March 22, Friday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Everyone Gets to Play”

Exodus 14:21-22; 26-28 (NIV)

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. 28 The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.

My children play in a football league where “everyone gets to play.” Regardless of one’s skills or the score, the coach will manage the roster so that every child is given a chance to play the game. It’s clear that some kids are better than others; nevertheless, everyone gets to play albeit in different positions (e.g., not everyone gets to play the quarterback).

That is a picture of God’s community.

In today’s passage, as God is about perform one of His greatest miracles, He invites Moses to play the quarterback, if you will. The parting of the Red Sea is a miracle that is still celebrated by the Israelites today; it was the day of their glorious freedom as they crossed on dry land while the Egyptians were later destroyed. Now, while God could have performed this feat from the heavens, He allows Moses to stretch out his hands in performing the miracle. It’s perplexing to think that an Almighty God, who has all the power over all of creation, chooses to use humans. But there is no denying that God’s desire is to use us to accomplish His works on earth—how wonderful, amazing and humbling!

Therefore, do not doubt that God can and does use His servants to accomplish some of His greatest works. As a follower of Christ, you are certainly one of His servants. God can and will use you. So, instead of assuming that God uses everyone else except you, ask Him to take your hands and use them for God’s purposes and God’s glory.

John Wimber, founder of Vineyard Christian Fellowship and head of Vineyard Ministries International, often said, “Everyone gets to play.” He understood clearly that following Jesus wasn’t a spectator sport—meaning, Jesus wanted everyone to discover their own set of gifts and use them to make a unique contribution towards building each other up in the Lord.

So, stop spectating; instead, stretch out your hands and see what God can do through you.  And give Him all the glory for using us despite of us.

Prayer: Lord, use me to serve others. Use me to tell Your story to others. Use me to bless others. Use me to encourage others. Use me to build up others. Use me to perform miracles. In Your name, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 14


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Peter 4:8-11 (NIV): Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the purpose of the gifts you have been given?
  2. Do you think that some gifts are more notable than others? How does verse 11 dispel that notion?
  3. Do you believe that God can accomplish His works through you? Why or why not?

Notes

  1. To serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace.  
  2. Whether one speaks or simply serves, “in all things” God is praised.
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

In what ways were you able to serve others today? If you missed an opportunity, ask God to grant you another opportunity tomorrow to use your gift to serve others.

March 21, Thursday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Standing Firm in God’s Presence”

Exodus 14:1-4; 13-14 (NIV)

Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. 3 Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ 4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this. 13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

In verses 1-4, after the Lord reveals His “clever” plan to Moses, he leads the Israelites to the edge of the Red Sea, where they are pinned between the great sea and the great armies of Egypt chasing after them. Some cleaver plan this turned out to be—they are now stuck between a rock and a hard place. They can either drown or be struck down by the sword. The Israelites are unaware of the Lord’s plans and cry out with fear and hysteria, ““Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?”  As their desperate cries get louder and louder, Moses answers the people to do three things:

  • Do not be afraid.
  • Stand firm and you will see.
  • You need only to be still.

In ministry, I’ve learned that fear is the great enemy of faith. Jesus often rebuked his disciples by saying, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” When we are operating or making decisions based on fears, it is certain that faith has no room to grow in our hearts nor in our ministries. The enemy preys on our insecurities and fears to prevent us from living out our faith.

We often seek the Lord’s “plans” rather than seeing the Lord’s “presence” in order to address our fears and anxieties. Without a clear knowledge of the future “plans” that the Lord has for us, we find ourselves immobilized by fears. We think to ourselves, “If God will just tell me His plans, then I will be able to walk by faith.” However, the Lord often gives us something better than just His plans. He asks us to trust in His “presence”, the pillar of cloud/fire, that visibly led the Israelites. Then the Lord tells us, “You need only to be still.”

If you are constantly operating out of fears, spend some time meditating on vs 13-14: “Do not be afraid; stand firm; be still.”

Prayer: Lord, it’s subtle, but I admit that I operate more out of fears than out of faith. Help me to no longer be afraid; to stand firm and be still in Your presence. In Your name, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 13


Lunch Break Study

Read James 4:6-10 (NIV): “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Questions to Consider

  1. What steps does James encourage the believer to take in order to receive God’s favor and grace?
  2. How does it strike you that the devil actually flees from you when you stand up and resist him?
  3. Is there an area in your life where there is a need for grief?

Notes

  1. To submit to God; resist the devil; come near to God; purify your hearts.
  2. Most average Christians might fear the devil; however, it is the devil that flees when one takes a stance against him and draws near to God.  
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

Spend some time confessing your fears and worries before the Lord. Ask Him to fill your heart with courage and faith.

March 20, Wednesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Highway Signs”

Exodus 13:20-22 (NIV)

After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

Have you ever been on a very long road trip? At certain points, you begin to wonder not only how long it will take to arrive at your destination, but whether you’re still on the correct highway. So, thank God that the United States Interstate Highway System has posted signs to inform the traveler of not only the distance remaining, but a reminder that you are indeed on the right highway.

This makes us wonder: Without such signs posted in the desert for Israelites, how would they figure out if they were on the right path towards the promised land (Canaan) or not?

Yesterday, we learned that sometimes God takes us on a longer journey in fulfilling His promises. In our path towards spiritual maturity, it’s common for many of us to grow impatient; in fact, we can even become restless or discouraged as doubts crept into our hearts. We wonder if God has forgotten His promises to help us grow. We begin to think that perhaps it’s totally up to us to figure out how to arrive at our destination. But rest assured that God knows that we will need “signs” or encouragements along the way so that we won’t give up. He will, therefore, remind His people that He is present and that He will provide both protection and guidance.

We see this clearly in the way the Lord led and guided the Israelites. Of course, as they headed south after leaving Egypt, in the opposite direction of Canaan, the Israelites had no idea where they were headed.  Neither did they know that God’s plan was for them to avoid conflicts with surrounding groups they could not handle. In the midst of all this, God gave them a tangible sign of His presence: a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night; it would provide shelter by day, and warmth and light by night. But more than practical purposes, it was God’s way of reminding His people that they were on the right path towards their final destination.

As you faithfully follow His word and His purposes, you too are on a long journey. At times, you may feel as though you are lost or that God may have forgotten about you. Yes, He has given us the Holy Spirit to live in us and that should suffice; nevertheless, at times, we, being frail humans, need something more tangible.  In those moments, ask the Lord for encouraging “signs” to remind you that you are on the right path, and that He is with you always to the end of the age. It may come from your daily scriptural reading or seemingly random comments by a friend or a sudden recalling of past events—whichever way, the Lord will remind you.

Prayer: Lord, thank you that You are always with me. I ask for encouraging “signs” along the way to help me remain confident in Your leading and guidance. In Your name, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 12


Lunch Break Study

Read Hebrews 13:5-6: Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” 6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

Questions to Consider

  1. Why is there a correlation between love of money and the knowledge of God’s eternal presence in our lives?
  2. Verse 6 is a quote from Psalm 118:6. Turn to Psalm 118:5 and see the context of the original verse.
  3. When was the last time you felt the magnitude of this verse, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you”?  Do you need a reminder of this awesome promise of God?

Notes

  1. In the Sermon on the Mt., Jesus tells the listeners to live a life free of worries because the Father in Heaven knows the needs of His people. Loving money and losing sight of contentment results when one loses sight of the Father’s providence.
  2. The passage is a declaration of a psalmist who was “hard pressed.”
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

If you journal, look back through some of your previous entries and be reminded of God’s signs that He’s been providing along the way towards maturity.

March 19, Tuesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Are we There Yet?”

Exodus 13:17-18 (NIV)

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.

Parents have often heard their children ask the question from the backseat of the car, “Are we there yet?” I wonder how many times the children of the Israelites asked their parents this same question. What should have been a relatively short journey from Egypt to Canaan turned out to be a very long journey for the Israelites.

At the outset of the journey though, the Israelites finally got to enjoy the freedom after 430 years of servitude in Egypt. With the 10th and final plague, Pharaoh had been defeated after losing his firstborn; in anger, therefore, he releases the Israelites.

Now, Moses was given the task of leading God’s people from Egypt to Canaan. For mapping purposes, point A was the land of Goshen in Egypt where the Israelites had been slaves; point B was the land that flowed with milk and honey and was promised to the Israelites. With so much at stake and only a desert separating point A and point B, I’m sure Moses looked for the shortest and the quickest path to Canaan. That path was the clearly marked trade route that ran NE along the seacoast of the Mediterranean Sea. It must have been about 250 miles or so, and traveling slowly with a massive number of people, Moses may have estimated about two weeks of travel time. He had no idea that the journey would actually take 40 years!

Perhaps God’s warning should have given Moses some expectations that this was going to be a longer journey than he had planned. God warns Moses, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” Afterwards, God leads the Israelites South, in the opposite direction.

We can see that sometimes, in our faith journey, God will deliberately take us on a much longer and, at times, puzzling paths. We must learn to be patient and trust in the Lord. Behind every movement, God understands that if we were to take the shortest, most efficient path, it’s very likely that we will face obstacles along the way and never make it to our destination. It’s difficult for us to follow; however, following the cloud by day and fire by night is the best path that God has in store for us.

So what path are you on right now?  To where is the Lord taking you?

Prayer: Lord, help me to trust in Your wisdom as You lead me towards maturity. Help me to also trust in what You are doing in our church. I admit that I have been impatient and making efforts to project my own will. Forgive me and help me to trust in Your perfect ways. In Your name, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 11


Lunch Break Study

Read Matt 16:21-23: From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Why does Jesus’ explanation of his upcoming suffering disturb Peter and the disciples?
  2. What does Jesus’ rebuke of Peter reveal about the contrast between man’s will versus God’s will?
  3. What sort of dialogue have you had lately with the Lord? What are you hearing from Him?

Notes:

  1. The disciples expected to march on Jerusalem, pick up supporters on the way, fight an unexpected battle (and win), take over the Temple, and install Jesus as king. They assumed that’s how ‘the son of man’ will be exalted in his kingdom! Suffering was out of the picture.
  2. Peter did not have in his mind the concerns of God. His concern was for himself and his personal and national agendas.
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

Are you still waiting on any particular promise of God to be fulfilled in your own life? Are you growing impatient still waiting on the Lord? Express to Him that you trust in His timing as well as His path of fulfilling His promise to you.

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

March 18, Monday

The AMI QT Devotionals from March 18-24 are provided by Pastor Peter Yoon of Kairos Christian Church in San Diego.  Peter is a graduate of U.C. Riverside and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.). He and his wife Jessica have three very active children: Nathan, Abigail, and Jason.  

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The Mighty Hand of God”

Exodus 13:3-10 (NIV)

Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand. Eat nothing containing yeast. 4 Today, in the month of Aviv, you are leaving. 5 When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites and Jebusites—the land he swore to your ancestors to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey—you are to observe this ceremony in this month: 6 For seven days eat bread made without yeast and on the seventh day hold a festival to the Lord. 7 Eat unleavened bread during those seven days; nothing with yeast in it is to be seen among you, nor shall any yeast be seen anywhere within your borders. 8 On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips. For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand. 10 You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time year after year.

I was born in Korea and immigrated to the U.S. when I was 8 years old.  Because I was so young then, I only have a few vague memories of my childhood years there. One of them resurfaced some years ago, during my visit to Korea, when I decided to eat something I hadn’t eaten since I left my motherland: “Beondegi” (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beondegi).

As an adult, the thought of eating boiled silkworm disgusted me; however, upon coming across a street vendor selling this “delicacy,” I just had to relive my childhood days. As my mouth chomped on my first scoop of boiled silkworm, so many childhood memories rushed back into my mind. I enjoyed reminiscing, but a scoop was all I could handle that day.

Food has a natural way of bringing back memories, doesn’t it?  Perhaps, that’s why the Lord used food to help the Israelites remember. Here, Moses is giving instructions on how the Israelites were to celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days, they would eat bread without yeast, and on the 7th day they would hold a festival before the Lord. This celebration was not only to be observed by the people listening to Moses, but eventually it would be passed along to their children as well. Through this festival, as they ate unleavened bread, the Israelites would remember—they would remember how the Lord delivered their nation from slavery with “His mighty hand” (vs 3, 10). It was this “mighty hand” that delivered a nation of helpless slaves into becoming free people and eventually a blessed nation. At least once a year, the Israelites would eat and remember once again the incredible might of God’s hand.

By now, you may have realized that our own faith journey is also made of many ordinary days: no supernatural healings; no audible voice of God; no miraculous provisions falling from heaven. We are simply trekking along a slow and gradual progression of incremental sanctification that’s difficult to even quantify. In these seasons, it is easy for us to forget the “mighty hand” of our Lord. But our forgetfulness does not define God’s might and power.

Perhaps the next time communion is served at your church, you may want to pause and remember the might of God’s hand that delivered you from your own sinfulness and meaninglessness, thereby giving you a new life and purpose for the present age as well as in the age to come.

Prayer: Lord, thank You that Your Spirit is always with me and always at work within me. Help me to remember Your might even in my ordinary moments of my own faith. In Your name, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 10


Lunch Break Study

Read Luke 8:22-25: One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. 24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

Questions to Consider

  1. How does Luke accentuate the difference between Jesus and the disciples?
  2. What do you learn from Jesus’ ability to rebuke the wind and the raging waters?

Notes

  1. Luke tells his readers that Jesus actually falls asleep and remains sleeping until he was awakened by the frightened disciples.
  2. The “rebuke” does not mean that the wind and the sea are represented as demonic forces, but rather that Jesus is able to command even the forces of nature. God is described in the Old Testament as “rebuking” the sea, a demonstration of His sovereign control over all of nature. (Strauss, Mark. Luke: Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary)

Evening Reflection

Open up to Psalm 68:28 and pray these words from your own words to the Lord:  Summon your power, God; show us your strength, our God, as you have done before.

March 17, Sunday

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Don’t Live Without the Word”

2 Kings 23:3, 24-26 (NASB)

The king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to carry out the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people entered into the covenant. 24Moreover, Josiah removed the mediums and the spiritists and the teraphim and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might confirm the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD. 25Before him there was no king like him who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.

Some of us who follow a reading plan to  read the Bible in one year, have had times when we had absolutely no idea what we had just read; nonetheless, we were  content to mark off another 5 chapters from the reading chart. But King Josiah wasn’t like that. Upon discovering the Book of God’s Law that had been lost for a long time, he devoted himself to purify the land of Judah of its idolatry so that Judah’s ways would conform to what was written in God’s book. He read God’s Word to the people of Judah and led them to renew their commitment to walk in the way of the Lord. The majority of this chapter (vv. 4-20) records how Josiah removed idolatrous priests from the house of the LORD, removed altars that previous kings of Judah had built, burned vessels that were for Baal and Asherah worship, and more. Josiah truly turned to the Lord with all his heart, all his soul, and certainly, with all his might.

Though Josiah knew that God was going to “remove Judah and cast off Jerusalem” (23:27) because the generations of his forefathers had forsaken God, the Book of the Law (God’s Word) led Josiah to lead the nation back to God in his lifetime. He let God’s Word, which Judah had neglected for many years, define his course of action and his leadership. Though the outcome for Judah was sealed, Josiah was instrumental in preserving covenant faithfulness for Judah in his lifetime. In this way, Josiah was successful and Scripture records, “there was no king like him…nor did any like him arise after him” (23:25). Though he had no control over Judah’s future, he glorified God by faithfully keeping a covenant relationship with God.

The Word of God provides power for endurance and faithfulness. Nothing can nourish our souls and strengthen us to do the work of the Lord than the very words of God. If reading or listening to the Word of God is lacking in your daily spiritual life, ask the Lord today to renew your thirst and devotion for His Word. Don’t live with the Word.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I desire for your commands and your Words to be near and dear to me. As your Word is able to equip me to do every good work, help me to spend time in your Word daily. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 8

March 16, Saturday

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

John 2:1-12

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 6 Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him. 9 When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, 10 and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

In your small group, would you say you are vulnerable about your struggles? It takes great courage to be vulnerable. We may not be vulnerable for fear of feeling shame.

At the wedding in Cana, the shortage of wine was not simply a beverage issue; it was a shame issue. In the honor and shame culture of Jesus’ day, lack of wine at a wedding banquet exposed the married couple and their families to public shame.

By turning water into wine, Jesus saved the married couple from public shame. He allowed them to receive honor from the host and their guests. Though His hour had not yet come (2:4), He provided an unbelievable gift for this married couple. For Jesus to save one married couple from social shame was a small thing compared to what He would provide when His hour did come.

In light of “the hour” that was coming, Jesus knew He came to wipe away the shame of humanity. When His hour did come, He went to the cross, took our shame upon Himself, and suffered crucifixion, a shameful death. As the Word who had became flesh, He didn’t come to attain honor. Rather, Jesus came to bear our shame so we could have the honor of being children of God – fully approved and forgiven by God.

The issue is, we as believers often remain bound in shame, fearing disapproval and rejection. We fear that if we are fully seen for our sins and weaknesses, we will no longer be worthy of love and acceptance from God, or from people. We miss out on the freedom that Christ purchased for us, and often cut ourselves off from community. The beauty of genuine fellowship is the sense of belonging. Everyone matters! Fellowship is a safe place where we can share honestly and heal from shame and brokenness as we surround one another with prayer and encouragement.

Ask the Lord to help you commit to belonging to your small group and to also minister to your brothers and sisters as they openly share their lives with you.  

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, thank You that I share the honor of being your beloved child with my brothers and sisters. Thank You for reminding me that I can’t grow spiritually on my own. Help me to humbly and courageously share my life with the community You have given me. Thank You that You have also called me to minister to my brothers and sisters. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 6-7