November 26, Saturday

UPDATEDToday’s Spiritual Food for Thought, first posted on December 12, 2015, is written by Tina Hsu who serves as AMI missions coordinator.  Tina, a graduate of Biola University (BA) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.), recently became a mom to a beautiful boy named Zachary.  Congratulations. 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Thinking on—Rather Early—the Meaning of Christmas”

John 1:14 

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 

The month of December is almost upon us, which means, of course, it is an opportunity to reflect on the powerful message of Christmas. If I could sum up the message of Christmas in one word, it would be presence. There is power in “being with” people because presence communicates love. I came to grasp the power of presence for the first time during the summer after my sophomore year in college. I met with a Christian counselor once a week during that summer. The reason was, during the spring of sophomore year, I fell into mild depression. I lost a lot of joy in doing regular things. All I wanted to do was sleep so I could numb away my feelings. It was hard to study, and hard to worship! I was bearing a lot of hurt and anger towards my father, who was absent for a majority of my upbringing. During one session, as I shared my pain to my counselor, she cried and mourned with me over my pain. It was such a powerful moment. I felt like she was sincerely identifying with me in my pain. She was present with me with her ears and her heart. By her presence in my brokenness, I regained the strength to heal and to have joy. By her “being with” me, I felt like God’s love was so near to me. 

Presence communicates love. This is how God communicated His love to us. The message of Christmas is the nearness of God’s presence, which He demonstrated through His Son. The Son of God took on the flesh and came to be with us. He took on the form of man and came to dwell among humanity. He left where He belonged and came to reside among the chaos and the brokenness of this world. When the Son of God became flesh, he identified with our condition. Even though His own creation didn’t acknowledge Him as God, He drew near to demonstrate the grace and truth of our heavenly Father. As we rejoice at the coming of our Savior, let’s also offer the gift of presence and “be with” those whom the Lord puts on our hearts. 

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, I praise You for sending Your Son to be with us so we can encounter Your loving presence. Fill me with Your love so I could actively demonstrate love by being with people today. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Hosea 13-14

November 25, Friday

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional was first posted on December 4, 2015.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“The Peril of Oversharing the Details of Our Lives”

Matthew 6:1-5

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

I remember one time as a college student, I posted a photo on Facebook showcasing all the books I had recently purchased, captioned with a declaration that I would be reading them all throughout winter break.  I received so many approving “likes” and comments that spoke to my productivity and refined choice of leisure, but here’s a belated update to that highly publicized goal of mine: I didn’t even finish a single book.  While it wasn’t my plan to deliberately deceive people, the acknowledgement I received from sharing my goal gave me a false sense of accomplishment and thereby weakened my resolve to actually read.  

Contrary to a commonly held assumption that sharing personal goals with others helps us complete them, a recent article from The Berkeley Science Review titled, “When Telling Others About Your Goals Compromises Them,” explains that when it comes to identity goals (goals to achieve a certain identity), receiving social recognition before enacting on a plan can lead to “a premature sense that one already possesses the desired identity.”  

While there’s certainly a time and place for accountability, our present culture thrives on over-sharing the details of our lives, especially through social media.  It gets harmful when we forget what it feels like to do things in secret, without expecting any human acknowledgment at all.  In Matthew 6:6, when Jesus tells us to “go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret,” the room described here was commonly located at the center of a house to store dry goods, and it had no windows.  Tim Keller points out that of all the spiritual disciplines, the one that nobody can see is secret prayer—and its absence or presence in our lives reveals our true motive for following God.   

When you are all by yourself, do you pray naturally?  Do you often feel the need to be recognized for reading the Bible or praying? As humans, I think we’ve all engaged in spiritual acts to satisfy our need for human approval, but as we enter a secret time of prayer, God reveals the hollowness of our actions and then engages our souls with His grace and mercy until His presence is our sole desire.  Let’s continue praying corporately while also developing a secret prayer life that deepens our awareness that Jesus alone can satisfy.


Prayer: Father, I’m sorry for the times when I’ve outwardly lived a life for You but inwardly satisfied my own desires.  I want to experience the sweetness of praying to You in secret, where my words are honest and vulnerable; where the stillness quiets my soul; where Your gentle whisper penetrates my heart. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Hosea 12


Lunch Break Study 

Read Proverbs 18:24: A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Micah 7:5b: Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend . . .

Jn. 15:13: Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Question to Consider

1. What do these seemingly disparate verses suggest?

2. What is the major difference between the biblical friendship as opposed to Facebook friendship? 

3. Abraham was called God’s friend (James 2:23).  What made him so?  What kind of a friend are you to the Lord?  What does that even mean?

Notes

1. While we need friends, we don’t need many friends; instead, we need few true ones.

2. The Facebook friendship is quantitative and artificial, and exists, for the most part, to amuse each other; the biblical friendship is qualitative and real, and exist to help each other sacrificially.   

3. The entire James 2:23 reads, “And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend.”It seems like one key prerequisite to being God’s friend is having faith in Him.  What does that mean? That we have the confidence that God will do what He said He would.  Do you have that confidence in God? If you do, then, you are on your way in becoming His friend!


Evening Reflection

We talked about friendship today.  Haman didn’t know until it was too late that he really had no friends.  Did you get to speak to any of your friends today?  How would you appraise the depth of your friendship?  Do you know what to pray for them?  If not, then, perhaps your relationship needs a major tune-up.  The first step always is to go to our ultimate Friend, God, and ask Him to empower and motivate us to be a trustworthy friend.  Pray. 

November 24, Thursday 

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, written by Pastor David Kwon of Journey Community Church in Raleigh, was originally posted on November 28, 2013.

Devotional Though for This Morning

“Happy Thanksgiving . . . Because of Him”

Psalm 117:1-2

Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! [2] For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!

Today is Thanksgiving!  So why should we be thankful?

This is the shortest Psalm in the Psalter, but as Derek Kidner rightly notes, its faith is “great” and “its reach is enormous.”  He added, “The shortest Psalm proves, in fact, to be one of the most potent and most seminal.”  How so?

The first striking feature of this Psalm is its call for all nations and all people to praise God. It is, therefore, a missionary psalm, calling on all peoples everywhere to extol God.   The second important feature is the reason why all nations should praise God: His steadfast love and faithfulness, which endures forever.  

On this day of Thanksgiving, we should be reminded of the greatness of His love for the nations as well as for us.   God expressed the fullest measure of His love for us in Christ; in Him, we have abundant life (Jn. 10:10) in this age and eternal life in the age to come.  The innumerable promises of the Lord, such as tarrying with us in our trials or answering our prayers, are as fresh and intact now as on the day they were made; and they will remain so.  

This is why we ought to be thankful, especially today.  

Take some time this morning praising and thanking the Lord for His love and faithfulness.  Meditate on the Cross and how it shows His great love for you.  May worship and praise arise as you think about Christ.

Prayer: Dear God, I thank You for everything!  Forgive me for complaining, pouting and comparing myself to others to complain and pout even more.  You are so good to me, Lord; and that’s all the more reason why I shall worship and praise You forever.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Hosea 11


Lunch Break

Read Ephesians 2:1-7: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins [2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—[3] among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. [4] But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—[6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Questions to Consider

1. According to verses 1-3, what is the true condition of humans?

2. In response, what has Christ done for humans in their miserable state?

3. What moves our Lord to do this?

Notes

1. Ephesians 2 is one of the deepest and richest passages in all of Scripture.  Paul describes man’s condition apart from the grace and mercy of Jesus in verse 1-3: man is not only spiritually dead but is an object of the wrath of God, who is holy and just.   

2. Thankfully, Jesus has not left men in their miserable state, but has chosen to rescue those chosen from the foundation of the world (1:3–6).  

3. It certainly is not any good we have done; being separated from God because of sins, we were undeserving of His love.  Whatever righteousness we thought we possessed was nothing but dirty rags (Isa. 64:6). What moves Him, Paul tells us, is His own mercy, love, grace, and kindness (Eph. 2:4–7).  It bears repeating that God has shown His grace and mercy when we did not deserve it.  It is only fitting that on this Thanksgiving Day, we spend some time thanking Jesus for His salvation and His great love for us.


Evening Reflection

One of our greatest needs as human beings is to be loved.  We have the need to know that we are important to somebody and that someone truly cares and accepts us unconditionally.  If this need is not met, we are liable to develop unacceptable behavior patterns to compensate for this need.

Remember, there is nothing we can do to make Jesus love us more, and nothing we will ever do will cause Him to love us any less. He loves us perfectly and completely regardless of how we perform; His love is unconditional.  Even if we don’t love ourselves, He still loves us. 

Having known and experienced His great love and mercy, we should show that same kindness to others in our lives.  Take some time to pray so that God’s love and mercy would be manifested abundantly in your life.  

November 23, Wednesday

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Cami King—now a friend of AMI— was first posted on November 9, 2016.  Cami served faithfully as a staff at several AMI churches in the past

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Against All Odds”

Hebrews 7:23-28

The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, 24 but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.

Can you guess the odds of winning the lottery? Although the exact numbers change based on various factors, the odds of winning are close to 1 in almost 14 million (if you’re picking six numbers to win the Jackpot). If you play to the Mega Millions lottery, your chances are 1 in almost 176 million. The National Weather service reports that you’re over 20,000 times more likely to be struck by lightening than to win the lottery. And with these odds, people still play the lottery to an alarming degree. Don’t believe me? How much money do you think Americans spent last year trying to win the jackpot? According to the records of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, Americans spent $70.15 billion on lottery tickets last year. SEVENTY-BILLION-DOLLARS! 

Yet against all the odds, people do actually win the lottery. They take home millions and watch all their dreams come true as they live happily ever after, right? Well, not exactly. While some lottery winners do have positive experiences, more often than not, those who’ve won the lottery point to it as the beginning of great struggle in their lives. Groups that follow past lottery winners connect winning the lottery to subsequent divorce, familial estrangement, suicide, reckless and criminal behavior, drug use, gambling, and even murder. But more so than these dramatic stories, most lottery winners express profound disappointment – that winning the lottery did not do for them what they anticipated.  Actor and comedian Jim Carey once said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” 

We bet on a lot of things. Maybe not the lottery, but we leverage our precious resources (the most precious, being our lives) in pursuit of success, comfort, recognition, acceptance, and sometimes, just plain old stuff… all of which will eventually perish. But we have a sure thing in Jesus, salvation that lasts forever and the promise of His Kingdom. May we bet our lives on that sure thing today and leverage our resources for riches that never fade. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to leverage my life for You today. May I use the resources you have so graciously given me – my time, talents, and treasure – in pursuit of Your Kingdom. May the assurance of my salvation provide the foundation for all that I do. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:Hosea 10


Lunch Break Study

Read John 10:7-10: So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Questions to Consider

  1. What does Jesus call all the things (other than Himself) that offer us life? What are those things in your life? 
  2. What is Jesus’ promise to those who enter through Him (put their faith in Him)? Spend some time reflecting on this promise. How does His promise encourage you today? 
  3. In the New Testament, the terms “abundant life” and “eternal life” are closely connected. What is abundant life? 

Notes

  1. He calls them thieves and robbers because nothing and no one apart from Jesus gives life – they only take it away. God Himself is the source of all life. 
  2. In v. 9, Jesus promises that they will be saved and will find pasture (protection, security, and provision). 
  3. Eternal life and abundant life are connected, because when God promises us eternal life, He doesn’t just mean we’ll live forever. He means we will live forever abundantly – in other words, He is speaking to the quality of our lives. Jesus desires that we have the best quality of life possible. We aren’t truly living, until we’re living with Jesus! 

Evening Reflection

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Mt. 6:33).

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John 17:3).

Spend time tonight meditating on the verses above. What are the tings you’re seeking that you believe will give you abundant (the highest quality of) life? Jesus says that eternal and abundant life is to know God. How do Jesus’ words speak to you tonight? Spend time talking to God about these things.  

November 22, Tuesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on November 22, 2016, is provided by Pastor Yohan Lee—now 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

“Attraction to Loyalty”

Hebrews 10:19-25

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

I never understood the fascination with gangster movies.  Sure, movies like The Godfather or Goodfellas are entertaining, but I know people who think these are two of the greatest films ever made and just flock to the genre in general—maybe you are one of them or have friends who are. But I have a theory that explains some of the appeal of gangster movies: it has to do with this concept of loyalty.  In every gangster movie there is a collection, group, or family to which all must pledge their loyalties.  The expectation is that everyone must be willing to do or sacrifice any price for the “family,” and betraying it is the unpardonable sin.  Of course, in the context of these movies, these loyalties are stretched to criminal levels; yet people are attracted to outrageous displays of loyalty—even if it is exhibited in a twisted manner.  Deep down we all want to be a part of a group that is utterly loyal to one another; we want to be around people who would do anything for us; and we want to have friends for whom we would do anything.  We are both fascinated and attracted to great loyalty.  

When I read today’s passage, I am reminded that loyalty is a huge aspect to the Christian faith.  Our God is loyal to us, and He also expects our loyalty in return (people don’t say this very often because it feels legalistic).  This passage details how in loyalty (or grace), Christ acted as our great High Priest, which allows us to enter into communion with God; no longer would a curtain separate us from the Most Holy Place.  And there’s no need to fear: God’s loyalty demands for “the family” will not push us into the dark underworld; rather, it’s just the opposite. His demands bring us closer to Him and His people.  From verses 22-25, we see three exhortations for us in response to God’s great loyalty, all starting with the phrase “Let us”: let us draw near to God (v. 22); let us hold fast to our faith (v. 23); and let us encourage each other for good and continue to meet together (vv. 24-25).  

This morning, reflect on what a joy it is to be in “the family,” as well as God’s loyalty, grace, and love for you.  Then ask yourself: How loyal am I to the family? Am I willing to draw near to God, hold on to the faith, and encourage my brothers and sisters?  1 John 5:3 reminds us that “his commands are not burdensome.”  

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You that You were loyal to me first.  No matter what I’ve done in the past, or the sins I continually fall into, You are always ready to forgive me.  Help me this day to draw near to You, stand for You, and love the family of God.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Hosea 9 


Lunch Break Study

1 John 4:7-21

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot[a] love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Questions to Consider

1.  What does this passage teach about those who love and those who do not love? 

2.  What else can we learn about love through this passage?  

3.  Are there some people you are struggling to love? 

Notes

1.  In verses 7-8, John states that those who love know God and have been born of Him.  And conversely, those who say they know God, but do not love are liars (v. 20).  

2.  Some other truths about love: We love because God loved us first by sending Christ (v. 10, 19); loving one another is our appropriate response to God’s love (v. 11); those who abide in love abide in God (v. 16); love casts out fear (v. 18); and if we love, we cannot hate (v. 20).  

3.  Personal application question.


Evening Reflection

Today’s theme was responding to God’s love by loving others.  This is a requirement for the believer.  Are there people in your life who you need to love and forgive?  What does it mean to embody God’s love to your neighbors, co-workers, and family?  

November 21, Monday

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on July 20, 2015.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“The Cure for Sin”?

1 King 19:1-9

Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” 3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.  All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.  7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.

Some think that a right theology can cure them of the sin problem.  For certain Reformed believers, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is the cure for all sin.  According to some Wesleyans who adhere to the doctrine of “Sanctification Entire,” we can reach a permanent spiritual state in which we no longer struggle with sin but have only love for God and others.  But what a mega-church pastor in Singapore said tops them all: “Your sins were imputed to Jesus so that they would never be imputed to you. . . . [So] stop examining yourself and searching your heart for sin.”  What?

What is most telling about today’s text is this: we are WEAK!  Remember, Elijah was a powerful man of God, for he singlehandedly took on 850 false prophets and “won” the battle of whose God was greater.  While the shouting and slashing by nearly thousand men did nothing, when Elijah prayed, “the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice” (1 Kings 18:38).  The stunned crowd, after shouting, “The LORD—he is God” (v.39), seized the false prophets and slaughtered them (v.40).    

But by next day, this brave man lost all will to live, praying that “he might die.”  Why?  Because Elijah, who did not bat an eye when threatened by 850 men, flinched when a lone woman—Queen Jezebel—threatened his life (19:2): “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life” (v.3).  

Certainly, good theologies and programs can make us better, but don’t be fooled into thinking that our fallen nature is eradicated—the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit has diminished its potency but when allowed, it can come back with vengeance. That is why we often fumble and trip over temptations and trials.

But the fact that God didn’t condemn Elijah for being weak and failing should comfort us.  Instead, God allowed him to rest, providing warm food and refreshing drinks to strengthen the prophet.  And that’s what will get us through: daily reliance on a good and gracious God who gives us a way out when we are tempted (1 Cor. 10:13), forgives us when we sin, and strengthens us when we are weak.    

Prayer: God, You are my Rock and Fortress in whom I trust.  I possess nothing that would help me to overcome the temptations and trials of life.  Please deliver me from my sinful and weak nature.  I’m grateful that I have a real hope in Christ whose Spirit empowers me to prevail. Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Hosea 8


Lunch Break Study 

Read Mark 14:66-72: And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.”

Gal. 2:11-13: But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.

1 Cor. 6:18: Flee from sexual immorality; 10:14: Flee from sexual immorality; 2 Tim. 2:22: So flee youthful passions.  

Question to Consider

1. Seeing human nature through Peter’s antics, what can we learn about it?

2. To a Christian who was disappointed at his wavering faith, I said, “Look, don’t get too down on yourself; remember that Peter had denied Jesus three times.”  This person, then, responded, “That’s before he was baptized with the Holy Spirit.”  What do you think I said to him?

3. Of course, we should not play dead as if we cannot overcome sin whatsoever.  If we had a healthy respect for sin, what would we do?

Notes

1. First, it indicates that we are capable of caving in to sin when our faith in Christ may result in a significant personal loss; and second, we are liable to compromise our faith in order to be accepted by the right crowd (for Peter, it was the Jews).

2. Both Peter and Barnabas committed a blatant hypocrisy (pretending that they weren’t eating non-kosher food with Gentiles) even after they had been baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. You don’t just transcend your fallen nature by some theology or experience—even if it is good and wonderful.  

3. We don’t play with sin!  Yes, we should pray and read the Bible, but also, we should not  allow our nature to get its way by fleeing from any and every thing that is lurking to tempt us.


Evening Reflection

It would be a lie to say that we weren’t tempted today.  What temptations did you face?  How did do you handle them?  I hope you haven’t become so numbed to sin that you don’t feel any struggle when you are actually being tempted.  Ask God what areas in your life need to be awakened in order to, at least, struggle with sin.  Then, pray for strength to overcome it instead of always giving into lies, gossips, pornography, greed, anger, etc. 

November 20, Sunday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, first posted on March 14, 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).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Feelings of Jealousy”

1 Samuel 18:6-9

 As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. 7 And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” 8 And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” 9 And Saul eyed David from that day on.

Have you ever had a friend or knew somebody who was always good at everything? Smarter, funnier, better looking, more social, more successful, etc. When I was growing up, I had a friend who fit this description, and as much as I cherished our friendship, I couldn’t help but feel jealous. I grew up in a culture where comparing yourself to others was something innate within us. Mothers would always compare their children to other children like trophies to be bragged about at their next hangout.

This culture doesn’t stop there, but I see it as I walk through San Francisco today where you can feel the co petition. It’s almost as if no one can actually be genuinely happy for someone’s success without a part of them feeling, “Where’s mine?”  Charles Spurgeon describes this reality as “the depravity of our nature that we do not readily rejoice in the progress of others if they leave us behind; but we must school ourselves to this.” Everything we do is relative to what the person next to us does, and as we compare ourselves to each other, jealousy is inevitable. We’ve all seen it, been a part of it, guilty of it, and we all know the dangers of it.

Here in this passage, we see that jealousy takes root in the heart of Saul. Any victory that Saul took pride in, David accomplished more. Saul was king by title, but it seemed like David was king in the hearts of the people.  Saul compares his worth to that of David’s achievements and forgets that it was God who had ordained Saul as king.  Jealousy leads to Saul’s unexplainable feelings of anger, discontentment, and threat as he is now crippled with fear and insecurity. It not only destroys Saul’s calling over his life and his heart, but also the work that God is doing through David.

It’s easy to dismiss such an account because maybe we have not let our jealousy lead to murder. However, how many times has jealousy robbed us of our own calling and anointing over our lives? Rather than understanding and living in the identity that God has called us in, we see others and can’t help but feel less competent, and it’s hard to feel genuinely happy for them. Thus, we strive to be more like them, to be better than them, and create expectations that only leave us emptier. Essentially, when we are being jealous, we discredit the unique gift and calling God has over our lives. As D.L Moody said, “My friend, if you are jealous, the only man you can hurt is yourself.”

Take some time to reflect on areas in your life where you find feelings of jealousy that have led to feelings of bitterness and insecurity. Maybe you feel like you’re not good enough and you’re asking, “Where’s mine?” Remember God the Father, His name is Jealous and unlike people, His jealousy is rooted in an unexplainable love for you. He loves you for who you are and not for what you can offer or for your achievements but simply as His child. Remind yourself and believe that He has a special calling over your life tailored to who you are. Remember all the things He has done and thank Him. Let us strive to not be like others, but to be more like Christ.  

Prayer: Heavenly Father, it is so easy to feel jealous of those who seem to have everything.  Remind me that as long as Jesus is my life—and he is indeed in my life—I have all that I will ever need in this age and the age to come. Thank you.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today:  Hosea 7

November 19, Saturday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Pastor David Kwon who heads Journey Community Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, was first posted on November 28, 2015.  He is a graduate of Drexel University (BS) and Columbia International University (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“I Hate Waiting”

 Esther 5:1-8

On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, in front of the king’s quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace. [2] And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. [3] And the king said to her, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.” [4] And Esther said, “If it please the king, let the king and Haman come today to a feast that I have prepared for the king.” [5] Then the king said, “Bring Haman quickly, so that we may do as Esther has asked.” So the king and Haman came to the feast that Esther had prepared. [6] And as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king said to Esther, “What is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” [7] Then Esther answered, “My wish and my request is: [8] If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my wish and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come to the feast that I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king has said.”

We live in a culture where we do not like to wait.  Everything is instant. You no longer have to wait until you get home to know if someone called or wait to find information on a certain subject because of the Internet. You can watch entire episodes of television shows in one sitting.  One newspaper said it best:

“The demand for instant results is seeping into every corner of our lives, and not just virtually. Retailers are jumping into same-day delivery services. Smartphone apps eliminate the wait for a cab, a date, or a table at a hot restaurant. Movies and TV shows begin streaming in seconds. But experts caution that instant gratification comes at a price: It’s making us less patient.”  – Boston Globe

When Esther hears about the evil plot of Haman to annihilate the Jewish people, with help of Mordecai, she comes up with her own plan.  She decides to talk to the king, which was risky because she knew that if she approached the king uninvited, he could have ended her life.  Determined, she tells the king that she has prepared a feast for him, and she wishes that Haman would come join them (v.4).  In her planning, Esther demonstrated wisdom and did not hurry the process but rather waited on the Lord’s timing.  She was not rash or impatient.  She did not rush to the king or sell out Haman right away.  Her self-control and boldness once again demonstrates her confidence in the Lord.  Here are a few lessons for us today:

  1. As we plan our lives, we should wait upon the Lord to guide us.  There is nothing wrong with planning out our own lives but as we do, we need to trust and wait on the Lord to discern His will.  As we face decisions, wait for Him, and ask for clarity and wisdom.  As we wait, spend time in prayer and the Word.  Ask other people for wise counsel.  Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.”
  2. When working through an unpleasant situation, trust the Lord for enduring patience.  Think of the patience Esther must have had to refrain from telling the king about Haman when she had him in the very palm of her hand.  In situations that are unpleasant, timing is as important as action, sometime more so.  Have patience.  Wait for the Lord to show you the way.  

Prayer:  Lord, as I face various decisions and plans in my future, help me to wait upon You.  Help me to have patience and self-control, as I desire to hear Your voice.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Hosea 5-6

November 18, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Doug Tritton, was first posted on November 18, 2016.  A graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), Doug is the Lead Pastor of Grace Covenant Church Philadelphia. 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Forgiveness”

Hebrews 9:24-28

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

When I first became a Christian in college, I had a faulty understanding of forgiveness. I thought it was conditional—meaning, I thought if I missed a sin to repent of, I would not be forgiven of that sin. So I lived in fear, thinking I had to repent from each sin I committed. This was quite a burden I carried! But then, God showed me just how deep His grace is. It took two years, but eventually I understood that I was eternally forgiven and justified before God; and even more, I was now called righteous! If only I had grasped that earlier.

This passage shows us this reality through this powerful verse: “he has appeared once for all.” Once for all. And that is why Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished.” He really meant this. It is finished—not partially finished, not just His part finished and now it’s our part; no, it is fully finished. Even though I am sinful, I am eternally forgiven in Christ. What a relief; what a freeing reality! Still, we should repent from our sins, as the Bible commands, but let us remember that our repentance doesn’t save us– it is Christ who saves, once for all.

Now that we are forgiven, we are called to wait eagerly for Him, the One who saves us once for all. Let our hearts be crying out for Him—crying out to meet the One who freely gave it all for us: “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Let us wait with joy, for our Savior is coming!

Prayer: Lord, thank You that You offered Yourself once for all. You took the full burden of our salvation; You took it all upon Yourself. Thank You for Your eternal saving power. Let me not ever feel like there is any burden on me, because You said, “It is finished.” Though the world oftentimes feels heavy to me, help me to know that You carry my burdens. And help me to have hope, because You are coming!

Bible Reading for Today: Hosea 4


Lunch Break Study  

Read 1 John 1:5-10: This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Questions to Consider

  1. What do you think it means to walk in the light?
  2. What happens if we confess our sins?
  3. What is the consequence of denying or ignoring our sin?

Notes

  1. It can be easy to think that walking in the light means we have to live without sin. But this passage also says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves….” So walking in the light is more about walking in relationship with God, knowing that He is the One who forgives us.
  2. God shows us His faithfulness by forgiving us. And more than that, He cleanses us from ALL unrighteousness. Remember, repentance is not only about receiving forgiveness for each sin, but about receiving forgiveness for all sins, and acknowledging that God alone can save.
  3. We make ourselves liars and the word of God is not in us. We are all sinners – this passage is clear about that. God is now calling us to bring our sin to Him, knowing that He alone is the source of forgiveness and new life.

Evening Reflection

Tonight, let’s spend some time in repentance. But let this repentance bring freedom and joy, because Christ saves, once for all. From repentance, let’s go to sleep in the relief that Christ is the One who carried, still carries, and will always carry our burdens.

November 17, Thursday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Charles Choe who leads Tapestry Church in Los Angeles, was first posted on November 3, 2016.  Charles is a graduate of University of California, Riverside (BA) and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Don’t Trust Your Dad, Kids. Trust the Father Above”

Hebrews 6:1-3 (NASB)

Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permits.

It’s amazing how my young children will trust me with just about anything. They are still young enough to think that their daddy knows everything and is stronger than just about anyone. I intend to milk it until they discover on some sad day in the future, that their father is a mere mortal. While the truth eventually catches up with every earthly father, our heavenly Father truly knows all and is able to accomplish His purposes by the strength of His word. 

We learned yesterday the writer of Hebrews urging his listeners to press on to maturity in the faith. This was something that they sorely lacked—especially since they had been believers for a long time. It’s expected of the followers of Christ that there would be a natural process of growing and maturing, so that we are not laying again the foundation of our faith—that is, the basic and elementary doctrines that begins our new birth in Christ (6:1). 

Among these elementary doctrines, the author includes in verse 2, “washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” These references are a bit obscure, but it is generally understood that these are practices and beliefs that include baptism and the basic understanding of the end times. We are to go beyond such basics and press into greater knowledge and greater depth when it comes to the doctrines of our faith. 

The author speaks a note of strong affirmation of God’s sovereignty in verse 3. He desires to move the audience forward into maturity, but he acknowledges that only “if God permits,” implying that he will only be able to do so if God is willing. This is a great reminder that all of life is lived under the comprehensive sovereignty of God. Whatever happens in life, let us trust that our heavenly Father is sovereign and knows what is best for His children. And unlike all earthly fathers, He is capable of bringing to pass His sovereign plans, because He is truly the Mighty One! 

Prayer: God, thank You for Your sovereignty. I will trust You to lead me and guide me through every step of my life. May Your will be done in my life and in my world. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.   

Bible Reading for Today: Hosea 3


Lunch Break Study  

Read Romans 10:9-10: . . . because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. [10] For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Questions to Consider 

1. What is the most basic thing we must do to be saved according to Romans 10:9?   

2. What does the heart do? What does the mouth do? 

3. So to grow more mature, what must you start to believe in and confess your mouth with?     

Notes

1. We must confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead.  

2. The hearts helps us believe, while the mouth helps us make our confession.  

3. Personal application. 


Evening Reflection

Were you able to think deeply about God today? Or can you identify something pertaining to your spiritual life where you can use more clarity and more certainty? Ask the Lord in prayer to guide you now.