August 23, Tuesday

Editor’s Note: The AMI QT Devotionals from August 23-4 are provided by Joanna Tzen.

Devotional Thought for Today

Going back John 6: verses 26-35

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.””34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.
23You might not guess that I am a Facebook “stalker,” since I almost never post, but I do pop up here and there liking photos. My favorite posts are from my friends about their babies. Usually if the children are toddlers, the funniest are not when they are cute and well-behaved, but when there’s some sort of meltdown or mischievous activity. These meltdowns are often brought on by the wise, logical, and compassionate actions of their parents (like removing dangerous objects or putting them down for a nap).

The passage above picks up after Jesus crossed the lake of Galilee after a full day of teaching—the sheep came for the Good Shepherd again. However, Jesus wanted the crowd to know that He wasn’t an earthly leader who had come to solve all of their problems or provide material things, but that He was so much more. First, he begins by telling them that they need to work for bread that will not spoil. The people ask about the work in v.28, and Jesus says it is to believe. They then take Jesus’ words literally and ask for this bread. When Jesus begins to tell them that He is the bread of life, they reject Him. It is as if the crowd wants to do more than believe, be it through a set of rituals or reliance on their lineage. They also see Him through earthly eyes as Joseph’s son (v.42). They reject Jesus’ offer that the work is already done for those who believe in Him.

It is clear that Jesus was not the savior that the people wanted. They wanted a worldly hero to save them from political oppression at the time and provide earthly comforts. In this day and age, particularly during the Presidential election cycle, even we as believers are not that different.

Are we only looking to Jesus for solution to our worldly concerns? What if He is saying, in His compassion, that He does see these concerns, but He is asking us to look beyond the temporal—that He provides, more importantly, what is eternal? He cares so much more about who we are becoming as Christ-followers over our temporal comfort. I am not trying to dismiss any of the very real hurt and pain we will experience in this world, but asking us to allow the Good Shepherd and Heavenly Father to remind us of what will endure over what will fade away

May we ask the Lord to replace our earthly eyes with a heavenly perspective, so we will not return to the former ways of thinking (Gal 4:9), such as reliance on self. Let us ask the Lord to mature and strengthen us in our faith, so that we will not be like children tossed in waves of circumstance and lies of the Enemy (Eph. 4:14).

Prayer: Lord, are there times when I see Jesus as the crowd did and care more about my comfort than following the Savior? May you open my eyes to situations where You are asking me to follow You even though it may be difficult. Help me to depend on You and trust You. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Luke 1

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Lunch Break Study 

Read John 10:11-3: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”

1 Peter 5:2-4: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
Questions to Consider

  1. What makes a hired hand different than a shepherd?
  2. Read 1 Peter 5:1-4. What does Peter instruct of those who are shepherds in the church?
  3. How can we learn from the Good Shepherd?

Notes

  1. A shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, while a hired hand abandons the sheep to save his own life.
  2. Shepherds are instructed to watch over their flock, eagerly serve, and be examples to the flock. They are not to have a begrudging heart in serving, pursue dishonest gain, or lord their authority over others.
  3. We can only shepherd well when we understand how the Good Shepherd laid down His life for us to give us life. Then we can lay down our lives for others.

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Evening Reflection  

Ask yourself these questions and pray: Were there situations today where I behaved more like Philip in calculating the cost before trusting the Lord? Did I have trouble following the Good Shepherd today because I was afraid? If so, Lord, please forgive me and help me to see how You are trustworthy. As tomorrow is a new day filled with new mercies (Lam. 3:22-3), I pray your Holy Spirit would enable me to better remember Your character and promises.

August 22, Monday

Editor’s Note: Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Pastor Ryun Chang.

Devotional Thought for Today

John 9:1-3

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

PlatoWe are all philosophers at heart, especially when bad things happen.  When my sister-in-law was dying of cancer many years ago, a relative opined that it was because my family wasn’t supportive of my ministry.  When a friend’s wife was killed in an automobile accident, her father opined that this tragedy occurred because my friend didn’t respond to God’s call to enter ministry.  What philosophy did these people have in common?  Their view was that bad things happen because of the bad things we’ve done.

That’s also the philosophy that the disciples firmly held.  Upon seeing a man blind from birth, they were absolutely certain that the blindness was the result of someone’s sin; they just weren’t sure whether it was the sin of the blind man or his parents.  Christ’s answer— “neither this man nor his parents sinned”— must’ve stunned them.  Instead, God allowed this to happen so that Christ could heal him, and thereby “the work of God might be displayed.”  That is, this man was born blind so that Christ could heal him that day, where the entire episode would be included in John’s Gospel, in order that every generation of people may be reminded of who Christ is (i.e., the Son of God) and His power and love.

Of course, nothing Jesus said that day nullifies the view that sin can cause sickness.  After all, Christ told an invalid man whom He just healed, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (Jn. 5:14).  But since finite humans cannot know why people get sick, we shouldn’t be so nosy to figure it out.  Instead, we should “mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15) and pray that “the sick person” will get “well” (James 5:15).

Is there, then, no room to talk about why someone gets sick?  If you sincerely believe that there may be a spiritual cause, then pray that the sick person will bring it up first.  For that to transpire, it is imperative that what is taught in James 5:13-16 becomes part of our thought process.  Read it today when you are well so that if you ever get quite sick, you can ask whether an unrepentant heart is its root cause. If so, repent.

Prayer: Dear God, I praise You for being such a kind and compassionate God.  While we are busy passing judgment under the rubric of being discerning, You are always defending and caring for us.  Help me not to sin, but when I do, prompt my heart to repent immediately.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jude 1

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Lunch Break Study

 Read James 5: 13-16: Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the undeniable premise of this passage?
  2. What should be part of our thought process when we find ourselves with an illness?
  3. How should we respond to someone who has fallen sick? Is there someone in your life who needs a visit from you?

Notes

  1. While sin is not the cause of every sickness, it is in some cases; therefore, sin should not be automatically ruled out as a factor in one’s sickness.
  2. It is always insensitive for someone to tell a gravely ill person that this happened due to his or her sin. I think it is better for the sick individual to ask God whether some unrecognized and/or unrepentant sin is responsible for the sickness.  If the person sincerely believes that that’s not the case, then I would leave that alone (at least at the moment).
  3. We pay a visit and pray for them. And if the sick person wants to discuss the topic of why this happened, then we can read James 5:13-16, after which we may add, “The only person who can know whether your sickness is the result of sin is you; why don’t you, therefore, prayerfully think about it.  If there is nothing to it, then praise God.  We will continue to pray for your healing.”

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Evening Reflection

You probably know people who are sick right now.  Would you take a moment to pray that their health would improve?  Also, would you also pray, in the case that unrecognized sins are involved, that the sick person would pray, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts?” (Ps. 139:23)?

 

August 21, Sunday

Editor’s Note: The AMI QT Devotionals from Aug. 15-21 are provided by Cami King.  Cami, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania, has recently completed her M.Div. at Gordon Conwell Seminary.  She is currently serving as a staff at Journey Community Church in Raleigh. 

Devotional Thought for Today

John 8:56-59

Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” 59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.

21The Bible is full of paradoxes. My church just finished a sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. During one week we learned to approach God as Father – embracing sweet intimacy and closeness with Him, the access that a little child has to her dad. The following week we focused on hallowing God’s name and were reminded just how holy, other, and awesome God is. One Christian writer tried to put this into context: “If the distance between the Earth and the sun, which is 92 million miles, was the thickness of a piece of paper, the diameter of our galaxy would be a stack of papers 310 miles high. And our galaxy is less than a speck of dust in the part of the universe that we can see. And that part of the universe might just be a speck of dust compared to all the universe. And… [it’s] God who holds all this together with the word of his power…”

Now, who in their right mind instinctively approaches the One so fearsome with the freedom of a little child? So, how do intimacy and reverence coexist in our relationship with God? Most of us tend toward one or the other. Well, scripture doesn’t resolve this for us (by prioritizing one or eliminating the other) – both are true and we somehow live in the tension. There are many paradoxes like this in scripture – like the last shall be first or you must lose your life to save it.

Arguably the greatest paradox in the New Testament is the incarnation – the reality that Jesus is fully God and fully man. Our mathematical equations don’t even know how to add one to one to get one. So it’s no wonder why Jesus’ listeners had a really hard time accepting His claims to divinity (like the glaring one made in vs. 58) – so much so they tried to execute Him for blaspheming (being irreverent of God and speaking lies concerning Him). “How could this be?” they wondered. He is a man, which is literally not God (or so they thought).

As mind-boggling as it may be, God did take on flesh and lives in the world He made. And it’s within those two seemingly incompatible realities that we find the beauty of the Gospel. One phrase that got me through my seminary studies of scripture was, “Live in the tension!” Sometimes God’s truth is hard to believe or understand and sometimes there seem to be paradoxes in our very lives (between our present experience and God’s promises, for example). But we don’t have to resolve the tensions or explain them away. We actually find satisfying truth when we have enough faith to live smack dab in the [radical] middle of them.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, your ways are higher than my ways and your thoughts higher than my thoughts. Help me to trust in all Your wisdom, even when I struggle to understand. And help me to cling to all Your truths, regardless of my circumstances. In Jesus’ name.

Bible Reading for Today: Psalm 150

August 20, Saturday

Editor’s Note: The AMI QT Devotionals from Aug. 15-21 are provided by Cami King.  Cami, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania, has recently completed her M.Div. at Gordon Conwell Seminary.  She is currently serving as a staff at Journey Community Church in Raleigh. 

Devotional Thought for Today

John 8:31-32

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

20There are many images used in Scripture to describe the Christians’ relationship with God. To name a few, we are children, priests, salt and light. But one of the most important is that of a disciple. A disciple is a student – one who not only believes in but also learns from, follows, and obeys his/her teacher. All throughout the New Testament, we are called to be disciples of Jesus. But how many of us are answering that call?

In an article written for the C.S. Lewis Institute, pastor and author Timothy Keller explains what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus.  First, it means “setting a new priority” – Jesus is of first importance in our lives and we, forsaking all others, follow Him no matter the cost. Often times we want Jesus as our Savior, but not our Lord. We want to be saved from hell, but still want to do things our own way. But, “Jesus is Lord because he’s savior [and] He’s Savior because He’s Lord.” Keller explains that attempting to split the two is as nonsensical as inviting a friend named Barbara Boyd into your home but insisting that only Barbara come in, while Boyd remains outside. Furthermore, it’s silly for us to treat the God who created and sustains the universe as a personal assistant.  Second, discipleship means “finding a new identity.” Keller explains: “Discipleship is not just a matter of bending your will to Jesus’ will; it’s melting your heart into a whole new shape.” We are literally transformed as we follow Christ – our desires change, our thoughts change, and we change along the way. And finally, this is all possible because discipleship means “living a new mercy.” Look back over the years, and you will see that when people want to atone for their sins and be forgiven, they put a sacrifice on the altar and burn it with fire! There’s something inside us that intuitively says, “That can’t be enough to put away sins.” That’s right. All those fires were pointing to this fire [God’s judgment of Jesus in our place on the cross]…[that] came down on Jesus Christ. He came to take it. He came to bear it.

This is what it means to be a disciple. But are we living this way – with Christ as supreme priority (not work, family, comfort, etc.), being transformed into Christ’s likeness (when others see us, they see Him), and living in the fullness of the forgiveness of sin (not in guilt, shame, or reckless sinfulness)? Will you answer the call? Will you continue in the way of discipleship? May you experience the abundant life and freedom promised to all those who follow Him.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my life is Yours. I am your disciple. Possess me completely. Teach me to surrender all I am and all I have and transform me to be more like You, in light of Your abundant grace and mercy. Thank You for forgiving my sins and making me new. In Your name.

Bible Reading for Today: Psalm 148-149

August 19, Friday

Editor’s Note: The AMI QT Devotionals from Aug. 15-21 are provided by Cami King.  Cami, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania, has recently completed her M.Div. at Gordon Conwell Seminary.  She is currently serving as a staff at Journey Community Church in Raleigh. 

Devotional Thought for Today

John 8:12            

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” 

19This is the second of Jesus’ “I am” statements in the Gospel of John, and when the Great I Am starts explaining who He is, we had certainly better listen. There are many powerful layers to the important analogy Jesus makes between himself and light (and countless commentators have plumbed the depths of them). But what struck me most as I read this passage today was this question—“Do we even realize we are in the dark?”

One pastor told the following story of a friend’s experience with darkness:

I remember a story told to me by a friend who flew combat choppers in Viet Nam. He was radioed to a secret mission one night which required him to fly in total darkness, totally by instruments. Hovering above a jungle under heavy cloud cover, he told me that it seemed you could cut the darkness with a knife. He radioed to his man on the ground and said “what can you give me?” The guy had not even a flashlight. The landing had to be so precise, in a small “postage” stamp in the middle of the jungle-an error of five feet could crash the chopper and kill them all. Finally the man on the ground said “I have a zippo [lighter]!” He said “Light it and hold it up.” So in the middle of the jungles of Southeast Asia, on a top secret warfare mission, a combat chopper pilot landed by the light of a zippo lighter that pierced the darkness. (John Jones)

What if this captain was oblivious to the fact that he was in the dark? What if he had relied on himself and what he could see instead of his comrade with the lighter? The story would have ended very differently.

Apart from God we wander around in blinding darkness. But in Christ we have light! Yet so many of us rely on ourselves, forgetting our condition and need for Him. Today, may we remember our utter dependence on Jesus. He is our guiding light, granting us sight and guiding our paths.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for your forgiveness in Christ. May I take hold of it today and live anew through the power of your Spirit. In Jesus’ name.

Bible Reading for Today: Psalm 147

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Lunch Break Study 

Read Proverbs 3:5-12: 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 your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones. Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; 10 So your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine. 11 My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His reproof, 12 For whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.

Questions to Consider:

  1. According to verse 5, when we rely on our own ways of thinking, what are we also implicitly declaring?
  2. What promise is given in verse 6? How should this encourage us all the more to trust in the Lord?
  3. What are some areas where you “lean on your own understanding”? What would it look like for you to acknowledge God in those specific areas?

Notes:

  1. We are implicitly declaring that we do not trust God.
  2. That the Lord himself will lead us in straight paths. All we have to do is trust in Him. This should give us great comfort because the burden is no longer on us to find the best way or to figure everything out. We simply trust and our heavenly Father does that work for us.
  3. Spend some time in personal reflection.

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Evening Reflection  

We typically lean on our own understanding when (1) our wisdom and our way differs from the Lords (what we find in Scripture) – in other words, we think we know more than God – or (2) we find it too hard to surrender and to trust in a certain area of our lives (often accompanied by anxiety). We feel the stakes are too high to give control over to God. In the face of these realities, one helpful way to acknowledge the Lord is to meditate on any promises or teachings of scripture that speak to those specific areas, declaring God’s truth over and against our wisdom and fears.

What are some passages of Scripture that speak to the areas where you struggle to trust in God? Spend some time praying through them tonight, asking the Lord to help you surrender and trust in Him.

August 18, Thursday

Editor’s Note: The AMI QT Devotionals from Aug. 15-21 are provided by Cami King.  Cami, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania, is about to complete her M.Div. at Gordon Conwell Seminary.  She is currently serving as a staff at Journey Community Church in Raleigh. 

Devotional Thought for Today

John 8:3-5

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?”

18There were so many things Jesus could have said. I know what I would have said – “Where is the man with whom this woman was caught in the very act? I assume he was also there.” Or maybe, “How precisely did you catch these two in the act… I mean, really… all of you just stumbled upon them….” (I’ve always wondered exactly how this all went down.)

Nevertheless, Jesus surprises everyone, including the woman, with His response: “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (Mt. 8:7). I can only imagine the tension in the crowd as they waited in suspense to see who would be first. And when they all eventually dropped their stones and walked away, too aware of their own sin to condemn another for hers, I imagine the woman waited with bated breath for Jesus to do the job. But the jaw-dropping story continues. “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more” (Mt. 8:10). The only one with the right to condemn (the only sinless one), chose instead to offer forgiveness and called her to a new way of life.

This story is painfully familiar to most of us I know, but it is just too good to pass over. This is how Jesus deals with sinners who come before Him – He forgives and offers a new life. He went the distance to condemn sin so that never again will a sinner have to stand condemned. This is a picture of the gospel in one woman’s life, and we each have similar pictures of the gospel at work in our own.

Is there sin you’re battling today? Are there crowds condemning you (real or imaginary)? Maybe you are your own loudest crowd of condemnation. May you remember the gospel today and know that one voice not in that condemning crowd is the voice of Jesus. He instead bids you come, be forgiven, and live anew.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank You for Your forgiveness in Christ. May I take hold of it today and live anew through the power of Your Spirit. In Jesus’ name.

Bible Reading for Today: Psalm 146

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Lunch Break Study 

Read the following passage through a few times, meditatively.

Psalm 51:1-4, 10-13

Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is ever before me.
Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge.

10 
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You.

Questions to Consider:

  1. On what grounds does David appeal to the grace of God?
  2. What do vv. 2-3 teach us about the importance of confession?
  3. What should believers do once their sins are forgiven? What should receiving God’s grace compel us to do? (HINT: see v. 13)

Notes:

  1. David appeals according to God’s lovingkindness (or mercy) and God’s compassion for him.
  2. David doesn’t ignore his sin or downplay it. He knows his sin well and acknowledges it. This allows him to confess it to God and receive forgiveness.
  3. Share about God with others. Anyone who has freely received something so amazing wants to share it with others. Is there anyone in your life with whom you can share of God’s love and forgiveness?

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Evening Reflection  

The only prerequisite for receiving forgiveness is confession of sin. Psalm 51 that we partially read this afternoon is David’s famous prayer of confession. Spend some time reading through Psalm 51 and praying it in your own words. Ask the Lord for a clean heart and receive the forgiveness that He freely gives.

August 17, Wednesday

Editor’s Note: The AMI QT Devotionals from Aug. 15-21 are provided by Cami King.  Cami, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania, is about to complete her M.Div. at Gordon Conwell Seminary.  She is currently serving as a staff at Journey Community Church in Raleigh. 

Devotional Thought for Today

John 7:24

Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.

17I wonder how often we miss what God is up to in the world because we make quick judgments about the way things are, and how we think things should be. Or, better yet, how often we fail to see God in another person for the same reasons. Jesus was up to something amazing in Judea – God himself became man and was saving the world, albeit unassumingly. But because Jesus wasn’t doing the expected or moving in what they judged as God-like ways, many people totally missed it.

Recently, I was in a seminar and shown a picture of what could, at best, be called abstract art (at worst, a hot jumbled mess). The speaker promised that there was an animal in the picture and asked if anyone could find it. We looked and looked and one by one exclaimed, “I see it!” But some in the group just couldn’t see it. So he gave clues (“This is the animals nose. Does that help anyone? It’s a farm animal that you’re looking for. Do you see it now?”). After some time, everyone found the cow hidden in the picture. And once we saw the cow, it was impossible to un-see it. It was no longer “abstract art” but instead a very unique picture of a cow.

Life can often look like a hot jumbled mess… and people can too. But if we take the time to look long enough, we can find something pretty spectacular in the midst of that apparent mess. The old ladies in my church growing up used to always say, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”  I think His ways seem mysterious to us because our eyes don’t always see clearly, and we don’t always understand what’s really going on. We only see a hot jumbled mess and are shocked when beauty suddenly emerges from the ashes.

Whether it’s a circumstance or a person in our life, may we take a long hard look today, aided by the wisdom of the Spirit within, to see more clearly and begin to understand what God is up to.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please give me eyes to see. May I not rely on my own evaluations of circumstances and people, but may I patiently discern Your righteous judgments instead. In Jesus’ name.

Bible Reading for Today: Psalm 145

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Lunch Break Study 

Read the following passage through a few times, meditatively.

Romans 8:26-39: In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,

For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, northings present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What are some promises given to believers in these verses?
  2. How do these promises align with your assessment of your present reality? Spend some time encouraging yourself through these promises. It may help to restate them to yourself in the following way – “The Holy Spirit helps me when I’m weak.” “God is freely giving me all things.” Etc.). Ask God to help you see your present reality through the lens of these promises.

Notes:

  1. The Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. // The Holy Spirit is praying for us according to God’s good plan for us. // All things will work for our good. // We will be conformed to be like Jesus. // God is for us! // God will freely give us all things. // Christ is praying for us too. // We are more than conquerors no matter what comes our way. // Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

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Evening Reflection  

Was there a specific promise from today’s Lunch Break Study that was particularly encouraging for you? Consider writing it down and placing it somewhere you’ll see it regularly. Spend some time thanking God for His promises and His loving care for you in every season.

August 16, Tuesday

Cami KingEditor’s Note: The AMI QT Devotionals from Aug. 15-21 are provided by Cami King.  Cami, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania, is about to complete her M.Div. at Gordon Conwell Seminary.  She is currently serving as a staff at Journey Community Church in Raleigh. 

Devotional Thought for Today

John 7:3-5

But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and began to teach. 15 The Jews then were astonished, saying, “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?” 16 So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.

16What are your greatest weaknesses? Really think about it – maybe make a list. What comes to mind – mistakes made, personality quirks, physical limitations, aspects of your upbringing, deficiencies in your skills or talents (the list goes on)? We all have perceived shortcomings, and most of us go to great lengths to hide, downplay, or overcome them. But in today’s passage, we’re reminded that what would have been considered a weakness for Jesus (lack of formal education/training would have definitely been perceived as a weakness for a teacher) proved to be the very thing that enabled God’s power to shine through.

Author John Piper tells the following story about his own weakness:
I read slowly — about as fast as I speak. Many people read five or ten times faster than I do. I tried for years to overcome this weakness, with special classes and books and techniques. After about two decades of bemoaning this weakness (from age 17 to 37 or so), I saw there would be no change. This is one reason I left college teaching and the academic life. I knew I could never be what scholars ought to be: widely read.

What did it mean for me to identify and exploit this weakness? It meant first that I accept this as God’s design for my life. I will never read fast. It meant I stop complaining about it. It meant that I take my love for reading and do with it what I can for the glory of Christ. If I can only read slowly, I will do all I can to read deeply. I will exploit slowness. I will ask Jesus to show me more in reading little than many see in reading much. I will ask Jesus to magnify his power in making my slowness more fruitful than speed.

In realizing I cannot read many books, I will pour my limited scope into reading one book better than any other — the Bible. If I must read fewer of many books, then I will read more carefully the greatest book.

Today, may we embrace our weaknesses and allow God to glorify Himself through them.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for all the gifts and talents and opportunities You have given me. Help me choose today to leverage all I have to make You famous. Help me surrender my reputation and my opportunities to be known to You. Use all I am for Your glory. In Jesus’ name.

Bible Reading for Today: Psalm 144

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Lunch Break Study 

Read: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10: Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Questions to Consider:

  1. Without Paul’s “thorn,” what was he in danger of doing?
  2. What do we learn in v. 8 about what we should do when we face areas of weakness or struggle?
  3. What was God’s response to Paul’s struggle, and how did Paul receive God’s response? How does this encourage you in the face of your own struggles and weaknesses today?

Notes:

  1. Paul was in danger of exalting himself (v. 7), and having the thorn actually served as a barrier protecting him from that temptation.
  2. We should go to God! He is our help. It’s also important to note that Paul prayed fervently and many times concerning his situation—it was only after this that God responded. Many of us would have been embittered with God by the second appeal. And God didn’t respond by taking it away, but instead, He gave Paul wisdom and insight that he was able to pass along to us and that offered him a greater experiential knowledge of the grace of God. I find that very challenging – how about you?
  3. God responded by teaching Paul, through his weakness, to rely on the grace of God, and Paul learned experientially just how all-sufficient God’s grace is. Because of this, Paul responded with gladness – joyfully boasting in the area that had caused him such grief.

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Evening Reflection  

Yesterday, we reflected on our tendency to leverage our resources (our strengths) for our own glory and fame and challenged ourselves to surrender them to God for the glory of His name. It requires a new depth of humility to take the extra step of exposing our weaknesses and allowing God’s glory to shine through them.

Spend some time talking to God about the areas of weakness that came to mind this morning. What are some ways God has been able to shine through those weaknesses? Give God thanks. Are there areas of weakness that you still need to surrender? Offer them to God to be used for His glory. Ask for strength to embrace (and even boast in) your weaknesses, as you trust in Him.

August 15, Monday

Cami KingEditor’s Note: The AMI QT Devotionals from Aug. 15-21 are provided by Cami King.  Cami, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania, is about to complete her M.Div. at Gordon Conwell Seminary.  She is currently serving as a staff at Journey Community Church in Raleigh. 

Devotional Thought for Today

John 7:3-5

Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” 5 For not even His brothers believed in him.

15The impulse to be known is undeniable in every person. And most of us not only want to be known, but we’d love to be known and adored by a lot of people – the more the better. If you told the average person that tomorrow (s)he could be famous for being great at something, it would take a lot of discipline not to jump at the opportunity—oftentimes, regardless of the cost. While fame is an unrealistic aspiration for most, the desire still exists within us. We see it in little ways when we insist on getting credit for something we did, unnecessarily mention our connections/ talents/ accomplishments (or those of our kids) in conversation, acquiesce to our environment so we can get ahead with the “in” crowd (whomever they may be), compare ourselves to show how we’re stacking up against others, or put on labels and brand names just to “stunt” (as they say where I come from) or show off. In all of these we feed this desire. A little while back I started to feel really ordinary, I guess, and I found myself, subconsciously, sharing about how not-so-ordinary I was during my high school days. Reliving the glory days of juvenile popularity… I caught myself, eventually, and shook my head at how silly it all was.

One thing I learned quickly when I became a Christian in college is that my mission in this world is to make God famous… not me, but God. Our fame and popularity are willingly submitted to the greater mission of making God’s name known. That’s a pretty humbling reality. And not in the fake way – you know when people give God credit for things they really feel like they did themselves as they soak in all the accolades – but in a genuine way, leveraging all we have, even at the expense of our own reputation, our own opportunities to shine, for God’s mission and God’s fame.

Who are you making famous through your life? Jesus chose to make His Heavenly Father famous and as a result was greatly exalted. What will we choose?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for all the gifts, talents, and opportunities you have given me. Help me choose today to leverage all I have to make You famous. Help me surrender my reputation and my opportunities to be known to You. Use all I am for Your glory. In Jesus’ name.

Bible Reading for Today: Psalm 143

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Lunch Break Study 

Read Matthew 6:1-6: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

Questions to Consider:

  1. What is the danger of practicing righteousness before men?
  2. What is the promise that Jesus gives to those who give in secret? How does this encourage us?
  3. What are some ways you’re tempted to practice righteousness before men (do good for the praise of others)? What are some specific ways Jesus’ teaching can help you combat that temptation? What’s one practical step you can take to that end?

Notes:

  1. Jesus warns us not against all public expressions of righteousness, but against expressions of righteousness motivated by a desire to be seen and praised by others. If we do good solely to garner the praise of other people, that praise will be our full reward. But if we do good to please our Heavenly Father, He himself will reward us greatly.
  2. Jesus promises that God sees and will reward. This encourages us because we know that nothing done is done in vain because God, the giver of all good gifts, is watching and responding to all that we do for Him.
  3. Spend some time in personal reflection.

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Evening Reflection  

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:10)

29 Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)

Spend some time reflecting on the promises from Scripture above. In light of our time in the Word today, how do these verses challenge and encourage you to leverage your life for God’s fame? Spend some time praying about these things with the Lord.

August 14, Sunday

Editor’s Note: The AMI QT devotionals for August 8-14 are provided by Christine Li. Christine graduated from University of Pennsylvania and currently lives and works in New York City. She attends Remnant Church in Manhattan.

Devotional Thought for Today

John 6:27Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

12385268-Baker-at-the-oven-Stock-Vector-baker-bakery-breadOne of my favorite stories from my mom’s college days was when she moved into a high-rise apartment with a bakery on the ground floor. She had never eaten bread so delicious before, she claims, so she would visit every single day on the way home from classes. At one point, she even wondered if she should try marrying the master baker. Then, she reasoned, she would have an endless supply of tasty breads – not a bad life!

How silly it would have been if my mother actually pursued that in order to meet her goal of eating delicious bread. That temporary pleasure would hardly be worth the commitment and cost of marriage. This, of course, is a very extreme example, but if we assess the way we live, don’t we also tire ourselves by spending needless effort on something that passes away quickly?

Our precious resources – time, energy, money, ability – are what we trade away each day to get something else. What are you spending your efforts on? Is it to get food, which you will be hungry for again in a few hours? Is it an appearance, which will change with the fashions of the next season? Is it respect and fame, which fades when the next admirable person passes by?

Jesus said that His food was to do the will of God. His life was spent so that we might gain eternal life. Before we plunge again into another week or work and school, let’s take some time today to reconsider where our efforts are spent. Is it for food that spoils in these hundred years, or will it be for food that endures for thousands of millennia? May God give us the desire and the wisdom to work for His heavenly storehouses rather than those on Earth.

Prayer: Father, I confess that I spend too much of my life in search of fleeting things, using my precious resources to gain things that bring me momentary happiness. I want to gain what gives me eternal delight, Your kingdom that will never fade or perish. Give me a heart that truly treasures the things of Heaven so that I can spend my life appropriately.

Daily Bible Reading: Psalms 142