October 4, Tuesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on February 11, 2015

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“How God Evaluates”

Lk. 16:10-13 (NIV)

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. [11] So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? [12] And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? [13] “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Serving God is not only important, but it can also be quite exciting.  Let’s suppose that teaching the Bible interests you, but on what basis will your pastor give you that kind of responsibility?  Similarly, in order for a baseball player to move up the ladder to one day reach the Major League, he needs to demonstrate his ability to hit and pitch better than others in the Minor League.  One major difference:  while God looks for faithfulness and honesty to evaluate, a baseball GM evaluates solely on output.   

Now, desiring to do something more influential or substantial for God is honorable: “If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Tim. 3:1).  So, how does God determine whether someone can handle greater responsibility from Him?  

For that, look at Joseph who had every reason to quit on life.  First, after his brothers’ betrayal, he became a slave in the house of an Egyptian official.  Instead of pouting, Joseph so faithfully carried out his task that his boss “entrusted to his care everything he owned” (Gn. 39:4).   But his life quickly hit rock-bottom when a false accusation landed him in jail. (It’s like going from AAA to A league).  But rather than giving up, he continued to work faithfully; seeing this, the warden “put Joseph in charge . . . [of] all that was done there” (39:22).  And it was from that pit that God brought Joseph out and “put [him] in charge of the whole land of Egypt” (41:41).  What does this show? “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2).  

The parable itself deals with another important factor used to determine our faithfulness: how we handle money.  If we’re stingy and not generous toward God and people in need, then it would affect whether or not God will trust us with the true riches, which include greater ministry responsibilities.  

So, if you haven’t been faithful in this area, be generous toward God and those in need.  Start today.

Prayer: O heavenly Father, I praise and exalt You.  So often I live with a delusion that I’ve been blessed because I have worked so hard.  But apart from the strength, ability and investment You’ve made in my life, I cannot do anything.  Awake my soul, O Lord, to radically use this worldly wealth for your kingdom work.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Chronicles 18


Lunch Break Study

Read Col. 3:22-3 (NIV):  “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. [23] Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters . . . .”

1 Tim. 6:2 (NIV): “Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare of their slaves.”

Tit. 2:9-10 (NASB): “Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, [10]not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.”

Question to Consider

1. What are some factors behind why people, in general, are unfaithful in their work, including God’s work?

2. What understanding can help us to be more faithful to God’s work as well as our secular work?  

3. How is your faithfulness?  What adjustments are needed for you to be more faithful to God?

Notes

1. We are so accustomed to doing our best only when someone is around that when no one is 

watching, we take it easy.  Sometimes, because we are on friendly terms with our coworkers or bosses, we don’t listen as readily as we should.  And oftentimes, we steal company time to do our own thing (e.g., web surfing, plan our trips with the company time and computer).

2. First, being aware that God is watching us all the time; second, as far as secular work is concerned, our faithfulness matters to God as well. For example, if you are a carpenter, it matters to God that you make quality chairs.

3. I think many of us are battling over wasting too much time with our electronic gadgets.   These are necessities, since so much of what we do for work depends on it, but every time we open our I-Phone or tablet, it is so easy to get distracted and waste time. For some, it is a matter of reprioritizing:  we need to put God before all things (Matt. 6:33).


Evening Reflection

Anything can be God’s work, even giving a cup of cold water to “one of these little ones” (Matt. 10:42).  Do feel like you did God’s work today, or did you pass up some golden opportunities?  Did anyone do God’s work on your behalf?  Pray about how you can be more pro-active in serving God tomorrow. 

October 3, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI Devotional Thought, first posted on October 3, 2016, is provided by Pastor Yohan Lee.  He is 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 Missed Opportunity to be God’s Conduit”

John 20:3-5

So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.

Several years ago, when I was working as an engineer, one of my co-workers opened up about his then two-year old son’s hearing difficulties.  As he shared about potential treatment options and possible surgery, I could see deep concern coming through his usual jovial demeanor.  As the conversation progressed, I felt the Lord telling me to pray for him and his son.  We were in the middle of the office floor, and I didn’t want to make a scene, so I am ashamed to admit that I ignored this prompting.  Obviously, I don’t know what would have happened if I had just listened, but I could not help but to feel that I had lost an opportunity to at least share a little about Jesus and His goodness.  

I bring up this little story from my life because I think there are many times that when we get to the door—just as John did—for one reason or another, we do not go in.  When I look back at my relationship with my old co-worker, I had already done the running to get there—meaning, I had already established a relationship with him, and I was genuinely concerned about his family.  And when God delivered an opportunity for me to enter, I didn’t.  I wish I could say that was the only time I felt like I missed an opportunity.  Of course, I am sure that I am not the only one who has felt this way.  

When it comes to following God, there will always be reasons to not: It might not be a convenient time, you might look silly, you might get rejected, it might represent a huge cost, etc.  But I hope to never again be a person who is standing outside of the door, looking in and longing for what could have been.  I hope that like John, I will eventually go in and be used by God to do great things. 

Prayer: God, give me boldness to enter into whatever door or opportunity You put before me.  Help me to see that the opportunity and potential is always greater than the cost or risk.  Allow me the opportunity to be used by You because I was willing to go through the door. Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Chronicles 17


Lunch Break Study

Read Acts 4:23-31: When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain?

26 The kings of the earth set themselves,

and the rulers were gathered together,

against the Lord and against his Anointed’

27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Questions to Consider

1.  What were the circumstances surrounding this passage, and for what did Peter and John ultimately pray for?  

2.  Why do you think boldness was so important for the early church?  Why is it so important for us today?

3.  On a scale of one to ten, how bold are you for Christ?  Are there ways you can grow in boldness?

Notes

1.  After healing a blind man, Peter and John were brought to the Sanhedrin and told not to speak of Jesus again.  The disciples ultimately prayed for boldness to continue to share and be used of God to do more miraculous signs (vv. 29-30).  

2.  Disobedience to the Sanhedrin could have resulted in flogging, excommunication, imprisonment, or death.  Peter and John considered boldness important so that they could remain faithful to obey God rather than men.  

3.  To grow in boldness, we obviously need to pray as Peter and John did, but sometimes we need to intentionally do things that would push us out of our comfort zones.  Consider going out to share the gospel today, asking a co-worker for a prayer request, or whatever feels uncomfortable.  


Evening Reflection

The theme for today was boldness.  This evening, ask yourself: How has my Christian life been lately?  Am I in a rut, or why has it been awhile since I’ve have seen God do something in my life?  Maybe it’s because you don’t take bold steps to obey His promptings.  Ask God to open your eyes and heart to areas He wants you to move into.  Commit to following His promptings, even if it means you’ll have to take risks.   

October 2, Sunday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 18, 2015.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“A Receptive Heart for God’s Eternal Truth”

Mk 4:20 (NIV)

“Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

In the NBA, no one could stop Shaquille O’Neil in his heyday; once this powerful player had the ball in the paint area, any strategy used against him mattered very little him—he almost always made a basket.

While the quality of the soil certainly affects whether the seed reaches its fullest potential, it can grow, however anemic, under almost any soil.  In another parable, Jesus spoke of how “night and day, whether the [sower] sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how” (Mk. 4:27).  Still in another parable, the Lord explained that as long as a kernel “falls to the ground . . . it produces many seeds” (Jn. 12:24).  Apostle Paul, in speaking of those who preached God’s word (i.e., sowed the seed) with a wrong motive, said, “The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached” (Phil. 1:18).  What do these verses indicate?  Regardless of the listener’s receptivity or the preacher’s motive, because “the word of God is living and active[,] sharper than any double-edged sword , it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12 NIV).  

One main issue with Shaq’s teams was always getting the ball to him when he was in the paint area near the basket.  But it was up to the point guard who, after bringing the ball up the court, could either pass it to Shaq or shoot it himself. However, Shaq was much more likely to make a basket from his sweet-spot than a guard who shot from afar.   The question to us is how to make that pass from the outside (i.e., attitudes not conducive for effective listening) to the sweet-spot, which is inside (i.e., the right attitude), so that we can consistently score a basket (i.e., bearing much fruits in terms of character, right conduct, winning souls, etc. ).  

First, no matter who may be the speaker, obligate yourself to receive a blessing even if the only coherent thing done was reading the Scripture, since that is God’s word.  Paul says to the Thessalonians, “We also thank God . . . because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God” (1 Thess. 5:13).  What’s the outcome of this?  The apostle concludes that verse with this: “…which is at work (i.e., produces a crop) in you who believe.”   Second, imitate the Bereans “who received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).  Luke, instead of saying, “How dare you examine Paul’s words!” but rather described them as “noble character.”  Lastly, “do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 2:22).  Start practicing this today. 

Prayer: Lord, make my heart receptive towards Your eternal Word no matter who is delivering it.  May Your eternal truth set me free in Your Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Chronicles 16

October 1, Saturday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Christine Li, was first posted on February 1, 2015.  Christine, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania, serves as a deaconess at Remnant Church in Manhattan, New York.  

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“The Person Whom I Thought Would Never Believe”

Mark 9:17-8, 23-4

Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.  Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground.  He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and become rigid. . . . Jesus [said,] ‘Everything is possible for him who believes.’  Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’”

This father desperately wanted his sick son to get better; but even with Jesus at his side, he doubted whether anything will change.  Isn’t that like us?  Though we know that God is all-powerful, when it comes to changing people’s hearts, we tend to give up based on our experience that nothing is changing.

There was a girl I knew very well when growing up. Though she was not a believer, she was curious about what we believed and sometimes attended my local youth group. However, during a one-on-one conversation, a member of my church told her without further explanation, “You are going to hell!” Deeply offended, she stopped speaking to us and stopped showing any interest in coming out again. Nobody knew how to explain the Gospel with great sensitivity, and though we tried to mend some bridges and attempted to explain more fully each person’s true need for Christ, it seemed too much damage had been done.

Not too long after, she and I fell out of our friendship, and I gave myself many convenient reasons not to approach her again. Occasionally, I would think back but always concluded that too much time had passed and too much hurt was caused. I felt that her lingering bitterness was justified, and though I hoped this would not be the end of the journey for her, I also thought, more “realistically,” that we had ruined her for any desire to hear the Gospel message again. 

Imagine my surprise (more than ten years later) to see on Facebook that this girl is now happily attending a local church through a friendship with some other girls from our hometown! The person I thought who would never be open to anything to do with church again, by God’s amazing grace, had come to know Him. To me, this came as not only a miraculous display of God’s power but also a sharp rebuke, as I had long since put any thought into this hopeless situation.

Our abilities and efforts will naturally fall short when we meet challenges regarding the people in our midst, and our failure should be a reminder to us that only by God’s power do circumstances and people miraculously change.  It is easy for us to let present failures dictate our faith and much harder to put our hope in the power of God. If your strength, your brain, and your heart have failed, then, be vulnerable and humble before God and say, “Lord, help me overcome my unbelief, discouragement and hopelessness.” You can be sure that He will either use you to work and bring the situation to a close, or He Himself will do all the work and provide a miracle for all to see. 

Let us draw near to God again, today, asking for strength to battle our unbelief. 

Prayer: Father, I come before You knowing that I am poor in power and poor in Spirit, but You are rich beyond measure in love and in means. My failures cannot stop You from doing Your work. Do not let the present circumstances tell me something different about what You are able to do; help me to live by faith and not by sight! Help put away my unbelief by reminding me of the firm foundation of Your power and Your love today. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Chronicles 14-15

September 30, Friday

UPDATEDToday’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on February 27, 2015

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“The Story that Every Unfinished House Tells”

Under the same subject (denying oneself to be a Christ’s disciple), two parables with different emphasis are given.  

Lk 14:26-33 (NIV): “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.’ [31] Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? [32] If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. [33] In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”

While living in Mexico for several years, I saw many unfinished houses, many of which had the appearance of having been abandoned for years. This devotional is the story that every unfinished house tells.

During a service many years ago, the pastor of my church asked that if anyone was willing to foot the large bill for something the church needed, to raise their hands.  After a few seconds of uneasiness, especially among the elders, several people complied.   While that’s a commitment, they likely didn’t have enough time to “calculate the cost to see if [they had] enough to complete” what was promised.   Some who could not give may have left the church, not wanting to be ridiculed.  And this is the story that every unfinished house tells: the one who began the building project didn’t calculate the cost of completing it. 

 There are two components to “giving up everything to be a Christ’s disciple”: rationality and faith.

First, be rational by committing to something “according to what one has,” whether it be money and/or time, “not according to what he does not have” (2 Cor. 8:12).  This, however, is not necessarily borne of faith, which is “being . . . certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1).  Therefore, we must up the “ante” (i.e., commitment) so that “your faith grows” (2 Cor. 10:15).  The increase in the commitment level must be incremental—a result of “sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Rom. 12:3) at that moment in life.  Some people, pressured by those who appear more committed, who try to jump several hurdles all at once, are likely to become bitter and complain later on. 

As our commitment level grows, we’ll reach a point where we may be ready to surrender all aspects of our lives to the “King of kings” (1 Tim. 6:15), which is what the second parable shows.   The “kings” refer to us who are in charge of our own lives, but upon seeing that the KING, who comes to conquer, is stronger than us, then, instead of fighting, we’ll surrender.  Those who haven’t added faith to their rationality will put up a losing fight; those who have will yield, allowing the KING to rule them wherein they encounter righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). 

How is your commitment level with God?  Are you making the right calculation?  If so, are you adding faith thereafter to ensure that you grow?  Think about it and make changes. 

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I magnify You this morning, for You are worthy of all honor and praise.  You left the glory You had with the Father to become flesh to do what I could never do for myself: the redemption of my soul.   For this, I ought to deny myself and follow You.  Empower and motivate me to do that!  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Chronicles 13


Lunch Break Study

Read Lk. 9:57-62 (NASB): “As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, ‘I will follow You wherever You go.’ [58] And Jesus said to him, ‘The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’  [59] And He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.’  [60] But He said to him, ‘Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.’ [61] Another also said, ‘I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.’ [62] But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’”

Lk. 16:13 (ESV): “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.”

Question to Consider

1. The first layer of commitment is developing a sense of detachment from certain good things, but nonetheless, can pull us away from God.  What are these “certain good things”?

2. In these two passages, is Jesus asking us to merely have a sense of detachment or act upon it? How are they responding?

3. What are you struggling with at the moment?  A better question is, “What is God telling you to act upon (based on your calculation+faith) to take you to the next level of commitment for Him?” 

Notes

1. A desire to have a nice place to lay one’s head; family relationships; economic success (the plowing); having enough money (however that is constituted in one’s mind). 

2. Jesus is asking those who said they wanted to follow him to act up on their sense of detachment from these good things.   Understandably, they were struggling with what was asked of them.  And if we are not in the habit of adding faith to our rationality, this will always be a big struggle.

3. If it is money, while you don’t have to give a big chunk every time you offer (tithing will do most of the times), you may need to offer an amount that strongly symbolizes a sense detachment from it. If it is family ties, you should practice being away from them for the sake of God’s work, whether it be one day or week, or more.   


Evening Reflection

Did you encounter opportunities to deny yourself to follow Christ today?  It doesn’t have to be an earthshaking event.  How did you handle it?  Review your day; reflect and pray.  

September 29, Thursday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Doug Tritton, was first posted on September 22, 2016. A graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), Doug is the Lead Pastor of the UC site of Grace Covenant Church in Philadelphia. 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“When We Feel Overwhelmed”

John 16:33

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

There will be many, many times in life when we will feel overwhelmed. Right now, with a new baby plus work and seminary, I have been feeling quite overwhelmed at times.* So how do we cope when we feel like this? How can we persevere through these feelings of just being in over our heads?

Jesus was one who should have been very overwhelmed. He had a rigorous preaching calendar, traveling from town to town to teach in various synagogues; plus, He was being called on constantly to heal people afflicted with various maladies. And through it all, He stayed focused on His primary mission—to go to the cross and die. Certainly that seems like an overwhelming life!

In this passage, Jesus is speaking to His disciples for the last time the night before the crucifixion. They are worried, and rightly so, since Jesus just told them that He is leaving them! What are they to do? And what are we to do?

Jesus says, “Take heart.” How do we take heart? We know that He overcame the world; this means that we likewise can overcome the world through Him, through His victory. When those feelings of being overwhelmed fill our minds, we can find hope and peace through the One who overcame it all. He overcame so that we can overcome. Let’s trust in Him,  our overcoming Savior!

*Editor’s note: Now Pastor Doug, with one more kid at home, is in full-time ministry with a congregation to serve and a staff to manage, and has been working on his ordination with an “unnecessarily” demanding AMI Teaching Pastor.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for overcoming the world. I know the battle is already won and You are victorious. Help me to stand in Your victory and not let the world overwhelm me. Let Your strength be given to me so that I may persevere through the tribulations this world throws at me. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Chronicles 12


Lunch Break Study  

Read 1 John 5:4-5: For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Questions to Consider

  1. Who overcomes the world?
  2. Why is faith the victory that overcame the world?
  3. In what ways are you lacking faith that Jesus can overcome the tribulations in your life?

Notes

  1. Those who have been born of God overcome the world. The passage then clarifies this by saying that the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God overcomes the world. So we can see that believing in Jesus causes us to be born of God and thus enables us to overcome the world.
  2. Jesus is the victorious one. Through Jesus’ victory, faith is possible. Thus, faith is the victory that enables us to take part in this overcoming victory that Jesus accomplished. Overcoming the world is only possible through faith in Jesus, the One who overcame for us!
  3. Take time to reflect on this question. Is Jesus your victory in every area of your life, or only some areas? Jesus’ victory is meant to be experienced in every sphere of our lives.

Evening Reflection

Take time to reflect on the victory Jesus accomplished on the cross and through His resurrection. Now reflect on the tribulations you may be facing in your life, the things causing you to feel overwhelmed. Ask Jesus to help you to be victorious in those areas you are feeling overwhelmed.

September 28, Wednesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Cami King, now a friend of AMI,  was first posted on March 26, 2015.  Cami served faithfully as a staff at several AMI churches in the past.  

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“How We Die Really Reveals How We Had Lived”

1 Samuel 31:1-7

Now the Philistines were fighting against Israel, and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 And the Philistines overtook Saul and his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchi-shua, the sons of Saul. 3 The battle pressed hard against Saul, and the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by the archers. 4 Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me.” But his armor-bearer would not, for he feared greatly. Therefore Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. 5 And when his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him. 6 Thus Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, and all his men, on the same day together. 7 And when the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley and those beyond the Jordan saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their cities and fled. And the Philistines came and lived in them.

As I read through this passage and imagine Saul taking his final breath, I can’t help but think of my grandmother who died last month. My mother told me of my grandmother’s final moments. She was weary from a long life and from battling illness but absolutely at peace. She lay in bed, listening to hymns (“Precious Lord Take My Hand” to be exact) as my mother and father held her hands and prayed her into the presence of God. In prayer and worship she breathed her last. 

I’m also reminded of a story told by Tony Campolo about the death of his father-in-law. He’d not been speaking at all because of his health condition, but one morning at 6 am he shot up in bed and said, “O grave, o death! Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory? Praise be to God who giveth me the victory!” And then he repeated it a second time a little louder. And then a third time he shouted these words, “with full triumph in his voice” and “laughing at the satanic forces…” Then he leaned back in bed and died. In shouts of triumph he breathed his last. 

Saul didn’t die in either of these ways. He was fearful and calculating to the last moment. He died the same way he lived – by his own hand. 

These stories should sober us. Few people walk around with the imminence of death at the forefront of their mind. We get married, pursue careers, have children, spend money, spend time, plan out our lives, even serve the Lord as though tomorrow is promised.  But it isn’t. The question then becomes, will we live life in such a way (with eyes fixed on God and life spent building His Kingdom) that our death is one of peace and triumph? Or will we live by our own hand (eyes fixed on ourselves and life spent building our own kingdom) and find that we die in the very same way? The choice is ours.  Yes, how we die really reveals how we had lived. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to live well so that when my day comes to leave this earth I can die well too. Help me to live each moment knowing that the next isn’t promised. Not in fear or anxiety, but in a fervent commitment to the only thing that will last – Your Kingdom. May I make choices today that position me to breath my last breath in a way that honors You.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Chronicles 11


Lunch Break Study

Read James 4:13-17: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Questions to Consider

  1. In what ways do you “boast in your arrogance” as it relates to how you spend your time and plan your future?
  2. How might the truth of verse 14 change how you approach each day? 
  3. How would it look for you to live with the mindset James prescribes in vs. 15? What would you do differently? 


Notes

  1. Believers should live in light of the fact that Jesus will return soon. But instead, much of what we do and how we think is based on the present world and things we can see. This manifests in different ways for each of us. 
  2. All our plans and choices should be in light of our complete dependence on God (even for the gift of life itself)
  3. Living for eternity will look similar for all of us in some general ways, but different for each of us in more specific ways. We might prioritize prayer over TV or missions over excessive vacationing or allow the things of God to direct our next move instead of our plans for career advancement (not that these things are necessarily mutually exclusive). 

Evening Reflection

Working with the Young Adults in my church I’ve come to learn that the biggest reason people move from one city to another is because of their job. I think this is OK (I’m guilty of this myself), but what if as Christians our primary motivation for how we spend our time and even where we live was our desire to participate in the Kingdom of God? Spend sometime reflecting on what motivates you and what priorities govern how you structure your life. Ask God to give you a heart that seeks first His Kingdom (and trust that all the other necessary and important things that we need and even want will be added) and a vision of how that might practically look in your life. 

September 27, Tuesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on February 15, 2015

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Not Everyone Receives the Same Amount From God”

Lk. 19:12-3, 15-26 (ESV)

He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. [13] Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come’. . . . [15] When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. [16] The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ [17] And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ [18] And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ [19] And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ [20] Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; [21] for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ [22] He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? [23] Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ [24] And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ [25] And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ [26] ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’”  

Matt. 25:14-5 (ESV)

For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. [15] To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.

Some egalitarians might prefer the Parable of the Ten Minas, since each servant receives one mina, over the Parable of the Talents, where some received more than others (Matt. 25:14-28).  Which one is true?  Based on Jesus’ statement, “Everyone who has been given much, much will demanded” (Lk. 12:48), it’s safe to assume that in God’s economy, not everyone receives the same amount of talents or gifts.  But God is still egalitarian.  How?  

Recall that both the servant with a single talent and the other with one mina did nothing with it, even though they were told to put it to work, on account that their masters were unreasonable and unjust.   Peeking into the vanity of the human nature, the servant with the one talent probably pouted over the fact that others received more: “Since you don’t think much of my ability, I will do nothing.”  What he forgot is that when God judges our works, it isn’t based on how much we have gained; but rather, how much we have gained in proportion to how much we have been given.  

At the judgment seat of Christ, where our works will be evaluated for rewards (2 Cor. 5:10), God will treat everyone as if they had received only one mina.  How so?  In God’s equalitarian judgment, it is possible that those who have received less will be given more rewards than those who have received more.  For instance, God will be more pleased with a servant with a single talent who gained three more (300% yield) than one with five talents who made five more (100%).   This is why Jesus said, after seeing a poor widow putting in two small copper coins (about $2) into the temple treasury and others giving much more: “[She] has put in more than all the others.  All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (Lk. 21:4).   

So, whatever talent God has given you, don’t bury it.  Edify and encourage people with it; help support missionaries and your church; heal the wounded and instruct the young in faith.   

Prayer: Dear God, thank You for giving me talents and gifts that I did not earn.  I admit that I’ve spent more time complaining about what I don’t have instead of using what I’ve received to yield more for your kingdom.  May I constantly be reminded that I was given a great privilege; help me to be faithful.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Chronicles 10


Lunch Break Study

Read  2 Cor. 5:10 (NASB): For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

1 Cor. 4:5 (NASB): Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.

Lk. 12:48 (NIV): But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Question to Consider

1. What is the main difference between how we receive salvation and how we receive rewards?

2. What is one key aspect of our works that will be evaluated at the judgment seat?

3. So, what does God expect from those who have received talents and gifts from him?  How are you doing with God’s investment into to your life?

Notes

1. Salvation is not earned but is “a gift of God, not by works . . . but by grace . . . through faith” (Eph. 2:8). Rewards, on the other hand, are based on what we do.  But this too is based on God’s grace since He doesn’t have to reward anyone; yet He chooses to do so out of His kindness and goodness.

2. Our motives will be evaluated—meaning it’s not just what we do or how we do it but why we do it.

3. God wants us to put to work every talent and gift given to us so that people’s lives are saved and healed: That’s why He takes it so seriously and displeases Him when we bury them (i.e., not use them) instead of using them to reach out to people.  


Evening Reflection

As you are about to turn in, how do you think you used your talents and gifts today for the Lord?  Was anyone encouraged and strengthened by you?  Did anyone find out God’s grace through you?  Pray that you will put your talent to work tomorrow.   

September 26, Monday

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on September 30, 2016, is written by Pastor David Son who pastors the Thrive Church in Taipei.  He is a graduate of University of California, Berkeley (BA) and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.). Stay up to date with the church plant by following them here: https://www.instagram.com/thrivechurchtaipei/

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“You Want Power?  You Got Power, In Jesus”

John 18:1-8

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.

In the movie “The Lion King,” the villainous Scar and his band of hyenas are only afraid of one thing: Mufasa. In fact, the mere mention of his name is enough to make them shudder. Even after Mufasa is dead, Scar bans the name Mufasa from being uttered. Why? Because there was power in that name. At the end of the film, Mufasa’s son, Simba, returns bearing the authority of his father, to defeat Scar and his minions. Of course, that’s just a children’s story, but the principle behind the story remains true. 

In passage’s today, a small army of soldiers, armed with weapons, makes their way to arrest Jesus at the garden of Gethsemane. Upon being found by them, Jesus asks, “Whom do you seek?” Jesus, when told that they were looking for Jesus of Nazareth, declares His identity, saying, “I Am he” (ego eimi).  At these mere words, the soldiers collapse and fall to the ground. Why? A closer look will reveal that these are not just any words, but Jesus is declaring Himself to be equal to the Great I AM (Ex. 3:13-4)—Yahweh.  The Hebrew verb hayah, used in Exodus 3:13-14 to refer to Yahweh as “I Am” (meaning “to be”), is translated in Septuagint (the first Hebrew Bible in Greek) as ego eimi (“I Am”); ego eimi, then, is applied to Jesus in the New Testament. Although Jesus’ intention was to surrender Himself, the mere mention of the name of God—His name—caused the soldiers to fall to the ground. 

As you go through this day, remember that because you are His son/daughter, you have power in the name of Jesus to overcome temptation, trials, and works of the enemy.  Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” May this be your prayer today!

Prayer: Lord, You are our source of strength and power to overcome the enemy. Help us to stand firm today. Teach us not to lean on our experience, abilities, or even our own righteousness, but instead to lean on You. We pray in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Chronicles 9


Lunch Break Study

Read: Acts 19:11-20: And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

Questions to Consider

  1. What does this passage teach us about the source of power?
  2. Why did the sons of Sceva fail in their ministry?
  3. How did the believers react?

Notes

  1. The passage makes it clear that the source of power is God, not Paul, not the handkerchiefs, or aprons, not even invoking the name of Jesus. The first verse says, “God was doing extraordinary miracles….”
  2. The sons of Sceva used Jesus’ name as an incantation, thinking that uttering certain words in a certain order might invoke power. But the evil spirits know the real from fake. They knew there was no real power behind the sons of Sceva because the Spirit of Christ was not actually within them.
  3. The believers reacted by fearing the Lord, confessing, repenting, and burning their bridges to old sinful practices. And the name of Jesus was extolled. Although what happened to the sons of Sceva was tragic, the response of the believers is correct. Instead of speaking ill of the sons of Sceva, they recognized the seriousness of their own sinful ways and repented. Likewise, when we hear tragic news today of people in ministry falling/failing, we must have the humility to confess and repent for ourselves.

Evening Reflection

Today we talked about how powerful Jesus is, but also how He humbled himself and submitted Himself to being arrested. Spend some time this evening asking God for either boldness or humility. If you tend to be meek, ask God to fill you with boldness through the Holy Spirit. And if you tend to be bold by nature, ask God to fill you with humility through the Holy Spirit.

September 25, Sunday

Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought was first posted on July 4, 2015.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Funny But Not Really”

2 Timothy 4:6-8 (ESV)

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.  7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

At my brother’s recent college graduation ceremony, a student from his class was chosen to give a speech, and he cheekily compared their school to an assisted living facility: All of your friends are here, everything you need is within a seven minute walk, the food is prepared for you, and eventually, everybody leaves. Some of us are going to a better place, and some of us, myself included, are stepping into the unknown… 

While the comparisons are superficially true, his remarks reminded me of when I recently visited a local nursing home, an experience that wildly clashed with my idealistic notions of life as a young adult. Inside this facility, I encountered so many people whose former lives boasted of prestigious academic degrees and military adventures; calendars brimming with social events and exciting trips. But now, at the final chapter of their lives, a communal schedule posted in the hallway suggested that the highlight of the day would be afternoon bingo and apple crisp for dessert. I conversed with a few who could talk, and it was clear that relatives seldom made visits; most of the residents spent entire days planted in the same chair by the same TV screen. I was introduced to a man who was once a successful medical doctor, but could now hardly hold a spoon to his mouth.  

As a young adult, it’s easy to dismiss mortality as a far off reality that doesn’t concern me yet.  There are too many personal and professional milestones that seem to separate me from old age and its accompanying side effects.  But rather than denying death until it comes, I’m starting to realize that a healthy acceptance of my earthly end strengthens my hope in the Father, who has promised eternal life for those who believe in His Son Jesus.  In his letter to Timothy, Paul had clearly lived his life with the end in mind; the faithfulness with which he lived his life belonged to someone who knew that his health would one day fail and his earthly accomplishments would fade, but in Christ he would have all that he needs to have true peace and joy beyond the very last day.  For Paul, there was no fear in death.  In fact, it was during his times of imprisonment, when death was a daily possibility, that he grew in boldness for the Gospel.  

The college graduate who made that comparison, though meant to be humorous, identified a tendency as humans to obliviously enjoy lives that are artificially stable and predictable. It was meant to be funny but not really so. Instead, let’s follow Paul’s example and acknowledge that life on earth is fleeting but life in Christ is eternal.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to count my days so that my remaining time here on earth can be used to extend your kingdom and glorify God.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Chronicles 8