a football player who does not join a team. There’s a difference between interest and commitment: When you are interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstances permit, but when you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses—only results. 

Jesus says, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Luke 16:13). Jesus knows how devastating remaining in the middle of the road can be: the unbeliever’s indecision can cost eternity, and the believer’s indecision can cost him the opportunity to experience genuine love and freedom God has to offer His child.  Furthermore, it is repugnant to God: “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16). 

As followers of Christ, we must see that we will never realize the promises of God without first being fiercely committed to Him. We must stop thinking that our commitment will lead to loss of freedom and see the paradoxical truth—that we are only truly free when we are enslaved to Christ. Consider your commitment to Christ today. Pray that God will help you to clearly choose Him today with the many choices you will make throughout the day. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to renew myself to You today by committing wholeheartedly my life in its entirety. Expose the idols of my heart for what they are: empty promises and inevitable disappointments. I repent of trusting in things that do not bring me life, but only increasing thirst. You alone are able satisfy the thirst of my soul. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Bible Reading for Today:Genesis 44-45

May 20, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, written by Pastor David Kwon of Journey Community Church in Raleigh, was originally posted on May 13, 2015.  He is a graduate of Drexel University (B.S.) and Columbia International University (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Revenge & Forgiveness”

2 Samuel 13:23-39

After two full years Absalom had sheepshearers at Baal-hazor, which is near Ephraim, and Absalom invited all the king’s sons. [24] And Absalom came to the king and said, “Behold, your servant has sheepshearers. Please let the king and his servants go with your servant.” [25] But the king said to Absalom, “No, my son, let us not all go, lest we be burdensome to you.” He pressed him, but he would not go but gave him his blessing. [26] Then Absalom said, “If not, please let my brother Amnon go with us.” And the king said to him, “Why should he go with you?” [27] But Absalom pressed him until he let Amnon and all the king’s sons go with him. [28] Then Absalom commanded his servants, “Mark when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon,’ then kill him. Do not fear; have I not commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant.” [29] So the servants of Absalom did to Amnon as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king’s sons arose, and each mounted his mule and fled. [30] While they were on the way, news came to David, “Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons, and not one of them is left.” [31] Then the king arose and tore his garments and lay on the earth. And all his servants who were standing by tore their garments. [32] But Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David’s brother, said, “Let not my lord suppose that they have killed all the young men, the king’s sons, for Amnon alone is dead. For by the command of Absalom this has been determined from the day he violated his sister Tamar. [33] Now therefore let not my lord the king so take it to heart as to suppose that all the king’s sons are dead, for Amnon alone is dead.” [34] But Absalom fled. And the young man who kept the watch lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, many people were coming from the road behind him by the side of the mountain. [35] And Jonadab said to the king, “Behold, the king’s sons have come; as your servant said, so it has come about.” [36] And as soon as he had finished speaking, behold, the king’s sons came and lifted up their voice and wept. And the king also and all his servants wept very bitterly.[37] But Absalom fled and went to Talmai the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son day after day. [38] So Absalom fled and went to Geshur, and was there three years. [39] And the spirit of the king longed to go out to Absalom, because he was comforted about Amnon, since he was dead.

If you have ever watched the movie Kill Bill starring Uma Thurman, it is a story of revenge. Thurman, a former assassin, known simply as The Bride, awakens from a coma four years after her jealous ex-lover Bill attempts to murder her on her wedding day. Fueled by an insatiable desire for revenge, she vows to get even with every person who contributed to the loss of her unborn child, her entire wedding party, and four years of her life. She goes through great lengths to make sure her enemies pay for what they had done to her.  

Today’s verses are also a story of revenge.  Absalom hated Amnon because Amnon had abused Absalom’s sister.  He could not fathom Amnon getting away with the unimaginable act of sin and so he decides to plot his murder.  David’s failure to execute justice might have fueled Absalom to take matters into his own hands.  After two years of waiting, the moment of revenge had arrived.  Absalom decides to have a sheep-shearing party (v.23) with all of his brothers and half-brothers and such a party would always involve a good time eating, drinking and enjoying each other’s company.   When Amnon was sufficiently drunk, Absalom signals to his servants to kill him which results in a great panic causing his brothers to flee.  In the end Amnon was dead and Absalom got the revenge he was seeking which was all that mattered.   The cost of Absalom’s actions resulted in him fleeing and he ended up in exile.  

What can we learn from today’s passage?  First, we must remember that we are not to take vengeance on people who have hurt us.  Trusting in God’s sovereignty and justice is what we are called to do as believers.  Similarly, we must learn how to forgive others.  Forgiveness is not an emotion but rather a choice and we need to continually depend on the Lord for strength to forgive those who have wronged us in our lives.  Is there someone you need to forgive in your life today?  Are you having negative emotions of hatred and anger towards others?  Take some time to pray specially that the Lord would strengthen you let go of past hurts and give you a heart of forgiveness.

Prayer: Lord, remind me that vengeance is ultimately yours.  Through the power of your Holy Spirit, give me the strength to forgive others and even love those who have hurt me.  Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 43


Lunch Break Study 

Romans 12:19-21: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” [20] To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” [21] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Matthew 5:43-48: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ [44] But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [45] so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. [46] For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? [47] And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? [48] You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Questions to Consider

  1. From the Romans passage, why is it important that we never avenge ourselves?  
  2. In what ways can we specially pray and love our enemies?  
  3. How do these verses challenge you today?

Notes

  1. Despite people wronging us, we must trust God’s justice.  Paul’s exhortation also helps us trust the Lord when we find ourselves suffering unjust treatment at the hands of those who always seem to come out on top. No matter how successful they appear in this life, we know that God will deal with them in the end, and on that day, those who suffer for Christ will be exalted and will receive a great reward in heaven (Matt. 5:11-12).
  2. Pray that they might come to know Christ. Pray that God would bless their lives and help them and that your heart would be softened toward them. Ask that God would remind you of the grace he has poured out on your life.
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

Forgiving others is often difficult and sometimes impossible without the power of Christ.  Spend time in prayer interceding for your enemies and those who have wronged you.  Ask that God would give you a heart to love and pray for them.

March 31, Thursday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on March 31, 2016, is written by Pastor Son who serves as a missionary-pastor in Taipei, Taiwan.  David, a graduate of UC Berkeley and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.), is married to Grace and they have three small children.

March 19, Thursday

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Memory and Identity”

Acts 13:16-23

So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said: “Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance. All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will. ’ Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. 

Memory is profoundly tied to our identity. I am who I am today, primarily because I have memories of past experiences that have molded and shaped me to become the person I am today. For example, in third grade, when I drew a picture of a house, my teacher saw my drawing and exclaimed, “Wow, you could become an architect!” Indeed, I went on to receive a degree in architecture. That memory, in many ways, changed the trajectory of my life and shaped who I would become. 

In a similar way, in junior high, I went to my first school dance. It was the most awkward moment of my life, standing in the dimly lit gymnasium, while my schoolmates were moving their bodies in exciting ways. My face went red, and I snuck my way out of the room, and joined some other students in the library who were playing board games (PTL). Today, I have an irrational fear of any sort of dancing, thanks to this memory. My point is that our memories shape who we are today!

Paul, in his sermon to the Jews, is appealing to their memory. He is reminding them of who they are: God’s people. As he recounts the story of how God saved and sustained them, Paul explains how it all points to Jesus. What are the key memories in your life? Do these memories point to Christ? If not, let’s spend some time today revisiting key memories in our lives, and asking God to speak into them.

Prayer: God, thank You that even when I am not aware, You are working. I want to be shaped and molded according to Your will. Please help me to remember my identity today, as Your beloved child. In Jesus’ name I pray.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 42


Lunch Break Study

Read Deuteronomy 8:11-20: Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth. ’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.

Questions to Consider

  1. According to the passage, what is likely to happen if the Israelites don’t remember the Lord?
  2. What does remembering look like in action?
  3. How should God’s people view suffering/prosperity?

Notes

  1. This passage was spoken to the Israelites right before they entered the Promised Land. There, they would live in houses, eat well, and prosper. But if they didn’t remember the Lord, and all that He has done for them, they would end up giving themselves the credit. Furthermore, they would turn to worship other gods, and they would perish!
  2. True remembering seems to be tied closely with obedience. It is not enough for the Israelites to merely know their history; remembering is for the sake of obedience to their Lord and Savior.
  3. In this passage, experiences of suffering and experiences of prosperity are all attributed to God’s faithfulness. In suffering, He was humbling His people, “to do them good in the end.” In abundance, it was God who gave them the power to gain wealth because of His faithfulness to His promises.

Evening Reflection

Take a moment tonight and reflect on how God rescued you. It is not enough to just know our own stories. When we intentionally relive it, and remind ourselves of what God has done in our lives, our memories can continually transform us.

May 18, 2022

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, written by Pastor David Kwon of Journey Community Church in Raleigh, was originally posted on May 18, 2015.  He is a graduate of Drexel University (B.S.) and Columbia International University (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“A Story with Many Subplots”

Esther 2:1-18

After these things, when the anger of King Ahasuerus had abated, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her. [2] Then the king’s young men who attended him said, “Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for the king. [3] And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in Susa the citadel, under custody of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women. Let their cosmetics be given them. [4] And let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This pleased the king, and he did so.  [5] Now there was a Jew in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite, [6] who had been carried away from Jerusalem among the captives carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away. [7] He was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, the daughter of his uncle, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter. [8] So when the king’s order and his edict were proclaimed, and when many young women were gathered in Susa the citadel in custody of Hegai, Esther also was taken into the king’s palace and put in custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women. [9] And the young woman pleased him and won his favor. And he quickly provided her with her cosmetics and her portion of food, and with seven chosen young women from the king’s palace, and advanced her and her young women to the best place in the harem. [10] Esther had not made known her people or kindred, for Mordecai had commanded her not to make it known. [11] And every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her.  [12] Now when the turn came for each young woman to go in to King Ahasuerus, after being twelve months under the regulations for the women, since this was the regular period of their beautifying, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women—[13] when the young woman went in to the king in this way, she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace. [14] In the evening she would go in, and in the morning she would return to the second harem in custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch, who was in charge of the concubines. She would not go in to the king again, unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name.  [15] When the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his own daughter, to go in to the king, she asked for nothing except what Hegai the king’s eunuch, who had charge of the women, advised. Now Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her. [16] And when Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign, [17] the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. [18] Then the king gave a great feast for all his officials and servants; it was Esther’s feast. He also granted a remission of taxes to the provinces and gave gifts with royal generosity.

One movie series that I could watch over and over again is the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  One of the reasons why the movie (and book) is so well made is because of the ability the movie has of depicting different subplots and stories within the bigger story.  We know the main character Frodo and his quest for the ring, but within that story, there are smaller subplots: the friendship between Frodo and Sam, and the mysterious Gollum and crowning of Aragorn as the king of Gondor (sorry if you have not seen the movies).  All of these subplots seem unimportant at first, but at the end we see how important they were in building the main story.  

That’s what is happening in the story of Esther. King Ahasuerus (or also known as King Xerxes) is on a quest to find his next queen, after he had banished Queen Vashti in the previous chapter.   The king is lonely and desires to find a new queen by holding a “Miss Persia” beauty pageant.  The book of Esther does not flinch from narrating for us this simple and sad fact of life in ancient Persia—people were treated as commodities, especially when it came to kings and women.  

In almost an unrelated and smaller subplot, the character of Mordecai comes on the scene.  Mordecai begins at once to bring Esther and the king together in a most natural and unaffected manner. He maneuvers to place Esther in the line of the king’s search. Esther would eventually win the heart of the king and be made queen.  So what do we learn from this?  

  • God’s plans are not hindered even when the events of the world seem secular.  Even in a godless Persian banquet and at the hands of a self-centered King, God was at work.  Just because actions or motives happen to be secular or unfair, it doesn’t mean He’s not present.  God is working, moving, and touching lives.
  • God can use anyone for His kingdom. One of the encouraging themes of the book of Esther is how He used seemingly normal people like Mordecai and Esther.  They did not come from royalty, and yet because they were available to the call of God, He used them powerfully.  

Take some time to ask for greater faith—that we would recognize God’s work in our lives even when it does not look like it at times.  Pray for greater surrender of your life as you continually trust him.

Prayer:  Lord, help me to continually surrender to Your will and purposes for my life.  I want to trust You in times of uncertainty.  Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 41


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 6:25-34: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? [26] Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? [27] And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? [28] And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, [29] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. [30] But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? [31] Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ [32] For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. [33] But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. [34] “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Questions to Consider

  1. When it comes to the area of worry, what is the main issue Jesus is pointing to?
  2. What is the solution to anxiety over our future?
  3. How can we be comforted by this passage?

Notes

  1. The reason why we get anxious about our life and future is because we lack faith.   We lack faith that God’s ways are best, and that He will provide for us in His time.  
  2. The way that we overcome worry is by making His kingdom the highest priority (v. 33).  We seek His kingdom and trust that He will add the things that we need.
  3. We can be assured that God knows and cares for our every need.  He desires us to trust Him and to seek the things of His kingdom.  

Evening Reflection

Spend time tonight interceding for the world, your city, and your local community (church).  Pray that God would give you His heart as you lift up these various topics.  

May 17, Tuesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on March 1, 2016, is provided by Pastor Mark Chun who pastors Radiance Christian Church in S. F.   He studied biology at University California, San Diego and completed his Master of Divinity at Talbot School of Theology.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“The Trap of Appearing Holier”

Acts 5:7-11 (ESV)

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things

As we look again at the judgment incurred by Ananias and Sapphira, we see the clear warning given by Peter against testing or lying to the Spirit of God.  We may not consider this sin very often, but it is more common than we realize.  Tom Constable, a theologian at Dallas Seminary describes this particular sin as follows:  “Lying to the Holy Spirit is a sin that Christians commit frequently today. When Christians act hypocritically by pretending a devotion that is not there or a surrender of life that they have not really made, they lie to the Holy Spirit. If God worked today as he did in the early Jerusalem church, undertakers would have much work.” 

For Ananias and Sapphira, there was no reason to lie about the amount of money they were offering to the Lord.  There was no obligation to sell their property and certainly no pressure to give the full amount of the sale.  What they had committed to give was strictly a free will offering, and no one would have faulted them for committing less than the entire amount.  Yet, they were driven to lie needlessly in order to build a reputation of godliness and sacrifice that was not genuine.  

In the context of the previous chapter, this couple had witnessed the accolades and praise that were given to Barnabas, and it appears that they wanted that for themselves.   Sadly, they failed to realize that God doesn’t look just at how much we give but more importantly God examines the reasons why we give.  The final worth of our service to the Lord will be weighed by the motives of our heart, not by the final line on a budget sheet.    Without the prerequisite of a pure and humble heart, what we vow to the Lord will not amount to much.  

Who among us hasn’t felt that tinge of pride when we do something charitable or make a grand gesture of commitment to God?  This happens to the best of us; and it reminds us of the subtle but real danger of making a show of our religious devotion in order to increase our own sense of worth and significance.  However, if this is our sole motivation, then Jesus’ warning to us is that “we have received our reward in full.”  Heart motivation is what authenticates every religious activity we undertake in the name of God, whether it is giving our offerings or sacrificing our time and energy to serve the church.  

Prayer: Father, we confess that our motives are not as pure and that our hearts are not as contrite as they should be.  Help us to see the dangers of self-deception, and the subtle way we look to promote ourselves at the expense of Your glory.  Holy Spirit, would You search our hearts today so that we would be aware of the ways in which we test You.  Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today:  Genesis 40


Lunch Break Study

Read Luke 21:1-4 (ESV): Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” 

Questions to Consider:

  1. What do you think that Jesus is saying on the topic of giving as he compares the gifts of the rich with the two copper coins of the widow?
  2. How should we respond, given the main point of this story?

Notes:

  1. There are three main theories in regards to the point that Jesus is trying to make in this passage:  First, the measure of one’s gift does not involve how much one gives but how much remains; second, a gift is measured by the spirit in which it is given; and third, one’s giving should be commensurate with one’s means.
  2. I believe that there is truth in each of these theories, but I would lean towards the first point because nothing is actually indicated about the inner motives of the widow.  Most likely, Jesus correlated the widow’s actions with the right heart.    After all, she gave what little she had to live on, which exemplified a generosity towards God, a trust in His provision, and a willingness to commit everything as an expression of love for her God.  

Evening Reflection

Jesus tells us that in order to follow him, we must deny ourselves and pick up our cross daily.  When is the last time you have sacrificed or surrendered something in order to obey God?  Have you given or served to the point that it has made your life uncomfortable or at least inconvenient?  Pray about ways you can live sacrificially for the sake of Christ and the gospel.  

May 16, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional is a reprint of Kate Moon’s blog originally posted on October 19, 2015.  Kate continues to serve the Lord in E. Asia. 

Devotional Thought for this Morning

“Traveling Mercy”

Ezra 7:9-10

[Ezra] had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him.  10 For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel. 

Why do we pray for people when they travel?  Statistics say that a person is more likely to die in a car accident than in a plane crash; they also say that a majority of car accidents happen closer to home rather than farther away.  This seems to suggest that we’re in more danger when living our everyday lives than when we travel; yet still we pray, for our loved ones, for traveling mercies, because traveling is hard.

We ask God to watch over and protect traveling friends—that is, God’s traveling mercy—and when we hear that they have reached their destination safely, we thank Him in acknowledgment.  Ezra does the same when he writes this account of his journey, attributing his safe arrival in Jerusalem to “the gracious hand of his God” being upon him (v. 9).  In the following sentence, however, he also interestingly credits a second contributing factor.

Verse 10 begins with “for,” meaning “because,” and the logical connection it seems to be making appears odd.  That Ezra had had a successful journey because God was with him is relatively easy to understand, but is verse 10 really going on to say that another reason his trip was successful was that he had devoted himself to studying and obeying God’s word?

If we were in Ezra’s shoes, it may have made more sense to us to credit God’s gracious hand and our careful planning—or God’s gracious hand and the help of friends.  Studying and obeying God’s word doesn’t seem all that relevant when it comes to ensuring a good trip; but what it is essential for is staying connected to God.  God’s gracious hand was the most important factor for Ezra, but the very reason that Ezra could experience this grace was his devotion to God’s word.

What are we devoting ourselves to knowing more?  The latest news in technology or sports?  A reality show star’s most recent escapades?  There is a pursuit more rewarding.  An abundance of God’s grace is available to us, but are we willing to devote ourselves to His word that we might experience it more?

Prayer: Lord, You are so willing to pour out Your grace.  Why am I so unwilling at times to position myself to receive it?  Help me to devote myself more to studying and obeying Your word.  I want to stay close to You and experience all that You have for me.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 39


Lunch Break Study 

Read Joshua 1:8-9: 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. 

Questions to Consider

1.  In this passage, God is giving instructions to Joshua as he gets ready to go into and claim the Promised Land.  What does God tell Joshua to do?

2.  What will happen when Joshua does these things?

3.  Why do you think God gives Joshua instruction on this topic rather than something more practical like battle strategies or leadership principles?  Do you really believe that if you do everything God tells you to do, you will be successful in life?

Notes

1. To keep His word close to his heart, studying and obeying it carefully; He also tells Joshua to be strong, courageous, unafraid, and not be discouraged.

2. He will do well and experience success. 

3.   This is actually the most practical instruction.  The true reality is the spiritual reality, and battles won and lost in this realm are what really affect our daily lives.  Sometimes we don’t obey because we don’t truly believe what He is saying here; we don’t take Him at His word.


Evening Reflection

As you tried to meditate on God’s word throughout the day today, obeying it carefully, did you experience success?  In what ways did you experience His grace today?  Thank the Lord.

May 15, Sunday

Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, first posted on October 4, 2015, is provided by Joanna Tzen.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Don’t Become a Very Hairy Sheep”

John 10:3 

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

 Earlier this month, a sheep named Chris made international headlines. He had wandered from his flock and had been living in the Australian outback for five to six years on his own. When they found him, his fleece had grown to five times its normal size. As a result, he could barely see or walk; the heavy wool made it impossible for him to right himself if he had fallen over. He had to be sedated to be sheared because he had not been near humans for so long. The fleece alone weighed a record-setting 89 pounds, and it took 45 minutes to shear him—a process that usually only takes two minutes. 

Today’s passage tells us that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and that we are His sheep. The way we know Jesus is by His voice. Do we know Jesus by His voice today or are our lives cluttered with many voices? Our hearts and minds can be filled with the world’s opinions—what our parents think of us, and what our peers think of us. We can only know by learning the voice through which Jesus speaks—meaning, knowing His Word through reading of Scripture. It also means slowing down to listen to Jesus in prayer, discerning what are the voices in our lives; that is, to know which one is Jesus and which is not. Are we quick to run to the truth of Jesus, and do we know it because we have spent time in His Word? Or are we sometimes led astray by words of the world?

Jesus is calling you to spend time with Him today and learn His voice. He knows your name, and He longs to lead you into the green pasture (Ps. 23). 

Prayer: Jesus, forgive me when I disregard Your voice and am tempted to follow the world’s ways. Help me to not only hear Your voice but abide by it. I know you are the Good Shepherd; remind me of your faithfulness. I desire to follow You into the green pasture and life everlasting. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 38