September 22, Friday

Today’s AMI QT is provided by Cami King of JCC (Raleigh).

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“THE FAVOR OF GOD”

Genesis 6:8-10

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved [in His heart. The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.”]

 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. 10 Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

 


Favor is a fairly pedestrian idea in our culture today. We all probably use this word most often in the phrase, “Can you do me a favor?” when we ask another person to do something for us that they are not required or obligated to do and would only do out of the generosity and kindness of their heart. Well, there is nothing pedestrian or mundane about the favor of God! This idea in Scripture is loaded with significance. When a person finds favor in the eyes of the Lord, they are blessed beyond measure. Take a moment to think of the most significant person alive – whomever you’d give that title. What if you were their favorite person! And you had direct access to all their power, money, influence and connections – to all their significance! Wouldn’t that be amazing?

 

 

I remember when I first became a Christian, I was convinced that I was God’s favorite child. There was just no other explanation for how good He was to me. God was always caring for me in such specific and personal ways that I was certain I consumed all His attention and affection. I remember reading the passage in Scripture that says God doesn’t show partiality or favoritism. I wasn’t so sure about that! I had experience after experience to suggest otherwise. Yet, the longer I walked with God, the more I understand that verse. God doesn’t have favorites because His favor is available to all who choose to enter into relationship with Him. There is enough favor to go around!

What does it take for us to land ourselves in the favor of the Lord? In Genesis 6, we learn that in the midst of a wicked world, Noah found favor with God. Why? Because he walked with God (just like Enoch!). In walking with God Noah was able to live a righteous and blameless life even in wicked times. I think it’s easy to look at Noah and focus on what Noah did right – imagining that he is some sort of super saint who never sinned in the ways we do. The rest of the narrative of the life of Noah let’s us know that was not the case. Instead we should focus our attention on God. It was God who showed His favor toward Noah. It was God who chose Noah. All Noah had to do was turn to God, to walk with God. That’s something that we can do too! When we do, we receive the unmerited favor that God freely gives to us, and we find access to an even greater salvation than Noah found during his day – we find eternal salvation through Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank You for finding favor in me. Thank You for choosing to bless me and care for me as I walk with You. Help me today to remember that I am favored by the Almighty God of the Universe. May this truth bring me great hope and courage. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 46-47

September 22, Friday

Today’s AMI QT is provided by Cami King of JCC (Raleigh).

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“THE GRIEF OF GOD”

Genesis 5:21-24

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.”

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.” (C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed)

After the death of his wife, C.S. Lewis kept a journal chronicling his grief. Those journal entries became a book called A Grief Observed. In this small but impactful volume, readers are granted privileged access to private moments of a faithful saint searching for God in the midst of life’s greatest darkness. In the excerpt above, Lewis describes the experience and sensation of grief in vivid detail. For those of us who’ve faced times of grief, it is not hard to access Lewis’ words.

Take a moment now to remember a time when you experienced grief. How would you describe that experience?

Imagining Lewis’ grief after the death of his wife is not a challenging exercise. What is difficult to imagine (for me at least) is God suffering grief and coping with loss. Yet in Genesis 6, we are told of a time when God experienced deep regret after making humanity because of their wickedness and sin. God grieved. Growing up around the church I’ve heard the phrase, “Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit” (maybe you have too), but seeing God’s grief here in such emotive language is tough.

The sins of humanity—my sins and your sins—utterly break God’s heart. Yet we willingly sin everyday. As people in relationship with God, may we desire to live in a way that delights the heart of God, not break it.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me enough to be brokenhearted over my brokenness. Thank You for caring about the world enough to be grieved over sin. Help me today to be more aware of You, and how the things I do make You feel. Help me to also remember that You didn’t stop at grief, You moved forward to redemption and restoration. May I take hold of that today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 45


Lunch Break Study

Read Genesis 5:21-24: Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  6 The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.”

Ephesians 5:25-31: Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. 26 BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity. 28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. 29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Questions to Consider:

  1. According to these two passages, what kinds of things grieve God?
  2. As a person who is in a relationship with God, how does being aware of God’s grief over sin affect you?
  3. What are some specific things Paul reminds us to do in Ephesians 5 to keep us from walking in sin? Which things from this list strike you most today as areas where you can walk in greater obedience? (Try to pick one specific area.)

Notes:

  1. Sin grieves the heart of God – evil intent in our hearts and minds and wicked deeds in our daily lives. One important theme in Ephesians 4 is God’s displeasure over our mistreatment of one another. In these verses we are warned not to behave wickedly toward one another and then reminded not to cause God grief.
  2. Spend some time in personal reflection.
  3. Paul tells us (1) stop lying and speak truth, (2) stop sinning in our anger, (3) stop stealing and work and to the community from our work, (4) speak in a manner that is edifying and gives grace to the hearer, (5) get rid of bitterness, (6) get rid of wrath, (7) get rid of anger, (8) get rid of clamoring, (9) don’t slander anyone, (10) get rid of malice, (11) be kind and tender-hearted to others, (12) forgive as we’ve been forgiven.

Evening Reflection

In an article for Christianity today, Pastor Rob Strong reflects the topic, “What brings God joy?”:

“When my wife surprises me with ‘taco night’ at our house, that makes me happy. When I find a few spare dollars in my pocket or time to sit for my favorite movie, that also makes me happy. But joy is different. Joy is deeper than happiness and rises from within the soul rather than from circumstance. It redefines a situation, makes it more meaningful, and you feel it in your bones. When one of my children climbs on my lap and wants to be held, I experience joy. Or when I have a thoughtful conversation with someone who is considering a more meaningful understanding of God, that brings me joy. Or when I can spend time with [my wife] at our favorite restaurant, alone, just connecting. Yes, that brings me incredible joy. Now consider God. What could he possibly want or need that would cause him to pause, take notice, and then smile? What would provoke joy in the Creator’s heart and make him want to shout throughout the heavens?”

The simple answer is you. Among the things that delight the heart of God is His intimacy and fellowship with you. Spend some time alone and connecting with God tonight. This could be through prayer, listening to worship music, reading Scripture, practicing the presence of God, etc. The best way may be to just talk to God about your day, the way you would a friend and enjoy God’s company. Be sure to spend some of the time listening (as God likes to share His heart as well).

September 21, Thursday

Today’s AMI QT is provided by Cami King of JCC (Raleigh).

Devotional Thoughts for Today

LIFE AMID THE CURSE OF DEATH

Genesis 5:21-24

21  Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah.  22  Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters.  23  So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.  24  Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.

Unlike the narrative of Cain’s descendants, the story of humanity after Seth tells of a time when people again worshiped God and, as a result, experienced something amazing – life. We don’t learn much about Cain’s family from an historical perspective (we don’t know how long they lived, for example – see Genesis 4). Yet from a literary perspective, what the author chooses to include and chooses to omit is extremely telling. Moses is drawing a contrast between Cain’s descendants, who are barely mentioned, and the descendants of Seth – whose lives are full of many years and many descendants. In other words, the line of Seth is full of life, while the line of Cain is not. Why the difference? “At that time [the time of Seth], people began to worship the Lord.” (Genesis 4:26b)

The shift in humanity’s worship culminates in the life of Enoch who not only worshiped God but also is described as one who “walked with God.” “Walked” is a figure of speech pointing to deep intimacy, fellowship, and obedience. And as a result of walking with God, Enoch was not subject to the curse of the fall – he never died! One commentator explained it well: “Enoch is pictured as one who did not suffer the fate of Adam (‘you shall surely die’) because, unlike the others, he ‘walked with God’… The sense of the author is clear. Enoch is an example of one who found life amid the curse of death [emphasis mine].” In Enoch we see that, “…the pronouncement of death is not the last word that need be said about a person’s life. One can find life if one ‘walks with God.’”

May we choose today to walk with God, in close fellowship through intimacy and obedience, and in so doing may we find life, even in a broken world. While we may not be caught up like Enoch, we will find ourselves caught up in the greatest story ever told. And when our days come to an end, we will take our final breath after having lived life abundantly, just as Jesus promised, knowing that death does not have the final word.

Prayer: Gracious God, help me to walk with You. Teach me what that means in the specifics of my day today. Draw me into deep intimacy with You and give me the courage and trust to obey You. May I experience the life that is found in fellowship with You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 44


Lunch Break Study

John 1:4:  In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.

John 10:7-18:  So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  8  All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.  9  I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  10  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. 11  “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 12  He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  13  He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.  14  I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,  15  even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.  16  I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.  17  For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.  18  No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”

Questions to Consider:

  1. According to these verses (particularly vs. 10), why did Jesus come into the world?
  2. What do you think it means to have abundant life? When you think of God’s reasons for saving you and the purpose he has for your life, do you think of it in these terms (in terms of “abundant life” or “life to the full”)? Explain.
  3. What do we learn about Jesus in these verses? How do these things encourage you to seek intimacy with God?

Notes:

  1. Jesus came into the world so that people would have life to the full measure (or abundantly).
  2. Spend some time in personal reflection. This is not an easy question to answer, but in the simplest of terms, God desires that we have a full and whole life. The best life. Life as God designed it. When many people think of the Christian life, they don’t think of a full and abundant life – they often think of a deprived and difficult life. There are certainly difficulties to the Christian journey, the bible talks about this, but we can’t miss that the gift of God in Christ is abundant life. Those who walk with God through Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit do indeed live life to the full measure.
  3. Jesus is the way we can be saved and find good pasture (or abundant life – peace, joy, wholeness, etc.). He is the one who makes that available to us. He also describes Himself as the Good Shepherd who knows us (isn’t it comforting to be known by God!). He willingly lays down His life so that we can have life. God doesn’t want us miserable – we were already miserable in our sins – God wants us to live life abundantly. All our obedience is toward that end!

Evening Reflection

One of my favorite country worship songs (not that that list is very long), “In the Garden,” recalls time spent in communion with God. The chorus says, “He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” The beauty of walking with God is knowing that God also walks with us – that even more than we desire to be near to God, God longs to be near to us, to know us and be known by us. And it is in this fellowship with God that we truly find life.

What are some ways you’ve experienced life walking with God? Spend sometime reflecting on those memories. What are some areas in your life where you are not experiencing abundant life? Spend some time offering those areas to the Lord. Ask God to lead you into a greater experience of the abundant life Jesus promised.

September 20, Wednesday

Today’s AMI QT is provided by Cami King of JCC (Raleigh).

Devotional Thoughts for Today

ETERNAL PURPOSE FOR A FINITE LIFE

Genesis 5:6-8

Seth lived one hundred and five years, and became the father of Enosh.  7  Then Seth lived eight hundred and seven years after he became the father of Enosh, and he had other sons and daughters.  8  So all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years, and he died.

What if you had one week to live? How would you choose to spend your time? How would you choose to spend your money? What would you want to do? How would this news affect your interactions with the people in your life?

[Take a few minutes to think about your honest answer to these questions.]

I imagine that, like me, you’ve encountered this question in some form before. It’s designed to get us thinking about the things that are really important to us, to take stock of our lives. The questioner usually hopes to get us to reevaluate what we’re doing with our time and our treasures, the ways we’re wasting it or mishandling them, all toward the end of living a happier and more fulfilling life. In answering, we become aware of the ways we fail to live our best life (whatever we imagine that means). The focus in all of this is usually ourselves – what we want out of life, what makes us feel happy, what we think will make us fulfilled. Those things aren’t bad. Actually, I’ve found it’s important for me to take stock of what I’m doing with my life because a lack of intentionality can lead to unfaithfulness. No, those things aren’t bad – they just aren’t ultimate.

The fifth chapter of Genesis chronicles a portion of the genealogical line of first people on earth. One common theme repeated in all these verses is the consequences of humanity’s sin – death. As one commentator put it, “The cursed human race continued to multiply, and human beings continued to die.” Passages like this that draw our attention to the finitude of life serve as their own kind of “what if…” question, reminding us that time is limited. But, instead of turning inward and trying to imagine what things will make us happy in life, may we learn from the mistakes of the first people in the chapters of Genesis we’ve been studying together. Instead of turning to ourselves, may we turn to God, be reminded of God’s purposes for our lives, and choose to live accordingly.

Prayer: God you made me and purposed me according to your divine love and power, creativity and wisdom. Help me today to be aware of the ways you’ve formed me and give me the wisdom to live according to Your design. Make me aware of Your purposes for my life and bring my desires and pursuits into alignment with Your perfect will. In Jesus’ name.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 43


Lunch Break Study

Read Psalm 90:1-12: Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. 3 You turn man back into dust and say, “Return, O children of men.” 4 For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night. 5 You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; in the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew. 6 In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew; toward evening it fades and withers away. 7 For we have been consumed by Your anger and by Your wrath we have been dismayed. 8 You have placed our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your presence. 9 For all our days have declined in Your fury; we have finished our years like a sigh. 10 As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away. 11 Who understands the power of Your anger and Your fury, according to the fear that is due You? 12 So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

Questions to Consider

  1. What do we learn about God in the first half of this passage?
  2. We do we learn about humanity from this passage?
  3. In light of these things, what is the psalmist’s request?
  4. What would it mean for you to number your days and present to God a heart of wisdom?

Notes

  1. We learn that God is eternal. Not only is God powerful, but God has been from the very first and will be ‘til the very end. Moses tries to convey the nature of a God who is eternal, who exists outside the bounds of time.
  2. We are not eternal. In fact, our lives are very brief and extremely contingent. Not only this, we learn that humanity is sinful and broken. Our lives our difficult and fleeting (vs. 9) because of our sin, because we choose to do things our way and not God’s.
  3. Moses, who wrote this psalm, is declaring his trust in the Lord throughout this entire psalm. In verse 12, he makes an important request asking God to teach us to be aware of the brevity of our lives and thus walk in wisdom. When we become aware of our finitude, we can turn to the God who is infinite, and choose to live according to God’s wisdom and not our own. The God who can see all and knows all, the one who made us, knows how to lead us in wise living.
  4. Spend some time in personal reflection.

Evening Reflection

In a talk some years ago, author and apologist Ravi Zacharias explained the importance for every believer to know their purpose—and not in a universal or generic way, but in a personal and specific one. We start of course with God’s universal purpose for humanity (worship), then move to God’s stated purpose for the Church (witness), and close in on God’s specific purpose for own life. According to Zacharias, this is something each person should clearly and succinctly articulate for themselves (in response, of course, to the leading of the Holy Spirit through Scripture and Godly counsel). This then directs how we choose to leverage our lives. And if we do this right, it will positively influence our personal impact in the world (or God’s impact through us, rather). Zacharias articulated his purpose as follows: “My goal is to satisfy the hunger and longing for those who are seeing the truth.” For those who know Zacharias, it’s easy to see how this stated goal has influenced his impact on the world.

Spend some time thinking about your own purpose. In light of God’s direction in your life thus far – who you are, where you are, what you have, experiences had, opportunities give, access granted, etc. – how would you articulate your life purpose and goal? Spend some time reflecting on this with the Lord. Offer your life anew to God. Enjoy a time of dreaming big dreams with God!

September 19, Tuesday

Today’s AMI QT is provided by Cami King of JCC (Raleigh).

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“OUR PATIENT GOD”

Genesis 5:1-2

When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth. 4 Then the days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years, and he had other sons and daughters. 5 So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died

Seth is described as a son in the likeness of Adam – repetition of the language of humanity’s creation in the likeness of God. The interesting thing is that none of Adam’s other children (Cain and Abel ) are so described. Only Seth. Commentators suggest that the writer of Genesis is speaking in spiritual terms, and Seth was made in the “spiritual” likeness of Adam –that the birth of Seth marks a new spiritual linage in the human genealogy.

One thing that’s for sure is the clear contrast between the line of Cain (poor Abel didn’t make it very far) and the line of Seth. Cain’s line flows directly out of humanity’s sin against God. We see this in his birth which is described as something humanity themselves did (“I have created man just as the Lord did” [Gen. 4:1]). But after 130 years, Seth is born, and it seems that the years have indeed wrought wisdom because humanity (finally) again acknowledges God (“God has given me another child…” [Gen. 4:25]; “At this time people began to worship the Lord” [Gen. 4:26]).

The Bible is true when it says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). So wonderful, in fact, that it took the first of us 130 years to experience our limitations in such a way that we finally turned again to our Maker. We all do this: we miss God in the midst of God’s creation. Even our gifts, talents, treasures are an expression of just how good a Creator God is. Yet, it’s those very things that often delay our acknowledgement and dependence upon God. We worship our stuff and ourselves in lieu of our Giver and our Maker.

But God is patient. Even after 130 years, God had not given up. God patiently waited for humanity to turn and once they did, in the likeness of the Human Creation as God intended it (as a gift from Him), Seth was born. Praise be to our patient God, who wills that no one perish, but all come to repentance!

Prayer: Thank You God for Your patience with me. So often I live out of my brokenness instead of choosing to live out of the new life You’ve made available to me in Jesus Christ. Thank You for patiently bearing with me and with this broken world long enough for You to redeem it and make it new. Help me acknowledge You today, so that I may be a contributor to Your redemptive work in the world and not an agent of the world’s destruction. In Jesus’ name.
Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 42


Lunch Break Study

Read 2 Peter 3:3-9: Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” 5 For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, 6 through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. 7 But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. 8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Questions to Consider

  1. According to this passage, why does it seem that the Lord is slow to fulfill His promises? In what areas of your life (or of human history) do you find yourself evaluating God as “slow about His promise”? How does this passage encourage you?
  2. How does this passage describe the mockers? What do they say, what do they do, and why do they say and do those things? In what ways do you find yourself behaving like these mockers in your life?
  3. What are some promises of God in which you need to renew your hope today? Write them down and spend sometime declaring them in your heart.

Notes

  1. It seems to us that the Lord is slow because He is patient. God is not wishing that anyone would perish, but wants all people to come to repentance. Because of this, God is patient and thus can seem slow, uncaring, powerless, and absent when we lack understanding.
  2. The mockers follow after their own lusts because they don’t see God doing what was promised. They have forgotten who God really is – the One who created the world with a word, cleansed it through the flood, and now preserves it. While it’s easy to condemn the mockers, we all have a little mocker in us. When things don’t go our way or when we don’t understand, we may find ourselves doubting God’s promises and following our own passions and desires, instead of patiently choosing to wait on God in faithful obedience.
  3. Spend some time in personal reflection.

Evening Reflection

One of my favorite Christian bands is a South African girl group called “The Arrows.” In their song Ode to a Patient God, they beautifully describe God’s patience with humanity:

You sit and watch the cars and planes hurry by. You wonder when they’ll arrive. Sometimes you try to catch their eye. They turn to hide, and You turn to sigh. And don’t You go insane? All 6,000 years of us treating you this way? All this time, well, does it make you tired? I can’t believe You waited for me like it was worth Your while.

We see the church and the lost, [but] You see Your bride and Your sons. And full of hope, You carry on making us one; just on and on. And patiently You wait never wanting us to die If we could still be saved. Oh, is it so? Having all control and then controlling nothing at all of what You’re hoping for?

I Surround my gate tonight searching to and fro to find Someone who will fight. Oh, I wonder what You’ll see. I can’t believe You waited for me… And so If there’s anything you need, anything at all, you just call I made a promise I’ll keep So ’till we meet…

Spend some time this evening reflecting on the patience of God. In what areas of your life have you experienced God’s patience? Imagine what your life would be like if God was as impatient as we often are. Offer God thanks for His patience toward you and those around you and declare anew your trust in God in your areas of waiting.

Consider listening to The Arrows “Ode to a Patient God” during your time of reflection.
https://open.spotify.com/track/2R544acpd5G0ZKt6NGGXUG

September 18, Monday

Today’s AMI QT is provided by Cami King of JCC (Raleigh).

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Genesis 5:1-2

In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.

I will never forget my first time really reading this passage. I’ve been around the Bible my whole life so I’m sure I’d heard these couple verses before. But when I was a seminary student studying Hebrew, I remember reading this passage and being utterly fascinated (and slightly confused) by the language in the text. If you look at a few different English translations, maybe you’ll see what I mean:

In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. 2 He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created. (NASB)

When God created humankind, he made them in the likeness of God. 2 He created them male and female; when they were created, he blessed them and named themhumankind.” (NET)

This is the written account of the descendants of Adam. When God created human beings, he made them to be like himself. 2 He created them male and female, and he blessed them and called themhuman.” (NLT)

In the original, the word translated “man” or “humankind” is the Hebrew word adam (where we get the name Adam).  Now adam is what God names his human creation – all of it.  Yes, the human creation bears difference (they are male and female according to vs. 2) and distinction (elsewhere in Genesis by Hebrew words meaning man [ish] and woman [isha] – the latter being taken out of the former and thus named accordingly [see Genesis 2:23]), but they are one creation.  They are God’s precious adam (i.e., humankind).  It is actually not until after The Fall that the woman is given a name other than adam – in Genesis 3:20, the man begins to call the woman Eve.

This carries a ton of implications for me – the bulk of which we don’t have time to explore here. But one thing that was crystal clear in the reading of these verses (and my imperfect grappling with the text as a student) is that God made us for oneness and intimacy with one another. We live in an individualistic society. That’s no surprise. We’re reminded of this all the time. But our passage today is a clear declaration of our purpose for community. We are so called to one another, that in creating all people, God didn’t even bother to give us separate names. Those designations came after our sin. Much like the God in whose image we were created, who exists 3 in one community – all God, we are created for relationship, with God yes, but also with one another. May God remind us anew today of the value of one another and beauty of life together!

Prayer: Almighty God, who exists as one great God in three persons, thank You for fashioning me in Your image. Remind me today of the importance of interdependency and community with the people around me. May I never be satisfied with individualistic living, but may I instead choose the “one another” life, a life together with my fellow adams. Teach me what it means to live in intimacy and oneness with the people you’ve placed in my life. Thank you for them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 41


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 22:34-40: But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Questions to Consider:

  1. When Jesus is asked to give the greatest commandment or the most important/significant one, what does he say? What would it mean for you to uphold the greatest commandment today?
  2. In verse 39, Jesus gives a sort of two-for-one special and adds to the greatest the second greatest. What was that commandment? Why do you think Jesus linked the two together?
  3. I’ve heard it said before that Christians for many years have been so turned upwards that they often step on or over the people right in front of them whom they are called to love. It’s a funny picture, but it’s not hard to imagine time when I’ve been so focused on me and God that I forgot about the other side of the coin. Who are the people you’ll encounter throughout your day today? What are some ways your interactions with them would be different if you remembered Jesus’ words above? What are some practical ways you can love those around you?

Notes:

  1. The greatest command is to love the Lord our God with all of ourselves. One commentator explained that the heart, soul, and mind are not entirely distinct in the imaginations of Jesus’ hearers and put together the three are pointing to a love by the whole of oneself (and all we imagine that to entail).
  2. The second greatest command, which is like the first, is to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus, I believe, links these two together because it is nearly impossible to truly love God and not love others. I always like the image of a coin where loving God is one side and loving our neighbors is the other side. They are different, yes, but they are two sides to the same coin. If we have truly known God’s love for us, and responded in love for him, the natural result (just as sure as 1+1=2) is love of those whom God loves so much.
  3. Spend some time in personal reflection

Evening Reflection

In reflecting on the call to “love your neighbor as yourself,” C. S. Lewis explains the following: “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained. In order to have a steady wish for the good of another, in order to take practical steps to bring that good into being, we have to first discipline our minds to think of others. The hardest part about loving our neighbors is rarely that we hate them, but that we fail to think of them nearly as often as we think of ourselves (and our little kingdoms) if at all. Part of learning what it means to be called to community and part of experiencing our created purpose of interdependence, is first learning to consider others. Jesus challenges us to consider others better than ourselves, but for many of us, we haven’t even made it to the step of just considering others (better or worse) except as some extension of our wants, needs, etc. But our relationship with God and our relationship with others are inextricably linked, so we have to take the business of life together seriously.

Spend some time thinking about your tendency toward individualism:

What are some ways you fight interdependence? What are the areas in your life where you are more selfish and self-absorbed? Who are the people in your life you fail to consider? What occupies your thoughts instead?

Our ability to love others and do life together first begins with our awareness of God’s love for us. Spend some time meditating on God’s love for you. Thank God for the unconditional love you’ve received; allow it to fill your heart. Ask Him to direct that same love through you to the people around you and in the relationships He’s given you.

September 17, Sunday

jason2The AMI QT Devotionals from September 11-17 are provided by Pastor Jason Sato who serves at OTR in Cincinnati. Jason, a graduate of UC San Diego (B.S.) and Westminster Theological Seminary in California (M.Div.), is married to Jessica, and they have two young children: Jonah and Lily.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“It comes down to who knows you!”

Genesis 4:17-22, 26

Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. [18] To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. [19] And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. [20] Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. [21] His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. [22] Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron… [26] To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.

Consider the legacy that great figures in history have left to their children:  How proud must the grandchild of Martin Luther King, Jr. feel?  How honored must the great, great grandchild of Einstein be?  How humbled must the child of Mother Theresa feel?  Haha, just kidding!  Mother Theresa was a nun.  But still, what wonderful legacies they have left for those who came after them!

Now consider, what kind legacy will you leave for those who come after you?

Despite being the first murderer in human history, Cain ends up having a number of significant descendants.  From the line of Cain comes Jabal, the inventor of raising livestock; Jubal, the inventor of music; and Tubal-cain, the inventor of metallurgy.  Cain’s descendants are commercial, cultural, and political pioneers!

And then we come to Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve.  His descendent Enosh does not invent anything.  He does not leave behind a cultural monument.  Instead, Enosh is the first person after the Fall to begin to call upon the name of the LORD.  

Enosh communicates with the God of heaven and earth—not just as a distant God, but as an intimate, personal God.  When LORD is capitalized in the Bible, this indicates that the original Hebrew reads Yahweh, the personal name of God revealed to Moses.

There are many good and worthy things to spend our lives on.  There are great things we could accomplish that would earn us the respect or the admiration of the world.  But there is nothing greater than to be one who knows and is known by the LORD!

Prayer: Father, help me to understand the greatness of the privilege of being a child of God.  May I rejoice in being forgotten by history if only I may know You in Your death and resurrection.  Thank You that I will spend eternity exploring the never-ending depths of Your love, beauty, and glory. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 40