November 18, Saturday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional is written by Helen Soh, who serves at Symphony Church in Boston.  Helen, a graduate of Cornell University, is currently pursuing the Master of Divinity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“A Legacy full of Mistakes Testifying of God’s Faithfulness”

Romans 4-18-22 (ESV)

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promises of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.

A person’s legacy can be understood as the way people will remember that person after he or she has passed. It is the way the general public thinks about a person and his or her life, in retrospect. Many times, the way the public remembers someone is different from the way the public received the same person while he or she was alive. Consider how Vincent Van Gogh was only able to sell one piece of artwork in his lifetime, but he is now one of the most widely known artists of all time. The way biographers write about Van Gogh greatly differs from the way his peers talked about him (or rather, didn’t talk about him at all).

In the book of Genesis, God promises Abraham and Sarah a direct heir, or a son, and that eventually their descendants would as numerous as the stars in the sky. If we follow along in Abraham and Sarah’s faith journey, we read that they struggled to trust in that promise. When Sarah becomes of old age, she gives up on the idea of a direct heir and gives her Egyptian servant, Hagar, to Abraham to obtain children on Sarah’s behalf. During Abraham and Sarah’s lifetime, it would’ve been hard to believe that anyone would characterize them as particularly strong in faith.

In our passage today, Paul leaves us with a personal legacy of Abraham. However, the way Paul writes about Abraham’s faith journey seems different than what we would expect. He writes that “no unbelief made him waver considering the promises of God,” but instead, Abraham “grew strong in his faith.” In light of the Hagar incident, what does Paul mean that they did not waver, but grew stronger in faith?

What this passage teaches me is that God is gracious to our spiritual missteps and failures, and that He is mindful of our journey. There are consequences to Abraham and Sarah’s decision, but we read that God still chose to remind them of His promise, continue to walk with them, and eventually give them Isaac, at the right time. Abraham and Sarah’s mistakes and shortcomings do not become their legacies. Instead, they become the definitive moments in which they were being refined and strengthened in faith and opportunities to testify in God’s faithfulness. Likewise, our own shortcomings do not have to define us and our futures. Instead, God can use them.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You that You don’t hold us to our worst. Instead, You are gracious to walk with us at our worst and use it to strengthen our faith in You. Help us to remember how faithful You are and walk in this truth. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 17-18

November 17, Friday

AMI QT Devotionals for November 16-18 are provided by Pastor Paul Liu.

 

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The Blessing of Rebuke”

Genesis 20:8-18

So Abimelech rose early in the morning and called all his servants and told them all these things. And the men were very much afraid. 9 Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” 10 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you see, that you did this thing?” 11 Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, ‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ 12 Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife. 13 And when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, I said to her, ‘This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, “He is my brother.”’” 14 Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male servants and female servants, and gave them to Abraham, and returned Sarah his wife to him. 15 And Abimelech said, “Behold, my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you.” 16 To Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver. It is a sign of your innocence in the eyes of all who are with you, and before everyone you are vindicated.” 17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. 18 For the Lord had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.

No one likes to hear the words, “I told you so,” even when we know we’re wrong—it just sounds annoying and reeks of condescension. Yet for all the ways we don’t like to have our faults pointed out to us, we usually won’t grow without it. In fact, the apostle Paul tells us: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Notice the functions of Scripture in these verses: teaching, reproof, correction, equipping and training. Yes, there’s a cognitive aspect in teaching, but there is also correction and reproof (NIV says, ‘”rebuking”), which means, if we are to grow in faith, we need the rebuke of Scripture, as well as others to rebuke us according to Scripture. It’s part of our training in faith.

When Abraham moves his family to the Philistine town of Gerar—thinking that nobody fears God there—he acts out of disbelief and fear. He lies that Sarah is his sister and not his wife—which leads to a world of trouble when King Abimelech claims Sarah for himself. So God continues Abraham’s training by using the words of a pagan king to rebuke His own prophet. Abimelech doesn’t say, “I told you so,” but he does question Abraham’s integrity in misleading him and bringing God’s anger against his household. It’s correction. It’s reproof. And like many of us, Abraham doesn’t respond well, becoming defensive and making excuses. He cannot deny his fault, but he doesn’t fully take responsibility for his failures either. It’s a lesson half-hearted learned, which might be why we revisit this same scenario in the life of Abraham’s son in Genesis 26 (same place: Gerar; same problem: fear; same failure: lying that his wife is his sister).

The end result in today’s passage is that God’s prophet blesses his new neighbors from a position of humility and grace. God still uses the trouble-making prophet and humbles him through truthful rebuke.

Prayer: Lord, give me a teachable heart today, so that my pride would not keep me from facing the areas in my life that You want to change. Help me to recognize Your correction, no matter what form it comes in. And give me the strength to take responsibility for my sin so that I might experience the fullness of Your grace. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 16


Lunch Break Study

Read Ephesians 4:14-16: Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Questions to Consider

  1. How might “teaching,” “cunning,” “craftiness,” and “deceitful scheming” undermine genuine faith?
  2. Why do you think “speaking the truth in love” is important for the church?
  3. Is there a person in your life who needs to hear the truth in love? Take a moment to write down biblical truths that need to be incorporated into their life. Begin to pray about how you might share this truth in love. Pray also for opportunities in which you might do so.

Notes

  1. Paul is telling us that maturity inevitably involves discernment—that is, being able to identify what is not true, only partially true, and distortions of the truth. Because until and unless we can do this, we will always be susceptible to manipulation, like children struggling to tread water in the sea; this means, we must nurture an inquisitive mindset when approaching Scripture and seek understanding rather than just taking the word of our spiritual leaders. This does not mean that we are to be skeptical or judgmental; rather, we are to be teachable, eager to learn, and able to study the Bible for ourselves.
  2. It is the means through which growth happens in the church. It’s truth in love; NOT JUST TRUTH: I’m sure we can all think of instances where someone “gave it to us straight,” and we could not stomach it because of how it was said. And NOT JUST LOVE: Most of us also know the “love” side, where we avoid telling the truth, even to the point of tolerating bad behavior—all in the name of being a good friend. Neither approaches are adequate in Jesus’ church. Telling the truth in love is a matter of attitude and care. Our goal is the growth of our brother and sister; our motive is caring concern; and our approach is truthful but gentle—not belligerent or vengeful. In truth, this approach is also a skill we need to develop, since so much of our previous experience emphasizes one to the neglect of the other (truth over love, or love over truth).

Evening Reflection

Quote: “Too often, we say we are defeated by this or that sin. No, we are not defeated. We are simply disobedient. It might be good if we stop using the terms victory and defeat to describe our progress in holiness. Rather, we should use the terms obedience and disobedience. When I say I am defeated by some sin, I am unconsciously slipping out from under my responsibility. I am saying something outside of me has defeated me. But when I say I am disobedient, that places the responsibility for my sin squarely on me. We may in fact be defeated, but the reason we are defeated is because we have chosen to disobey.

“We need to brace ourselves up and to realize that we are responsible for thoughts, attitudes, and actions. We need to reckon on the fact that we died to sin’s reign, that it no longer has any dominion over us, that God has united us with the risen Christ in all His power and has given us the Holy Spirit to work in us. Only as we accept our responsibility and appropriate God’s provisions will we make any progress in our pursuit of holiness.”
Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness

We see in the life of Abraham that it’s one thing to be protected by God and another to be teachable. Abraham’s lying becomes a repeated pattern in his life and in the life of his descendants because he failed to receive the correction of God fully. What areas of weakness did the Holy Spirit bring to your awareness today? Pray that God may lead you in rejecting every impulse that comes from fear and insecurity. And ask for His strength to make you courageous, consistent and truthful.

November 16, Thursday

AMI QT Devotionals for November 16-18 are provided by Pastor Paul Liu.

 

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Same Old Struggles”

Genesis 20:1-7

From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. 2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” 4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”

I’m not sure about you, but if I could, I’d wear a t-shirt and jeans everyday. And not just any t-shirt and jeans—it has to be my favorite ones. Most people have clothes like that— comforting and comfortable—where you can’t wait to get out of your work clothes to put on these comfortable ones. That’s probably how Abraham felt about taking up his favorite defense mechanism for when the going got tough: he started lying. We see it happen in this text, as well as in Genesis 12:10-13: out of fear for his life, he tells Sarai to lie that she’s his sister and not his wife. It was like putting on a favorite t-shirt for Abraham—comfortable, even though it was a plan with holes all over it. Abraham panicked and chose deceit rather than truth.

Jerry Bridges tells us that one of the reasons why pursuing holiness is so hard is because we’ve built a lifetime of sinful habits. Yes, we have an Adversary attacking us; and yes, we’re in a spiritual battle; and yes, we have powerful resources for victory. But all of these truths are supported by the disciplines we choose. Lying to avoid confrontation became easier for Abraham through practice. It felt natural to do it, like it was part of his wardrobe for handling difficult situations. Even after God’s judgment on Sodom, in the heat of the moment, what came natural to Abraham was not the fear of God but the familiar habit of lying to save his skin. And if we are to change, we need to recognize that knowing what is right and acting on what we know are not always the same. It’s easy to judge Abraham for making the same mistake twice but we do it all the time as well.

We need to develop habits of self-examination as David did when he prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart” (Psalm 139:23); habits of prayerfulness and repenting for “any grievous way in me” (v.24a); and habits that help us appropriate God’s strength as David asked God, “lead me in the way everlasting” (v.24b).

Prayer: Lord, reveal to me today the habits of untruth that I often employ to protect myself. Expose to me the ugliness of my ways, so that I might repent and trust You. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 15


Lunch Break Study

Read Psalm 139: O Lord, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar… 7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me…
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you… 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Questions to Consider

  1. What would motivate a person to ask the Almighty God to search them?
  2. How does David’s understanding of God’s character lead to deeper faith?
  3. Does David’s request that God search him (v.23) inspire you or unnerve you? Why?

Notes

  1. Simply put—love. David loved God and he wanted his life to please Him.
  2. David reflects on God’s omnipresence (the fact that He’s everywhere) and omniscience (the fact that He knows everything), as beautiful and comforting. So in his desire to please God, David asks the all-knowing God to reveal his weaknesses so that he might grow in integrity and maturity.

Evening Reflection

Think about the moments in which the Holy Spirit revealed “grievous ways” in you today—attitudes or actions that were self-serving rather than God-honoring. Were you a repeat offender in any of these things? Don’t give up! Repent! Ask God to keep exposing that which does not please Him in you. And pray for strength to develop habits of integrity, honor, and truth.

November 15, Wednesday

 

The AMI QT Devotionals for November 15-16 are provided by Jennifer Kim, a staff of Church of Southland, Anaheim, California.   Jennifer, a graduate of Biola University, is current finishing up her M.Div. at Talbot School of Theology.

 

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Luke 15:4-7

“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

Upon returning from our church retreat a couple months ago, I discovered that I had lost my car keys.  Immediately, I went into a panic mode and began searching everything around me.  I frantically checked all of my belongings, every vehicle I had entered, and every room I set my foot in.  When some of the church members noticed my predicament, they quickly jumped in and helped me search for my keys as well.  One of my friends even went as far as to call the retreat site and ask about any lost items.  After a couple hours passed by, I came to the unfortunate reality that my keys were officially lost.

Throughout the following weeks, not a day went by without me thinking about my keys.  I found myself constantly retracing my steps, forwards and backwards, in hopes that I may have overlooked a spot where I could have misplaced them.  I called the retreat site again multiple times and searched our entire church building with a sense of determination.  However, after two full weeks of incessant searching, I was left disappointed and ready to give up.  As I reluctantly made the decision to move forward and make the necessary replacements, I received an unexpected text from one of our staff members.  To my surprise, my keys had been discovered in the back crevice of one of the church vans.  I literally leapt to my feet and was filled with an overwhelming sense of relief and happiness.  My keys were finally found!

As silly as this story may be, I am reminded of the relentless love of our God.  If we, being merely men, have such concern for a couple scraps of metal, how much more does our Heavenly Father have concern for those who are completely lost and without hope? Here, we see a God who actively pursues us in our desperate need.  He does not leave us to fend for ourselves, but His eyes watch over us with careful attention.

As we reflect on this short passage this morning, let us be reminded of God’s great love for us.  That no matter where we have been or what we have done, God never rejects a heart that is broken and contrite before Him (Ps. 51:17).  He opposes the proud, but rejoices over a heart of humility.  Let us give thanks to God for how far He has carried us up until this point.  But not only that, as we have been recipients of God’s undeserving grace, may we also seek to exemplify the heart of our Father and become a channel of God’s blessing to those around us.  Perhaps God is nudging you to be the very display of His care to another.  Whether this is to extend a helping hand or a listening ear to a friend, family member, or co-worker, may you be used by God to be a source of fresh hope and encouragement today!

Prayer: God, thank You for being a Father who never gives up on me.  Help me to have a heart that is tender before You and actively seek to be an extension of Your love and care to others.  In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 14


Lunch Break Study

Read Luke 18:9-14: And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Questions to Consider

  1. How did the Pharisee measure his standing and righteousness before God?
  2. What was the tax collector’s posture before God?
  3. Why was the tax collector’s prayer to God more justified than the Pharisee?

Notes

  1. The Pharisee depended upon his own religious works and performance. He thought himself to be more superior to others because of how much he fasted and tithed to God (v.12).
  2. The tax collector was aware of his sinfulness and desperately pleaded for God’s mercy (v. 13).
  3. The Pharisee was full of pride and was impressed with his own ability to perform religious works. He was completely unaware of His desperate need for God and thought he was better than the tax collector.  On the other hand, the tax collector understood the gravity of his sin and felt unworthy to approach a holy God.  He knew that only God could ultimately save him from his sinful condition.  He humbled himself before God’s saving mercy rather than relying on his own righteousness.

Evening Reflection

Take some time to reflect on everything that happened today.  In what ways were you a channel of God’s blessing to those around you?  In what ways did you struggle to be a display of God’s love?  Pray for strength and ask God to fill you with His love and compassion.

November 14, Tuesday

Jennifer Kim, a graduate of Boston University, spent a year in Shanghai as one-year intern from 2013-14. She is currently serving as a staff at Catalyst Agape Church (New Jersey) while attending Alliance Theological Seminary.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Saving Friendship

Mark 2:1-5

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

During my senior year in college, I started experiencing these awful “night terrors”, in which I would wake up in sheer panic and fear. It was a very bizarre experience, but as a result I actually became afraid to go to bed. After a few weeks of dealing with this, I became desperate for healing and I knew I had to share with my roommates. That very night, as I mustered up the courage to share, they decided to tuck me into bed and pray over me. In my exhaustion I fell asleep as they were praying, but in the middle of the night I startled myself awake, not out of fear or panic, but to use the restroom, completely unaware that I had gone almost the entire night without a single nightmare. But as I was getting out of bed I noticed all three of my roommates huddled together sleeping on the floor of my 80 square feet room. As a matter of fact, because they could not all fit in my room, one of them was sleeping in the hallway of our apartment. From that night on, I never woke up in panic or fear again—I was completely healed.

In today’s passage we read a similar story of four friends who carried a paralytic to Jesus to be healed, but seeing that they could not get to Jesus, they climbed the roof and made a hole to lower him down. For these men, what mattered most was not what others would think, or the inconvenience of having to carry the paralytic up a roof and make a hole to lower him down; it didn’t even matter to them what the cost would be in damaging the roof of this home. How easy it would have been for the friends to have given up or to make excuses, but instead they went out of their way to see the one they love be healed. As Jesus witnessed the sacrificial act of the four friends, he states that it was the faith of these men that healed the paralytic.

It was the prayers of my roommates that healed me that day; and the love I witnessed through my friends as they laid on my bedroom floor showed me the love the Father. Friendship is one of the greatest gifts God has given us, and we learn through today’s story that a good friend is someone who is able to go above and beyond for the ones they love, and point you to Jesus our healer. A good friend is able to lift up those in need of healing and recognize that your faith can make a difference in their lives.

Today I want to ask you whether you are being a good friend. Are you available and willing to inconvenience yourself to point the ones you love to Jesus? Are you encouraging others in faith or are your ways hurting the ones you care about? We are called to act in God’s love to the people God has entrusted us with, may we live our lives like the four friends whose faith healed the paralytic.

Prayer: God, thank You for the gift of friendship. I ask that You would help me to be like the four friends in demonstrating sacrificial love. Help me to be someone that others can go to when they need to be pointed to Jesus.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 13


Lunch Break Study

Read John 15:15-17: I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

Questions to Consider:

  1. Jesus states that we are no longer servants but friends. What distinguishes a servant of Jesus from a friend of Jesus?
  2. While Jesus tells us that he is the initiator of this friendship, what does he say is the reason we are called into this friendship?
  3. Personal question: What stands in the way of deepening your friendship with Jesus?

Note

  1. Servants do not know the ways of their master, while friends share in all the knowledge that they have with one another.
  2. We are called to bear lasting fruit through the love of the Father in us.
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

We learned from today’s morning devotional and lunch break study that the friendship we enjoy with Jesus is meant to be shared by loving others. Let’s reflect on our friendships and ask ourselves whether we are sharing the love of Jesus by loving the ones God has entrusted us with. Write down specific ways you can reach out to others in friendship and let’s put them to action!

November 13, Monday

Jennifer Kim, a graduate of Boston University, spent a year in Shanghai as one-year intern from 2013-14. She is currently serving as a staff at Catalyst Agape Church (New Jersey) while attending Alliance Theological Seminary.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

The Cost of Ingratitude

Luke 17:11-19 

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

With the pumpkin spice lattes, cornucopia decorations, and colder weather upon us, it’s clear that the long awaited day of food coma and family get-togethers is approaching. But we all know that the reason for the season isn’t for the turkey or the cornbread, or even the pumpkin pie, but it’s to remember all that we should be thankful for this season. I’m sure you’ve heard countless messages and read dozens of devotionals explaining why we should be grateful and what we should be grateful for, but have you ever wondered what the cost of ingratitude is?

In today’s passage we read of the ten men with leprosy who call out to the Lord for his mercy and healing. As Jesus directs them to go and show themselves to the priests, the men realize they are healed, but only one out of the ten men turn back to give God praise. What’s interesting here is that Luke, the author, makes it a point to emphasize that the one person who returned to give Jesus thanksgiving was “a Samaritan” (v.16), a “foreigner” (v.18). We can assume by this statement that the other nine were Israelites, the chosen people of God, yet the very people who were called to be set apart fail to return and “give praise to God except this foreigner” (v.18). For Jesus, it was important that all of the men return to Jesus to give gratitude for what He had done. It didn’t matter that the nine were Israelites, it didn’t matter if they were thankful in their hearts, and it didn’t even matter if they knew Jesus was the healer, what mattered most to him was that they would express their gratitude. We can learn from this story that unexpressed gratitude will always be received and felt like ingratitude.

Often times we have this mentality that we do not need to give thanksgiving because it’s already understood or because we are entitled to what we have received. How many times have we said, “My parents/friends/pastors know I’m thankful for them, I don’t need to tell them,” or how about “I don’t need to say thank you, that’s their job”? But Jesus shows us that unexpressed gratitude is also failure to worship. Clearly, it was important for Jesus that all of the lepers return to give praise, and we too are called to praise God through thanksgiving. Can I ask you: Are you living your life like the nine or are you living your life like the one who turned back to give Jesus thanksgiving? We are all where we are today because someone has led us to this point, so let us live our lives like the thankful leper by giving gratitude where gratitude is due.

Prayer: God, thank you that every good and perfect gift is from You. Help me to remember this and give thanksgiving in all seasons of life. And help me to be a worshiper by giving thanksgiving to the people who have helped me be where I am today.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 12


Lunch Break Study

Read Exodus 14:10-14: As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” 13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Why did the Israelites so quickly forget God’s intervention and faithfulness in their lives?
  2. What did Moses say to the Israelites in the midst of their fear?
  3. What steps can you take to stand firm and remember the character and faithfulness of God in your life?

Note

  1. It is part of our fallen nature—“What have you done for me lately!” Somewhere along the way, they became very entitled—they even complained about having to eat manna every day.
  2. Despite their ungrateful attitude, Moses assures the Israelites that God will continue to support them.
  3. Get a blank sheet of paper and write down all the things God has done for you throughout the years. Then, thank the Lord for being faithful and kind to you for all these years.

Evening Reflection

Today we learned that there is a cost to ingratitude and that is failure to give God worship. We are indebted to so many people who have helped us be where we are today. To cultivate this heart of gratitude let us reflect on the people that you may have taken for granted. I want to encourage you to write them a note expressing your gratitude and give it to them this season.

November 12, Sunday

The AMI QT Devotionals for November 11-12 are provided by Christine Wang who, along with her husband Ulysses, recently planted the Renewal Church in Sunnyvale, California. A graduate of New York University, Christine is a proud mother of Audrey and Noah.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Cultivating Obedience (Part 2)

Jonah 3:1-3

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth

Yesterday, I shared how God didn’t relinquish my husband Ulysses and me from the call to China after we had run from it. Instead, He relentlessly pursued us and allowed us time in the “belly of the fish” to experience Him.

RETURN: While God never relinquished us, it was us who, under the Lord’s tender guidance, were finally able to relinquish all of our weak reasons for disobeying and returned to His calling on our lives. Praise God for giving us second chances and not passing us over when we initially refuse! In September 2012, our family went back to China. We spent the next two years there ministering to a local church and learning so much about ourselves. We were stretched and challenged—it was so difficult but so good. It began to work in me a faith to obey Him who is trustworthy. It was a critical refining period and little did we know it would prepare us for what was to come…

REVELATION: The story of Jonah seems like it could have ended at chapter 3 with Jonah’s obedience to return to Nineveh. Amazingly, it doesn’t. Chapter 4 shows the very real and raw emotions Jonah feels after obeying God. Our obedience could easily be just about performing the task given to us. But we need to remember, God doesn’t need us to do anything. I am reminded of that fact from seeing Jonah’s rather insincere preaching (he hoped that the Ninevites wouldn’t repent and be destroyed as a result—Jonah 4:5-9) resulted in the repentance of an entire nation: “The Ninevites believed God.  They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth” (Jonan 3:5).

So then why does He choose to partner with us to carry out His will on earth? It is an incredible truth that God loves us so much that He wants to transform us and reveal His heart to us in this process. Learning to obey God has fundamentally transformed me and given me a bigger heart for others. When He called us to SF last year to plant a new church, we went through a similar process, but this time, rather than two years, it took a little over two months to say “yes” again!

In Matthew 12:40 says, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Ultimately, Jesus empowers us to say yes because He obeyed the Father and said yes to the Cross. He relinquished all of His rights as the Son of God to save us. Because of that and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can also relinquish and obey!

Do you believe God wants to reveal and transform you – not just get you to perform a task? He cares about you, not just what you do. Wherever you are in the process of turning that NO to a YES, remember that He seeks to work in you!

Prayer:  Lord, I thank You for Your sacrifice that you made on the cross.  Transform me and fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that I could surrender and obey You completely and wholeheartedly.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 11

November 11, Saturday

The AMI QT Devotionals for November 11-12 are provided by Christine Wang who, along with her husband Ulysses, recently planted the Renewal Church in Sunnyvale, California. A graduate of New York University, Christine is a proud mother of Audrey and Noah.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Cultivating Obedience (Part 1)

Jonah 1:1-4

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. 4 But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up

Jonah 1:15-17

So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. 17 And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

I had the privilege of giving a seminar at the AMI West Coast Women’s Conference this past August. This devotion is adapted from that talk.

Run.  Why is it that whenever God calls us to do something, our first reaction is to run in the opposite direction? I know for myself, it is always because of my feelings of inadequacy, insecurity and fear. Maybe you would fill in that blank with different things that only you struggle with. Whatever the case, we often find our lives filled with, “I can’t, Lord.” I heard a sermon once preached where the pastor said, “Call it for what it really is. Your ‘I can’t’ is really, ‘I won’t.’” For me, that was all too true. Thankfully, God wanted to change my “Nos” to “Yeses.” There are four things we experience during that process.  I will share two today and the rest tomorrow.

God first spoke to me about going to China in 2010, but I convinced myself that I didn’t hear correctly. At the heart of it, I just didn’t want to go. I never felt particularly called to missions and had little experience so I was genuinely dismayed at the idea. I justified my inability to obey for a whole year with what I thought were very reasonable things: We had a 2-year old toddler. I was pregnant with our second. We just purchased a condo via an extremely hard-to-come-by housing lottery in Manhattan (Manhattan!). We were “needed” at Remnant. Surely God could see that these were very legitimate reasons for not uprooting our family and moving abroad!

But God kept tugging at our hearts in His gracious and patient way. He wanted to cultivate obedience in us. We were able to see that but still lacked the faith to fully commit to the idea. As a compromise, we went on a 3-month trip to China in the summer of 2011. Barely into my second trimester and still feeling extremely nauseous, I remember how miserable I was almost the entire trip. When we left to go home to NY, I was relieved we had “gotten that out of our system” and could go back to our normal life. But God wasn’t done with us yet.

Relinquish. To my surprise, God didn’t relinquish us from the call to China. The call only grew stronger. Over the following year, God powerfully ministered to both me and Ulysses. He gave us time in the “belly of the fish.” We thought we had escaped God, but really, we were forced to face Him. We cried, confessed, wrestled, repented, praised and then eventually re-committed our lives to Him. In March of 2012, we finally surrendered and said, “Yes, Lord. We will go.”

Tomorrow, I will share what the Lord continued to show us, in China; for today, please be reminded of God’s relentless pursuit of us so that we may join Him at His work—that is, even if we are weak and inadequate, the Lord is able and willing to make us fit for His service.

Prayer:  Lord, thank You that even when we try to run away from obeying You, You continue to pursue us and gently bring us back to You.  Help us to realize what a privilege it is that You desire to use us for Your Kingdom work.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 9-10

November 10, Friday

The AMI QT Devotionals from November 6-12 are provided by Pastor Paul Liu, who pastors the Grace Covenant Church Singapore. He is a graduate of University of Illinois (BA) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.). He and his wife Ailsa have three beautiful daughters.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The Trail that Sin Leaves Behind You”

Genesis 19:30-38

Now Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters. 31 And the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth. 32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.” 33 So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father. He did not know when she lay down or when she arose. 34 The next day, the firstborn said to the younger, “Behold, I lay last night with my father. Let us make him drink wine tonight also. Then you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.” 35 So they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. 36 Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. 37 The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day. 38 The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day.

Shocking! That’s not an unusual response to the content of the Bible, since the Bible is filled with realistic portrayals of sin and tragedy and failure: Abraham, the father of faith, lies through his teeth. Moses, the deliverer of his people, was a murderer. David, the man after God’s own heart, committed adultery, had the woman’s husband killed, and covered up the whole affair. None of it is softened or rationalized away. We’re just shown the ugly truth about sinful people so that we might see how awful sin is and its consequences.

In this passage, fear is—once again—the driving force in the family of Lot. Fear drives the family to go hiding in the hills. We’re not told exactly what they were afraid of, but it’s likely that they were haunted by the trauma of seeing their city destroyed and their wife-mother turned to salt. Ironically, Lot leaves the place of refuge that he begged God for, to go to the place the angels had originally directed him towards. What happens next is awful: the daughters conspire to get their father drunk, sleep with him, and then their offspring would become enemies of God’s people.

One lesson we learn is that sin always leaves behind it a trail of sadness. We dare not suppose that our sin doesn’t matter—even if nobody sees it. Sin always affects us. It destroys intimacy with God and one another. It leaves us less able to share our selves, more prone to self-indulgence, takes away the motivation to serve, and makes us negligent of what matters most. Have you ever followed behind a car with an exhaust problem? The smell is bad. The smoke is thick. In the wake of that vehicle is literal darkness. These are all signs of an internal problem. What lies in your wake? Is the trail behind you one of sin’s scars or God’s healing? What do these signs say about the condition of your heart?

Prayer: Lord, teach me today to take seriously the problem of sin in my life. Show me its negative consequences and help me to stop running away from You and start running to You instead. Lead me in the way of truth today. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 8


Lunch Break Study

Read Psalm 51:1-12: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Questions to Consider

  1. What does David ask God to do about his sin?
  2. How does David take responsibility for his sin?
  3. What is the basis of David’s requests for God’s mercy?
  4. What sin/s do you need to ask God to forgive? Do it right now.

Notes

  1. Notice David’s audacity to ask that God “blot out my transgressions” (v.1,9); “cleanse me from my sin” (v.2); “wash me whiter than snow” (v.7); and “create in me a clean heart”(v.10). He’s asking for a full forgiveness.
  2. First of all, he acknowledges his sin (v.3). No longer is David trying to hide it, make excuses, or ignore it. He also acknowledges the wickedness of his sin (v.4) and that his sin offends God’s holiness. Again, there’s no bargaining or self-justification. David doesn’t make excuses for his bad behavior. He just admits its ugliness and offense before God.
  3. The wonderful power of this prayer is that it teaches us that the basis of our forgiveness is not performance but grace. This is not a formula for how to feel or what to do to earn forgiveness. This is an appeal to God’s character. David says, “Have mercy on me, according to YOUR unfailing love, according to YOUR abundant mercy” (v.1). He’s not trusting himself; he’s trusting in the character of God. In light of the New Testament, we have an even greater confidence, because now we know that it’s on the basis of Jesus’ performance and His sacrifice for sin on the cross that we have God’s forgiveness.
  4. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

In what areas of your life do you see sin’s consequences? Pray that God would redeem these areas of brokenness and pain.